Small biz how-to : Using Picmonkey to make a retro-style meme for your blog

tractorgirl - picmonkey tutorial


Seen all those great memes about these days? Those ones you keep pinning on Pinterest and sharing on Facebook? Yeah, them! They’re a great way to drive traffic to your blog, and they’re easy to make on PicMonkey – a free online image editor, where you can get fabulous-looking images for absolutely nix (although there is a paid version with heaps more features too).

(And even if you don’t need a meme like this, there are plenty of other things you can make with PicMonkey! Stick with through this tutorial and I guarantee you’ll learn something useful.)

In this online world, good images are vital to grab your crowd’s attention. If you’re writing a blog, or you need a new banner for your Etsy shop or Facebook, or any one of a million other applications, PicMonkey is loaded with preset filters, overlays and frames so that it’s perfect for those of you who are less tech-savvy and/or don’t wish to pay for Photoshop to get something that looks good. Of course it’s not endlessly flexible in the same way that Photoshop is, and it does have a few issues, particularly the constant stream of ads (not in the paid version) which tends to slow its performance (quite noticeable with my slow internet connection). Overall however, it’s a great starting point.


IMPORTANT: before you start ANY image editing,
you need to decide what kind of “look” you’re after


Do not just get in there and start clicking, as (a) you’ll spend waaaay too much time getting to the end; and (b) even worse, you will most likely end up with a visual mess. For this one, I’ve gone for a bit of a distressed, vintage look that is pretty popular these days. So, I’ll use stuff like sepia-tone, add in some texture, and use a hand-drawn style font. Let’s get started.


Step 1. Getting an image

If you’ve got a great image of your own, go for it! If you don’t, there are plenty of sites that offer free stock photos, such as Unsplash, GetRefe, or NewOldStock.


I have also started offering up some of my own photos as free stock images, and you can browse through them here.


So, go to, and open your image of choice. I’ve used my pic It’s a big wide world out there.


picmonkey 1


Step 2. Sepia and colour spot - picmonkey tutorial - picmonkey tutorial


Go into Effects and click on Sepia. It will immediately turn your image into an entirely sepia photo. You can use the Fade slider to adjust the amount of sepia over the whole image, or, you can remove the sepia on the parts you choose with the Paint brush tool. Set the size of the brush large to erase out the bulk of the sepia. Then, zoom in to your image, using either the zoom tool on the bottom right of your screen, or if you’ve got a scroll wheel on your mouse, you can use that.

Make your brush smaller, so you can use it to erase the sepia from the details.

You can “grab” the picture and move around by holding down the space bar and the left button on your mouse simultaneously.


Step 3. Add some texture - picmonkey tutorial


Picmonkey has a variety of textures you can add to your pic – you’ll find them under Textures in the left-hand sidebar. But to add your own, you’ll need to go into Overlays, and click on Add Your Own. Upload your file. It’ll show up tiny on your screen, but just resize it by dragging the corners and sides out until it covers your photo.

In the Overlay pop-up box, adjust the Fade to where you’d like (usually around 85% is good). If you’d like to get rid of the texture on some of your image (in this case, I’d like to make the toys ‘pop’ a bit more), click on Eraser in the Overlay pop-up box. Zoom in so you can work on the details, and use the little box on the bottom right to move your picture around. - picmonkey tutorial


Step 4. Flatten your image

When you added the Overlay, that meant that you are now working with two layers. You can have lots of layers if you like, which makes it super easy to move stuff around and put it exactly where you want. However, when you have more than two layers directly above each other you have to click exactly on the thing you wish to move, and this can be a bit tricky if you want to move text around for instance – it just doesn’t have a lot of surface area to grab.

So, for me to add my text overlay and try and get it in the right spot I’ve got two choices – either move the other layer out of the way so the text is the only thing to grab, or else simply flatten the image before I move onto the next step. To flatten, click on the icon at the top of the screen. - picmonkey tutorial


Step 5. Adding text

To go with our retro-distressed look, we need to choose a font with a bit of texture, and to go with the simplicity of the image, an uncomplicated font as well. Like in the image above, choose Text on the left sidebar, click on your font of choice (I’ve chosen Chelsea Market), then click on Add Text. Your text box will appear in the middle of the screen, as well as the pop-up for the text options such as colour, size, left/centre/right justification, etc.

