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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!

Winnie here. Today it's my pleasure to host  Naomi Craig here at Seekerville. She's going to be discussing how to use Canva to give your graphics a consistent feel regardless of platform. So Naomi, take it away! 

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!

You know when you are scrolling through social media and you know who posted that image? You scroll up and sure enough, the name on the profile is exactly who you thought. How do we know that? Because the poster has consistent images. A similar feel to their account.

 

I’m going to share some ways you can apply that consistency to your account using Canva. To get started you will need a (free) account with Canva.com

I really like Canva’s ease-of-use.  It has a very intuitive Drag-and-drop system that makes it easy to use, even if you have no graphic creating experience. I promise.

 

Consistent Colors

Alright, now that you have Canva opened up, open up another tab and take a screen shot of your website. (Windows: hold down Windows button and “prt sc” at the same time/ Mac Command +Shift +3)

Now open up a new tab for Canva

Select a template of your most commonly used social (IG FB Twitter etc.)

Upload the screen shot (look for it in pictures->screenshots)

Drag it into the template

Click the background-- You will know it is selected with a blue highlight. Select the Rainbow pallet up in the upper left. Now you can see that it is already interpreting you color scheme in Photo Colors! When you hover over a color that you like, a 6-character symbol shows up. Write it down on a sticky! Write down the text you use too! Then you don’t have to eyeball it next time.  Keep pulling different parts of the colors that you already have going for your brand. I have 6 different base colors that rotate between. This keeps it easy for you to just swap out your current graphic on the base

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!


 

Video

Video is the hot thing in marketing. And you know you need to transition to doing more. I know you know.

I know, I know. How are you supposed to get comfortable in front of camera? The majority of us writers are an introverted lot.

Until you get comfortable with getting your face on camera (yes you really should) I have some tips to help you out on Canva.

Target watch time is 15 seconds.

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!


 Make it easy on yourself to start. Duplicate the image and remove or shift a layer

To duplicate the page, click the Double box with the + sign.

You can see I did that for 5 slides.

Another non face video is a fast speed aesthetic of what the book is about. You can download free pictures from Unsplash dot com (Canva has some in their library, but not as extensive) This I used about 21 slides, and set them at a much faster timing.

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!


 

Adjusting the timing

Once you have several slides in one project you should see a clock in the top left corner. You will need to change the timing of each slide individually. The standard time Canva gives you is 5 seconds. Again, your goal for watch time is 15 seconds.

Name it!

Super important. Naming it here will be the difference between using it or losing it (which is ok, you can always find it again on Canva and download again)

Download

When you click on the download button, it will give you several options. For video you want mp4 video.

If you are saving a static graphic, either jpg (compressed, small file) or png (higher quality).

Select the page number. If you are saving as a mp4 video, you will want all the images selected.

If you are saving as a static (yet you have several slides up) make sure to check only the one you are planning to use. Otherwise, it downloads the whole file as a zip. File and gets a little bit harder to navigate.

**Important note. This will save on your computer in the “Download” file. This is where naming it something memorable will come into play😊

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!



The project will also save to your Canva home page. This is a super awesome feature (again, all I use is the free version). This way you can go back to previous projects and update them. Do you have a template for book reviews? Just replace the book cover and maybe switch out for one of your other colors from your custom color palette. Easy peasy. And reusable! Win win!

Other Cool Features

I really like the drag and drop features canva offers. You can even be on amazon, right click your book cover click “copy image”, open up your canva tab and paste it “ctrl V”. Then it actually saves in your upload library.

You can also do all kinds of fun graphics by animating your text and/or your graphic.

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!


 Author of Biblical fiction, avid reader, pastor's wife, Naomi loves reading the Bible and imagining how things were at the time. When she’s not serving in various areas at church or trying to stay on top of mountains of dishes, you'll most likely find her enjoying a good book and a cup of coffee. Naomi co-hosts #BehindTheStory, a Christian author interview show on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts. When not writing and trying to wrangle social media, Naomi is trying to get her rescue dog to be cute on command for Instagram reels. You can check out Naomi's website at https://naomicraig.com

 

 I know this is a whirlwind of information. How do you feel your graphics could use a boost?  

