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Optimize GIF Files With PSP X

Before you start learning how to optimize GIF files with PSP X, I highly recommend taking some time to become familiar with the help files located within the program.

Although it may sound like a foreign language at first, the more you work with Paint Shop Pro X, the easier things will become.

Quite often people have mentioned that they have a difficult time finding things in the help files, but this is really a matter of knowing how to search for the correct topic within the files.

From the menu, select: Help > Help Topics

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A new window will open which includes access to all the help files. You will see fours tabs on the left. Select the search tab. In the search bar, enter the topic that you would like to learn about. In this case enter GIF and click the List Topics button. You will now see a list of relevant topics. Double click on the topic most related to what you are looking for, and a tutorial for that topic will appear on the right. There may be multiple topics and tutorials that will help you.

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Again, don’t worry if there are things that don’t make much sense at first. Right now, you just want to get familiar with working with and optimizing GIF files. As you work through the rest of this article, things will begin to become more clear.

One of the most common errors I see with GIF optimization is people saving photographs as a GIF that should have been saved as a JPG file, so make sure you have read up on choosing image file formats.

Although you can access everything you need optimize GIF files through the menu, you may find it easier to add the web toolbar to your work area to save yourself some time.

From the menu, select: View > Toolbars > Web

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This will place a check in front of Web and add the web toolbar to your work area.

In a few moments, you will need to know the number of colors used in your GIF image. It is easiest to find this out now, before you begin to optimize the image.

It is really simple to check how many colors are included in an image using PSP X. From the menu, select: Image > Count Image Colors. A small box will pop up which will display the number of colors used.

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Once you have completed editing your image and know the color count, it is time to optimize the GIF for web use. Paint Shop Pro X offers two ways to accomplish this.

Method #1 – GIF Optimizer

Click on the GIF Optimizer button in the toolbar.

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You will see five tabs (Transparency, Partial Transparency, Colors, Format, Download Times) across the middle of the GIF Optimizer box that opens when you click on the GIF optimizer button. We will start with the transparency tab, where you will need to decide which area of the image you would like to be transparent. In this case my image does not require any transparent areas, so I have selected none.

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Since my image does not have any transparent areas, the settings on the Partial Transparency tab will be grayed out, not allowing me to make any adjustments.

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Click on the Colors tab. Enter the number of colors used in this image. (You determined this number earlier.)

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Select the Format tab. Here you can choose to encode the image as standard or progressive. For dial up users who may see the picture loading slower, the standard setting loads the image from top to bottom. The progressive setting loads a very low quality image rapidly that begins to clear as the image loads fully. (High speed internet users will rarely even notice this feature because the image loads so much more quickly.)

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The Download Times tab gives a general idea concerning how long the specific image will take to download at different speeds.

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Once you have completed your selections, click the OK button. A new window will open to name and save your GIF file. Enter the file name you have selected, and the location where you would like the file saved to. Click the Save button.

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Method #2 – Using GIF Wizard

Click the GIF Optimizer button located in your web toolbar.

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A GIF Optimizer box will open. Click on the Use Wizard button in the lower left hand corner of the box.

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In the first GIF Wizard window, you will select the transparent areas of your GIF file. Once again, since my image does not have any transparent areas, I have selected No transparency. Click on the Next button.

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On this next GIF Wizard window you will need to select the background color of the webpage where the GIF file will located. Click on the color selection square in the middle of this box. (An eye dropper will appear when your cursor hovers over this area.)

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Once you click on the color selection square, a box will open to enter the color of your background. Choosing the exact color of the background is especially important if you are working with a transparent image. You can either click on the correct color, or you can enter the html color in the correlating box. Click OK when you are finished.

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You will now be back on the previous GIF Wizard window. Click the Next button.

On the next GIF Wizard box, there will be a slider bar to choose the quality of the image output. The key is to choose a level that displays virtually no noticeable difference in the quality.

Since the GIF file format is for images using 256 colors or less, the highest level of the bar is 256 colors. You may have to toggle back and forth a few time until you find the best level to set this bar at. Once you have set the level of the bar, click next.

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The next window in the GIF Wizard determines if the wizard should use web safe colors only, or if it should use the best colors for the image. In today’s browsers this is only rarely a concern, so I generally choose to use the best colors option and click next.

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An image preview window will open. You can decide at this point, based on the image preview, if you need to make adjustments set with the slider bar earlier. If you need to make changes, select the back button twice. If you are happy with the image, click Finish.

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Once you have clicked finish, a new window will open to name and save your GIF file. Enter the file name you have selected, along with the location where you would like the file saved to. Click the Save button.

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Again, I cannot stress enough that the key to excellent image optimization is choosing the highest level of compression without reducing visible quality of the image. Do not over optimize your images.

Later on you can begin practicing with transparent images, but in the beginning, you may find it easier to create your GIF images on the background color of the page where the image will be located, to begin with. This is especially true when you are going to create shadows that you want to appear on the webpage background color.
 

I WILL DEFINITELY SEE YOU AT THE TOP!

J. Cricket Walker

Small Business Marketing Consultant and Scenic Photographer
Copyright © 2006 J. Cricket Walker of Online Photography Magazine All Rights Reserved

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