Tag - Techno Trauma

Monday Media: Techno Trauma Part 4 - Pixlr.com

MondayMediaCCochet180Welcome to another Media Monday and Techno Trauma edition. I currently run two websites, this one--which is my personal author site, and The Purple Rose Tea House--which is for promoting m/m romance authors. Both have different themes and color schemes. For my sites, I try to create all my own graphics, not just so they match my sites' themes, but for copyright issues. To make my graphics, I use Photoshop. But what if you don't have Photoshop? It's a crazy expensive program. I have an older version that I'm perfectly happy with and have no intention of offering my first born for a new version anytime soon. It does what I need it to do.

Well, fear not. You don't need Photoshop to create your own web graphics because there are plenty of free programs out there you can use that will get the job done. The first thing I have to insist is that you play around with your program--whatever it may be, and get to know it a little before you start creating and putting graphics all over your website. If you're an author, your website/blog is your online home. It represents you. It's what readers, agents, reviewers, fellow authors, and everyone sees when they look you up. Dress to impress they say. Your website says more about you than you know. It's not about paying ridiculous amounts of money for a site, especially if you're just starting out. It's about putting in the effort to put your best foot forward. Your website can be clean and simple, but it should look professional.

pxlrIf you're putting a site together and don't know how to go about it, just ask. There are always folks happy to help. I'm always happy to offer a hand where I can. I didn't pay for my website, nor did I take any courses. I learned how to put it together the best way I could from the ground up. What I didn't know, I Googled. This site was a white blank slate when I started, with the coding there as a start off point because lord knows I hate coding. Anyway, onto the graphics. The interwebs is full of tutorials for how to make this or that graphic for the multitude of programs out there. One of the those awesome programs is Pixlr.

Pixlr is laid out nearly the same as Photoshop with almost all the exact tools. It's easy to use once you get the hang of it and the best part? It's free! The editor opens up right online and you're ready to go. I've put together a super easy tiny tutorial for creating a badge on Pixlr, using the Advanced editor. (Just click on the images for full screen view).

Step 1: Go to www.pixlr.com and choose Open Pixlr editor (Advanced) option.

main screen

Step 2: Click on Create a new image.

Main page

Step 3: Give your new file a name and choose your size. The Presets drop down box is pretty awesome, because it has some industry banner sizes already set up for you. I'm choosing 180 x 150 for a button badge. If you don't want any of those sizes, just choose a random one and you'll see the height and width boxes under it. Just change it to whatever size you prefer. Under it will also be a little box with the word Transparent next to it. That's especially handy if you want a transparent background for making a .png file.


Step 4: So there you see our 180x150 box with transparent background. Now I'm choosing my background color. Let's say it's for the tea house. You see the set of numbers and letters next to the red check mark? That's the color code. When I'm designing a theme for a site, I make sure I jot down the codes for all the colors I use. This will allow me to have consistency with all my graphics because I'll stick to those exact colors. So I've chosen my color. Now I click OK. Then I go to my little bucket tool over there on the left and click on that. I hover my bucket over my blank background and click. Voila, your background is filled in. *** Very important. Make sure to save your file. Since you'll be working with layers, save as a PXD. Go to File > Save > PXD (Layered Pixlr image).

choose base color

Step 5: As you can see, my background has been filled in. Now I want to give it a little border. I love borders. It neatens things up. With my trusty color codes at hand, I go over to the right hand side. The box in the middle is your Layers box. At the moment, we only have the one layer which is out background. The great thing about working with layers is that whatever you do to one, won't affect the others. I use a lot of layers when I work on something. Now on the layers box at the bottom there's a bunch of little symbols, the third one in is the Layer Styles (properties) button. This lets you add a drop shadow, bevel, or glow to your layer. Now Photoshop has a Stroke option for creating borders, Pixlr doesn't, but if you select Inner Glow, set the hardness and opacity all the way up, you get solid lines. Boom, instant border! When you click on Color, the color chooser will pop up. Click OK and as you can see, my button now has a nice border.


Step 6: Let's add some text. Let's say this badge is for my post headings for when I have a guest post from a fellow author. In my tools, I select the button with the A which is my text button. Click anywhere inside your graphic and the Text box will pop up. Type whatever you fancy in the box. Choose your font, the size you need, the style, and the color. Again, this is where your color codes come in handy. I used the same purple as my border. Click OK. Don't worry if it's not lined up, we'll be moving it next.

add text

Step 7: In your toolbar, the black arrow with the little cross is your Move tool. When you click on that, whatever layer you're working on, you can move things around. Now if you click on that, you can move your text. If you want to be precise, click on your arrow tool and then use your keyboard arrows to nudge the text in whatever direction you need to get it aligned.


