Saturday, January 29, 2011

Digi-Scrap for Free: Part 4 - Creating Your First Page

In this tutorial we will actually get out our scissors and glue (figuratively speaking of course) and build an entire scrapbook page in Gimp.

Be sure you've read, or at least scanned, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series before proceeding.
Also be sure you have downloaded, unzipped, and installed
1. Gimp
2. Picasa
1. The "Just Jake" Paper and Elements from DreamsFulfilled
2. One landscape / horizontally oriented photo to scrap

A word of warning: Gimp is not for the faint of heart. If you do not have any experience with a product like Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, or Photo Elements, I strongly suggest you take some time to play around with the program.
I also recommend taking a cruise through the tutorials at, especially the "GimpLite Quickies" to help acquaint yourself with the basic tools.
I will do my best to be clear here, but I won't be going into Tons of detail on basic tasks.

What we'll be doing
1. Selecting background paper for our page
2. Cutting and pasting a strip from a second piece of paper
3. Resizing and sharpening our photo
4. Pasting our photo onto our page
5. Adding a corner embellishment
6. Adding a title
7. Adding journaling
8. Adding a few more embellishments
9. Adding shadows to all elements
10. Saving in multiple formats

When we're done we will have a page that looks basically like this:

Along the way we'll learn a little bit about the rectangle select tool, the move tool, guides, layers, the unsharp mask, and shadows.

1. Select and Open the Background Paper
Select "Open" from the File menu, or hit "Cntrl-O"
Take a moment here to familiarize yourself with Gimp's "Open" dialog.
The Preview pane on the right is your best friend! Do note, however, that thumbnails are not generated automatically for images > 4 megs. So get used to clicking in the preview window to force the update!

Navigate to the location where you unzipped the "Just Jake" collection and open the brown paper.

1a. Save Your Page!
First Things First. Remember the golden rule of image editing, "Never Overwrite the Original!" Use File-Save or Shift-Cntrl-S to open the save dialog.
I am assuming you already have a folder set up to store your scrapbook pages. If you don't, create one now! Mine is under my "My Pictures" folder and called (very creatively) "Scrapbooks." I also have subfolders for each individual book I am working on.
As far as page names go, I highly recommend a date based scheme in the format yyyy_mm_dd.
For example, this page will be named 2011_01_23.xcf
If it was a two page spread or there were multiple pages for the same day, I would add an "a," "b," etc.
This naming scheme is the best way to guarantee your pages can be easily sorted in chronological order .
A word on file format: Gimp's native file type is "XCF," and No, I do not know what it stands for. :) You'll want to save all your working files in this format. When you do not type any extension on your file name it will be saved as XCF by default, or you can selected it from the file type drop down, or simply type it.

1b. Add guides to your page.
Guides are temporary, non-printing lines that provide both a visual reference on your page, and also act as "snap to" points. We'll learn more about that when we start playing with the Move tool, but basically anything you're drawing or moving on the page is "magnetically attracted" to a snap point. This is invaluable when lining up multiple photos and elements. We're not doing anything very complicated on this page, but the guides are good for reference.

Select Image -> Guide -> New Guide (by percent)
A straightforward dialog appears. Create one horizontal and one vertical guide at 50% to bisect your page. They show as dotted blue lines. You can move them around with the "move" tool, too.

2. Cut and paste a strip of a second paper
Open the red paper from the Just Jake collection.
Now, select the "rectangle" tool from the top left tool box (usually floating on the left of your screen).
Use it to draw a random rectangle anywhere on the red paper.
Then, in the tool dialog box, enter the following values:
Position: 0, 0
Size: 3600, 1500
This moves the rectangle to the upper right of the page and resizes it to 12 by 5 inches.
Now, copy the selected portion of the red paper by choosing Edit -> Copy, or hitting Cntrl-C

2a. Paste your strip of paper onto your scrapbook page as a new layer
Select Edit -> Paste -> Paste As New Layer
A layer is pretty much what it sounds like. Items on different layers may be moved around independently of one another, just as if they were physical pieces of paper, stickers, etc. on a scrapbook page.
I almost never paste a new item as anything other than a new layer: memorize where this command is and use it often!  (Gimp has no keyboard shortcut for it, more's the pity!) 

2b. Drag the red strip about 1/3 down on your page.
The "Move" tool looks like a plus sign with arrows on all four lines. Select it from the toolbox, or type "Shift-M" to select it. Then simply drag the red strip to the desired location.
When you're done, it should look something like this.

