Image effects panel — have you heard of that one? Many Silhouette users haven’t. But it can be a HUGE help if you are printing from Silhouette Studio. You can use the tools in it to adjust colors in both printable patterns and photos. Let’s go through what each of the options in the Image Effects panel are and how they can help take your printed projects to the next level.
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Where to find the image effects panel
Look in the right side icon bar to find the Image Effects panel. It’s a circle that’s half dark gray, half white.
Here are some starting tips–
- You can use Image Effects with any raster image — anything that prints. The latter is just a square filled with colors in a specific pattern.
- The goal when adjusting a photo is to make it as life-like as possible if you are printing it.
- When you adjust a slider, you can usually close the panel, reopen it and continuing adjusting or cancel. Sometimes, however, one filter cancels out another (those using specific color adjustments). But once you click Apply, you can only get back to the original image with the Undo button. This does NOT affect your original photo that’s saved on your computer — only how it looks in Silhouette.
- If you go to different tab or close the panel and then reopen it (meaning you never hit Apply), sometimes the slider shows as 0 even if you had adjusted it. You can still move it to get back to your original image coloring.
- It can be tricky to move that slider right to 0. A little trick is to click your mouse near the middle and it will often go right to 0. That works better on some sliders than others.
- Watch out for adjusting one image and it accidentally carrying over to another.
- I shared in this post the difference in the RGB color model your computer uses and the CMYK your printer does. I encourage you to read that as I will refer to it below.
- The way these adjustments work in Silhouette Studio is not necessarily the way adjustments of the same name work in other programs.
- Image Effects can help tremendously when tracing photos.
- Use them to get multiple looks from a single printable pattern or print and cut image.
Now let’s look at each tab in the Image Effects panel.
This slider always starts at 0. As you move it up, it takes away the color. If you raise the Gray Shade setting all the way to 100 on a photo, then you’ll get what we would call a black and white photo. (It’s not REALLY pure black and white, because what you really have is varying shades of gray.) With the color gone, the details of the image stand out more. You focus on the elements instead of the colors.
The image will look the same in both the RGB and CMYK color models if you’ve got 100% on the Gray Shade.
How adjusting gray shade helps
- It can tone down bright colors. If you use it on a photo, it’s kinda like a filter you’d use on a phone app that edits photos. (Many of the adjustments in this tab are).
- Used on a printable pattern, you can also back off the intensity of the colors.
Colorize changes the hue of image. Hue is how our brains process how we see colors — based on what part of the light spectrum is reflected. A hue is the pure color. You can adjust it by adding black to create shades or white to create tints.
In Silhouette Studio, the Colorize tab of the Image Effects panel doesn’t give you the option to add only white or black. Moving it just changes every hue in the image at once (but keep reading). The slider starts at the left and you move it right/up.
How adjusting colorize helps
- This is a fun way to get different looks from the same printable pattern.
- You can use it to do some artistic things to photos. Think Andy Warhol and the pics of Marilyn.
There are 3 different filters in the next tab for brightness, contrast and saturation. You’ll notice that all these sliders start at the middle, which is 0. You can add or subtract any of these levels on your image, so you wind up in the positive or negative percentage.
Brightness raises the light level of all colors evenly. It adjusts both highlights and shadows to lighter versions of the colors. Moving the brightness slider to the right increases the tonal values and expands the highlights on the image. It adds white to the colors. Take it too far and a photo gets “blown out” — it’s hard to distinguish the different colors and therefore you lose detail. Be especially careful on this with photos of sky or people.
When you move it left, it decreases values and therefore expands shadows. It’s adding black to the colors. If it’s all the way down, your image is just black.
How adjusting brightness helps
- Use it when the overall photo is too dark but doesn’t have a big difference between the shadows and highlights.
- It’s a way to make all colors lighter in a printable pattern but with the same intensity. Or, back it off to make them more gray.
Contrast alters the difference between the darkest and brightest areas. Move it up and the shadows get darker and highlights get brighter. All the way up = very deep shadows. If you move it down, you’ll get fewer shadows AND fewer highlights because the colors are closer together. This makes the colors more dull or gray. And if you took it all the way down, your image would just be gray.
If you start playing with this slider, you’ll notice you don’t want to move it too much. A little goes a long way. Typically, you’ll use adjustments in the contrast in conjunction with brightness so a photo isn’t grayed or blown out. It works best with images that have even lighting, not ones with all super light or all super dark colors.
How adjusting contrast helps
- You can raise it to make color pop more in your photo.
- You can lower it and raise the brightness to both lessen shadows and make the overall image more even. The result on a photo can make it look like one that has naturally faded over time.