 

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!

Naomi will be giving away a digital copy of Rahab’s Courage to one of our commenters


                               RAHAB'S  COURAGE

Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig!
A scarlet cord tethers one ruined woman to the salvation of mankind.

Harboring two fugitives in a city slated for destruction, Rahab has one small chance of escape. In exchange for their safety, she bargains for her own. Their agreement rewards her courage, and she flees Jericho and a life of prostitution for a new life among the people of Israel. Never again will she have to depend on anyone—especially men.

Except Salmah won’t take the hint.

High ranking soldier and leader of the tribe of Judah, Salmah is determined not to repeat his parents’ mistakes. He will keep the Lord’s commandments. Rahab’s growing faith fits right in with phase one of his plans: find a wife who loves the Lord and settle down in the new land.

Rahab finds shelter and meaning in the Lord’s ways until her past comes back to haunt her. As her new faith is put to test, she finds herself alone. Isn’t that what she’d always wanted?

With her courage waning, only the Lord can turn Rahab’s life around again, but will He do it before she loses everyone and everything that really matters to her—to her heart?

To learn more or purchase a copy, click HERE  

 

 

 


Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

As queen bees of the JustRead hive (aka owners of JustRead Publicity Tours) and avid readers, we’ve learned a thing or two about sweet reads and sticky situations. We want to help you avoid common book cover blunders and ensure your readers aren’t confused or even deterred by a sticky situation. 

Generally, authors will either have DIY, outsourced, or a publisher-directed cover design process. While this article is written primarily with independently publishing (or hybrid) authors in mind, the concepts are important for all authors to consider. Whether you are creating your own cover or conveying your vision to others, the goal is for the heart of your story (or nonfiction content) to shine through the cover.

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Visual Vibes

Research book covers that are selling or trending in your book’s genre and subgenre, making note of images, design styles, fonts, and colors. Once you’ve identified design elements that work well for your genre, focus on reflecting the heart of your story within your author branding and genre trends. 

Stock Images

Even the pros utilize stock illustrations and images but check to see if your selections are already being used on another book cover. Layering multiple images is one way to create a more unique cover but make sure proportions and blending are natural.

Fonts

We love fonts but readability is key. Two different typefaces on a cover (sometimes three) are acceptable as long as the placement is mindful. Whimsical and script fonts are especially tricky but they pack a visual punch when used in moderation and/or paired with a simple clean font. 

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Good Sticky

Stick to your budget and timeline. Don’t wait too long to finalize your cover or make last-minute changes, delays could end up costing you more. Compromise is common during the cover design process but be willing to stick to it and keep the lines of communication open rather than settling for a cover that doesn’t fit.

Encouragement for DIYers

You can successfully create your own book cover with thorough research, more research, and the popper tools! Creating an appealing cover on Canva, Picmonkey, or other free or low-cost design platforms is possible. Many of these tools even provide book cover templates and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling for cover mock-ups and even final cover designs. Be sure to ask a few trusted and experienced confidantes for their opinion on your work but don’t stress over trying to please everyone.

Cover Design Pros

If your budget allows, we definitely recommend working with a cover designer. Choose a professional who has created covers you love. We love so many covers including those designed by Roseanna White, Teresa Tysinger, Hillary Lodge, Sarah Monzon, Emilie Hendryx, and more! Please feel free to give a shoutout to your favorite cover designers in the comments. Keep an eye out for a more in-depth post on working with a cover designer in the future.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

It’s a nice sentiment but the truth is that the cover is the first glimpse a reader has of the content within. Book covers set the stage just as words pull back the curtains on the wonderful experience we share through stories, devotionals, and nonfiction accounts. Readers are going to judge book covers so let’s embrace that and maximize their impact positively. 


Can you name some genre-specific design features? Does a certain cover style grab your attention? Carrie, Beth, and Rachel would love to chat about your favorite cover trends in the comments! 


 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books considered within the wholesome or clean reads genres. 