3. Resize and Sharpen the Photo
Now, open the photo you want to scrapbook in Gimp. (Remember you can use Picasa to quickly locate it, and once selected hit "Cntrl-Enter" to open a File Explorer window to its location.)
If you don't see the changes you made inside Picasa, remember you need to save it there!

Before doing anything else, save a copy of your photo - remember, "Never Overwrite the Original!" I recommend something like "originalfilename_edit.jpg" (When saving as JPG, always make sure the quality setting is at 100%)

3a. Resize to 6 x 4 inches
Images shot at full resolution on your camera (you *are* shooting at full quality and resolution, right?!) will be Much larger than 6x4 inches on your page. We need to scale it down so it'll fit properly.
Select Image -> Scale

In the dialog, choose "Inches" from the drop down, then type in 6 for the width. It will auto-fill the 4 for you.
Ensure that the X and Y resolution are set at 300.
Note: Not all cameras shoot in exactly 2:3 aspect ratio.  In this page, it will not matter if your photo is a little larger or smaller.  In other scenarios, the exact size may be more important and you will need to use the Crop tool to achieve the appropriate aspect ratio before re-sizing.  

3b. Sharpen your photo
Even the best photos will usually benefit from a little sharpening.
Select Filters -> Enhance -> Unsharp Mask
Don't be fooled by the "Sharp" option in this menu; the irrationally named "Unsharp Mask" is the tool best suited to our job.
Fill out the above values in the dialog and apply them.

Note: Order actually matters a bit here. The effect of the same settings for the unsharp mask will be greater After you've scaled down your image because it's operating on fewer pixels. The difference won't be huge, but I habitually sharpen after resizing.  The preview will be more accurate, in any case!

4. Paste the photo as a new layer
Follow the same procedure as in Step 2 to copy the photo (you do Not need to draw a rectangle around it first: simply choose Edit -> Copy), paste as a new layer, and move into place.
Use the snapshot of the finished page at the top of the tutorial for reference.

5. Add an Embellishment on the photo corner
Again, we're following basically the same procedure as Step 2.
Open the blue corner decoration from the Just Jake collection. Copy it, then paste as a new layer. Use the Move tool to drag it into place.
You have enough layers in your page now that this is a good time to go over how to use the "Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo" toolbar.
This bar, on the right hand of your screen by default, looks like this:
You can see a tiny little thumbnail of the contents of each layer. Clicking on the layer makes it Active so that whatever tool you're using applies to it rather than some other portion of the page. Even more usefully at this juncture, you can drag and drop the layers around to change their order. For instance, you may have inadvertently pasted your corner decoration so that it is "under" the red strip or your photo. Simply select its layer in the Layers toolbar and drag it up to the top.

6. Add a Title
Let me preface this section by admitting that if Gimp has a serious weakness it is in its Text tool. It's fairly basic. You can't put multiple fonts in the same text box, type along a curve, or anything like that. (Actually, you technically can put text on a "path," which is an advanced concept I won't be covering because it always ends up looking Awful.)
But it does the job, and with some creativity you can make some very nice looking titles. That's not what we're doing here, though: we're going to go with Ultra-Basic and maybe fix it later.  In fact, I think I can guess what the second tutorial in this series will be!  :)

6a. Select the Text tool by clicking on the "A" icon in the tool box, or typing "Shift-T"
In the tool options, select the "Sans Bold" font. Instead of size of 100, make it 300 for the title.
6b. Draw a rectangle with the Text tool on the red strip to the right of the photograph
Once you let go of the mouse button, the text box dialog pops up and you can enter your text.
This screenshot is actually for the next step when you enter journaling, but the concept is the same.
Before, during, or after typing the text you can drag the corner handles around on the page to resize the box or reposition it.
While we're here, take a look at the Layers tool bar again. You will note that your text layer has a large "T" icon instead of a thumbnail. You can come back to your text layers any time and edit the text just like a word processor: just select the Text tool from the tool box, the text layer you want to edit from the Layer tool bar, and then click anywhere on your page to open the text editor pop-up again.
Of course, if you do anything fancy to a text layer - fill it with color, add borders, use the Scale tool, etc. - it will be converted to a standard layer and the text will no longer be editable.  So save those operations for last!
7. Add some journaling
Use the same procedure as in Step 6 to create a new Text layer. Hint: if clicking on your page with the Text tool brings up the editing pop-up for the Title, just go over to the Layers toolbar and select a different layer. Then try drawing your box again: a new layer will be created.
For journaling a font size between 55 on the very low end to 100 on the high is appropriate. I usually aim around 72.

