Using Homemade Graphics to Spice Up Your Blog
Every good blogger knows that her site will be incomplete without pictures. Photos and graphics, even homemade graphics, break up the written content, help to illustrate difficult concepts that would otherwise require paragraphs of text, catch the reader's eye, and add a certain flair, flavor and uniqueness to your site or blog, setting it apart from the competition.
Unfortunately, the classic advice regarding blogs and images goes something like this: Unless you double as a graphic designer, it's best to outsource image creation to a professional.
As a cheaper solution, you might purchase generic images from ShutterStock or a similar service... and this is where your options end, right? Not so fast. Some savvy bloggers are exploring the possibility of creating their own images, professional graphic design experience be damned. How can non-artists get away with such a feat? The answer lies in the fact that internet users aren't necessarily looking for photorealism. Rather, they're seeking creativity, style and hopefully a bit of humor, all things you can get across in your homemade graphics and images.
Case Study: Zingermans.com
Zingermans.com is an online mail order service specializing in high-end gourmet food. Their prices are commensurate with their product quality (in other words, quite high), and they manage to take in millions of dollars worth of revenue each year while being renowned for their customer service, product diversity, website design - you name it, they do it well.
Meanwhile, every single one of their images looks like it could've been drawn by the owner's 6-year-old son. This includes actual product images (no photos here, at all) in addition to general "flavor images" that sprinkle every page of the site.
How do they get away with this? Simple. All of the images conform to the same unique, colorful, abstract, zany style. Although your first look at a Zingerman's-created image may be a little jarring, you quickly get used to it once the theme embeds itself in your brain and you continue to browse their pages. Spend 15 minutes on their site, and you may wonder why other sites even bother with photorealism in favor of such a catchy style.
The fact remains, however, that just about anyone could have created these images regardless of artistic talent. Now it's time to apply that same concept to your blog.
Getting Started with Homemade Blog Images
By following a few simple steps, you can create catchy homemade images for your own blog. Here's how to start:
- Decide what you like and don't like in a blog image. Spend a few hours browsing the internet (difficult, I know!), but instead of paying attention to words, focus your gaze on the pictures. How are other bloggers tailoring their images to their content, and their overall site organization?
- Find your style. Instead of immediately jumping into a graphic design program, start the old fashioned way - with some pencils, paint and paper. Once you create some images you like, run them through a scanner or even take picture of them with a digital camera. You may discover that you love the look of watercolors on paper, scanned into your computer. This is a far cry from the traditional computerized graphic design process, but if it works for your blog, it works for your blog.
- Experiment with graphic design software. Although the draw-and-scan method may work for some, most homemade image creators will find themselves eventually turning to real graphic design software in search of increased power, efficiency and convenience. Read graphic design software reviews to find what will best meet your specific needs.
- Learn independently. Once you find a graphic design program you like, do everything you can to master it. This is easier than ever thanks to the abundance of video tutorials and user guides available for popular design programs, thousands of which can be viewed free of charge on Youtube.
If you're successful (which you will be with some practice and patience), you may never have to pay a graphic designer ever again.
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