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How do I prevent my images from looking pixelated/jagged?

Images created in Paint Shop Pro with an appropriate resolution will typically have smooth edges and soft, semi-transparent shadows. However, once the image is transfered to Animation Shop and adjusted, things can change drastically just by saving the image as a GIF file. Learning how to adjust the optimization settings to prevent pixelated (jagged) edges and distorted shadows is something that can save you lots of time and frustration.

If you don't mind using a solid background behind your image then you'll have solved most of the problem right there. You can keep the PSP image transparent and then once it's transferred to Animation Shop all you have to do is select, the Animation menu and choose Animation Properties, then change the Canvas Color to Opaque in the color of your choice. The nice thing about this method is that if you find later that you need a different background color it's easy to reopen the image, change the color, and re-save.

If you prefer to keep your image transparent then you'll have to adjust the optimization settings when saving. When I first started making signature tags in Paint Shop Pro and Animation Shop, I was often frustrated with my final saved version. I was making transparent images with drop shadows and they'd look great in PSP, but once I added the animation in AS and saved it as a GIF file, I'd find my final version looked pixelated and the shadows were ridiculous as in the example below.

Poorly Optimized Image (notice the jagged edges and distorted shadow)

So my big question was, “How do I prevent the jaggies and keep my shadows looking nice?”

Since I really wanted to keep my image transparent I played around with my settings and found that I could solve the majority of the problems caused by optimization simply by changing the blending option when saving the file in Animation Shop. This is one of the steps automatically done when saving the file. To start make sure your image is ready to save, and choose File, Save or click on the icon that looks like a floppy disk. Choose your storage location and give it a name, then click the Save button. After that the optimization dialog will begin. On that first dialog box click on the Customize button.

Select the Partial Transparency tab and change the “Convert pixels less than x% opacity to full” setting to 0%. Then select “Yes, blend with this color” and click in the color box and select the background color you'll be using when displaying the image.

By changing the settings on that one tab, most of my shadow and pixelation issues were resolved. However, you can end up with a halo effect if your blend color is quite different from the background on which you're displaying the image. This happens most often when the image includes a drop shadow on a transparent background.

Image with Adjusted Optimization with halo effect

To prevent the halo make sure your blend color is the same color as, or a color as closeas possible to the background color the image will be displayed on. Typically I make a version blended with white as well because most of the time I'm displaying my images on light enough backgrounds that the halo is minimal if visible at all.

Image with Adjusted Optimization and similar blend color

One last thing that I've found helpful is if you don't like the way your image turned out after the optimization settings have been applied you can undo (ctrl + z) and try it again. Prior to saving my image as a GIF file I save my image as a MNG file, which is the Animation Shop format. I do this because no optimization settings will be applied and it will maintain the AS Frame properties, etc. To save the file as a MNG you simply change the file type in the Save As dialogue box at the bottom of the box. Then after saving your MNG version you can choose File, Save As and change the file type to a GIF file and you'll still have your MNG file as a back-up.

By the way, there is a snaggable copy of the Happy Birthday file with a white blend color (same as the halo version) on the freebies page.