Category Archives: Writing Tips

Removing a Background from an Image (PHSH Effect #7)





Like Removing a Foreground Object, removing the background from an image isn’t as hard as it may first appear.

We kind of already did this in the making a background transparent tutorial, too. But this one is different in that we’re not making the background transparent, we’re removing it completely so you could put another picture in the background. Admittedly, turning the background transparent and then just transplanting the new background may be easier, but it’s important to know both.

So, here we go!

I’m just going to use the same beach picture I used for the Removing a Foreground Object tutorial, because it’s a pretty clear-cut foreground/background object.

Step 1. Start with your image (in this case, the beach image).

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Background Object - Beach Coconut - phsh tutorial, photoshop tutorials, photoshop effects

Working on the beach image layer, use the Quick Select Tool (in the left tool bar) and select the area you want to keep. In this case, it’d be the coconut.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Background Object - Quick Select Foreground Object - phsh tutorial, photoshop tutorials

Step 2. In the Select menu (at the top of the screen), select Refine Edge. In the dialogue box that pops up, change Shift Edge to 10% and Contrast to 15%. In the Output Settings, (at the bottom of the dialogue box), change the output to a Layer Mask.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Background Object - Refine Edge Dialogue Box

Hit Okay, and boom! Background is gone!

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Background Object - Removed Background

Now that the background is removed, you can add whatever background to the image you want.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Background Object - New Background

Obviously this one doesn’t quite look like it belongs, because I left the shadow in the selection (which is the wrong colour of the sand), but you should get the gist. You can always change the lighting, add more effects, to touch it up to make it look like it belongs more than just copy/pasting it into another photo. (In fact, I recommend you do so it doesn’t look like it’s actually photoshop-ed)

But that’s it! Not too hard, right?

Next month, due to it being Halloween, I’ll be showing you how to add blood drops to borders, words, etc.


Like this tutorial? Check out the others here!

Removing a Foreground Object (PHSH Effect #6)





Last month, I showed you how to make a transparent background, this month, I’ll show you how to remove a foreground object.

You’ll learn how to turn this:

To that.

Don’t worry, like most of the effects I’ve shown you so far, it’s very simple to do, and is an amazing time saver.




Step 1. To keep things simple, I’ll just use the same beach picture.

Step 2. Choose the Lasso tool, and draw a circle around the object you want to remove. Be sure to get a bit of the background into the selection.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Foreground Object - Lasso Tool

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Foreground Object - Lasso Selection

Step 3. Go up to Edit – Fill, and choose Content Aware from the drop-down.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Foreground Object - Edit - Fill

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Removing a Foreground Object - Content Aware Box

Click ‘Okay’ and the object should have disappeared, and now should be replaced with the background. Click back to the Lasso tool and Deselect, and you can now save your new foreground object removed picture.

And that’s it! Told you it was easy.

It does get a little trickier if there’s different parts to the background. For example, if you’re trying to remove multiple objects from a more complicated image, it may get ‘confused’ and remove an object in the sky by replacing it with ground, and an object on the ground with sky. This is slightly annoying, but you can always undo and redo this effect as many times as needed until you get the object out. I actually had this problem while I was working on my newest book (The Haunted Corpse) cover.

This was the original image:

The Haunted Corpse Original Picture

And this is my cover:

The Haunted Corpse Cover

I got the moon and birds out without much issue, but the lady standing to the very right of the castle was a different story. Because I’d replaced objects in the sky, every time I tried to replace her, it kept replacing her with clouds, instead of with trees. It took a while, but I finally got it. If that happens to you, I recommend removing the objects one at a time. So, remove an object from the image, save, re-open, remove the second object, save, etc. It takes longer, but it will keep photoshop from getting confused. (Hopefully)

Next month, I’ll show you the opposite, how to remove backgrounds from the image.


Like this tutorial? Check out more here!

Making a Transparent Background (PHSH Effect #5)





Alright, now that we’ve tackled some practical effects for pictures, it’s time to switch gears and show you how to edit the picture as a whole.

For this months’ tutorial, I’m going to show you how to change the background of a picture from the default white (or any other colour) to transparent. This is handy for, say, if you want to change the colour of the background, or if you’re making merch, and want the design to be available on an array of different coloured backgrounds.

This also comes in handy if you ever need to add a picture that has a background to your existing design. Instead of erasing around the foreground object, you can make the background transparent and then just place it. This can save you a lot of time. (Trust me)

Let’s get started.

First things first, you’re gonna need an image with a background you want to make transparent. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll just be using this:

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Tutorial Pic

Simple, yes, but the steps are the same no matter how complicated an image is.

Step 1. Make a new Colour Layer. It can be whatever colour you want.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Colour Layer

Step 2. Switch back to the image, and select the Magic Eraser. Click on the white spaces of the image, and the white should disappear.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Magic Eraser Selection

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Clicked White Space

Step 3. Continue using the magic eraser on the image until all the white is gone.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Done White Space

Step 4. Now that the white is gone, all we have to do is delete the Colour Layer. Do this by clicking and dragging it down to the trash can on the bottom right side in the Layers Panel.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Dragged Arrow Deletion




Once you delete the Colour Layer, you’ll see the background of the image change to grey and white checkers, this now means the background is transparent. You can now save this layer as is and use it for whatever backgrounds you want. Whether it be solid colours, or actual pictures, your transparent pic is now ready to use.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Grey and White Checkers

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Trans Lavender

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Trans Yellow

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Making a Transparent Background - Trans Beach

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Check out next months’ tutorial, where I’ll show you how to do this magic:


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Carved (PHSH Effect #4)




This month, we’ll be keeping with the word effects, and I’m going to show you how to make a carved/chiselled effect on wood, metal or concrete.

There’s two ways I’ve found to do this, so I’ll be showing you both. They both take roughly the same amount of skill, but one of them works better for making the words looked carved into a variety of backgrounds, and the other is more specific to the three backgrounds listed above.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Carved Effect Finsihed Wood - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

This is the first way, which looks best on either a wood, metal or concrete background, using the Times New Roman or another similar font.

This is the second way to do it, and as you can see, it easily works on a non-wood, metal or concrete background, and doesn’t need to be done using the Times New Roman font.