Check out their About page to meet the queen bees or jump right into the Authors & Publishers or Readers sections to learn more about JustRead campaigns.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)


By request, today's post focuses on how to use the programs and resources covered in Parts I, II, and III to create DIY book covers by merging two or more photos to create attractive covers.

First, it takes a professional graphics artist with high grade software to mash, smash, mix, and combine multiple photos of landscapes and people and make it all look as if it was all taken together. I'm not a professional. I'm a rank amateur and a DIY guru. The covers I've created aren't meant to look as if they were photos taken that way. But there are techniques to get around that obstacle.

So, let's get started...

The untouched photos of the woman and the landscape below were chosen to compliment each other. Ideally the photo of the woman would have had a bluer sky to make it easier to "merge" the two photos, but I decided to work with this one as is. I actually made this "mockup" cover a couple of months ago in preparation for this blog post, but realized I didn't have enough screenshots of the process to show you much of what I'd done. So I created another one yesterday, and decided to show both as they each employ some different techniques.

And, as I was going to "press", a friend shared a great FREE resource that you're going to love! I'll share it at the end.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
horsewoman-4001_1920.jpg


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
utah-1802033_1920.jpg

As you can see from the photos above, neither look like they'd lend themselves to a book cover as in being the appropriate size, although the landscape would make a great wraparound cover for a print book. You'd just have to add more blue sky and clouds to the image.

But never fear. All I did was crop both photos until I got the look I wanted. I added a blue sky background behind the woman and then used a blue sky/cloud-looking swath across the middle to blend the two images. This created the perfect spot to add a title.

Now... you can still see a bit of white around the woman, but I liked the way it lended an airbrushed look, so, all in all, for a sample book cover, I was pleased with it.

I used Picmonkey to create this covers, and the Basic Graphics tool to create the faded edges and cloud effect on the cover below. I'm sorry that I didn't save more steps to show you how I did this. (That's why I created two covers for this project, so I could show you some of the specific steps.)

And... I notice I use the words "layers" and "flattened" a lot in this post. This might not be necessary to explain, but each piece (every photo, every grouping of words, every graphic) of a graphics arts piece is a different "layer", that is, until you "flatten" the pieces. Flattening in digital design software is kind of like ... covering something with scraps of cloth, paint, newsprint, letters, words, stamps, (whatever), then painting over everything with Mod Podge. lol You're welcome for the analogy!

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)

Now on to a cover I created for today's blog post called One Summer in Tuscany. When I realized I didn't have very much step-by-step screenshots to show how to create the above cover, I went to Unsplash and started looking for a landscape that I liked. Any landscape would do, since I didn't have a story idea slot to fill. My "mock" cover could be anything I wanted. If that seems backwards, it is. So, if you're thinking you need something VERY specific for the story you've already written, then read Part I of this blog series. In Part I, I cover how important it is to search for and save photo ideas for future projects. 

So, let's pretend I'm writing a book set in Tuscany. :)

First, I found the beautiful Tuscany landscape below and could just picture it was working for a book cover. Then I searched for couples, but didn't find anything that jumped out at me. Ideally, I was looking for a couple or a woman outdoors and with a muted background that would work well with the landscape. I found the blonde woman wearing the hat, but she didn't really work for the look I wanted, even though the muted background would make working with her image fairly easy. I kept looking and found the beautiful woman with dark hair. The background was going to be a bit harder to work with, but the look of the woman fit the Tuscany landscape SO much better, and I was excited to work on the project.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Unedited Photos Downloaded from Unsplash

Originally, I planned to create a cover on the same lines as the Western-style cover above (titled When Comes the Spring for lack of a more appropriate title): a landscape on the bottom with the woman on the top half, separated by a banner of some sort. But as soon as I uploaded the Tuscany landscape to PicMonkey, my plans changed. I could see that this cover idea could be so much more...
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #1

Screenshot #1, above, shows the landscape image uploaded to my book cover template (templates are covered in Part II of this blog series), cropped to the size I wanted for the cover, then FLATTENED. Flattened anchors or "glues" (like that mod podge we talked about) that image as the background. It's your first layer. You don't have to do this step, but it helps if you're pretty sure you've got that layer just as you want it.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #2
Screenshot #2 shows where I uploaded the dark-haired woman before I had edited it at all. It's a new layer on top of the landscape layer. It's obviously way too big, but I wanted to leave it that way so that I could see enough to erase the parts I didn't want. The old eyes aren't what they used to be!

