Tag Archives: how-to

PowerPoint – How to ‘Remove Background’

After the amazing PowerPoint effects achieved by Diana Wallace Peach in my previous post, I just had to see if I could master some of those techniques myself. The answer is…kind of. This is my, ahem, masterpiece:

I don’t think I’ll be headed to Cannes any time soon. But…I did learn some really useful skills, and today I’ll walk you through the PowerPoint ‘Remove Background’ option. If you’ve tried this option before and given up in frustration, don’t worry, I had the same problems so we’ll do it step by step. 🙂

The first step is to open PowerPoint [hereafter known as PP] and select a blank slide.

Next, click the ‘Insert’ option on the Ribbon and find an image that you want to work with:

The image below is the first one I worked with:

The picture frame looks as if it’s empty, but in reality the middle is not transparent at all. It’s white.

In order to have the mask appear as if it were inside the frame, I had to get rid of the white in the middle. Easier said than done. When I tried to remove the background in PowerPoint, PP wanted to delete the frame, not the white in the middle!

The purple area is what PP thinks should be removed

PP helpfully colours the area[s] to be removed in purple. Pity that’s precisely what I want to keep. -rolls eyes-

I guess the default setting assumes that whatever you want to keep will be in the middle…. Trust me to do everything backwards. In my own defence, however, the labels on the buttons and the explanations of those buttons only made sense after I’d finally worked out what to do and how to do it. -grumble-

Anyway, allow me to explain the buttons:

Background Removal buttons in PowerPoint
Mark Areas to Keep

If you hover your mouse over the ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ button, you’ll get a tooltip that says: ‘Draw lines to mark areas to keep in the picture’. I assumed that the word ‘lines’ had to be some kind of misnomer. It would take a lifetime to draw enough lines to take out half a picture! Ditto for the ‘Mark areas to Remove’ button. I was wrong.

When you click on the ‘Mark Areas to Keep button’, and then draw any kind of line across your picture, a whole section of the picture will be selected. In the following screenshot, I clicked ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ and then drew a line from the top left of the picture frame to a point near the bottom. The line was not straight:

reclaiming part of the picture frame in PowerPoint

Given that the picture frame is made up of straight lines, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to ‘fill in’ the frame properly. What I discovered was that the ‘line’ is not set until you release the mouse button at the end point.

In other words, you click the mouse at your start point and hold it down as you drawn the line. If the line is wonky, you can straighten it just by moving the mouse. So long as you keep the mouse button held down, you can keep moving the line wherever you want:

How to ‘Mark’ a line in PowerPoint
Mark Areas to Remove

Once I’d ‘marked’ all the purple areas and changed them to ‘keeps’, it was time to mark the middle as an ‘Area to Remove’. The principle is the same as for marking areas to keep: click the ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ button, click the mouse on an area to be removed, hold down the mouse button as you move the mouse across the image, release the mouse button to trigger the ‘remove’:

Delete Mark

If you make a mistake, you can undo the last line by clicking the ‘Delete Mark’ button and then clicking the line you wish to remove. That second part is critical as nothing will happen unless you do. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-Z to ‘undo’ the last thing you did. So much easier.

Discard All Changes

This is like a global undo. If you select this button you will delete every single change you have made. Use with caution.

Keep Changes

This is the button you hit once you’ve done all that you want to do to the image. ‘Keep Changes’ bakes all the changes so they ‘stick’. No more undoing any of the changes. It’s the last step in the whole process.

And now for those eyeballs.

PP is very good at detecting curves so long as there is a strong contrast between the object and its background. The eyeball I wanted to use is perfect…except for the bit at the top where the eyelashes are basically the same colour as that part of the eye.

free image from Pixabay

To excavate that eyeball from the eyelashes, I made the image as big as possible using the slider down in the status bar [bottom of screen]. Then I clicked on ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ and drew teensy weensy little lines. <<cue grinding of teeth>>

My stubbornness persistence paid off because I managed to get an almost circular eyeball, but when I tried it in the mask, the not-quite-perfect curve was noticeable. So I cheated. I turned the eyeball upside down. 🙂

I should say here that the easiest image to clean up was the mask!

free image from freeimages.com

Although the left side of the mask is in shadow, the shadow is a different colour AND there’s still enough contrast to allow PP to detect the edges.

All in all, I’m loving the ‘Remove Background’ function in PP. It has limitations – the lack of curved lines is a big one – but for large jobs that can be a little rough, it’s miles easier than vectoring an image in Corel. As always though, you have to use the right tool for the right job.

My thanks to Diana for introducing me to a very useful tool indeed. 😀

cheers,
Meeks


How to manually drain a washing machine…

All my appliances are between 10 and 15 years old, so they’ve all started to die. Today it was the turn of the washing machine. Unfortunately, it was full of towels at the time…

I’ll leave all the expletives deleted to your imaginations and plunge straight into the how-to. Firstly, my washing machine is a top loader and has an outlet hose that empties the water into my laundry trough. This means I can move the outlet hose wherever I want.

