Monday, March 18, 2013

Photo Tutorial: Adding text to your photos

I sometimes get asked how I add text to my photos, so I decided to create a mini tutorial describing exactly how I accomplish one of my favorite aspects of the photo-taking-blog-writing process.

The software: There are a few different options, but I've been a fan of Picassa for some time now, primarily because it is an entirely free download from Google that allows you to store, edit and add text to your photos. While more powerful programs like Aperture, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom have much more sophisticated filters and actions than Picassa, they do not have a text editing option - and they cost anywhere from $80-$150! This fact continually baffles me. There's also the option of using a pen tablet that allows you to write directly on your photos, but those are more of a financial investment as well, and require you to have good handwriting (which I, sadly, do not).

To appease my starving-artist budget, I instead edit my photos on my phone using much cheaper apps like PhotoToaster and Snapseed, and then upload them to my computer for a final dose of text in Picassa.

The process:
1.) Download Picassa if you haven't already, then let the program search your computer to find and store all your photos. If you're like me and have a bajillion pictures in your computer, take this opportunity to invest in an external hard drive and move the majority of your pics off your computer and into your ext. hard drive. This will free up a ton of memory and make your computer work much faster.

2.) Select the folder in which your picture is stored from Picassa's left hand menu, then double click on the thumbnail of the photo you wish to edit. For the purpose of this tutorial, I picked this shot I took of myself on the beach (c'mon, summer! hurry up!!!)

3.) You'll see a variety of different editing options to the left of your picture - click "Text".

4.) At this point, you have three major decisions to make - font style, size and color. Luckily, Picassa allows you to use as many different styles/sizes/colors as you wish in any one picture. For now though, pick one - you can always change it later. Put your cursor on the spot at which you want your text to appear and start typing.

The font will change in real time as you scroll through the options on the left, as will the color as you click on the circles next to the "T"s. You can choose to have your text outlined in one color (the "T" on the right) and filled in with another (the "T" on the left), or the text can be one thin line - play around with the options and you'll find which one works best for the project at hand.

If you want to change the size or the angle of your text, cursor over the grey text box - moving the red button on the dial that appears will allow you to rotate, enlarge, and/or shrink the entire text in question.

4a.) Adding new fonts to the bank is also possible. I follow some font boards on Pinterest that alert me to new and fun designs; when I see one I think will work for a particular project (it's usually from dafont or 1001 Free Fonts) I download it, add it to my computer's Font Book (it's in your Applications folder), and then find it on the drop down menu in Picassa as shown below.

5.) Once you're done and happy with your text addition, click the "Apply" button on the left. You can make changes after you've clicked this button, but your edits will be removed if you leave this page to go back to the library without first clicking "Apply." I've made this mistake a few times before and it's very frustrating.

6.) This new image is now stored in your Picassa library, but if you want to do anything else with it (upload it to your blog, for example), you will need to export it to your computer. Do this by clicking the "Export" button at the very bottom of the screen; the image will then be saved as a JPEG in a separate folder that you can name and specify. This is also where you can add a watermark to your image if you so choose.

7.) Enjoy! With hundreds of fonts, colors and even some fun Wingdings (do people still use those?) the possibilities are endless. Add the recipe to your food photo, a funny caption to the bachelorette party photo, or add your own obnoxious i can haz whatever words to that stupid cat photo meme that won't seem to go away.

All instructions, opinions and photographs are my own. Further questions? Leave a comment below or send an email to

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