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How to Make Transparent Pins

Transparent tacks or push pins come in custom shapes and a wide array of colors with some that are made to replicate certain objects and characters. These whimsical pushpins are perfect for themed wallboards whether for your office, family or personal wall. Themed pins and tacks are also quite useful in graphic design since it helps convey the idea of what your design is all about.

Making your own transparent push pin images or simply rendering such images can be done using any graphic software such as GIMP which is a freely distributed imaging program. GIMP has the same capabilties as most graphic software and it has expandable features or plug-ins that are contributed by other GIMP users.

Rendering Transparent Pin Images

Stock photos and digital photographs provide designers and artists with an easier way of recreating actual objects and incorporate them into graphic designs. You can start rendering simple objects such as pins and other trinkets that you like just to give you an idea of the possibilities of combining photography and design.

Once you have your downloaded or scanned image, open it using the GIMP program. Most images are in JPEG formats that usually have white or black backgrounds so you have to make the background completely transparent first before applying transparency to the image itself.

Activate the FUZZY SELECT Tool at the toolbox or click TOOLS->SELECTION TOOLS->FUZZY SELECT at the menu bar. Click anywhere on the background to highlight it making sure that all of it is selected except for the push pin image. You can adjust the Threshold setting to higher levels for a more lenient selection.

After selecting the entire background, click LAYER->TRANSPARENCY->COLOR TO ALPHA at the menu bar. At the COLOR TO ALPHA dialog, you can see a preview of what the resulting image would look like. You can change which color you want to make transparent by clicking the color button between FROM: and TO ALPHA.

Once you’ve remove the background, you can now make the push pin itself transparent using the Opacity settings at the Layers dialog dock. The Opacity settings gives the user more freedom in adjusting the transparency, just make sure that you activated the correct layer before changing the settings.

You can add Drop Shadow effects to give your image more weight by clicking FILTERS->LIGHT AND SHADOW->DROP SHADOW. You can also all use the Soft Glow filter for lighting effects by clicking FILTERS->ARTISTIC->SOFT GLOW. You can try out other filters that will help give your pin image the look that you’re trying to achieve.

Once you’re done customizing the image, save them with a PNG extension so that the transparent areas are retained in the final image. GIF formats allow transparency as well, however, the colors will be limited to only a certain amount of range. JPEG and other file formats convert transparent areas to white or sometimes black.

Creating Transparent Pin Images

You can also make your own pin images from scratch using the various tools available in GIMP. You can use any shape you want aside from the usual round pins. But for now, let’s start with simple designs that you can get creative with later on using the same techniques we’ve discussed earlier.

For this activity, you might want to start with a thumbtack image from this related tutorial and then just add transparency to them. Once you’ve made your tack head, you can customize the color by clicking COLORS->COLORIZE at the menu bar. You can also add DROP SHADOW and SOFT GLOW effects to give depth to your image.

Apply transparency to the background first using the FUZZY SELECT tool then clicking LAYER->TRANSPARENCY->COLOR TO ALPHA. Then, you can adjust the Opacity of the image itself at the LAYERS dialog. Make sure to save your image in PNG format to retain the transparency of your pin image.

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