My favourite posts of 2011

Yesterday I listed my seven "Best of 2011" posts. Today, I wanted to share with you some of my all time favourite posts.  I went through my entire blog and picked these ones out for different reasons.  Some were fun, some were helpful, some bring back memories, and some were motivational.  If you're a newer reader, this would be a great way to get caught up with some of my past ramblings!  I'd love to know what your favourite post ever has been... from my own blog or ANY other blog!!

Here is my list:

(photo via flickr)


The Best of 2011...

I'm stealing today's blog post idea from Alycia over at The Curious Pug.  Here are some of my top seven posts of 2011...

Most Beautiful

I think that my post entitled "Love is..." was one of the truest posts I wrote this year, and for that reason I'm giving it the award of Most Beautiful as well.

Most Popular

The most popular post by far this year has been my "Messy Chunky Beach Waves Tutorial".  This post was really fun to put together and has received the most traffic of any of my other posts... mostly thanks to Pinterest and the 25000+ pins it received!

Most Controversial

I couldn't really come up with one for this category. However, if my vacuum could talk, I'm sure this would have been a controversial post....

Most Helpful

I helped a lot of blog owners create their own favicon in this post. But I also gave you a complete Photoshop beginner's guide to making a banner in this post.

A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

My bedroom tour seemed to be a hit. Of course I can't forget my tutorials that made their rounds on Pinterest, bringing in loads of traffic. In particular, my 8 Step Makeup Tutorial.

A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved

This was a hard one to choose. But I think I'm going to have to go with my free Christmas Countdown Printable post.  I guess in a way I expected more of a response after spending all that time putting it together and letting it be available for free download.

Post I'm Most Proud Of

I love doing the tutorial posts for you guys, and it's always great to see such an awesome response. I think the ones I'm most proud of though are the posts where I can be completely honest and speak from the heart.  My "Hanging up my hat" post was just that, and I am proud of it as well as the decisions I made.

In closing, this year has been amazing so far. I am so happy that I decided to start blogging regularly back in July and am so grateful for all of your comments, follows, and just plain love. I'd love to know what type of posts are your favourite to read..?


You asked...

A little while ago, I asked if anyone had a question for me to leave a comment and I would answer it here!  I wanted to do this in vlog form, but until I can figure out how to get my oldschool webcam to work on Windows 7, we're stuck with text.

I was surprised at how many of you commented and emailed me about business related questions.  I've compiled them here and will attempt to answer them all for you though!

How tall are you?

I am about 5'8" - 5'9"!

What music do you find annoying?

Dance.  I'm sorry to those that love it, but seriously everything on the radio these days drives me insane. There is nothing original anymore that doesn't use autotune, and anything with a dance beat that reminds me of the year 2000 (or jersey shore... same deal) makes my head want to melt off. I'm a real band kind of gal ;)

What's your favorite 3 blogs?

Ah such a hard question! I will have to go with my girls here and say Story of My Life, the Just Lovely Things blog of course, and this isn't really a "blog" but I love reading Clients From Hell because I relate to the stories way too often and get a kick out of it haha.

How much would you recommend goes into advertising a handmade shop? I've found it can be VERY pricey and sometimes doesn't reap the rewards I'd hoped for. I had to stop almost all advertising because I was LOSING money to it. With that said, what blogs/sites ARE worth it for sponsoring?

This one is a little tricky because I am honestly still figuring it out for myself.  The best advice I can give you is to make sure you are advertising on sites/blogs that update regularly, and actually use their blogs as tools. What does that mean? Well... blogs that interact more with their readers and are active on other social networking sites are usually a good bet.  I have advertised on some blogs in the past and received zero traffic, and others that have contributed to a huge amount of my site stats.  The difference between the two is that one didn't involve their readers in any way (no facebook, no sponsor highlight posts, no sponsor giveaways... etc.), whereas the other has been a huge supporter of it's sponsors... pushing traffic to the advertiser's sites. Don't just go nuts and buy ad spots on a bunch of random websites without doing a bit of research first.