8. Add a few more embellishments
As in Step 4, find an embellishment you like from the Just Jake collection and add it to your page as a new layer. For instance, I added four copies of the blue button to the corners of the red paper.
As an exercise to the student, explore your tool box and find a way to scale the buttons to a smaller size. Also look for the "Duplicate Layer" button on the Layers toolbox as a handy shortcut to putting multiple copies of the same element on your page.

9. Add Shadows to (practically) everything
Shadows are an absolutely critical element that spells the difference between a flat, obviously artificial page and one that looks just like you made it with scissors and paste.
I learned the hard way never to skip them: they make a world of difference when you print your page!
*Tip: Similarly, though, I've learned to do them as my final step, after everything is placed just so.  It's a hassle to move or scale a layer that already has its shadow applied: usually you have to delete and recreate the shadow.  So do it last! 
9a. From the Layers toolbar, select the first layer containing an embellishment, photo, or piece of paper that needs a shadow.

9b. Select Filters -> Light and Shadow -> Drop Shadow
The only thing you need to change in this dialog is to uncheck the box that says "Allow Resizing." If you don't when you add shadow to an element that is the same height or width as the page (i.e. the red paper strip) the whole "canvas" will be resized by a few pixels to allow room for the entire shadow. You do not want this.
Shadows are created as new layers, meaning they can be easily removed if you don't want them for some reason after the fact. It also means that if you move the embellishment or photo that is "making" the shadow, the shadow will remain fixed in place. You'll either have to "chain" the layers together (a topic for another lesson), "glue" them together (permanently), or move the shadow separately. All three options are irritating, which is why I try to leave my shadow creation to the very end when everything is on the page exactly where I want it.

9c. Repeat for each embellishment and photo.
In the case of this page you do Not need to add a shadow to the journaling layer, but do add it to the title. The corner embellishment came a shadow built it, and of course the background paper itself doesn't need shadow. Every other layer gets one. (Hint: Cntrl-F re-applies the last used filter with any special options you used. This can save you lots of wading through menus!)

9d. (Optional) Change the "Mode" of each shadow layer to Grain Merge.
Refer to the screenshot with step 5 for a reminder of what the Layer floating toolbar looks like.  Near the top, you'll see the label "Mode."  With a shadow layer selected, click the downward pointing triangle by the Mode box, and select "Grain Merge" from the options.
You can also play around with the other options in the Mode selector.  You can achieve some very interesting effects, although none are particularly useful for shadows except the one already mentioned.
What Grain Merge does, by the way, is allow some of the color from the layer "under" the shadow to come through.  You will probably have to zoom in all the way to see the difference, which is subtle, but also just that much more realistic. Think about it this way: in real life, if you have an object casting a shadow on white paper vs. pink paper, the shadow's color is going to appear slightly different: it will have a pink cast on the pink paper, and a more grey cast on the white paper.  The Grain Merge blending method achieves a similar effect compared to the default "Normal" mode, which is going to paint everything the same basic shade of grey.

10. Save!
Of course, you should have been saving regularly all along. Gimp crashes every once in a while for no apparent reason, and it's Really irritating to lose an hour of work!
But unless you own a 12x12 photo printer, you also need a publishable, printable copy of your page. This means JPG.
Select File -> Save A Copy to open the "Save" dialog. ("Save A Copy" is better than "Save As" in this context since it does not change the file name of the page that is currently open in Gimp. In other words, you're still working on the XCF version of the page after saving a copy, rather than making changes to a JPG which does not support layers.)
I keep my printable copies in the same folder as my XCFs, but you might chose to put them elsewhere of course. All you need to do is change the XCF file extension to JPG, and ensure that the quality settings are at 100%.  Oh, and Accept the defaults on all the various pop-ups warning you that JPGs don't support layers and need to be merged. 
That's it! Your page is now ready for upload to your printer of choice! As mentioned in Part 1, is the most economical I've found.

