Pixlr is a fantastic free cloud-based photo editing tool. The logo on this website was created using pixlr. Other images I’ve created were done using Pixlr too. After discovering an article on Illustratortips (creating your own clip art using Photoshop), I wanted to see how well the concept would work with Pixlr. So, I modified the idea to fit Pixlr and now am going to share with you what I did and how it turned out.
I want to point out that I am an amateur doing this, but was able to make the concept work. I am now going to share the steps with you so you too can create your own clip art using Pixlr. It is relatively simple to do. The instructions I have listed below are easy to follow so that those with low tech skills will be able to follow too. The benefit of using Pixlr for creating clip art is that it is free to use, and it is easy to navigate once you understand how to use it.
What is the benefit of being able to create your own clip art? When you learn how to create your own clip art, you can create specialized images for your lessons. You can create clip art to use is presentations or in lesson handouts. You can also use the clip art in digital programs and files: in flash cards, in web 2.0 interactive tools, in games, in your own learning apps, and in so much more. You could even teach your students how to create their own clip art for projects.
I have put the steps together in screen shots. If it is hard to read any of the text, just click on the image and you will be able to see the text larger. Here you go….
Pixlr Editor is the best editor with the most features and is the one you should use. Pixlr O-matic is the app equivalent for your tablet and mobile device. If you are creating your image using a mobile device with a stylus, you can use Pixlr O-matic. Pixlr Express is for basic photo editing and only allows you to add filters and stickers. Don’t use Pixlr Express for creating clip art.
The photo is your template for tracing. You can take your own photo, or use a public domain photo. Make sure the photo is laid out how you’d like your clip art to look. I took a picture with my Smartphone and uploaded to my laptop. You can do this, or you can use any public domain that allows editing. Use the “Open from URL” option if you are using a public domain image from the web.
Once you open your photo it is locked. You must unlock your photo to add a second layer. The second layer is what you will draw on. Once you create your second layer drawing, you will delete the photo image from your screen. See the yellow arrow on the right hand side of this image pointing to the “Layers” box. Do you see the image of the lock next to the “Background” image? You must double click on the image of the lock, to unlock the photo.
Once you unlock your “Background” image, this is what it should look like. Your photo, or “Background” image, becomes “Layer 0”. This is the layer you will put in the trash can after a few more steps.
Next you will need to add a “Layer 1”. You can do this by clicking on the square image next to the trash can. Look at this screen shot to see what it looks like. The “Layer 1” is what will become your clip art.
This is what you should now see. The “Layer 0” is your original photo which you will eventually put in the trash. The “Layer 1” is the new layer you will draw on to create your clip art. Make sure both checks show up next to the layers. You won’t be able to draw without the checks showing.
Next, click on the pencil icon to trace your photo image.
After you click on the pencil icon, you must choose the type of point. Click on the scroll down, and select “plain”.
Next you must select your pencil size. After a few attempts I discovered that it is best to select the size 8 tip.
Next slowly and carefully trace your photo. Only trace the areas you’d like to show up in your clip art. For the hat below, I added additional features. For the school bus, below I didn’t add as many features as the original photo had.
If you want to check how your clip art image looks like without the photo, then click on the check next to “Layer 0”. By doing this you will unmark the photo and you will only see your tracing for the “Layer 1”. It is a good idea to do this a few times during your tracing process so that you can see how your tracing is turning out.
After your tracing is complete you will want to put the original photo in the trash. You will want to do this carefully because you will not want to lose your tracing by putting the wrong layer in the trash. Put “Layer 0” in the trash can by clicking on the check mark on “Layer 1”. After you do this, only “Layer 0” should have a check mark next to it. “Layer 1” should have no check mark next to it. Next, click on the trash can image at the bottom right corner of the “Layer” box. This will automatically put “Layer 0” in the trash. After you do this, you will need to click on the checkbox for “Layer 1” again so that “Layer 1” appears. You should see your tracing again if you did this process correctly.
In this screenshot, I had not yet put my “Layer 0” in the trash can. After creating the hat and then the school bus below, I realized that it is best to put your “Layer 0” photo in the trash can just before this step. After you do this you will want to touch up your image. Click on the eraser icon to erase clean up your image. Slowly and carefully erase any tracings that stick out.