I'm wanting to open up an online shop during January since I just started selling my stuff at some holiday parties. I notice that you have an Etsy site and other site - and that your prices are a little less on Etsy. Do you recommend using two sites or what is your reasoning behind that? And what's the reasoning behind lower prices on Etsy?

My prices were actually a little more expensive on Etsy, not Storenvy. I just realized though that they probably seemed like they were less because my shop currency was in Canadian funds for a while (they are now back to US funds to keep things consistent).  I sometimes intentionally price things a little higher on Etsy because of the fees involved. Also, because I am trying to get people over to my other Storenvy shop for deals and better product selection. I have both shops up because I am slowly trying to transition over to the new Storenvy store and hopefully eliminate Etsy for good one day. It still helps to get that extra traffic to the Etsy shop though, because a lot of people still find me through there.

Where have most of you sales come from?

Etsy for sure since I've had that shop the longest.

If I'm wanting to open a shop, which site is better sales wise- etsy or storenvy? And what is the best way to go about advertising?

I really love Storenvy for its features but Etsy is still in the running for more sales. HOWEVER, since they made the recent changes to how people search for things, it's tougher to get noticed on there.  Storenvy is great if you have a following already and can push people to that site.  They also have an online marketplace search which has far far less shops than Etsy, so it's easier to get noticed in the crowd. On the other hand though, they are a less-popular website.  Basically, you can't really count on any storefront to make sales for you. You have to push your store out to people and do the advertising if you really want to see a return.  Don't expect any website to do your marketing for you.

For advertising -- I highly suggest getting a Facebook Page if you don't have one and getting really active on it. Facebook is the ultimate advertising tool and can work wonders for a shop.

How did you get the idea to create stuffed toys? do you feel an "attachment" to each one you create?

I was inspired by those retro/vintage plush from back in the day. I loved how they looked like they had a bit if history and were made by someone's own hands. I've always loved vintage deer (i have a little collection of them) so obviously that was the first animal I attempted to make!

I definitely feel an attachment to them!! There are some I create and honestly, it takes me a few days to even list them because I consider keeping them for myself haha.  When I start creating one with the thought that "this one is for someone else" though, I am usually able to detach myself from it ;)

Does your babe love your creations as much as you do?

Yes!  He is my biggest fan haha. He actually gives me ideas as well and is super excited when I actually make something he suggested. I show him everything I create, and he's always quick to say "that's my new favourite one!" <3

I'd like to know how you come up with your plush designs, and how you keep the creativity flowing!

It's really as simple as thinking of an animal or something to create. Once I have that in mind, I'll do a little google search to make sure I know what that animal really looks like haha.  I use real photos for reference and sketch out how a "Wonder Forest" version of that animal would look.  Then I create a pattern out of paper and get to it. Sometimes there is no pattern at all and I just start cutting. How I keep the creativity flowing? I take breaks. haha. Seriously, the best way to get your creative spark back is to take a break from what you're doing and let it "reload".

I know you are self-employed, and are an amazing designer/blogger/artist. How did you decide to become self-employed? What was your first step? Was it difficult? Do you find disciplining yourself to sit down and "do work" everyday to be easy? 

Thank you first of all :)
I have actually been self employed for.............  7-8 years?! It just really comes naturally to me, I don't know if I'll be any good at answering this question!  I used to work dumb retail and service jobs. I could always keep a job no problem, but I just hated working for other people. I am so much more of a leader than a follower. Taking orders from someone doesn't sit well with me at all.  I was working my last job in a lingerie store (I worked there for about 2 years) while I was doing web design work on the side.  I had been doing websites for a few years prior to that already. My business was already underway and it was just getting really really busy.  There just came a point when I was like "alright, I need to get out of this retail job... it's holding me back".  I knew that if I quit that job, I could dedicate my entire time to my growing business. So I did. You just have to take that leap sometimes if you know in your heart it's the right thing to do. Sure, I was scared at first, thinking "what if this doesn't work out??" but if you're dedicated enough to making it work out, then it will happen.

