Tutorials - Sparkles # 2

cartoon doll with sparkles

This tutorial is the second in a series of tutorials on how to make animated sparkles. The first is called "Sparkles # 1" and several of the steps in this tutorial are the same as in that one. If you did follow # 1 you should have no problem following this tutorial as you have already learned many of the steps.

This tutorial is for Paint Shopt Pro 7 and Animation Shop 3 from Jasc.com. It is pretty basic, so most users should be able to follow it.

This tutorial will teach you how to make animated sparkles by using a PSP plug-in filter. It is assumed that you know where to get or make cartoon dolls and that you know how to make them into a gif, bmp or psp file. Some of the functions that you will learn:

In PSP:
- Installing and using a plug-in filter.
- Getting a doll on a transparent background.
- Modifying a selection made with the magic wand.
- Saving a selection to alpha-channel.

In AS:
- Assembling an animation.
- Changing the display properties on multiple frames.
- Cropping multiple frames at once.
- Saving a transparent animation at best quality possible

1. First you need to click here to download the sparkles filter that we are going to use to make the animated sparkles. Just download it right to your desktop. The file is called 'VMNaturalSparkles.zip'. I am redistributing this filter with the permission of the creator Mario Klingemann. The filter was originally part of a package but I have permission to distribute it as a single file in this tutorial (if you get error messages when attempting to use the filter, don't dispair, it's probably just because your windows is missing some necessary files. Click here to read about it and to download the files).

2. The filter is in a zip file that needs to be unzipped. You use the program Winzip for this. If you don't have Winzip already you can download it at http://www.winzip.com

3. Unzip the file right to your desktop so as to make it easy to find. It contains two files, one called 'sparkle.8bf'. Move that file into the 'plugins' folder under your PaintShopPro folder. It should now show up in the list of available filters when you pull the list down in PSP. You might want to take the time to read the information inside the 'readme.txt' file that also came in the zip. It holds informaton on the creator of the file etc.

4. Open PSP and open the doll that you want to sparkle. :o) She may be in any format, but gif, bmp and psp are the best to work with. If your doll is in psp format just hit layers>merge>merge visible and then go to step 9. If your doll is in gif or bmp format it's a good idea to get her on a transparent background first. In that case you need to follow all the steps. First of all your doll can not be on a complex background in order for these steps to work. It has to be a one colour background.

5. Choose colors>increase color depth>16 million colors. In the layer palette double click on the background layer that you doll is on and then choose ok (if these functions don't show up then don't worry, it's because your doll already has the image quality that is needed.

The palette should go from looking like this:
tutorial image

to looking like this:
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6. Now you'll want to get your doll onto a transparent background (to go from the first image to the second):

tutorial image tutorial image

7. First choose the magic wand magic wand and use these settings:

tutorial image

8. Click on the background of your doll image (white on mine) so that you get marching ants around the doll itself and around the edge of the image. Hit delete. You should now see the checkered background in PSP which indicates that your doll is on a transparent background, just like the image above. If your doll has her arms on her hips there might be some room left on the inside space between the arm and the side. Just click that space again and hit delete. Keep doing this until you have deleted the entire coloured background.

9. Now you will want to select the part of the doll that you want to have sparkles. I want the dress on my doll to be sparkly. I will want to use the magic wand again to select the dress. Notice that on my doll the dress isn't one signle shade so I have to play around with the settings in the magic wand in order to be able to select as much of the dress as possible at one time. The setting that is to be changed is 'tolerance'.

10. I set the tolerance to 20 and click right in the center of the dress. The marching ants appear and almost the entire dress is selected as you can see in the first image below. But I want to select the entire dress, so I hold down the shift key and using the magic wand I click on a part of the dress that hasn't been selected. That becomes part of the selection as well. Just a few clicks and the entire dress is selected as in the second image below.

tutorial image tutorial image tutorial image

11. Now I don't like to get sparkles right on the outline of the dress so I will try to contract the selection. Selections>modify>contract. On this particular image is set the number to 2, but if you have a heavily shaded area that you want to make sparkle you might want to set it to 3. Hit ok. My selection now looks like the third image above.

12. Selections>promote to layer. Your selection is now on a layer by itself (this is somehow necessary to make the filter work as it's supposed to). Selection>save to alpha channel. Just keep the default names and choose ok. We have now saved the selection so that even if we do something wrong and loose it or the marching ants disappear by accident the selection will be easy to retrieve (in case you will need to retrieve it during this tutorial just choose selections>load from alpha channel and then choose the selection that you want).