Next you can do the really fun and creative part. Begin paining your image. After completing the hat and the bus, I discovered that it is best to first add a white background to your image using the paint can. Click on the paint can and then select the color white.
Whether you are using the paint can, paintbrush, or pencil to draw with, you will follow this step to select a color. First click on the large color box on the left hand corner of the screen. After this, you will see the color screen appear just like in the screenshot above. Selecting a color may be confusing to those with less tech skills. For this reason, I’m keeping my instructions simple.
Click on the color you like on the outer circle. This is the first step for selecting your color.
Next in the inner circle, click on the color you like. This will be the color you paint with. The color you select will appear in the large box in the upper right hand corner. This is the easiest way to select a color. After you do this, then click on “ok”. If you have more advanced skills you can play with the other color selection features. I’m trying to keep the instructions here as simple as possible for those with less tech skills.
Next begin painting your image. Remember when I created this hat, I did not add my white background first. It is best to add the white background before coloring your image. Use the paint can to paint your background. Use the paint brush in whatever tip size you like to paint your clip art image. I found that it is best to use size 20, 50 and sometimes 100.
When you want to select a different color, follow the same steps for selecting a color.
I did not take screenshots for all of the steps I took. The best thing to do is just play with the tools on the left toolbox. This will give you an idea of what the tools can do. If you want to keep it simple, just use the paintbrush and pencil to paint your clip art.
There are image adjustments and filters you can use to change your image. The best thing to do is to play with the filters. If you want to “undo” a filter then click on “Edit” at the top of the screen. Scroll down and click on “undo”. Pixlr does not have a back button to undo. If you want to undo any color, filters, or anything else throughout the process, then you will need to undo the step in the “Edit” menu. I added filters and adjustments to the hat image so that you can see what it looks like. If you view the bus image below, you will see that I did not add any adjustments or filters. If you want to keep your clip art simple, then don’t use any adjustments or filters.
Finally, you will want to save your clip art. I find that it is best to sign up for Pixlr and save the image both in Pixlr and to my personal computer. This way I have a cloud backup file as well as the file on my computer.
Important notes: Remember to save your image. Also, remember that if you want to undo a step, click on “edit” and “undo”. If you paint outside the lines, don’t use the eraser. Use the paintbrush with white paint color in a size 20 or 50 to paint over the edges. This will erase your mistake into the background color white.
The final image of the hat turned out okay for my first attempt. The curves were difficult to do without using a touchscreen and a stylus. After I completed the hat as a test, I attempted a school bus. The school bus was much easier to do because of the straight lines and box forms. You can see the school bus turned out better than the hat. I think that anyone creating clip art this way will improve every attempt he or she makes.
Here are some images of my attempt with the school bus…
I took a picture of a bus with my Smartphone. I placed the bus down in the direction I wanted the clip art to turn out.
The bus image was much more easy to trace than the hat.
It’s always best to add the white background first.
Begin coloring the basic outlines and features. I used the paint brush size 50 and 100.
Begin filling in the other bigger features.
Start adding smaller details. Use your imagination to create your clip art uniquely for your tastes.
Add more details to finish your clip art. This is not my completed image. The completed image is at the top of this page.
A few notes about saving your clip art during the work process…
- Make sure you save your image several times during your work. Pixlr won’t save the image for you. By saving the image periodically throughout your work process, you can guarantee that you have a copy saved in your folder to work off of if Pixlr crashes. Pixlr did crash on me and I had to start over on the hat.
- If you have to open a saved unfinished piece of clip art to work on later (whether Pixlr crashes or you just didn’t have time to finish it), you will not be able to edit it immediately. In order to edit a saved image, you first must click on “Layer” at the top menu, scroll down, and click on “Rasterize”. By clicking on “Rasterize” it allows you to edit your image to finish it.
Beth Crumpler is an ESL freelance curriculum writer, e-learning content developer and instructor. She has developed and written content for well-known companies/institutions in the education sector. She is the founder of the adaptivelearnin.com website and blog, which both present ideas for using adaptive concepts in learning. She is a certified teacher of ESL and music. Beth enjoys studying technology for teaching ESL and in her spare time studies Spanish.