Fitness Friday: No Excuses Fitness Book Cover Reveal

No Excuses Fitness Cover

As I near the completion of my book No Excuses Fitness, I’ve been experimenting with the layout of Kindle book covers.

After some trial and error, and critique and feedback from some folks, I chose this as the final candidate.

No Excuses Fitness Cover
Final Cover

What do you think?

How did I do it, you ask? Here are the tools I used: Unsplash, Dropbox, PicMonkey, Canva, and Painnt. Let me take you step-by-step.

It was surprisingly easy, using an image from Unsplash, an overlay from Canva (free version), the mobile Painnt app and my premium PicMonkey account, saving everything to my Dropbox account.

overlay example

I initially used Canva to research templates for Kindle book covers. Although the free version of Canva has Kindle cover templates, I found it very limiting, unless I bought the premium package. However, I did find a textured overlay that I exported.

Although I have a lot of my own fitness images, I decided to search in Unsplash, a free image collection website. I found a silhouette of a woman running which works for this cover and for what I want to convey. Unsplash allows users to use, edit and publish images without copyright infringement.

silhouette of runner
Original Unsplash Image

A small caveat: using images of faces from free or reduced-fee image collection sites is risky, in my opinion. They are probably OK to use for blogs, and I use these images for my PowerPoint slides, but I would steer clear of using faces in a published book or other works. How do you know the person authorized their image to be used? Lawsuits happen over copyright infringement, so keep yourself protected.

Painnt Image graphic

Once I cropped the image, I used Painnt, (a mobile app that lets you upload images to your choice of filters), to alter the image further. I chose a filter that had similar colors to the above overlay.

In PicMonkey, I used their book cover template and simply used the Canva overlay as the base. I then uploaded the image (as an overlay) and experimented with text and colors with the result you now see in the first image.

If you are a serious photographer and want to easily edit your images and create graphics for blogging and other projects, but don’t want to spend a lot of dollars, I highly recommend the premium package of PicMonkey.

Picmonkey costs $47.88 per year ($3.99/month) which now gives me free access to mobile editing straight from my phone.

I like Painnt for the filter effects. Painnt is a Microsoft product for mobile that costs $12.00 per year and eliminates the watermark.

If you are a Canva user and have a premium account, you should be able to create Kindle covers very easily.

I save all my work in Dropbox. I also pay for a premium Dropbox account which costs $120 a year ($10 a month) giving me 2TB of storage.

Below are the three covers that were voted down. They were all created using the tools as described above.

As a photographer, I enjoy using Adobe LightRoom but I save that for the serious images rather than graphic design projects. Topaz Labs, a photo editor with cool filters, is an add-on to LightRoom. Both of these are on the pricey side. I chose Painnt over Topaz Labs since I don’t use it every day. LightRoom already comes with my educator subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

To create my final book cover, my cost was about $15, not counting the time I put in to do the work.

While on my creative cover streak, I also created a custom logo and watermark for the book and social media. What do you think?

Signature

This was created in PicMonkey, too, using text and overlay features. I was able to change colors from the original overlay. Her hair color now matches mine and I like green.

If you delve into the world of creating book covers or other graphic design projects and have a little creativity and patience, then I hope you can find the right set of tools for use. These worked for me.

Eventually I will have to design a paperback cover, too. I believe Kindle KDP has a “how-to” for that. I will keep you posted. And I will welcome any ideas and suggestions.

My launch date for No Excuses Fitness is set for early June 2020. #NoEXFit

Creating an attractive book cover is both an art and a science. Hiring a professional to create your book cover is money well-spent, but if you have skills in photography and graphic design, you can successfully create your own using the tools as I have explained.

And it was fun and a nice break from writing.

…And I need to get back to it!

Who knows? Once I finish this book project, I might delve into book cover design!

© 2019 Copyright-All rights reserved-secondwindleisure.com

Sunday Stills: Fun with #Photo-Editing

Words and camera

Words and camera

If you have ever uploaded an image to your media files for a blog post, no doubt you have edited the photo to some degree. Whether you cropped, adjusted exposure or watermarked your image for publication, there is a need and an art to photo-editing.

Some are masters at creating a digital painting, while others are just happy to have a decent photo to share. Tina at Travels and Trifles and Susan at Musin With Susan have successfully experimented with Topaz Labs.

Tina had this to say about photo-editing: “Simple edits in programs like Lightroom or Google Photos, or Apps like Snapseed or Diptic give even beginning photographers the ability to morph their photos into something a bit more artistic.”

I am no expert, believe me, my photography is pure hobbyist with some “serious leisure” thrown in.

A form of leisure that many people find themselves enjoying is “serious leisure.” This is the systematic pursuit of deep satisfaction through an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity that participants find so substantial and interesting that, in the typical case, they launch themselves on a (non-work) career centered on acquiring and expressing its special skills, knowledge, and experience. Robert Stebbins, 1992

Sounds like photography to me!

