Google+ released Creative Kit today, a new and improved photo editor for Google+ users. A lot of new features including filters for photo editing and for adding over 20 different photo effects such as tints, camera, touch-up and other special effects. Google also offers Halloween effects which probably means they will offer future seasonal and holiday effects. Short video available here.
Nothing real fancy, just a small example of what can be done using Creative Kit:
To start, go to your Google+ page, click on the Photos icon in the Google+ bar, click on your albums, select an album containing a photo you would like to edit, then click on the desired photo. The Lightbox comes up with your photo, click on Edit and select Creative Kit. There you will find 4 tabs for Basic edits, Effects, Halloween (through October 31) and Text.
The Basic Edits are, well, pretty basic. Crop, Rotate, Color, Exposure, Sharpen and Resize. These controls are actually quite adequate for an online photo editor. The Sharpen tool gives you an option for Unsharp Mask which is a much better choice to use for sharpening. The button at the top of the Basic Edits gives you a quick and easy choice to Auto Fix. Even a photo editing novice is better served making some light adjustments using the available tools rather than clicking an Auto Fix sledgehammer type button. But, try it, and if it works for you, that’s ok.
Try the Effects tab for some fun ways to change the look of your photo. Some of the effects called “Google Exclusive” may be similar to other photo editing software, but are a welcome addition to the other filters offered here. Most of the effects filters have varying adjustments that you can play with until you find the desired effect that works for you. Many of the Effects have a Fade slider so you can adjust how much effect is applied to the photo. (Photoshop users: think “opacity”.) When you are happy with the effect click Apply.
Overall these effects filters offer some nice choices for adding easy artistic effects to your photos. You can use multiple effects, just click Apply when you are happy with the result. There is a multiple Undo button on the top right if you change your mind. The undo button can be used after applying any of the Creative Kit tools.
The Halloween tab shows that Google has seasonal and holiday themes in mind for Google+ as well as the clue of their ongoing themes on their basic search page. They even suggest using the hashtag #gplushalloween to share your Halloween image creations publicly.
The Text tab has over 75 fonts to choose from for applying whatever message your imagination creates to apply to your image. You can make anything from a simple greeting, or description, or add an artistic quality to your image.
When you finish editing and are ready to save your image click on the Save button in the upper right corner. You will be given an option to replace the original or to save as a copy. My choice is to always save as a copy and preserve the original. In fact, the best practice in photo editing is to always work on a copy and have the original safely filed away just in case something goes wrong. Once you have saved your new altered copy it will appear in the same album as the original.
To change albums, or to rearrange photos in your Google+ albums you will need to log into Picasa to do so. You have a Picasa account by default if you have posted photos in Google+. Your Google+ photos also reside in Picasa, for now. It is rumored that Google will eventually incorporate Picasa into Google+ more directly, or rename it Google Photos, we shall see.
To access your Picasa account click on More in the top Google Navigation Bar while you are logged into Google, select Even More from the menu, then select Picasa (under the Media header on the Everything Google Products page). On the Picasa page look to the right for Picasa Web Albums and click the link, you will arrive at your albums.
Once in Picasa you can make changes to your albums and photos that will also be reflected in your Google+ photos. You can also edit your photos in Picasa using Picnik. You access it the same way as you would Creative Kit in your Google+ photos. There are additional filters and editing options available in Picnik. There is also a Premium version of Picnik for $4.95/mo., $19.95/6 mos. or $24.95/year. The Premium version offers unlimited histories, curves, layers, more effects and fonts. It is trying to be more Photoshop-like and getting closer.
Think of Creative Kit for Google+ as Picnik Lite. It’s free and there are more features available from Picnik (also free) in Picasa, as well as the Premium version available for a small cost. I’m old school and would much rather have Photoshop on my computer as first choice for image editing. However, the trend is headed towards the clouds and fortunately the tools we are accustomed to using on our computers are getting better and more usable online.