I could have moved the outlet hose to a bucket, but my back’s bad enough without having to lift heavy buckets of water. Luckily, I happened to have some garden pipe available so I pushed the garden pipe through the dog door and placed the end of the outlet hose inside the much bigger garden pipe:

BUT!!!!!!

I raised the garden pipe UP to the outlet hose. I did not lower the outlet hose to the garden pipe.

Believe me, this is vital because as soon as the end of the outlet hose drops below the level of the water in the washing machine, gravity will send that water gushing out. You really, REALLY don’t want the outlet hose to do that. Think soapy water all over the floor. 😦

In fact, the picture shows both pipes resting on top of a glass vase to ensure that none of the water comes back up and out onto the laundry floor. When you think you’ve finished draining the washing machine, life both pipes up together before withdrawing the outlet hose. Oh, and make sure the garden pipe has drained fully before laying it down as well!

Well, I’m going to have to put more water into the machine now, to rinse those damn towels, so I’ll just wish you a better Sunday than mine has been.

cheers,
Meeks


Meeka’s Youtube Channel

I wasn’t game to say anything until I had a reasonable number of videos up, but I think I’m finally there, so…this is the link to my channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHW0WF_RtBjPLBA0ervswtA/featured

Down the bottom you can see a number of playlists. They’re just categories of videos. The how-to playlist only contains one video, but in time, I intend to create videos for all of the relevant sections of the free ‘How to print your novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ book.

I’m not there yet in terms of skill, but the video below is my first attempt to do a how-to for the ESO housing editor:

This video will be the first in a series, but boy was it hard to do. Having a chatty narration ‘style’ is one thing, waffling on is another.

Lesson number 1: boring viewers is a cardinal sin!

Lesson number 2: waffling on is boring, especially when the viewer only wants information. 😦

As my narration style is naturally, um, ‘chatty’, I’ve had to do a lot of cutting and splicing to get rid of the waffle. Great practice in editing, not so great for the sound quality which waxed and waned with each splice. In the end, I was forced to do one long take with deliberate pauses so I could edit out the worst of the gaffs without affecting the sound quality too much.

Those hiccups aside, I’m really enjoying this learning curve. If any of you are already experienced in creating videos or have recommendations for tools to use, I’d love to hear them. I’m currently using RecMaster which is a great entry level video recorder, but maybe not quite powerful enough for my ambitious projects.

I also have a favour to ask – could you please subscribe to my channel? Youtube will allow me to have a customised URL for my channel – i.e. something with my name in it instead of hieroglyphics – but only after I reach the magic number of 100 subscribers. At the moment I have 4. It’s a big ask, I know, but I would really appreciate your help on this one.

Have a wonderful weekend, me lovelies. 🙂

Hugs,
Meeks


Model House and pool

I started out looking at a couple of Tiny Houses, but my attention was hijacked by this…micro house. As in almost microscopic! lol And the pool actually holds water.

Makes me want to dust off my old tools and start making stuff.

Have a great weekend,
Meeks


My first how-to video! Kinda sorta…

In a recent post, I wrote about my search for a screen capture app and showed you two short videos I made using Bandicam. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I was not using a free app. I was using a demo version with severe limitations. I was tempted to buy the app, but the price was a little too high for my liking.

After some more searching, I discovered RecMaster which combines dead easy screen capture with a [very] basic video editor. I bought a year’s subscription for $19.99 USD and made a video…but when I inserted it into this post, I was horrified by how hard it was to read!

The problem is two fold. First, the default Windows fonts used in titles and menus are so small that when you reduce them even further to a standard video format, they become impossible to read. Then I discovered that WordPress makes them even smaller. Vimeo does have a fullscreen setting:

Click to toggle full screen on and off

But I worried that people would not know to turn it on. So I fiddled with the Windows screen settings. They are now much too big for normal use, but they’re just about right for a video…on Youtube. Here on WordPress, the size is still impossibly small.

I was going to update all my how-to posts, especially the self-publishing ones, by adding videos of important bits, but now I’m not sure I’ll bother. Or maybe I’ll bite the bullet and get a Youtube account.

Do you use the fullscreen mode in either Youtube or Vimeo? Is it more trouble than it’s worth? Should I keep experimenting and make the default Windows fonts even bigger?

Anyway, the video below was recorded using the larger fonts. To me it’s still horribly squint-worthy. What do you think. Please be honest as I don’t want to waste my time making videos that no one will watch.

How to change image compression and resolution in Word 16

Many thanks,
Meeks


How to make a primitive torch

One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.

That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?

I was extremely lucky to find this fabulous article online: http://www.junglecraft.com.my/index.php/how-to-make-a-burning-torch/ Not only did it explain which, easy-to-find materials were used, it also included a video showing exactly how the torches were made:

The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.

So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?

The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:

Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.

Quote taken from: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/instruments/violin/what-is-rosin-why-violinists-need-it/

I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.

But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. 🙂

Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.

In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… 😉

So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.

Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.

With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…

Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.

cheers
Meeks


Whetstones – what are they, and what are they for?