When I got serious about blogging in 2014, I also got more interested in photography after learning that just grabbing images from Google and plopping them into posts was a no-no and could violate copyright laws.

Needing some know-how, I discovered WordPress’ Blogging University (I’m glad to see it is still around)…I took Photography 101 & 201 in Fall 2014 and met so many bloggers and learned a lot about photography, techniques I constantly use. The process really encouraged me to take lots of photos.

From this experience, I was exposed to PicMonkey and eventually bought the Premium package. I have yet to use most of the features but my go-to basic photo edits are cropping, exposure, saturation, and image rotation or leveling. There are almost countless editing features and you can find a tutorial on most of them. I also use the special effects, text, frames and overlays.

Although I have not yet tried the new PicMonkey yet, I will need to wait until this semester is completed before I can make my brain learn something new. I’m also flirting with the idea of using Adobe Lightroom!

I learned from a pro photographer to always straighten your images, especially if water is part of the horizon. I feel like I’m falling off the Earth!

A simple edit in post-processing will fix this minor faux-paus.

I’ve started taking a series of local photography courses. The subject of the first class was just getting to know your camera. Wow, the things I learned in the first class!

For the Sunday Stills photo challenge today, show us the before and after images of your photo-editing favorites.

To get you started, here are some of my before and after shots:

In these images from our trip to Hawaii, my eyes saw the image on the right, but the camera saw the image on the left. With a few minor edits the photo finally matched more of what my brain told my eye.

You may remember these from an earlier post and recently on Instagram, where I played around with a Painnt app. The app creates a whole new look to any image.

Many bloggers also enjoy creating graphics for their posts. Both PicMonkey and Canva do this job very well. These before and after images created my Sunday Stills graphic.

 

What is your favorite photo-editor? Do you have recommendations? Please share in the comments!

Link to this post so I can share your post! Link up below if you wish!

Autumn SIGNature

 

How to Create a Custom Blog Signature with PicMonkey

How To create a custom blog signature with PicMonkey

How To create a custom blog signature with PicMonkey

When I started seriously blogging over three years ago, I quickly understood the importance of how well-chosen images and graphics played in blog posts and on websites.

Soon after, I also noticed some bloggers included their name or signature at the end of their posts. I liked how it looked and how it graphically tied the entire post together.

About a year ago I got into the habit of including my “signature.” I began by using a free app called My Live Signature.

Terri_signature_redHere is an example of one I’ve used.

 

Recently, I wanted to use different seasonal themes with my signature, and rather than try to use an image, I found a simple way to create a custom signature using PicMonkey.

Editor’s Note: PicMonkey used to be free. I’ve had the first level premium account for over two years. For this tutorial, go to PicMonkey and open your free 7-day trial account to get an idea of their pricing plans.  Just know that to save your work, you will have to purchase a premium plan. 

When I published this post, I thought PicMonkey was free. If you already have the premium plan, then this article will still be helpful.

You can also read more about the overall benefits of having a paid plan in this article.

Then follow these simple directions for creating a seasonal signature. I recommend using these instructions on a laptop or computer.

How to Create a Signature Overlay for your Blog

Step 1. Open the program and hover the mouse over “design”. Select BLANK canvas.

PicMonkey Screenshot TransparentHere you will see a selection of templates. I use the “rectangle ad large.” I recommend you select the transparent canvas feature or leave the white background. The transparent background looks like a white and grey grid.

NOTE: The tutorial images were taken as screen shots and cropped. I apologize for the slightly blurry quality, but it should still give you a good idea of what the menus look like.

 

Step 2. Select and you will see the canvas with choices on the sidebar. On the far left, select the Tt (text).

PicMonkey Text how toChoose your text from the menu, highlight, then select “add Text.”

 

 

 

 

 

Type your name into the field. Here you can choose the size (I choose a large size), and select the color.

PicMonkey Text example

Here you can also change the angle of the text, by mousing over the text box circle at the top of the box.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3. Now go back to the sidebar where you selected the text and click on the butterfly (orange arrow).

PicMonkey find overlay themeThis is the “overlay” section (purple arrow) where you can find hundreds of choices of graphics.

Below, the butterfly symbol is an icon (snowflake) at this publication and this is where you can choose themes for seasonal symbols.

 

 

PicMonkey Overlay theme and placementI chose the Winterland theme. Scroll through the menu and select the overlay category.

Note that some choices come with a premium account, but the free version has lots of options.

 

 

Step 4. I selected “Frosty McSnow” (pink arrow) and clicked the mitten (red arrow above). Again, like the text option, you can change colors, resize, etc. It is very easy to move the individual graphics around on the template.

Using the arrows in the overlay pop-up window, I switched the angle of the mitten. If you want the image to be more transparent, you can use the fade feature.

Step 5. Choose save file (“export), or save to the *hub for future changes. Name your image file and save. *The hub may be a premium feature.

Here is my finished product using the mitten. I save certain images to the hub so I can edit them later.