Also, I'm explaining ALL about erasing, but wait until the end when I share the cool new website I just learned after I did all this work. :)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #3

When you click on any layer/image in Picmonkey, a toolbox called IMAGE appears on the screen. To erase parts of the image, choose erase and adjust the parameters to fit your needs. I wanted to erase all the hard edges around the photo, as well as ALL of the background around her.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #4

As a matter of fact, when I started, I planned to just keep her face, but she looked really funny with that hand on her chin. lol (And I liked her longer hair). Also, the "dangling" hand as well as her left arm with the wet shirt-sleeve looked totally out of place. Erase. Erase. I just slowly edited out until I hit just the right balance.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #5

With a few more tweaks, I knew I was really close to a decent mix of these two photos that (to me) would make a gorgeous cover. Screenshot #5, above, is the landscape background and the cover model with NO filters applied to either.
DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #6, "Tuscany Screen"

Now, let's play with filters. Sometimes, an author (or her editorial team), will decide to fade the model (or some other portion of a cover) for whatever reason. It might be a play on something in the novel... say, the heroine has amnesia and her memory is foggy. Or the title was something like "When Love Fades" or "Memories of You". You get the drift. To achieve these effects, use the Image Tool and play with the BLEND MODES. Screenshot #6 shows the results of using the SCREEN mode. Screen mode achieves a slightly different effect than just FADING, which is also an option on the Image tool. The more you play with Blend Modes, the more uses you'll find for each and learn the best times to employ them on different projects.


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Screenshot #5 again. NO filters applied. I called this "Tuscany Normal"

At this point, I was very happy with Screenshot #5, aka "Tuscany Normal", and after I let the images settle, if I was truly ready to publish this book, with this title, I'd probably go with that nice, sharp image above. 

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
"Tuscany Faded"

But sometimes you have to play with the options to see what works and what doesn't. The photo of the girl above is faded just a tiny bit from Tuscany Normal. Just enough to let a tiny bit of the background to show through. If you look closely, you can see it in the duller look of her lips, and the way the horizon cuts through her hair toward her eyes. Using fade works in some situations and not in others. It's just a matter of preference.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany Screen

Here's Tuscany Screen again with the actual filter applied, which shows a LOT of blending of the model into the background. It's not a technique I'd use on a cover unless I had a really good reason. 

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany Smudge

To achieve Tuscany Smudge I used the Textures filter, which shows up on left of the screen. There are tons of options under this from Wood, Water, Marble, Papyrus, Ice, and on and on. Again, Tuscany Smudge is a bit over the top, not an option I'd chose, but it might work if the filter wasn't applied with such a heavy hand. Maybe just a tiny bit might be okay.

Oh, and BIG TIP. For Tuscany Smudge above, I FLATTENED both the landscape background and the cover model before I applied the Smudge filter. Otherwise, the filter would have only been applied to whichever image (layer) I'd selected. And, it's possible to apply different filters to different layers if you find you need to do that. Just know as you're working which layer you're working on and/or if the layers have been flattened first. (Sorry, that's getting a bit complicated, and I promised to keep it simple. :)

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
One Summer in Tuscany MOCK Cover


Tada! We have a cover. I used Tuscany Faded to create this cover, but again, if I really had a novel set in Tuscany, I'd probably go with the original no-filtered photo of the model.

Now, for the cool new software that I just found out about. And, it's FREE! While babysitting two of my grands just today (well, yesterday by the time you read this), my daughter-in-law's mom came by and we started talking about fun projects. She enjoys creating all the stuff you can do with a Cricut: mugs, t-shirts, etc. She told me about this cool site that removes the background of a photo and you can save your photo with a transparent background. While I manually edited out the backgrounds of both of my models for today's projects, there are lots of times I could have used this site. So I definitely plan to add it to my toolbox for later. Pretty cool, huh?

