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Banner Design Tips

Sculptor Sculptor Banners can be an effective advertising tool. Using words and graphics, a successful banner entices people to click-thru and visit a site. But creating such a banner is not easy for most people. Maybe these tips and links can help.

Beginners should focus on the left column. The right column is reserved for people who are computer savvy and ready to spend hours on creating a banner.

Instant Banners
This is the easiest way to create banners. Just type in some text and within seconds, your customized banner is ready. It may even include some flashy animations.

Banner Artists
These banner artists work for free in exchange for a link from your site. Just tell them what you want on your banner, and they will create it within days.

Do-It-Yourself
Creating a good banner for yourself takes time and effort. The payoff is a unique banner with personality and pride. Why not give it a try?

General Tips - We reveal the secret on how to make a killer banner, and what kills it. This is a must read.

Graphic Tools - You need graphics software to create your banner. See what we recommend.

Tutorials - Once you have the software, learn how to create professional effects with these step-by-step tutorials.

Free Graphics - A list of sites that offer free graphics. You can use them directly, or as examples for your banner.

General Tips

There is no magic banner style that works for everyone. It's up to you to find a banner that works for your site. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind while you experiment with different banner ideas. But don't implement all of them at once. Such overkill will create one very annoying banner.

Do's

To see some examples, take a look at our Top Ten List of banners. You may imitate them, but don't copy anything without the author's prior permission.

Originality - Think of a banners as a work of art. Try something original or off-the-wall. People tend to notice banners that are unique.

Colors - Use bright and contrasting colors such as yellow-black, red-blue, or light-dark. Stay with the primary and web-safe colors.

Simple Text - Don't cloud your banner with cryptic text. Simple phrases are always more effective. A good banner usually has 6 words in each frame.

Curiosity & Humor - Try making people curious about the site behind the banner. Ask a question or tell a riddle in your banner.

Graphics - Most web pages contain more text than graphics, so graphics on your banner will make it stand out. Whenever you can, express your ideas with graphics.

Animation - Like it or not, animation is eye-catching. Moderate usage often attracts positive attention to your banner. Moderation is the key word here.

Interface Facade - Emulate a system panel with a light gray background and buttons. It catches attention. Currently this is very popular and successful.

"FREE" - The word "FREE" on your banner can increase click-thrus. But it is most effective when you have a software- or hardware-related site, and least effective if you are simply offering free travel or money (because it'll appear to be a scam).

"Click Here" - Works like "FREE" but with a broader appeal. You may also try "Click Now!" Don't overdo it though. Make it simple and elegant.

Don'ts

Scaled Image - Don't use a graphics program to automatically scale your banner to different sizes unless the program has specialized algorithms to do so. Otherwise, smooth edges could become jagged, causing your banner to look unprofessional.

Small Font - Don't use plain ten- or 12-point fonts. Make your text stand out with color, style, and size. Emphasize keywords with animation if possible.

Lack of Focus - Focus on just one topic for each banner, as opposed to many different ideas and messages, which would only clutter and confound the banner. Most banners should tell the viewer what the site offers and why they should visit.

Pressure - Urgent sales messages such as "Limited Time Only" or "Hurry" don't work well in banners because they echo too much of the used-car salesman tactics. People in general don't like to be pressured and the Internet is no exception.

Words Jungle - Make the text in your banners clear and concise. Remember, simplicity is golden.

Graphic Tools

Using a graphics software is essential to banner creation. At bare minimum, you need a drawing program to create the banner and save it in the GIF format. From there, a static banner can be made more dynamic (animated) using a separate program that will string together multiple static images into one GIF file. Other special effects will require an advanced program that will likely increase the GIF file size. Finally, to combat size increase, you will need a GIF compression program.

Only a few of these programs are available free of charge. But that doesn't mean you must spend money. You can certainly get by using the free programs. If you desire better quality and greater efficiency however, you may consider a commercial product. We offer this list only for your reference. We do not endorse or have a vested interest in any of them. We recommend that you try out the demos before committing to a purchase.

The Essentials

Paint Shop Pro - This Windows95/NT shareware is a full-featured graphics program for image creation, viewing, and editing. It is ideal for beginners and people who cannot afford and/or do not require the full power of PhotoShop.

