We said it before when we were talking about giving your blog a ‘look’ and a brand image, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. Your blog banner, or header or whatever you want to call it, is your business card. It is the first thing people will look at when they visit your blog, and a lot of people will make the decision to stay and read on or leave, completely based on your banner. The whole look of your blog is important, but the banner should tie your whole blog together and tell people what you are about in a quick and visual way.
There are a lot of beautiful banners out there, and it’s really daunting to know where to start, so today I’m going to take you through a hopefully, really simple tutorial of how to make a photo banner. I’m doing a photo banner because that’s what I do best. I use a photo banner on my own personal blog because it is the best way of telling people what I’m all about; my blog includes a lot of photos and is all about a little boy. Thats what Dear Beautiful Boy does and so that is what my banner tells you.
I use Picasa to do all my blog making and designing. Its a free download software for your computer and once you get to grips with it, it’s brilliant for creating photo banners, grab buttons (which we’ll be talking about in a few weeks) and collages. It doesn’t cost anything to give it a try, so why not download it and see what you think.
The great thing with Picasa is that making a photo banner is easy because it automatically shows you all the photos that you have saved in various folders all over your computer. So on launching the software just go to the correct folders to find the pictures you want to use in your banner.
Directly underneath where the folder name and details are, you can see a play button. Next to that is a collage button. By pressing that you go through to the collage editing part of the software and it will automatically take the photos in that folder and place them in your collage for you.
To the left hand side you will find a drop down menu which gives you a selection of different sized boards on which to arrange your pictures. At this stage it doesn’t actually matter what board you use as you will crop it later, but I like to work on a board that has the rough proportions of the finished article so that it is easier to arrange things how I would like.
On the left hand side there is also a tab entitled ‘Clips’ which allows you to add and remove photos that you would like to include. By pressing ‘Get More’ you will go back to the original screen where you selected your folder and you can select more folders of photos to include in your banner.
Then it’s simply a case of arranging the photographs as you would like them. You can resize and angle them to your hearts content. For this design I wanted the pictures the same size and an equal distance apart.
You can change the background colour of your board here too. For a clean look on your blog, it’s a good idea to make sure this background colours is either the same as the background of your blog, or a contrasting colour to make it stand out. When you are happy with your background and photo arrangement you simply click ‘Create Collage’.
This takes you to a different editing screen when you can edit the whole collages as if it were one image, but you can always go back and change the collage around if you need to by clicking ‘Edit Collage’ in the top left hand corner. Once through to the editing stage you need to trim down and tidy up any uneven edges on your banner, using the crop tool. You can also add text and retouch anything you aren’t quite happy with.
You can manually decide the proportions by eye or you can use a preset crop, but with this design I needed to chop off the excess background board to the right of the design.
I left a space at the bottom of my banner to add my blog title. So you simply use the text tool to select your font, size and colour and then move the text into position. Then click ‘Apply’ to make those changes to your banner. The final thing left to do is to export your finished banner to a folder on your computer by clicking on ‘Export’ at the bottom of the screen.
This window will pop up and you need to resize the image to however many pixels wide your blog is. This will differ from one blog design to the next, but is generally somewhere between 800 and 1200 pixels. You can check this first or export a few versions with different pixel sizes and see which one fits best.
And voilà! One simple and easy photo banner for your blog. I would like to apologise for the unexciting and unoriginal banner and blog title I’ve used in my example. It’s simply to give you an idea of how you might go about making a photo banner for your blog.
And remember that this is just a basic idea. Once you’ve got to grips with using Picasa in this way, the restrictions are only on what your head can come up with. Try more pictures, or less pictures. Text at the top, the side, over the pictures, in the middle of a circle of pictures. It’s just a case of letting your creativity flow. You could change your title font and back ground colour each month or season for a different look. You can swap pictures in and out to keep it up to date.
Just keep in mind at all times what your blog is about and how your banner represents that. This is probably one of the reasons why photo banners are so versatile, because you can simply include some of your best blog pictures and you are automatically representing the blog as a whole in your banner. Just take the I Heart Snapping banner; it tell you what we’re all about.