Funny story actually... D and I were talking not too long ago about the future, and what would happen if my business sank and I had no work. He was like "I'll just have to work harder, more hours, etc." and I said "Yeah and I might actually have to get a job".  He stared at me for a moment and was like "Oh yeahhhh... you COULD get a job!" as if that had just never even been an option or crossed our minds haha.  We are so used to things being this way, it's so strange to think about getting a job somewhere else.

I love what I do so I don't usually have to force myself to do it. Unless I'm just reaallllly not feeling creative. And those days do happen... and when they do, I take a break and do nothing. It's all I really can do, because if you try to force creativity it comes off as just that... forced. I'd much rather give someone a quality product than a forced one. 

Ok I think that's enough for your eyes today!! Hopefully I did alright with answering your questions!  Next time I'll try to make it a vlog if I can get this cam to work... but only if the questions require shorter answers hahaha. If you have any more, feel free to leave a comment and ask!


Christmas Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend!!  Mine was pretty good. Low key for sure but still good!

Today is Boxing day in Canada, which is like Black Friday for Canadians. To celebrate, I'm offering free shipping in my shop today only on orders over $15!  No code needed! Go shop!

Christmas Eve we had no plans so we spent the day tackling our destroyed basement.  We had all of these boxes stacked up from when we moved here that we had just never unpacked.  This is what it looked like before:

Mind you, this was after I pulled the stack of boxes apart. Here is what it looks like now!

There are millions of boxes (on the right) that will be heading to the dump shortly! So nice to have some extra space.

Yesterday, Dustin and I woke up early and had our own little gift exchange. He got me a much needed sewing kit, a bunch of lovely things from Aerie, an electric toothbrush and some other random goodies! After that, we headed up to my mom's place for our annual Christmas get together.  It was an early lunch/dinner spent with my brother, his wife, and my momma.

Christmas is also my bro's birthday so we always celebrate with a cake. This year's cake was an ice cream cake and it had seen better days. My silly mom didn't know she was supposed to keep it in the freezer.

Being at my moms means that I get to rummage through all of my childhood things and old photos.  I found some pretty great pictures which I'll share later but here are a couple of past Christmases (excuse my terrible weird mushroom bangs... what my mother was thinking I have no idea):

(i really actually used to get my hair permed when i was a kid)

Ok enough embarrassing photos of myself. How did you spend Christmas??


Sleigh bells jingling... ring ting ting-a-ling

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend and spend it with ones you love.  Laugh a lot, give the gift of happiness, and eat lots of treats without worrying about getting fat (it's the one time a year when it just doesn't matter *wink wink*)!

I'll be spending the day with my future hubs and visiting family on Sunday for some gift exchanging and yummy food. It's going to be a small celebration this year, but I'm still counting on it to warm my heart.

Be safe, don't drink and drive, and take lots of memory photos. xoxox!


My Typical Morning in Photos

 I wake up and throw on a pair of slippers. I have a huge collection of slippers... kind of obsessed with them. I wear them all day long.

 Then after checking emails and things on my phone, Bear and I hop out of bed. D is already at work.

I hobble downstairs and release the beasts.
We keep the cats in the basement at night because they are little monsters between the hours of 3am-6am. Seriously, they are so bad... I'm not sure what gets into them. Before we started putting them down there, they would be running around and tearing up curtains and things. They're always happy to see me in the morning though ;)

Once their bowls are all magically refilled for them, I take little Bear outside to do his thang.

Then I work my way back to my office, turn on my computer and get started.
My desk usually looks like a bomb exploded on it after a night of working and putting ideas together.
I normally spend a few minutes reorganizing it so it's useable again.

Open up my email. I always have fifty million emails to go through. I spend the first waking hours of my day going through them, checking facebook, my blog, doing a bit of networking, etc.

