Welcome to Shoestring Graphics!

As the name and subtitle indicate, my goal is to help you in your graphics endeavors by pointing you to free or no-cost software, and then by showing you how to use these programs. There will also be some free graphics for you, but my main emphasis is on showing you how to do it yourself. I am not a professional graphics designer, and I'd just as soon say it up front, but I think that my position as a non-professional has a few advantages. First, I have approached the subject as a novice myself, and so you won't find me using a lot of jargon or technical terms in my explanations, other than assuming that you have a certain knowledge of how to use a computer and software programs in general. Secondly, I don't assume that everyone has Photoshop and that it's indispensable. My basic approach is, on the contrary, that it's possible to live well and create good graphics and save our hard-earned money for other things than expensive software programs. Thirdly, in another life before I retired, I was a teacher, and this experience will hopefully help me to present all of this in an orderly way without sending you into information overload. My approach is a task-oriented one, which means that my focus is foremost on which tools we need to obtain our desired outcome, rather than simply a global evaluation of various programs. Some programs do a whole bunch of things; others are more specific. I don't give extra points to those that do lots of things – it's more important to find out if they do those things well. With free and low-cost programs, it's not a problem to have several. The main problem with having a lot of graphics programs that do various things is keeping track of which one does what, but I'll be here to help you on that too. If you are a webmaster who is drawn to graphics by necessity for your website, or an  artistically inclined person who is fascinated by the creative possibilities of digital art, or someone who wants to polish up your photos before sending them on to your friends, this website is for you. If you are more experienced in computer graphics, there still may be something here for you too – perhaps a less well-known tool that you didn't know about. I would also appreciate any comments or advice that you may have. If you are a graphics designer yourself, your contribution of a sample of your work would be much appreciated by my readers, and might help you to be better known. As of this writing, the cupboard is quite bare, but by signing up to my list, you will receive notice when I add new content.

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Free Vectors

Here are a few sites that offer free vectors. The main vector file types are .ai, .svg and .eps. You can open .ai and .svg files using the open source program Inkscape, and you can get Inscape to open .eps files by following the instructions here. Another program you can use is Serif's Draw plus, which handles all three file types. You can get the free starter edition here.

Tree vectors

These free tree vectors are original, copyright free artwork that can be used on any commercial or personal project.  These vectors can be used with any vector editing software such as adobe illustrator. These free tree vector stock art graphics vary in style and can be modified for any design-  – Tree Vectors


Vine vectors

This free illustrator vector download contains six unique vines, beanstalks, and jungle plants.  Stay tuned for more great free vectors coming soon.  – Vine Vectors



Beach-related vectors

This collection of vectors includes free vectors of tiki tribal masks, tiki hut, surf board, waves, palm trees, beach vectors, island, sunset, Hawaiian flowers, and more. – Beach Vectors


A bunch more

Here's another site that has free vectors, but only for personal use; for commercial use you have to pay for them. You'll find them here.

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Free Textures

Textures can be used in various ways; they can be used as backgrounds on your web pages, or in graphics creation, such as headers, to give a richer, um, texture to your graphics. The header on this blog is an example.

You will find on this page a selection of sites where you can find free textures.


Grunge Textures

The cardboard pieces had a good enough foundation of stains and patterns, so I decided to convert these to duotone and create a versatile and eclectic mix of textures. I love combining all forms of digital and traditional media in my work, and finding a way to organize creative chaos. … – Source


Motion Textures

The base images for these textures are some long-exposure fire photos I shot last week. I was going to release those images as a set, but I have recently released a set of fire textures so I didnt want to be too repetitive. – Source


Wood Textures

All textures on this site are copyright to Dustin Schmieding, and free to users for personal or commercial use. This set contains 9 different macro wood textures taken from various… – Source


Rainy Day Textures

These eight textures have a foundation of water droplets on windows. I added some other subtle grunge to add some more depth of surfacing and tone. All textures on this site are copyright to Dustin Schmieding, and free to users for personal or commercial use. – Source


Linen Textures

In todays post, we are going to showcase some high quality linen texture which you can use as a background on your websites or on your other design projects. Here is A Collection of Free Linen Texture which can help in emphasizing a number of elements such as titles, icons, headings… – Source


Pink Pastel Textures

Download the Free Tileable Baby Pink Pastel Photoshop Pattern Set JPGs Textures Below. Source


Grungy Mauve Textures

Today’s web treat is a free combo pack of seamlessly tileable Grungy Mauve Brown patterns in .jpg format as well as a corresponding Photoshop pattern (.pat) set. Free for use in both personal and commercial projects. – Source

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My First HDR Photo

I finally managed to understand my new camera's setting enough to take the same photo several times at different exposures and put them together as an HDR photo.

