Sidewalk Chalk Art for Hub Graphics

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.59.22 PMEarlier this month, aethelthryth wrote in to share a deliciously playful method of creating custom Hub graphics.

This method requires very little: just some chalk, smooth sidewalk, and a camera!

Aethelthryth came upon this solution when trying to find an alternate source of custom illustrations. Her explanation:

Though I have access to an artist for Hubs of some types, since he is trying to get noticed in aviation circles, a Hub about Finding Mr. Right: Waiting and Dating just wasn’t going to do much for his professional image. So I borrowed (actually, used up) my childrens’ sidewalk chalk to draw some images on the sidewalk that were simple and iconic enough for even me to draw, and took pictures of them.
It took longer than I expected, and I decided afterwards I should have found smoother sidewalk, and I had to explain to guests what these images (and the mistakes I made, first) were doing on our sidewalk, until I got around to washing them off with the hose. But it was fun, and they are my favorite non-artist images on my Hubs.

I love how creative aethelthryth was with finding a new way to add custom graphics to her work (I also appreciate having another excuse to play with sidewalk chalk).

Now we all know to indulge in some outdoor doodling next time we are in need of some simple, colorful Hub images!

Getting Collaborative with Custom Hub Graphics

We love it when Hubbers collaborate with their friends and family when creating Hubs and have been delighted to see how many Hubbers collaborate when creating custom graphics for their Hubs as well.

MobyWho, for example, collaborated with her husband on her Hub Your imagination – it can kill you. Here is her backstory on the image’s creation:

In an effort to engage my 92-year-old husband, I asked him to draw me some cartoons for a recent post. Not only did he appreciate being included in my work, but he buckled right down and came up with two or three oeuvres.

Aren’t the resulting images fun?

Littlemirror also occasionally collaborates with family when creeating custom images for his Hubs, such as his health-oriented Hub No Smoking Please: Tobacco kills more than alcohol, drugs, traffic accidents, and AIDS.

Says littlemirror:

I asked my son-in-law to pose as a “model” like a smoker (though he is not smoking) and after we took some photos, my daughter Din-Din added a warning sign of skull that cigarettes kill.

I say these helpful images littlemirror created with his family definitely improve the polish, earnestness, and effectiveness of his Hub.

Hopefully these two examples will inspire you to tap into the talents of your own friends and family when creating custom graphics for your Hubs. When Hubbers team up with their loved ones, amazing things happen!

Wayseeker’s Words of Wisdom on Images

While most Hubbers who create custom images for their Hubs find one style and format and stick with it, one can find an incredible variety of imagery in Hubs by wayseeker. From specially-edited photos and hand-drawn illustrations to purely digital graphics, a very wide assortment of carefully created eye candy appears on this Hubber’s work.

Because wayseeker puts to much thought into the images he creates and uses, we asked him to share some of his reasoning and advice with the community at large. Read on, and be inspired.

For how long have you been sketching and creating art? Is this a regular activity of yours?

I have always loved to make thoughtful visual creations through drawing, painting, sculpting, and all manner of crafts since I was very young. I have some minor training (art classes in high school), but it’s mostly just a history of dabbling in creative crafts. While I do a little of it here and there every year, I simply don’t have time to do it on a regular basis.

When did you first create an image for a Hub (or include an existing sketch in a new Hub you made), and why did you do it?

While I have been including personal photos since the beginning, my first real “art” work would have been the images I included in the first Hub of the Day I wrote, “The Art of Constructive Criticism.” While still technically digital photographs, these images were heavily edited and digitally manipulated with a specific focus on the content of the Hub.

Mostly I added them because the content was too abstract for traditional pictures to add any real value to the piece. As I thought through what I was writing, I decided it would be fun to “play” with some of the ideas and create silly images–images that resembled, to some extent, the way I carry myself when I actually teach these concepts to my students. It took some time, but it was great fun and they were well received.

My first actual art piece came with the cross I drew to include with my piece on Christianity, which also involved a lot of digital manipulation though it did start with a basic pencil drawing. From there, I’ve done a large number of different things.

What tools do you use to create and then convert your art into digital images?

While I use all kinds of things to create art, for the most part the work I have done on HubPages has been done with either a simple ink pen or water color pencils (colored pencils that move and blend like water color paints when water is applied to them). The ink pen drawings are primarily simple cartoons with stick people. The colored pencil drawings are often taken from real life by first taking a photograph, then transferring the figures in the photograph by placing the picture up on a window and hand tracing the images onto a fresh piece of paper, and finally using those figures as a base for the drawing and painting process.