Step 8: Next, let's say you want to add some kind of image related to your badge. I went to Stock.xchng and found me this nice little open book. I saved it to my PC and now I want to open it. So I go to File > Open image... I find my open book which I saved and open.

open image

Step 9: There's my book image. Now I want to select my book. Here's where we separate the boys from the men. You can either use the wand to select the background (not the book) and then invert the selection (which is what we're going to do) or you can use the Lasso tool to select just the book. The Lasso tool means you're handdrawing the selection. Yes, it's more difficult, but also more accurate. Now what I've done is select the wand, clicked on a white section of the book's background and then use the Lasso tool to fine tune my selection. Pressing down Alt (PC) while using the Lasso will take away from my selection, while pressing Shift and using my lasso tool will add to my selection. Okay, so I selected the background of the book. What's next? Go to Edit > Invert Selection. Now my book is selected instead of my background. Copy and paste that that sucker onto your badge.


Step 10: Okay, that bad boy is huge! Let's fix that. Click Edit > Free transform. A little box with dots will appear around your image. What you need to do is hold down the Shift key while you drag the upper left corner dot inward. What that will do is make certain your ratio stays the same, so the image will get smaller on all sides, not just your height or width, giving you a wonky image.

free transform hold down shift

Step 11:  Here's a closer look at the Layers box. As you can see, there they all are. I've got each layer, there's the Layer Styles (properties) button where I added my border to my background, there's the Add Layer button and the Delete Layer button. You can click on any layer and then click the Layer styles and add a drop shadow or glow.


Step 12: Okay, so let's say you got your badge how you want it. I shifted the text a little further down, my book is centered. I want to play with some filters but at the moment, my background, book, and text are all on different layers. If I were to try and add a filter now, it would only add it to the layer currently selected. Because I won't be coming back to this image, I'm going to flatten all my layers so it's just one layer. I go to Edit > Flatten Layer. *** Let's say you want your background to be transparent and you didn't add any color or border to your image. To keep the transparency, instead of clicking on Flatten Image, you click on Merge Visible just above it instead. If not, your transparent background will become a solid color, usually white.

flatten image

Step 13: Soon as that's done, my image is now one flat image. Now I can play with Filters! If you click on Filter at the top there, you'll see all kinds of fun options. Each one will bring up it's own dialogue box where you can make adjustments. I chose Vignette, picked another one of my color codes and played with the size, giving my image a little glow around the edges. If you don't like the filter you just applied, click Edit > Undo, or Cntrl + Z (PC). Make sure to save your file. Go to File >Save> Choose either PNG (If you have a transparent background) or JPG format and that's it. You're all ready to go!

play with filters

Well, I hope this little tutorial was helpful. Pixlr is an awesome image editor. When creating graphics for your site, be aware of the edges around your images. Too many white pixels around a pasted image will make it stand out as a pasted image and looks unprofessional. There are plenty of ways around it. By lowering opacity on drop shadows you get a softer, more natural looking shadow.

If anyone has any questions on creating graphics, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to help, maybe even do another tutorial. If anyone wants to know how I did something specific on any of my sites, feel free to ask that as well. Happy imaging!

Monday Media: Techno Trauma Part 3 - Bitly

MondayMediaCCochetWelcome to another installment of Techno Trauma. Today I'm chatting about bitly. Now, I've only recently started to use this in earnest, and I have to say I'm loving it. Before, like many folks, I used Tiny URL to shorten my links, but then I stumbled across bitly.

At first, I used it as one offs, when I needed a link quickly shortened, not really paying attention to what they offered. Then I started reading a little more about it from several other authors and sources, I decided to give it a go. It's fantastic.

Bit.ly_LogoI've discovered it to be a great asset. When you sign up for bitly, you can connect accounts. I connected my Facebook and Twitter account. Why would you do this? Because when you go to shorten a URL, it will have a share button, and when you click 'Share', a list with your connected accounts will appear. Here's a screenshot. (Click for full view)


Cross-posting: As you can see, it allows you to select which account(s) you'd like to post to, and also allows for you to write your tweet or post. Then all you have to do is click 'Post & Tweet' and it will do so for you. Aside this, you have the option of making the link private or public. Your shortened links remain as part of 'Your Stuff', so folks using bitly can also find them. You'll be able to see stats, you can archive your links, or bundle them up. If you have anyone in your networks with a bitly account, they'll be able to see your bitly links and you'll be able to see theirs. Links can also be saved to your stuff, or folks can save your links to theirs.

Stats: Another great thing about having a bitly account is the fact that it keeps stats of your links. You can see stats for individual links or all your links combined. It has breakdowns of how many times your links were clicked by month, week, day, or hour. You can see how many times that link has been clicked, whether clicked from Facebook or Twitter, what countries by percentage, and uses easy to read bar graphs and pie charts.

