Typography: 10 Tips for your Blog Photos


Typography: 10 Tips for your Blog Photos

I am a font snob. It’s true. As a graphic designer, I am a total geek about typography. I even read type journals. People who design fonts are rock stars in my world. The reason I love fonts so much is because they are the foundation of good design.

Sometimes I get asked how I choose fonts for my blog photos, and what are my go-to tricks. My usual answer is that I wish I had tricks! Typography is an art form to me. There is no easy way to lay type over a photo. It’s as hard for me today as it was when I first started out. It takes time. But you can build your confidence with practice, and you can learn to make the right choices. It’s all about developing your eye for design.

{Yes, I ended both of those paragraphs with the word design. It’s my most important message here.)

There is a reason I’m interested in elevating the quality of your work…so I can pin it! I am pretty picky about what I curate for my Pinterest boards. I see so many amazing projects that are ruined by type. Sorry, I hope I’m not being mean. It’s just that…well, there is room for improvement!

So here we go… Blog Typography 101. My ten tips that will help you make better choices and put you on the path to good design.

start with a good photo composition ~ then you don't need any type

Tip 1: just say no {to fonts}

Let’s be clear. The only reason any of us put type on our photos is to make it stand out on Pinterest. So people will pin it. Because they can see it, in theory. But here’s the interesting thing, I believe that pins without type actually do better than pins with type.

My best pins this month have no type on them at all. In fact, they aren’t even necessarily my main post photo. Above are four of my best pins lately:

painted leaves // weaving with kids // cardboard paintings // animal templates

Except for the leaves, none of these were the main photo in my post. Here is the reason they work so well without type: because they speak a thousand words. The colors and composition are pleasing to the eye, and there is nothing more to say.

TAKEAWAY ~ Use type for two reasons only:

1. If you need to explain a bit more about your photo. If your photo is of a child running down a beach and your post is about sensory processing issues by the shore, then you should add type.

Or…

2. If your photo would just look cool with the added design element of type. Then go for it! The only reason I use type is to add to the design.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Tip 2: fonts are people too {make good choices}

You’ve decided to put some type on your photo. Time to pick a font! I bet you have a few that are your “go to” choices. The ones you feel comfortable with. Well, I am here to tell you to stop using those fonts! They are boring. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone a bit and start being creative.

Every font has a personality. Like people, they come in all shapes and sizes. It’s your job to figure out which one goes best with the tone of your photo. This is actually the most important job, and the part that takes the longest. I can’t teach this because it just takes practice and intuition. But I can share with you my thought process.

Above are four images with type. Here is why I chose the fonts and the colors that I did, and the name of the font that I used.

Washer Necklaces: I loved how the necklaces looked a bit rustic on the kraft paper, and how you could see the nail polish left on the paper. To me, it called for a stencil font, something with a rough, handmade feel. This one is called Portago. I paired it with a more modern font called Monod Brun. It’s good to have a ying and a yang when pairing fonts. The colors I chose reflect the middle three washers, creating a very satisfying design because of the balance.

Bird Nests: There was a perfect space above the nest, but it was at a weird angle. So after trying type straight across, I decided to put it sideways. The type isn’t really needed anyway, it’s just a design element so having it go sideways is cool and ads to the aesthetic. I chose another stencil font called Hogwild (not quite as rough), and a cleaner script called Pacifico. I used colors from the nest to create balance.

Watercolor Garland: I love this post, it is one of my favorites of all time. The work that these 4-yr olds did was so amazing and free. I loved the garlands on their own, but I did want to add some informational words at the top. Not to distract from the beautiful garlands, I chose to make the font very clean and subtle, all caps and in white so it almost fades away. This font is called Orator. I also hand drew little circles at the sides just to loosen it up a bit.

Weaving with Kids: This photo did not need a title, I just wanted something fun to add to the photo because it just looked too plain. The font is Peach Milk, and I used the colors from the weaving to create balance, and decided on a curved placement to create movement and interest.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Tip 3: follow my lead (10 hard and fast font rules)

1. Figure out the tone of your photo. Is it happy, serene, playful, serious, goofy? Once you figure out the mood, then you can start selecting your font.