13. Effects>Plug-in Filters>VM Natural>Sparkle. A box that looks something like this will appear (this image has been shrunken, if you would like to see the full image just click on it and a new window will open):

tutorial image

14. It is a lot of fun to play around with this filter. You can change the size of the sparkles on the top slide, and the colour on the 'red', 'green' and 'blue' slides. The second last slide also has to do with colour and the last slide determines the placement of the sparkles. You can play around with the settings to make the sparkles that you like or you can do as I do and keep it totally simple for this tutorial. Important: keep a piece of paper so that you remember the settings that you use, write them down, because the next time we open the filter the settings will have gone back to default. The only slide I will move in this tutorial is the 'random seed' one which determines the placement of the sparkles.

15. I slide it up to 23 and then hit ok. The filter window is closed and the sparkles appear within the selection on the doll.

16. Layers>merge>merge visible.

17. File>save as. Name the file 1.psp and save it right to the desktop.

18. Hit the undo button twice undo button.

19. Use the filter again (effects>sparkle), all the same settings as before except for the 'random seed' which you move to another position. I move it to 90 and hit ok.

20. Layers>merge>merge visible.

21. File>save as. Name the file 2.psp and save it right to the desktop.

22. I want to make four different files like this. It is necessary to repeat the same step over again until you have the four files named 1.psp, 2.psp, 3.psp and 4.psp. The only real different is the placement of the sparkles which you have varied by moving the 'random seed' slide to a new position each time you used the filter. You can now close down PSP.

23. Open AS and choose the animatin wizard animation wizard. When prompted enter the following settings 'same size as first image', 'transparent', 'upper left corner of the frame' and 'with the canvas color', 'yes, repeat the animation indefinitely' and set the display time to 15, and then 'add image' locate the images named 1.psp thru 4.psp and choose 'open'. You should now have a row of images that looks something like this (this image has been shrunken, if you would like to see the full image just click on it and a new window will open):

tutorial image

24. Click the view animation button view animation to see if you like the timing on the sparkle animation. If you like it you can jump to step 27. If you think it's a bit too fast or slow you can change it. First close down the small sample animation that you're viewing by clicking the x in the upper right corner just like you do with any other window (DON'T shut down AS though).

25. On your keyboard hit the ctrl + a keys simultaneously. All the frames in the animation should now be highlighted ( = they have blue edges).

26. Right click somewhere on one of the frames and choose 'frame properties'. Set the time that you want. I set mine to 20, a little longer display time than the 15 from before, which means that the animation will be a little slower than before. You can experiment to get the speed that you like.

27. If you're like me you're likely to have your doll on a canvas that is too large for the doll (look at the image above to see the excess space on each side of the doll). This is great when you're working on the doll, but if you don't remove this excess space you'll get larger image files and there'll always be some annoying space around your doll when you place it on the web.

28. To remove this space first make sure that all the frames are highlighted (hit ctrl+a again).

29. Choose the crop tool crop tool and the 'options' button (right above the crop tool). Choose 'surround the opaque area' and then 'ok'. A small rectangle will now appear around each doll like this (this image has been shrunken, if you would like to see the full image just click on it and a new window will open):

tutorial image

30. You may notice that the line goes very close to the doll. I like to pull it out a little bit just to ensure that no part of the doll is chopped off when saving. Let the cursor hover over each line until you see a small arrow just like when you want to drag a window larger. Hold the left mouse button down and drag the line just a couple of pixels away from the doll. Do this to each of the sides of the rectangle. You only need to do it in one of the frames though because the other frames will accomodate. Keep a steady hand so as not to make a mistake and when you are satisfied with the result double click inside the rectangle and the excess space will be cut off. My image now looks like this:

tutorial image

31. If you are satisfied with the result you are now ready to save the animation. File>save as. Name the animation and make sure to choose the gif option in the file type. Then hit save.

32. This window should appear:

tutorial image

33. Slide the handle all the way up to 'better image quality' and then hit the 'customize' button.

34. On the colors tab choose these settings:

tutorial image

35. On the 'optimizations' tab choose these settings:

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36. And on the 'partial transparency' choose these settings:

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37. Then just click ok and next until your animation has been saved. That is all!

cartoon doll with sparklescartoon doll with sparklescartoon doll with sparkles

These are all dolls that were made with the sparkle effect described in this tutorial. This tutorial describes one way of making animated sparkles in PSP and AS. There are several other ways of making sparkles depending on the effect that you want. If you haven't already you might want to try the tut called Sparkles #1or Sparkles #3.


(This entire tutorial © June 18th, 2002 by Guðrun Jacobsen)

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