- By raising the contrast, you can make all the colors of a printable pattern lighter without washing them out as increasing the brightness might do. The colors get more intense/less subtle.
Saturation is very similar to contrast. Instead of adjusting the separation between light and dark, raising it increases the separation between various colors by adjusting the intensity of the original hue. The higher the saturation, the brighter the colors. The lower the saturation, the closer you are to white/no color. It’s like increasing contrast, brightness and and even the sharpness of a photo all at once. You’ll see it mostly on the most vibrant hues. You won’t want to go too far down on photos, because it can make subjects, particularly natural ones, dead or sick.
How adjusting saturation helps
- You can take it up to get brighter colors if your original is washed out. Just beware of taking it up too much on a photo because the colors may not be very life-like (unless you’re going for that).
- Use it to bump up colors or make them more subdued in a printable pattern.
By playing with all 3 sliders in this tab, you can get some very different looks in a printable pattern. The possibilities are endless.
At first glance, Gamma may appear to be the same as brightness, but it’s not. We said adjusting the brightness affects all the colors by the same amount. Increasing Gamma is moving the midtones only, not the highlights and shadows.
Since our eyes are much more sophisticated than a digital device, we can perceive a much higher number of differences in light values. Adjusting the Gamma can help tweak what we see on the screen to more closely resemble what our eyes see.
How adjusting gamma helps
- By raising Gamma, you can bring the light levels of the midtones and dark tones up without blowing out the highlights.
- If you have a photo that’s overexposed (too much light that washes out the colors), you can lower the Gamma so the highlights aren’t as much higher than the midtones and darks.
- It’s helpful in tracing when you have deep shadows. You’ll probably have to adjust another filter as well, but it’s a good place to start.
- You can use it to make colors less vibrant if they are too bright for your taste. That works on both photo and printable patterns. Interestingly enough, going either direction can do it because it makes the colors closer together. Raising it makes them more pastel, while lowering it makes them deeper.
Inversion changes the colors to what’s opposite them on the color wheel (although it’s not exact). So a yellow becomes violet. It also changes the light tones to dark ones and vice versa. It makes photos look like a film negative.
If you move the slider to the middle, so around 50, everything is pretty much gray. The best way to use it is to invert 100%.
How adjusting inversion helps
- Playing with the Inversion could be useful on printable patterns to get different looks, particularly black and white ones.
- Technically, you could scan a negative and then invert the scanned image so that you get a printable photo. I haven’t tried that, but it should work. It would not get the colors however — it would just change the darks to lights as they are in real life.
- You can get some special effects on photos by inverting their colors, mainly a spooky look.
- If you have dark areas of a photo that are difficult to trace, inverting can make it easier. For example, say you have a photo with a really light background and subjects that are also pretty light so you’re having trouble getting an outline. You can invert and it’s easier to pick up the separation. The software can more easily pick up dark colors, so if I make the light colors dark it works well. Usually I’ll do several traces with different threshold levels for this. The bottom row here is a combination of 2 different traces.
When photography was just beginning developers would sometimes use Sepia as a way of toning the photo in the dark room to add warmth. The photos were black and white and the Sepia added a brown tone on top The chemical used was also a preservative, so the photo wouldn’t age or fade as quickly. Today’s photo editing software has many more tools we can use to warm up the color of a photo or image.
How adjusting sepia helps
- We don’t have to use this much, because we have SO SO SO many apps that give us more options.
- You can add Sepia to make photos look vintage — think the old-timey photos you might take at an amusement park. If you combine it with some other filter adjustments, you can get looks for other eras as well.
- You can definitely use it on a printable pattern to give it a different look.
Tint is a very helpful adjustment, particularly when you remember that there’s a difference in what we see on digital screens and what prints on our printers. (Remember to check that post on RGB vs. CMYK if you don’t know the difference).
Let’s say you design something that looks beautiful on your computer screen, but when you print it out it appears too greenish. You can lower the green Tint in Silhouette Studio and print it again. While the Colorize filter adjusts all the hues, Tint adjusts them one by one.
I would say you want to use this in moderation. A little goes a long way. The colors become a bit more dull because adding to one color takes away from another.
How adjusting Tint helps
- Use it to adjust specific colors to account for the differences between RGB & CMYK.
- Again, you can use this for specific filter looks. This is the best way to add warmth or coolness to your image.
- With printable patterns, you can adjust the tint to make it have more of the colors you want.
The last tab in this panel is Shadow. It’s stuck here because I guess there’s not really another good place to put it, but I don’t really think it goes with the rest (anyone hear a song from Sesame Street in their head???). It deserves its own tutorial so keep an eye out for an upcoming one from me here on the site.
So what do you think? Can you find some uses for the tools in the Image Effects panel?