2. Keep a list of your “go to” fonts (some new choices, take it out of your comfort zone). I have about 10-15 that I use the most, which are a mix of simple and playful.

3. Use script sparingly. It’s harder to read.

4. Just because your post is for or about kids doesn’t mean you should use kinder fonts. Child handwriting fonts are one of my biggest pet peeves. It degrades your hard work and it’s generic. And please, no Comic Sans.

5. Use black prudently. I use almost no black for fonts, but my photos are very colorful and kid-oriented. I like black, don’t get me wrong, but don’t have it be the only color you use because you’re afraid to try other colors. Embrace color!

6. Don’t use fonts on a photo that already has words. I made a birthday banner, it already says “Happy Birthday”. I don’t need more fonts.

7. Pair two fonts together (but not more than two). Mix and match. It adds interest and makes some words stand out more than others.

8. Learn a few font vocabulary words, like serif, sans serif and display. (Read this helpful article on fonts for starters.)

9. Apply for rich pins through Pinterest. This allows your logo, profile name and post title to display under your photo. Once you have this tool, it becomes redundant to put type on your photo with the same heading. Rich pins keeps you disciplined. You will rarely even have to worry about typography!

10. Less is more. Don’t add long sentences to your photo, just a few key words. Let your post title and description do the talking. (This is where rich pins are so important.)

fonts are the foundation of good design

Tip 4: you get what you pay for {free fonts vs. paid}

I did a somewhat loose survey of font usage within my blogger community. It turns out that about 85% of bloggers use free fonts. Bloggers who are also graphic designers are about the only ones who buy fonts. I guess this makes sense. I mean, why not choose something that is free?

As someone who pays for most fonts, I do have a position to take on free vs. paid.

Think of fonts as tools. Wouldn’t you rather use a good tool than a bad one? Your tools determine your level of design. Paid fonts have more characters, like math signs or ampersands (glyphs), and they have better kearning (the space between the letters) and spacing. Their edges are more rounded, which makes it look better when small. With a paid font, your risk of looking “generic” (because everyone has free fonts) is much lower. And at the very least, you are supporting designers when you buy a font.

In fact, you could even go further as ask… why pay for photographs when you have Google? Why pay for music when it’s free on the web? Why pay a designer when there are many websites who will design your logo for peanuts? The point is this: Paying for fonts elevates your design.

With that in mind, I do download free fonts from time to time. Not very often, but sometimes I like what I see.

Bottom Line: Try buying a font or two. Mix it up. Some free, some paid for. It will make you feel like a real designer! And sometimes, what we really need is a new attitude before we can accomplish great things. Fake it ‘til you make it!

(See Tip 10 for font resources.)

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Five: the eye has to travel {design is everything}

The 2011 movie about Diana Vreeland, the famous Harper’s Bazaar magazine editor, was called The Eye has to Travel. I love this phrase and I want you to love it, too. Let it be your mantra from now and forever. This phrase is about design. Design is everything.

But what does design mean? When I was in art school, the one word used above all others when talking about design was balance.

Balance.

You know good design when you see it. Yes, you do! Whether it’s a smart phone, a car, or an old-fashioned soda bottle, we all have the ability to see the difference between good and bad design.

Take this one step further into two-dimensional design, and it gets a bit murkier. From blog pages and ads, to invitations and magazines, we are bombarded with images from every angle. It gets harder and harder to sort through the noise. But when we find something that is designed well, we will stop and stare and appreciate the beauty.

When you appreciate beauty, as we all do, you are tapping into your own taste and aesthetic. Developing that eye for design is something that takes time, but you can start by noticing what you like and what you find beautiful in what you see every day.

Notice that when your eyes land on something aesthetically pleasing, there is always a resting spot. And then your eye brings you around, and then it rests again. There is something there, something that makes you continue to stare. I am here to tell you that this something is balance.

When you love the way something looks, it’s because the balance is perfect.