Once it’s finished, I simply take a digital picture of it in high light, use iPhoto to touch them up a bit, and then load them up. It takes more time (sometimes a lot more time) to develop original images that way, but the result is much more personal.

In addition to putting physically drawn sketches into Hubs, I’ve seen you use images that have been digitally created. What do you use to create those images?

The primary tool I use in creating digital images is a fancy, though free, paint program for Mac called “GIMP,” available at gimp.org. This, combined with a simple digital camera, iPhoto, and the occasional use of the effects found on Mac’s Photo Booth, is where my digital image creation takes place. Once you start to let your imagination wander through the possibilities, it’s amazing how easy—though sometimes time consuming—it can be to realize what you see in your head with the flexibility of modern digital image tools.

As an afterthought, I forgot that I also make pretty heavy use of Microsoft Word 2011. They have some very fun shape tools that allow you to create a wide variety of shapes and then manipulate their shadows, coloration, and 3D effects. I use this mostly for what I call “banner” artwork to create artistic titles to introduce various segments of of my Hubs. These can be cut and pasted into Gimp and used to great effect.

How do you decide between including photos, sketches, or digitally created images in Hubs?

This question is a bit tricky simply because it depends so heavily on the topic of the Hub itself. Generally, I come ups with the images for my Hubs after they have been written. I’m thinking about it all along, but the final ideas don’t solidify until the writing is locked in. I then have to think about what kind of images would be of value to the reader.

Now that you have me thinking about it, I could say that they fall into three categories: informational, thought provoking, and entertaining. In many cases, the images I use cross over from one category to another, but they generally flow out of one of these uses.

Informational images are those like the ones found in most recipe Hubs, mine included, where the image demonstrates how something is done. Another example might be from my Hub on Theme in Literature where I used a pic to show the reader the a basic plot map.

Thought provoking images are like those I often use in my more creative works like my Hub “Five Love Poems About Family,” though I also use them in more informational work like my Hub on parenting by building relationship. In each case, the image is designed to somehow reflect something that is discussed or mentioned in the writing, either making it more visually concrete and experiential for the reader or somehow extending it into another area the reader may not have initially thought about. I like the challenge of making this kind of image.

Entertaining images are like those I have used on my piano Hub about Robert Schumann’s “Carnavale” or the relatively “silly” drawings I’ve used in my essay Hubs and Socratic Seminar Hubs. These are used in places where pictures are not really necessary to what the words are trying to communicate, but they add a fun edge to the experience, hopefully helping the reader to stay engaged by giving them a few more things to do than simply reading text.

Do you think that the images that you create by hand have an edge over photos in any cases?

I don’t think this is necessarily always the case, depending on the topic of the Hub, but I don’t think it’s at all unusual for original photos and artwork to be an advantage. The core of modern writing is still the written word, but effective images are absolutely essential in the world of the internet. By creating your own images, you are able to customize them to reflect specific elements of your writing in ways that stock images simply can’t manage.

I think they also create a sense of warmth and unique personality that is hard to capture in an online experience through writing alone. It has been an honor for me to have four of my Hubs selected as Hub of the Day Hubs over the past year and a half, and I am absolutely certain that part of the reason for that in each of those cases was the original images—some drawn and some digital—that were a part of each of them. I think the artwork contributed to a unique experience within each Hub, so that certainly counts as an advantage.

I have seen many Hubbers do this through great “traditional” artwork as well as really effective original photography. Either way, I think it creates a more welcoming place for readers to spend time, which is what everyone is looking for as a writer.

What advice would you give to those who have yet tried creating their own images for Hubs?

First, I would encourage them to be adventurous in they way they think about images in their Hubs. Instead of just tacking on a pic related to what you happen to be talking about, think about how something could be added visually that extends, deepens, or somehow entertains the reader. Just like we have to move into the reader’s frame of mind as writers when we are composing words, it is equally important to think about the reader’s overall experience of the page including all of the visuals.

As for artistic skill, even if you are not an artist or great photographer, there’s a great deal you can do with today’s computers and manipulating images. On top of that, with digital cameras, you can easily take 100s of photos to get just 1 that’s good at no real cost—this has been a life saver for me.

Many of my original drawings are, literally, stick people. You can look up cartoon expressions online and get a host of easy to draw “smiley face” expressions that are simple to re-create. These simple drawings have received more positive feedback from readers than anything else I’ve created. People appreciate the thought that goes into them as much as the artistic “quality” itself.

Just try it, and soon you’ll find your own unique way of creating, which is exactly the point.