The more you type, the taller your text box will become; but you can change the width of it by hovering over the side until the double-headed arrow and triple lines appear, then just click and drag to your preferred width. I’ve also centre-justified my text, and changed the colour with the hex code – that’s the 6-digit code in the top right corner of the options box (see image above).

To align the text box in the image, you can use this handy transparent grid I made, here!

I want to also add my name to this image, so click on Add Text again to get another text box. This time, I want to use a font on my own computer, so click on Yours in the box above the list of font choices, and it brings up all the fonts I’ve installed. Unfortunately, Picmonkey seems to mangle a couple of them in the process, so keep an eye out for that when you’re choosing your own. Goblin is still there, so that’s good. Same as I do for all my branding, I pick out a letter or two and change the colour. - picmonkey tutorial


Step 6. Add dark edges

Easy peasy. Go back to Effects in the left sidebar, and scroll down to Dark Edges. Fiddle about with the Size, Intensity and Colour until you’re happy.


Step 7. Add a circle under the text

Taking a good look at the image, I think the text at the top is a bit difficult to read with the clouds underneath, so I have decided to put a white circle underneath it. - picmonkey tutorial


Click on Overlay, and in Geometric, click on the circle. Resize it, and change Colour 2 to white (Colour 1 is a line option around the edge, and the default is transparent). Then right-click on the circle, and other options will come up; choose Send Backward. This will drop it one layer, and put it behind the text. (Send to Back will make it the very lowest layer, just above the base photo.) I’d also like the circle a bit translucent so that the clouds show through, so I set the Fade to around 40%.

The last thing to do is to tweak the size of the text so that it fits inside the circle;

et voilà!


tractorgirl - picmonkey tutorial



Did you like this tutorial? I’ll be doing another one shortly on making a banner for your Etsy shop, which will also include a style guide and other groovy pointers, but I’d love to hear what you’d like. Is there something specific, for instance your blog header or twitter background that you need to learn how to do? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll get onto it! 

(and don’t forget to join me on the minibus for a regular hit of small biz tips and tricks too) 

Love always,

Julie X

Making Blogger pretty: adding social media icons (and other tricks)

chulabird pattern

{background pattern Autumn Swirl by Chulabird, here}


If you have any kind of a blog that is connected to your business in some way, you absolutely need to include links to your social media accounts. Using social media icons is the most popular and the most obvious way to do this. It’s best if they’re somewhere towards the top of your blog page – whether they’re above your header or below, or over on your sidebar is really up to you and how you want your blog to look.

If you want to add in some buttons for your social media, you’ll first have to have some appropriate icon images for the social media you need – either purchase some, or make them yourself.

There are lots of free ones – just google “free social media icons” and look through the images until you find some you like (always check the licence conditions!) – and you can always alter colours and other effects. Of course you can always create your own too.

OR, here I’ve included a zip file of the 5 most popular icons – Google+, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – as .png files. They’re black  on transparent backgrounds, but you can easily change the colour using Photoshop or Picmonkey. They’re all 64 pixels square – a bit larger means they’re easier to work with if you intend changing colours etc, but I would recommend you resize them to something a bit smaller if you’re putting them on your blog – somewhere between 30 – 50 pixels wide is good.


the lot

Download the icons here.


There are a couple of reasons I prefer to use .png files rather than .jpegs. Although .jpg files are compressed so that they’re quicker to load, the compression also means that they lose clarity, and sometimes they can end up looking quite blurry. Another reason for a transparent background is that if your blog has a coloured background, your icons can sit there happily without an ugly white square around them.

OK. So now those images need to be hosted somewhere (i.e. they need a URL where Blogger can find them), and if you’ve bought some webhosting, there’s no problem – just load up the files. But if you don’t have your own webhosting,  I found a great work-around tutorial on YouTube showing you how to add them directly to Blogger so you can use them on your site. (The full video is here).

In the video, Emily of suggests simply creating a new post, which is named something to remind you that it is not public, such as “DO NOT PUBLISH OR DELETE”. In that post, click on the HTML tab (circled in red below), as this gives you control over the spacing of the images. Then load up your images, by clicking on the picture icon (also circled in red). Then click on Compose, so that you can align the images (probably centred is best).

