I thought today I’d discuss the site itself, particularly the header I’m currently using.

I knew I wanted something autumnish, seeing as the leaves were down and covered by a very thin blanket of snow while I was setting up the blog; and the look and feel of the WordPress theme I’m currently using lent itself well to photography and shadowing. However, I’m also a big fan of the spiraling, curlicue designs one can get with Illustrator’s pen function, and I didn’t want the image to simply squat atop the site without some form of decoration.

Cruising over to stock.xchng and searching for “autumn”got me the leaf. This one particularly appealed to me for two reasons: Firstly, it had a shadow already built in which seemed to match the theme’s pretty well. Secondly, we have twin red maples growing in the front yard of our house, and the colors in this photo seemed to match the ones I’ve been raking and mulching over the past few days. A way to tie my physical home into the new online home sounded like a good idea, so I picked that one without much more searching.

I found a number of vector design images at Garcya Design which I’ll often grab and use when I’m in a hurry. That’s where what I’ll call the Vine and Thistle came from, though the Thistle was originally part of a much larger image offered as part of Garcya’s Free Vector graphics set 15. I removed the grouping and clipping mask from this larger, floral design; then selected a few of the curves that fit together the way I wanted and pasted them behind the leaf’s “point” to extend the width of the image. Then I copied it, rotated it, and pasted it as a mirror to develop the Thistle image I was looking for. The Vine itself went behind the Thistle on a separate layer.

Both needed to be a matching color with the leaf photo, so after a bit of trial and error I settled on using the Hue/Saturation option in Photoshop to bring the light violet color out. While I played around with the deep crimson color of the leaf’s highlights, I felt it made the image as a whole slightly too dark and heavy for what I wanted with this design. Laying in simultaneous inner shadow and glow effects kept the designs from seeming flat in comparison to the ‘pop’ of the photographed leaf.

Finally, having the decorations so stark and clean made the shadows on the leaf and the rest of the site seem incongruous, so I went ahead and pasted another version of the Thistlevine behind the original one. Bringing the opacity down to 25% and shifting the X and Y axes of this new layer was the first step, followed by creating a gradient fill that mimicked the “dark-to-light” shadow of the leaf.

 Sample header image

That’s a pretty general overview of how I tend to approach graphic work for my own devices. It’s naturally a little easier to be your own client!