Lately I’ve been writing some blog tips that I hope you’ve all been finding useful. Today I’m going to talk about getting professional graphic design services in order to enhance your blog. I’m a professional graphic designer and in the course of my career, I’ve seen and heard some of the same questions and misconceptions from clients time and time again. I’m hoping this informative post will help any of you out who have been wanting to get some professional design done for your blogs.
Good graphic design matters.
Ok, so I may be biased, but I can tell you that if you are interested in turning your hobby blog into a professional one, design matters. The visuals and the way you present your blog to the world is your brand. Think of yourself like you would think about a business. You’re going to want a clean, professional looking, cohesive branding style and you’ll want it to be consistent across all your websites, social media pages, and other things related to your blog. If you look at how I’ve set up this blog, I use the same color scheme, font, and basic logo on my blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, etc. I’ve designed several versions of my logo that fit into different shapes (i.e. square version for my Facebook profile picture, horizontal version for this blog header, etc.). You want your branding to be consistent.
You also want to use the same branding across all your platforms to help make your brand recognizable. If you are going to be marketing your site on social media platforms, consistent branding with your blog not only looks professional, but lets people know they are interacting with your brand whenever they are on the web.
Professional, clean design presents a professional image for you and your brand. It’s a psychological thing, but people take you more seriously when you have professional looking design.
Ok, but I’m not a graphic designer so I don’t know how to do it myself, and I don’t have much money. What do I do?
I know that sounds like it’s extremely expensive to get good design, and believe me, it can be, but there are options if you’re looking for good design on a budget.
- Fiverr. If you haven’t heard of Fiverr, it’s a new site where people do “micro jobs” for others, starting at $5. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be $5 for your gig because the prices do go up from there, but if you’re looking for somebody to design a logo, a header for social media, a web banner, or something similar, you can usually find it on Fiverr for a pretty good price. The caveat I should give you here is that because you’re looking for something at a discount rate, you’re going to get discount rate services. This doesn’t mean it won’t look good and professional, but this does mean that if you want totally custom options where you have the designer do a lot of revisions until it’s just perfect, this isn’t going to be a good site for you. However, if you just want something that looks good without being too picky about it, this might be a good option for you.
- Use an online logo design service such as Logo Genie or 10 a Logo. Again, your options will be limited to what they have available, but if you’re just looking for something professional and are ok with limited customization options this may be a good way to go.
- Use an online service like Canva to create your own designs, no experience with Adobe software required.
- If you really want to have something custom and you’re just not finding what you need with the online tools that are available, it’s still possible to hire a designer on a budget. I offer design services for travel bloggers at lower rates than I would normally charge my other freelance clients. This is exclusive to travel bloggers because, as a member of this community, I know what it’s like to try to get your blog off the ground and the struggle to make it successful. Check the ‘Work With Me‘ page for more details, shoot me an email, and we can talk about what you want and what your budget is and work something out.
When you’re working with a designer, there are a few things they are going to ask you about, and one of those things is file types. What that means is the format you want your files delivered in. You’re probably aware that a JPG (or JPEG) image is a picture file, and you’ve probably heard of PDF files as well, but you may hear terms such as PNG, Vector, Raster, TIFF, .AI, .PSD, and EPS thrown around. Say whaaaaaaat?
It’s confusing, and we designers take our knowledge of the subject for granted sometimes. So, I’ve created this handy reference guide for you to refer to whenever you come across these terms so you’ll know what they mean.
Essentially, these are little dots that make up an image. Imagine an image is made up of tiny little dots. If you zoom in enough, you’ll be able to see those dots. These are pixels.
Take this photo of me in Rome, for example:
Ok, now I’m going to zoom way in on the photo for you:
DPI or Resolution.
This refers to how many pixels make up the image. DPI stands for dots per inch. The more dots per inch there are, the higher resolution your image is. Standard resolution for printed pieces is 300 DPI, meaning there are 300 pixels in every square inch and when you print it out, it will look nice and sharp. Standard resolution for web images is 72 DPI, or 72 pixels in every square inch. Screen resolution is lower because it does not need as many pixels per inch to look good on a computer screen as it does in print.
Raster is a pixel based image. This refers to any image that is composed of pixels rather than line based. I’ll explain the whole line based thing in a minute…
A vector image is an image that is line-based rather than pixel based. This means that the image can be scaled up and down to any size but will never lose quality. You’ll never see photos or similar images in vector, but things like logos can be created in vector so that they can be used at any size.
Here’s an image I found that visualizes it pretty well…
JPG or JPEG.
These mean the same thing. A jpg image is a file type that is raster based (i.e. pixels) and is good for posting image files online. You won’t want to display a JPG at a larger size than it’s resolution because it will look pixelated. What this means is that if your image is 1 inch wide x 1 inch tall at 72 DPI (i.e. screen resolution) and you display it at 2 inches wide x 2 inches high, people are going to see those pixels!