Melbel’s Secrets to Great Graphics

Melbel is well known on HubPages for her great personality and sound advice. As her audience is usually caught up in the interesting information her Hubs have to offer, many don’t realize that Melbel has also created some awesome graphics for her Hubs.

We invited Melbel to give some additional tips and advice for those interested in creating original images for their work (special artistic talents: optional). I think you’ll find her recommendations to quite useful- I know I did!

Though you use great photos in your Hubs, I’ve also seen that you create custom images in some cases. When did you first start doing this?

I started doing this in one of my first few Hubs, so shortly after joining HubPages. I used screenshots right off the bat since they’re the best way to show how to do things on the computer.

When creating a Hub, what makes you decide between using photos or creating images?

If the subject is something readily available, I’ll take a picture instead of searching for one. I’ll ALWAYS use a screenshot if it’s a computer tutorial, since it’s much easier to make one than to find one.

Your Hub on multiplying polynomials solves the tough issues of finding attractive images for more abstractly-oriented Hubs. What did you use to create those graphics of various mathematical equations?

It was seriously impossible to write that Hub with images that are currently floating around the ‘net. I tried a number of techniques, but I found that creating original images using GIMP worked out the best. GIMP is similar to Photoshop, but it’s free, so it’s a great option if you don’t have extra money to put into image editing software that you *might* use.

For that specific Hub, I thought it would look nice if I matched the polynomials to HubPages design, so I took a screenshot of my HubPages profile and used the color picking tool to grab the color from the badges.

In your guide to installing fonts, you include screenshots in addition to a text-based graphic you made. Screenshots are another great way to include images in a Hub when photos wouldn’t necessarily make sense. How do you grab screenshots on your computer? I know there are many different options.

It depends on what kind of computer you have. If you have a Windows machine, you can (usually) just hit “Print Scr”, open Paint, then hit CTRL+V to paste it into Paint, and then save it.

If you have a Mac, you can do the same with with Command+Shift+3 and it’ll save it automatically for you. What’s awesome about a Mac is that if you hit Command+Shift+4, you can select the specific area you want a shot of.

Are there any additional resources you would recommend for creating custom graphics for Hubs?

There are tons of resources for graphic design out there. And, while risking giving a non-answer, I really, really recommend getting comfortable with Google Search operators. If you get to know a few of them, you can seriously find exactly what you need on the Internet. If you run into a problem when making something, there’s bound to be some forum post on some random site where someone is having the same exact problem.

I recommend just jumping in. There are all sorts of free things out there (I’m a huge fan of “free”): fonts, image manipulators, tutorials, etc. You can just download GIMP and play around in it and see what you get. If you end up making something ugly (I’ve made tons of horrible looking graphics), you don’t have to use it in a Hub.

You Don’t Have to Be an Artist to Create Great Graphics

Many Hubbers have shied away from creating custom images for their work because they are not comfortable with their artistic skills. Even if you might not be happy with your doodles, sketches, and paintings, you can still create fabulous original graphics for your Hubs that add polish, demonstrate meaning, and improve readers’ aesthetic experiences.

Consider making use of colorful text, the way Melbel has done in some of her helpful math Hubs (we’ll be hearing more from her later this week). Also consider playing around with GIMP (free editing software similar to Photoshop) or some straightforward drawing programs, as Wayseeker has done splendidly (in addition to creating beautiful sketches by hand) with some of his Hubs (we’ll also be hearing from him this week).

6679003_f1024If you’re really averse to the idea of creating custom images, let the numbers create them for you! Graphs and charts make for wonderful graphics, and can be as informative as they are attractive. Microsoft Excel, Google Spreadsheets, and even basic online graph tools intended for young students make for great graph generators.

Also don’t forget that simple screenshots count as custom graphics, and can be quite helpful for Hubs that provide advice on navigating various websites, completing tasks on different operating systems, and using software programs.

As you can see, there are many options for creating custom images for Hubs- even for those who are not so artistically inclined.

If you don’t consider yourself to be an artist, but still incorporate original graphics into your work, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us about the images you create and the tools you use by posting on our Facebook page, tweeting @HubPagesDotCom, or striking up a conversation with +HubPages on Google+.

Mark Ewbie & The Surprising Effectiveness of Stick Figures

If I were to ask a random Hubber to name another Hubber who is known for original illustrations, chances are Mark Ewbie‘s name would pop up. This prolific Hubber is famous for his signature stick figure style (and entertaining humor), hence it is only a matter of course that we would ask for his advice on the creating custom graphics for Hubs.

Amidst his insights and advice, you might be surprised to find that this award-winning Hubber didn’t actually start doodling until he joined HubPages two years ago. Once again, we are reminded that you can embark on new artistic endeavors at any time.

Have you always doodled and sketched things?

I certainly drew stuff as a child but never had that ability of real artists to make something come alive on a page. So I gave up, thinking that if I couldn’t draw a realistic human face or a cat there was no point.

I started doodling again when I joined HubPages. Now I feel that I have missed out if a day goes by without drawing something. It is something I enjoy which I had never previously felt a need to do.

Am I an artist with years of experience? Absolutely not. Ask me again in twenty years.

Have you always created illustrations for your work?

If by ‘work’ you mean the variable quality nonsense I have produced for HubPages then the answer is yes. I realised early on that everyone said “You must have pictures” and so it began.

At first I did simple pictures to occupy some space between the text and give my pages a less wordy feel. They were a very minor element because I thought my writing was far more important and hey, I can’t draw!

Now my ‘illustrations’ are a key aspect of what I do and often the main purpose for the article. Frequently the words are breaking up the pictures – rather than the other way around.

How did your practice of creating custom images for articles come about?

When I first joined HubPages, I realised with horror that I needed a profile pic. No way! I’m not saying I am not attractive, in some lights and wearing a floppy hat I’m quite passable. The occasional lady has… well anyway.

So I drew a rough face with stick legs and used that.

What surprised me was that not a single soul on HP said how rubbish it was. In fact, one or two, two actually… or maybe one now I think about it… said they liked it. “Cute” was the compliment.

This came as some surprise.

I tentatively tried a few more and the feedback was favourable. Now, there is no stopping me!

How did you develop your signature style?

Having decided on the name Mark Ewbie I regularly practiced a signature to go with it. Oh I see. I love this question because it makes me sound proper arty.

This artistic ability stretches as far as stick figures which I pass off as minimalist representations. The truth is they are my limit – although as I practice and learn they get slightly better.

My aim is to represent an idea well enough for others to see it. It is surprising how a few lines, especially with a helpful caption such as “this is a cat”, can illustrate just about anything.

As for ‘style’. If you asked ten people to draw a stickman you would probably get ten different results. I’m fairly content with the way mine look, black lines, and yeah, maybe they have some style.

Why is it that you have decided to create images for your work rather than use photos? Do you think it gives it an edge?

My original reasoning was that it was easier than looking for a picture that fitted and then making sure it was correctly used in copyright terms.

Now I am happy with what I do and reasonably confident I can create whatever I want – within my limits of course. I find it relaxing, enjoyable and fun – and I am building a collection of pictures for every occasion!

As for edge. I believe that a unique hand drawn stick figure stands out among the hundreds of perfect photograph pictures when a potential visitor scrolling through pages on the net.

What do you use to create your images and convert them into a digital format?

I use felt tip pens on good quality A4 printer paper and scan them into my computer. Open the file with Paint, add captions and my name, tidy up any obvious smudges. More technical people might use an iPad or some tablet drawing device but I like the immediacy and ‘realness’ of pen on paper. In my opinion any imperfections say this is a personal drawing, not just a generic computer graphic.

One thing I notice sometimes with other people’s rather good doodles is that they don’t bother much with the ink or the paper quality. They do a neat picture, but it is in biro on lined paper or similar. I take this seriously. Although my art isn’t wonderful, I put care and attention into the ink and paper I use.

These images appear in Google images alongside thousands of others. A casual viewer might just click through to the source. It’s worth putting a little effort in.
I also sign everything. If a picture ends up somewhere else on the net – my name gives a possible search route to my work.

Many Hubbers don’t create their own images for Hubs (or other online articles, books, cards… you name it) simply because they don’t know where to start. What first step would you recommend to get people off to a good start?

A stiff drink. It takes nerve to publish your writing or self-created images. I’m not sure which one – writing or drawing – is a more daunting step. To put yourself out there and say “Hey world – what do you think of this?”

More seriously, I think anyone should try it. As adults, we forget so many things that used to give us pleasure. The first step is to get a pen, paper and see if you enjoy the process. Without enjoyment, and not everyone wants to draw, there is no point.

If the act of creating the drawing gives you satisfaction then that, in my opinion, is reason enough to carry on.

Oh, and good luck to you!

There’s a little more I have to say. Early praise and encouragement from fellow Hubbers gave me the belief to continue with my scribbles. I really am grateful.

THANK YOU!

I want to mention one person.

Shadesbreath showed me the way with his beautiful illustrations and writing. When I first read his pages I realised the possibilities. He has since moved on to book writing, and I’m still drawing stickmen – but I’m on his tail….