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Dec. 99 Article summary: This is a tutorial for using IrfanView32, a freeware to convert fabric swatches gleaned from the Internet to usable bitmap files that quilting software Fabric Libraries recognize.

Expressive Quilters' Newsletter
Supporting The Expressive Quilter In Tradition, Innovation, Art & Computer Quilting

Issue 7: December 1999 continued
E
ditor: Sharla R. Hicks
Newsletter index for all issuesTable of contents for this issue

Converting Fabric Swatches Gleaned from the Internet to usable Bitmap Files for Quilting Software Programs Fabric Libraries

by Sharla R. Hicks copyright 1999

Part 1: What are the problems encountered using Internet fabric images in quilting software?

Part 2: How can free software IrfanView solve your bitmap problems?

  • Create a Folder for Fabrics downloaded from the Internet
  • Download fabrics from the Internet
  • What is IrfanView 32?
  • View your downloaded files.
  • Convert and resize multiple fabric images at the same time to 256 colors or less bitmaps.
  • Lighten a dark fabric image
  • Tweak coloring of fabric image
  • More Ideas on how to use the program

What are the problems encountered using Internet fabric images?

OK, we have payload of swatches ready for the gleaning right at our finger tips on the Internet? Yes, BUTTTT, gleaning fabrics is not as simple as just downloading your favorite image because the majority of the gleaned fabric images are in jpeg and gif formats and sometimes too large a image raises its head (especially when scanning but that is another lesson another time.) The reason you find these jpegs and gifs is they have a compressed formating that saves bandwidth across the Internet. PROBLEM? Yes, because these jpegs and gifs need to be converted to bitmaps using the file extension of .bmp that our favorite quilting software programs like Creative Impulse, Electric Quilt 4, Quilt-Pro 2 & 3, and PCQuilt.

FYI: QuiltSOFT 4 accepts jpgs into its fabric library. (Wish list for quilt software programs--include jpeg and gif formating for fabric files in your next updates.)

As I monitor the mail lists that computer quilters are using, I see there are three major complaints:

  1. Size of the newly saved fabric file can cause slowing, freezing, or not found messages in the quilt programs.
  2. Conversion to bitmap or reducing the file size often darkens the fabric swatch.
    1. Users often do not have adequate software that converts the files to quality usable bitmaps because the images need resized or the image is too large or too dark (darkening often happens when reducing image size), or the images has too many colors.
  • Creatie Impulse, Electric Quilt 4, and Quilt-Pro 2 & 3 require their bitmaps to be 256 colors or less.
    • FYI: QuiltSOFT and PCQuilt accept 16 million color images (hint hint, quilt software programers take note!)
  • Some software require adding a rle -- what is rle by the way -- humm your don't know either? Getting to complicated? wwwhhoooaaaa
  • To bad Windows Paint has NO helpful tools to help out with these conversion issues for the obvious reasons.

How can the free software, IrfanView, solve your bitmap problems?

I have been researching, using trial and error, sweating, and losing sleep looking for a simple, easy to do solution. The biggest problem is computer variables. We all do not all have the same quality of machines, same operating systems, ram, or video cards, or scanners so what works for one does not necessarily work for another. What looks good on one machine, may not look good another. So is there a possible across the board solution that should produce OK to EXCELLENT results for most computer setups? Graphic programs will do the job, but are costly and often complicated. So I still was looking for simple, affordable solution that was easy to do and that anyone could use?


I found the answer and this month's feature article topic thanks to Sherie Reed's who mentioned a freeware called IrfanView32 in a post to Info-EQ, a mail list for Electric Quilt users. I quickly downloaded the program and tried it out. I was amazed by how easy it was to learn and how quickly I was able to convert a large number of jpegs and gifs at one time. It was a snap to lighten, darken, adjust color and resize any image. And even better yet. Each converted file worked flawlessly Creative Impulse, Electric Quilt 4, Quilt-Pro 2 & 3, QuiltSOFT, and PCQuilt. IrfanView32 is a jewel of program. Small in size (short downloading time) and easy to use, simple to learn, and quickly gets the job done!

Because of the ease built into the program for eleminating the problems encountered with converting to usable fabric library bitmap files, I have added a tutorial on how to download fabric from the Internet and then use IrfanView to convert your files to the usable 256 color .bmp files. But first, lets address how to download fabric images from the internet.

When you are ready to download IrfanView32, go to Slide Show Available and find instruction on how to download the file,and locate Irfanview under the Freeware section. It is a self-extracting file, just double-click on the file and it will automatically begin the process. FYI: this is the first freeware that I felt was good enough to go and ask permission to have a download zip file availabe to you right here on my website because I did not want to risk the link going dead like other downloads I have recommended.

How to download fabric images from the internet using Netscape or Internet Explorer:

First: Create two folders. One for your downloaded images and the second for your fabric images that are going to be converted from jpegs and gifs.

Suggestion: Use your desktop to place your folders. (This is the screen that is visible when no programs are open) This is an easy place to find and i not buried in directories and subfolders inside of subfolders inside subfolders if you get my drift.

To create a Folder:

Step 1: Right-click on an empty section of the Desktop (this is the screen that is visible when no programs are open) and a pop-up menu will appear.

Step 2: To create a new folder: Go to NEW in the pop-up menu (see above), then drag the cursor to the arrow to open the side fly-out menu that shows Folder. Select Folder (see above).

Step 3: Change the name of the folder from New Folder to a name of your choice like Internet Fabric Search by doing the following:

a. Using your mouse, RIGHT-Click on New Folder (it will grey out).
b. Type in a new name for the folder (suggestion: Internet Fabric Search) or name of your choice.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 for a second folder that you will name: Converted Fabrics.

Now you are ready to download fabrics from the Internet

Step 1: Go to your favorite fabric site (I have included an extensive list of Links in this issue of Computer Quilting BYTES, to see the list, click here)

Step 2: Find the fabric images you would like to download.

Step 3: Using your mouse, RIGHT CLICK on the image of choice. One for the following pop-up menus will appear:

 

Note: Sometimes it feels like you have not clicked on an image but the following pop-up menus indicate that you have correctly selected an image.

 Internet Explorer right click
pop-up menu.

  Netscape right click pop-up menu.
Step 4: In Internet Explorer, select Save Picture As. In Netscape, select Save Image As. (see examples above.) This brings up the Save As Dialogue Box shown below.
Step 5: Click on the Up-One-Level Folder until the Desktop appears in the Save in: section as shown below.
Step 6: Using the Left Mouse Button, double-click on . (See example in Step 4.)
Step 7: Your are now ready to save your fabric to the Internet Fabric Search Folder by clicking the Save button.
HINT: You may want to name each fabric something that makes sense to you for future reference. See example above. I have named the file to be saved hawaii4. Keep the name to 8 letters or less just for good measure (Quilt-Pro 2 users this is required) -- do not worry about the type of file it is -- remember we will be coverting all files to 256 color bitmaps in the next section of this tutorial.
NOTE: If you continue to save fabrics during this search session, the Save As dialogue box will automatically open up to the Internet Fabric Search Folder each time and you will not have to repeat the above steps. If you end the fabric downloading session and use the Save As dialogue box for something else, you will need to repeat the above steps.
Step 8: After you have saved several files, you are ready to convert your fabric images. Go to the Tutorial for using Irfanview32 below to see an easy way to convert multiple fabric image files at one. Best thing about IrafanView32 is it is a powerful, fast FREEWARE that meets our needs as gleaners of fabric swatches!


 

Tutorial using freeware IrfranView to convert and resize fabric images to usable 256 color bitmaps:

 

What is IrfanView32?