Whew! You made it! Getting used to Gimp is the hardest part, of course. But rest assured: it's not Much harder than Photoshop or Elements, and you're saving somewhere between $100 and $600 in the bargain.
Now add up how many sheets of 12x12 paper you Didn't buy at $0.50 to $2 each , how many sticker packs you Didn't purchase at $4 each, how many $5 rolls of glu-dots you didn't use, how many chipboard alphabet sets you didn't shell out for - and then use only 8 or 10 letters, but somehow still all of the necessary vowels you want for your next title!, and how many spools of ribbon, buttons and brads and eyelets and - oh yeah, that shnazzy Cricket machine plus assorted dies you didn't end up needing - and you may well be saving $5/page. Maybe even more! Besides, you didn't make a mess. When the kids started fussing all you had to do was close the laptop. It's a fantastic deal, if you're willing to put in the time to learn the ropes.
Hope I've made a convert or two.
If there's interest, I may add some additional tutorials in coming weeks: for instance, the title on this page is weak, and we can do much better. Another neat trick is changing the colors on downloaded papers and elements, and even making your own background "cardstock." The possibilities are practically limitless... stay tuned!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Digi-Scrap for Free: Part 3 - Organizing your Supplies

In Part 2, I covered my workflow for importing photos from your camera and doing two review & edit passes in Picasa.

In this, rather shorter, entry I will cover how I use Picasa to (sort of) organize my Digi-Scrap supplies.

1. Unzip files to a central folder under "My Pictures"
Inside Picasa
2. Force all Scrap supplies to appear together by changing folder dates
3. Add keywords in the folder description for easier searching
4. Use Picasa's search filters to locate files you want, then open then in Gimp

Disclaimer: my methods are kludgy at best. (Kludgy is geek-speak for "inelegant," "inefficient," or just "messy"). Picasa is not really designed to handle these sorts of pictures, so I have to force the square peg into a round hole as it were.
I haven't found a better solution, let alone one that is free and easy, so I live with Picasa and continue to find it "good enough."

Back in Part 1 I mentioned a number of my favorite resources for downloading free, high quality scrapping supplies, and also mentioned a few tips on how to make sure you're getting quality items.
Here's what I do once I've downloaded my stuff:

1. Unzip into a central location

Most versions of Windows have some sort of built-in archive extractor. I use Windows 7, and I don't remember if there either isn't one or I just didn't like it, 'cause I downloaded Pea Zip and use it for all my zipping and unzipping needs.

I created a folder called "ScrapbookLayouts" under "My Pictures." Call yours whatever you like - maybe "ScrapSupplies" would make more sense, for instance.
I unzip everything into sub-folders under this location. I name the sub-folder based on the name of the downloaded file - nothing more complicated than that. (9 times in 10 the publisher put her elements into folders and subfolders inside the archive, so you often end up with deep folder structures, but this isn't that big a deal.)

2. Edit Folder Details in Picasa

Here's where it gets kludgy. Picasa is very strongly date-based. Your folders appear in its system based on the date that folder was created - not the date you downloaded it, unzipped it, or whatever. That means your new supplies could be hiding mixed among your photographs anywhere between 2005 and 2011. Ugh!

I want all my digi-scrap supplies to appear together, and this is my hack:

(a) Find your new supplies in Picasa's file system. If necessary, use the search function (I'll cover it later!) to find your new supplies - just type the name of the folder.

(b) Change the date of the folder to a year Before you have any photos on your computer. For instance, I don't have any pictures older than 2006 on my hard drive, so I change all my scrap supplies folders to 2005.

In the screenshot above, notice were it says "Sep 12, 2005" under the folder name ("ssam_CoffeeBreak"). Just double-click the date to open a pop-up window allowing you to change all of the folder's details.

(c) While editing the date, add some keywords too!
Again referencing the above screenshot, notice where it says "lime chocolate neutral plaid" etc.
I try to put a bunch of useful keywords in the folder description box - colors, shapes, types of elements, etc. - so I can search for one of these terms later and find my supplies.

If you're experienced in Picasa or similar programs you may notice that I am NOT using the built in "tag" function, which would seem to make a lot more sense. Here's my rationale: it takes a lot more time and clicks to add tags to an image or folder then it does to type a bunch of keywords in the folder description, and it is no easier to search by tag than by keyword. So why bother?

That's literally all I do as far as organization! It's quick and dirty, but it's "good enough."

Finally, let's learn how to use those keywords you just created.