>>>>> www.remove.bg <<<<<

"Download" is free. "Download HD" will accrue a charge. I used Download for the following image.

DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
Tuscany model with background removed using remove.bg


Okay, I think I've covered everything, and since it's nearly midnight and I'm out of time, we're going LIVE! Hope y'all enjoyed today's post and learned more tricks and techniques to create amazing graphics, whether for book covers, memes, or even t-shirts for your next family reunion.


DIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com

Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Let's Go Places with Word Swag


By Pam Hillman

Last month I shared a blog post titled Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs. This was a refresher on using PicMonkey to create memes and promotional swag for social media mostly on a desktop or laptop computer. But I also promised to bring you a fun post on a cool app that really puts the move on our busy lifestyles.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag
It’s WordSwag.

If you spend a lot of time waiting in line, at doctor’s offices, or waiting on your order to be delivered to your table, then why not get a jumpstart on your online PR with mobile memes directly from your smart phone?

I’m going to use my latest release, The Road to Magnolia Glen, as an example. Also, for the record, I have an iPhone. 

Most of the terms I use should be interchangeable with other devices, but just in case, I thought I’d mention that up front. 

Also, I did find a few online resources that said Word Swag is available for Androids, but if not, you should be able to search for a compatible photo/text app for your phone.

So… get ready, get set, and let’s go. Here are step-by-step instructions to set up your on-the-go meme making office on your phone or iPad.

Step 1: It goes without saying that you need to install the Word Swag app on your iPhone or iPad. It's free! :) Again, if you have an Android, I can’t advise you on which app to try. Possibly someone else can step in and help us out. Done? Okay! On to Step 2...

Let's Go Places with Word Swag

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Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Step 2: Create an ALBUM on your phone for the project you will be working on. The one we'll be using today is for The Road to Magnolia Glen, which released in June. Save your book cover, reusable templates, and completed memes in this album. You’ll see from the above screenshot several completed memes as well as some blank templates with my Magnolia Glen cover already included for quick reference.

Regarding reusable templates: Generally, book specific backgrounds will be something you've created in PicMonkey where you can create styles and layers. The ones above are a composite of backgrounds from my publisher, my VA, and my own photos.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Step 3: Next, in the NOTES section of your phone, create a PR folder and then copy/paste notes when you find a cool review, or add some quotes from the book during in the final stages of the final edit. You'll be so glad you did this step when the book releases. You can add photos in the Notes section, but I prefer to keep the photos in the albums and the words (quotes, reviews, links) in the Notes section. And finally, if you’re quick and maybe a bit OCD, you can certainly make these memes right then and there, but I’m not always that organized.

Step 4: Are you done? Okay. Let’s keep going. This next part is the fun part! You should have some background templates on your phone AND you have some quotes and reviews that you’ve gathered for when you’re stuck in traffic or scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, and you realize that you haven’t posted anything in a while.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Step 5: Either decide which background template you want to use from your ALBUM of choices OR you might want to just use something from Word Swag. That’s your choice. I’m going to use one of my templates with my book cover on it. This can be effective as readers continue to see the same colors and styles over and over with different quotes and/or reviews. Open Word Swag and choose LIBRARY (bottom) if you want to use a photo/jpg from the photos on your phone. Choose FREE PHOTOS (also at the bottom) if you want to use one of Word Swags gazillion choices, which I do quite often. Change the size of your photo or Crop it if you wish, or you can leave it as is. Choose Next.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Step 6: A white box of text will appear on your beautiful image that says “DOUBLE TAP ME TO CHANGE TEXT”. Go ahead. Tap it. Don’t worry that it’s clunky and too big or too small for you image. We’ll fix that.

