So, I wanted to write a few posts that may help the new people that just joined the blog-o-sphere. I’m a mentor now, after all, in the Blaugust discord! I probably will also write a few “advice posts” depending on when I get to write those (ugh, time management) but for the time being, you can also check out Roger’s post over here at Contains Moderate Peril with a bunch of very valuable advice that helped me in the past!
In this post, I will talk about PaintNet and how it helped me create most of my header images. The topics I’m covering will go as follows:
- Why are Pictures so important?
- PaintNet and its benefits!
- What are layers?
- Blend Modes!
- Changing Image Sizes and Image Types!
- How I created the new “Round the Reader” logo for Wildwynd!
Why are Pictures so important?
Pictures are a big part of blogging. You don’t need them necessarily but they make the reading experience a lot better since they can break up big text walls even better than line breaks and separators. More than anything, though, having a good “header image” (aka the big picture that is shown at the top of the post/in the link preview) can be very important as well to incentivise people to actually click on any given post.
I know a lot of people that use stock photos or images for their posts which also can work but it may create issues with credit and whatnot, depending on what service you use. Also, there sometimes just isn’t the right image for the post you want to write!
And well, of course, there are also AI-generated images that may be usable depending on what you need but load times and cost may get into the way of using those as well, especially if you’re new to blogging.
Personally, I end up using screenshots from games or anime to break up text and I rely on press kits to provide me with key art and logos for the header image… but sometimes, those don’t include the right sizes or something that I need, so I gotta make it myself.
For this post, I just used a screenshot from Uramichi Oniisan. You’ll see me do that quite often. Most of the time, it’s because I didn’t know what else to use. That’s not necessarily a good way of doing it btw.
PaintNet and its benefits!
This is where “PaintNet” comes in. PaintNet or PaintNET or Paint.NET is a free software for Digital Photo Editing. It’s not that great for drawing but it’s amazing if you’re new to editing pictures or if you work with pixel art.
In fact, I got this program ages ago when I was working with pixel art for the first time and it was amazing because I was able to create “layers”, a feature that is nowadays included in basically all editing/drawing programs.
As I already mentioned, PaintNet is free to use and for anyone that knows about “Paint”, the program that most PCs come with that allows you to draw and stuff, it’s pretty easy to use.
PaintNet doesn’t offer a lot of complicated features and settings which makes it less overwhelming for beginners. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t do cool shit with it. No, in fact, you can install a ton of different plugins to customize PaintNet to fit your needs.
Frankly, for beginners, PaintNet is amazing. Eventually, you can swap to stuff like Clip Studio Paint, Krita, PhotoShop and all those other programs but if you’re searching for a simple and free option, this is the one to go, in my opinion.
What are layers?
“Layers” are essentially different parts of your drawings or images. In other programs like Krita, I use different layers for the sketch, the line art, the colouring, the shading, and the lighting – and I will often separate body parts with layers as well to make it easier to work on specific parts and move them around as I see fit.
In PaintNet, I mostly use layers to change the colours of images or to make fonts stand out more. A good example of this would be the header image for my Babylon’s Fall post.
Here, I didn’t have a good logo+keyart combination, so I simply took an image from the press kit, and added it as the background layer. Then I added a layer with a pink-ish colour, set it to “Multiply”, and then I changed the opacity until it looked good. Then I added the logo in yet another layer on top of that. The logo looks brighter because the pink layer darkens the picture below, making the letters stand out better.
This may be a lot to take in but in essence, you can double-click on any given layer and change the opacity (aka “how transparent is this layer”) as well as the “Blend Mode” (aka “how does this layer interact with layers below it”).
Blend Modes are honestly something along the lines of black magic. I don’t know how it works but it does work. You can simply select something here and see how it works for your drawing. Experiment a little. When in doubt, you can always delete the layer or undo things as you go.
“Multiply” is among my favourites, probably, as it essentially takes the colour in the Multiply-layer and multiplies its value with the colours in the layers below it.
This allows you to add shading to any pictures you work on or create a contrast of sorts.
“Negation” is another useful one to completely invert colours or to change the way a picture looks. More on that later!
Changing Image Sizes and Image Types!
Another great feature that I use a lot is the ability to save a file as a different file or to resize any given image. Often, I receive header images that look good but their size is MONSTROUS. By that I not only mean the image size but also the file size.
Given that blogs don’t typically have unlimited storage space, file size is important and hence, it’s important to make adjustments accordingly.
