Saturday, December 15, 2007

Creating your own clipart with Instant Alpha

Here is how to:

  • Set your digital camera to Macro
  • Take a photo of the object you want to make into clipart - a leaf of Holly, a twig of frosted fir-tree, a coin (chocolate coins would do)
  • Import your photo into a Pages document
  • Remove background with instant Alpha
  • Resize or drop into the Custom Image window in Text Inspector - List - Bullets drop-down menu.

Many Pages users are asking on internet forums where they can find clipart to use with their projects. While there are dozens of web-sites that allow free downloads of clipart and the elements of Pages own templates could be used as clipart images, it is often difficult to find high definition images of exactly what you want, especially if you don't want to spend time registering, logging-in or paying a download fee.

I was absolutely thrilled to see that Apple included Instant Alpha as a new feature in iWork/Pages'08 - it is under Format menu. What it does is it allows you to 'remove' the background from any picture you use and make the image 'transparent'. For nearly two years I've been struggling to design nice looking ads for my clients where an image or logo was supplied with white (or coloured) background, but had to be used on a different colour background in the ad. Now I can do it in Pages!

In one recent example I had to find a clipart image to an article on ramifications of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in America. I took out a pile of chocolate coins ready to go into children's Christmas stockings, put them in various arrangements on a sheet of white paper and took a series of macro photos. The result exceeded my expectations - judge for yourself. A screenshot of the magazine page with a clipart image at top right, original photo - below left.

After applying Alpha I've also added a coloured Shadow (Object Inspector) to create a 'glowing' effect.

Alpha even allowed me to put a hand-drawn black and white cartoon strip on a colour background!

Also check this previous article: Designing ads in Pages - the Golden Apple

Addendum: Click on clipart and instant alpha labels to check out other tips and tricks on clipart and the use of Instant Alpha.


  1. Anonymous6:53 am

    Thank you....exactly what I was looking for. You saved me from pulling my hair out!!!

  2. Always glad to save people's hair,
    maybe I should bill myself as a beautician?

  3. I have to redraw some scientific you have any tips on how to do this(and save what little hair i have left)?

  4. if you can be more specific?


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