Then I head to the bathroom to get myself together.
(Because even though I work from home, I can't be a lazy ass and sit around in my pjs all day.)
Brush teeth, wash my face, etc. etc. and look pretty amazing like this.

Then out comes the makeup bag and my tools.
I work my magic and transform myself into... myself.
(I also sometimes stop to make a makeup tutorial... like THIS ONE I posted yesterday)

Hair gets 'did and I'm halfway there...

On the way to pick out some clothes, there's usually one of these hanging around.
Getting dressed time is Benny's favourite time.
He follows me back and forth and talks to me the entire time.
I may or may not carry on conversations with him as well....

I take forever choosing clothes. Yes, my closet is colour coordinated.
How else would I find anything?!

There's ALWAYS one of these laying around, blocking my pathway.

I get dressed and then take pictures of myself.
That last part is a lie. But I did it today for you guys ;)
very very poorly shot unenthusiastic photos, but photos at least.
(shirt: wildfox, holey cardi: f21, high waisted shorts: ?, with some leggings too)

p.s. I am the absolute worst at taking full length photos of myself.
I do not understand how it can be done.
I do not understand how my full body is supposed to fit in one frame
without the camera being 50 feet away or without a wideangle lens. (umm... tips?)

Once dressed, I tidy up the bedroom.
I make the bed every day. I have to or I feel lazy.
Then I put away the piles of clothes I ripped out of my closet trying to find something to wear.

Then what happens!!?? This has all been so exciting so far hasn't it?!
Well, I come in here and start working away!

My Afternoon in photos TO BE CONTINUED.....

p.s. I still have some small sponsor spots available for January!


Golden Sunrise Eyes! A Makeup Tutorial!

Hi friends!  I decided that with Christmas and the New Year coming up, it was necessary to put together yet another makeup tutorial!  This one is very holiday inspired, with golden tones and burgundy, but can also be used throughout the year... Summer sunrise anyone?! Grab your shimmery eyeshadows and shine like that little bombshell you are this holiday season!

Here's the look:

Of course you don't have to use the same products as me, but here's what I used for reference...

Products used:
Yellow = Mac in Gorgeous Gold (Similar: Urban Decay in Eldorado)
Golden Brown = Mac in Woodwinked (Similar: Urban Decay in Maui Wowie)
Burgundy = Rock & Republic in Wicked (Similar: Stila matte eyeshadow in Pigalle)
White = Everyday Minerals in Bundled Up (similar here)
Eyeliner = Mac Kohl eyeliner (cheaper and just as good here)
Mascara = Rimmel Glam Eyes (extra black)

Here's how it's done!

Check out my other makeup tutorials here:
9 Step Dark Smokey Eye Tutorial
Mermaid Eyes!
8 Step Makeup Tutorial (Neutral and easy!)

Like this? Please pin!
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Christmas around these parts...

 Christmas pillows from my shop
"Peppermint" art print by Jessica Grundy
DIY Stick Vase tutorial here
Handmade heart ornaments c/o LuckyNola
 Post cuteness c/o Nugget and Bear


Dear Beast.... Screw You. Sincerely, Belle.

Last weekend, I watched Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas for the first time ever. Actually it was on tv and I tuned in part way through. I wasn't into it at all, but I kept watching for one reason only... the Beast is SUCH A dick! I was shocked and slightly amused at the same time. I don't remember much of the first Beauty and the Beast movie, but seriously, it was a little disturbing seeing this one in a different light!

This movie is apparently a "midquel" which confused the life out of me.  Everything in the film happened during the original movie. Not after, not before. Weird, right?

Let's take a quick look at how much of a grumpy a-hole the Beast is before his transformation....

Not much changes afterwards either.  He is the most bipolar manbeast in the entire fictional world. He screams and threatens and wipes his big dirty animal feet all over his poor little animate object servants. He bitches about Belle whenever possible and at one point even throws her into his dungeon to rot!!! 

First of all... I couldn't understand why Belle would just sit there and take it! She was all like "Ohh that's ok that you just threw me in this dungeon to die. I still love you... let me sing you an enchanted Christmas song!"

Seriously, Belle?  My opinions of you have officially done a 180.  This is a full on abusive relationship made into a fairy tale!! Half way through I wished she would just tell him to screw off and storm out of that castle.

I kind of wish I never watched this movie. I saw the tale from a different point of view and it ruined all of my Disney hopes and dreams :(

Have you seen it? What did you think?

P.s. If you have a random question for me (anything from 'what's your favorite colour' to specific knowledge type questions), head on over to this post! I'll be answering them in a q&a post!

OH and the winner of the sponsor giveaway is.....

Congrats Jenna!!!


Thoughts on Heartsy.... after the storm.

A couple months ago, I blogged about how I was doing a Heartsy feature for Wonder Forest.  It was a good day, and I was so happy with all the sales and exposure I got.  It's now 3 months later and I wanted to give an update on how everything went now that my vouchers are soon to expire.

In all honesty, I don't think I would do it again... for a couple of reasons.

1. The "VIP" program kind of screws you over.  My deal was $14 for a $28 gift certificate, which means VIP members got $38 certificates instead (they get $10 more).  At first, I was fine with this number because my material costs aren't really all that high. However, when the majority of my voucher sales turned out to be from VIP members, I definitely started to question things and became uneasy about selling my stuff so cheap... and I'll explain why below... 

2. Shipping costs.  Since Heartsy requires you to include the shipping costs along with the voucher amount, I was only actually making half of the deal amount. My profit was $14 on each gift certificate sold. However, shipping is pretty much always $7-$8, so here I was making only $6 profit on my creations... and that's also not including Etsy fees, Paypal Fees, and shipping supplies.  So when someone was getting a $38 item for only $6, yeah it was starting to get to me... a lot.  That's not all though. Occasionally, the cheapest shipping method to certain areas would be like $13.50 (Vancouver, I'm looking at you...).  You do the math. I just gave away free product. Thankfully, I didn't go with Heartsy's initial suggestion of $9 for a $21 voucher... my profit would have been eaten completely up by shipping fees.

3.  Stocking became a bitch.  I literally had to completely slow down on stocking up my Etsy shop in fear of giving away free product again.  Thankfully I had my other shop to keep me going.  Sometimes I spend hours on a certain plush and price it accordingly.  When someone comes along and swoops up that item with a Heartsy voucher... well, it's just not the nicest feeling in the world.

4.  Time limits. This is something I wish Heartsy would change asap. The shortest amount of time you can have your vouchers valid for is 3 months. (edit: apparently Heartsy changed the duration and their seller signup page now says "Heartsy vouchers will be valid for a period of 1 month after the online promotion ends.") Well, I am on my 3rd month now and I still have more than a handful of people who haven't redeemed their vouchers. I also have people complaining that there is not much left in my Etsy shop. Sorry to be harsh, but that's probably what happens when you wait too long and stuff is bought up already... and no, I won't be restocking until this deal ends. Waiting for this to be over is frustrating. I hate wondering what the next person is going to snag for free.

5. Custom orders had to stop on Etsy. I love doing custom orders for people. However, they take more time and I actually have to rearrange my schedule to sit down and make them. When someone would purchase a custom listing or a MADE TO ORDER listing with their Heartsy voucher, it just wasn't worth my time. I was setting aside a few hours in a day to create a completely custom plush for only $7. Minus fees.

6. The value of your work.  Lastly, I thought about this a lot and after reading some other Heartsy stories, I have to agree. While it is nice to go on a website and get an awesome deal for a product, when it comes to the handmade community, I don't think it's that great of an idea.  Sites like Heartsy actually help devalue your work.  They are promoting your items at 70% off, when your items shouldn't have to be 70% off. They are handmade. They take countless amounts of time to create. So I have to wonder if deal sites like this are actually hurting artisans. Generally, handmade shops sell the same type of product throughout their storefronts. If you had a customer buy one of your items at 70% off, what would make them want to come back to your store and buy something else again at full price? I am just not sure the repeat customer value is there.