The whole site is user friendly. I started using bitly in May, so in a few months, I'll follow up with another post to let you know how it's going, but so far, it's fantastic. Also, if you use Chrome, I recommend getting the bitly extension which will put the little blow-fish up in your browser bar. What you do then--once you're signed in, you go to whichever page you want to short link--even your own post, and then click on the fish, and a box will pop up with your shortened link, as well as your option to share (just as above). They have a blog and a great knowledge base.

Before I was just clicking willy-nilly, using it as more of a quick convenience, until I realized everything it had to offer. If you use short links a lot, especially for apps like Twitter, this is a great little site. High recommended.

x Charlie

Techno Trauma Part 2: The Awesomeness of Evernote

evernoteHello and welcome to Part 2 of my mini series on useful author apps. Some of you may already be using Evernote, some may have heard of it, while others might think it's just another one of hundreds of programs not worth the effort. I admit, I'm hopping on the Evernote Love-wagon a little late, as I only recently decided to see what all the fuss was about. Well, let me tell you, the fuss is right. First of all, Evernote is FREE. There's of course an Upgrade available and a Business version, but let's look at this magical free program.

Evernote can be used for anything from collecting recipes to gathering research. This has become my research bible. The way you collect , create, and send information is amazing, and the best part is (what got me hooked): it is so easy! Once you get the hang of it, you start to think of how much easier your writing life would have been if you'd started using it ages ago.

Before I tell you why it's so great, let me show you a screen cap of what my Evernote Web looks like. Evernote Web is an app for Google Chrome. Evernote Desktop has the same layout with a slightly different look. Click on the image for full resolution.

Charlies Evernote

Here are some of the amazing things you can do with Evernote:

Notebooks: You can create notebooks which will hold the notes your create for that topic. Fore example, I have notebooks created for each book's characters, and then in that notebook are notes which will have information and stats on each character, which you can see in the screen cap above.

Notes: You create notes much like you would any document. Notes can be formatted, you can add images, documents, tags, even add a to-do box you can check off if you want to make a checklist.

Stacks: Stacks are like folders where you keep your notebooks making everything nice and organized. The only thing with stacks is that they appear alphabetically. As far as I'm aware, you can't move them around, BUT you can get clever with your titles. So all my Series stacks have a '0' before the title so they'll always be first and stay together. All my research stacks have 'Research' followed by the category title, so all my research folders are together and so on.

Photos: You can send photos you take to your Evernote email address (which they provide when you sign up) and the photos will sync up with your Evernote. Even better, if you add the Evernote app to your phone, you can take pictures and just send it to Evernote. Wherever you have Evernote installed, whether your phone, tablet, or PC, they will all sync up so you're always up to date with all your info.

Audio: Sometimes you don't have time to type, or it's just easier to record an idea verbally before it gets away from you. With Evernote you can record audio and file it away under the appropriate notebook.

Search: The cool thing about Evernote search is that it also recognizes words in images, handwritten notes, and content text, as well as tags.

Share: You can share notes on your social media, or you can share notebooks with fellow authors if you're writing together by inviting individuals or providing a public link.

Evernote Web clipper: Ah, Even more cool stuff. I love the web clipper. It's a browser extension that allows you to save full internet pages, website articles, images, and more, sending them right to your notebooks. As organized as I am, I still had to scroll through countless bookmarks to find exactly the page I was looking for, and of course after a while, you don't remember what website had what.

Charlies Evernote web clipper example

As you can see from the image above, I used Evernote Web Clipper (it's the little elephant logo on the top right hand side of my browser next to the 'a'), and I saved this article on Weddesdon Manor which I told the clipper to add to my notebook labelled Book 2 Johnnie's Research. So rather than a bunch of random links I don't remember the content for, I can save the articles I want, or the full pages. The window in the middle gives me a brief description and thumbnail, the right window is the article. I can also click on any links and it will take me to the page. I can also just save the url if the website contains a lot of content I'd use, or whose link is obvious as to what it is.

I have Evernote on my Google Chrome browser along with the web clipper, Evernote on my Android, and Evernote on my desktop. They all sync, so no matter where I am, I have all my info at hand and can add to it. That's what makes this program so amazing. Everything is together in one place. I don't have to go searching through files and folders on my PC just to find out what a character's eye color is. I can just go to the notebook of whichever one of my stories I want to access and everything is there.

Evernote is available for Windows, Mac, Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and the Web.

The free version allows you 60 MB of uploaded data and resets every month, with unlimited storage. You can upgrade to Evernote Premium and get 1 GB of storage every month, with unlimited storage. Premium also allows you to store content offline. There are also loads of third party extensions and apps you can use with Evernote. I use CamSanner on my Android smartphone. With that, I can take a picture of a handwritten document, the app will fix it up, and then send it to my Evernote. No need to type it up.

Find out more about Evernote and download it here.

Evernote Blog

Well, I hope you found this installment useful. If you already use Evernote and would like to share something I haven't covered, just leave a comment. Or if you have a program you love and want to share, let us know!

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