Save it (don’t Publish!). Click back into HTML, then copy the code that appears – it should look a bit like the image below. Highlight all that code to select it, and then Ctrl C to copy it onto your clipboard.


how to blogger - sm icons


Next, close that window so that you’re back on the main Dashboard. Go into Layout (circled in red below), and click on any box labelled “Add a gadget” in the area that you want it – usually best at the top of the sidebar, or above your menu.


how to blogger - sm icons 2


The pop-up window will give you a bunch of different types of ‘gadgets’ you can add in – click on “HTML/Javascript”, and paste all the code into the Content box. Your screen should look a bit like the one below. Save, and you’re done!


how to blogger - sm icons 3


Happy blogging!


Do you have any burning questions about Blogger? Any specific problems? Anything in particular you’d like to change on your blog but don’t know how? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll find you an answer!!

Or, are you proud of your blog? Share your link, so the world can see 🙂


Julie x


Small biz how-to : making Blogger pretty

 Making Blogger pretty
martin senn wire sculpture - via

martin senn wire sculpture

 {via here}

We are so obviously no longer in the typewriter age. And a blogging platform is a bit like this wire sculpture – we can fill in the blanks with colour and pattern and whatever we want to make it as individual as we are.


So use your blog as an expression of your brand!


I love blogging and I think it’s a really great thing to do for your business – to get your work out there, for getting to know your customers, for SEO benefits, and a whole lot more (if you’re still not convinced, read this). So I wanted to show you all how easy it is to set one up make it beautiful.

Unless you’re a tech-geek (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this), there are two main platforms you can use to set yourself up a blog – Blogger and WordPress. Blogger is by far the easiest if you’re tech-challenged. (I’ll get to WordPress in the next post).


It’s really really SUPER easy to set up your own blog on Blogger – you only need a current Google account (with a .gmail address). Once you’re signed in, go to (if you’re not already) and then click on the button that says “New blog” on the left. It’s a matter of following your nose really, so instead of going through the setup process, I thought I’d spend some time going through some of the things you can do next, to get it looking professional.



Let’s look at the Dashboard for Blogger. On the left, you’ll see a list of items; some of them are to do with how your blog looks, and some of them are to do with your visitor statistics, and whether or not you choose to have Google ads on your site (btw, I wouldn’t recommend getting into advertising if you’re only just setting up – it looks tacky). The difference between “Posts” and “Pages” is one you need to understand first up if you have a blog – “pages” are more or less permanent, static pages that you use in your site, like your Contact page or your About page. Some folk use them for the landing page (the page people first land on when they type in your website address), so that customers are presented with a standard set of information. “Posts” are the things you use for your actual blog, and are shown in the order in which they’re posted.

Today though, the items we are most interested in are the three towards the bottom in the picture above – Layout, Template, and Settings (circled in red).


1. Layout.

This is about what goes where on your blog – in your sidebar or footer (the area at the bottom of your page) you can add in any number of widgets (‘gadgets‘ as Blogger calls them here; they can be pre-set bits of code designed to do specific tasks, or you can add in your own html, text or pictures, or you can include links to other sites, show off your portfolio, etc). The layout on Blogger is ‘drag and drop’ too, so it’s very, very easy to get things where you want.

On the top left is the area for your favicon (a favicon is that little tiny square image that’s on the top of your computer’s tabs). The default is Blogger’s ‘B’ on the orange background, but of course you don’t want that so use the favicon to showcase your logo/colours! You can make up your own design pixel by pixel using one of the many favicon generators available online (e.g , or you can just upload your own square picture, remembering of course that it’s tiny (16 x 16 pixels) and won’t show any detail.

On the top right is the Navbar (navigation bar), which has a search box, a bunch of sharing options, and an easy click-through to the “next” Blogger blog (actually fairly random, in my experience). Turn it off! You can easily add a search tool through one of your ‘gadgets’, and the rest of the Navbar is next to useless and makes your blog look unprofessional.