(SIDE NOTE: Heartsy made $400 from my sale. No shipping fees, no transaction fees. Is this fair?)

Heartsy wasn't all that bad. I did get more exposure and a lot of the people actually purchased things that cost more than their voucher, which was awesome and made up for the loss a little. In the end, I turned a profit but with the annoyances, I just wouldn't want to do it again.  If they figure out a better way to do the whole VIP program thing, it could be better. It would also be better if it were integrated with Etsy somehow so that you're not paying the Etsy fees on the total item cost, but rather the amount the person actually paid.  (Why should I have to pay percentage fees on a $40 item when the buyer only paid $2?)

So there you have it my friends. If you were debating submitting your stuff to Heartsy, you have my two cents. If you had your own Heartsy sale, how was your experience.... honestly?


That's a wrap

I had some time today to get all of my xmas gifts wrapped up so I took advantage!  I still have a couple more to finish, but I wanted to share my wrapping job!  I wanted to do something different this year. It's actually the first time I've ventured outside of the traditional Christmas wrapping paper and used things that I already had here at home. 

I started with some cream kraft paper. I had a whole bunch of this that I had saved from a random parcel I received a while ago. I knew it would come in handy one day!  I used doilies that were purchased from the dollar store (three sizes, 48 pieces total! I love the dollar store!) as well as my standard natural twine that I use for all of my Wonder Forest packaging.  I am really happy with how they turned out and I love how they all match!

The best part was that I didn't have to venture out to a store and spend money on wrapping supplies.  I used these printable tags from Love vs. Design. I know I know, I could have used the printable tags I made for you guys, but they just weren't matching how I wanted them to!

Have you started wrapping your gifts yet? How are you planning on doing it this year?!

Designing on Photoshop 101 - Making a Banner

Today's blog post is a bit of a tricky one. I was unsure about posting Photoshop how-to's because I know that a lot of you might not have Photoshop, or use other versions like Photoshop Elements... which I don't ever use.  I suppose, however, that if you DO have Photoshop or are planning on getting it, this would be a great start for you.

Firstly, I only use Photoshop CS3. Yes, it's a little older, however the newer versions don't seem to mesh well with my computer. I have yet to figure out why, but CS3 has always been my trusty sidekick.

Today I'll take you through the creation of a simple sidebar banner, that other visitors can copy and paste into their own sidebars. Much like my own over there on the lower right.

The most common sidebar size I find is about 150-200px wide. So, it's best to make a banner with this in mind.  We'll make one that is 180x180.

Open up Photoshop and go to File > New to create a new document.

Enter the dimensions of your new button in the dialog box that appears. Make sure the dropdown is set to pixels, and the width and height are both 180.  Also, very important for graphics that are going to be used on the web... Resolution needs to be 72 and the Color Mode should be RGB.  These are usually set by default, but just double check before creating your document.

Now we have a blank white square to work with.  On the right hand side of your screen, you should see a Layers palette as shown below:

If you don't see a Layers palette on your screen, you can enable it simply by going to Window in the top navigation menu, then choosing Layers so there is a checkmark beside it. Your layers palette is one of the most important things when it comes to Photoshop.

Our background is locked as the main base layer.  Let's change the background colour of our background to a pink shade.

First, you'll choose the Paint Bucket tool from the toolbar. It might also look like a Gradient tool. In that case, hold your mouse button down on it for a second and you'll be able to change it to the Paint Bucket tool.  The toolbar buttons have multiple options, so learning that you can hold your mouse button down on them to swap them around is key.

After you've selected the Paint Bucket tool, you'll need to choose your colour.  Simply do this by clicking on the colour swatch at the bottom of the toolbar.  Photoshop allows you to store two colours here, and you can swap them by clicking on the little arrows directly above the boxes.  Clicking on the black box in our example will bring up the Color Picker dialog.  Choose your colour and click OK.

