Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to alter ClipArt using Microsoft PowerPoint

I love Clip Art! Who doesn’t? And when I’m not using it to create a presentation at work, I often find uses for it around the house. I’ve used it to label my kid’s drawers.

This helps my 5 year old get himself dressed in the morning and is a great learning tool for my 2 year old as well.

I’ve also made them their own clock which helps us keep on schedule everyday and avoid arguments around bedtime. The clock cannot be swayed whereas Mommy sometimes can. (to make your own just get a cheap clock, pry off the plastic top and adhere your clipart to the proper times. Put a big arrow on the hour hand for easy viewing and you’re good to go!

I tend to get pretty particular about my clip art though. The images aren’t always exactly how I’d like them, and I learned early in my corporate career how to manipulate and customize them for my own needs.

I thought I’d pass on some of these tips and tricks so that others can use them as well. All you need is Microsoft Powerpoint and some basic computing skills. Let’s get started.

To illustrate I’m going to show you a design I came up with for last year’s Susan G Komen breast cancer walk. Some friends walk every year and wanted a fun design that they could print onto iron-on transfers and make into T-shirts, and knowing my clip art skills, they turned to me. Here is the finished design:
And here is the clip art that I started with.
Now before we get started let’s talk about where to get your clip art. You can get clip art many different places. You can purchase it on CD-roms, you can purchase it online from clip art sites and you can get some of it free by searching online sites. The methods that I’m going to show you in this tutorial apply only to clipart acquired from Microsoft Office. If you have Office you should have a basic set of clipart that came with the software, and you have access to an impressive supply from Microsoft online (To download images from Microsoft online, simply select the clipart and follow the download instructions based upon which version of Office you have on your computer.)

Now to get started, open Powerpoint, select a blank slide layout, and insert your image. You’ll also need to make sure that the Drawing toolbar is visible as this is what we’ll be using to edit our clipart (View/Toolbars/Drawing).

Once you have your image on your slide click on it to select it, go to you drawing toolbar, click Draw, and then ungroup. You should get a message similar to this: "This is an imported picture, not a group. Do you want to convert it to a Microsoft Office drawing object?"

Click yes. After clicking yes, you’ll have to select Draw/Ungroup again.

You’ll know the image is ungrouped when you see several selection circles rather than just four. The image is now separated into its pieces and is ready for manipulation.

In this instance I wanted to remove the background and the punching bag completely. Click off of the image so that nothing is selected and then click back onto just the area that you want to remove. See here how the green background is selected.

Delete it by hitting your delete button on the keyboard. The background image in this clipart is actually 2 pieces so I had to select and delete the circular area as well.

The same can be done for the punching bag. Since it has some variations in color it is actually made up of several pieces. You can click on and delete each piece individually, or click just outside of it, hold your mouse button and drag a selection box over the entire area to select all the pieces and then delete them.

Now it was time to alter the image of the woman. While she is lovely as is, I wanted the skin and hair color of my image to more closely match those of the person for whom they were walking. To do this I selected an area of the skin and then on my drawing toolbar selected the fill color tool (the icon that looks like a bucket of paint). Click the arrow next to it and a window pops up. Choose “More fill colors . . . “ A window will pop up with all your color choices.

I usually find a shade I’m happy with under the Standard tab, but if you choose custom you have access to every shade imaginable. Once you’ve selected a color, choose OK and you’ll see that the piece of the clipart you’ve selected has now taken on the color you’ve chosen.

Continue this process for all areas you want to change the color of. I changed the hair color, skin tone, shirt color and boxing glove color. In most images there will be small areas of shading that are different tones and they can be a little tricky to select since they’re small but if you zoom in you can usually grab them easily and change their color.
Once you’ve made all of your changes you will now want to group your image back together. If you do not then it will be nearly impossible to move it around or resize it – you’ll just end up moving around an arm or only resizing the hair etc. To group the image, click outside of it, hold down you mouse button and drag over the entire image to select all of the pieces. Then click Draw on your drawing toolbar and Group. You can now move and resize the entire image as you see fit.

Notes and other ideas:

Some images are easier to manipulate than others. It all depends on how they are created. Images with lots of shadings and/or gradations of color can be a mess when ungrouped and can consist of hundreds of tiny pieces, making their alteration tedious if not impossible. Other images might be created in such a way as that you cannot delete one part of it without deleting another part you wish to keep. It all depends on how it’s built and how you wish to manipulate it. But I find for the most part that it’s worth trying.

Use these techniques to create coloring pages or easily transferable embroidery patterns. Say you have a themed party or kids event and you cannot find a coloring page to suit your need. If you can find clip art that matches your theme and has a black outline then you can usually remove all of the colored areas, leaving only the black outline which you can then print and offer to your kids for a fun coloring activity. You can also use this technique to create easily transferrable hand embroidery patterns!
Sometimes these techniques work and sometimes they don't. It depends upon the clipart and sometimes the version of Office that you are using. Anyone who knows Microsoft knows how finicky it can sometimes be. I certainly do not claim to be a Microsoft expert but feel free to email me if you have any questions or issues and I'll do my best to help you out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Yeah, I'm cool

One of my favorites gifts this year was an MP3 player. I had resisted getting one for a long time because I figured I had better things to do than sit around at night downloading music to it, but after years of listening to the same 15 CD's at work over and over and over again, I gave in.

I love it! Ok, I've only got 68 songs on it so far but I'm working on it, plus I can get my favorite radio station at my desk, which is something I never could do with my radio.

It's a Phillips and it's small and cute, but of course it needed something - a cute little case. I made this one out of felt and it was pretty easy.

I'm thinking of improving on my design and making another one, but perhaps I should focus on filling up my 450 song capacity first.

