Layering is the ultimate graphics tool

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

August 12, 2011

Today I decided to spend a little time creating a graphic header for this blog. I don’t have much in graphics art tools. I could download Gimp, figure it out, and probably get disappointed that it can’t do something I want. Or maybe buy something else, install it, figure it out, and again get disappointed when it can’t do something I want. Looming over all of this is the fact that I just want to build a nice little image to head up a BLOG. This isn’t a book cover or some other professional endeavor, so why exert that much effort.

Instead, I figured if I could just layer the things that I want, a snapshot with Jing should do the trick. For starters, I’m a big Tron fan, so I figured some tiny image from the movie would look nice and be alright under Fair Use. In my mind, I could visualize some source code overlaid on it. Remembering how my mac’s Terminal app is slightly transparent, I figured out how to increase the transparency and reduce the brightness of the text. By placing the Terminal window over the image, it made a nice layered image.

I grabbed a screenshot with Jing and uploaded it to the blog. Unfortunately, the title and description displayed on top of the image looked terrible. I needed to layer the text on top of the image with some special formatting. Unfortunately, positioning a text editor on top would include the window frames and look terrible.

Next step: LibreOffice. I created a new text document and inserted the layered image I built before hand. Then I created a couple of text frames, changed the text color to white and background color to transparent. Tweaked the fonts, and put it in Print Preview. Zoomed in to 100% and grabbed another screenshot. Perfect! Uploaded to blog and requested the image be displayed in lieu of the text. Awesome!

The trick to all this? Thinking with a UNIX-like mentality: use several tools that each do one job well, and string them together to build a final product.

Now this I can do.  –Sam Flynn


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