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Give Your Graphics A Professional Look without the Price

By Shelley Lowery
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2004

Graphic design is an intimidating subject for many Internet entrepreneurs. However, most of us must learn some basic design techniques to avoid the high costs of hiring a professional graphics designer.

You can create your own graphics that can look just as nice as some of the professionally created graphics for a fraction of the cost.

In order to create your graphics, you will need to invest in a good graphics program. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy graphics design software. Paint Shop Pro is a wonderful graphics program and is the only program you'll need to design professional looking graphics. You can download a free 30-day trial and register the software for only $99. (http://www.jasc.com/download_4.asp)

The first and probably most important graphic technique we're going to discuss is text. This is probably what you will use the most. Not just any text, but text to be used with your logo, banners or page titles.

When you're ready to begin, open Paint Shop Pro and click on "File" then "New" and type in a width and height for your image. Make sure your "Image Type" is set to 24-bit and select your background color. You can leave the other settings at their defaults. Make sure you give yourself a large enough space to work with, as you can reduce it later.

Your first step will be to select a good font. Depending upon the effect I want to achieve, I use one of three different fonts; Impact, Verdana, or Arial Black. If you don't have these fonts installed on your computer, you can find them here: (http://www.microsoft.com/typography/fontpack/default.htm)

The first text effect we will be creating will display your text in a large font size with a drop shadow effect. This drop shadow effect can also be used with any other images you create.

Your first step will be to select your text color. To change the foreground and background colors, double click on the top and bottom color squares on the right. Your text will be displayed in the color within the top box, which is the foreground color. For this example, I will be using a light color as my foreground color.

Once you've selected your text color, click on the text tool on the left side (It looks like a capital "A"). This will launch your text window. Select your font and text size from the drop down menu and type in your text. I will be using "Impact" bold, size 24. Make sure you select "Antialias" and "Floating" then click "OK."

Antialias will smooth out all of the rough edges of your text and blend it in with your background color. You will use the Antialias setting with various graphic tools when designing
your graphics, so it is important to remember its function.

You will now see your text with, what looks like, marching ants around it. If you'd like to move your text, click and hold your left mouse button to drag your text to your desired position.

With your text still selected (with marching ants), at the top of the screen, go to "Image" then "Effects" then "Drop Shadow." This will launch the "Drop Shadow" window. Your image will be viewable with the drop shadow in the little window at the right. You can try different settings until you achieve the shadow effect you desire.

Another text effect that is popular will display your text in a graduated color effect. Your text can be displayed with a dark color at the top and gradually get lighter or just the opposite.

To achieve this effect, the foreground (top box) color must first be set to white. Next, click on the text tool and follow the same procedure for displaying your text. You should now see your text displayed as "marching ants," only with no color. Now you'll need to select a dark color for your foreground color and a light color for your background color.

Once you've selected your colors, click on the "Flood Fill" icon on the left. To change the effects of the Flood Fill tool, locate the little box on your screen that says, "Controls" then click on "Tool Controls." Under "Fill Style" select "Linear Gradient" and then click on "Options" at the bottom. The "Blend Mode" should be set to normal. In order to select which color will be at the top of your text, where it says, "Degrees" type in either 0 or 180 depending on your desired effect, then click OK. Now place your mouse over each letter and fill it by clicking on your mouse.

After you've filled your text, you can either create the shadow effect or "right click" on your mouse to deselect your text.

If you'd like to decrease your graphics window size, click on the "Selection tool" on the left (dotted rectangle) and select the portion of your graphic that you'd like to display within your new sized image. Click on "Edit" then "Copy" then "Edit" - "Paste as a new image."

After you've completed your graphic, go to "File" then "Save As" and select a folder. Type in a name for your graphic and save your new file in the .GIF format. The program will prompt you and ask you if it's all right to reduce your file to 256 colors. Click on yes. Your new graphic is now saved.

Now that you've mastered these new techniques, try them with some of your other images. The drop shadow effect can be used with photographs or just about any image you'd like. Try the graduated color effect with your banners or image backgrounds and give your graphics a professional look.

About the Author:
Shelley Lowery is the Webmistress of Web-Source.net. Your Guide to Professional Web Site Design & Development. Subscribe to Syndicator Etips for fresh, original articles to assist you in Web Design, Internet Marketing & Ecommercemailto:etips-subscribe@web-source.net?subject=subscribe (http://www.web-source.net)