UPDATE July 2012: Illustration Friday has changed their setup and no longer requires thumbnails. But I will leave this in case it is useful for someone. :)
(Can also be used to make an avatar if you know the dimensions.)
I fear many of you are missing views because your thumbnail is broken/not showing. More than once I have been told by folks that they don’t visit the ones with no thumbnail image. It’s understandable, given the hundreds of weekly entries. There is just no way people are going to visit them all, so they have to use some criteria to determine which ones they will visit. Your thumbnail = key criteria!
A. Get yourself a graphics program. If you already have a graphics program you like, skip to item B!
If not, go grab a free copy of paint.NET and install it. If you are unable to install it, ask for help. If you have no one to ask for help, try their forums. You can also donate a couple bucks (or more than a couple) if you can swing it, or wait to see if you like it first. [If you are a starving student, don't sweat it, but when you're big and famous, throw a few bucks toward some great freeware like it.]
B. Optimize your file for the net. If you already know how to save your file at 72 dpi, skip to item C-1!
If not, open your graphics program. At the top menu, go to File —> Open. Find your artwork and open it. Now go to Image —> Resize. This will tell you the size of your file. Find “Resolution” near the middle of the window. Does it say 72 (pixels/inch)? 72 is optimal for posting because 1. it is the highest resolution most computers are capable of reproducing, 2. it makes for a reasonable file size (which determines how long it will take to see the image when someone goes to your page), and 3. if someone tries to steal your work, they might be able to re-post it but they will be unable to print a decent looking copy.
If the Resolution says 300 (pixels/inch) or higher, that is an excellent size to make prints of your work, but a terrible size for posting to the internet. So, we are going to make you a new copy of your image at 72 dpi (dots per inch – same as pixels/inch).*
- At Resolution, type in 72.
- Now, in the same window, find “Print Size”. I suggest adjusting the larger number (of your height and width) to 8 or maybe 10 (inches).
- Hit the OK button. Your image will re-size in the main window and you can determine if it is the size you want for your post.
- If it is not the size you want, go back up to the menus, choose Edit —Undo. Now you’re back where you started and you can follow the steps again to resize it. But make sure to only change ONE of the two numbers (width OR height).
- Save your image with a new name. This is key! If you just hit save you will have lost your original image. (Don’t panic if you do this however, because if the file is still open in the window you can do some of those “Edit —>Undo” functions until you’re back to the original size, then save it again.)
- Go to File —> Save As. An easy naming method is to add 72 to the name but otherwise leave it as is. Hit Save. This image is now a very nice size for posting on your blog.
C-1. Make a thumbnail from the full-size, 72 dpi version. (This is the version you should have open right now – the one you saved with the new name. Or, if you skipped ahead to here, open your file!)
- Go to File —> New. You should recognize this window! (Hint: It is the Resize window!)
- For resolution, put 72.
- But this time, instead of changing the Print Size (at the bottom) you are going to change the Pixel Size (at the top). Type in 50 (pixels) for both Width and Height.
- This is the exact size that Illustration Friday requests for your thumbnail. Hooray!
- Switch back to the file with your artwork. You should see it in the top right section of the paint.NET window.
- Go to Edit —> Select All. Your entire piece should be selected.
- Go to Edit (again) —> Copy. This will copy your entire image to your clipboard.
- Now switch back to your tiny white square, the new file you made just moments ago!
- Go to Edit —> Paste. A startling window opens and wants to know things. Do you want to expand the canvas or keep the canvas size, or cancel? You want to “Keep canvas size”. (The canvas is your 50 pixel x 50 pixel thumbnail. It must stay that size!)
- Now you will see the top left corner of your image in the tiny white square, and a large area in a black outline that is the size of your artwork image.
- Click somewhere inside the black outline. Keep your mouse button depressed.
- Now you can drag your image around until the bit you want is inside the white square. Woo! If you let go of the mouse, you can just click inside the black outline and drag some more. (Note: If you can’t decide which area to choose, go to Illustration Friday and examine all the thumbnails for some ideas.)
- Let go of the mouse. Does the thumbnail look the way you want it to look? Hooray!
- Go up to File —> Save as. For the file name, the topic plus thumb works. For instance, “Capable – thumb”.
- You must also change the file type to JPEG. You can find this right beneath “File Name”. If you already closed the window, just do File —> Save as, again, go to Save as File Type, click the teeny pull-down arrow and pick JPEG.
- You are done! When you submit your entry to Illustration Friday, you will choose this file as your thumbnail in the final part of the entry process.
- Open your 72 dpi image (the full size artwork you will use on your blog post).
- Go to Image —>Resize.
- You don’t want to distort the image. That means leave the check mark in the box that says “Maintain aspect ratio”.
- Decide how much smaller you want the image to be. If you’re not sure, try half size and go from there. In order to resize to half-size, you are going to change the larger of the two bottom numbers. If it is 8, change it to 4. You will notice that the smaller number changes as well. Good! It is maintaining aspect ratio.
- Now, go back to the previous directions (C-1) and start back at number 6 (Go to Edit —> Select All. Your entire piece should be selected.)
Note to Visitors (you awesome people!): If any of this is unclear (or incorrect), please let me know! I do apologize for its length but I wanted it to be as clear as possible. There are certainly other ways to create a thumbnail, but this is the main one I use. (In fact, I believe you can get a program that will create a thumbnail for you. I am not familiar with them so I shall not suggest any.)
Second Note to Visitors: This “How to Make an IF Thumbnail” how-to was written by, and is the property of, Cindy Dauer at The Slumbering Herd. Please do not copy and post this how-to as your own. That would be rude, not to mention illegal! However, please feel exceptionally free to link to this how-to if you think your readers will find it useful! Thank you.
*Apologies for the US education system and that whole “inches” thing.