PhotoShop - This expensive commercial product is geared toward serious computer artists. It is the best graphics tool for drawing just about everything, including banners.

Net Sketch - This Windows 95/NT program guides you through creating and designing buttons, banners, logos, and illustrations of all kinds. It hones in on attributes such as fill style, edge style, shadow style, softness, transparency, position, size, skew and rotation.

Web Painter - An all-in-one web graphics and animation software. It has a fully functional free trial version which you can test out for yourself.

Ulead GIF Animator - A tool for designing, producing, and optimizing GIF animations. This program too, offers a free trial to interested viewers.

GIF Construction Set - Another tool for designing, producing, and optimizing GIF animations. Its functions are very similar to those of Ulead. Most experienced designers use either Ulead or GIF Construction, (but not both) depending on personal preferences.

AniMagic Gif Animator - Another GIF animation tool.

GIF Builder - Web freeware for Macintosh to build animations.

Other Tools

Ulead Web Utilities - Besides GIF Animator, Ulead has a collection of other utilities especially for special effects. This is a great place to look to spice up your designs!

Smart Draw Pro - Program for web graphics whose features include drag & drop drawing, automatic connecting lines between shapes, and clip-art libraries. Works with MS Office.

CDH Image Explorer - Allows for viewing and management of all image formats, including GIF animations, Photoshop specific format, and many more (nearly 50 supported formats)! Features include: format conversion among all supported formats, slideshow capabilities, image mailing, deleting, renaming, zooming, image information, image printing, etc.

Graphics Workshop Pro - Functions of this program allow you to drag & drop, convert between formats, print your graphics as hard copy, drive a scanner, decode pictures from the Internet, process and fine tune your photographs.

Movie Gear - Tool that builds GIF animations, shrinks files, resizes graphics, supports Photoshop PSD, JPEG, AVI, BMP, and GIF files. Free trial version for Windows 95/NT only.

GIF Wizard - Another GIF compression program.

GIF Lite - They will compress your GIF images free of charge. But it is done through email - expect possible delays.

Tutorials

Using effects like shadow backdrops and 3-D text, you can give your banners the professional look and feel that you want. These effects also apply to web graphics in general, so learning them should be useful to everyone. Collected here is a list of step-by-step tutorials from other sites. These are quite helpful as you begin to create your own site.

The Animation Zone - Focuses on animated banners and provides graphic tools for downloading.

McCannas - Tutorial for Photoshop with links to free software, fonts, graphics, and HTML resources.

Animated Gif Artists Guild - This site shows how to make animated GIF on the Macintosh.

Royal Frazier - Thorough instructions for intermediates to create GIF animation.

Creating GIF Animations - An intermediate-level GIF Animation tutorial with links to necessary graphic tools.

CNet - Articles on animation and quick tutorials along with free down loads.

John Thompson - Tutorials on design, animation, and graphics with free software! Also, you can get a free banner by filling out the online form and description.

Jay's Graphix - Numerous web designer and graphic artist tutorials.

Free Graphics

Very few people have the talent and time to create original graphics, so most web site owners download existing free graphics from other sites and customize them to their needs. Below is a list of sites that offer such free graphics. Some sites require special permission, so be sure to check with their posted policy.

Andy Art - This site contains hundreds of free original animations and also hundreds of pages of Adobe Photoshop, HTML, Java & graphics tips.

Banner World - Graphics components that are perfect for creating banners.

CoolText.com - Generate logos and buttons with customized text.

Media Builder - Turn any GIF into a button.

A+ Art - Free clip art, background, buttons, animated GIF's, etc.

Laurie's Free Web Graphics

Cool Archive - Huge free vault of fonts, icons, GIF89 animations, bars, bullets, arrows, etc. . More than 6000 selected graphics, all perfectly organized.

A-1 Icon Archive - Free icons, backgrounds, buttons, animated GIF's, and links. Total of 300,000 free web graphics.

Iconz - Free images of icons, buttons, lines, bullets, arrows, backgrounds, and 3D images.

Color Center - ColorCenter is a JavaScript application that lets you quickly and easily try out text and background color combinations, as well as background textures.

Dream Artists

Planet Animate


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