3. Finding Files In Picasa and the underlying File System

Searching in Picasa is a simple as putting a keyword of phrase in the "Find" bar at the top right.

In the screenshot above you'll see I've entered the term "pink." Your folders are now filtered to show only the ones where the word "Pink" appears in the name, description, or tags. In this case, "pink" appears in the folder description I entered for this folder.

Once I have found the paper or other image I want to use on my page, all that remains is to find it on the file system so I can open it in Gimp.

(a) select your image, then hit "Control-Enter" to open a new *Windows* file explorer window to the folder that contains it.
(b) In the Windows File Explorer, copy the entire path of your folder (in Windows 7, when you click inside the File Explorer "address bar," the contents collapse into a standard path like "c:\users\my name\my pictures\scrapbooklayouts\prettyPinkPaper")
(c) Inside of Gimp, use Control-O to open a new file, and paste the path you just copied in the pop-up window. Then select the file you want.
(Much more on what to do next in the upcoming entry!)

At this point I need to mention one last limitation of using Picasa to manage your digi-scrap supplies. Picasa only works on JPG, GIF, and BMP files - maybe a couple more as well, but the point is it does NOT display PNGs. Most of your downloaded scrapbooking *embellishments* are going to be PNGs or another fancier file type. So don't worry when all you can find inside Picasa are the background papers. The embellishments are not missing, they simply cannot be previewed.
Thankfully, most publishers also provide a preview / contact sheet in JPG format showing every paper and embellishment on a single page. Those Will appear in Picasa and I use them to jog my memory and to create keywords.

In summation, there is almost certainly a better method out there to organize your digi-scrap supplies. Picasa is good enough for me because it doesn't require me to use yet another program, invest a lot of time and effort into tagging each individual item, or (worst of all) buy something!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Digi-Scrap for Free (or very nearly): Part 2 - Establishing a Digital Workflow

Establishing a Digital Workflow
In Part 1 of this mini-series, I covered which free software you'd need to get started with digital scrapbooking, and mentioned several of my favorite sites for good quality free digi-scrap supplies and affordable printing.
In this entry, I will cover my digital workflow for working with photos - that is, how I get my pictures from my camera onto my computer and do first pass editing.
My next post will cover my workflow for digital scrapbooking assets (paper, embellishments, etc), and finally I'll walk through creating a simple scrapbook page in Gimp.

We'll cover the following
1. Copying (Importing) photos from your camera onto your PC
2. Filing photos under date based folders for easy recall
3. Performing a first pass in Picasa to "star" good photos and delete un-salvageable ones
4. Performing a second pass in Picasa to fix color, exposure, and red eye on best photos
5. Save edited photos

For this tutorial you will need Picasa installed, as well as your camera with either the cable it came with, or a USB card reader. A card reader is a handy little device with a slot for your camera card. You can get them for anywhere from $8 to $30 from your electronics store or online. You put the card in the reader and plug the reader into the PC and your system treats it as another hard-drive. This is my preferred method.
In many cases, your PC or laptop will also have a built in card reader, which eliminates the need for an extra device.

Workflow Step 1: Copy Photos onto your PC
1. Plug your camera into your computer, or insert your camera memory card into your card reader. In a moment or two, depending on which version of Windows you are running, you will probably get a pop-up message asking you what you'd like to do next. It may offer you the option to view the pictures in Windows Media or Picasa, copy them using some other piece of pre-installed software, or etc.
Don't choose any of these: choose the option to open a folder to view the files. (Near the bottom)
A new window will open up displaying the folders on your camera card.
In my case, there is a root folder called "DCIM," and then there are numbered subfolders inside like "616CANON," "617CANON," etc.
Your camera will almost certainly be slightly different, but the general idea is the same.

2. Open a new file explorer window and create a new folder in the appropriate location on your hard drive to store your photos.
I use a date-based naming scheme for storing my photos, because it is easy, objective, and quick to scan afterwards. When the pictures from a given day are from a specific location or event, I often tack on a word or two to jog my memory as well.
So on my computer you'll find a folder structure something like this:
My Pictures
(One more thing to note: Windows sorts folders in Alphabetical, not Numerical order. So if you want to make sure that January always appears ahead of December, make sure you put a zero in front of the one for all January folders!)

3. Select all the photos from your camera card, and drag them into the new folder.
Simple as that: your photos are copied to your computer!
At this point, you can delete the photos from your camera, or you can wait until you actually run out of space on the card if you like the security of one more back up.