Step 7: If you don't know what quote or review you plan to use, leave Word Swag open and go to your PR folder in your Notes. Copy, return to Word Swag and paste in one of your amazing quotes or reviews you’ve been compiling for just the right time. Make sure "AUTO LINE BREAKS" is On, and then click Done to return to the page with your image and words.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag


Step 8: At this point, you can play with the Style, Color, Size, and "arrangement" of your text. Have fun until you get the look you want. :) Scroll back and forth to look at the different font options. And use the dice in the lower right-hand corner to let Word Swag show you all the cool options for each different style.

Step 9: Don’t be afraid to use the “Add + Text” option at the top. My first attempt didn’t fit in the space as neatly as I wanted, so I removed the word “Quinn” and thought … uh … outside the box. :) I loved the result (below). Also, if you look closely, I added another “Quinn” in a darker color for a drop shadow. Just because I could. Last, I wanted to give Kav at Best Reads credit, but there just wasn't room inside the small circle. So, I added a third Text box at the bottom. Looking good. :)

Step 10: Save your work and post to ALL your favorite social media sites.


Let's Go Places with Word Swag

Tada! My end result for today’s exercise. 

Last, but not least…you don’t have to have templates or quotes from your book or anything to have fun. Pick a photo from Word Swag’s photo library and one of their Custom Quotes. I’ve done this several times and just made fun evergreen memes. The exercise feeds my creative bent.

And that's how you make a meme on the go. :)

Questions? Results? Come on!! It’s easy. Post your work on Instagram or Facebook and let us cheer you on. Use the #Seekerville hashtag. Let’s have some fun.

And... today's post is just in time to let you know that The Road to Magnolia Glen is on sale for $0.99, but it ends soon! So grab your copy now. :)

Let's Go Places with Word Swag
The Road to Magnolia Glen

Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

by Pam Hillman

This post first appeared in Seekerville in 2013, and at the time some of us didn't know what a meme was, and others thought it was pronounced memE (ahem). Assuming some of us might need a refresher, let's start at the beginning.

What’s a meme? Our current society considers a meme as an image or video that is passed electronically from one internet user to another. All those cute little pictures with captions that we see on facebook and Pinterest? They’re memes. We’ll get to the monkeys in a minute, but first, my graphics design credentials.

I became an amateur graphics designer many, many years ago. And I do mean amateur. My first foray into design was of the cut-and-paste nature. A co-worker’s son was having his 3rd or 4th birthday party and his mother found cute action figure plates, cups, and napkins for the party. We designed invitations, cut out the action figure from one of the plates, and taped it to the invitation and made copies on a black and white copy machine. Hey, this was the dark ages, but the invitations were still cute as a button and his son loved them, so that was what counted.

One thing led to another, and I started a cottage business called Celebrations, DTP (desktop publishing). I created logos, business cards, and letterheads for small businesses. Since the internet was unheard of (yes, there was such a time), I ordered font packages, clip art, and software to install on my computer. I also begged the local newspaper for all their old clipart books that they were going to throw away. HUGE books with tons of clip art that could be used in all manner of advertisements.
Okay, enough about that. Fast forward to today….

We’ve come a long way. Professional graphics designers wouldn’t be caught without the latest digital software, graphics, and fonts at their disposal. I’m not a professional, but I still need promotional pieces here and there, and usually too quickly to contact a professional designer. I don’t want to buy new software that has a huge learning curve when I’ll only use it a few dozen times a year. I want something easy, fun, and cheap. Free is even better!

So today isn’t about buying anything fancy. It’s just a few quick, easy examples that you can implement to promote your books, yourself, your brand, etc. I’m going to use the *free picture editing software called PicMonkey to show you what you can do in a few minutes. You really can’t mess this up!

My interests lean toward cowboys, sepia-toned pictures, country, rural areas, horses, steeples, churches, rustic barns, cattle, etc. So we’re going to use a picture I took of my home church. This particular picture was taken with my iPhone. I prefer my digital camera, but I worked with what I had at the moment. I took several shots at different angles, and at first glance, this one might not be the best choice to use, but it appealed to me. I could already visualize the type of design I wanted if the pictures turned out okay. See the vehicle in the bottom left-hand corner of this picture?
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple In Shadow Original Photo - Taken with an iPhone at Dusk White Plains Holiness AssemblyPam Hillman 2013
After uploading my original picture Steeple in Shadow to PicMonkey (just click “Edit a Photo” and follow the directions. It’s easy!), I started playing with it.

