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This may sound like a strange proposition to those of you who are high end graphic designers, but Excel, used in conjunction with Paintshop Pro can be a very good blank sheet to fiddle with graphics and to create some graphics effects very cheaply.

I thought of using Excel like this because I use it extensively as a financial tool in my job as General Manager of a theatre company, and I'd dropped graphics onto spreadsheets and found them easier to manipulate on an Excel sheet than they are in art programs. Excel might not have all the art program functions, but for basic stuff, its graphics manipulation is very easy to use.

Let me take you through an example:

Open Paintshop Pro.

Open Excel. Go to Tools/Options and on the View tab, deselect Gridlines. You will now have a blank, white sheet in Excel.

Type some text you might want to use for a heading into a cell. Like this:

Note how I made the B column here wide enough to fit my desired text.

Now select the cell with the text (B2 in this case). Copy.

Now go to PSP. Paste. Voila! A graphic you can use for a heading, a button, or whatever you wish. I saved it as a gif and reduced the colours to 16 to make it small. Here's what it looks like:

It had a white background, but I just made it transparent in Fusion by using the transparency function on the Properties palette.

(Oh, and for those interested, the font is called Tolkien.)

You can even do blurring and stand off effects. Like this:

To do this, I put black text in an Excel cell. Copied. Pasted in PSP. Blurred the image in PSP. Copied in PSP. Pasted in Excel. At this point I had a blurred black image on my Excel sheet.

Now I created a text box in Excel and typed the same text into it. I made the text in the text box orange. I double clicked the text box and made it autosize, no line, no fill. Then I moved the text box over the top of the blurred image. For some reason, during this whole process, the blurred image ends up a bit smaller than the text in the text box, even though I made the original black text, and my orange text the same size. No problem. I grabbed the corner handle of the blurred black image and resized it until it was as I wanted - under the orange text and to the left a bit. Lastly, I did a screen grab using PSP's screen grab function, saved the graphic to my Assets folder, inserted it here and made its background colour transparent.

I use Excel like this for all sorts of things. You just need to experiment.

It's quick, it's cheap. But it works.

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