an invite to remember…

Last summer, my sisters and I threw a party for Mama’s 80th birthday. For the party invitations I used a 10th grade school-photo of her. (I believe she has her school photos from every year…and really, really love that about her.)

I chose this photo of her because she was in the front line and I was able to get a head-to-toe image of her.
So, first I cropped her out of her group of school friends (which she can name just about everyone of) using my image editor –GIMP. I did this using the ‘scissors select tool’ and copy / pasting into a new blank image.

This photo shows a screen shot of cropping this way in the process. You simply click the mouse on the edge of your image that you want to crop out, move the mouse a bit more, along the edge and click again. The two dots, where you clicked will connect and will also use what is called intelligent edge-fitting to determine how the line connecting the dots should curve. You need to continue doing this around the image and complete a ‘circle’ or loop by clicking one last time on that very first dot you made. Then click anywhere inside the loop you created to select your region. Copy and paste your selection into a new blank image.

This takes some practice. The intelligent edge-fitting feature works best when the image you are wanting to select is clearly defined by differences in color or shading from the rest of the picture. I’ve found that it works best if I take my time and click the mouse often to create my dots pretty close together.
I thought a nice shadow behind her would really make her stand out. I’m impressed with GIMP’s ‘perspective’ shadow filter. Once you have your desired image on its own canvas, and while it is still selected, click on ‘filters’ (in the top menu) ‘light and shadow’ --> ‘perspective’. This will open a scripting window where you can adjust the angle, length, color and opacity of the shadow. I played with it for awhile until I got the desired effect. You can easily do ‘edit --> undo’ if you don’t like the results and try again.

I also increased the contrast, decreased the color saturation, and used the cloning tool to remove the dark spots off of her face.

Then I went to work on designing the invite. The theme of our party was simple and (what seemed to me) nostalgic, with party hats, games and an ice crème buffet---reminiscent of an ice crème social. I wanted the card to have the same easy, uncomplicated feel with some fun.

I took a picture of my party hat prototype, which I had made, and used its image inside the card to give the guests a sneak preview of what to expect. Using a cropped photo of my mom from the front of the card is a design trick that I learned from ‘The Non-Designer’s Design Book’ from Robin Williams. She states, in the book, that taking pieces of a design element and using them in other areas of your project is a good way to create repetition and help to unify the whole design while keeping it interesting. I can easily and whole-heartedly endorse her book. It takes design principles and makes them very easy to understand and remember.

I love that photo of Mama. She told me that she made the dress she is wearing, but was never very fond of the way it fit her. I think she looks absolutely beautiful. And the party was wonderful. I have an earlier blog post where I talk about the ice crème social with recipes for sauces here and another where I explain how I made our party hats. I think parties are great---every single thing about them.

That’s me, wearing the skirt and bandana in my hair. After looking at this photo for a moment…I think I am at my best when I’m in an apron and bare feet, and at the age to be completely ok with that.

Party on!


  1. Dale - this is the MOST gorgeous post. That photo of your mum is divine. And I agree - I think her dress looks lovely on her. And thank you so much for explaining your cropping and shadow tools on GIMP. The invitation looked amazing. I am as captivated with the idea of an ice-cream social as I am with the images! I think we will be having one of those here before too long. Thanks for the inspiration. xxx

  2. What a fanastic idea for an invitation. The fact that your mother kept all her school speaks volumes about her. The invitation is absolutely darling. Thanks for the great ideas :)

  3. Thank you, so much, twirlingbetty. The ice cream buffet worked out really well; it was a lot of fun and I was surprised how delicious it was. My sister helped me the night before with the toppings, and we stored them in the fridge. I’m glad we went that route; all the chopping and crumbling took longer than I thought it would.

  4. Madebymegs---I used to love pulling out my mom’s old pictures to look at them when I was a kid. One weekend, soon, my sisters and I will staying with her so we can scan all of the photos and each take home our own flashdrives of all the copies. I’m looking forward to that weekend, but just as eager for those photos to be within my reach whenever I want.