Way #1:

Step 1. Get a metal/wood/concrete background. You can do so by either finding one on a royalty-free image site (such as Pixabay.com) or, you can right-click and save the two pictures below to use as the background for this tutorial.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Wood - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Teal Metal - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Concrete - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 2: Once you have the pictures, open PHSH and make a new document. Drag the pictures to your work document and resize if necessary. Once that’s done, type a phrase or sentence you want to change. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll just use ‘Carved’. Also, to keep things simple, I’m just going to use the Times New Roman font, and made it 150pt size. (My canvas size is roughly 25cm x 17cm)

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Background w Carved - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

With this way to do it, you’ll want to make sure that your font colour is just plain black.

Step 3: Right-click on the Type layer (‘carved’ word) and go to the Blending Options.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Right-Clicked Blending Options - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

In the Default Blending Options (the panel that opens right when you click on it), go to Blend Mode, and select Screen from the drop-down menu.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Blending Options Screen - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Blending Options Screen Selected - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 4: Once you select Screen, you’ll notice the word disappeared. Don’t freak out, it’s still there (as evidenced in the Layers panel), we just can’t see it right now.

Next, go to Bevel and Emboss, and copy the values listed below:

  • Style: Outer Bevel
  • Technique: Chisel Hard
  • Depth: 200%
  • Size: 12 (or 6 depending on how the finished product looks)
  • Angle: -45, 30 (be sure to uncheck the Use Global Light box)
  • Highlight Mode: Overlay, Opacity: 100
  • Shadow Mode: Multiply, Opacity: 75

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Bevel & Emboss Complete - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 5: Once you’ve got that all changed, then go down the left-side list to Inner Shadow, and input these values:

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 100%
  • Angle: 120 (uncheck Use Global Light)
  • Distance: 16
  • Choke: 16
  • Size: 12

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Inner Shadow Complete - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Once that’s done, go down the list again to Colour Overlay, and apply these values:

  • Black
  • Blend Mode: Overlay
  • Opacity: 55

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Colour Overlay Complete - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Once you’re done applying all three of those effects, click Okay to apply them to the Layer.

You should notice the text changing while applying each of those effects, and once you apply the Colour Overlay, you should notice the word now looks like it’s carved into the wood.

And that’s it for this way! You can press on the Eye symbol in the Layers panel that’s next to each Layer, so you can see the effect on the teal metal and the concrete backgrounds.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Carved Effect Done Teal - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 1 Carved Effect Done Concrete - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Now that I’ve shown you how to do that way, I’ll show you how to do it the second way below. Be sure to save the above work so you don’t lose it!




Way #2

Step 1: Open a fresh document, and drag and drop any other background you want to use. (This time it doesn’t have to be a wood/metal or concrete picture) For this one, I’ll use a room with wallpaper and a chalkboard.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Blank Dingy Room - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Blank Chalkboard - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 2: Type the word/phrase you want to use. Again, I’ll just be using ‘carved’ for the tutorial.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Carved Dingy Room No Change - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 3: This time, go to Fill, which is in the top of the Layers panel, and change it to 0%.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Fill Red Box - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Fill 0% - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Step 3: Now, we’ll be going back to the Blending Options, and back to Bevel and Emboss. Change the values to:

  • Style: Outer Bevel
  • Technique: Chisel Hard
  • Depth: 100%
  • Direction: Up
  • Size: 10, Soften: 0
  • Angle: 145, 40 Degrees (Uncheck Use Global Light)
  • Highlight Mode: Screen, Opacity: 75%
  • Shadow Mode: Multiply, Opacity: 75%

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Bevel & Emboss - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Now go back down to Inner Shadow:

  • Blend Mode: Multiply (Black), Opacity: 90%
  • Angle: 145 Degrees (Uncheck Use Global Light)
  • Distance: 15, Choke: 30, Size: 15

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Inner Shadow - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

And lastly, back down to Colour Overlay:

  • Blend Mode: Soft Light
  • Colour: Black
  • Opacity: 75%

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Colour Overlay - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Once you’re done that, click Okay to apply the effects. Don’t forget to save your work!

As they are now, both these effects look pretty much the same. The one (big) difference here, is the first way tends to not look right if you try to use a font that’s not close in nature to Times New Roman, and doesn’t work that well if you change the font colour from black.

This second way works for a myriad of different fonts and colours. It’s also faster to do, which can help save you time so you’re not spending too much time on one effect.

Another thing I’ve found works best using the second way, is changing the colour used in the Colour Overlay.

For example:

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Effect Series - Carved Effect - Way 2 Carved Chalkboard - phsh effect, writing tips, book cover tips, indie author tips, self pub tips

Looks fine on the chalkboard background, too. Although we’d need to rotate the text to make it match.

AterImber.com - Writing - Book Posters - The Haunted Corpse - Help Me Poster

Here, I used way #2, but instead of using black for the Colour Overlay, I used red – giving the poster a bit more of a morbid feel by making the words look like they have blood in the dents.

Feel free to play around with different colours, angles to see which combination works well for what you need. Also, a quick side note: the Distance/Choke/Size values will most likely vary depending on the size of your font. Don’t be afraid to play around to see how the effect will look in different situations.

As always, don’t forget to save your work as either (or both) a PSD and/or PNG file. I’d hate to have you get the effect just right and then lose all that hard work because you forgot to save it!

Next time I’ll show you how to give a picture a transparent background. Keep your eye out for that July 29th.


Like this tutorial? Check out more here!

Warped Text (PHSH Effect #3)




In keeping with the theme from last month, we’ll be continuing with text manipulations (check out the basics here). Specifically, we’ll be going through the different kinds of Warping Text there is.

Now, there are 15 different options to warp text in PHSH, I’m going to go through all of them, but will try to keep it brief. You can play around with the settings yourself and see what you like best.

Like the Drop Shadow, Warping Text isn’t the hardest PHSH effect to learn, but can definitely come in handy.

Alright, let’s get into it.

Step 1: Make a new document/project. (Mine is 6in x 6in, for simplicity)

Step 2: Using the Type tool, add text to the document. For the sake of the tutorial, I’m going to just work with ‘warp text’. The Warp Text effect will work with whatever you type, so if you need to say add text to a book cover (or poster), it won’t matter.

