Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How To Make A Jagged Black Border Using Paint.NET

Back about 12 or 13 years ago when I was in college, it was very trendy to have a jagged black border around one's printed photographs. This was accomplished by taking a Dremel tool to the enlarger's film holder. Enlarging the size of the film holder by just a little allowed light to pass from around the edges of the exposed part of the film and onto the photo paper below.

I don't know if it was originally intended for the lines to be jagged or straight, but, since it's difficult to get perfectly straight lines with handheld power tools, the lines created were jagged (some more than others).

Most of the enlargers in the college's black-and-white lab had these modified film holders. Most students had jagged black borders around at least some of their prints. Some students had them around all of their prints. A few even modified the already modified film holders so the black border would be larger and more jagged.

Here are two links: here and here.

I'm not sure if this is still the trend. Times change, styles change, mediums change. But whether having a jagged black border is "in" or not, the effect can still add an interesting twist to some of your photographs.

And with photo editing software, it's pretty easy, too.

Vishnu Temple Before Sunrise - Grand Canyon, Arizona
I use Paint.NET, a good photo editing software that is completely free (yes, free!). You can do this with Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro or GIMP--the commands may be a bit different than Paint.NET, but not by much. If you have those programs you should be able to figure this out without much trouble.

Step 1

Open the image that you wish to add a jagged black border to. It's best to have post-processing complete before continuing.

Step 2

Open the Colors window (click "Window" at the top, then click "Colors").

Step 3

Select "Secondary"  from the drop-down menu on the Colors window.

Step 4

Click on the small black square at the bottom left of the Colors window to select black as the border color (you could select any color and have some pretty wild borders if you wanted to).

Step 5

Select "Canvas Size" from the Image drop down menu at the top of the page (click "Image" then "Canvas Size"). A box will open.

Step 6

Select "By percentage", then change the percentage. If you're doing a straight black border (not jagged), then choose 99% or 98%. If you're doing a jagged black border, choose 96% or 95%.

Step 7

Ensure the "Anchor" is in the middle (click the middle of the nine boxes). Select "OK" at the bottom of the box.

Step 8

Select "Canvas Size" from the Image drop down menu at the top of the page (click "Image" then "Canvas Size"). Again, a box will open.

Step 9

Select "By percentage" and add as many percentages as you took away in step six. For example, if you selected 99% then use 101%, or if you selected 95% then use 105%.

Step 10

Ensure the "Anchor" is in the middle (click the middle of the nine boxes). Select "OK" at the bottom of the box.

At this point you have a black border around your image. If you want clean, straight lines then stop here. If you want jagged edges, continue on to the next steps.

Firewood - Williams, Arizona
Step 11

Create a new layer (click on "Layers" at the top of the page then click "Add new layer").

If you don't have the Layers window open, click "Windows" then "Layers" to do so.

Step 12

In the Layers window ensure the new layer (which should be white and grey squares) is highlighted and the image layer is not. Click the blue down arrow to move the new layer to the bottom (the image layer will move to the top).

Step 13

Ensure the new layer is selected (it should have a check mark in the Layers window) and highlighted and that the image layer is not.

Step 14

In the Tools window, select the "pour paint" option (it looks like a can of paint spilling over).

Step 15

In the Colors window select "Primary" in the drop down menu and click on the white square at the bottom left to select white as the color.

Step 16

Click in the new layer to "paint" it white (it should take just one click).

Step 17

In the Layers window make sure the image layer is selected with a check mark and highlighted. The new (white) layer should also be selected with a check but not highlighted.

Step 18

You should be looking at an image with a black border around it.

From the Tools window select the eraser option (it looks like a pencil eraser). Towards the top of the page you can select the size of the eraser from a drop down menu. Somewhere between 30 and 50 should be an appropriate size.

Step 19

Erase the outer half (or so) of the black border, which will reveal the white layer underneath. By doing so freehand with the eraser tool, you'll have a jagged black border with a white border around it. I try to make the lines straight, but my hands are nowhere near steady enough to make true straight lines, and that naturally causes them to be jagged.

The more you take your time with this step, the less jagged the lines should be, and the quicker you do this the more jagged the lines should be. Play around with it a little until the image looks how you want it. Don't be afraid to use the "Undo" function.

Step 20

Flatten the image (which merges the two layers) by selecting the "Image" drop down menu, then "Flatten image".

You should "Save" or "Save as" at this point.

Conclusion
Once you've done these steps a couple of times the process becomes quick and natural. The results look fairly close to the effect that was popular in black-and-white labs a decade or so ago. With practice you may even be able to improve on the technique.

Adding a jagged black border is not something I'd want to do with all of my images, but used thoughtfully it can add extra interest and artfulness to a photograph.

On my Blog the images look a little strange. I have a dark background, which makes the images appear to have two borders, one black and one white. If your website has a white background or when printed on white photo paper, that white border "disappears" and the photograph looks more natural.

If you didn't crop the image prior to step two, you can't make 5" x 7", 8" x 10" or 11" x 14" prints because of how those sizes crop the standard image ratio. 4" x 6" and 8" x 12" prints don't crop much and are the most appropriate sizes to print an uncropped black border image. My suggestion is to crop the image to the size it will printed prior to making any borders.

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