Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Site Makeover for Free

If you're a regular to Penniless Parenting, you'll notice that a change occurred overnight. While I thoroughly enjoyed my old layout, it was missing some key things including the ability to have tabs like the new ones you see (and more will be arriving shortly) up on top.
I was undecided about what to do, because while I needed a new layout, I truly loved the style of my old blog. I didn't want to just take those old graphics and put them with my new layout because, as much as I enjoyed them, they were just stock images floating around the web, and I wanted a unique graphic, one that represented me, Penny Penniless in all my essence.
I approached a graphic artist friend about making me a graphic, but even as a friend, she was charging more than I wanted to spend on the graphic, so I embarked to redo my website, entirely on my own.

I used a free Photoshop alternative (more details to follow) to draw my own image, roughly based on my old graphics, but with a unique twist.
No, I never learned how to do computer graphics, but a little know-how in google comes in handy in things like this.
Whenever I wanted to create, I simply searched online for a tutorial to show me how to make what I desired.

My husband is a bit of an artist. I explained to him what I wanted my graphic to look like, and he came up with a bunch of pieces that fit my theme, pictures that represent what I and my blog are about. 

I wasn't so easy to work with- I had a million requests and reasons for why what he was doing wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but after the hundredth million time, I had the hand drawn images that I needed, from which to make my own computer graphics.

Using various tutorials, I learned how to use paths and layers to create computerized images based on the drawings my husband made me. I am especially proud of my jar of beans that I made.
I pieced together all the various images I created with my husband's help and came up with this image.

As you can see, it was still a major work in progress,but I liked it a lot and had fun figuring out how to make it.
I showed the picture to a friend of mine who is a graphic artist, and she helped me out and made me a whole new vector image based on what I had created, as a favor to me. She did an amazing job and I truly love it. (If you're looking for a graphic artist to do a great job for you, you can contact her at renatraxler@gmail.com)
You can see the image that my friend made- its the header across the top of my site. And that jar of beans- I loved it so much that I put it to use in a bunch of places around this site.

The rest of the site makeover was accomplished with blogger draft. If you have a blogger account, you can play around with backgrounds, settings, and colors on the template editor. You can go to draft.blogger.com and get many more unique designs that you can tweak yourself. These things aren't available on the regular blogger dashboard but make a world of a difference when redesigning your own website without an extensive knowledge of html.

After piecing my new layout together using blogger draft, I tweaked my design following advice from Bloggertricks.com and Bloggertipsandtricks.com.
Anything I didn't know how to do? Googling helped me learn everything.

Yes, I ended up getting my friend Rena Traxler to make me a graphic. If she hadn't stepped in and done me that favor, I would have ended up redoing my blog, entirely from scratch, without having ever learned web design or graphic design. Its definitely doable.

Have you ever given your blog a makeover? Did you pay anyone to do it for you, or did you do it entirely on your own?
Oh, and what do you think of the new look?

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