To keep things basic, I’m also just going to stick with black text on a white background, and Times New Roman, but again, this effect will work with almost every font/colour/background.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Text In Box

Step 3: While still using the Type tool, right click in the text box, then select Warp Text from the options.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Right Clicked Mani Box

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Warp Text Box

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Warp Text Options

Step 4: From the Style drop-down menu, first warp option we’ll be using is the Arc. (If you’re using a different version of PHSH, the order of the effects may change, and/or you may not have all the effects listed)

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Selection

Once you click on the Arc option, you’ll notice your text is well, arced. See those Bend, Horizontal Distortion and Vertical Distortion options? These are the things we’ll be using for all the effects in this dialogue box. And, depending on the values, they’ll change how the text looks.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Default

 

For example, my default Bend value is +50. This made the text arc so wide that it’s now cut off from the document. To get it back on the document, I can either lessen the Bend value, or, I can click ‘Okay’ (if you’re happy with the warping done) and then I could easily just move the text layer over so it’s no longer off the edge of the document.

Because this is just a tutorial, I’ll ‘fix’ it by lessening the Bend. To do this, just click and drag the arrow along the line, and you should be able to see the text change with the changing Bend in real time.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Bend Lessened

See how the text is getting less Arced? If you go past the 0 on the scale, it will begin to Arc down.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Bend Inverted

Once you get the right Bend you need, you can move on to if you need to Horizontally or Vertically Distort the Warp. The Horizontal Distortion values will either squish, or enlarge one side of the text, while the Vertical Distortion will make the text look like it’s flying at, or away from you. (Like the scrolling text at the beginning of Star Wars).

I left the Bend at 0 for the following pictures so you can see each value by itself.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Vertical Distortion Big

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Vertical Distortion Inverted

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Horizontal Distortion Big

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Horizontal Distortion Inverted

Now that you know what these values do, you can use them in conjunction with each other.

The below pictures are the text with a Bend + Vertical and Bend + Horizontal Distortions.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Bend Vertical Distortion

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Bend Horizontal Distortion

That’s how those values act with the Arc Style. If we choose another Style from the drop-down, the options will remain the same, but the way the text is warped will change.

To keep things simple, I’m just going to go down the list in order, and show the effect with Bend only. The Horizontal and Vertical Distortions do the same thing for each, and I don’t want the pictures to get too repetitive.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Lower Bend

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Upper Bend

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arch Bend

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Bulge Bend

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Shell

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Shell Upper




AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Flag

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Wave

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Fish

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Rise

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Fisheye

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Inflate

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Squeeze

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Twist

You can also change the options from being applied horizontally to vertically, at the top, just under the Style selection.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Warped Text - Arc Vert Style Bend

Feel free to play around with these on your own as needed, too. And, once you find a style of warping you like, don’t forget to save!

Next month I’ll be sticking with the text effects and show you how to make this:

AterImber.com - Books - First Try Promo Poster - Indie Author - Canadian Author

AterImber.com - Writing - Book Posters - The Haunted Corpse - Help Me Poster


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Drop Shadows (PHSH Effect #2)




Now that I’ve shown you how to scale an image without distorting it, I’m going to delve a bit into specifics with this effect: adding a Drop Shadow to text.

It’s not the fanciest or coolest (or hardest) effect you can make in PHSH, but you gotta walk before you can run, right?

Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Open PHSH and make a new document. For simplicity, I made my document 6in x 6in.

Step 2 – Going down to your Type tool, you’ll want to click and drag somewhere on your canvas to create a text box. Type whatever you want in the box. You’ll notice that when you create a Text box, it automatically makes the text a New Layer.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Text Box - PHSH Tutorial, book design, cover design

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Text Box w Words

Step 3 – To resize your Text box, click and drag one end of the box toward the words typed. Do this until the box is more or less the same size as the words.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Text Box Resized

Step 4 – You could also change the colour of your text, or the font and size you’re using in the top menu while you’re in the text box.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Font, Size and Colour Options

For this tutorial, I’m just going to keep things simple and leave the text black against a white background.

Step 5 – In the Layers panel (to the right) right-click on the Text Layer and select Blending Options from the menu.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Blending Options Right-Clicked

Step 6 – From the left-side menu in the Blending Options dialogue box, click on Drop Shadow.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Blending Options Dialogue Box

Step 7 – This is where it can get complicated, depending on what you need the Drop Shadow for. Since this is just a tutorial, I’ll try to keep this part as simple as possible.

Looking at the Drop Shadow options, these values are all the defaults for my computer. If yours is different that’s okay, because you often won’t be keeping the default values anyway.

It’s hard, but you can see the Drop Shadow effect applied between this picture and the last one.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Drop Shadow Default




Let’s go through the options:

Blend Mode – This will change how the effect looks. This I feel like has bigger impact on some of the other Blending Mode options, such as Colour Overlay. For Drop Shadows, I usually just leave the default Multiply setting.

Beside Blend Mode, you’ll notice there’s a colour swatch. Clicking on it will bring you to the Colour Picker, where you can change the colour of your shadow. This is helpful if you want to match the shadow to the background colour of your document.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Colour Change

Opacity – This changes how dark the shadow appears. If you want the shadow to be more transparent, lower this setting.

Angle – This changes how the shadow looks. For instance, the default angle 120 makes the shadow appear from the top left corner down. Playing around with the angle will change where the shadow appears. (I drastically changed the distance to better demonstrate the changing angles)

Also, I always uncheck the Use Global Light box that’s by the angle. If you’re adding a shadow to more then one piece of text, Use Global Light will change the angle, distance, etc. for all the text, not just the one you’re working on. This can be annoying if needing to add multiple text boxes. I would recommend getting in the habit of always un-checking this box.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Angle 120

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Angle -90

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Angle 90

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Angle 0

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Angle 180

There’s a little grey square to the right side of the options, this is a preview of where the shadow is. In case it’s hard to see on the document, you can use this preview to help you determine what works the best for your project.

Distance – This changes how far away from the text the shadow is. For better showing of the angle, I jacked the distance to 150. I usually don’t have the distance too far away from the words. Usually when I work with Drop Shadow, I leave it around 5-10. One thing I’ve noticed is depending on the size of the font, you may need to make the shadow distance greater, without it looking too far away from the words.