Above are four photos from my blog where I added type specifically to create balance. Usually, I find a space and then use that space to reflect a shape or color from the photo. I will also share the font name with you.

monster patches (Limoen & Papercute) // cardboard animals (Ever After & Papercute) // ice cream cones (Tire Shop) // pom-pom napkin rings (Orator)

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Six: shape up! {shapes are your friend}

When in doubt, add a shape and put some type in it. But don’t be reckless. I almost want to reach out and shake people sometimes when I see a giant shape covering their whole photo with big type all over it. This is not what I mean. No, no, no!! When I see this it tells me that this person either didn’t like their photo, or couldn’t find the right photo. It’s like when I turn my cell phone on in the middle of the night…I’m blinded! Definitely don’t write big words all over your photo. For me, as a devour-er of Pinterest, it makes me not even look at that pin. I will be scrolling away, and fast.

What I am talking about is using shapes aesthetically, to draw your eye in and to create a pleasing composition. Maybe you want to repeat a color that is at the bottom of your photo and you have a nice space at the top. Or maybe your photo needs a punch of color.

I personally like my shapes to disappear off of the edge. I don’t do that all the time, but more than half of the time I do. (I will put shapes in the middle for collages, read more about collages and round-ups in Tip 8). I also will make sure that the font doesn’t crowd the edges.

I usually draw my own shapes, but I also download some dingbat fonts which are helpful when I’m feeling like I’m in a rush. Visit my Fonts & Dingbats Pinterest board for ideas.

Here are the fonts I used for these photos:

pencil eraser art (Papercute) // bird garland (Papercute) // henna hands (Veneer & Pacifico) // scrape painting (Peach Milk)

Seven: composition is king {photography tips}

Taking good photos comes before anything. For a good marriage between type and photos to work, you must have an idea of composition, styling, and lighting. Top of my list is composition, because if you have a totally awesome composition…you don’t even need to add type!

I have teamed up with my fellow Rockin’ Art Moms so that we can give you the best, most well-rounded advice on taking photos and adding type. There are so many elements to consider in photography!

The Rockin’ Art Moms (RAMs) are 16 mom bloggers who believe in the power of creativity as a necessary part of family life! We developed this blog series in response to a question we hear often: “How did you take such a great picture?” Each RAM participating in the series will be speaking about a different photo related topic.

Find all of the RAM links at the end of this post.

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

fonts are the foundation of good design // learn to develop your eye for aesthetics and make better choices

Eight: round ‘em up {type on photo collages}

Ok, this one needed lots of examples. The following points are my own guidelines for creating collages and adding type. There are lots of successful bloggers who get tons of repines and traffic to their blog making collages in a way that I wouldn’t. For me, and also for you now that you’ve read this far (you’re almost done), it’s about design and aesthetics, not about creating an ad and getting a message across.

~ Most round-ups are put together like a patchwork quilt, square or rectangular photos fit together like a puzzle. Make sure you create a white border in between each photo, and that this border is a consistent size. It should be an equal white border in between each photo.

~ One way to find space for your type is to create a block of color, instead of a photo, as one of the collage “patches”, as in the Paint Chips example above. In this collage, I also used blocks of color in some spaces. This is a good trick when the photos are not fitting together very well. Use the extra space as a design element.

~ Another way to make space for type is to add a block of color on top of your collage, as in the Leaves and Etsy posts above. Make sure to not crowd your type inside your block of color. I just think it’s more pleasing to the eye to have a lot of color around your type. A place to rest your eyes.

~ A third way to place type on a collage is to create a fun shape, like a banner or a circle. This more whimsical approach, like in Princess Castles and Paperbag Crowns, is just fun and creates a mood.

~ A super cool (albeit time consuming) way to make a collage round-up is to “tape” or “scrapbook” photos onto a neutral background. I have done this several times and it’s very eye-catching and makes a statement. The Easter Eggs post was one of my faves.

~ Still another idea for a round-up is to use only four photos from your list of 10 or 20, and then create a block of color on one side where you can add your type. I did this with a Wall Murals post, and also a Book Nooks post.

~ One other thing that I do sometimes is I don’t add any type at all, just some numbers. I let the rich pins title do the talking. And the numbers act as a design element. You can see this example with my Pop of Color post.

~ Try not to just add a block of black or white to the top of bottom of your collage and add type there. I know it’s the easiest, but it’s not the best. Try and integrate your type more with your collage so that it looks like it has been cared for and designed well.