IrfanView is a very fast FREEWARE (for non-commercial use). It is a 32-Bit graphic viewer for Windoze95/98 and Windows NT that supports 37 different graphic file formats. What makes IrfanVIEW32 useful to Electric Quilt 4, Quilt-Pro 2 and 3, QuiltSOFT 4 and PCQuilt users? IrfanView32's can:

Converts fabric image files that are downloaded off the Internet like jpegs, gifs and pngs to a useable 256 colors or less bitmap format for the our quilting software fabric libraries.
Shows thumbnail views of a folder contents so that you can preview your downloads before converting them.
Act as your scanner destination program.
Lighten or darken your images.
Tweak, swap or change color settings to create new color versions of a fabric
Add special effects to create interesting variations to an image.
Can create a slideshow of your favorite images for show and tell.
IrfanView32 does much more than the above list, but for our quilting software purposes this is more than enough and remember, its FREE!

Browse through the tutorial to see why IrfanView32 is going to solve your coversion in only a few easy steps.

When you are ready to download IrfanView32, go to Slide Show Available and find instruction on how to download the file and locate Irfanview32 under the Freeware section. It is a self-extracting file, just double-click on the file and it will automatically begin the process. FYI: this is the first freeware that I felt was good enough to go and ask permission to have a download zip file availabe to you right here on my website because I did not want to risk the link going dead like other downloads I have recommended.



Use IrfanView32 to View Your Fabric Images:

NOTE: If you already using IrfanView32 make sure that you have the latest version 3.17 for all the features I use in this tutorial, if you do not, download the file from the above paragraph.
Step 1: Install the IrfanView32 on your hard drive so that you can use it and open the program. See information above for where to download the program for FREE.

Step 2: To view Thumbnails of the contents of the Internet Fabric Search Folder:

Click on the File Menu and select Thumbnail
OR
Better yet try the shortcut for simple opening and closing of the Thumbnail box by using the Shortcut Key T. Hit T again the Thumnail Viewer will close
Note: Remember I said easy-to-use, most of the shortcut keys are single keystrokes, much easier to remember and the ability to close the options by hitting the key again is wonderful!


Thumbnail View

Step 3: To view the specifics of a file size and to allow you to see the variations found in downloads for type of file, pixel size and the byte size, use the following option:

 

Click on the File Menu and select Open
OR
Use the keyboard Shortcut Key O to open and close the Open dialogue box.
To select the folder that contains the downloaded internet files: Click on the Up-One-Level Folder until the Desktop appears in the Look in section.
Highlight the image you wish to see by clicking on the file name (see example above.)
NOTE:At the bottom of the Open dialgue box there is a section that gives you the detail of your image. Make sure sure that Preview active is checked. (see two example below for closeups of Preview details) IrfanView32 lists the details of the preview. This preview feature is not in found most graphic programs and yet here it is in a freeware! It is a very useful in helping you identify the variable found in your image. The most important to note, is the COLORS: both these examples shown are 32 bpp (meaning 16 million plus colors using 32bit imaging.) Remember, Electric Quilt 4 and Quilt-Pro 2 & 3 will accept only 256 colors. These images will require converting.
To preview the next image in the Internet Fabric Search use the keyboard up or arrow key (remember I said simple.)

 

Use IrfanView32 to:

Convert multiple fabric files at one time

Reduce the number of colors in a bitmap

Resize multiple files automatically

 Step 1: To open the Batch Conversion dialogue box, use one of two methods:

Go to the File Menu and select Batch Conversion. (See File Menu example above.)

OR use the Shortcut keystroke B. (remember hitting B again will close the dialogue box)

Step 2: To select the destination file folder for your output/converted files: NOTE: you want a separate folder from your download files or your original files will be mixed with the converted files. This will make it difficult to import converted files into the Quilt Software fabric libraries.

Open the Browse for folder Window by clicking Browse. (See example above.)

Select the folder for Converted Fabrics or the destination folder of your choice from the Browse for Folder dialogue box (See example to the below.)

Step 3: To select the conversion options for the downloaded fabric files from the Set for all images dialogue box:

Check, select or fill in the appropiate boxes. (See example.)

Suggestions:

Determine your optimum fabric file size. Somewhere between 100 to 200 pixels in width and height is best.**

Check Aspect ration so that the image does not distort or skew to something different when converting the file.

Check resample because it creates a better quality conversion.