Spread – This changes how ‘thick’ the shadow looks. The higher the number, the thicker it gets.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Spread

Size – This changes how big the shadow actually is. Changing the size is great if you want to ‘soften’ the shadow, or make a shadow appear more like a fuzzy glow.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Size 5

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Size 16

AterImber.com - Writing - Books - The Haunted Corpse - Off the Books Poster

I changed the size of the Drop Shadow here to a higher number to give it that blurry/neon lighting effect. I also changed the colour from the black to red.

Contour – I’m not entirely sure what this does, to be honest. I believe it’s something similar to the angle the shadow is? I don’t really use this, unless a specific effect I’m Googling tells me to.

Noise – This will change how ‘smooth’ the edges of the shadow look. Remember white noise channels on old school T.V.s? This is essentially that. I usually leave this to the default 0. I’ve yet to have a need to add noise to a shadow.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Drop Shadow - Noise

Feel free to play around with these settings to get the desired shadow effect you want. When you’re done playing around with the settings, click the ‘Okay’ button on the side to apply the effect. If you need to change the effect after, just right-click on the layer again and head back into Blending Options. You’ll be able to edit the effects for as long as you keep the Layers separate. Once you flatten the image/save it as a PNG or JPEG file, you won’t be able to edit the effect, due to the fact the work was collapsed into one single layer. This is why I always save a PSD version (I usually label it ‘UnFlattned’) along with a flattened picture, just in case I need to go back and change something.


Like this tutorial? Check out more here!

Content Aware Scaling (PHSH Effect #1)




This week, I’ll be showing you how to Content Awareness Scale and image. Which is a really fancy way of saying we’re going to learn how to resize an image, while protecting a part of the foreground that we don’t want to distort.

If you didn’t, please check out my PHSH Intro post, as this one builds on what was learned there. (Also, if you need a refresh of how to add an image to the PHSH document)

Okay, so, for this tutorial, we’ll be using the cabin picture I used on my Holiday Treats book.

Please right click on the image, save it, then open it in PHSH, so you’re starting here:

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Starting Pic

Alright, now that you’ve got that, we’re going to change the document size to 6inx9in. Resize the image to fit into the newly sized canvas.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Resized Pic

Okay, now the first step is to use the Selection tool to draw a box around the cabin. (Feel free to use the Guidelines to help you if needed)

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Selected Cabin

In the right hand side panel, see how you’re currently in the Layers panel? Click over to the Channels panel, then go down to the bottom and click the New Channel button. This will create a new Channel with just the cabin. It’s fine to leave it named Alpha 1, the name doesn’t really matter.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Layers Panel

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Channels Panel

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Alpha 1 Created

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Alpha 1 Red

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Alpha 1 Hidden

Now that your document is the right colour, and we’ve created Alpha 1, switch back over to the Layers tab. You’ll notice now that you’ve switched back, the Layer you had previously selected is now greyed out, instead of blue. That means it’s no longer selected. To re-select the layer (so we can keep working) you’ll want to click on the Background layer, then click back to the picture layer. It should now be selected/highlighted blue.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Layer Grey

Using the Selection tool again, right click in the box you made and click on Deselect. This will get rid of the box around the cabin – now that we’ve created the Channel, we don’t need the cabin to be selected.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Deselecting Cabin

Now we’re basically back to how we started, except we’ve got an extra channel. This is the part where we do the actual Content-Awareness Scaling. (CA Scaling)




Going to the top Menu, click on Edit, then scroll down to Content Awareness Scale and click it.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Edit, CA Scaling Option

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - CA Scaling Open

See the box on the end there that says ‘Protect’? Click the drop-down menu and select Alpha 1. This will… well it’s gonna protect the cabin from stretching while we resize the picture.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Protect Drop Down Menu

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Protect Alpha 1

This is the fun part, now we’re gonna stretch the picture, and the cabin won’t be affected.

To do this, click on the box on the bottom in the middle, and hold down ALT as you slowly drag the sizing box down.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Bottom Square

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Drag Down Arrow

You’ll notice that the top of the picture is moving too, that’s what holding down the ALT key does – allows you to move both sides at the same time.

Keep dragging the image until the top of the box disappears off the canvas.

Once that happens, go over to your Select tool, click it. A dialogue box will come up and ask to apply the changes, click Apply. Then, drag the image down from the top of the canvas, lining it up with the bottom.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Top of Box Gone

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Apply Dialogue Box

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Aligined w/ Bottom

Notice how much bigger the background is? But the cabin stayed the same size! We didn’t get the picture to the exact dimensions of the canvas, but that’s okay.

To get the picture to the right size, we can just go back up to Edit – Content Aware Scale, and do it again until it matches the canvas size. Don’t forget to Protect Alpha 1!

(For this sizing, we don’t need to hold down ALT, because we just need to stretch the top to the top of the canvas, we don’t need to resize the bottom.)

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Done

Ta-da! Now, is the most important part – save.

This is a pretty handy PHSH skill I wish I had learned before doing the cover for my book.

For a side-by side comparison, here’s the cover when I first did it (before I knew how to CA Scale) and after I learned.

AterImber.com - Writing - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Content Awareness Scaling - Holiday Treats Stretched Cover

AterImber.com - Writing - Books - Holiday Treats Book Cover - Wincest, Short Story, SPN, Supernatural, Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester, Castiel, Jess, John Winchester, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years

See the difference? The first one you can definitely tell that I stretched the image.

That’s why this is one hell of a PHSH skill to know how to do, and, it’s not that hard, either. Once you practice and do it a few times, you’ll be able to do it no problem.

Next tutorial, I’ll show you how to add a Drop Shadow to text:

Look out for that May 6th.


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So You Wanna Design Your Own Book Cover, Eh? (PHSH Tutorial Intro)




You’ve just finished writing this amazing novel, and are so pumped to get it out and into the world. All your dedication, time and energy has been poured into this baby of yours, and you want nothing more then to see it flourish.

Now there’s only one problem: It needs a cover.

