Note from Becca: I am BEYOND excited about today’s post, people. Last week, Doug Langille was here to talk about the importance of fair image usage and how to share pics without infringing on the copyright of others. As a blogger, this is incredibly important information, because now I know how to choose and share images the right way. But then, I was thinking…gee, it would be so much easier just to use my own images—except, my pictures don’t usually exactly match a blog post, or they need a bit of tweaking to really fit, or they’re just a snoozefest in general. I wish I knew how to edit my images (or the shareable ones I’ve found online) to make them exactly fit a post. And, you know, if I could benefit from this info, other people probably could, too.
So I went looking for someone who knew how to do this, and wouldn’t you know it? Jami Gold is apparently an image editing WHIZ. Today she’s here to walk us through the very simple steps for editing an image…
We’re all being smart about fair image usage after Doug Langille’s guest post—and not just copying and pasting images to our blogs willy-nilly anymore, right? Great! But now we have another dilemma.
Many of the pictures we take with our camera phones (or find among the Creative Commons images available) are only so-so in quality. Yet the whole point of including an image with our blog is to capture people’s interest and increase sharing. A blah image won’t help us as much as an eye-catching image.
So how do we turn those blah images into “wow” images?
PicMonkey: The Awesome Site with a Funny Name
PicMonkey is an online image-editing site that allows us to crop, add Instagram-style filters, borders, thought balloons, text, etc. to any image. We don’t need an account, and the basics are all free (supported by ads).
If we want, we can sign up for an account and buy their “Royale” subscription for even more features. (Use this link to receive a free day of Royale and see what the fuss is about.) But the basics alone are great. In fact, that’s all I’ve ever used for the images on my blog.
Today, I’m going to walk us through how to punch up and add text to an image for our blog. I encourage everyone to check out the PicMonkey tutorials, as there are more awesome features useful for non-blog pictures too.
Step #1: Upload an Image
From the PicMonkey homepage, hover over “Edit.” A slide-down menu will appear, allowing us to upload a picture from our computer, Dropbox, Facebook, or Flickr. (Make sure you are allowed to use this picture if it is not your own, of course!)
I’m going to start with this picture of balloons against a blue sky. This isn’t a bad image at all—colorful, room to add text, etc. But we can do more.
Step #2: Crop an Image
After we’ve uploaded an image, PicMonkey will open the Editor. The Editor includes 8 editing categories (and they occasionally add more), each indicated by an icon on the left.
This top menu, with the “crop” icon, opens automatically and contains all of the Basic Edits. To the right, you can see everything included in the Basic Edits menu. We’re going to talk about Crop and Resize, but have fun playing around with the other options.
I’m going to crop our image to zoom in on those balloons more, while still leaving room for text on the side. Click on “Crop,” and you’ll see the crop overlay with the ability to tweak proportions and scale.
Click “Apply” to see how it looks. Don’t worry about making a mistake because that handy-dandy back arrow on top will undo anything we don’t like.
Step #3: Resize an Image
One thing that will help our websites and blogs load faster is using properly sized images. That means we want to resize our images before inserting them into our website or blog.
If we upload a huge pixel image, our website will have to do the work of resizing it when loading the page (and downloading the large picture will use up more bandwidth, making our blog host and our visitors unhappy). Instead, let’s first resize our image in PicMonkey.
At the bottom of the Basic Edits menu, click on “Resize.” As long as “Keep Proportions” is checked, we just need to change one number. The balloon image for this demo is 350 pixels wide, but on my blog, I often resize to 300 pixels wide.
However, there’s no set rule for the best size. Facebook images on shared links are about 484 pixels wide and 252 pixels high. (This week… We know Facebook likes changing the rules every couple of months. *smile*) The important thing is not filling our blog with 600+ pixel images unless our site is picture-focused.
Step #4: Make the Image Pop with Effects
Now we’re going to start playing with some of the Effects. Click on the magic wand icon to bring up the Effects menu. This menu has a scroll bar because there are a lot of Instagram-style filter effects.
