Tag Archives: blog

New site: The Inspiration Blog

The Inspiration Blog

Ben and I have been hard at work again to bring you guys another source of design inspiration – we’re not quite like the others though; instead of using showcases and round-ups to fill the gaps of our already existing blog, we’re basing this site on those showcases and round-ups completely, meaning they’ll be more resourceful, inspirational and motivational.

The site focuses on everything design-orientated, which is, well, everything! We’ll be showcasing the work of graphic designers, illustrators, interior designs, photographers, architects, product designers… you name it, we’ll most probably feature it at some point in the near future.

So, be sure to head on over and check out the new site, and whilst you’re their down forget to to subscribe by RSS or Email, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Visit The Inspiration Blog now!

Design a Clean & Tidy Blog Layout Mock-Up in Photoshop

Design a Clean & Tidy Blog Layout Mock-Up in Photoshop

Designing your own custom theme for your favorite blogging platform can work wonders. It’ll be unique, admired and something you can be proud of. In this tutorial, Ionut Ciursa will show you how to create a blog layout with subtle gradients, thin lines and good typography.

Step 1 – Setting up the document

Create a new document in Photoshop (Ctrl/Cmd + N) with the dimensions 1920px by 1100px. Then fill the background with the color #dbdbdb using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).

Step 2 – Creating the background of the content

Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle in the middle of your canvas with the width 940px and the color #f8f8f8. Then double-click on this layer to open the Layer Style window and use the settings from the following image. Name this layer "layout bg."

Step 3 – Creating the header

Create a new group and name it "header." Then select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the height 15px that goes from the left edge of the canvas to the right edge. Use the color #90999b. Name this layer "top bar."

Step 4

Select the Line Tool (U) and create a line with the weight 1px and the color #848d8f. Put this line at the bottom of the rectangle which you have created at the previous step. Name this layer "1px dark line."

Duplicate this line (Ctrl/Cmd + J), change the color of the new one to #acb7ba and move it one pixel up. Name this layer "1px light line."

Step 5

Select the Rectangle Tool (U) to create a rectangle with the dimensions 940px by 100px using the color #f2f5f5. Double-click on this layer and use the settings from the following image. Name this layer "header bg."

Step 6

Use the Type Tool (T) to write a name for your layout in the header. I have used the font Adobe Garamond Pro and the color #9da6a7. Double-click on your text layer to open the layer style window and use the settings from the following image.

Step 7

Create a new group and name it "subscribe." Download these social media icons and move the rss, email and twitter icons into your document. Put them in the right side of the header and write the name of each icon beneath it using the font Georgia and the color #909b9c.

Step 8 – Creating the navigation bar

Create a new group and name it "navigation bar." Then select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the height 40px beneath the header using the color #afbbbc. Double-click on this layer to open the Layer Style window and use the settings from the following image. Name this layer "navigation bar."

Step 9

Use the Line Tool (U) to create four lines with the weight 1px – two at the top of the navigation bar and two at the bottom. Use the color #9aa4a6 for the dark lines and #bdcccd for the light ones. Take a look at the following image for reference.

Step 10

Select the Type Tool (T) and write the name for your navigation menu items. Use the font Georgia and the color #ebf3f4.

Step 11 – Creating the featured area

Create a new group and name it "featured." Then select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the height 180px beneath the navigation bar using the color #ddeaeb.

Step 12

Create two lines with the weight 1px and put them at the bottom of the rectangle which you have created at the previous step. Use the color #becacb for the dark line and #e0f0f1for the light one.

Step 13

Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the size 240px by 140px. Double-click on this layer to open the Layer Style window and use the settings from the following image.

Duplicate this rectangle two times (Ctrl/Cmd + J) and arrange them as you see in the image below.

Step 14

Select the Ellipse Tool (U), hold down the Shift key to maintain the proportions and create a small circle in the right side of the featured area using the color #c3d4d5. Name this layer "right circle", double-click on it and use the settings from the following image.

Step 15

Use the Custom Shape Tool (U) to create an arrow inside the circle with the color #edf6f7. Name this layer "right arrow."

Step 16

Select the "right circle" and "right arrow" layers and drag them over the ‘Create a new layer’ button from the bottom of the Layers palette to duplicate them. With the two new layers selected go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal. Then move them in the left side of the featured area using the Move Tool (V). Change the name of these layers to "left circle" and "left arrow."