But, you’re a writer, you don’t know how to design a book cover! You can barely crop an image in Photoshop – maybe you don’t even have Photoshop. And you definitely can’t shell out a bunch of money to hire somebody design it for you. (There’s a reason ‘starving artist’ is the phrase and not ‘stuffed artist’)

Well, today’s your lucky day – you’ve found the beginnings of an article-series I’m just starting to help people exactly in your shoes learn how to make a cover.

No, I didn’t take any marketing courses, nor do I have any formal training. I took a Media Arts class in gr. 10 and learned how to use Photoshop. However, I was requested by JD Stanley to help with their book covers. Before I helped, JD could barely erase a background. Oh, and I made all my own covers, too. (Not to mention the collages on this website)

Bottom line, I’m not professionally trained – but I know my way around enough to do things myself. It was actually JD who told me I could start this series! (Seriously, some of JD’s questions boggled my mind – what do you mean you don’t know how to zoom in?)

Fear not, I’ll be giving you the low-down throughout the next few months on how you too can not suck at using Photoshop.

Let’s start at the very beginning: Making a New Document.

Step 1: Do you have Photoshop? If not, you should go download it. (I use CS6, so if you have a newer/older version some details may differ) If you already have it, you’re part-way there!

Step 2: Open it.

Step 3: Go to File listed in the top menu and select New from the drop-down menu.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 1- Photoshop

Step 4: In the box that popped up, give your file a name. I just chose to keep it simple.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 2- Photoshop

Tip: PHSH = short form for Photoshop. From here on out, I’ll be referring to the program by the short form, because it’s faster to type.

You’ll also want to set the dimensions. My dimensions are set to 1920×1080 (pixels) by default because I was taking screen-shots of myself opening PHSH for this tutorial. You can make the dimensions however big/small you want. You also don’t have to use ‘pixels’ as the unit of measure. I typically use inches. I would suggest you make your dimensions 10x10in for simplicity.

Also, if your Resolution is set to 72px by default, you’ll most likely want to change it to 300px – this will make the image clearer.

Once you do this, click the Okay button.

Step 5: Now that this is done, you should see a white page that’s to your specified dimensions. This is your document size.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - PHSH Basics 3 - Photoshop

 

If you can’t see the edges of your document, you might be zoomed in. Hold down CTRL and press the minus button (beside the 0 on the keyboard) to Zoom Out. Zoom Out until you can see the edges of the document. This will make working easier.

Congratulations, you just made your first PHSH file! That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Alright, now I’ll be going through the Tools on the Toolbar that are listed down the left-side of the program.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - PHSH Tool Bar - Photoshop

This first one is the Pointer/Mouse function. It does exactly what you’d think – let’s you use your mouse as normal within the document. Allows you to click on different things, etc. You’ll be switching back to this a lot while you work, so it’s important you know what it does.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Select Tool - Photoshop

Next you have the Selection Tool. This allows you to make a selection around a certain part of an image, cut/crop/copy and/or protect a section of a picture from being Erased.

Actually, wait, I’m not gonna go through all the tools right now – I forgot a step. To show you what some of these tools do, you’re gonna need a picture!

Okay, so to Insert a Picture into a document:

Step 1: First, I want you to right click on the image below, and select Save Image As… from the menu. Give it a name, and save it to your Desktop, for simplicity.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - PHSH Basics 3 - Photoshop

Step 2: Now you have the image, go back up to File, and this time, instead of clicking ‘New’, click on Open.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 1 - Photoshop

This should bring you to your Desktop. Click on the image I just had you save, and then hit ‘Open’. This will open the image in a new PHSH document.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 3- Photoshop

See those tabs? Anytime you have more then 1 PHSH file open, you’ll be able to switch between them by clicking on the tabs.

Step 3: Okay, now we have the image, and our blank document. You’re gonna want to move the picture to the new document.

To do this, you’ll want to click on the tab that’s the picture, and drag it off the line, a little to the left. Then let go – this makes the file open in a new PHSH window. (If you’ve ever accidentally opened a link in a new Window instead of Tab on your browser, it’s exactly the same as that, but in PHSH. If you haven’t done that, don’t worry.)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 4 - Photoshop

Now, click on the image itself, not the tab, and drag the image into the blank document. Let go once it’s there, and you should see a New Layer with the image was created in your blank document (which should now have the picture)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 5 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 6 - Photoshop

Now that we have the image in our document, you can Exit the image that’s still open in the window – we don’t need it anymore.

To center the image, click on Layer 1 (if it’s highlighted in Blue that layer is already selected) then, go back to your image, and drag it down into the document until it’s centered.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Adding A Picture 7- Photoshop

And that’s how you move a picture into your PHSH file!

Okay, now that we’ve covered that, I’ll be going back to some of the Tools.

I’ll go back to showing you the Select Tool.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Select Tool - Photoshop

Now that we have an image, I’m going to show you how to erase part of the image. (Especially because the PHSH pictures inside a PHSH picture is starting to confuse me, so we’re gonna fix that)

Okay, first: See the Rulers that are around the edges of the file? Click and drag down from the top Ruler – a turquoise/green line should now be on the document – this is called a Guideline. If you don’t have Rulers showing, go up to View and click on the Ruler option listed. (There should now be a check mark next to the option – this means it’s turned on)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 1 - Photoshop

You’ll want to drag this Guideline to the edge of the image we centered. Then, go back up to the top, and drag another one to the bottom. Drag two more Guidelines out from the left-side Ruler, so now the image should be completely boxed in by the Guidelines.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 2 - Photoshop

Now that you have your Guidelines in place, go over to the Toolbar, and click on the Select Tool.

Click and drag the outline box to the dimensions of the Guidelines. (It might ‘snap’ once you get close to the lines, that’s okay) Let go, and now you should see a dotted box along the Guidelines.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 3 - Photoshop

Right-click in the Selected box/Guideline area, and select the Select Inverse option. You should notice that now there’s a bigger perforated box outlining the whole picture.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 4 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 5 - Photoshop

Now comes the less confusing part. Go back to your Toolbar, and select the Eraser tool.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 6 - Photoshop




Now that you’ve got the Eraser selected, click and drag your mouse (exactly how you used to do it in Paint) around the image, and you’ll begin erasing the outer-part, without touching the part we selected before. Because we inverted the selection, the part we want to keep is safe, and you’ll only erase the outside of the image, regardless of if your mouse touches the part we want to keep.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 7 - Photoshop

(Your background colour is hopefully white instead of red, don’t mind that. It’s typically white)

Continue erasing until just the middle part remains.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 8 - Photoshop

Now, go back up to the Select tool, right-click again on the image, and this time click on Deselect. Now the selected box is gone, you’re left with only the image. To get rid of the Guidelines, you can just drag them back up into the Rulers and they’ll disappear. (Make sure you switch from the Select tool back to the Mouse tool)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 9 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 10 - Photoshop

Now that we’ve erased the background, we need to change the dimensions of the document, to get rid of all the white space.