Back when I was a kid, my Dad used to sharpen all his own tools with a whetstone. This is a modern day whetstone, and how to use it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdNBHmA6Pts

I really enjoyed that video because it was instructive and funny. Unfortunately, the iVokh don’t have modern day tools, so the next step of my research was to see how primitive peoples sharpened things. This is what I found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohFx0smhX6c

This video explains how to sharpen a stone arrowhead, but what I really want to know is how to sharpen a claw…a to’pak claw. Luckily, the tool used to knap the edge of the arrowhead is an antler, and antlers are made of bone. As an aside, the presenter sharpened his antler tool on a piece of sandstone. Yes! Getting closer.

And here, at last is what I was looking for – a [replica] black bear claw with a sharpish point that could be sharpened even further with that sandstone!

In the scene I’m currently writing, the Yellow sharpens a to’pak claw and uses it to carve Death’s hide…as a punishment. Thrilled that it’s possible in my world as well as theirs. 🙂

Happy weekend,
Meeks


The Morning Sun – by composer Brock Hewitt

Soundcloud strikes again! I fell in love with this track first thing this morning and have been playing it on repeat ever since. To hear the track for yourself, simply click the orange ‘play’ button below:

The Morning Sun – a track from ‘Stories in Sound’ by composer Brock Hewitt

If you want to place Soundcloud tracks in your posts, ignore the confusing instructions about embedding etc and just start a new paragraph [in block editor]. Next, copy the URL shown under the Share option in Soundcloud. It’ll look something like this:

To copy the URL [web address] circled in red above, simply click inside the address box. The whole URL will be highlighted in blue.

Now, press the CTRL C keys on your keyboard [this will ‘copy’ the URL to your Clipboard].

Finally, go back into your WordPress post, click inside a new paragraph and press the CTRL V keys on your keyboard [this will copy the URL from your Clipboard into WordPress.

Note: these two keyboard shortcuts will work on any computer running a Windows operating system – e.g. Windows 7 or 10 etc.

After WordPress does its magic, you should see the track displayed with the background image and the Play button. Click Play and away you go!

Hope you like this track as much as I do.

cheers
Meeks


ESO and the kitchen sink…

I promise, this post will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! Mwahahaha…

– serious face –

One of the things I love about ESO [Elder Scrolls Online] is the powerful, and very flexible housing system. All my gold goes on recipes for housing ‘furniture’. But while I can make a great looking bath tub, complete with steam rising from the water, there is no recipe yet for kitchen sinks, or bathroom sinks for that matter. And don’t get me started on the lack of loos!

Ahem. In an odd twist, the very lack of a kitchen sink has generated more innovation amongst ESO housing enthusiasts than just about anything else I can think of. And I’m obsessed as well. 🙂

The video below [not mine!] shows how to create a couple of kitchen sinks from other ‘things’. When you smoosh these things together, you get some amazing results:

Smile. 🙂

Meeks


Milk and Chocolate Shortbread

This is another Offspring special, a basic shortbread recipe with added chunks of Plaistowe dark cooking chocolate. My contribution was the milk. 😀

The photo is a little washed out because it was taken at night with a flash. The shortbread actually looks more like this:

For those who have never tasted shortbread before, it’s an odd combination of dry, crumbly texture that literally melts in your mouth. It’s very easy to make and we love it. If you want to try it yourself, the recipe follows:

Traditional Shortbread [with added chocolate]

Note: the recipe is on the back of the McKenzie’s rice flour packet, and you will need rice flour in addition to ordinary wheat flour.

Ingredients:
  • 225 gm of plain flour [all purpose flour], sifted,
  • 115 gm of rice flour, sifted
  • 115 gm of caster sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 225 gm of unsalted, room temperature butter [do NOT use spreadable butter as the oil and/or process used changes how the butter works in recipes].
  • about 1/4 cup good quality cooking chocolate, chopped into smallish ‘chunks’. We used Plaistowe cooking chocolate because it’s actually good enough to eat on its own so long as you don’t like your chocolate very sweet.
Method

Pre-heat oven to 150 C. This is a slow oven.

Grease your baking tray [we didn’t, we lined it with baking paper instead].

Combine both flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Rub in butter and knead gently until a smooth dough forms.

Add the chopped chocolate and gently mix into the dough.

The recipe says to transfer the dough to a floured surface and ‘shape as required’. That basically means you can cut pretty shapes out of it. We don’t do any of that. We place the dough directly onto the baking tray and spread it out by hand or with the back of a spoon until it’s about the right ‘depth’. Shortbread should not be thick! 1/2 an inch is more than thick enough.

Prick the dough with a fork. We also ‘score’ the surface lightly with a knife. This makes cutting the cooked shortbread easier.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a light, golden brown. The end.

A tip from us: leave the shortbread on the tray and gently cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still a bit soft and pliable. The shortbread will firm up as it cools. Cutting it once it’s cold and crumbly is…not very successful.

And there you have it. Another day, another treat. If you have favourite treats of your own, please link to them in comments. Oh, and if you have favourite cups or dishes to go with the treats, please link them as well.

Cheers
Meeks


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