Add in your header image. Blogger suggests your header image should be 1080 pixels wide. Don’t have it too much less than this as your image will be stretched to fit, making it pixelated and ugly. And although it can be any height, somewhere around 200 pixels high is good. Blogger’s default format is to have an image with the blog title as floating text over the top. However, you can make your blog title and/or logo part of your header image so you don’t have to include that text. Not all systems support all fonts, which means that another system may use a default font instead of the one you’ve chosen, which can entirely change the look of your header; so incorporating text as part of your header image gets around this neatly.

Clicking on “Add a Gadget” will bring up a range of pre-set functions that you can add in, or you can use the “HTML/Javascript ” and add your own code. Every time you add on a new gadget, the Layout template updates so there is always another “add a gadget” box in that position, which means you can have an infinite number of gadgets in your sidebar if you wish. Then, you can drag and drop any of the boxes with a grey bar on their left, so use this to place everything in the order that you want.

To change your “About me”, you’ll have to click on your profile icon on the very top right of your screen. This profile image and information is used for ALL of your Blogger blogs, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing an image or writing about yourself if you have more than one blog (although remember you always change your profile info and image at any time – they’re not set in concrete). Alternatively, you can choose not to show the Blogger profile at all, and write your own “About” page instead.

And instead of using the default “Archive” gadget, which simply lists your post titles in chronological order, you might like to include the gadget that lists your most popular posts (click on “add a gadget” and scroll down to “Popular Posts”).


2. Template.

OK, this is where you can get super fancy schmancy. It’s pretty easy to choose whatever template you want – Blogger lets you preview them all with your blog details before you change anything permanently. To change it, click on “Template”, then below the preview of your blog, click on “customize“. You can then click through the various elements – “Background”, “Adjust width”, “Layout” (in the “Template Designer”, this option will let you change the overall layout, whereas “Layout” from the main Dashboard will let you add and drag elements around).

The most important thing in Template is “Advanced“, which lets you choose fonts, change and tweak font colours, backgrounds and various other elements. Have a play, and see what does what – nothing is permanently changed until you click on “Apply to blog” at the top right of your screen. I have found it does vary slightly between templates as to what elements are changed and how, so do your own experimenting until you’re happy. What’s good here especially is that there are various ways you can choose colour, including using specific hex keys (that’s the hashtag followed by 6 digits or letters, eg. #e31e3c) so you can get exactly the colour you want. There is also a good range of fonts to choose from to make your blog distinctive.


3. Settings

All the basic settings are straight forward. When it comes to attaching your blog to your own registered domain (a website address that you’ve paid for and own, such as, Blogger makes this nice and easy for you too, and they’ve got a very good help page to take you through the process. It’s totally worth it to have your own address and drop the ‘blogspot’ out of it – it looks infinitely more professional.

In “Posts & Comments”, use  “Comment form message“,  which will add a message to the head of your Comments box, such as “I read each and every one of your lovely comments, and I love hearing what you have to say! Thank you”. It makes it much more welcoming for readers, don’t you think?


Do you have any burning questions about Blogger? Any specific problems? Anything in particular you’d like to change on your blog but don’t know how? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll find you an answer!!

Or, are you proud of your blog? Share your link, so the world can see!


Julie x

Sometimes I feel like a frightened rabbit : Facing up to 2015

I’ve just returned from my annual holidays at the beach a few days ago. While I do celebrate the new year on 1st January along with the majority of people in the western world, January itself is always a month of hiatus for me, a time of family comings and goings and several weeks of camping on the coast.

I’ve spent the time thinking and not thinking, reading and dreaming. I’ve swum in the ocean with the kids, watched the dolphins, gone on a few walks through the bush and taken a few photographs.

I did poke my nose into my emails occasionally, and I also followed along on Create & Thrive’s 30 Questions during January. The 30 questions were a great bunch of ideas you should seriously ask yourself about your biz – some broad, some quite specific, and all of them thought-provoking – with the aim of giving you insights into yourself AND your biz. It was Day 4’s question that grabbed me early on, and has kept me deep in thought over the last few weeks.


“What is one word that sums up your plans for your business in 2015?”


I thought very long and hard about this one, because it’s THIS word that has the power to lift you when you’re flat, to push you when you don’t feel like it. Dig below the business plans, and this one word is perhaps not just about your business; but more importantly, it’s about YOU.

