QFX as an Image Composer

Creating Complex Images in Real Time

In QFX, you can compose images by pasting selections in Paint Mode, or by manipulating objects on layers in Draw Mode. QFX uses sophisticated selection tools, the multi-functional Paste and Resize/Rotate dialogs, and a variety of Calculation options to create complex compositions from clipboard selections and file images. Several operations can be applied to the selection before it is pasted, giving you complete control over how target and source pixels are combined for flawless blending of selection with the background.

Composition and Editing Tools

In Paint Mode, the Lasso tools define selections and place them in either the QFX or Windows system clipboard. The Paste function displays a transparent proxy of the selection in a frame in the editing window, allowing you to select or change paste options from the dialog or use the interactive frame to scale, rotate, position, skew, mirror or flop the selection before pasting it into the image. A variety of calculation options determine how the selection pixels are combined with the background.

In Draw Mode, you can create highly complex layouts using bitmap objects (objects with an image file defined as their fill style). Bitmap objects maintain all mask and transparency information, and can be manipulated in real time until the final composition is achieved. Using bitmap objects conserves memory by using pointers to the bitmap rather than placing the file itself in the target image. You can save, load and merge object layouts until the final rendering to a high resolution bitmap image. Furthermore, you can apply a variety of effects and filters independently on each bitmap object. For example, by applying the Image Control effect, you can fine tune the brightness, contrast and color balance of each image in the composition relative to each other. See Composing with Bitmap Objects.

Clipboards: Lassos define any size or shape selections with soft, hard or anti-aliased edges. You can cut or copy selections to either the QFX clipboard or the Windows system clipboard at 24 or 32 bits. Clipboard selections may be saved, and opened in any editing window or application.

Paste DialogThe Paste Function: The QFX Paste function gives you precise control over the way a selection is composed in the target image. You can paste from the QFX clipboard, the Windows system clipboard or a file. The selection can be pasted into a new editing window or into an existing image. From the Paste Options dialog you can enter explicit values for the size, rotation, transparency, and location of the frame in the editing window. Masking options determine which part of the selection is composed, and the Calculate options control how the selection pixels are blended with the background. You can also specify a semi-transparent frame proxy to aid in placement.

The Frame Tool: The interactive Frame tool appears any time you select a lasso or object, or when you are pasting or duplicating a selection. The frame can be moved, scaled, rotated, skewed, mirrored and flopped without any degradation of image quality. Any combination of transforms can be applied at the same time without waiting for one process to finish before the next begins. The frame displays a proxy of the selection, so you can see exactly what its going to look like before you paste it, and you can choose whether to display the frame as a rectangle or as the shape of the object it contains. You can open the Paste Options dialog and change any values at any time the frame is displayed.

Grids, Rulers and Guidelines: The Grid feature displays an array of grid points to aid in aligning selections when you are composing images. Selections snap to the nearest grid point when this function is turned on. Options include units of measurement, grid point spacing and color, placement in front of or behind objects in the image, and the location of the origin. Rulers options include units of measurement and location of origin. Guideline options include color, snap-to option, locking and placement over or under objects. You can also save, load and merge guideline sets.

Nudge keys: You can use the arrow keys and the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys to move selected objects, Lassos or images in 1 pixel or user-defined increments. If nothing is selected, the same keys scroll the image window.

Punch+RegisterPunch and Register. The exclusive Punch and Register feature in QFX makes it a snap to align images when composing or linking edit windows for paint-through effects or tiling images. Just click in each image to set the punch and register points or set the locations explicitly using the Punch and Register options dialog. Images will automatically align on their punch and register points when pasting or linking.

Masking

The masking or alpha channel is used to control cut, copy, paste and crop operations, to restrict tools and effects to either inside or outside the masked area and to define the shape of Glow, Emboss and Shadow effects. Our masking feature creates masks with any tool or effect of any size, shape, transparency and edge attribute including gradient masks for fading images together. Masks can be saved and loaded in other images, and added, subtracted or merged. You can link an image or mask from another window to the current window and use it as the mask for the current image. Masks can be inverted or erased, or wiped to a selected transparency level.

Magic ToolThe Magic tool. This tool finds areas of similar tone or color and automatically builds a mask selection. And you can easily create an anti-aliased selection as well. Combine this with our Trace Lasso feature and convert the Magic tool mask quickly and easily to a Lasso.

Scaling and Rotation

The Resize/Rotate function includes all scaling and rotating parameters in one dialog, applying any combination of options to the image at the same time. You can create a new image window with a scaled or rotated copy of the current image, the clipboard or a file in one step. Add borders automatically or update the resolution of the current image without having to create a new image file.

Calculation Options

Calculation ExampleThe Calculate options determine how the selection pixels are combined with the target image pixels. Normal combines source and target pixels without applying any special calculation. When Add is selected, source and target pixel values are added together, making the image appear lighter. Darker compares source and target pixels, and applies only the darker components. Target pixels darker than the source pixels are not changed. When Difference is selected, source and target pixel values are subtracted and the absolute value of the difference is used. Selecting Double Expose combines the source and target pixels like a photographic double exposure. Some graphics programs call this screen calculation mode. Lighter compares source and target pixels and applies only the lighter components. Target pixels lighter than the source pixels are not affected. When Multiply is selected, source and target pixels are multiplied, creating an effect like a transparency sandwich. Subtract Source subtracts the source pixel values from the target pixel values, removing the source colors from the target image. Subtract Target subtracts the target pixel values from the source pixel values, removing the target image colors from the source pixels.

Composing with Bitmap Objects

Bitmap Object composition is a powerful layering scheme that conserves memory and maintains optimal performance by using pointers to image files instead of placing them into the target image. This means that while you edit a high quality proxy of the image file onscreen, you are not tying up RAM during the editing process, and no proprietary file format is necessary. The real-time proxy preview shows not only placement and layering, but the transparency, masking and calculate options for each object as well. The Layers toolbox manipulates layers and controls layer attributes.

You can place as many objects in an image as system resources allow, in any size or shape, with or without an outline, and with any degree of transparency or edge softness. Objects can be grouped, joined, or unioned for easy manipulation or to create holes or other effects, and you can use one object to crop or drill another. Objects are discreet from the background until they are rendered, and can be moved, scaled, rotated, mirrored and flipped in a single operation.

There may be any number of layers with one or more bitmap objects on each, or any number of objects may reside on a single layer. Layers can be named and displayed in the Layers toolbox. You can add or delete layers at any time, and make any layer active or not active, visible or invisible, and editable or not editable to improve screen redraw times. Objects may be moved from one layer to another at any time, and you can drag and drop to change the order of layers.

Bitmap objects layouts can be saved at any time during the editing process, or you may save any combination of selected objects rather than the entire layout. If you compose the layout using low-res versions of the image files, you don't have to rebuild the layout when you are ready to render the final high resolution image. Object layouts are resolution independent, allowing you to use the layout in any size image window. The final render step rasterizes the objects, seamlessly composing the final image, and simultaneously creating a mask of the entire object layout. The final render may be done immediately or post-processed using a Queue script.