Instagram Imitation: Inkwell

When I first got a digital slr camera, my serious photographer friends warned me against “too much photoshop.” They heaped tons of derision on those who did that. Nowadays, the complaint is about Instagram filters. Any of these things can be used badly or used well.

I don’t use Instagram, but seeing people who have tweaked their photos using the filters made me want to see if I could imitate the instagram filters in a photo editing program.

For this how-to, I’ve decided to use Paint.NET because it is free and the fact that there are fewer options makes it easier and less intimidating to use than photoshop. Yet it is similar enough to most of the major photo editing programs that anything you learn can be transferred to most of the others. Paint.NET is for Windows only, I’m afraid.

First, install Paint.NET. It can be found here.

To start, we’re going to imitate the Instagram filter known as “Inkwell.” This is by far the easiest and this will give you a chance to get comfortable with the program.

Since the Inkwell filter simply turns any photo into black and white, the most important part here is your choice of photo. It’s a good idea to pick something were the impact of the picture isn’t based on the colors.

Here is a photo I took today.

A cat sleeping in the sun.

I thought it might work well in black and white because it’s mainly about light and shadows.

Open up the program. In the menu bar, go to File > Open. Navigate to the photo you want to turn to black and white and open it.

There should be a smaller window open in the program labeled “Layers.” If it’s not there, go to Window > Layer, or hit F7. That should bring up a box that looks like this:Screen shot of a window in a program labled "Layers."

On the bottom of the box there’s a little symbol showing two pieces of paper with a tool tip that says “duplicate layer.” Click that icon to duplicate the layer. We’re going to start each photo editing attempt this way. The advantage is that you still have your original underneath all the changes you make, so if you don’t like something it’s easy to start again. In fact, it’s a good practice to save the file under a different name at this point, something like “MamaBW.” Uncheck the original background image, which is located on the bottom.

Make sure the top image is highlighted. (In the image on the right, I’ve made a copy of the copy. You will only have two layers at this point.)

In the menu bar, go to Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. A box will open that has three sliders labeled “hue”, “saturation” and “lightness.” Take the saturation slider and move it all the way to the left. The number in the adjacent box on the right will read zero after you move it. Click “Done.”

Alternately, you could just click Adjustments > Black and White, but I wanted you to play with the sliders because we’ll be using them to do less simple things in the future.

Okay, you’re done. If you want to be able to save the layers, make sure you save it as a Paint.NET file if you want to save the layers, and as a jpeg if you want to be able to view it in another program, share it or post it on the web.Same photo of the cat.

Now, one of the reasons that I wanted to start with a black and white photo was, not only because it is the easiest, but because you can often get a better result than you can in instagram. As it happens, I was pretty happy with the result, but frequently, I’m not. First, make a copy of the black and white layer so that now you have three layers. Now go to Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. This will bring up a box with two sliders. You can move them back and forth and watch the image change. It’s rare that you will want to move it more than just a little bit in either direction. Since I thought lightening the photo might give it more the sense of being filled with sunlight. In the end, I wound up with brightness being equal to +45 and the contrast was set to -5.

Photo of cat.

If you want to play around a bit, you can go back to adjustments and try using either “Curves” or “Levels.”

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