Now with your Paint Bucket tool still selected, all you need to do is click on your white background to fill it with the colour. Simple.

Now we want to add some text to our banner. Fonts are SUPER important. The wrong font can seriously either mess up or make the best of your image.  You can download a whole bunch of different fonts online. My favourite place to get fonts is dafont.com. Your computer comes loaded with a bunch of standard ones as well (some better than others) so it's not totally necessary to get custom fonts, but it really does help.

To type, simply select the Type tool from the toolbar.  Click back on your pink background and start typing! You can see that your Layers panel just added a new layer for the text. To stop editing the text, you can either click the FAR "enter" button (on the numbers keypad of your keyboard) or click the Move tool (arrow icon at the top of your toolbar).

To change the font and edit the type options, check out the Character palette. If this isn't visible on your screen, just choose Window at the top > Character. Here, we can edit the font face, change the font size (48pt in my example), change the Color (white), and the line height (36pt. "Auto" is standard but playing with these numbers will increase or decrease the spacing between your lines).  Here you can bold your text and italicize it as well.  The Paragraph tab at the top of this panel will allow you to set your text to be aligned left, right, centered, etc.

Alright so now what if we want to add an image to this banner?  Easy!  Go to File > Open and find an existing photo on your computer to open.

The quickest way to get this image into the banner document is to simply grab it and drag it over. You could also do a select all/copy/paste but I like the drag method better.

Select the Move tool which is at the top of the toolbar, and then click and hold the mouse on your photo and drag it into the pink banner box.

The image is obviously too large for this box, so let's resize it.  Click the Rectangular Marquee Tool which is directly below the Move tool you just selected, and right-click on your banner. Choose Free Transform. This will make a bounding box appear around your image with dragable corners.

Here's a tip for you: To make sure you resize the image in its correct proportions, hold the SHIFT key while grabbing one of the four corners and shrink that image!

I'm not very happy with the placement of my text, so let's move it!  Click on the text layer on your Layers palette to select it. Whichever layer you select in your Layers panel is the one that you will be working on.  So, to move my text down, I select my text layer, and grab the trusty Move arrow tool once again to move the text to the bottom. I also decided to make my text on a single line and decreased the size slightly. To do that, just select the Type Tool again and click on your text. Use the Character panel we used earlier to modify your text.

If you wanted to place the text on TOP of your photo, all you would have to do is grab the text layer in the Layers panel and drag it above the "Layer 1" photo.  Think of the Layers palette as layers in a cake. The layers appear in the order they are shown in the panel, from top to bottom.

I think that's enough for the basic Photoshop lesson today!  Let's save this image for the web!  Go to File > Save for Web and Devices.

Choose your save settings. On the right, choose the JPEG option. Set the quality to "Very High" so it looks good on the web. Saving any lower than "Very High" usually compromises your image.  Very High automatically sets the Quality to 80. You can save it at a higher rate than this is you like, but this should be standard.  Then just click Save and name your file!

Once you have your button saved, you can upload it to a place like Photobucket, or another image hosting site. To add the button to your sidebar, you'll need to create an HTML code that people can copy and paste to their own sites. First, add the image to your sidebar by creating a new HTML/Javascript sidebar widget and entering the code. It should look something like this:

<img src="http://www.FULLURLOFYOURPHOTO.com/yourimageurlhere.jpg">

Then, add the copy/paste code below it:

<textarea><a href="http://www.YOURSITE.com" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.FULLURLOFYOURPHOTO.com/YOURIMAGEURLHERE.jpg" border="0"></a></textarea>

The "textarea" bit tells the site to create a text box, and anything inside of the textarea parts will be displayed inside of the text box.

I hope this helped you learn Photoshop a little bit and make your very own banner ad!  I'll go into more detail in future posts... but there is a LOT of stuff that could be covered, so if you want to learn about something in particular, PLEASE leave a comment and let me know!!!
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