Mini-Alt Week: Design

Here’s where I’m going to take over with some basic text, because wordy as this is, it’s simply easier to type it all out here than to put this into a graphic. First and foremost, in order to learn a program like Elements or Photoshop or Illustrator, you need two things: practice and patience. I am not formally trained in graphic design or Photoshop; everything on my blog is self taught. I’ve experimented a lot, made notes of what I like on other blogs, and yep, made plenty of (very ugly) mistakes. It’s okay! It’s how you learn. One quote I didn’t incorporate here but which is so true is this one, from Julie:

When are you first learning the Adobe Creative Suite, you can’t expect to create graphics like someone who does that for a living. When you first start, really, just focus on making simple graphics the best you can with clean lines, great color palettes, and basic design elements. You can always learn shortcuts and “flare” as you go along. Sometimes, figuring out one shortcut the first time can take 20 minutes, but then the next time, it will speed up your work ten-fold.

It’s so true. Practice, practice, practice. If you don’t know how to do something, but have seen it done on a layout on another blog, email that blogger and ask them how they did it. Or, you can always Google it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled, “How to do ____ in Photoshop Elements.” There are so many great videos and tutorials out there these days that you can easily find the answer with 5 minutes of research.

With all that being said, here are some screengrabs I put together that show a few of my favorite menus and tips. Ironically, because this is screengrabbed based, it’s not especially pretty:

Get more downloadable blog resources at The B Bar >> 


Jeanne, Shop Sweet Things | Shannon, I Love Your Crazy | Gabrielle, Savvy Home | Liz,So Much to Smile About | Julie, Julip Made | Christine, Bijou and Boheme | Mackenzie, Design Darling

Big Huge Labs
Da Font
Don’t Fear the Internet videos (recommended by Grace, Stripes and Sequins)
Washi Tape clip art
Vintage Postcard Ephemera Brushes for Photoshop
Vintage Frame Brushes for Photoshop
Tons more downloadable brushes and images for Photoshop (all free!)
The Pioneer Woman Photoshop Action Sets (I LOVE these!)

Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe Creative Suite 5

The typo in Gabrielle’s quote in this post is totally my fault, not hers. A very ironic typo, isn’t it?

{Image Credits: Remodelista, MadeByGirl, Apartment Therapy}

Leave a Comment


  1. 1.17.12

    This is great, Victoria! Loving this series you’re doing this week. It’s so informative and you’ve got a great bunch of ladies here. Also, thanks for the Elements tips. I got it for xmas and I’ve been so frustrated trying to teach myself how to use it. A little time and your tips will certainly help :) xoxo

  2. 1.17.12

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve struggled with how to make my blog look better without spending a ton of money on a software program. Great advice!

  3. 1.17.12

    Holy cow, that’s so much amazing information! I’m so excited about this post, and totally bookmarking it to read over and over. This series this week is most definitely going to help me with my blogging, thank you so much!

  4. 1.17.12
    Neda said:

    These are wonderful tips. Thanks for generously sharing them with all of us. Elements may be just what I need to invest in! :) xx

  5. 1.17.12

    Ok so I am loving this series! Im learning so much and am no longer feeling like I am alone in some of the thoughts I have about blogging. Thanks so much for the tips on PSE. I just got it and learning it certainly takes time and practice!

  6. 1.17.12
    Jordan said:

    Thanks for the tips!! Very helpful!

  7. 1.17.12

    I’m so bookmarking this page! I buckled and got elements a few months ago and it made blogging so much easier. I’m a complete amateur and haven’t had time to play around as much as I’d like to, but I love being able to put together layouts in a few minutes. Thanks for this!

  8. 1.17.12

    Such a great series Victoria. As someone who hasn’t been blogging but more than a few months, I’ve found it so helpful! Plus this series makes me really, really, really want to go to Alt!

  9. 1.17.12

    great options! I may need to invest in elements soon.

  10. 1.17.12

    My resolution this year was to get myself to use Elements. So bookmarking this post. I’m pretty much in awe that you were able to make all this blog talk look so pretty.

  11. 1.17.12

    Love that white office! I use Illustrator. I know some people hate the program, but its absolutely my go to!

  12. 1.17.12
    viv said:

    I need to find the patience and the time to learn AND practice with Elements. I’ve been wanting to do it, but something always comes up! Ah!

  13. 1.17.12
    Lauren said:

    this was so incredibly helpful!!! I was going to ask you for your help with photoshop elements. Thank you for these tips!

  14. 1.17.12

    So, so helpful – just bookmarked this page! My favorite so far (probably because it’s where I need the most help!)

  15. 1.17.12
    Caitlin said:

    Victoria – This whole series is amazing. Keep the tips coming. The layouts are beautiful and inspiring. Thanks!

  16. 1.17.12
    Eileen said:

    This series is so helpful, the next best thing besides being at Alt! Thanks so much for doing this… i’ve bookmarked all the pages :-)

    Its been the perfect week for this… I’ve been overhauling my blog design all week and this gets me excited to keep going!


  17. 1.17.12

    Awesome advice. I have to say, I admire so much all of those bloggers who don’t use Photoshop yet still make their posts so gorgeous, I’m pretty lost without Photoshop, is basically the first app I open every morning on my computer!
    One thing that I do is I save my work on photoshop both as a photoshop doc and as a jpeg, that way I can always refer back to my original document and use it for future posts if I decide so.
    In my opinion, keeping a consistent size image is key to portraying a more organized and eye pleasing post, so I use the same size image for all my posts and if I find an image that would look blurry by sizing it up I discard it, I hate blurry images.
    I think that there are so many great resources to make a blog look pretty, there are so many great templates out there, and I love the work of Danielle from Breakfast at Toast, Kelly from Fabulous K, and Alaina from Live Creating Yourself. These ladies make some awesome blog designs. Though I have to admit, when I started my blog I had no idea these ladies existed so I created my blog just as Liz did, trial and error, and a lot of freaking annoying html coding!
    Loving this series Victoria, brilliant!

  18. 1.17.12

    I have been loving the posts this week! It’s like a twice-a-day mini lesson, and I’ve eben enjoying seeing what I do right and wrong. THANK YOU!

  19. 1.17.12

    Love this series, Victoria. And your layouts are unreal! You go, girl! xx

  20. 1.17.12

    I am loving this series! Keep them coming. So helpful :)

  21. 1.17.12
    Casie said:

    Ahhhh! I like need to come back to these posts with a note pad and a pen!!! Ive had this fancy version of photoshop for AGES and I just haven’t taken the time to learn it. Im so friggin’ scrappy– I use Aperture for photos and snag it editor for everything else. But Ive been dying to take a photo class!!

  22. 1.17.12
    Hogger said:

    I love that you’re doing a mini Alt! Some of us have serious Alt Envy over on Twitter hahaha :)

  23. 1.17.12

    Just as I was about to search high and low for your layout, you did this post saving me the time. Thank you! This is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’l be sure to come back. Love how you’ve incorporated comments from fellow bloggers. Looking forward to seeing more.
    Kalyca Romeo

  24. 1.17.12
    Alexa said:

    Love this Victoria…great tip about dragging polyvore items into photoshop! Hadn’t thought of that!

  25. 1.18.12
    Natalie said:

    This is amazing! Thank you, thank you! So helpful!

    P.S. In the last recommendations section for spellcheck, isn’t “cring” spelled “cringe”? Lol. I’ve done that so many times.

    • 1.18.12

      Argg! I’m pretty sure I wrote “cringe” in the copy… Irony!! :)

      • 1.18.12

        Um, you did. That was my spellcheck error. Oh the irony, indeed! Let this be a lesson, all! My fault completely, totally not Gabrielle’s!

        • 1.18.12

          Haha. Sigh of relief! I was slightly mortified at the thought that I might have made a spelling error in that very sentence!! :) I hope you’re having a fab time at Alt! X

  26. 1.18.12

    You have no idea how happy I am you did this post! Thank you! Invaluable.

  27. 1.18.12

    I just have to say it again Victoria: I’ve been LOVING this series! Has definitely motivated me to upgrade from CS2!!! So many good tips and so much to learn!

  28. 1.19.12
    Elizabeth {sixth and garnet} said:

    Hi Victoria, I just want to say thank you for this series. As someone who started blogging a few weeks ago, I have lots to learn and it’s fantastic to read tips and tricks from yourself and other bloggers that I read daily and who inspire me. Looking forward to today’s and Friday’s posts!

  29. 1.20.12
    DWJ said:

    I actually suggest Elements to a lot of people. I’m trained in design and have InDesign and Photoshop but for my blogging I used Elements or sometimes even Picasa (it’s free).

  30. 1.20.12

    Awesome information… I’ve been itching to redo my site’s design. Guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend! :)

  31. 1.25.12
    Andrea said:

    Another great post! I think I’m going to have to learn some HTML to get the look I want.

    I use Photoshop (CS2!!!!) for photo editing and Illustrator or InDesign for basic layouts that I then convert to an .EPS file. I then bring the .EPS file into Photoshop and flatten the image and convert it to a JPEG. My husband likes Picnik.

    I love Polyvore for interior or fashion layouts. I’m more of an interiors girl, though.

    • 1.25.12

      Bad news! I heard a few days ago that Picnik is going under! Well, actually, Google is killing it…

  32. 1.26.12
    Erika said:

    Thank you for such incredible information. I’ve been dabbling in design and found myself frustrated with my lack of Photoshop knowledge. I LOVE the comment about instant alpha in pages!!! I’m off to work on some images in pages! Thanks again!!!