~ On that same note, try not to add a big band of white space in the middle to put your type. It makes the image choppy with photos above and below.

~ Try not to clog your collage with tons and tons of type. Less is more. The photos will speck for themselves. And…if you have rich pins, you won’t need to repeat every word of your title in your collage.

~ I have a new pinterest board that I started called Round-ups & Collages where I am curating the best collages I’ve seen on Pinterest. This board will be a good reference for you when working on your collage.

if you have a great photo composition you do not need type!!

Nine: don’t mess with me {remember rule #1}

Ok, this is technically not a new tip. But I feel so strongly that most photos do not need to be messed with that I had to re-iterate my first point. Here are four more photos that I chose not to add type to that have done very well on Pinterest.

weaving with kids // poppy art // snowflake table runner // cardboard castles

I’m feeling uncomfortable at this point with all of this self-promotion. I am not the queen of everything and I certainly have had some flops. But I think that the more examples I can give you, the more you can learn.

many helpful tips for creating memorable and pin-able photos

Ten: a pep talk {and resource guide}

You can do it! You can do it! It’s hard, there is no denying this fact. But typography is soooo satisfying when you get it right. Just remember these three things, if you remember nothing else:

1. The eye has to travel. Make sure you leave some space for the eye to rest. Don’t make it too busy.

2. Balance is the key to good design.

3. Less is more. When in doubt, leave it out.

And now, here are some links that will help you tremendously:

MAKE BETTER BLOG PHOTOS: Tips for Creating Memorable and Pin-Able Photos brought to you by the ROCKIN’ ART MOMS:

Photo Editing: Ana from Babble Dabble Do

Composition: Meri from Meri Cherry

Styling: Gina from Willowday

Lighting: Jeanette from Tiny Rotten Peanuts

Backdrops: Melissa from Mama Miss

(Follow Rockin’ Art Moms on Pinterest….we have a really cool board that is sure to fill your lives with tons of creative ideas.)

FONT SHOPPING:

Paid FontsMy Fonts This is where I shop. I love it the best because you can type in your word or phrase and then all of your searches will be with that sample text. This is such a helpful tool, I can’t express it enough!! // Font Spring  // FontFont

Free Fonts: Font Squirrel // DaFonts

PINTERST BOARDS FOR FONTS, PHOTO STYLING, and COLLAGES:

Fonts & Dingbats (my board) // Font Obsession // Fonts // Type & Lettering // Photo Styling // Round-ups & Collages (my board)

OMG, that was really too long. Hopefully it will help those of you who want to be helped!! Ask me any questions.

xo, Bar

{PS: As if there is more to say…but actually, there is! Follow me on Instagram where you can see my creative ideas percolating.}

 

Painted Bead Necklaces


Painted Bead Necklaces

Wooden bead painting has become one of my go-to activities lately. Whether for art class, or playdates, painting beads is such a lovely little art escape. It takes no skill whatsoever which therefore creates this calm atmosphere that is very relaxed and free. The kids start talking about what’s on their mind, and they connect with each other. And then…. you end up with these gorgeous beads! We took it one step further and painted little shapes as well. wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Supplies:

~ Wooden beads

~ Liquid watercolors (this is a link to the brand I like, you don’t have to buy the whole set ~ but i do love using gold)

~ Brushes, a glass of water, a damp sponge, and a plate with a piece of paper towel to place the beads when drying

~ Cardboard cut out shapes

~ Tempera paint (more opaque to cover brown cardboard), or you can just use the same liquid watercolors that are out already

~ Yarn, cording, and/or thin wire

~ Blunt needle (if you’re using yarn)

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

Process:

~ Put out your paints in separate cups, jars, or plastic egg carton. Start painting! I told the kids they needed about 20 beads or more for their necklace. There is a technique that my friend Merry Cherry uses which keeps their fingers clean, but we just went the messy route! Place the beads on the paper towel to dry.

~ While the kids are painting, you can cut out some small shapes from cardboard. Make sure you cut across the grain. Take a look at the photo below and you will see what I mean. There is a grain in between the cardboard. I use this grain as a tunnel to thread the yarn or cording through. It’s pretty cool how well it works!