To do this, (the easiest way) is to drag the picture to the top left corner, and then place two Guidelines at the bottom and to the right of the image, taking note of the dimensions.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 11 - Photoshop

Once you’ve made a note of the Guideline dimensions, go to the menu at the top and click on Image, then go down to Canvas Size.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 12 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 13 (Canvas Size Dialogue Box) - Photoshop

In the Canvas Size box, you’ll be able to change the dimensions of your canvas. Type in the dimensions you got from the Guidelines (mine were 3.89cm x 7.21cm) and click Okay.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 14 - Photoshop

Don’t freak out – your picture is still here! The canvas size shrunk, so now it’s outside of the canvas size. Using your Mouse tool, drag the image to be centered on the canvas again, and this time, it should be a perfect fit, with no white background showing.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 15 - Photoshop

The last step always: SAVE.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 16 - Photoshop

We’ll be saving two versions of the file. The first being a .psd or Photoshop file. Saving your work this way allows you to keep all the layers separate. This is especially handy should you need to return to the image later to edit it further. I usually label these saved files as ‘Whatever Project I’m Working On UNFlattened’ so at a glance, it’s faster to know which file is which.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 17 - Photoshop

The second version you’ll be saving as, is either a .png or a .jpeg. These are picture files that condense all the layers to be 1 image. These are usually the images that end up on websites, as profile pictures, and, most importantly, the ones allowed to be uploaded for your book cover. Amazon may also require a PDF version, you do it in exactly the same way, except instead of selecting PNG or JPEG from the list, you select PDF.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 18 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 19 - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Erasing a Picture with Guidelines 20 - Photoshop

And there you have it! You now know how to make a new file, crop images, and save in a few different formats. That’s the most basic aspect of PHSH skills you’ll need.

Lastly, I’ll go through a few of the tools you’ll probably use the most.

I’ve already shown you the Mouse, Select and Eraser tool.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Mouse, Select and Eraser Tools - Photoshop

Because I don’t want this tutorial to go on too much longer, I’ll just go through the rest of Tools in point form.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Eye Dropper Tool - Photoshop

Eye-Dropper – This allows you to ‘pick up’ a sample of colour from one part of the file, and use it elsewhere. You’ll notice when you use the Eye dropper, the colour you picked up is now in the Colour Swatches, allowing you to easily use the colour elsewhere in the document.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Eye Dropper Tool Explaination - Photoshop

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Paint Bucket Tool - Photoshop

Paint-Bucket – Exactly what it used to do in Paint. It fills the entire area with whatever colour you select. (If you have it within a closed shape, it will only fill in the closed shape, not the whole canvas)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Blur, Sharpen, Smudge Tool - Photoshop

Blur/Sharpen/Smudge – Again, these do exactly as the name implies. They Blur, Sharpen and/or Smudge the picture. You can change the size of them similar to the Eraser tool. This is especially handy if say, you’re erasing a hair line, and need to not make the edges of hair so defined. (You would blur them slightly to make it look un-erased)

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Dodge, Burn, Sponge Tool - Photoshop

Dodge/Burn/Sponge – I’m not entirely sure what the Dodge or Sponge part of the this tool does (when I used the Dodge tool last, it made the picture turn a grey-er colour), but the Burn tool burns the picture like a lighter. Handy if you want to make the edges of an image appear burned, or if you want to blacken/darken the image as a whole.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial - Type Tool - Photoshop tutorial

Type – Allows you to add text to the picture. This is what I used to add the text on the images used in this tutorial.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Shape Tool - photoshop tutorial

Shape – Allows you to add different shapes to the canvas: Square, Rectangle, Line, etc.

AterImber.com - Writing Tips - PHSH Tutorial Intro - Colour Swatches

Colour Squares – This is where it tells you what colours you’re currently using. The small arrow above the bigger boxes, will switch whatever colours you’re using currently to black and white.

Alight, I know that was a lot of info to take in, so take a breath – you made it all the way to end! Also, I’m sure that wasn’t nearly as daunting a task as you first thought it’d be. PHSH is funny like that, it’s such a big program, and there are a lot of different elements to it – at first glance it’s definitely intimidating. But it doesn’t need to be. All those different elements just mean you can make some kick-ass pictures with it!

I hope you enjoyed this intro to the world of PHSH, and feel free to practice and play around with the program a bit, that’s how I learned some of the stuff I know.

Next time, I’ll show you a very handy way to scale images without distorting them. You can look for that April 8th.


Like this article? Check out more Writing Tips here!

Top 3 Tips to Running Your (New) Website

Running a website is hard as sh*t.

Especially if you choose to post… oh, I don’t know, let’s say roughly five times a month.

Before I had started my website, every article I read basically said the exact same thing: posting once a month is more then enough. Once a month? How am I supposed to build a following if I only post once a month?

I can see now that… well, not that I was wrong, but I was pretty naïve to think that I knew better then other professionals. My thought process was something akin to, ‘a month is a long time, I can definitely post every week and be fine.’ So that’s what I did at the very beginning.

Posting every single week got old/infuriating real fast. I felt like I was losing my mind, having to constantly be preparing the next post, worrying about how was I going to tackle the vastly different topics that interested me, and perhaps the worst of all – it didn’t leave me any time for continuing with my books.

Needless to say, that was not a good way to run my website, nor a good way to keep my sanity in check. It took me probably the better half of 2017 to get into a groove and set myself a schedule for what was to be posted when. I still struggle with the system I’ve put into place sometimes – we all know how life likes to ruin our plans – so while I haven’t quite perfected the art of managing my website – and it’s not even close to being everything I want it to be – I’ve definitely learned a lot in the process.

