Here We Go: Blogging on a Budget Pt. 1

I often get emails from beginner bloggers and their desire to have an awesome blog always seems to be hindered by the upfront cost. I wanted to dedicate a post (and hopefully more in the future) to free or cheaper blogging resources because they ARE out there! Whether you’re looking for themes, software, fonts, or tutorials…I’ve hopefully compiled a pretty great collection of resources. Below you’ll find them broken down by category and I’m hoping that the comments section can become another great place for suggestions or tips!

Free, Beautiful WordPress Themes:

  • Pure II: Navigation on left, categories displayed on top, single post layout
  • Bueno: Very feminine, top navigation, right sidebar
  • Dessign Free Themes: Very modern & focused on clean portfolios
  • Melville: No widgets, no sidebars, focused on writing
  • BonPress: Left sidebar with dropdown menus, great footer
  • Big Square (pictured above): Very clean, photo focused, no sidebar
  • Minimal Xpert: Small slider, previews blog posts, right sidebar
  • Expositio: An awesome theme to display work, horizontal scrolling
Please note: I personally (as a designer) haven’t worked with any of these themes. I was so glad that Angie pointed out this article about why you should never search for free WordPress themes in Google or anywhere else. Malicious code or malware can be hidden in code and footers. If you see any of that in the themes mentioned above…let me know! I often use Theme Forest and can get themes for as cheap as $17! Sometimes paying for better quality is worth it.

Editing Software:

1. Gimp is a free and open source software raster graphics editor. I was glad that I was able to connect with Fiona because she uses Gimps. Here she shares the pros and cons:

What I love most about Gimp is that it’s free and desktop based – I’m a complete amateur, but I don’t want that to be fully reflected in my blog, so having access to free software is essential. Technically, I like that I can manipulate/enhance images without losing quality and I’ve got access to my entire font library. I can optimise the image size for use on my blog and create diptychs nice and simply. Finally, it’s similar enough to Photoshop that you can read tips from a designer and adapt them yourself.

On the downside, the combination of being a rookie and the relative lack of blog posts on using the software can mean you feel like you’re on your own! I’m still not the biggest fan of most of the brushes it contains, and, I’ve not yet managed to bring in shapes effectively (I move to my tablet software for that). -Fiona of The Corner of the Internet I Call Home

2. Pixlr is a free online photo editor. Edit, adjust and filter your images. My husband, Adam, uses Pixlr even though I use Photoshop exclusively. Here’s what he has to say about it:

Pixlr makes simple photo-editing a breeze. I really enjoy how easy it is to do some basic cropping, retouching or “photoshop-esque” actions. Also, the more savvy user will be able to utilize layers and brushes to pull off some more sophisticated work. My #1 favorite feature of Pixlr is the price tag … $0.00. Free. A more seasoned designer is going to get frustrated as Pixlr lacks the customization and depth of functionality that one would find in Photoshop. – Adam Lehman

3. Pixelmator is the next step up. For a small price, this software can be downloaded to your Mac (sorry PC folks) from the app store or their website. It’s beautifully designed and easy-to-use. My friend Jess uses Pixlemator. Read her thoughts:

I use Pixelmator personally and Adobe Photoshop professionally, and I have to say that by far Pixelmator is a better option.

I love that Pixelmator is lighter and faster than Photoshop. It has all the same basic functions as Photoshop, it works seamlessly with Mac OS, it’s simple to use, and its magic wand recognition is superior. With such a huge price differential ($29.99 versus $699!), the casual blogger has an incredibly powerful yet less bloated editing program.

I do think that Pixelmator has some limitations. There’s the obvious limitation of requiring Mac OS to use this program. Anyone who is a designer by trade will find it not as versatile, and things like brushes, filters, and tutorials can’t be as easily applied or replicated in Pixelmator. My biggest complaint is line spacing for text isn’t a built-in feature, so I have to manually tinker with the text. – Jess of Curating Style

We’ll cover Photoshop and Photoshop Elements next time. If you use software to create graphics for your blog that isn’t listed here, let me know! I’d love to feature more next time.

Free Fonts:

Using a variety of fonts in my blog posts really creates visual variety. There is a world outside of Curlz (ugh) or Times New Roman! I do feel that the general public needs more exposure to fonts other than the ones that come pre-loaded on their PC. I’ve created a list of some of my favorite resources for free fonts. I’m not saying that they’re all amazing but that’s why experimenting is fun! Here are some tutorials on loading new fonts to your Mac or PC. I try to buy a few fonts per month and donate when I am able.

  1. The League of Moveable Type
  2. My Fonts
  3. Font Fabric
  4. Lost Type Co-Op
  5. Web Design Ledger
  6. Miss Design
  7. Free* Typography
  8. Behance Network

For now, this concludes this Blogging on a Budget post. Sometime mid-April I’ll be continuing this specific topic by sharing some blog graphics that you might find helpful, .PSD files for those that use Photoshop, why you might want to just buy Photoshop Elements (vs Photoshop) and some tutorials. If there are any other topics or resources that you’d like to see covered in this series, please let me know!

March 28, 2012