Category: Graphic Art Help

D-I-Y Using Pre-Made Graphic Art

When you buy a piece of pre-made graphic art, if the artwork is specifically sized for your kind of project, like a book cover, chances are you won’t have to do much to it except add the text to it. However, not all pre-made images are set up like that. Some are set up to accommodate various kinds of projects, from business cards to brochures to posters to book covers to CDs or DVDs. They come in multiple sizes, vertically oriented, horizontally oriented, and sometimes both/neither because they’re large and square so you can slip the artwork into a template and use whatever portion of the artwork suits that project.

Most pre-made artwork comes to you as a flattened, rasterized image in .JPG, .TIF, or .PNG format or else as a vector image in.SVG format. There are, of course, many other formats you can get, but, usually you’ll get something like this. Occasionally you’ll get an editable .PDF.


The first thing you’re going to need, as mentioned in DIY Graphic Art Help, is a graphics program. Of course, there’s Adobe’s Creative Suite, but, if looking for free, Gimp is a good choice: .

The next thing you will need, and you get this from your POD or printer/manufacturer of choice, is the template they want you to use. If it’s a book cover, you’ll probably get a PDF template labeled with your ISBN. You must use that template. The same is true for any product and project. Whatever company you choose to print the project will have exact specifications for file format, image dimensions, and file size. They will also usually provide you with their template. USE IT.

If you haven’t yet decided on a printer, you can use a book cover template I’ve made to help you get started working on designing your book cover. This template is for a 6×9 inch paperback book, such as those published by CreateSpace or Lightning Source.

6 inch x 9 inch book cover template, transparent .PNG 300dpi, 3975px x 2775px


You have to use fonts you hold a license to use. The fonts that came with your software packages (Word, Adobe Creative Suite, etc.) and your operating system are licensed. Where you can get in trouble is when you try to use fonts that you find around the Net, then download and install yourself. Make sure you have a license to use the font, specifically a license to use that font for a commercial project…like your book cover.


IMPORTANT: Never change your original master file. You might need to go back to the original because you made a mistake. Instead, once you pull the artwork into your graphics program, save the file as a new name.

Color is easy to change. Changing the artwork itself is a little, to a lot, more difficult. First, make sure that the artwork you’ve bought and downloaded allows you to change it. (Mine does, yes.) If you want to change the color, there are a lot of ways you can easily accomplish that using a good graphics program. To change the artwork itself, you may find it simpler to ask the artist from whom you purchased the artwork to change it. Most of us work in layers, so changing things isn’t going to be as hard or time consuming as it will be for you.


Cropping the artwork to the template: Select the template layer by clicking that layer with your mouse. Using the select tool, select everything outside of the outermost line of the project template. Now, click on the layer with the artwork. Find the “clear” command, which will erase everything selected on that layer. Another way is to use a mask, but I don’t want to try to explain masks. For that, go to a tutorial on how-to specific to the graphics program you’re using.


You can resize down, but, to resize down a lot, you’ll have to sharpen the image as you reduce its size. Using “unsharp mask” is the best way, but most graphics programs have built in auto-sharpening for image reduction using that command in the software.

Resizing UP is a different problem, altogether. You can enlarge a bit…and I mean a bit if you are starting with a high quality image. You cannot enlarge a lot, though. You cannot double the size of an image, in other words, not unless you have special software, and, even then, it’s tough to do well. Buy a bigger image if you need a bigger image. Don’t try to upsize an existing one, except for tiny percentages (1% larger, 2% larger).

There. That’s should get your started, maybe even a bit frustrated. 

This is a recreation of the information provided on this old HTML page.

Image Manipulation, Retouching, Corrections, & Clean-Up

First off, if you are trying to restore an old tin plate, don’t just scan it in and discard the tin plate. Not. No. Never. KEEP THE TIN PLATE. And, yes, it is worth taking it to a professional restorer. Tin plates have inestimable value, both, historically and sentimentally for the family. …Okay, end of lecture.