This article is to share 3 tips I wish I’d known when I was starting out.

 

  1. Start with One Idea

This is probably one of the hardest things I had to learn when I was starting out. I had been ‘planning’ all the different elements/topics I wanted my website to have, so when I finally went for it, I was all over the place. One week I’d post a TAF (short story), the next I’d post a recipe, and still another would be a product review. There was absolutely no structure, and it was driving me crazy flipping back and forth each week between different ideas.

One thing I wish I had read/or heard, was this: Your website will expand. It takes time to establish a website from nothing. You have to pick things like layout, theme, how you want it to look, and that’s all before you start adding content. Your best bet when you’re just starting out is to focus your energy and time on one thing – preferably the main thing you’d want the website to be about – and only post that.

You may feel like you’re limiting yourself, since you’re bursting with ideas about this and that, but trust me – focus on one thing, and get yourself to fall into the pattern of posting that one thing. Remember, you can always add more once you’re more established. Give yourself time to get used to having a website before you try to go whole hog.

 

2. Pick a Posting Schedule (That You Can Realistically Keep Up With)

Give yourself a posting schedule that you think you’ll be able to stick to. It doesn’t have to be just once a month, it could be more, or less then that. When you’re just starting out, I’m sorry to say but no one is looking at your website yet. Now is the time to experiment and find what works for you. Before you begin to build a following, and especially before people start expecting you to post in the schedule you’ve set.

Give yourself enough time between posts that you’ll be able to do the following three things:

  • Write the post that needs to be posted
  • Write the next post (or at least, have the idea)
  • Have a personal life (hang out with friends, be able to go to family functions [like holidays], have a few ‘off’ days, etc.)

Let’s say you tell yourself you’ll be able to post each week. Will you have enough time in one week to come up with an idea for next weeks’ post, while simultaneously writing this weeks post, and still be able to go to grandma’s birthday/Christmas, etc.? Also, if you’re too stressed, feel like you never have a day off, and are constantly wracking your brain for the next idea? You need to dial back your scheduling.

Remember, you can always add more things to post later. You don’t have to come out of the gate doing everything all at once.

You gotta walk before you can run.

 

3. Plan Your Posts

It sounds simple, and yet… it can be one of the hardest things to do. You don’t want to wake up on your posting day with an ‘oh shit, I don’t have an idea for what to post today!’

True, you could always just skip that day, and get yourself ready for the next one, but, you’ll want to get yourself into the habit of not skipping posting days. Since your website is still new, and you’re still getting used to having it, you’ll want to be able to schedule your time so you’re able to do your work and still have fun. Think of it like you’re forming a new habit – you gotta find ways to incorporate it into your already established routine, without disrupting the rest of your life.

I’m assuming you didn’t quit your day-job while you’re starting this website, so let’s pretend you just got in from work, perhaps you have kids who need to be fed/put to bed, or a pet that needs to be taken care of – next thing you know it’s 11pm, you’re just about to collapse into bed when you suddenly remember: you were supposed to post something to your website today. You begrudgingly drag yourself to your website, and double-check and it’s just as you thought: no posts were scheduled, and you don’t have any finished/ready to post.

Now you have to spend your precious sleeping time thinking/writing/editing and finally posting an article to your website.

Enter: Planning.

You have a schedule you want to stick to – awesome! Now it’s time to put it to good use, and start planning out the posts you want to put up on those days. For simplicity sake, we’ll just use my posting schedule for this example. Which is every two weeks, and the 13th of every month.

This past Friday (Nov. 2nd) I posted what I call a Throw Away Fic, (which is just a short story), and today (Nov. 5th) I posted this, which internally I just call an Article. Next thing I need to post this month is a Product Review, which I do on the 13th of each month.

After that, my next two posts are:

Nov. 16th: Another TAF

Nov. 19th: Another article

I try to alternate my article content between writing tips and veganism, as these are the prime two other things I post, excluding the Throw Away Fics. Back when I was first starting my website, I had sat myself down and wrote out a list of all the possible article topics I wanted to post, and saved them to my computer. Now, I go to that list and plan out my next few articles, usually till the end of the month.

Organization is key here. I know it’s not fun, and is probably one of the least fun parts of having your website, but this saves me from having those last-minute freak outs of not having content, and not having an idea for content, too. I try to schedule out my articles at least one month in advance.

My TAFs are a bit of a different story. Last time I’d counted, I had roughly 60-something short stories that I could finish and post. I schedule those, but sometimes, plans change. For example, if a holiday is coming up, I will write a new TAF specific for the holiday, and leave the scheduled one to be posted at a later time. I don’t always know exactly which story idea I’ll be posting – sometimes it’s one of the ones from The Vault, and sometimes it’s new stories I write on my commute – but I try to get it done/scheduled at least the week before it’s supposed to go up.

Planning out your posts can put your mind to ease and not make you feel like you’re scrabbling each week (or month) to get a post to your website. This will also allow you to actually schedule the posts in your website.

In WordPress, when you make a new post, it enables you to Post Now, or you can schedule the post for a later date. This is extremely helpful when life decides to get in the way, and you’re not able to make it to a computer to manually post your article on your scheduled day – you can set it to go up automatically.

It may seem like a small thing, but it can be a life saver, especially around the holidays, when you’re pre-occupied with holiday-related worries. This gives you one less thing to try to remember after you finish cooking/hosting/buying presents, etc.

And there you have it. My top three tips of website running help I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out. It will take some time for you to adjust your schedule no matter how much of your time you commit to your website, so if you hit a few bumps along the way, don’t get discouraged – that’s just part of doing something new.


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Top 5 Pros/Cons of Working From Home




You don’t have to get up early every morning, deal with rush hour, you’re your own boss, you get to work on your schedule. What could be better, right?

Wrong.

It’s not all sunshine and good times. Working from home is actually a giant pain in the ass. It’s one of those things you love-hate. On the one hand it can get pretty stressful/hectic, especially because you’re trying to do everything, but on the other there is no way in hell you would trade the stress for a ‘regular’ 9-5. I’m not saying it can’t be great, but there is much more to it then what meets the eye.