A few of the effects have a “crown” image in the corner. Those are available only to Royale users. Generally, at least half of the options on PicMonkey are available to free users.
On each effect, we can play with the slider bars and instantly see the result. The effect won’t “stick” until we click “Apply.” Or if we don’t like it, just click “Cancel.” If we change our mind after applying the effect, the back arrow on top will undo our adjustments.
After adding the Orton, Boost, and Radiance effects, the balloons really pop in our image.
Step #5: Add Other Effects if Desired
The other menu items on PicMonkey can be fun to play with too. In the year or so that I’ve been using PicMonkey, they’ve added several menus and tweaked the icons, but as of today, the menus are:
- The Touch Up menu (lipstick icon): fixes blemishes, red-eye effects, etc.
- The Overlay menu (butterfly icon): pastes various graphics onto the image, everything from speech bubbles to mustaches.
- The Frames menu (picture frame icon): adds effects around our image, like rounded corners, a drop shadow, or a Polaroid frame.
- The Textures menu (the fabric scrap icon): allows us to fade in different foreground effects, like water or outer space.
- The Themes menu (the apple icon): collects several related effects, overlays, frames, textures, and text fonts under one label like Vampires, Winterland, or Celebrate.
For example, from the Overlay menu, if we click on “Comic Bubbles,” we can select a speech bubble.
We can then resize our overlay by dragging on the corners, and we can rotate the overlay by dragging on the top circle.
Step #6: Add Text to an Image
If we want our image to be shared on Pinterest or other image-focused social media and drive people to our blog, we should add text indicating our blog post’s topic. A plain image won’t tell anyone what they’ll find if they click, but text on an image acts like a headline.
Click on the “Tt” icon to bring up the Text menu. Take a guess at what font might be good (you can change it later), and click on “Add Text.”
The “Add Text” button will open the Text editor pop-up window. From here, we can change the color, alignment, size, etc. If we want to change the font, we can simply click on a different font name in the menu on the left.
We can move, reshape, and rotate our text by dragging on the text box sides and circles. We can add multiple text boxes to use different fonts, sizes, or colors.
If we want to copy the attributes of one text box (or any other element, like an overlay), we can right click and select “Duplicate text.” The image below shows how we’ve selected a font on the left Menu, a text color and size in the Text editor window to the right, and right clicked on the word “Let’s” to select “Duplicate text.”
The copied text box displays the same characters, size, color, etc. The new box can be moved and changed in any way we wish. Just highlight the characters to over-type with new text.
We can also copy text, change the color, and on the right-click menu, select that new text to “Send to back” (move to the background). With the arrow keys, we can then line up that backgrounded, mirror text to act as a shadow and make our foreground text stand out more.
Let’s Compare: The Blah Image to the “Wow” Image
Once we’re comfortable with PicMonkey, all of these tweaks take only five minutes or so. It often takes me longer to find a decent-ish image than to work with it in PicMonkey.
In a few minutes, we can crop, resize, add effects and/or overlays, and insert text. Then click on “Save” on the top toolbar to save it to our computer, where we can later upload it and use on our website or blog.
Our original image:
Our final image:
Which do you think will get more attention and encourage people to share our post? Come by my blog today for more image tips, including a list of sites where we can find legal images to use on our blogs. *smile*
Have you used PicMonkey before? Do you have any questions about these steps? Do you have other PicMonkey tips to share?
Jami Gold put her talent for making up stuff to good use, such as by winning the 2015 National Readers’ Choice Award in Paranormal Romance for her novel Ironclad Devotion.
To help others reach their creative potential, she’s developed a massive collection of resources for writers. Explore her site to find worksheets—including the popular Romance Beat Sheet with 80,000+ downloads—workshops, and over 1000 posts on her blog about the craft, business, and life of writing. Her site has been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest. Find out more about our RWC team here and connect with Jami below.