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Archive for April, 2010

Print and Photographs Online Catalog Updated

For months the curators and technologists at the Library of Congress have been working together on a spectacular (and welcome) revamp of the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The online collection can now be found at the easy-to-remember address of www.loc.gov/pictures/ — with many images available for downloading.

Some of the new features include creative new ways to browse their 1.25 million online prints and photos, such as grids that give a quick overview of dozens of images at once and even a slideshow format that lets you toggle bibliographic information on and off.

The interface is reminiscent of other existing sites that offer powerful ways to search for and display images, such as the ever-popular Flickr.  In celebration of this new milestone, the LOC has posted a new set of highlight images from the Library called “Meet More Treasures.”  They consider it a thank you to all of those who have found value and pleasure in the Library’s priceless collections of more than 14 million pictures (both online and in their physical collections). I for one am grateful since I’ve found value (in the form of income) and pleasure from this site. Many of you have as well

Alice Invades the iPad!

I just discovered an amazing new app for Apple’s iPad that I have to share here. It’s called “Alice” and is best on the bestselling classic, Alice in Wonderland. But this isn’t your typical re-hashing of Alice and the rabbit…oh no. Chris Stevens and Ben Roberts of Atomic Antelope, Ltd. have re-imagined this 145 year-old story from Lewis Carroll in a fresh, unique way by marrying together the power of storytelling with physics. The result is an experience that looks like it was scripted straight out of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (my all-time favorite movie).

So what makes THIS version of Alice in Wonderland so unique? It’s the way you can interact with it! You tilt your iPad one way and Alice grows…you tilt the other way and she shrinks. Shake your iPad and the Mad Hatter’s head bobbles. Heck, you can even throw cards at the Queen of Hearts! “Alice” is truly a magical book experience that very well could define the future of children’s books.

The best part of this “new” creation is that it just goes to demonstrate, once again, that ANYTHING is possible with Public Domain content. Just apply your own creative innovation to it, like Chris and Ben did, and you end up with a runaway best-selling app (not an easy task). You can learn more about “Alice” on the Atomic Antelope website. And to get an idea of just how fun this app truly is, I’ll close with the “Alice” promo video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gew68Qj5kxw[/youtube]

Choosing the BEST Colors for Your Designs

As many of you know, I worked as a graphic designer for 18 years, mostly designing book covers for publishers and authors around the world. During that time, I developed a great understanding and appreciation for the power of color and its effect on the consumer. It’s a topic that I’d like to share about briefly in this post for one simple reason…I see many in the Internet Marketing community creating websites, e-book covers or Powerpoint presentations without any regard to the effect their color choices are having on their visitors or prospects. In other words, “because it looks cool or pretty” is NOT the reason to use a certain color scheme…grin.

Color has a language of its own and that language should be understood by anyone who expects to use it to its best effect. Many good website designs or product covers have been spoiled because the colors used said one thing and the words and illustrations another. Color has three dimensions: hue, intensity, and value.

Each of these has its part in the message of color, but the message of hue is most universally understood. For example, red suggests heat; yellow, light; blue, cold; purple suggests darkness; orange suggests flame; green suggests the blending light and coolness that conveys rest. Of course, these examples are just that…examples…because color can have multiple meanings. For instance, red can also mean “stop” and green “go.”

Intensity of color is measured by its brightness or dullness. The usual danger is that of using colors that are too bright. In general, it may be said that a full intensity color should never be used for backgrounds or for large spaces. Dull or neutralized colors are better for these purposes. The primary reason for this is that having a large area of bright color can be distractive. Your eye doesn’t know where to land because of the huge area of bright color. When, from a selling perspective, we want the reader’s eye to land on our website headline or book title.

The value of color is measured by its lightness or darkness. The lighter values should be used for backgrounds because they look larger; the darker values for the material which is to be emphasized. Of course, there are exceptions to this from a stylized design perspective. But let me ask you a question that drives this point home: “How many of the top 25 websites online have “dark” backgrounds?” (The Top 4 are pictured below). Enough said.

Of course, Colors should normally be used in harmonious combinations. There are of two types of these combinations; the combination of allied colors and the combination of contrasting or complementary colors. Allied colors are those which contain some part of the same primary hue. Two shades of green, or of blue, form an allied combination. Brown and yellow make a good combination. In the same way a pair of complements, as red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange, may be used. For the best effect and result for your designs, never use complementary combinations in their full intensity. Two complementary colors in full intensity form the crudest of all harmonious color combinations. Red and green is perhaps the worst of all combinations and the most frequently used and abused. A quick glance at the illustration below should be enough explanation for this warning.

My favorite website for choosing the best color schemes for any design I work on, whether it’s a WordPress theme or a book cover, is Color Scheme Designer (http://www.colorschemedesigner.com). It allows you to generate endless combinations of allied and complementary color schemes. And best of all, this amazing tool is free. If you are creating ANY kind of design – website graphics, banners, book covers, logos, etc. – Color Scheme Designer should become your newest best friend. Have fun with it!

Finding Elusive Images in the Public Domain

How often have you tried to find an certain type of image in the Public Domain, and no matter what you try, you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? It can be pretty frustrating for sure! Just the other day, I received an e-mail from one of my UK customers who was experiencing that exact dilemma. She e-mailed me to ask:

“I purchased your “Easy Money Picture Project”.  As you are US based it’s not surprising that your links to internet sites for public domain are going to mostly contain US public domain material.  I am in the UK, I know most of the US material can be used here OK but I am interested in old images of the UK & I didn’t know whether you had come across any sites that contained such images or any UK websites that contained content from the UK.”

To be honest, I had never researched images specific to the UK, so I thought it would be a good exercise for my research skills. After spending 2 or 3 minutes with Google, I sent her a few of the results I discovered:

“Here are a few starting points for you:

  • http://www.historyworld.co.uk/
  • http://www.oldukphotos.com/
  • http://grumpystumpy.com/
  • http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/

Hope this helps!”

She responded back the next day with:

“I’ve just quickly linked to the sites you sent me & had a quick look & they look as though they will be very helpful, why couldn’t I find them? Must be doing wrong searches!”

I responded to her that searches can be tricky and offered keyword phrases I used to find the websites I sent her. After writing my response to her, I wondered how many MORE of you have encountered similar frustrations? So I thought I’d write a post to share the methodology behind how I research.

I’ve found that there is no rhyme or reason to why websites use the text they use in describing the contents on their websites. The sooner you learn that fact, the sooner you can move into conducting and enjoying meaningful research online.

First of all, you need to be aware of variations on your keywords. You can use a thesaurus if you get stuck. For example, let’s consider the keyword “photograph.” Photograph could also be displayed as:

  • Photography
  • Photo
  • Picture
  • Pic
  • Image
  • Graphic
  • Illustration
  • Still
  • Poster

To this end, you will notice in the screenshot below how this website uses the word “advert” for advertising, so if you were searching for “vintage UK advertising,” you may not find this site because of the variation.

Now, in the case of our case study, I simply used two keyword phrases:

  • “vintage UK photographs”
  • “old UK photographs”

Again, there are a number of variations for “old” and “vintage.”  The same holds true for “UK”: United Kingdom, Britain or British Isles…and don’t forget specific locations, such as “Gloucestershire” or “London.” I think you get the idea.

Another trick I want to point out is this…when you find a site you like in Google, very often you will see a link for “similar sites” in your search results as seen in the screenshot below. CLICK that link! It will reveal even more related sites for you. Of course, you can also use SimilarSites as I mentioned in a previous post, if they offer suggestions for your sites. In the case of the UK sites, they didn’t offer any results.

Now there is ONE keyword phrase that, oddly enough, you probably DON’T want to use in your search phrase…”Public Domain.” Seems odd to say that being that this is the Public Domain Blog, but the truth is that it’s not a common word that many sites use. Yes, you can find Public Domain images using that phrase in your searches, but I can tell you from experience that you will not get the kinds of results you truly want if you include it. As a matter of fact, with this case study, my customer indeed wrote back and said she was searching using the keyword phrase, “public domain vintage UK photos” among others and wasn’t finding the sites I found. Notice that her search phrase is a variation of one of mine except for a noticeable difference…she included the phrase, “public domain.”

To learn even MORE methods for finding and using images from the Public Domain, check out, “Easy Money Picture Project,” my comprehensive book on how to profit from Public Domain images and photos.

Easy Money Picture Project

Amazing (and free) Image Editing Tools

An essential tool for any Information Marketer’s toolbox is a high-quality image editor. Of course, the King of the Hill for image editing software is Adobe Photoshop. Having used Photoshop for the past 18 years, I can safely say that, from a design perspective, we’re definitely joined at the hip…grin. I use it every day. The problem that crops up, however, is that Photoshop isn’t cheap and is often out of the budget range for many, especially if they’re just starting out. It doesn’t change the fact that there are still header graphics to create and photos to edit…ebook covers to design and DVD cases to finalize…but sometimes, having the best tools for the job simply isn’t an option.

There are some cheap and free software options out there, like Photoshop Elements or GimpShop. I’ve talked about (and promoted) these options before, but they are not the topic of THIS post. There are some new, amazing web-based tools emerging, that, in my opinion, could actually give Photoshop a run for their money. Adobe DOES offer an online image editor (Photoshop Express http://www.photoshop.com), but I’m not including it in this post. I personally prefer the other programs I DO include here. The point I want to make here as we begin to explore these new, online tools is that you have options…more now than ever before…and the best news is, they’re FREE!

Pixlr (http://www.pixlr.com):

Pixlr is perhaps my favorite online image editing software of all the ones I’ll be sharing today because it’s so well done. The look and feel is nearly identical to Photoshop (as most of them are), and quite honestly, it performs nearly ALL the same tasks Photoshop will. It even opens Photoshop PSD files and maintains the layers, which is a nice touch. None of the other programs offer that. It offers an extensive line of filters and editing tools, as well as everything else you would expect from a high-quality image editing software. The ONLY issue I have with Pixlr (if you even want to call it an issue) is that it doesn’t offer an option to show rulers or draw snap guides. And actually, none of the web-based programs I’m sharing here offer that feature (except for Aviary, which I’ll talk about a little later). It’s not a huge deal but it would be nice to have (Please take note Pixlr…grin). And…BTW…all the screen captures for this post were edited in Pixlr.

SplashUp (http://www.splashup.com):

SplashUp is another great online image editing option. While it doesn’t have all the features that Pixlr does, it’s still a great choice…especially if you don’t need all the extra features. It DOES have the ones that matter: layers and layer effects, some decent basic filters, etc. My favorite option in this program is how it handles type. Unlike Pixlr (where you have to enter the type into a type palette and then click “Okay” to add it to your document), you can type directly into your document…just like you would in Photoshop. The biggest bummer with this program? It doesn’t support Photoshop files. Pixlr does. In my book that’s a big deal, but that aside, SplashUp is still a great option for your image editing needs.

Aviary (http://www.aviary.com):

Aviary is more than just an image editor, it’s an entire suite of free online tools that includes an image editor, a color editor, an effects editor, a vector editor (think Illustrator), an audio editor, screen capture and more! Quite honestly, it’s one of the most amazing suites of online tools I’ve seen anywhere. When using the image editor (called Phoenix), you will notice, again, that the basic look and layout is similar to our standard, Photoshop (it doesn’t support PSD files however). What I love about Aviary is how they handle their layers. You can have regular layers (like images, text, etc) but ALSO access the Effects Editor and Vector Editor and add dedicated layers from those tools as well. This greatly expands the reach of Phoenix’s (the image editor) basic offering of tools. They also offer extensive tutorials, including how to create banners for Etsy (nice touch for one of their target audiences). All in all, this is another amazing suite of tools that is worth your time to investigate!

In addition to the three image editors I mention here, there are others as well, such as Pixinate, Picnik and SumoPaint. They each have merit, but speaking as a veteran graphic designer, the three I mention here should more than address ANY graphics needs you may encounter. What I would to you is to try out all three offerings I mention here and get a feel for what each one offers. You may prefer one over the others. Of course, the GREAT news is that you no longer have to stress about shelling out big sums of cash to address your image editing needs!

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