If you need a little more detail on copying photos from your camera to your computer, there's a good description of the process here - scroll to the bottom for the article.

Workflow Step 2: Review and Edit in Picasa
1. If Picasa is not already open, open it now. Once it starts, you'll probably see a small pop-up window on the lower right of your screen showing its progress of scanning and indexing your new photos. You will also see a large number of thumbnails of your photos. This is called the "library" view.

2. Using the "Folder" view on the left hand side of Picasa's window, navigate to the folder containing the photos you just copied.
You will notice that Picasa organizes all folders by date - that is, the date they were created, not necessarily the date included in the folder's name. It also displays a "flat" file structure - that is, it shows only folders that contain photos, and it does not visually display folders that are "inside" of other folders. If you've spent a lot of time inside of windows and have a good feel for the underlying file system you may find this confusing or restrictive; otherwise it should probably feel very natural to you!

3. Review your photos by double clicking on the photo's thumbnail, then navigating through each image using the arrow keys.

During this first pass I delete any obviously unsalvageable photos - those badly out of focus, significantly over or under exposed, or containing sensitive family members with goofy looks on their faces. ;) Don't go too crazy, though: you may be surprised how well Picasa can solve under-exposure, red-eye, and even (mild) blurriness, not to mention color balance problems, cropping issues, and etc.
On the first pass I also typically use the "star" function to mark my best photos for later review and use, especially when I shot 100+ photos of a single event!
On the better photos I also frequently use the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button (left panel in Picasa) to see if the program can do a quick-and-dirty fix to make my good photo even better. Often it can. Other times I am not happy with its automatic color and contrast correction and decide to use finer-grained controls (either in Picasa or Gimp) later.
4. Perform a second pass on your starred photos
These are the photos that I think I may use in a scrapbook page, print for the grandparents, or etc.
Near the top center of Picasa's window, you will see a "Filters" label. The first button is a star. When you click it, only starred photos are displayed.

During this pass I fix red-eye, fine-tune contrast and color balance, and occasionally even crop or use one of the artistic effects. All these functions are accessible on one of the three tabs that display when you are viewing a photo full sized (as opposed to a thumbnail in the library.)
If you intend to make use of Picasa's "People" or "Tags" capabilities, this would be the time to do it.
I have never gotten in the habit of using either feature heavily, and sometimes I regret it.
The Tags and People panels are turned on and off using buttons on the lower left of Picasa's window, in both library and single photo view. "Tags" allows you to assign key-words to your photos. Logical options would be place names, event names, etc. Later you can easily search for tags inside of Picasa.
Similarly, "People" allows you to identify individuals in your photos. Picasa does a reasonable job of picking out faces automatically, and even does a decent job of matching names to faces once you have a good catalog. This can be handy later on when you need a photo of Grandma and can't remember when you last visited her!
5. Save your changes.
Picasa maintains all changes you've made only internally by default. They are never stored to your hard drive until you explicitly tell it to do so. So if you need to use the photo elsewhere - perhaps you want to print it at Costco, or use it inside a scrapbook page - you need to save it.
You can do this in a couple of ways.
(a) select the photo or photos you want to save and hit Cntrl-S, or File-Save.
(b) At the top of your folder in "Library" view, click the "disk" button next to the star icon.
In either case Picasa will ask you to confirm your decision, and will also reassure you that it is making a backup of the originals.
(This is critical, BTW: the first law of digital photo editing is "Never Overwrite the Original!" Picasa saves those originals in a hidden folder inside the folder where you copied the photos. You'll need to set Windows to display hidden files if you need to find them someday.)
A couple of notes
Picasa and Gimp have a lot of overlap. Deciding to use one vs. the other is a question of "good" vs. "good enough," with "time" and "ease" on the other side of the equation.
For instance, I use Picasa to fix red eye because it's quick and easy, and doing the same task in Gimp is complicated.
I sometimes use the "I'm feeling lucky" button, but I also use Gimp's color balance controls instead of or on top of this. They're harder to use, but offer more control.
I rarely use Picasa's "Sharpen" effect because Gimp's "Unsharp Mask" is both easy to use and significantly better.
Depending on your experience and comfort with the two programs you may choose differently.

OK, that's enough for this entry. Next time we'll cover my workflow for managing Scrapbook "supplies" - i.e. the paper, alphas, and embellishments you've been downloading.