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Designing Graphics With Gimp

Here are a few things that helped me when I was designing the graphics for my arcade cabinet.

Overview

First, find a good theme and go with it. I copied someone else's work since I liked it so much, but there are a lot of great ideas out there. Go look at the projects page at the BYOAC forum. There are some really great ideas there. Perhaps there is a game that you really love and you can make a theme out of it or maybe a particular genre. One person is currently making an Indiana Jones themed cabinet complete with gold T-molding and special veneer for the sides. You can also find good graphics on the various arcade cabinet sites (see the links page for this project) or from sites like Deviantart.com. Second, make the theme ubiquitous. Once you know what your theme is, plan on making the graphics for the marquee, control panel, side art and emulator background all blend toegether. It will look much more professional than a bunch of random pictures all thrown together. Third, have your graphics printed professionally. Your artwork probably will not look right if you try to print it on your own printer. For one thing not too many people have printers large enough to print large (i.e. 40" x 20") graphics on one sheet of paper. Also, you will want to use nice glossy stock so that your artwork really stands out. MameMarquees does a great job with printing since all they do is print arcade cabinet artwork. I had them do my marquee and it came out great. I had my CP artwork printed at FedEx Kinkos and it was OK, but not as nice as MameMarquees.

Making Halos With GIMP

On Knievel's CP he had some nice halos around his controls and I wanted to emulate that on my CP. He put up a tutorial for Photoshop here However, I wanted to figure out how to do it with GIMP since it is free and open source software. Here is how I did it with GIMP 2.4.6. Open up GIMP and load your background graphic. In the toolbox window click the rectangle select tool. In the select tool dialog box below click on Antialiasing and Ronded Corners. Set the radius to 100. Then click somewhere on your graphic and drag a circle to the desired size. I found that turning on the grid and enabling "snap to grid" helps a lot. You can do both of these from the View menu. You can also customize your grid in the Image menu. For a graphic that is 1600 pixels wide I found that 40 pixels = 1 inch so I set my grid lines for 40 px. Next we need to make the halo stand out against the background. Copy your selection by clicking Edit then Copy or just Ctrl+C. Then past your selection into a floating layer by clicking Edit then Paste or just Ctrl+V. You will notice a new "floating" layer appear in the Layers window (Sometimes the GIMP loses it's rounded selection so you may have to select the same area again.) Now click on the Paint Bucket tool in the Tools window. In the Paint Bucket tool dialog below click on "Fill whole selection" then click on your rounded selection to fill it with your foreground color with should be black. Finish this part by clicking on the "New Layer" button in the Layers window. This will solidify your layer. Then make your new layer transparent by setting the opacity in the Layers window to 60% or whatever looks good to you. The last step is to make a nice ring around the shaded area to complete the halo effect. To do this in GIMP you need to download a plugin called Layer Effects which can be found here. If you are not familiar with how to install plugins in the GIMP there are instructions on that same page if you scroll down. After the plugin is installed and you have refreshed your Script-Fu scripts from the toolbox window you should see a "Script-Fu" menu in your image window. Click it and then click "Layer Effects" and choose "Inner Glow ...". You can play with the settings until you get the right effect around your shaded area. The settings I used were 34a6d9 for the color, Opacity: 100, Contour: Ring, Noise: 0, Blending Mode: Normal, Source: Edge, Choke: 0 and Size: 10. The plugin will create a new layer on top of your existing one that can either be left as is or merged down into the original layer. Here is the resulting effect with the dialog window open so you can see the settings. That's it. Enjoy!

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