Here is the finished product:

And here is a cropped version: Continue reading

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Photo manipulation and Pepper Spray

There are a lot of inventive people out there. if you have any doubts about that, just follow the link below.

The video of a campus policeman who sprayed pepper spray on a group of peaceful demonstrators at the University of California at Davis who were just sitting in a row made a big stir – but verbal comments were not the only reaction.  A lot of people used images to make their own statement about this event.

There are 43 pictures shown on this site, and I can't promise you that you will appreciate or approve of them all, but I think they are definitely worth viewing:


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Photo Graphics Software – Special Offers

This post is reserved for limited-time offers – that means that you may find it too late, but is that my fault? Of course not!

I’ll update it whenever I find something interesting. If you missed the last one, I hope you get here in time for the next one.

March 27  If you go to PCMag at this link: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2455471,00.asp

and copy the promotion code, and click on the link at the beginning of the article, you can download CyberLink’s Photo Director 4 for free. But hurry – you only have until tomorrow, March 28.

I just downloaded and am trying it out – for now it looks very good. I like their cloning tool, and the beautifier tools (skin smoother, etc) are also good.

June 9  File Minimizer is free today on Bits du Jour – looks good – I’ve downlaoded it but haven’t looked into it yet.  Get it here.

January 12   Giveaway of the Day again. Today’s giveaway is Twisted Brush Pro Studio 17. The current version is 19, but this one is still quite good, and of course, it’s free if you get it today.

January 9, 2013    Giveaway of the Day has a good one today: Inpaint, which is a tool to remove unwanted parts of your photos. I just gave it a test run, and was pleased with the results. Even if you have a photo editor with a clone tool, you may find, as I did, that this works better.

December 21  If you missed the special offer on Twisted Brush Pro Studio a while back, you can get it today on Bits du Jour. It’s version 19, the latest one. I like this one.

Also, Summitsoft has a promo on its Logo Design Studio Pro, with extra design packs and fonts thrown in. A very good deal. This is a very good program, and I love their fonts. I don’t know how long this offer will be available.

October 10   Summitsoft has a special offer on its Logo Design Studio Pro, for only $20. It’s a very good logo design program, but you can do other things with it too. It’s got a lot of extras included, even a pack of 6000 fonts, which make it worthwhile all by itself. You will find it here.   The offer will be good for one week.

October 3  If you didn’t get Zoner Photo Studio 14 the last time, you can get it today on the Giveaway of the Day.

It’s a good program, worth having, especially when it’s free.

September 17  Giveaway of the Day has a new photo editor called Paint Supreme. It seems to be very complete, with brushes, layers, vector capacities. I have downloaded and opened it, but have not examined it closely. One reason is that I was put off by the grey-on-black color scheme, not easy to read. But coming back later, I sort of got used to it. I tried to open a .psd file (one comment said they didn’t have them, but it’s in their list of files). It did open the file, but took a long time and I got a warning that the memory was low. So read the comments on the download page before you decide. Some people are very happy with it; others are critical. I’m not sure yet myself.

September 5

Another one from Bits du Jour:  Twisted Brush Studio 17.  Not long ago, the lastest version was offered at a big discount, but this time it is an older version, but it is free. Highly recommended.

August 30

Ashampoo is having a big 80% off offer on many (not all) of its software programs. I have Photo Commander, and like it. I just bought Snap5, a screenshot program, which looks like it has some interesting functions. I also bought Win Optimizer and Core Tuner on a previous offer, and they’re good too. If you like their products, stay on their list and wait for special offers, which they have often. This one is one of their best offers; it is good until September 5th, and not to be missed.