HINT: Make the shape small enough that your needle can go through to the other side so you can grab it and pull it out!

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

~ When everything is dry, you can thread your necklace. Have the kids lay out their beads. The kids can use the blunt needle, they love using grown up tools. But you can do it, also, if you are afraid of them holding a needle.

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

~ Or you may want to use cording. This makes beading even easier, and the kids can do all of it themselves.

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

~ You could also try using wire with the cording. See above for the steps involved. It’s fairly straightforward and looks pretty sophisticated!

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

wooden beads painted with liquid watercolors + painted cardboard shapes ~ made by kids ages 3-8yrs

The variations are endless, and they can be made by 3yr olds as well and as beautifully as 30yr olds! My age exactly ;) (My 14 year old daughter and I made the red triangle necklace together. Collaborating is the coolest.)

As an added bonus for getting to the end of this post (well done!), click on over to my good friend Merry Cherry’s blog and read about her favorite way to make necklaces with kids. She and I struck up an incredibly synergistic relationship last year when we met through our blogs. Then, when I took my girls out to California in April, we met!! We had an instant connection because we are extremely well-matched. It’s been super weird how we keep coming up with similar ideas at the same time. It’s so fun sharing with each other, we thought we’d share with you, too!

xo, Bar

{PS: My son (age 8) made the one with the orange and green diamond. Just saying….boys love necklaces, too!!}

 

DIY Cake Topper {with template}


DIY Cake Topper {with template}

I think this is the fastest turn-around post I’ve ever done! We had my daughter’s 12th birthday party this weekend and now here I am writing about it. It usually takes me a week or a month or more to sort through photos and write something. But seriously, isn’t this the cutest cake topper? I really wanted to share because it’s pretty easy to make and just so colorful and happy. You only need a few supplies that hopefully you have lying around your house. I also am providing you with the banner templates. You’re welcome! Here we go…

simple cake topper with an artsy flair

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Supplies:

~ Templates (Ava template here, Ellie template here) I provided a few sizes depending on the length of your child’s name.

~ Alphabet rubber stamps / I have some old ones from High School, if you can believe it, but you can buy cool ones on Etsy or Amazon.

~ Ink pads / I love Colorbox or Versacolor

~ Two paint brushes, or skewers

~ Baker’s twine, or any yarn

~ Colored tapes or washi tape

~ Scissors and scotch tape

rubber stamped cake topper

Making your cake topper:

~ Print out your template and choose which size banner will work best with the length of your child’s name.

~ Rubber stamp their name. I have lots of color ink pads, but this would also look really cool with just black. Or…you can just write their name in freehand. Or paint it, use colored pencils or just black sharpie. Whatever is easiest!

~ Cut out the banner a little bit outside of the gray line.

~ Flip the banner over and scotch tape the two paintbrushes (or skewers) to the back. Try and point the bottoms inward just a little bit.

simple cake topper with an artsy flair

~ Make your garland by cutting off a two foot piece of twine or yarn. Starting in a few inches, fold a piece of colored tape over the string. Fold about three or four pieces in a row, depending on the length of the name. Leave a little space and then repeat with the folded tape. Make three sections of tape. You may have to cut off the end of the string, but leave a tail of about three inches.

~ Use the scissors to cut the tape into triangle flags.

~ Starting at the top of one of the paintbrushes, wrap the string around the brush a few times, then drape it over to the other side and wrap it again around the other brush. Swag it one more time (three times total) back to the other paint brush. At this point you will want to take a teeny piece of scotch tape and tape the string to the back of the brush. Cut the string at the end if needed.

~ Put the cake topper on the cake by pushing the paint brushes in about an inch.

simple cake topper with an artsy flair

simple cake topper with an artsy flair

My daughter celebrated one of her birthday parties with her dear friend, hence the two cake toppers here. I love toppers because they are just so happy and make the birthday kid feel so special. You don’t even need a very extravagant party if you just have an awesome cake topper and some cool gifts…and a sentimental, loving card. I’ve had those birthdays in the past and they rule!

xo, Bar