Friday, June 18, 2010

Blog Redo - The Details! - Long.

In the process of creating my button - this morning.

Yesterday I set out to make a few little changes on the blog, and here we are with an entirely new look! While I made everything you see here, I didn't do it without lots of help - and I wanted to let everyone know where I learned all of this great stuff and that it's not as hard as it looks!

A Solid Foundation
Before you create any kind of fancy background or header for a blog, it's really important you have a simple skeleton to work with. Ideally, you would use a layout that has a basic original design, a similar structure to what you'd like to have and is easy to customize. So really, you don't want to start off with something that has very elaborate HTML coding or lots of complicated doo-dads and colors and graphics, because it can be tricky to navigate through all of that stuff.

I used the Minima template (or layout, whatever they're calling them these days) from Blogger. I see this used on a lot of blogs, and before I had Extreme Georgia as my template I used Minima myself. The template is exactly what you want when you're doing work on a blog, it's very simple, black and white and even if you only add a header image or a little bit of color to the links it already looks classic and pretty.

Roadblocks are Moveable
After spending a few hours creating a really pretty orange and red background yesterday and testing it out (more on this later), I realized that Minima is a 2-column template, meaning you have your content on the left and one column on the right for widgets and gadgets (like links, your followers, about me section, etc). I needed more space! After a lot of Googling and a lot of frustration, I decided to manually change Minima into 3-columns instead of using something else. Here's how you can make Minima into a 3-column template.

Breaking it down...The Background
This is a great tutorial on how to make your own scrapbook style blog background. I used Photoshop, but you can also use GIMP, which is the free equivalent. The tutorial is for a 2-column style, but once I played around with things I was able to adjust it to the right width. The undo and step-backward buttons are your friends!

The Header
I had so much fun making the header! I didn't use a tutorial for this, I just played around with some different textures and papers until I found a combination that made me smile. Don't forget to save as you go! 

Custom Fonts
Once again, Amanda from Kevin & Amanda came to the rescue with another fab tutorial. See the fonts I have for the post titles and the different headings on the sidebars? Yeah, I did that! This was time consuming, and a little tricky. Even if you don't have a lot of experience with coding, her directions are extremely helpful, and there's a troubleshooting section at the end too. You can do it! She has links to a million bazillion cute fonts, too.

Grab a Button
Finally, I made a button! You can find directions for this here, and they're very easy to follow.

Resources - The most important part of this post.
If you want great ideas (and step-by-step directions) for making your blog super awesome, I'd recommend Shabby Blogs Blog and Kevin and Amanda. I used both of these blogs for my makeover, and I absolutely love them. Super easy to follow, and extremely helpful!

Megan at Shabby Blogs also has a ton of blogger backgrounds (free for you!) that you can use too, in case you're not ready to make your own yet.

If you are ready to make your own backgrounds, welcome to my new addiction: the world of digital scrapbooking.

Oh yeah, it exists. And it's serious business, folks. Super awesome serious business.

The paper I used for the background, the lettering, the bows, the background of the button all came from Summertime Designs and Shabby Princess. These two ladies make amazing amazing kits, and they're all free for you to use. Crazy, right? I spent so much time downloading different themes and playing around with all of the cute stuff last night. Seriously addicting.

Okay so, I think that covers everything! Oh, I almost forgot my #1 tip. Create a test blog! If you're on blogger it's super easy to do - go to your dashboard and click 'create new blog'. There you go! You can set it as visible to only the author (so that means just you) in the settings, and then you can play around with everything without worrying about messing up your blog! And that way you'll know that when you go live with your new redesign everything will work correctly and look great.

Do you do all of your own blog design, or do you have someone else help you out? Who are your favorite blog designers? If you had wicked awesome photoshop skills, what would your blog look like?