Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Creating a banner

My new 'In the Shadows' picture took me a couple of hours (but I'm not very good ... yet!)

Keeping your banner fresh and interesting is a good way of catching the eye of visitors as they come to your site. Since Christmas I've been playing with my new favourite toy ... a Wacom drawing pad and have subsequently been playing around with producing banners/graphics and pictures...

Here's what I've learnt so far.

#1: You don't have to be an 'artist artist' to have a damn fine banner

As the recent poll at Maunderings of a 40k gamer proved ... great banner design has little to do with great artistic skill. If you can paint mini's, you can have a great banner design.

If you've got some spectacularly well painted character models that you're really proud of then you can go for a 'showpiece' banner. Get a quality photo of your best mini and then go through a banner maker program to do all the hard 'lettering' work for you!

Great work by Warhammer 39,999 in creating a well coloured and balanced piece.

Alternatively, if you are less happy with the quality of your mini's, you can always bunch them together in a dramatic 'scenario'. Take shots from the knees up at 'eye level' with a background of tanks... muchas fun!

Scenario creation is a fun way to build yourself a banner

#2: If you want to draw your banner ... keep it simple.

I've started multiple 40k paintings and drawings only to drop them 30% in because they are too complicated. The best idea is to keep it simple and play to your strengths. Do you have a good eye for portraits ... then do that, are you more of a 'graphic design artist' then stick to cool tanks. Play to your strengths.

This design keeps everything very simple and allows the centrepiece to stand out.

#3: Remember to 'adjust levels' or curves on your photo's

This goes for mini-photography more than anything. You don't need an expensive software. Simply download GIMP2 from SourceForge for free (it's open source) ... open your jpg and crop and resize. Then choose the 'curves' option and adjust the contrast, light and colour levels to the best to suit your mini.

#4: And finally ... don't be afraid of cheating

We're not advocating plagarism here and copyright infringement is right out ... but grabbing a head shot from the interweb is a great way of 'tracing' your way to victory! Using 'layers', you can trace a sketch of the character on one layer over the source material on another. As an example, here's how I cheated my way to my most recent banner:

Step 1: Who do I want to draw?

I'll be back (stomping on the gays rights as I go....) Image curtosy of Sacramento Bee and will be removed on request.

Politicians and Sports People are great choices for photohunting in google. Actors are very recognisable and have generally got a 'photo-face' on them - not helpful. For this example I chose the world most favourite governor (and California's least) - Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Step 2: Insert, adjust and trace...

By dropping Arnie into a layer of his own and then creating a transparent layer over the top, I can quickly build up a portrait with his profile. Now, you'll noticed that the completed picture doesn't actually look that much like Arnie ... and that's the point - I don't want 'Arnie the Guardsmen' ... I want a separate image.

Arnie's adjusted for position and then traced ... to give me my 'guide'

Step 3: Colours, Contrast and levels

Colouring in Arnie is then a 'painting by numbers routine. I can even use Arnie's original as my painting 'tablet' for colour selection. Build up the image and the environment around it.

Step 4: Research...

I've found plenty of great source material and inspiration out there. I've subscribed to 'ImagineFX' magazine and through them have found great resource pages like this one, on Henning Ludvigsen's SITE. Building up resources, source material and getting practice has never been easier ... thanks to the interweb.


So have a look at your current banner and think about how it talks about your site, your design and your aspiration ... (goodness only knows my site needs more housekeeping) ... and I hope the ideas above prove useful!

Comments welcome.