Many bloggers have their own branded logos and you can also select that overlay from an existing digital file and save it to the template. See example on the left.

 

PicMonkey has great tutorials for creating graphics and customizing your images. You can simply click on the “Get Started” icon at the top right of the page.

Once you have created a couple of these for your blog, just add these to your blog’s media file and voila! You can use them again and again.

I am working on several signatures for the upcoming seasons like winter, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter/Spring, etc.

In the featured image at the top of the post, I created the tropical flower signature overlay for future use on posts related to my Hawaiian vacation. It made a nice graphic.

 

My advice to bloggers is if you have a little bit of $$ to spend on your blog, especially if you use your own images, spend it on some type of photo editing service.  I am not affiliated with PM; feel free to make an informed decision with the 7-day free trial.  

I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Feel free to ask any questions, I’m happy to help! And so I leave you with my Christmas signature.

treesignatureholidays

How To Get 500+ Followers: 3 Reasons to Use Images on Your Blog

Picture-is-worth-1000-words

In an earlier post, I shared some blogging tips for running a successful blog in celebration of reaching 500 followers. In this post, I would like to discuss the use of images on your blog and in your blog posts. Picture-is-worth-1000-wordsTip 1: Use photos and images on your blog page or website. When I visit other blogs, I like to see a few images. Some themes do not allow a lot of images and many folks prefer a simple, clean page. A great header image that embodies the personality of your blog is nice to see.

If you are reading this on my blog’s page, you can see that I my header photo shows “perspective” of a favorite vacation spot. You will also see my “about me” photo which I change every few months. Many bloggers choose not to use photos of themselves and that is pure choice. Scrolling down on my sidebar you will see social media icons and other images. I also included two galleries including awards and challenges I have accepted. Careful use of images on your blog page or website creates interest and is pleasing to the reader’s eye.

Tip 2: Use an image in your blog posts. There is nothing like a compelling image on your blog post to attract readers. Many bloggers might argue that good quality content is all one needs for a successful post and for many, this may be true.

However, we are visual people and including a great image in your post attracts readers. Stats do not lie. If you blog on WordPress, take a look at the Reader. Count how many posts include a featured image. Do you tend to click on the posts with an interesting image, especially if that image underpins the subject of the post? I sure do!

Most of my posts have one or two images. Too many images can break up the text in a great blog post, making it difficult to read. I read blogs that use lots of images and gifs (you know the silly photos that repeat wildly?) and while use of these can be entertaining and humorous, they can be distracting. When you use images, do so sparingly. If you choose to use a large amount of images, consider creating a gallery that you can embed into your post. Scrolling through too many images can send a reader quickly away from your page!

Tip 3: Use your OWN images for your blog posts. Why use your own images? Can you say “copyright infringement”? A graphic artist friend, who is in this business, said that this is the new, trending lawsuit. Other bloggers have described their terrible experiences of innocently using a random photo on their blog post and were sued.

There are free or low-cost stock images available. The Beginners Guide for WordPress has this great article about using images. If you use images from the web, use caution. Even acknowledging the image’s origin may not be good enough. Most of us do not make money with our blogs and having to pay upwards to $1000 for misuse of an image can be tragic.

Do you have friends or family who are photographers? Ask to use their photos. Simply e-mail them asking their permission to use their photos in your blog or website.

Dog-Paddlin
Original image by Kimberly Glaster freelancerphotos4u.wordpress.com

By doing this, you actually have documented their permission. Your photo’s caption might read: “photo of tree, used with permission by so-and-so’s name.” This also gives the photographer credit for the image, especially if he or she has published it on another website. The dog photo shows a similar example and since I edited the image, I watermarked it.

Perhaps you take terrible pictures or don’t own a good digital camera? Most of us have a smart phone with a camera. Use it. I installed Dropbox on my laptop, tablet and phone. As soon as I take a photo with my phone, it puts into Dropbox automatically. Edit your image with a program like Photoshop, Canva or PicMonkey. I use the free version of PicMonkey and it is perfectly fine.

Why edit your photos? Cropping your images is recommended. You can also adjust the color or edit the image into black and white for the effect you seek. Also, back to copyright laws, I highly recommend watermarking your image. A watermark usually consists of some version of your name/website/year.

PicMonkey and Pinterest have great tutorials for editing and watermarking. Is watermarking your image a foolproof way to protect your intellectual digital property? Some say yes and some say no. Just google “watermarking your images” and see what pops up! Again, it will be your preference.

On a similar note, you can create your own images that highlight your favorite quotes. If you fall into the category of fuzzy photo taker, then using photo editing on those images and adding a quote should be fun and easy! You can see the example in my featured image.

Using your own images in your blog posts is also another way to share your posts using social media. Next week’s post on blogging tips will cover the use of social media and link-ups to help promote your blog!

Has using images worked well for you? Do you use your own images? I would love to hear your perspective on this subject!