You’re building an elearning course and have assembled several images that contribute to the course’s learning objectives. You’ve created some custom graphics, gathered some relevant photography, and even created a consistent look. But something’s lacking. Your images are feeling a bit dull and flat. You know they can look better, but you’re just not sure how to make them pop.
Today, we’ll look at three sure-fire ways to move your graphics up a notch and really add some sizzle!
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools
The first thing you’ll need is a graphics editing program. I usually use Photoshop or Fireworks. The good news for those on a limited budget is that there are a number of free alternatives. I’ve listed some of them at the end of this post.
While I use Photoshop, the techniques that I cover are independent of the application you use. Most of them have similar features to do what I am suggesting. If you want more advanced help for your graphics application, just do a search online. You’ll find all types of good information and resources.
Make Them Pop Off the Screen
Today, I’m going to give you some simple tips that are fairly easy to learn. The secret to all three of these tips is to make the images pop off the screen. You do this by creating depth. It makes the image more interesting and offers creative ways that you can present the information in your courses.
Technique #1: Instead of the whole picture, just use cut outs
- Find an image you like and cut out the parts you want.
- The first step is to cut the image from the background. Many of the graphics programs have easy-to-use processes to help you do this. Learn how to do this with Photoshop.
- When you edit the image, make sure to leave the background transparent. A transparent background allows you to overlap other images and blend with the screen background.
Here are before and after images.
As you can see, I cut the guy out of the original picture (which was a little boring). By doing this, I got rid of a lot of the distracting clutter, like the whiteboard and all of the lines and angles running back and forth. Those lines cause the learner to look all over the place. The cut out image looks nicer and I have control over what the user sees.
Another advantage of removing the background and clutter is that I can put the character anywhere I want. He can be in an office, a warehouse, or even on a lifeboat pleading not to be thrown to the sharks.
Technique #2: Modify the image using effects
Notice how the two right-most images of the lady below seem to have more depth? All I did was add a drop shadow.
Here is clip art I modified. First, I created a custom version using the tips from the previous post. Then, I added a bevel and drop shadow to give the image more dimension and pull it from the screen.
The technique to do this is fairly easy to learn. Here’s what I did for the clip art:
- Create the clip art image you want in PowerPoint using the tips from this post.
- Copy the image and paste it in a photo editing program.
- Apply a slight drop shadow to create some separation from the screen.
- Add an inner bevel to give the image a little depth.
You can also do some edits to the shape of the image. In the picture below, I used the eraser and brush tools to get rid of the business suit and changed the shape of the feet. This makes the image more generic and allows it to be used on screens that are less business-focused.
Here’s another example. In the first image, I just added a bevel and shadow. In the second image, I also changed his attire and added some color. By getting rid of the black suit, I created an image that I can use in a variety of screens.
It really doesn’t matter what types of modifications you do. The key is that you know you can take the clip art into another program, like Photoshop, and make changes that will jazz up your image and give it some polish.
Technique #3: Add depth by changing the image’s perspective
Another simple technique to add complexity to your graphics and make them a little more interesting is to change their perspective. Most graphics applications have a feature to do this. For example, in Photoshop it’s called “perspective.”
Here are a couple of screen shots from a training project where we didn’t use flat images. Instead, we changed the image perspective to add some depth and make the screen a little more interesting.
In this post you discovered simple image modifications that can really dress up your elearning courses. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to do them because they don’t require advanced editing skills. However, these techniques do produce nice results. If you do know your way around a program like Photoshop, then that’s a bonus because there are a lot of creative things you can do.
If you have your own blog, do like Zaid did. He linked to this series and showed some before and after images. It’s also a great way to share your own tips and tricks.
For those of you on a limited budget, here are a few cost effective alternatives to programs like Photoshop:
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- We'll be adding events for 2017 soon. If you'd like to see one of our workshops in your area just let me know.
- Mar 20 (Orlando). Want to learn to build courses with the right look & feel? Join David Anderson at his all day workshop on Graphic Design Essentials for Non-Graphic eLearning Designers.
- Mar 22-23 (Orlando). Come by the booth at Learning Solutions and say hello.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Variables Made Easy with Articulate Storyline. Limited seats, so sign up now.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Articulate User Meet Up. Details coming soon.
- April 14 (Minneapolis). PACT Meeting: Facing Today's Instructional Design Challenges.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.