The mushroom embroidery on the front is from Annie Oak Leaves cute little things embroidery pattern.

Monday, January 12, 2009

King Me

Time to share another item that I made for gifts this year. This checkerboard scarf.

I made two actually. One in this lovely green which I felt would compliment my sister-in-law's red hair perfectly, and one in cream for my mother in law. They loved them as much as I loved making them.

It was knit in Jiffy yarn and with a smaller needle so that they are very dense and cozy. The pattern is from a Quick to Knit Fabulous Scarves book.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crayons and more crayons and a tutorial

Now that the holidays are over and all gifts are given, I can divulge and show you some of the things I was frantically churning out this holiday season. Let’s begin with crayons.
I was literally up to my ears in crayons – 320 crayons to be exact. I made some very sweet little crayon rolls which were quite quick and easy once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from Skip to My Lou. I think they turned out to be very adorable and are a great way to tote around crayons for your little ones. The kids loved them. Here are the two I made for my kids. I also made two for my younger nieces.

My other crayon project was one that I had been looking forward to for weeks. I kept seeing all these fantastic shaped crayons and I wanted to make some, not only for my own kids, but I thought it would be a perfect and easy project to use as gifts for Aaron’s preschool classmates.

Originally the plan was to make multicolored crayons by cutting them up and melting them in the oven in a shaped mold (like this). My downfall on that plan was that I was using a silicone ice cube tray as my mold, thinking that it was made of the same silicone as my silicone muffin and bread pans. Yeah, don’t try that at home folks – the only thing that melted was my ice cube tray.

But I was determined to use my silicone Christmas tree shaped ice cube tray (thankfully I got 2 at the dollar store so I still had one left over after the oven incident) So I did some more research and found out that you could melt the crayons in a double boiler and then pour them into practically any type of mold – candy molds, ice cube trays, whatever. Thus began my hours long journey into the world of crayon molding, and so that those hours were not in vain, I want to share with you the tips and tricks I discovered in this little mini tutorial.

How to make shaped crayons – double boiler method.

Crayons – use high quality crayons such as Crayola, cheaper versions get all oily and wonky when melted and remolded - you will be unhappy with the results
Molds – candy molds, ice cube trays (even the silicone ones), mini cupcake pans etc.
Razor blade/utility knife
Large saucepan
Glass measuring cup or other small container to melt crayons in

Step 1 – Prepare the crayons

Gather your crayons. Any size of crayon will work though the smaller ones will melt faster and are easier to prepare. I purchased mine new because I needed a lot of them but this is a great project to make good use out of all the old broken crayon nubs at the bottom of your kid’s crayon stash as well.

Remove the paper labels. I found that the best way to do this is to slit the paper wrapper along its entire length with a razor blade, utility knife or X acto knife. It will then peel off very easily.

Cut the crayons into small pieces. You can snip them with scissors or I found the most efficient way was to cut them on a cutting board with a chopping knife. Just like dicing up some carrots!

Organize by color. Remember that these will be melted so keep like colors together. Since I was using sets of 64 colors I had a wide variety of colors and I simply grouped them into color families. The varied shades mingled together when melted.

Step 2 – Melt the crayons

Set up your double boiler by placing a small amount of water (approximately 1-2”) in the bottom of a large saucepan. Turn your burner onto medium heat.

Place your glass measuring cup* with crayon pieces into the saucepan.

*I used a glass measuring cup to melt my crayons in. The glass allowed me to easily keep tabs on the melting progress of the crayons and the spout makes for easy pouring. However, you could use any type of container as long as it can withstand the heat required for melting the wax.

Now you just sit back and wait for the crayons to melt. I stirred mine throughout the melting process (with a straw) to encourage large chunks to melt faster and to mix any varying colors together.

Step 3 – Prepare molds and pour

While the crayons are melting, prepare your molds. They don’t need any extra special preparation. Just make sure that they are clean, at room temperature and on a flat surface.

(I used some lollipop and pretzel stick molds for some of mine and the channel for the stick became a problem. I solved it by using poster tac (the silly-putty type stuff that your mother always hated you using on the wall to hang up that Tiger Beat poster of Johnny Depp). You could also use a little glob of play doh or something – really just anything disposable that you can push into the mold to stop the flow of melted crayon.)

Once the crayons are melted (make sure there are no chunks) remove the measuring cup from the saucepan (be sure to use a hot pad) and carefully pour the melted crayons into your mold.

Step 4 – Remove from mold

Allow the melted crayons to sit. They’ll start to harden fairly quickly. Once they’ve set up slightly and are not liquid you can place the mold in the freezer for a couple minutes to speed up the hardening process and to ease their transition out of the mold. I found the freezer was a necessary step for the silicone ice cube tray mold, whereas it was unnecessary for the candy mold. They popped right out of them.

Clean up any edges and that’s that. You and your kids can enjoy shapetastic coloring. (Yes, I know that shapetastic is not a word and I don’t care!)

Notes and Variations:

I did a lot of different colors so there was a lot of melting going on. The easiest cleanup method I found was to wipe the excess crayon out of the measuring cup with a paper towel while it was still hot and melted. Then I could quickly throw in my next color and place it back in the saucepan.

If you’d like a multi-colored crayons like these Christmas tree ones I did for Aaron’s classmates, follow the same instructions but don’t fill the mold all the way. Fill it partly with one color, allow that color to harden and then add a second layer of color, wait for it to harden and repeat. I found that cooling them in the freezer to ease their transition out of the mold caused the colored layers to separate in some instances, so it’s best to avoid the freezer step altogether for this multi-color technique.
As always, if something in here doesn't make sense, feel free to ask me a question in the comments or email me at