August 29

You have until September 2 to get Summitsoft’s Logo Design Studio Pro for only $5 instead of $60. I got it at a discount, but not that good! I really like this program and highly recommend it.  To get it, go here.

Bits du Jour again: Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition for PC -
 add weather effects to your nature photos and then save them as screensavers or videos. Worth a try while it’s free – I have downloaded this but haven’t tried it yet.

August 28

Another good one from Bits du Jour: Summitsoft is giving away 1000 free fonts. I have many of their fonts, and they are good.

August 7 

If you missed Zoner Photo Studio 14 the last time, you can get it here today at  Bits du Jour. This is one I recommend.

Also, the Giveaway of the Day has Sothink Logo Maker as today’s download. Read the comments before you decide – some of them are quite negative. But since it includes over 360 templates, you might want it for those even if the program is not the best. There are samples on their site. For free, it may be worth the price.

July 24

In spite of vacations and lots of things going on in my life, I have been keeping an eye out for good deals, but there just hastn’t been anything I thought was good enough to post here.

But today there are two very good offers that you won’t want to miss:

At the Giveaway of the Day, there is Zoner’s Photo Studio 14, a very good program that I have myself and like. A good all-around photo editor.

At Bits du Jour, there is an offer for Twisted Brush Studio 19 for $39, which is 61% off the regular price. I’ve downloaded the free version, and liked it, but it is quite limited, so I can’t resist and am going to invest in this one.

May 4
Wondershare often has special offers of their software, and now, as a Mother’s Day special, you can get their DVD Slideshow Builder for  free or at a low price for two licences. Go here to check it out. You have ten days before the offer expires.

May 3  Giveaway of the Day  is giving away Inpaint: “Remove undesirable objects from your images, such as logos, watermarks, power lines, people, text or any other undesired artefacts.”  I have used this and like it – have downloaded the new version.

April 28
I found a new software giveaway site. This one is called Daily Software Giveaway. and it has a Wondershare product today: Video Studio Express1.2.0 Their description: “This little gem of video editing tool is a big favorite among digital video editing beginners. As an easy yet powerful video editor, it permits you compile any movie or video projects regardless the size and format in a few simple steps. You can add background music, scene transitions, and stylish movie effects to your video, or even edit the video & audio track as you wish.” It was on the Giveaway of the Day a couple of weeks ago, so if you missed it then, here’s another chance.

April 26  Another one from Giveaway of the Day: Screen Recording Suite. There are lots of screen capture programs to choose from, but this one looks good, and it’s free today. Their description: “Screen Recording Suite is a simple yet very powerful screen recording program. It can record all screen and audio activity on your computer: mouse movements, clicks, keyboard entries, and more – to any video file format (AVI, MP4, FLV, SWF, 3GP etc).

It could also work as a Webcam Recorder, helps you to record video and sound from Webcam, so you can record video on MSN, Skype, GTalk while you are making video calls with your friends.”

April 17  Today’s Giveaway of the Day is Spring Publisher Pro. The reviews are mixed, so I hesitated to tell you about it, but it’s free today, so why not try it out? Read the comments first before you decide.

April 14  It doesn’t rain but it pours – here’s another one from Bits du Jour:  4Media Photo DVD Maker – you can use it to create customized photo slideshows on DVD, complete with special effects, such as transitions, image effects, and even background music using your own audio files. It’s free, just for today. Sounds good; I might try it myself. Find out more here.

April 14  Giveaway of the Day   Here’s another graphics-related giveaway:  Watermark Express. You can use it to put watermarks on your photos, and it seems to have some good functions, in particular batch processing.  The advantage of a specific program that does just that one thing is to be able to handle a lot of photos at once instead of doing them one by one. But the comments are quite contradictory; some love it and others are quite critical. Some all-around graphics programs include batch watermarking, so you may want to check the ones you already have before downloading this one, even if it is free.

April 13  Giveaway of the Day Today’s giveway is Wondershare Video Studio Express 1.2. Wondershare products are usually very good.

April 13   AVS4You has a special offer on their software until the end of April. $59 for 18 software programs is a good deal. I have already bought this, and do not regret it. I haven’t tested all the programs. The photo editor is rather basic, but I like the image browser. I’ve used the document converter with mixed results. You can find it here.