Image Resizing: REDUCING THE SIZE: $15 per image plus $2.50 for each additional size. INCREASING THE SIZE: I’ll have to see the image before I agree to try it. If successful…and I usually get excellent results, it will depend on the amount of time it takes as well as the number of tries. $30 per hour.

Everything else: $60 per hour billed in 15 minute increments. I give you and your wallet the benefit of the doubt, though, because I also figure what I think is fair for a price. That often means I’ll reduce the bill, because I’m known to be a bit too picky sometimes, and pickiness takes more time than “un-pickiness”. I recognize my own hang-ups and don’t make you pay for my ideosyncrasy.

Fun Jobs

My favorite jobs are taking photos of people who don’t want their real mug shots on the Internet and lopping off a nose, changing the jaw a bit, remolding the brows, raising or lower the cheekbones, adding or subtracting hair, making a gray-muzzle out of a 20-something and vice versa. Think I’m kidding? Nope. …And for those of you wondering, yes, me is me. I’m not afraid to show my real face to the world. It’s just too bad if it shatters the glass globe.

DO-IT-YOURSELF HINT: Photoshop by Adobe — that’s the program you need for good results doing retouching, corrections, and clean-up.  There are open source alternatives…such as GIMP. Here’s a list, but with no guarantee that the programs are any good or that they are even still available, much less available for free.  (I know GIMP is, and I know it’s a darn good program if you can’t afford an Adobe suite, so do try GIMP if you don’t want to pay anything for software):

ArtRage Freeware artistic painting program designed to provide a realistic simulation of using paint on a canvas, pen on paper, pencil on paper….
Artweaver Freeware paint program designed for creatinve painting: realistic brush simulation, artistic effects. OS: Windows.
Brush Strokes Free image editor. Supports GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF, PCX, TARGA and AVI file formats. Also: GIF animations, filters, rotations, transformations.
GIMP Freeware image editing program. The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. OS: Windows, Linux, X-Windows
iMage Easy graphics editor. Supports 8, 16, 24 and 32 bit images. Supports GIF, BMP, JPG, PCX. OS: Linux and Windows
Image Enhance Free image editor for bitmap and JPEG images. OS: Windows:
ImageForge Freeware image creation and editing. Special effect filters. OS: Windows
Paint.NET Freeware paint program for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, or Server 2003. Layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and more.
Painter 25 Image editor. OS: Windows.
PhotoFiltre Image retouching program. Good filter set.
PhotoPlus 6 A free professional photo editing program.
Pixia Very nice freeware paint and image editing program for Windows.
Texture processor Free program texture creation program. OS: Windows.
Free Edition
Freeware paint program for creating images and effects.
Ultimate Paint Paint program for Windows for photo editing and image creation with support for many file formats. Freeware and shareware versions are available. Also has an excellent GIF and JPEG optimizer. Gets a lot of recommendatins.
VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor Freeware. A photo editor with intuitive skinnable interface and a variety of features. OS: Windows.

Another useful tool is a Wacom. CRITICAL are good eyes and a good computer. You are going to use ZOOM a lot. You are also going to use PAN (the little hand used to scoot and skoochy the image by under your nose, your face glued to the monitor) ;).


These are highly miniaturized to save page load

CD cover back

LB Back Cover of his CD album
raw 1 raw 2

From this.

Sometimes people send me images to use that are very bad “Instramatic” snap shots. The image below the CD started as one of those. The group’s name was Vertigo Haze, so I used that idea in creating something that would pass for the cover of a CD for them.

This is the image after I manipulated it.

This was a complete image manipulation, including adding and designing the hair, from a very bad cam shot. I have to dig through some old drives to find the original cam shot, but if you know anything about candid cam shots….

This page is recreated from two old versions of archaic HTML webpages, this page and this page.

Graphic Art For Advertising And Promotion

General Information about Advertising and Promotional Artwork

Effective advertising and promotion relies heavily on knowing your target market and what that audience finds engaging. If you know that, then an artist can design to that audience for you. Otherwise, it’s just guess work. That said, though, sometimes pure guess work can result in something going very big. The public is not entirely predictable in what it will or won’t find appealing, so, sometimes, something completely “different” can work strong magic.


If you want me to recreate your artwork, bringing it up to a quality level that will print well, send me a sample of the art. If I think I can and want to do it, it will cost you $60 an hour.

If you want original artwork and design, send me a description of what you are looking for and, if you can, something that shows the style of work you envision.

Brochures are folded many ways, including some very unique ones. Design is critical. So is the paper you print on and how it is folded. Remember that cut-outs are always an option, too. BUT. The more unique you make it, the more expensive it is going to be to produce.


The trick is to make them so they develop your company “brand name recognition.” They should be designed to the tastes of your demographic target customer. They should be definitive and eye-catching. Otherwise, you’re wasting your advertising dollar.


Expensive — very. I have to be absolutely meticulous and the quality has to be at the extreme high-end — 4800DPI. That takes lots of resources and lots of time and care. You can request a quote, but, chances are my fees will be based on an hourly rate of $60 per hour.

Listen, if you are spending money for an ad in a glossy magazine (hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of dollars), you should use a top advertising agency’s services for the upper end, prime markets, and, for the secondary market glossies, someone in your local area where you can see the printed proofs.


Starting from scratch, not knowing your company or being able to sit down face-to-face with you to get a feel for your perspective makes doing this cold via the Internet a bit of a challenge. Chances are, you are going to have better gains by using someone physically nearby. Then you’re going to let that graphic artist deal with the magazine specs one-on-one with that magazine’s ad manager.  Remember, that artist might have to call you in for consultations about LAST MINUTE changes, and you are also going to grab proofs from the artist and from the magazine before the ad goes to print so that, if the magazine publishes something less than what your artist sent and you and your artist approved, you get your money back or another ad run free by that magazine. And, remember, an artist has a trained eye that can see flaws where you don’t.


Yeah, I do them. Mostly I work for local customers. Right up front, I don’t do “Carpet Sale” or “Blow Out Prices” ads, though. I won’t do commodity sales spreads. I do elegant, bold, startling, or outrageous eye-catchers. If you want a quote, contact me, but you should try a local graphic artist first. Ask to see their portfolio — things they’ve done for others which are similar to what your project will require.


Word to the wise: Unique, bold, targeted. I’m good at them, have a running track record of success with Verizon Information Services and some regional publications, but, again, your easiest option is using a good local graphic artist. My rates for this run either by column inch or by the hour ($60/hr). If you have a design in mind and want me to make it better, I can do that.


PULP: When building an ad for pulp, check how your image looks on halftone screen. If it doesn’t look good that way, it isn’t going to look good on pulp. Redesign it until it does look good on halftone screen. Use the fonts the publisher uses or send your fonts along. Always send a proof, and make sure you get a signature that shows they got the package.

GLOSSY: When building an ad for glossy, use the highest DPI your program and your computer can handle. Start with the absolute best quality images. Don’t forget to outline your text (see your graphics program’s help index because this isn’t “outline” like you did with a crayon when you were a kid), and send your fonts along when your send your ad in. And ALWAYS send a proof that’s exactly the quality and color accurate to what you want it to look like once published. Send it all SIGNATURE REQUIRED and KEEP THE RECEIPT.

EVERYBODY: Always good if you aren’t seasoned at this to run your ad past a professional for their opinion. Be up front and pay them that $30 they ask in exchange. Nothing worse than having something go to print and see the problem once it’s gone out to untold millions of potential customers, something that a pro could have spotted because he/she is fresh to the work and has the expertise and knowledge. (And don’t feel bad.  Even the pros miss stuff, because, yes, everyone’s eyes and brain gets stale after working on an ad or image without a break…which is usually the case since almost everything is on a “must-have-it-yesterday” deadline.)


This is a recreation from several old, defunct HTML pages, graphic art for advertising and promotion and magazine and newspaper ads.

Custom Posters

If you want me to recreate your artwork, bringing it up to a quality level that will print well, send me a sample of the art. If I think I can and want to do it, it will cost you $60 an hour.

If you want original artwork and design, send me a description of what you are looking for and, if you can, something that shows the style of work you envision.

Straight out, posters can wind up not costing you a whole lot, or they can cost enough to make your brain bleed.

We’re working with HUGE FILES here. We’re working with them down on the pixel level with the stylus and Wacom. Going through 1496 square inches of pixels even at a lowly 300 DPI is, in a word, tedious.

If you have your own design, and I decide I can tackle it, great. Cheap…relatively speaking.

If you see some of my work you like and I’m just laying your photos in, under, around, and through the base image design, then, again, it’s not going to leave you missing and arm or leg…with a but on both those instances, as well as when I create the entire concept and design.

So here’s the “BUT.”

If, like many people, you have change-mind-itis, don’t start complaining when the clock hours start running away with themselves. I’m not the one causing it. It’s the disease that’s guilty, and change-mind-itis is very hard to cure. 😉

DO-IT-YOURSELF POSTER HINTS: If you are using a vector graphics program, you’re safe and don’t have to worry about size. Just don’t raster anything or use a rastered graphic in your work. If you do or if you are using a raster image program like Photoshop, start with the largest sized image you are ever going to need, or weep when you have to recreate the work, because you can’t take an image UP, only down, in size. Then, always start with a nice HIGH DPI, and give yourself plenty of margin for bleed. Use overlays for images which are going to have margins. Don’t forget that masks are your best helpers. Save your work often. Separate version saves will avoid wailing and tears because you overwrote a previous version that you liked better. Drives come in gigabytes now, so space shouldn’t be an issue, not like it used to be. Never save as a compressed file. You need your full version. Zip or rar them if you need to load them to server. Don’t expect to send them via e-mail, because, even double zipped, they are going to be much too big.

This is a recreation of an old, non-compliant HTML page, posters.

T-shirt Art and Ancillary Graphics


t-shirts, cups, guitar picks, doggy diapers (kidding), gizmos, wizmos….

If you want me to recreate your artwork, bringing it up to a quality level that will print well, send me a sample of the art. If I think I can and want to do it, it will cost you $60 an hour.

If you want original artwork and design, send me a description of what you are looking for and, if you can, something that shows the style of work you envision.

Most of the t-shirt and ancillary artwork I’ve done has been using images that were part of larger projects — CD Album releases, full campaigns for rock groups who were going on tour, business grand openings, non-profit organization fund raisers…. Usually the projects are huge. If yours is, contact me for an estimate or bid.


Templates are your friends. Any good print shop — the people who are producing the printed product — has templates.

Spec sheets are your friends. Get them from the print shop you are going to use before making your files.


This is a recreation of an old HTML page,

Graphic Art Help Requests

Small Art Project Help Requests

If you need help with a project for a good cause or because you are poor and can’t afford to buy help or figure out the open source (free) software you need and it is something which will only take me a few minutes, do contact me, and I’ll send permission and a valid email address.

I’ll do my best to get it done for you within a few hours to a couple of days, depending on my schedule. EXAMPLES: creating a transparent background; changing a format to something you can use; clean-up work on an image (if it isn’t too bad); creating some text….

IMPORTANT: You will need to be able to email the image to me in  .pdf, .tif, .jpg, .gif, .bmp, .eps, .svg or .png format.  Dropbox is an excellent resource for files whose sizes together total 7MB and up.

Pro Bono Work

Yes, I do pro bono work–too much of it, really. Good causes, work for folks who are economically challenged, work for worthy causes…. Veterans, members of the military, the elderly, bereaving families who are poor, local animal cruelty/animal welfare/shelter organizations, local level wilderness preservation societies, local charities, small churches (but not those which promote hate and bigotry)…. You’re best option is the ask.

This is a recreation of an old HTML page,