PIXLR: Editing Graphics In the Cloud
Have you ever needed to make a quick change to a graphic on one of your presentation slides before class, but your basic paint program just didn’t cut it? If so, you can try out PIXLR, a cloud-based graphic editing tool that you can use for free inside of your browser. You don’t even need to create a new account, just head to the PIXLR website and get started.
PIXLR Editor, PIXLR Express and PIXLR O Matic Web Apps
The PIXLR web site offers 3 variants of cloud-based tools that use the Adobe Flash plugin in your browser. These variants are free to use, but are ad-supported.
- PIXLR Editor is a feature-rich graphic editing suite with a large array of tools and effects.
- PIXLR Express offers tools to make quick fixes or create collages.
- PIXLR O Matic is a user-friendly “fun and free photo editing tool to add retro effects and transform photos into cool vintage images” according to the PIXLR website.
PIXLR Editor is the most complete tool in the suite of Web Apps. It has an impressive array of features that you would expect from a modern graphic editing program including support for layers, using its own file format PXD (a layered PIXLR image). Layers can be useful for creating maps with varying levels of detail, adding text label overlays to existing graphics (think of anatomical illustrations in biology) or several versions of the same image with different details in each image (like section titles for a pedagogical video that have the same colour scheme and background, but whose title text changes from section to section).
A view of the PIXLR EDITOR Web App supports layers and includes many features.
Among the most useful features in PIXLR editor:
- Cropping and resizing tools
- Selection tools
- Pencil, paint brush and paint bucket tools
- A red-eye reduction tool
- Automatic adjustment tools (brightness, sepia, invert, etc.)
- Effects filters
- Support for layers
PIXLR Express is probably the tool you would use before class if you were in a rush. You can apply a large variety of fixes and enhancements to photos through the user-friendly interface which is divided into 6 categories of fixes:
- Adjustment - brighten, crop, blur or make other fixes
- Effect - add a filter to soften the image or make it look like an old photo
- Overlay - stylistic transformation of the image with various patterns
- Borders - add a frame to the image
- Stickers - choose a sticker to liven up the image or call attention to a part of the photo
- Type - add stylized text to your image
In PIXLR express there is also a collage tool that you can choose upon launching PIXLR Express that can be useful for infographics or artistic collections of images.
Adding images created by Profweb’s Web Integrator Guillaume Vachon to a collage in PIXLR Express by clicking on the blue ‘plus’ sign.
PIXLR O Matic
Rounding out the selection of Web Apps is PIXLR O Matic. For those that are intimidated by the numerous functions and highly-structured interface in PIXLR Editor, or who find the PIXLR Express tool a little too confining, PIXLR O Matic is a fun alternative.
Using a steam-punk looking interface, you can easily add effects or crop images that you have uploaded.
In the following example, I took the same image used earlier in this article and discarded the colour information using a filter called ‘Jean.’ I’m not sure what Jean has to do with creating grayscale images, but it seems like more fun to me than rolling through the series of clicks I would need to execute to perform the same effect in PIXLR Editor!
Creating a grayscale version of the photo Ara taken by Catherine Viens for inclusion in a printed document. Photo retrieved from CCDMD’s World of Images website (Photo: © 2007, Catherine Viens, Le monde en images, CCDMD).
PIXLR Mobile: Edits on the Go
Another option for editing images in a pinch is to use the mobile version of PIXLR Express which is available for Android and iOS. The app is free to download (ad-supported and in-app purchases exist). PIXLR O Matic is also available for Android and iOS.
Cropping Catherine’s Ara photo on an Android tablet. Photo retrieved from CCDMD’s World of Images website (Photo: © 2007, Catherine Viens, Le monde en images, CCDMD).
With many students having their own mobile devices (tablets and smartphones), this might make a nice addition to their digital tool kit.
Potential Uses in the Classroom
There are a number of potential uses of the PIXLR tools for both teachers and students alike:
- Creating or editing images for a pedagogical or student presentation videos with a more polished look
- Making funky infographics
- Creating collages of photos as part of a student ePortfolio
- Creating logos for a student-run business
- Retouching photos in a photography course
- Editing images for inclusion on a student blog on Wordpress
- Updating the visual aspects of your Profweb web space
The possibilities are only limited by our imagination!
Integration with Google Drive
Once you have tried the PIXLR Web Apps, you may decide to that they are useful enough to use on an on-going basis. If you have an account with Google, you can easily integrate the PIXLR Editor and PIXLR Express Web Apps with Google Drive. This will allow you to save the images you have edited directly into Google Drive, rather than having to save them on your computer or a USB stick.
You can connect the PIXLR Web Apps to your Google Drive by clicking New -> More -> Connect more apps, and searching for PIXLR. Once you click on the CONNECT button, the PIXLR Web App will appear in your list of choices.
Taking Your First Steps
There are a number of resources on the web to help you take your first steps with PIXLR, and to learn the ins and outs of graphic editing, from beginner to advanced levels. I found the following video particularly useful as an introduction to PIXLR editor.
An introduction to the PIXLR Editor Web App
I hope you are as impressed by the free offering of tools from PIXLR as I was, and I wish you plenty of creativity and enjoyment with your first experiences of image editing in the cloud!
Feel free to share your experience with the tools in the comments section below.