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Making the most of Preview.app for image editing

Inspired by Bear Grylls's (of Discovery's Man vs. Wild) "make the most out of your situation" scenarios, I present you with a tutorial for making the most out of Preview.app. While not as powerful as graphics editing powerhouse Adobe Photoshop, Preview can oftentimes get you from Point A to Point B -- and sometimes quicker too.

Like Bear Grylls, you'll need to parachute out of a plane and into the house of a friend who doesn't have Photoshop -- just kidding.

First, a little bit of background. Preview comes pre-installed on Mac OS X, and it's the default image viewer on the system. For PC-to-Mac converts, you could think of it as the Microsoft Paint of OS X; except that it can do a whole lot more. Besides the ability to open a host of image file formats (JPG, BMP, GIF, among them, and even PSD and AI files), Preview can also open PDF files natively. I actually prefer it over Adobe Acrobat for opening PDFs, as I find that they open much quicker using Preview. And like Adobe Reader, Preview contains advanced features, such as annotating.


To get started, let's open a JPEG file and do a basic crop. Here, I'll be cropping Kanye West out of this photo with Taylor Swift. To do this, I'm going to use the rectangular selection tool (though you can also use the elliptical or lasso selection tool if your job calls for it). Once you select the area you want to crop, you choose "crop" (or command-k) from the tools menu. But because I want to keep my original file unchanged, I'm going to create a new document by using the "New from Clipboard" option, which will result in my Taylor Swift crop opening in a another document.

But let's say I change my mind and, instead, want to horizontally flip Kanye West to the right side of the picture, and to put Taylor Swift on the left.

There, that looks a bit more like it.

Oh shoot. I just found out that the person I'm sending this photo to uses a certain type of LCD monitor that may display colors differently. Luckily, Preview can easily change the color profile of the image.

But this image would look much better if I could remove the background and just Taylor on stage by herself. After all, this is her moment, right? While the lasso and smart lasso provide means to do this, I've found that instant alpha can more often than not do it quicker, albeit a few touchups that may also be required.

Preview also has a host of other features, including the ability to scan, screenshot and annotate images. It should, in my opinion, win an an unsung hero award in the image editing app category.

(Hold on for a minute. Some guy just had the nerve to interrupt me. "Yo Sang. I'm really happy for you, I'm gonna let you finish, but Photoshop is one of the best image editing apps of all time!")

I guess I'll have to show some of Preview's other features later on.

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