If you just want to add text, click on the “P”, pick a font and type your text. You can change fonts, sizes, colors. Just play with it until you're satisfied with the results. Obviously, since this picture was dark with a lot of shadow, I needed to use a contrasting white/cream-colored font.

Wait!! Stop the Monkey!! The sky is blue…ooohh, blue font… Be right back. I’m playing in PicMonkey as I type this. What fun!!! And…more playing. Visually, this font needs to be right-adjusted because of the shape of the pink crepe myrtle bushes that are in shadow… Let’s see how this looks…
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple in Shadow - Blue Text Only Change
I haven’t done anything to the picture itself at this point. Just added the text, decided it needed to be pale blue, and right-adjusted. That’s it. Then I saved it. You could run with that. But let’s play just a bit more and see what we can come up with. I’d like to get rid of that car in the corner.

I could crop the picture, but I don’t want to. I like where the steeple is, just off center, so I’m not going to do that. Some kind of soft edging appeals to me for this pic. Let’s try that first...
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Steeple in Shadow - Blue Text and Faded Edges. Nice!
Yep, that works! Simply select Dark Edges under the Effects tool BUT move to white (or a creamy color) on the color wheel. Again, with all these shadows, I don’t want to make it more dark. The car is almost completely gone. In some cases you can use the Clone tool to get rid of something, but in this case, I chose the soft edges option instead. Worked okay and makes a nice enough meme.
One final picture of my Steeple In Shadow because I simply can’t resist, and the final result is exactly what I had in mind when I took this picture...
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
White Plains Holiness AssemblyIn the Shadow of the Steeple
To achieve the meme above, I used Daguerreotype frame with Effects / Sunglow applied. Notice that since this version fits my personal style of old-fashioned photos with an antique flair, I’ve added my website in PicMonkey’s Bleeding Cowboys font. Small, understated, and unobtrusive.
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Here are some more before and after examples I’ve created with picMonkey. I wanted to show you these pictures side-by-side, but the blog feed is too narrow for that.

At the original posting of this article, ACFW was having a sale on all their conference CDs until the conference. So, I went into action. I grabbed my CDs, my pink iphone, pink earbuds, made a glass of raspberry tea and staged it all on my front porch. I took about 15 digital pictures, then uploaded them to my laptop. I jotted down 2-3 that I thought would be perfect to promote the sale. I needed a good sharp picture that showed the CD case, but also left room for text. I’ll try to point out all the options I used.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
ACFW Original Photo Taken mid-day with Kodak DX6490 Uh...My Front Porch
First, I decided where I wanted the text to be, placing it where it was visually the most appealing. I rotated the price just a bit clockwise. Then, thinking about the pink earbuds, I decided to use that to give some eye-popping color. Fun, flirty pink font at the bottom and at the top for the price. Next, I used the contrast and clarity tools to brighten the picture. I found the sunglasses in Overlays, made them pink and faded them out. The coup de grace was when I discovered the bright sunlight feature in Effects. I popped it over the top left-hand corner and added even more color with the yellow Summer Sale text. Use color and contrast to achieve the effect you want.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Final version of ACFW CD Sale Advertisement
I’m going to share a SECRET TIP with those of you who want something just a little more advanced. Sometimes you want a shadowed font, but oftentimes free software doesn’t give you that option. I haven’t found shadowed fonts in PicMonkey, but you’ll see that I have some in the ACFW CD sale. The words “Summer Sale” and the “$89.95” have a dark gray shadow behind them. Here’s how I created that.

First add your text to your photo, formatting it as you would like it to appear.

Next, create a new text box and copy/paste the original font into the new text box. Make sure it’s the exact same size and shape as the original. The tool box will help you with this.