For too many years, for too many reasons, I’ve procrastinated on opportunities big and small until they fell off the edge of my desk. Getting stuck doing “busy” work, checking and rechecking things that were not actually moving me any direction except sideways (stats, I’m looking at YOU). Trying to write stuff, but it’s hard and then getting sidetracked, and making a(nother) cup of tea. Social media (because heck, it’s fun). Check the cupboard for a snack. Write another half dozen words and I’m stuck again. Make a(nother) cup of tea. And after all this complaining loudly that “Woe is me! There’s never enough time to do everything!”

I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not really afraid of the hard work, it’s just that I’m afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I feel like a frightened rabbit.


papier mache mask by MiesmesaBerni on Etsy

papier mache mask by MiesmesaBerni on Etsy

{rabbit mask here}


So February is the beginning of my new year.  And it’s time for my new word.






Let my new word be my guide this year. Are you ready for 2015? I am!

Now, what’s your word?

5 things to catapult you into 2015

Best resources for a great start to 2015
the journey - danny haas at

the journey – danny haas

{artwork via here}

The New Year is an especially fabulous time for starting on new things. It all seems to fit together – a fresh mindset for a fresh calendar.

So I’ve brought together a few of the best resources I’ve found out there to get you and your business positively sproinging out of the starting gate!  There is SO much out there to choose from, it’s very easy to get overloaded; I think simple is often best so I’ve kept it concise. There are some old favourites (who can go past Seth?) and some discoveries I’ve just made recently. They are both practical, and good for getting your head facing the right direction. Here goes:


the journey - danny haas at


1. How to Set a 100 day Goal and Stick to It with Julia Bickerstaff from the Business Bakery. Down to earth and fun. I’m doing this one for sure! Here.


2. Design Cuts Holiday Bundle: If you’ve not come across these guys before, then they might just be the graphics godsend that you need. Design Cuts cater to graphic designers large and small, and even if you’ve only got a basic understanding of image editing programs, you’ll find something that’s works for you. Not only do they provide fabulous tutorials, they also collate very high quality graphics resources (like fonts, vector images, textures and more) and present them in bundles for hugely reduced rates, often 80-90% off. Best thing at the moment though is that they have got a MASSIVE bundle of goodies for you for NIX. That’s right, free. Check the bundle out here (you’ve got to hurry though, it ends on 4th January).


3. Design your own {lovely} blog: Do you have a blog? I recommend you do (and here’s why). Marianne has an absolutely fab collection of tips and tutorials on how to get your blog looking its best – from very simple ideas on what to include where, through to the internal coding to make it all work.


4. Colour. I really couldn’t decide which colour palette generator was more useful, as they both have their strong points, as well as some similarities. Both of these sites allow you to choose colour schemes from photos, and you can choose to make your colour schemes public (to be voted on by their respective communities) or private. You can also scroll through other people’s schemes and use them.

Adobe Color CC is great for those who want to strengthen their knowledge of how colour schemes work, and gives you an on-screen colour wheel so you can visualise what’s happening. ColourLovers has been around for yonks, and that’s because it’s excellent. Although it lets you simply choose colours in your palette according to whim, it also has a section where you can create your own patterns and apply the colours you have chosen, AND then export your coloured patterns to Spoonflower.


5.  30 day List Building Challenge from Nathalie Lussier is another must-do. Does your business have an email list? If you don’t, you are surely missing out. I remember reading one time that your customers can forget to visit your website and then forget you – but if you’re in their inbox, you’re in a very privileged position. Get the lowdown from Nathalie “let’s make it a home run” Lussier here.


Bonus: Seth’s Blog. I know I said 5 things, but I really cannot go past the wonderfulness that is Seth Godin. Succinct, pointed, thought-provoking – Seth’s post in my inbox is one that I rarely miss opening. Guaranteed to expand your horizons, and make you dig deep into what’s inside you in equal measure. You can find Seth’s wisdom here. Subscribe; you won’t be sorry.


(Just a note though, don’t feel obligated to start any or all of these on the 1st January; there are other calendars around besides the Gregorian, not to mention your own timetable. Start when you’re ready, but don’t wait until everything’s perfect because it never will be. Start SOON.)


p.s. Don’t forget to check out all the tutorials on tractorgirl, and you can also grab a copy of my new book, Visual Business {Small Business Branding} for a very large 25% off here.


the journey - danny haas at



Here’s to an absolutely fabulous 2015!

Best wishes always, Julie x

avi self portrait 2 lightest

The best of 2014

Oh. My. Goodness. There goes another year….. in all its chaotic, mind-bending glory. Disappointments, epiphanies, and serious amounts of hard slog.

I’m older and wiser. And clearer on what I need to do. And that’s awesomeness right there, even though I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do. 

Make sure you take stock of what you have learned as well as what you have achieved this year.  If you don’t, you probably will have missed something very valuable indeed. Take time to savour the journey.

I’ve loved my journey this year. Here’s a snippet of the most popular, the most beautiful, and the most interesting posts on 
tractorgirl for 2014. {And some useful stuff too.}


mariaqueenmaria - black tunic with multiple ribbons

mariaqueenmaria – black tunic with multiple ribbons

Maria Queen Maria is a deconstructivist clothing label from Bulgaria, run by two women with backgrounds in the film industry and costume design. You can find more of their work here.


+ Designing a knock-out business card, Parts 1 and 2. Your business card is much more than just a carrier of your contact details; your card sends out a message about your business. Do you want to be perceived as boring or cheap? Probably not. Get onto these tips to make your business card memorable. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.



stoflab - crispijn - green

stoflab – crispijn – green

Stoflab: Despite his bold and uncompromising geometrics, Stoflab himself prefers to remain mysterious and anonymous. Based in the Netherlands, his influences run through Dick Bruna, Bauhaus and computer technology. You can find more of his striking work here


+ Repeating patterns in Illustrator CS6 with the Pattern Making Tool. Written by Illustrator expert Sew Heidi, this excellent post goes through step-by-step to help you create simple patterns with the new Pattern Making Tool in CS6. The tool includes features such as live previews and half-drops, so is a total boon to designers who have been struggling with earlier versions of Illustrator. You can find the post here.



sim luttin - these things

sim luttin – these things

Sim Luttin: Australian jeweller Sim Luttin grew up wanting be an inventor. She watched things being created by her grandfather tinkering in his shed and her scientist father; “I was encouraged to do things in a more labour intensive, meticulous way, which was often a longer and highly detailed process. Now, many years later, I approach my creative work this way.”  You can find more of Sim’s beautiful work here.



leschiwelt - owl

leschiwelt – owl

Nora Leschinski grew up in a remote mountain village in the green forested heart of Germany. It was the perfect place for the future woodcarver to play and fuel her imagination. You can find more of Nora’s beautiful illustrated woodcarvings here.


 + Photographing your work for your online shop. Got an Etsy shop or similar? This one’s for you. Your pictures ARE your product, in the sense that the online world is an overwhelmingly visual one, and you’ve got mere seconds to grab your customer’s attention before they click away somewhere else. Read it here.



mark obrien - church st records - created for the skyliner show

mark obrien – church st records – created for the skyliner show

Mark O’Brien has made enormous chickens {and many other things} from cardboard. See more of his work here.



clemens wirth in the studio

clemens wirth in the studio

Clemens Wirth claims he’s not a wizard, despite his red hair. I beg to differ.  See him build amazing dioramas and turn them into film here


Getting Started in Surface Design, Parts 1, 2 and 3. Part 1 goes through image sizing and resolution, and how to create a simple repeat. You can find Part 1 here. Part 2 explains the difference between CMYK and RGB colour, which one you should be using and why, and has a list of online printing venues so you can print your own fabric. Part 2 is here. Part 3 shows you how big to make your image, helps you figure out what image-editing program to use, and shows you the easy peasy way of creating variety within your print, and mostly importantly, explains what to do next if you want to get serious about surface design. Part 3 is here.



Beata Czyzowska Young - make it possible

Beata Czyzowska Young – make it possible

Beata Czyzowska Young: After moving from Poland several years ago, Beata now makes her home on the Australian Central Coast. 

She is absolutely adamant: “Expensive camera and expensive equipment is not gonna make you an artist.” For her, it’s all about looking beyond the obvious, and not being afraid to break the rules. Anything is possible.

You can find more of her gobsmackingly beautiful photography here.



I wish you all the very best over this festive season – peace, love and happiness.

Julie X