March 5  
You can get Ashampoo Photo Commander 9 today for only $7.77. This is a pretty good program, although it’s not among my top favorite programs (the free version, which I have) but for that price, I think it’s worth it. Here’s the link:

Ashampoo special offer


February 22  Another graphics program for free on Giveaway of the Day:

Artensoft Tilt Shift Generator – this one is a bit specialized, but it could be interesting – I think I’ll download it myself and test it. Take a look at the readers’ comments too – some are very helpful.  They also have their other graphics  products at a 70% reduction. (Just information, not a recommendation, since I have not tried any of their products)

February 16th  If you like fonts (Ilove them) you can get 6000 professional fonts for $20 (or 15.84€) instead of $300 from Summitsoft. A very good deal.  I don’t know how long this will last.  Here’s where to go:



February 8th  Ashampoo has a special offer that could interest people – for $20 you can get 5 of their programs worth up to $100 total. Their Photo Commander is included – it’s not among my favorite all-around tools, but the free version does have some interesting tools, and this is really a good deal.  You have just over six days to get this. Here’s the link:

(Sorry, too late now; offer ended)



February 7th – Giveaway of the Day has Zoner Photo Studio 14 for free today, and it’s really a good program. In fact, it’s so good that I took advantage of the upgrade for under 30 euros, or $35 (more here in France because of VAT taxes). Go to Giveaway of the Day  and download it there if you want the free version, or use the link on that page to go to the special offer for the Pro version, that has even more good features.


You could have gottenXara Photo & Graphic Designer free, but it was only until  until November 24th. I downloaded it and really like it. As a consolation, you can still get Magix Photo Designer 7, which has a lot of good stuff too, but without the graphics designer part. I will be adding it to my list of good programs, but not the above Xara one, because that now costs $89. There are some other free programs on the same page too.


In general:

The Giveaway of the Day   is a site you should keep your eye on – every day it has  an offer for paid software that is free for that day, but you have to download and install it on that same day. There are often interesting graphics programs.

Update: Thursday, Dec 1 – Photoupz – take out extraneaous things you don’t want from a picture. I just tried it and it works pretty well.

Amazon often has interesting bargains. For example, you can get Paint Shop Pro X3 Ultimate at a very reasonable price at this link. They don’t say how long the offer will last.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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Panorama – Glandasse with Snow

[photonav url='/wp-content/uploads/panorama-glandasse-snow3.jpg']


Glandasse is the name of a mountain overlooking the town where I live: Die (pronounced “dee”). This is the western side of where the Alps begin.

I’ve been working on making panoramas and then uploading them. Of the several I’ve tried, Hugin (open source) and Zoner’s Photo Studio (free version) have given the best results.

As for uploading, this has proven to be quite a problem. I’ve tried several WordPress plugins, but haven’t gotten them to work. So then I went to try online programs. I’ve just tried Clevr. Its panorama stitcher didn’t work at all for me, but I uploaded a few that I already have. Their viewer is very nice. It swings from one side to the other, and you can move it with your mouse too.

But I haven’t been able to upload it to WordPress. The above picture is just an inserted image.

I did manage to embed the Clevr pictures on a regular webpage, and it’s also possible to link to the Clevr site, but the page is not pretty, with lots of ads, etc.

So here is the web page where I put three panoramas of Glandasse:

Panoramas of Glandasse

This is a work in progress – I’ve got some good stitchers now, but still want to work out a way to embed a good viewer in WordPress.

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How to crop a picture

Our tutorial today is going to be about cropping pictures. This means that you select a part of your picture and cut out anything that is outside of that selection. This is not the same as resizing, where you keep the same appearance of the picture, but make it smaller in width and height, or make it smaller in file size. I mention this, because I often see the word "resizing" used in the place of "cropping", and it adds more confusion to a subject that is already complicated enough as it is. I'll talk about resizing in another post. First of all, there is no need to go out and buy a cropping tool – there are plenty of good free ones, and most general graphics programs have them. But they are not all the same, and I will show you what the better ones are and what they do to make your life eaisier and your pictures more pleasing. Cropping is useful for several reasons. Continue reading

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Remove Background from Image

In the video below, you will find a turorial on how to remove the background from an image. I show you how to do this using free software. Continue reading

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