Reverse the font color so that it contrasts with the original, but also doesn’t blend into the background too much. If your reverse/shadow text box is in front of your primary color, use the Layer toolbox to Send backward.

And then shift your shadowed text box off-center just a little. Not much. You want the illusion of shadow, not something that jumps out at the viewer. That should give you a shadowed text. But don’t use shadows in long strings of text, only for emphasis and for contrast.
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I mentioned clarity earlier.

Sharpen and clarity are your friends.

Just be aware of what happens when you use these features, so work to get the mix just right. In some cases, too much can be ...uh... too much. Check out this picture that I posted on July 4th. I cropped out the date, of course. Used the Effects / Sharpen and Clarity tools to create eye-popping color.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Original Photo taken on perfectly windy morning in June 2009 Hardy Manufacturing, Philadelphia, MS Pam Hillman, Kodak DX6490
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
American Flag - God Bless America!
Can you see the difference?

You might have to click on the pictures to see. The white is brighter, the red deeper, and there is a slight glow all around the flag. This is a good example of what a difference sharpen and clarity can make. I ended up putting a basic picture “frame” around this.
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Sometimes it doesn’t take much to create a PicMonkey masterpiece….
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Black Angus Bull - iPhone Broken Ended FarmsPam Hillman
I took this shot with my iPhone while helping My Cowboy work cows. I was standing inches away, and the big guy was in the chute, so it wasn’t like he could get me. And he’s pretty gentle anyway...most of the time. I used Daguerreotype / Shiro and the picture needed no other work. I popped my website in the spot at the top where that piece of treated lumber was, and the words “I’ve got My Eye on You, Cowboy!” along the side. Pink font just felt right for some reason. Again, contrast.
Memes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs
Black Angus Bull - Broken Ended Farms Bull's Eye!
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Final tips:

Make sure you RENAME your creation when you’re done. You don’t want to override your original picture, and then have nothing to work with if you goof up.

Take your own pictures, purchase them, or at least make sure they are in creative commons. Get creative with your own shots. If you can shoot it, do it, then you can add your own website or name without concern.

Make sure you use proper grammar, check your spelling, and don’t leave words out. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a meme on the internet with errors. No matter how cute or catchy, I will not share it.

Don’t just upload your masterpieces to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sometimes this is okay, but even better, upload them to your blog and then pin them to Pinterest from your webpage or blog. That way it’s linked back to you. Instagram is such an amazing place for memes of all kinds, and the cool apps on mobile phones makes it all so easy.

PicMonkey is a quick, free (there is a paid version*) way to create a little buzz, and when I first wrote this blog post, you had to create and finalize your meme in one sitting. In addition, once you edited and saved your photo, then logged out of your online PicMonkey profile, you couldn't go back and edit or rework your creation. However, that's changed. With the paid version, PicMonkey offers something called the Hub. With the Hub, you can start a project, save it to the hub, then go back later and work on it some more. This is really cool because it never fails that I find something I want to change about a project.

*PicMonkey has a free version, but there is also a $33 yearly paid membership that gives more options. Some of the tools that I've used in these pictures come with the paid membership. If you're unsure of how much you might use the site, then opt for the free version until you're sure.
Me? I knew I was going to enjoy it and signed up after about thirty minutes of playing. I hope you've enjoyed today's post as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you. Now, go out and have some fun with monkeys!

Next month I'm going to share about an app I have on my iPhone called Word Swag. I love, love, love Word Swag and it's my latest on-the-go, go-to design app that  I use on my PHONE for all kinds of stuff. Yes, I still use PicMonkey (and sometimes use both on the same project if needed), but PicMonkey is like going to a sit-down restaurant to dine. Word Swag is ... fast food. And I'll have some fast food tips on making Word Swag work for you on the fly. Psst... the first meme in today's post was made using Word Swag. It took minutes!
Welcome Guest Blogger Naomi Craig! Avoiding Sticky Book Cover SituationsDIY Graphics Design Tutorial: Blending Photos to Create Book Covers (Part Four)Let's Go Places with Word SwagMemes, Monkeys, and Me: Photo Editing and Graphics Design for Amateurs

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