If your fabric is colorful, select 256 colors. If you have downloaded solid type fabrics, 16 colors may be OK. Or limit your colors by using CUSTOM. (Remember the process is so simple, that you can redo with another color option if needed.)

**Too large of pixel image for fabric can cause program slowing, freezing or in EQ 4 error messages on importing.. Also the fabric may look like it is not filling the patch because the tiled view is only a tiny portion of the fabric. Therefore, it is best to stick with pixel sizes no greater than 200 in height or width. 

Step 4: To select the file formating to save your files to: Click the arrow and select BMP-Windows Bitmap.

Step 5: To select the folder that contains the fabric files for conversion: Click on the Up-One-Level Folder until the Desktop appears in the Look in section. (See example below.)

Then select the Internet Fabric Search Folder or the folder your files are in, your files will list in the white box to the right. (See example below.)

 

Step 6: The fabric files to be converted to the selected options in Step 2 must be moved to the left Files box. (See example below.) To move the files from the right to the left Files box, you can use several methods:

Lighten or Darken or Change Coloring in a Fabric Image using IrfanView32.

 

Highlight 1 file from the right list shown above and click Add.
To move all the files from the right to left Files list, click Add All
To select a portion of the right list in order, hold down the shift key and select the first file and the last file (all files between the two will hightlight). Click Add.
To move random files from the right list to the left Files list, hold down the Control keyboard key and select the files you want to move and click Add.
To remove a fabric file from the left Files list, select Remove.
To remove all the files from the left Fiels list, select Remove All.
Step 6: To convert all the files listed in the Files box: Click .
Now that you have converted the fabric files, you want to preview them to see if the conversion produced the results you want. Sometimes a bitmap conversion to a smaller file can result in darker image or a color change. This problem often arises when converting a large image. IranView32 allows you to quickly preview each fabric conversion and make adjustments if necessary.

Step 1: To open your fabric files: (See example above.)

Click on the File Menu and select Open. (see example below.)
OR use the Shortcut Key O. Hit O again the Open dialogue box will close.

Step 2: To select the folder that contains the downloaded internet files: Click on the Up-One-Level Folder until the Desktop (or the location of the folder of your fabric images) appears in the Look in section.

Step 3: Open the fabric you wish to view:
Double-click on the fabric name with the left mouse.
OR
Click on the fabric to highlight and click the OPEN button

Step 4: To quickly preview the next fabric file in the folder, click the keyboard spacebar. (Remember I said this was an easy program). Repeat TIL you have viewed all the fabrics and determined which ones might require some tweaking.

 

Step 5: After returning to the fabric that needs lighten or darken or to create a number of lighter and darker variations of a fabric, I have found that the Gamma Correction option is a great choice.
In the top Menu Bar, click Image.
From the Image Menu Select Gamma Correction and the below dialogue box will appear. s
Here are two variations of a converted fabric to show how dramatic of a change you can get with gamma. 
original fabric

 

lightened version
Now I have two fabric of the same style for my library and I could have made more.

More ideas

Well now you are ready to fly on own! Here are some ideas to follow:
There are several more options for changing color, swapping colors, and more under the Image File Menu. Experiment here and find out how easy making fabric variations are.
Use Capture under the Options menu to snag a picture of your favorite quilt on the screen and send it to your buddies.
Use Wallpaper under the Options menu to set your favorite image as the computer desktop picture centered or tiled without having to go into Windows Display options.


Use Effects under the Options menu to play around and create new inspiring images for quilt, fabric and other things.
Create a slideshow of your favorite imaes using Slideshow under the File Menu.Check out Sort Directory files under the Options menu to see additional details about your files.
Use IrfanView32 as your scanner desitination file. Find Twain Source under the File Menu and then use Aquire to bring in the scanned image. (I will be doing a tutorial on this in a future issue of Computer Quilting BYTES).

Remember, IrfanView32 can be downloaded right here. For instruction on how to download and the file, go to Slide Show Available and locate Irfanview under the Freeware section. It is a self-extracting file, just double-click on it and it will automatically begin the install proceedure.



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