I’ve received numerous requests to put together a tutorial on backgrounds, so today’s the day!
Here’s the deal with blog backgrounds: they are super, duper, crazy important. Why? Don’t I always say that the header is most important? That it’s what people see first?
Ok, yes. The header is first and foremost. But NOTHING messes up a good header like an awful background. And a background can be awful in all sorts of ways… If you’re a blogger, I’m sure you’ve found yourself guilty of one of these background grievances as some point or another (or even now!):
- You have a cute background from a site that provides free backgrounds! Their watermark image is on your blog. Oh, and 15 million other people also have that background. Not good.
- You are using a Blogger or WP provided background. Not good.
- You attempted a custom background, but you were too afraid to mess around with any other settings. So you have an overlapping or squished sidebar/header. Not good.
- You have no background. (This actually isn’t the worst scenario in the world… but why settle?!)
I have done ALL OF THESE THINGS! Which is why I’m bold enough to list them. I promise– this isn’t me being mean if you have one of those background situations. This is me saying, “it doesn’t have to be that way!” You can have a gorgeous, custom background that looks exactly the way you want it to look!
It’s not even hard!! At the worst, it could be a little time consuming– but that all depends on what you make of it :) .
Time to get started!
For basics on using Picmonkey, see this post first.
Don’t forget to merge your layers using the icon that looks like this:
Step 2: Since our background is nothing more than an image that will display “behind” the blog, I like to create mine with a white center. It helps me to better see the parameters of the blog and allows me to add cute borders! So to create the white center, add the left and right sides using the rectangle overlay. Go ahead and adjust the color to your primary color.
Ok… everyone may find they have a different method here. You can get all mathematical and actually calculate how many pixels each one of these parts should be according the overall width of your blog (if you want to do that, here’s a cheat sheet help: I use the crop tool to measure different part of the image. So click on crop, like you’re going to crop something. It will show you the dimensions of selected areas. Just use that to measure and make adjustments, and then hit cancel instead of cropping).
BUT– that’s not how I do this part. I like to eyeball it. Simply because, in my experience… my calculations never work. And I just got sick of the logical method failing me every time, so I switched over to eyeballing it. Don’t worry, there is a LITTLE technique to it so that it’s not just total guess work :) And once you’ve done this part the first time, you can just use this image as a template for any future backgrounds!
So…. Step 3: Use the text tool to number across the image (sort of like a football field). It can go anywhere on the image, mine is shown at the bottom here:
Step 4: Save the image to your desktop and upload it as your background image in a new tab or window (if you have a high traffic blog, you may want to wait until night time or a low traffic day to install your background so people don’t see the “measuring” background. Or… you can just not care, like me, since it only takes a few minutes :) )
DO NOT EXIT OUT OF YOUR IMAGE ON PICMONKEY! YOU WILL BE RETURNING TO EDIT THE IMAGE!
Instructions to install on blogger:
- Dashboard >> Template (I like the white Simple template) >> Customize
- Background >> click on the downward arrow beside the sample square >> upload image
- Proceed to upload the image and save
Instructions to install on WP (.com or self hosted):
- Dashboard >> Appearance >> Background
- Find “select image” >> Browse (select the file from your desktop) >> Upload (you may need to remove a default background here)
- Under “display options” be sure to select center, tile vertically, and fixed
Step 5: Check it out on your blog– odds are, it’s not going to fit just right quite yet. See how my header and body section are hanging off the sides of my center section?
So I scroll down to my numbers to see where the “true” edges of my blog are…
So here, I can see the left edge lines up with the 8 and that the right edge covers up the 1 in the 17. Awesome, now I know exactly where I need to work. So I go back to my Picmonkey image (that I DID NOT exit out of) to make my edits.
Step 6: Make the necessary changes to the center section (widening or shrinking it as necessary, using the numbers as a guide). Once the widths are correct, delete the numbers and proceed to “decorate” the background. Right now, I like polka dots. Chevron is pretty awesome too– there’s so much you can do if you just take the time to play around with the overlays in Picmonkey. Also– don’t worry about the designs going over the white part in the center– we’ll get to that.
The easiest way to get straight polka dots is to create a row of periods (I put a space between each one), then duplicate the text for each new line.
Notice that my dots are pretty small here compared to how they look on my blog– plan for your images to be larger on your blog than they appear when editing.
Step 7: Add a new white rectangle layover. Match it to the exact size as the center section and cover up any designs that may be in the middle. Even if you don’t have any designs in the middle section, you may still want to add a new layer. It’s helpful if you’re adding a border to the center, which we’ll get to next…
Ok, you can call it quits here if you want– save the image to your desktop and upload to your blog background. Or, you can go on to the next step and add a border.
Step 8: I’d suggest using the banners and ribbons overlays for bordering. A lot of people have asked me how to do scalloped:
Select the highlighted Ribbons overlay
Change both of the colors to white (DO NOT leave color 2 as “transparent” for a scalloped edge)
Rotate the overlay so it’s vertical and line it up on the edge of your center rectangle. For your frame of reference: I shrunk my ribbon overlay quite a bit– about half the size of what it is when you click on it. Remember– all these images will appear larger once on the blog. To maintain a consistent size among overlays, right click and DUPLICATE the overlays– don’t try to copy it yourself.
Duplicate the overlays, and line them up and down the center rectangle, ends touching but not overlapping. If you don’t have a steady finger, you may want to use the up and down arrow keys to move the overlays once they are close enough to each other.
The key to making a “seamless” background is to make sure your top and bottom overlays reach the edge at a good spot– you don’t want them to be cut off in the middle.
Step 9: Keep your image open in Picmonkey until you’ve made all necessary adjustments! You can see how I went back to change mine after the installation. I even decided that I wanted my border to be “tucked” underneath the white center section (which is why it’s a good idea to add that center rectangle overlay, even if you don’t have designs going across the middle).
(this is the size border I’ve used for my current background– so you can compare the actual size)
That’s it! You’re done! Enjoy your fabulous custom background :)
Disclosure: I am receiving various forms of compensation as a result of my partnership with Picmonkey.com, including free Royale services. However, these opinions are 100% my own. Don’t believe me? Check out some of my previous DIY design posts. I’ve been recommending these guys and their paid services for a loooooooong time, even before we established a partnership.