Step 17 – Creating the content

Create a new group and name it "content." Then use the Rectangle Tool (U) to create a rectangle with the dimensions 600px by 160px. Then copy the layer style of one of the rectangles from the featured area and paste it to this layer to get the same double stroke effect.

Use the Type Tool (T) to add some text beneath the rectangle. I have used the font Georgia Bold Italic for the headline (#555858) and Helvetica for the block of text (#525757).

Step 18

Create a new rectangle with the dimensions 290px by 100px. Right-click on this layer and select Paste Layer Style to add the double stroke effect. Then select the Type Tool (T) and add some text beneath this rectangle.

Select the two layers and duplicate them three times by dragging them over the ‘Create a new layer’ button from the bottom of the Layers palette. Then arrange the rectangles and the text layers to have four blog posts. Take a look at the following image for reference.

Step 19

Select the Line Tool (U) and create a horizontal line and a vertical one using the color #cccccc, to separate the blog posts.

Step 20

Create a new group and name it "sidebar." Then select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the width 300px using the color #e7eded. Name this layer "sidebar bg."

Step 21

Use the Line Tool (U) to create two vertical lines in the left side of the sidebar. Use the color #c9cfcf for the dark line and #f3f9f9 for the light one.

Step 22 – Creating a search bar

Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle using the color #f4f7f7. Name this layer "search bar", double-click on it and use the settings from the following image for Stroke. Then use the Type Tool (T) to write something inside your search bar.

Step 23

Use the Type Tool (T) to add some text in your sidebar.

Step 24 – Creating the footer

Create a new group and name it "footer." Then select the Rectangle Tool (U) and create a rectangle with the height 40px using the color #b6bfc0. Name this layer "footer bg", double-click on it and use the settings from the following image for Gradient Overlay.

Step 25

Select the Line Tool (U) and create two horizontal lines at the top of the footer. Use the color #9da5a6 for the dark line and #c5cfd0 for the light one.

Then select the Type Tool (T) and write a copyright statement in your footer using the color #858e8f and the font Georgia.

Final Result

Here is the final result of this tutorial. I hope you enjoyed it. Click on the following image to see the full size layout.

Promoting Your Creative Blog: 8 Great Tips to Success

Over the past few months I have spent a lot of time promoting myself and my blog, Circlebox Blog. During that time I have picked up a lot of things, good and bad. The blog is growing very well now and due to that I feel I know enough to share with you eight of the many tips that can help towards making your blog a successful one.

Tip #1 – Your Content Is King

Since reading an article on DesignBump Originals called ‘If Content is Really King, Then What is Design?’, I have been calling the content on my blog ‘King’. Without good content, no-one will want to be on your site. Sure, you have a nice design, but having a nice design isn’t going to make people sit at their desks and stare at it all day long. Whereas, however, content can.

If you have enough quality content, it can rule your target-audience, no questions asked – it is the King, after all. Keep your readers engaged and if possible post gripping content frequently. If you’re only blogging part-time and find you don’t have the time to post frequently, then don’t – the chances are you’ll be rushing, and your readers will most probably become aware of that. Instead spend a longer period of time on a very high-standard article.

Tip #2 – Your Design Is Queen

Although your content is the main people want to visit your blog, that doesn’t stop you from having an attractive and sexy design. If you’re on a tight budget there are some excellent free themes about. If you have little budget, purchase a subscription to a premium theme site or purchase an individual theme. There is of course one problem with this; the theme isn’t unique to you. Most free and premium themes do allow you to make as many changes as you want so long as you keep the link back to the original designer/developer in the footer of your blog.

Having a unique and fresh design specifically for your blog is always the best way to go, though. Sure, it takes a lot of time as there is a huge list of things to be done: planning, sketching, designing, developing, testing, fixing, releasing… and this doesn’t involve any complications a long the way, which in one way or another you are bound to cross at least once or twice. Don’t be scared to ask for a helping hand. Can’t design? Hire a designer! Can’t code? Hire a developer! Don’t have the time? Hire both! If you want your blog to be successful you need the three main ingredients: time, money and lots of hard work.

Tip #3 – Promote Your Design

If you decided to design and code your own blog theme, then you will want to promote it. If it’s good, it will get accepted to design gallery sites such as UniqueCSS, CSSMania and SiteInspire, so be sure to submit it! Many blog writers browse these sites on a weekly basis looking for fresh and unique web designs to showcase on their own blogs, so this is a great way to get a little exposure!

It’s a good idea to keep your audience updated about the new design via social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Tip #4 – Don’t Keep Your Personal Life Locked Away

This is one thing I know a lot of people are scared of doing. You look up to big sites, lets say Smashing Magazine and HongKiat, which are both incredibly successful and popular blogs. It’s always good to look up to such big sites, think big and never look back. But (there’s always a but!), if you’re reading this you’re probably a one-man show – don’t be scared of adding a personal touch to your blog! Write articles about what you think and your opinions, what not the community think: you may find this is more likely to attract people commenting on your posts, causing deep discussions and debates.

Let people know what you are doing! Where did you go on vacation this year? Did you spot anything different about their design trends such as logos, shop window decorations, etc? Share your photos! Be individual, be yourself, be unique!



 

Tip #5 – Be Active In The Community

I’m not talking about your daily exercises, although that is important too! What I’m talking about is the online design, art and photography community. You expect people to comment on your blog yet you never comment on theirs, or anyone elses for that matter? Commenting on other blogs can be a great way to attract loyal and genuine subscribers to your blog, there’s an incredibly likely chance they will like the content on your blog if they found you though another blog in the creative niche.

Don’t comment with one-liners! Be productive, share your opinion on the post with the other readers, what did you like, what didn’t you like? What do you agree with, what don’t you agree with? It’s all about discussion! Oh, and remember to get a Gravatar! Having an avatar will increase the chances of people becoming familiar with you, making it more likely for them to click on your name and be taken through to your blog.

Tip #6 – Use Voting Sites

Voting sites are a superb way of promoting your blog and it’s new content. You can submit a post and leave it up to the users of the particular site to promote your post. If it has a catchy title and the content is superb, it will get promoted – no questions asked. Some great voting sites they are commonly used in this niche are Digg, DesignBump and DesignMoo.

Your loyal readers will help promote your content, so include networking buttons at the bottom of your posts. Digg, DesignBump and DesignMoo all use self-updating buttons that don’t even require a user (so long as they are logged into the voting site) to leave your post, making them much more likely to click it. So you’ve got a few hundred or more RSS subscribers but your posts are only getting a few votes? That’s common! A great solution to this is to get involved with your audience, respond to their comments and don’t be afraid to ask them to help promote your post! If they like your content they will only be too happy to help you out in return.

Tip #7 – Write Detailed Tutorials

Tutorials, so long as they are of a good quality and are helpful, are virtually always guaranteed traffic. I was reading Photoshop tutorials from the young age of 11, and that is really where my passion for design started, so allowing people to see how you work can really inspire them. You can submit your tutorials to tutorial archive sites such as Good-Tutorials and Pixel2Life. Once submitted, if your tutorial is good, expect a thousand or so hits to flood in within the first 24 hours. If only 1% of them subscribe, you’ve gained 10 subscribers. Keep them engaged in your blog by following Tip #1, and you’ll be gaining readers quicker than you could ever imagine!

Tip #8 – Write For Other Blogs

Once you have a few successful articles on your blog you should maybe think about writing for some other blogs. Other blogs in the niche are your friend, not your rival. They can, after all, be an excellent source of traffic. There are plenty of blogs out there that accept guest authors, some in return for author links, some in return for a small payment, some in return for a very good payment.

I had an accepted tutorial on Tutorial9 a couple of months back. I got paid $150, got a good response from the readers, an increase in my traffic count and a huge confidence boost. Since then I have become an author for Smashing Magazine, Six Revisions and the Tuts+ Network. With my blog and writing for these other well-known blogs, my name is becoming more and more known in the online community, until there became a point where I actually felt I could earn a full-time living from home – I felt strongly about this and quit my job a few days after! I recently compiled a list of articles on self-employment and how to become a better designer, so if you want to find out more about that be sure to check them out!

Conclusion…

Hopefully you’ve picked up a little bit of useful information from this post. Please do discuss my points below, I’d love to hear what you think. Is there something you do that really works when promoting your blog, or something that you’ve done in the past that did the complete opposite? My readers and I would love to hear your story. And remember… don’t be scared to experiment. Try something new, if it doesn’t work then tough luck, if it does you might just be on to something!

“He who is afraid of making mistakes, is afraid to succeed”

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