Below are my Top 5 pro’s/con’s of working from home:

#1: You’re Your Own Boss

This is absolutely the number one best and worst thing about working from home. Being your own boss means you don’t have anybody to answer to. Sure, this means that if you forget a deadline you won’t get yelled at, and you have the freedom to move said deadline to whatever you want. But the flipside is: you have no one to answer to.

Nobody’s going to hold you accountable for missing a post, not writing an article, skipping a day because you’re bored/lazy/just don’t want to. There’s nobody else writing articles for you, scheduling your social media – basically nobody’s there to save your ass. If you aren’t doing it it’s not getting done. No matter how much you wish it would do it by itself, you have to dedicate a bit of time to everything in order to keep things running. And, trust me, when you really sit down and start trying to plan all the things you want to accomplish, things can get stressful very fast. I’m not saying it’ll all fall apart and all your readers will leave if you miss one post, but they’ll at least be disappointed if it doesn’t come.

Think that doesn’t apply because you’re just starting out and don’t have anyone looking at your stuff? Not quite. If you’re just starting out, sure it can be tempting to not post if you don’t feel like it because nobody’s watching, but if you want to grow and get people to start looking at your stuff, you’re gonna have to post at least somewhat consistently.

#2: It’s Hard To Detach

Another big con is that since you’re already home, it might take you longer to get out of Work Mode. Also, since you work from home, even when you do decide to relax/shut it down for the night/take a day off, the temptation is always there, and you might find yourself feeling guilty during your days off for ‘slacking off’. It’s tempting to say, ‘my laptop/notebook, etc is just upstairs/in the other room, I should be working, not wasting time doing nothing.’This is something I’m certainly guilty of.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer or what, but I always feel like I’m ‘on’ anyway, whether it’s scanning crowds of people for character descriptions, accidentally listening a bit too hard to that conversation on the subway for a funny line I could put in a story, or running over whatever plot-line I’ve been stuck on when I’m supposed to be not thinking about work – I feel like writers/singers/artists are in a weird state of limbo between working and not working that ‘regular people’ just don’t understand. Our jobs while amazing, make it hard to truly turn off Work Mode.

We’re constantly scanning our life for inspiration, which makes it hard to truly be done at 5pm like most other jobs. Most other jobs you go to the office, work on whatever and then punch out at a certain time. For artists that’s not really an option. It also makes it hard to find the line between ‘I’ve worked enough today’ and ‘I should be cramming as much work as I possibly can into each day because I work from home’.

Is there any fix for this? Not really. It’s always gonna be hard to detach from work, but one thing that might help is trying to put some sort of organization/structure to your work.

For example, I post on my website every two weeks, on Fridays and Mondays, so I try to break up my weeks like this:

Week 1 (Non-Post Week)

  • Search for/work on freelance work
  • Begin new articles/stories for next week
  • Finish at least 2 (other) short stories/articles (to throw in The Vault [so their ready for other weeks])
  • Work on upcoming novel/books
  • Think/Begin new designs for merch
  • Schedule posts for social media (usually done on weekends)

Week 2 (Post Week)

  • Make sure article/short story for this week are done
  • Schedule posts for respective days
  • Finish merch design/s from previous week and add to store
  • Keep working on/finish other short stories/articles from last week
  • Schedule social media posts

If you give yourself some sort of structure like this, it should help ease your guilt when you decide to call it a day, because then you can at least say you ticked off everything you wanted to get done. If you organize everything you need/want to get done, it can also help manage your stress, instead of trying to do everything at once, once you write it all out, you can sort it into whatever you feel are your top priorities and work on those first.

And, this of course you should make sure to schedule days off for yourself as well. I like to keep it simple, and stick with having the weekends ‘off’. (I do ‘easy’ stuff on these days, like photoshop) You can’t constantly be working all day every day – seriously, look it up, it’s bad for your health. Make sure to cut yourself a break every once in a while. You’re the boss, you’re allowed. (Just don’t give yourself too many days off)

#3: Ignoring The People Around You

In this same line of reasoning, with it being hard to detach, it’s not just hard on you. The people around you can feel jaded when you’re constantly blowing them off to work, or, if they work all day, come in and you’re still working. It can feel like you’re actively ignoring them in favour of work. While that might not be your intention, it can (and will) start to wear on those around you if you can’t find a dedicated ‘stopping time’.

I personally have had conversations with the people in my life about this issue. Now that it’s been brought to my attention, I try not to do that, but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes it’s hard to stick to my self-imposed ‘quitting time’, especially if I’m on a writing roll, or, if it’s someone’s day off. That’s when I feel really guilty.

Also, I feel like sometimes they assume since you work from home and you can do it whenever, (especially when you’re just starting out) and they might not see why it’s so important this thing gets done on a certain day. Stick to your guns on this. Sit them down and explain why this is important, and what you need from them first.

While it’s tempting to give in, it’s also important you talk to the people around you so they understand exactly why you have to do things the way you say, and why it’s important you don’t skip the work days.



#4: You Can Focus On What You Want

A giant plus of being your own boss? You get to push your blog/business in whatever direction you want. You want to write about why puppies aren’t really that cute? You can. Why ‘not all men’ say ___? Go for it. You don’t really like cake? Sure, that works too.

One of the biggest pro’s is that you don’t have to write/focus/dedicate your time to someone else’s vision/dream – it’s all you all the time. Whether or not you’re 100% sure of where you’re going doesn’t matter, as long as you’re pushing forward.

Nobody likes writing about a topic they don’t like (or worse, have the opposite view-point on) and working from home gives you the freedom to write what you want, how you want.

#5: You Can Work In Your PJ’s

Definitely one of my favourite things in life is getting to get up and not have to wear any uncomfortable ‘work’ clothes to get my sh*t done. Nobody sees me so if I don’t wanna get dressed? No problem, I can type in just about anything, pj’s included.

I don’t recommend doing this all the time, but every once in a while it’s nice to literally roll out of bed and then get to work. I usually do this once every few Fridays, since it’s the end of the week, it’s kind of like my version of Casual Fridays. It also helps to get some of the stress of the rest of the week out of my head. Pj’s are comfy, so they fit perfectly with the ‘do some work’ vibe I get on Fridays, instead of the ‘try to do everything in the universe’ of the rest of the week.


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