Tag Archives: college

Look at My Cool Banner!

If you’ve visited my blog before last Tuesday, then you probably noticed that my blog looks a little different; namely, there’s a cool banner up top that I made myself. Our latest assignment was to make our own banners for our blogs using Pixlr, a photo editing website that’s like a scaled down (and FREE!) version of Photoshop. I had a lot of fun using the site, and once I got the hang of what the different features were and how to apply them, I found it very easy to make my banner.

Since we had to resize our pictures in order for them to fit as a banner, our professor recommended that we use a landscape so that it won’t look too squished or deformed. I knew right away that I wanted a beach sunset, and with the magic of Flickr and Creative Commons, found this lovely photo:

Unedited Photo: Seal Beach SunsetPhoto Credit: jonashaffer via Compfight cc

The assignment required us to alter our chosen pictures using at least one tool from each category in Pixlr. Here’s what I used for my banner:

  1. For Overlay, I used “Loove” found under “Bokeh”, which added some cute hearts on top of the photo. I only used about half for the amount because it was subtle and went well with the photo, and enhanced it without being overbearing.
  2. For Effect, I used “Earl” under “Vintage” because I thought the filter looked cool. I used a little over half for the amount in order to get the vintage effect without taking too much of the vibrant color away.
  3. For Border, I used “Drip” under “Grunge” because I liked the juxtaposition of the more grungy border with the photo’s bright colors and the overlay’s hearts. It all works together well and doesn’t clash, at least in my opinion! As a bonus, it also goes great with my blog’s theme!
  4. For Adjustments, all I did was reduce the contrast to -7 and increase the brightness to 2. This was very subtle, but it toned down the photo’s bright colors without losing its vibrance.
  5. For Type, I used the “Tiza” font under “Grunge” because it went well with the border and the photo in general, as well as my blog’s theme.

Here’s what the photo looked like with all of these effects:

Photo with effects but before resizing

After that, I just had to turn it into a banner. I resized it to 1260×240 pixels to fit my theme, and I redid the text so that it didn’t appear squished. The final product is right at the top of my page.

And there you have it! I’m very proud of the way my banner came out. Since there were a lot of elements that I needed to include, I tried to make most of them subtle so that the final product didn’t look overburdened and so that the original photo didn’t get lost in the chaos. I really enjoyed the creative process, but I do have a couple of complaints. First of all, it was hard to go back and fix something, since you have to get rid of all the layers of effects, fix what you need to fix, and then put everything back. Second, I didn’t like that you can’t save your work without downloading it, so I ended up saving a ton of different versions as I went along, just to be safe.

I think my banner gives a pretty good idea of who I am and what I like. I love the beach, sunsets, and water, and the contrast between the hearts/bright colors, the vintage filter, and the more “grungy” border and font could represent the different sides of my personality, if you want to get really deep about it.

So what do you think about my banner? Love it? Hate it? Have any suggestions? Tell me in the comments!


Self Reflection

From an early age, I’ve always loved to write.

I kept diaries from kindergarten all through high school, chronicling the many ups and downs of my life. In high school, I took as many English electives as I could, and I wrote for the school paper and literary magazine. Creative writing has always been a passion of mine as well; I write fiction, poetry, and even songs, although I consider myself as primarily a fiction writer.

As an English major, writing is a bigger part of my life than ever. Whether it’s completing a short analysis of a text for homework, banging out a research paper, or creating a short story for a creative writing elective, odds are I’m usually writing something.

When I tell people I’m an English major, I usually get “Oh, so you must like writing papers.”

Actually, no. I HATE writing papers.

I hate the blank Word doc glaring at me, reminding me how much work I have to do and how little brain power I actually have to do it. I hate the tedium of finding quotes and sources and doing citations. Most of all, I hate having such a great idea in my head but struggling to put it coherently on paper (I have this problem with fiction writing too). Or worse: thinking my idea is great but realizing halfway through the paper, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that it isn’t really going anywhere.

See, once I think of that truly great idea and really get rolling (usually with the help of lots of coffee), I can write a pretty darn good paper. But it’s the process of setting it up that kills me. My brain decides to shut off when I need it most, then I end up procrastinating and hating myself for it later. That Spongebob episode where he needs to write an essay for boating school has become the story of my life.

I’d say that the weaknesses in my writing are my organization and details. I sometimes find myself going on a tangent, or glossing over something that should be explained better, or just saying the same thing in different ways. The thing is, this is 100% preventable, and the best way for me to do it is PLANNING. If I want to write a successful paper, I need to follow a specific process:

  1. Write all my thoughts out, look over my notes, and put together a thesis from this imaginary pile of ideas that I dumped out of my brain.
  2. Make as detailed an outline as possible, including supporting points, quotes, and sources.
  3. Write the paper using this outline.
  4. Proofread and edit.
  5. Turn in the final draft and CELEBRATE! Another paper down.

If I follow this process, writing the paper seems like much less of a monumental task. And if I don’t? To put it bluntly, usually the paper ends up sucking. The aforementioned writing flaws come out in full force.

The hardest part of this process is finding the motivation to actually DO IT. Sometimes, my brain just doesn’t want to work, and writing is like pulling teeth. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to be productive in my room (the library is a must) and I can’t concentrate unless there’s a decent amount of caffeine running though my veins. It might take me a while to get going, but once I do, I can’t be stopped. I’ve worked all though the night on a paper just because I knew that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again.

My brain may be a fickle jerk, but when it actually is working, I can create something great. And there’s nothing like the feeling of finishing a paper that you worked hard on and that you know is awesome. I still hate writing papers and would much rather be writing fiction, but an English major’s work is never done! At least someday I’ll be grading papers instead of writing them.

What’s your writing process like? Do you struggle with the demon of procrastination too? How do you stay motivated when writing? Feel free to share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc