In a previous post I left you with a poorly designed flyer for group lessons. In this post you can see the same flyer with an extreme make-over. Like the first one, this was quickly made using Word and clip art from Microsoft that is freely available from the Internet to use for non-commercial purposes. While I am blessed to have a Wacom tablet and the full versions of Photoshop and Finale, for the purpose of this blog I limited my resources to Word and the free art from Microsoft. If all you have on your computer is Word, with a little experience you can design this, too.
This particular type of handout can be difficult because there is a lot of information you need to present and the it can quickly become too busy, like my bad example below.
Now I’m going to tell you how I corrected it. See the tiny piano in the upper LH corner? I deleted all the clip art except this piano. Large clip art, if it is good quality, makes more of a statement so I enlarged the piano and deleted the background. It looked cleaner, but was still too busy. An old trick in Word is to cover what you don’t want with a white rectangle, so I covered the extra notes around the piano. I wanted to remind the students to bring their music, but I didn’t want it in a cheesy frame like my bad example, so I chose a font that matched the style of the art and made it part of the art, so to speak.
I used the same font for Group Lessons, made it the same shade of blue as in the piano. It still looked plain, so I used Word-Art and added a small black shadow to bring out the strong black in the piano.
I wanted to kept the excitement of refreshments, games, and prizes, so I put it at the bottom using red text to match the red in the piano, and aligned it with the rest of the graphic. You have to use text boxes in Word for this sort of thing. In fact, all the text except for the Word-Art heading are in text boxes. I organized the dates so parents could see it right away. I added a yellow background and tried to match the yellow in the piano. I did not use the default yellow, but I chose a custom color. Details like that can make a difference.
For the dates and name of the studio I used black as a contrast and a sans serif font that I hope is a contrast to the other font and easy to read.
When I start to align things, another old trick is to draw a line with the line tool and then delete it when you are finished. Word has a grid you can use if you need it and you can enlarge up to 500% to get a really good look at what you have done.
I was finished, but something didn’t look right. It still needed something so I went back to the Internet and got the little green splat of blue notes. I think it matches the style of the piano, it has some blue, and the green is just a little pop of color. Note how it hangs over the yellow block? This adds interest and gives some motion to the graphic.
Yesterday I told you not to copy art from web sites because it is probably copyrighted. I know people do it all the time, but people copy music, too, and that’s not right. But Microsoft’s website has thousands of graphics free of charge. http://office.microsoft.com/ Click on clip art in your Word document and you will be directed to this site. Type in a search word, save it in your clip board, and paste it into your document. This site has well made vector clip art that will look good printed at any size. It will not be pixelated and grainy if you print it on an average home printer. But that’s not all. Once you insert the graphic in your document, you can edit it some, mostly by changing colors and deleting parts of the art. Here are some examples. The top left graphic is the original and in the other examples I simply changed the color using the art tool bar in Word or selected something and deleted it.
There are other sources on the web to get free art, so search around. There is usually a disclaimer, such as you cannot use the art commercially. If you plan to sell what you make, you will not be able to use free clip art in most cases, including Microsoft’s clip art and art from graphic programs you buy. If in doubt, ask permission. Some sites pay hundreds of dollars for their graphics such as a custom drawn piano, and do not take it lightly if they see it on your web site, even if you are giving it away. Photos are copyrighted, too, and professionals buy stock photos to use. If someone else makes your web site, make sure they are using legal art.
You might decide to buy a graphics program rather than try to make something up from scratch in Word. Other Microsoft programs include Power Point, which can do adequate graphic presentations and Publisher, which is inexpensive and has a lot of templates. Templates are really good if you have no design experience or inclination. Neither program has much clip art, but you can get it from the Microsoft site I mentioned previously.
Other graphic programs for home use have wonderful templates to help you out. Print Shop is an old favorite that I first started using in the 80′s. I like it because it is very teacher and child oriented and easy for the beginner to learn. There are some great, tasteful templates for certificates, business cards, invitations, and just about anything printed you can think of. The clip art is fun for children, and you can even copy the graphics and paste them into your Word document. The color of the graphics can be changed, and you can uncrossed parts of the art like I did with the Microsoft clip art.
Scrapbook, greeting card programs, and photography programs also may help you out. I have a Halmark greeting card program that I really love for quick, pretty cards. It has some nice clip art, too. An added benefit to these hobby programs is that you will get some great fonts!
If you are serious about drawing art and manipulating photos and don’t want to spend about $600.00 for the big Photoshop program, try Photoshop Elements, which is under $80.00. There are no templates and you have to learn how to use it, but if you want to draw things like I do, you need a drawing program, and this is the best one for the price. Sometimes you can get very good deals on an older version. You can also use it to take a few wrinkles out of your photo for your brochure! Plus, there are many free tutorials on the web to learn how to use it.
I hope this three part series, although limited in scope and non-technical, has helped you think of ways to improve the printed material you use or to start making designs of your own. Give it a try!