The file size heavily depends on what file an image is saved as and how big it is.
To resize a picture, you can simply hit Ctrl+R or you visit the “Image” tab at the top of the window and then click on “Resize”. Here, you can change an image’s size by percentage or by absolute size. The latter allows you to select a specific size you need for your blog.
In my case, the optimal size for header images is 1200×675. What’s handy about the resize window is that it also shows you the size that the new image is going to sit at.
When you want to save your progress, you can click on the “File” tab and then select the “Save” option or you simply use Ctrl+S. To save your image as a specific file type, you click on “Save As…” or hit Ctrl+Shift+S.
“Save As…” allows you to save the given image as one of several different types of images from PNG (which allows transparency) to JPG (which saves a lot of space) to other formats that may be even better in terms of space efficiency. :)
Weirdly enough, Webp doesn’t seem to work for my theme, so I often end up copying an image into PaintNET to then convert it into JPG.
How I created the new “Round the Reader” logo for Wildwynd!
Wildwynd is a blogger that does this sort of “recap” of blog posts they’ve read in a specific recap, quoting sections they liked and showcasing a bunch of bloggers in the process.
The “Round the Reader” column is great as a showcase of a plethora of blogs, especially now during #Blaugust2022 where reading everything becomes a bigger challenge than actually writing something yourself.
Anyway, Wildwynd needed a bit of help with changing the logo. The one they’ve been using didn’t seem to work anymore for them, so they asked for help.
I slipped into the DMs there and created the logo right here for them based on their needs.
Wildwynd’s needs were to basically just add round text to the top of this image and make it blue with a fancy gradient.
Since PaintNET doesn’t technically support angled text like that, though, I had to install a plugin with some effects – for which I followed this tutorial right here.
At first, I opened up the image they gave me with the arrows into a layer. Then I created a purple layer with the Blend Mode set to “Glow” and the opacity set to 163. This changed the original images’ green arrows to this purple tone which was quite neat.
I then selected the arrows in the original image using the “wand” tool and filled the selection with blue in another layer, turning the arrows blue in the process. After setting the Blend Mode to “Negation” and after fiddling with the opacity, the arrows turned into this sort of teal-looking shade.
Then, I went into “Effects” after installing the plugins, and clicked on “Text Formations”, followed by “Circle Text”. Here, I entered “Round the Reader”, changed the “Angle of arc” to 180 to get the half-circle font.
I also changed the Font to Ebrima, increased the size, made it “bold”, and made other adjustments before eventually moving it up to the top of the logo.
Afterwards, I used the wand again to select all the letters (hold Shift while doing this), colouring them white because that makes it easier to work with the Gradient and stuff. For said gradient, I used the “Gradient” tool in the toolbox to dye it purple and then blue.
I switched these layers’ Blend Mode to “Multiply” and when Wildwynd was happy, I simply flattened the image (merging all layers into one, in the process, which can always be reverted), and saved the image.
At last, I created a 1920×1080 canvas, pasted the logo in here and positioned it roughly in the middle. I saved this image as a PNG and a JPG. Then I resized the image to 1200×675 and did the same. At last, I also took the logo as is and resized it to be 1200×1200 big.
I removed the white parts, making it transparent in the process, and I saved it as a PNG – PNG files allow transparency and this can be useful in case Wildwynd wants to work on this again.
I then zipped up these five files to send them to Wildwynd who was happy with them. Typically, there’s always stuff to change. The letters don’t look that great, in my opinion, and I’m not super good with gradients but as long as Wildwynd is happy, I’m happy.
PaintNet is a free and easy-to-use program with a lot of potential. If you’re new to image editing, the standard tools available here are all you need for a long time. You can always try out a different free program such as GIMP or Krita but in my experience, GIMP was hard to get into and even Krita has a bit of a learning curve.
Photoshop is obviously also there for more advanced stuff and while it’s probably amazing, I don’t have the funds for a license and whatnot, especially as PaintNet and Krita are doing what I need them to do just fine.
As always, there are plenty of plugins for things you may need. For all of those, you can find tutorials on YouTube but until now, I never had the need to do that. The Blend Mode setting in the layers was often more than enough for my needs.
I hope that any of this has helped anyone with the process of editing images for the header of any blog post. If you have questions, feel free to hit me up on Discord or comment below!
This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well. If you find this post on a website other than Indiecator.org, please write an e-mail to me. Thank you!