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It was just a few posts back that we looked at ways to increase the size of digital images without losing too much quality. The earlier post featured two photo tips to digitally enlarge a picture. We stopped there because we couldn’t find another tool beyond the obvious ones to do the job. A few days later, I chanced upon a mention of SmillaEnlarger.
Two things immediately stand out about this free software (apart from the fact that it’s free!).
First, it’s specifically meant to increase the size of digital images while trying to retain the quality. It is not a full featured image editor or even an image viewer.
Second, you can unzip it and run it as it is without an installation. That means I can carry it around like portable software.
Before we start with the hard facts about this open source software, let us again remind ourselves that enlarging an image from its normal dimensions will result in loss of quality. The trick is to do it in a way that’s not detectable to the human eye or the loss is at least within a fair to middling range.
The Look of the Program
SmillaEnlarger is a standalone application. Fire it up and you are greeted with two viewers – the Source and the Preview. Don’t mind the husky dog. Smilla doesn’t bite!
- Bring your file into the SmillaEnlarger image program in the usual way or by dragging and dropping. Set the destination directory for the enlarged image or keep it in the source folder.
- A grey square in the middle of the Source image marks the area which is under preview. Grab the grey frame to move it around the source image. You can move the image in the preview window also with the mouse.
- If you want to enlarge a definite area of an image use a cropping rectangle. By clicking the mouse and dragging it in the source window, you can set a new cropping rectangle. Enlarge and Save to get the cropped (and enlarged) section or click Undo Cropping to reverse the action.
- The new enlarged size can be set either through the zoom slider or by typing a New Width and New Height.
The Six Filters for the Touchup
- Sharpness – for sharper edges.
- Flatness – for matte like gradient less finishes.
- PreSharpen – for sharpening the source image before enlargement.
- Dithering – for smoothening jagged edges.
- DeNoise – for removing artifacts and noise.
- FractNoise – for a more grainy effect
This is where a graphic designer’s eye comes in handy. For us laymen, it boils down to sliding the sliders and experimenting. For best results, increase sliders by a minimal amount and click preview to test. Also to understand what the filters are doing, you can zoom into an area of an image and try out each filter one by one.
The enlargement done, the filters applied and with the preview checked out, a click on the Enlarge & Save button gives you the blown up image, hopefully with very little loss in quality. SmillaEnlarger saves the new image with the original file name plus a suffix.
After the Blowup
Compare the image below with the one in my previous article. (With some latitude for web compression)
Trying to increase the size of an existing digital image is a bit of hit-and-miss given the fact that an image program has to figure out how to add pixel information to the bitmap using available information. Also, the original quality and the color ranges in each image make for varying results. Is that why a batch processor for handling many images in one go is such a bad idea?
Maybe it could do with one. But a version number of 0.8.5 shows that it’s still early days for SmillaEnlarger. So far the enlarged image and the SmillaEnlarger software both look good.
Image Credit: kevindooley (Wanted: Santa Claus)