I’d like to preface this post by stating that I didn’t go to school for graphic design, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years. In college I wrote fan fiction for the television show, Supernatural, and I made banners and images to go along with them. Sadly, none of my early graphics survived my data purges (I’ve looked), but I can show you how I make my current images. But first, a few tips.
Step One: Choose Your Program
There are dozens of programs out there to choose from. So much so that it can be overwhelming. If you’re just starting out, here’s what I suggest. Take the time to play around with a few of them. They range from the super basic to advanced. Adobe Photoshop is still considered the king in graphic design, but if its interface is just too much (like it is for me), you can play around with free programs like Pixlr, GIMP, Inkscape and Paint.NET.
Those are more advanced for my taste. If you want something with an easier interface or one that’s web-based (if, for example, you’re using a netbook or Chromebook), you can try BeFunky, PicMonkey, and Ribbet.
My preferred program is BeFunky (post not sponsored. They have no idea I exist!). I’ve played around with Ribbet, PicMonkey and Pixlr. Photoshop’s intimidated me since college. I also pay extra for access to stock images, more design elements, fonts and filters. All for $6.99 a month. That’s definitely more bang for your buck than having a Netflix account (sorry Netflix).
Step Two: Plan Your Graphic’s Aesthetic
What’s your post about? Is it an informational blog? A personal one? Do all your graphics match each other? I do a lot of planning with this step. A graphic’s purpose is to draw readers in and provide the overall aesthetic for your site. It’s all interconnected.
Step Three: Will You Make Multiple Versions for Multiple Platforms?
If all you have is a website then yay, you only have to think about one graphic! Most people do that, anyway. But crazy little me usually makes two or three versions of the same thing.
Yes, I’m crazy.
Think about it, though. Twitter has its preferred image size. As does Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc etc etc. While I do have Pinterest, I hardly post there. So I make them for Twitter, the post itself on my site (obvs) and sometimes Instagram. I don’t have a YouTube channel or a Facebook page.
This is where preset templates come into play. And I can tell you that they’ve saved my butt more times than I can count! ESPECIALLY the Social Media Headers section. I’m terrible when it comes to dimensions. I am attempting to streamline all the graphics for my blog posts. I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.
I used to make elaborate, busy titles. You don’t need to use every function available. Find what works best for your site’s purpose.
Step Four: As with Applying Makeup, Begin with a Base
I’m going to show you how I made the graphic for this post (prepares self for taking a dozen screenshots). Under BeFunky’s interface I select Graphic Designer > Templates > Blogger Resources > Blog Titles.
I don’t use any of the preset background graphics, and I very rarely keep the fonts or phrasing they use. I’m just looking for the size. I chose the following because of the slightly opaque rectangle.
Next, decide which elements you’re keeping and which you’re deleting. In this case, I’m deleting the floral images and all but one line of text.
TIP: There are many free images sites out there,
but many of those can also, potentially,
have malware or spyware embedded in their downloads.
I've ruined, ahem, tech due to not being careful with that.
(Look at that. I'm already side tracked!)
Step Five: Choose A Background Image (or none at all)
I spend a lot of time looking through stock images. Sometimes it seems like I see the same writerly backgrounds used over and over again on social media. You know the one – the overhead shot of the MacBook Pro with a coffee mug and open notebook. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, of course, but I see it so much that I’m not intrigued.
Why do I feel terrible saying that out loud? It should be about the content itself, right? I think the old adage of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. And here I am, teaching you how to create a graphic!
BeFunky has hundreds, if not thousands, of images you can search via key words and phrases. You can also upload your own, in .png and .jpg format.
TIP: .png graphics are graphics with their backgrounds removed,
so they can be added in as a layer.
TIP: With BeFunky's interface, you can select multiple graphics at once
and they'll be added to your list once you exit out of the search.
However, if you clear your browser's cookies and cache,
they will disappear.
Step Six: Place the Elements
Now that you know what image you’re using you can begin playing around with the elements of your graphic. Move things forwards, backwards, adjust the layering. If the image doesn’t work, keep the other bits in place and just change that out.
TIP: Play around with coloring, opacity, fonts,
and more tools to further fine tune your image.
TIP: Don't be afraid to experiment with text blending and styling!
Each photo editing program will have its own set of elements and overlays you can add. For example (Oculus Reparo. Don’t mind me. Every time I see the phrase, “for example,” I can’t get Hermione Granger out of my head!)
BeFunky has a fantastic selection, including social media icons. It could do with a little updating, as Google Plus no longer exists. But they have everything from charges and infographics to basic lines, shapes, ribbons, and more!
TIP: Save. Save save save save save.
This is more for when you're building your blog post or web page,
and you'd think this would be a common sense kind of thing.
But I think forgetting to save (in general) is a human fallacy.
BeFunky has a fantastic autosave feature where, if you don't
clear out your cookies and cache as discussed earlier in this post,
it'll ask you if you want to continue editing your previous project.
Step Seven: Finishing Up
You’ve chosen your program (or programs). You’ve chosen your aesthetic, images, fonts and elements. They’re all put together the way you want them. All that’s left to do is save your work and upload.
As with any project, the more complicated the plan, the longer the task will take to complete. I figured I’d go the easy route, since the format for my blog posts is the one constant thing on my site.
Each graphic you create gives readers a sense of your style. Don’t be afraid to try new things! Start small. Learn, learn learn. And your skills with creating graphics, just as they do with your writing, will grow!
UPDATE: I was going through some of my old files last night and I stumbled across a banner I made for one of my old Supernatural fanficts. I remember being quite proud of how this looked: