Avatar Maker Central: Make Your Own Free Cool Avatars

January 26th, 2008 carlajc Posted in Avatar Makers, Avatars, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Online Tools, Free Photos, Make Your Own Clip Art, Photography, Tips and Tools 6 Comments »

Avatar CentralWelcome to Avatar Central!

A lot of people come to WordPlay looking for resources to create avatars, so I thought it would be helpful to aggregate all our tips and tools for making free avatars all in one place. This post contains everything you need to make an icon that’s uniquely yours: tips for creating a compelling avatar, sources for free clip art and free photos, and free image modification applications.

AVATAR RESOURCES
_
Icon Hall of Fame

Gain readers with your blog’s avatar

The WordPlay icon Hall of Fame gives examples of good avatars, as well as explanations of why each attracted me to click on it. Sometimes the best icon isn’t fancy; it’s one that conveys in one glance the image you want to project.

Read more about what makes good avatars

Gravatar_logo1Show your style with a Gravatar

What’s a Gravatar? It’s a globally recognized avatar that helps you make a lasting impression when you comment on blogs.

Read about Gravatars and get one (or more) free

Free Clip Art SourcebookFree Clip Art Sourcebook

This free PDF e-book contains links to literally thousands of free contemporary and vintage images you can use for avatars. It’s produced by our sister site, VintageHolidayCrafts.com, so we can vouch for the quality of the images!

Go to the Free Clip Art Sourcebook


Image Chef sample
Image Chef free images generator

Image Chef’s slogan is “just add words and serve” and they aren’t kidding. If you can point a mouse and type a word or two, you can create amazing custom-looking graphics, perfect for blog posts or avatars.

Read our Image Chef review or go to Image Chef

clip_art_picnic_time

Picnik lets you create professional quality clip art!

There’s no software to download and it’s easy to use. Just follow the easy instructions and you’ll be creating your own cool clip art in no time.

Read our Picnik review or go to Picnik

__

Stock.Xchng sampleFree photos

The Stock.Xchng site is searchable, easy to use and the selection of free photos is great. There are, however, a few very minor restrictions, which are covered in our review.

Read our Stock.Xchng review or go to Stock.Xchng


Graphics Factory
Free clip art

I’ve scoured the Web to bring you a collection of free clip art sites that don’t make you wade through page after page of affiliate ads and pop-ups to actually get to the art.

View our free clip art collection

___
BeFunky sample
BeFunky image modification

It’s easy to create stunning images with the free BeFunky online application. All you need is a photo or a clip art image and a few clicks to create one-of-a-kind avatars.

Read our BeFunky review or go to BeFunky


____

GifWorks GIFWorks image modification

The free GIFWorks online allows you to create free images and have a blast while you do it.

Read our GIFWorks review or go to GIFWorks

______

badges sample 1Says-It.com badges and seals generators

These official-looking badges and seals help you interject a little fun into your blog or avatar.

Read our WordPlay Says-It review or go to Says-It badges or Says-It seal

____
Picasa collage icon
Picasa image organization and modification

Now that you’re collecting all these cool images, the free Picasa software will let you organize them. It also lets you take them to the next level with their image modification tools, which are different than those offered by BeFunky or GIFWorks.

Read our Picasa review or download Picasa


Picasa Lets You Go Crazy With Photos and Clip Art

January 19th, 2008 carlajc Posted in Avatars, Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Online Tools, Free Photos, Free Software, Photography, Tips and Tools 10 Comments »

Picasa collageI don’t know about you, but it seems like no matter how organized I am about filing my free clip art and photos on my computer; the more of it I gather, the harder it is to find things. So I was thrilled when I discovered Picasa.

Why is it so cool? For starters, after you load the Picasa free software, it goes to work capturing every image on your hard drive. It doesn’t move your images; it simply records where they are and displays them in one scrolling window. So a photo I stored on my computer three years ago in a client’s folder and completely forgot suddenly became visible to me. I discovered image after image I didn’t even know was there. And because Picasa displays the folder name where the image is located, you can go right to it on your hard drive.

Picasa screen

Picasa displays all your images in one long, scrolling screen.

Once Picasa has located your photos, it allows you to organize them by deleting or dragging and dropping to another folder. And if you want to get fancy, there are a lot of options.

Picasa basic fixesWhen you click on an image, Picasa brings up an interface that lets you modify it in a number of ways. In addition to cropping, straightening, fixing red eye and more basic functions, it also has an effects screen that creates just about any look you want by just selecting the corresponding icon. You can modify your image to be black and white or sepia-tone, or you can change the focus, saturation and tint, put in a graded background and a lot more. This is a great feature for people who want to modify images but don’t have more complex and expensive image modification software.

Picasa also has another fun feature that creates custom-looking collages (see the top of this page), a contact sheet or a picture grid of all the images you select. Additionally, it has a multi-exposure feature that layers one image over another. This could come in handy when layering a logo or an image with text in it over a photograph or clip art.

And when you’re done playing with the images, just choose one of the buttons at the bottom of the screen to make a Web album, e-mail or upload an image to Blogger, order prints or export.

If you’re wondering why you can upload to Blogger and not WordPress, that’s because, like Blogger, Picasa is yet another property of the great Google empire. But if you’re angry at Google over AdSense or anything else, don’t let that stop you from trying this amazing free software. You won’t be sorry.

Click here to download Picasa.

You might also be interested in these other resources on WordPlay:

Digg!

Copyright 2008 WordPlayBlog.com


Two New Clip Art Sources Added

January 12th, 2008 carlajc Posted in Avatars, Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Photos, Photography, Tips and Tools 2 Comments »

I found two more free clip art sources you’re going to love. The first provides high-quality free graphics. The other charges a fee, but it’s quite affordable.

Free-Clip-Art.com Free-Clip-Art.com

This site doesn’t have a huge inventory, but what they have is good. You do, however, have to provide a link to them in return for using their free clip art. (Read their clip art usage rights for details.) They provide art in two formats: .wmf and .gif. Use the .wmf format for printing and use the .gif image for blogs, Web sites, e-mail newsletters, etc.

Graphics FactoryGraphics Factory

This site is so affordable, it’s almost free. You get unlimited access to one million clip art images, animations, Web graphics, fonts and photos for only $9.95 per month. (No ongoing contract required.) They also have a $59.95 plan, which gives you a full year of downloads.

Need other resources for free images?

If you need more images, visit our full collection of free clip art resources. Also, please see our free photography and free cartoons pages. And if you want to modify our free images or create avatars with them, see our posts about the free BeFunkyand GIFWorks online tools.

Copyright 2008 WordPlayBlog.com


BeFunky-fy Your Blog With BeFunky Free Graphics!

January 5th, 2008 carlajc Posted in Avatars, Blogging, Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Online Tools, Free Photos, Free Software, Make Your Own Clip Art, Photography, Reviews, Tips and Tools 4 Comments »

BeFunky — Woody AllenAlthough content really is king, it doesn’t hurt to have your blog look good too. In fact, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making readers feel at home.

But if you came to blogging through the wordsmith door and you’re not a designer, you might need a little help when it comes to creating images. WordPlay already offers resources for free photos, free clip art and cartoons, but if you’d really like your blog to stand out, the free BeFunky Web application can help you create free images that are uniquely yours — even if you have no graphics experience at all. You can use these free images in your blog header, in posts and, in some cases for your avatar (depending on the resolution in the image).

The Uvatar maker

BeFunky allows you to create strange and wonderful graphics. They feature two types of image modification applications: a Uvatar maker and a Cartoonizer. An example of a BeFunky uvatar is shown above. As you can see, the application allowed me to capture the moment when Woody Allen joined me at my palace while I was relaxing in my Catwoman outfit. I also made uvatars that chronicled my visits with other celebrities and a furry animal friend, which you can see at the bottom of this post.

The Cartoonizer

Space image before and afterAs fun as the Uvatar app is to play with, the Cartoonizer would probably have even greater use if you’re trying to create images for your blog. All you need is a good image to start with and the Cartoonizer does the rest.

Just upload your photo or clip art and click the SKETCH button. This creates a black and white sketch of your photo. You can adjust the settings on this feature, based on the image you’ve uploaded. Once the sketch is created, click the COLOR button, which takes the colors from your original photo and inserts them behind your sketch.

To the left you can see an original photo of some kind of wild space happening and how it turned out after being run through the Cartoonizer. I also used the same process with a piece of clip art (below) to see how that would work. I suspect this had good results because I used clip art that was originally from a painting and had a lot of detail. But you never know how an image will turn out, so it’s worth a try, even if you only have low-resolution clip art.

Portrait before and after

The original image (left) was used to create a cartoon image, and then had one of many BeFunky borders added.____

As you can see in the sample above with the red curtain, the Cartoonizer allows you to add a border to your image. Many of their borders are geared toward use in e-mail cards, but they can also be used for blog images. The Cartoonizer also gives the ability to warp an image, which can create some pretty strange effects.

So, the next time you want to create an image that’s truly yours, hop on over to BeFunky. You’ll probably have a lot of fun and generate some interesting images at the same time.

My BeFunky Gallery

Snoop Dogg

I tried to convince Snoop Dogg to go roller-blading with me near the canals in Venice, but he told me that tiny wheels scare him. He also was a little leery of the ferret on my head.

____

Halle Berry

Here I am with Halle Berry, trying on dresses to wear to the Oscars. We both feel wearing fur isn’t cool, but that doesn’t apply to live animals, so the ferret stays.

____

Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant has a reputation as a ladies man, so I felt it would be best to supplement the protection provided by the ferret and wear a black shroud on our date at the aquarium.

Go to BeFunky

You might also be interested in these other resources on WordPlay:

Copyright 2008 WordPlayBlog.com


GIFWorks Lets You Create Fun and Easy Avatars

December 26th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Avatars, Blogging, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Online Tools, Free Photos, Free Software, Make Your Own Clip Art, Tips and Tools 1 Comment »

GIFWorksWe’ve already discussed the importance of having a compelling avatar for your blog. Even if you agree it’s a good idea to have an image that represents the true you; it’s easy to put off creating one. You might even be stuck in the mud because you can’t think of an image that would suit you.

Well, this might give you some incentive to move that project to the front burner: There’s a great online application called GIFWorks that allows you to create free graphics you can use as avatars and have a blast while you do it.

GIFWorks is easy to use, even if you have no graphics experience. The only requirement is that you modify a .gif file. (You probably already guessed that from the site name.) It also goes without saying that you have to have permission to use the photo. You can use one of your own, or you can choose one from Stock.Xchng, which offers quality photos for no charge.

There are are a variety of looks that can be obtained through the GIFWorks application. To show you its capabilities, I’ve taken a photo of my nephew and turned it into the following five distinct icons. The GIFWorks features used to create them appear next to each avatar. There are different versions of GIFWorks for Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE), so I’ve included the features paths for each. Click on any of the icons to see the full-size image.

Cartoon sample

_____________

vertical spacerIE: Effects menu /Artist Medium / Cartoon Strip

Firefox: Effects menu / Cartoon Strip_

______

______

Raster avatar sample

__________

vertical spacerIE: Effects menu /Artist Medium / Raster

Firefox: Effects menu / Raster

________

__________________

Colorshift avatar sample

________________

vertical spacerIE: Effects menu /Color / Colorshift

Firefox: Effects menu / Colorshift

________

__________________

Sphere avatar sample

vertical spacer IE: Effects menu /Sharpness / Sharpen/Unsharpen, then Effects menu / Offset / Shadow, then Warp / Sphere

vertical spacerFirefox: All on Effects menu: Sharp/Unsharp, then Shadow, then Sphere_______

______

________________________

3D avatar sample______________

vertical spacerIE: E: Effects menu / Offset / 3D Glasses

Firefox: Effects menu / 3D Glasses___________

____________

___________

These examples (plus many more that didn’t make the final cut) took under an hour — and I had a great time playing while I made them. I hope these inspire you to experiment with GIFWorks and create a little fun of your own!

You might also be interested in these other resources on WordPlay:

Copyright 2007 WordPlayBlog.com


Two New Free Cartoons Added

December 16th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Just For Fun, Tips and Tools Comments Off on Two New Free Cartoons Added

I’ve found two more cartoonists (actually, one found me) who offer free cartoons for your blog. So, welcome Dan Gibson and Johnny Ancich, whose work is shown below. These free cartoons have also been added to the collection on the WordPlay free cartoons page.

N E W C A R T O O N S

Past Expiry free cartoon

Past Expiry Cartoons
by Johnny Ancich
Johnny posts at least two new cartoons each week. You can download individual cartoons from his site by clicking the link above, or you can get them in a widget by clicking here.

______________________

Gibbleguts cartoon

Gibbleguts
by Dan Gibson

Dan Gibson creates a new cartoon every weekday. Click the link above to get a widget that will display the cartoons on your blog.


Icon Hall of Fame: Use Your Blog’s Avatar to Grab New Readers

December 14th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Avatars, Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Online Tools, Free Photos, Make Your Own Clip Art, Photography, Tips and Tools 12 Comments »

Icon Hall of FameHere we go again with the “a picture’s worth a thousand words” cliché. This time it’s in reference to your blog’s avatar, or as I prefer to call it, your icon. And once again, the cliché is true.

But before I wow you with my opinions about the anatomy of a good icon, I have several questions for you:

If you visit social media sites, have you thought about how your icon stacks up against the icons of other blogs? Also, did you put any thought into your icon or did you just grab whatever image you had handy and use that?

If you didn’t think about your icon’s design, you’re probably in the majority. With so many other things to think about — producing valuable content, marketing, monetizing, networking and who-knows-what-else — your icon was probably way down on the list of concerns, if it was on the list at all.

Since I was a graphic artist long before I was a blogger, I couldn’t help but notice that some icons stood out. As a newbie blogger, I didn’t know anyone, so all I had to go on at first were looks when I was stumbling around in MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, etc., trying to find my way around. In many cases, the only reason I clicked on some of the blogs were the icons. And if a compelling icon image was combined with a username that made it clear what a blog was about, I was even more likely to click on it. I might be wrong, but I don’t think this just applies to newbies. Whether we know it or not, images affect us all.

Unfortunately there’s no formula for the perfect icon, except maybe that it should come as close as possible to expressing both your personality and your blog’s content. The best way I can explain what a good icon looks like is to show you some that did an admirable job of drawing me in. Below are some of those. (My apologies to anyone not featured below. There are a lot of great icons out there, but I had to cut the list off somewhere.)

Here’s my Icon Hall of Fame:

Blogstruk avatarBlogstruk
I love this icon because I have no idea what it means, yet it makes me want to know. Did this disembodied eye come from Shrek or just a regular human with an unfortunate complexion? I still don’t know, but when I clicked on it, I found its owner dispenses quality advice for newbie bloggers.

VicVic from BloggingZoom and BloggerUnleashed
If it’s possible to project the image of a bad boy and a nice guy at the same time, this icon does it. Not only that, ladies, wouldn’t you agree he looks awfully cute? But this icon appeals to more than just hormones. It’s well-drawn, unique and the combo of the white background and color makes it almost pop off the screen.

Court TuttleCourt Tuttle and BloggingZoom
This is straight-up branding. Not only is Court’s name the focus, but the background is white, which stands out among the many icons that use photos. Using a name is a bold move and one that works because of the authority Court projects in the blogging community.

GrizzlyHow to Make Money Online for Beginners (Grizzly)
If you know Grizzly, you’ll know his icon depicts him perfectly. Notice that the bear has a curious but friendly look. This fits Grizzly because he’s always questioning the status quo, and he’s ever-willing to teach newbies about making money online. This icon is so effective that if I ever met Grizzly in person, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t a big hairy — but kind — bear.

MarkkMarkkWrites
Anybody unsure about what Markk does? I like this one because it’s clear, while also having a welcoming feeling. It makes me want to sit down and have a cup of Joe with him.

LordLikelyLordLikely
I never would have become aware of the LordLikely blog had I not seen this icon on BloggingZoom. For some reason, the juxtaposition of a Victorian man in a top-hat in the high-tech world of blogs struck me funny, so I just had to see what that image represented. When I went to the blog, I wasn’t disappointed; it’s as funny and ironic as its icon.

BlogIssuesBlogIssues.com
This is another one that made me want to click on it when I saw it on BloggingZoom. Anyone with the guts to brand herself as a big-mouth deserves a click.

Alex FrisonAlex Frison
Now that’s just silly, and I mean that as a compliment. Alex obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously. In addition to the icon being cute and funny, we again see another good use of a white background.

FlickListsFlicksLists
This one comes under the obvious category, and that’s a good thing. Since I’m interested in movies, I had to click on this. Not only does the image convey the blog’s content, but so does the username.

Mommy CrackedMommy Cracked
This one is funny and gets the message across. Although I found out she’s a freelance writer and former teacher only after visiting her blog, all I had to do was look at her icon to know she has a humorous take on motherhood.

CardioGirlCardioGirl
I clicked on this because it looked like someone (maybe CardioGirl herself?) painted this just for the blog. It made this list because it conveys her theme nicely, plus the colors are easy on the eyes.

So, there you have it, my Icon Hall of Fame. As I said before, it’s nowhere near all-inclusive. It’s just meant to show you some examples of what I think works. But your icon doesn’t have to be like any of these. If you’re satisfied that yours gives a good impression of who you are and what your blog is about, then you’re more than halfway home. If you ask others and they feel the same, then you probably already have an icon that’s drawing readers to you.

If you ask around and find that your icon does need some work, however, WordPlay has plenty of free resources to find just the right image:

You might also be interested in Avatar Central, WordPlay’s home for free online image software and information about avatars.Copyright 2007 WordPlayBlog.com


Book Review: The Chicago Manual of Style

December 14th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Book Review, Free Photos, Grammar, Punctuation, Reviews, Tips and Tools, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing 2 Comments »

Chicago Manual of StyleAvailable in print and versions, this resource is a practical guide to editorial style for writers. It’s hard to overestimate the influence this writing tool has had on wordsmiths everywhere. Although it was created to establish editorial standards for writers of academic works, the scope of its recommendations now cover the world of cyberspace.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) book and Web site are divided into logical categories, which cover all aspects of writing and grammar, from punctuation to split infinitives to how to capitalize the president of the United State’s title. (And no, you don’t get to decide that based on your opinion of him.)

Some examples of the questions the CMOS answers:

  • Which is correct: Web site, web site, website or Website?
  • Should there be a comma after website in the question above?
  • Which is correct, Boston Tea Party or Boston tea party?
  • What is the proper format for citing an information source?

Although the online version offers quick answers to a lot of questions that can pop up while writing, it doesn’t address all of them. You need the print version for that.

The Chicago Manual of Style online version is based on an annual subscription, but there is a 30-day free trial. Also, they offer a free FAQ that answers common grammar questions and doesn’t require registration to access.

___________
Buy this book

We hope you enjoyed this book review of The Chicago Manual of Style. You might also want to read our other book reviews:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Elements of Style

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

You might also be interested in these gifts for writers.


Free Cartoons for Your Blog

November 26th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Cartoons, Clip Art, Entertainment, Free Clip Art, Free Graphics, Free Images, Free Online Tools, Just For Fun, Tips and Tools 1 Comment »

Sometimes you have to forget all about vocabulary words, grammar and the like, and just laugh. The following cartoonists want to help you do just that. These artists have generously offered these free cartoons for your blog or Web site:

I N D I V I D U A L   C A R T O O N S

BZ Toons cartoon sample

BZ Toons
by Brian Zaikowski
Brian Zaikowski makes his colorful free cartoons available for use in blogs, Web sites and newsletters. You’ll find a link at the Web site that will allow you to download all the cartoons in one 8 MB file.

______________________

We Blog cartoon sample

We Blog Cartoons
by Dave Walker
Dave Walker offers these cartoons free for any blog, including those that make money. If you want to use his cartoons for a company Web site, however, you must contact him through his blog for a quote. Click here for the exact conditions of use.

______________________

D A I L Y C A R T O O N S
(requires code)

Andertoons cartoon sample

Andertoons
by Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson offers his free daily cartoons for use on any blog, as long as it doesn’t have adult content. You may change the font colors to match your blog, but he asks that you don’t make any other alterations to the code.

______________________

 

 

Looking for other free content? You might also be interested in these other resources on WordPlay:

Copyright 2007 WordPlayBlog.com


Using Famous Quotations to Punch Up Your Blog

November 19th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Famous Quotations, Photography, Tips and Tools, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools Comments Off on Using Famous Quotations to Punch Up Your Blog

Fish

__________

______________

“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you’re a consultant.”
Scott Adams

______________

Let’s face it, sometimes the well is dry and you don’t know what to write. At times like that, borrowing a famous quotations can help get the ball rolling. If used to reinforce your blog’s topic, the quote could even make good reading. (Don’t go off-topic unless there’s a good reason. Unless you have a reputation for covering a variety of subjects, your readers are there for your expertise on one topic.)

If you can combine the quote with a photo, so much the better. As you can see in this post, the photo makes it hard to miss the quote. Don’t know where to find photography? See our review of Stock.Xchng free photos for a great source of quality free images. Or, use your camera phone or digital camera to create images uniquely suited to your blog’s topic.

Here are some tips for using quotations:

  • Use quotation marks around the quote.
  • Make sure to attribute the quote to the appropriate author.
  • Don’t change the quote, even if there’s an obvious error.

Here are some good sources for quotations:

______________

“In the business world, the rearview mirror
is always clearer than the windshield.”

Warren Buffett

______________

Fish photo by Pam Roth

You might also be interested in these related posts:

Copyright 2007 WordPlayBlog.com