Good morning, Monday!
Today marks week four of Word to the Newbies – this summer’s series featuring guest writer’s best advice for new bloggers. Today we are joined by Kristen Hamilton, who you may remember was part of the Everyday Author series last year (sharing here, here, and here). Today her word to the newbies is all about diy blog design.
I began blogging three-and-a-half years ago after being inspired to write because of a blog I started reading. I didn’t know much of anything about blogging or social media, so I set up a free blog on Blogger, using one of their templates and stock photos. I poked around and became familiar with the basics, but as I started making new blogger friends and reading other blogs, I marveled at some of their amazing designs.
I couldn’t figure out how bloggers made their own buttons or special graphics to go along with series, or even how they got fancy signatures. I wanted to incorporate all of it, but didn’t know where to turn. I assumed that I needed to turn to “professionals” to achieve what I wanted (which I did, but didn’t exactly get the look I wanted).
When I joined the team at FancyLittleThings.com as a regular contributor, I had to take my graphic-creating to the next level by including pictures that would meet their posting guidelines. It was a little nerve-wracking at first because I was only beginning to figure out graphic design on my own, but I asked a lot of questions, read blogging books, googled and eventually figured things out.
If I would have known what I know now when I first began blogging, I would have been able to do things from myself from the get-go.
There are two key sites I use for graphic design:
PicMonkey is the site I use most. It allows for quick, easy editing: cropping, adding text, resizing, adding overlays, and special effects. You select the image you want to work with, (or a blank background), edit, and save back to your hard drive. Then you can upload it to your blog.
PhotoBucket is more involved, but can do everything PicMonkey does. Plus it is actually a digital storage/hosting site where they will assign a URL to each graphic you make. This feature comes in handy sometimes.
Both of these sites offer paid membership programs that offer more – more storage space, more fonts, more design options. For me, the paid extras aren’t necessary.
There are three ways I suggest creating graphics for your site:
Build a library of your own photos
Take your own pictures on the highest quality camera you can, with as much natural light as possible. I have Dropbox on my laptop and my phone, so pictures taken by my cell are automatically synced in my Dropbox account. It’s very easy to go on one of the design sites, load the pictures, and edit.
Find free photos online
If I have a post I need a specific photo for, then I use a site called, FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Photos are searchable and they have a large selection. The photos are free, but you do need to give credit to the photographer for using it somewhere in the post.
Create “infographics” by leveraging text
You can use a blank canvas in PicMonkey and start from scratch with a solid background. Doing this allows you to create a picture with words or an “infographic.” You can even combine a graphic or picture with text to make your written point that much stronger.
Always remember you can google tutorials on anything you need to do. This is how I ended up doing my own design on Blogger. Now with WordPress, they have a very extensive tutorial section that has been very helpful.
You CAN learn design for your blog
It’s all much easier than I expected. I’m not trying to run designers and consultants out of business, but I say save your money and make your blog a quality DIY project. You feel accomplished, can make it how you want, and you can tweak it without consulting someone else.
That is, unless you become a big blogger with lots of pages and links that require advanced design. 🙂
What tips and tricks have you learned by designing for yourself?
About the Author
Kristen shares her life with Jesus, her husband, 3 daughters & a Bengal cat. She’s a writer, blogger & MOPS Leader. Her heart is women’s ministry and raising godly tween girls. You can find her connecting to the beauty in the hearts of women with faith, food & fashion at www.kristen-hamilton.com.