You’ll want a JPG of your logo if it has a solid background, and this is also a good file type for any images that will go up on your site as well as any web banners or site headers, social media profile images, etc. you want designed.
This is exactly like a JPG image in that it is a pixel based image file that is good for web display. However, unlike a JPG image you have the option for a transparent background with a PNG. See this image as an example:
You’ll probably want a transparent PNG of your logo when you get it designed because it’s good to put on top of other images or use on it’s own or on your site.
This stands for Red, Green, Blue. It is a system of color mixing that is typically used in images that are to be displayed on screens rather than in print.
The RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. The name of the model comes from the initials of the three additive primary colors, red, green and blue. (Wikipedia)
Any files you want designed that will end up being displayed on the web rather than in print should be set up in RGB.
CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (don’t ask me why black is K instead of B). Anyway, these are the four ink colors generally found in printers. When you print something out, these inks are mixed to create whatever colors are needed for your design. So, if something is designed with CMYK colors, it is optimized for print.
Any files you want designed that will end up being printed rather than displayed on the web should be set up in CMYK.
This is a file type you’re probably familiar with. A PDF is a file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted. Blah, blah, blah. Boring. What you need to know is that it’s good for multiple page documents and for print projects. It’s usually a safe file type to deliver to people because most people have some way of viewing PDF documents.
This is an Adobe Illustrator document. It is a graphic designer’s working file and is totally editable, but you won’t be able to view it unless you have Adobe Illustrator installed on your machine. Adobe Illustrator is used to create vector based images, meaning lines instead of pixels. If you’re not a designer, you won’t be able to do much with this file, but I still recommend you as for the original design file in either .AI, .PSD, or .EPS format just in case you decide later you want to have a different designer make any changes or use the image for anything.
Just like the .AI file, this is a graphic designer’s working file, but .PSD is a Photoshop file. In general, these files will be raster based rather than vector, but there is a thing called vector smart objects in Photoshop, so it’s possible to be vector as well. Don’t worry about that too much. What you need to know is that you won’t be able to open this file without Adobe Photoshop, but that you should still obtain a copy of your design in this format in case you need to provide it to a designer in the future, especially for things like your logo that you’ll use again and again.
This is another file format that you don’t need to know too much about except it is an acceptable “working file” format. Some print shops use TIFF files, but unless you’re talking high end, corporate design stuff here, you likely won’t come across this format. Still, if you happen to see one, that’s what it is.
This is a vector file format and if you don’t get your working file in .AI format, .EPS is just as good. That’s all you really need to know unless you want to get super technical and nerdy with me.
Yet another vector file format.
When you’re getting designs done, specs can be confusing.
“What resolution do you need it at?”
“What file format do you need?”
“What are the image specs?”
“Do you need bleed added to that?”
Ok, let’s explain….
If you’re getting something printed, your design will be based in real world measurements, i.e. inches, centimeters, or metric-based measurements if you happen to not be in the United States. So let’s say you’re designing a flyer. You want it to be letter sized, i.e. 8.5 inches wide x 11 inches high.
Easy enough to follow. But then your designer will ask you about bleed and you’ll stare at them like you have no idea what language they are speaking. I see it all the time.
Bleed is what happens when you want the printed ink to go all the way to the edge of the page. You see, printers usually won’t print all the way to the edge and you get that pesky white border around it. That’s why you design the image a little larger than it needs to be so they can crop it, thus creating that nice, clean ink all the way to the edge.
I think the image above explains it pretty well. When designing with bleed, you’ll hear the terms safe zone, trim line, and bleed line. The safe zone is the area of your image where it is safe to have important things, such as text or important parts of the image. You don’t want to get too close to the trim line so important information doesn’t accidentally get cut off. The trim line is the actual place where the image is cut, as you can see in the image above. The bleed line is where you want the image to extend out to so that we can be sure when we trim it, there is no white paper showing (printers aren’t always 100% accurate which is why we need these zones).
Also, always make sure your print images are 300 DPI for best quality results.
I hope that explains it!
Web images are much easier to design because you don’t need to worry about those pesky trim, bleed, and safe zones. These are images like your blog header, your Facebook profile picture and cover photo, Pinterest “pinnable” images, banner ads, etc. All you need to know for these is that 72 DPI is ok. You’ll want to designate pixel size for your designer. For example, 300 pixels high by 300 pixels wide, or whatever size it needs to be. If you’re unsure, work with your designer to determine the size needed.
I really hope this helps to explain some of the common terms out there and help you to be on your way to get some professional looking graphics on your travel blog. Again, I’m here if you need help or have questions, and I do offer my design services for travel bloggers if you need it, but I won’t be sad if you decide to go with a different designer. Either way, I hope you find this page useful.
Categories: Travel Blogging