DIY Tutorials From ‘Round ‘The ‘Net

December 4, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

Guest post by Dawn Farias.

If you have a Blogger blog, love to get your hands dirty in the code, AND are named Dawn then we have lots in common.  If you’re not named Dawn, well, we still have lots in common and you’ll probably enjoy these tutorials I’m about to share.

A Better Label Cloud
from phydeaux3 by way of BlogU


Blogger has recently added a Label Cloud gadget.  And, it’s alright, but it doesn’t float my boat too well.  I don’t like the extremely small size of the most unused labels or how it gets fuzzy looking.  I recently came across a tutorial titled My Category Cloud…Finally from BlogU.  The whole thing is really just one big copy and paste.  Annie at BlogU directs us to the actual instructions at phydeaux3 which are very easy to follow.

The result is a nice label cloud where you can control the size of the fonts and the color scheme.  A bonus feature that the Blogger label cloud doesn’t have is that when each label is hovered over a text appears telling the reader how many posts are in that category.  Overall, it really is a sharp looking label cloud.  My personal preferences for the max and min on the font sizes are 25 and 15, respectively, although the code in the instructions uses 20 and 10.

Adding A Snow Effect To Your Blog
from Heather at Butterflygirlms Blog Designs


You can snag some code for adding a snowing effect to your blog at Butterflygirlms Blog Design.  She also has the effect going on at the site so you can “try before buying”, as it were.  😉

Make It Easier For Blog Authors To Reply To Your Comments
by Lindsey at Sweet Simplicity

I LOVE replying to comments by responding straight from my gmail inbox.  I think it adds a personal touch.  I’ve been doing this for a while now and have only.just.realized that often I was replying to [email protected].  That noreply lady has LOTS of email from me.  I now know to check on whether or not the reply I’m sending is going to a real email address or not.  If not, I log onto my blog and leave a comment there.

If you want to save me, your own bloggy self and others from such hassle then make it easy by following this tutorial at Sweet Simplicty. And spread the word. Take action in your own personal blogging community.  Maybe one day we’ll even get t-shirts.

How To Make Your Own Background
from The Cutest Blog On The Block and Easy Custom Blogs


(To make your own background you will need some kind of image editing program that support layers: Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, GIMP, Paint.  I use Photoshop Elements 7 myself.)

How many of you have tried making your own Blogger background?  If you’re like me (and your name is Dawn….) you started out with The Cutest Blog On The Block‘s How To Make Your Own Background.  I followed those instructions for a while changing only the screen resolution to 72dpi and making the center area little wider than they call for.  I’ve also increased the size of my backgrounds to 2000px by 1200px just to be on the safe side when dealing with monitor sizes and resolutions.  Which brings me to…

This discussion at Easy Custom Blogs: One Size Background.  Or, as Jeanette rightly states at the beginning, one size fits MOST background.  Have you ever spent some time browsing a background site, found one you really really love, loaded it up, and it looks too big or you can’t really see all the elements that made you fall in love with it in the first place?  Jeanette’s One Size Background discussion is a good place to start when trying to figure out why that is. She talks about differences in screen and resolution sizes and how that affects the final outcome on your screen.

Another piece of hidden treasure in that discussion is Jeanette’s template.  You will want to download that baby if you ever want to try making your own backgrounds.  She’s already sized-up and gridded-out everything for us.  It’s at 72dpi, also, so you can copy and paste it right onto your fresh blank background at 72dpi and have everything match up perfectly.  Take her suggestion, though, and load it up by itself onto a test blog first.  You will get a good idea of why “what you see isn’t always what you get” when choosing premade backgrounds.

For my part, at Almost Ready Blogs, I try to accommodate the issues surrounding screen and resolution sizes by keeping my backgrounds focused on one or two beautiful patterns, adding few to no elements and using a large background image.  I add all the fun stuff like bows and ribbons in the headers that I offer.  I also make a point to give a screen shot of the final layout on a real blog so readers can see what it looks like “in action”. Of course, it will only look like that screen shot if your monitor is the same as my monitor, but we could just go in circles with that issue

And with that, I’m out of time.  I hope these tutorials find you well and prosperous, or at least in the mood to play around on your computer for a bit.


I just found this site (and by just found I mean less than zero seconds ago) called Blogging Basics 101.  Looks good.  You check it out.  I’ll check it out.  The blathering we’ll save for another day.

Dawn Farias makes free Blogger layouts at Almost Ready Blogs.

New Amazing Features!

October 16, 2011 By The Blog Designer Network

The Blog Designer Network has been busy at work creating new ways for bloggers and designers to connect. We are excited to announce some great new features we think you’ll love! These are just a few, and even more are coming very soon!

For a long time we’ve been promising a forum for both students of our workshops, and anyone who needs help with blog design. Topics range from newbie help, to advanced WordPress coding, and more. Register, introduce yourself, and start posting! We have moderators standing by to help as well!

Free and Pre-Made Templates Directory
Previously our pages dedicated to showcasing blog designers that offer these services was a simple list. Now it’s an easy-to-navigate grid with images and links! If you’re a blog designer, you can easily link your free and premade templates pages.

Services for Blog Designers
If you’re a blog designer, this section will be packed with services from helpful sites! Things like blog installations, hosting providers, Blogger to WordPress transfer services, workshops and training, and much more. If you offer these services, you can link your pages too!

We hope you like the new additions!  Come back soon as there are going to be TWO more huge additions that you won’t want to miss!

Learn. Grow. Inspire.

February 26, 2009 By Amanda Padgett


Berries and Cream Blog Design, formerly called RS Designs, is celebrating their new name with a launch party. They are giving away many prizes as well as offering 25% off anything you order. However, the party ends February 28th. so you’d better hurry!


Doodlebug Designs is celebrating their one year birthday and giving everyone $10 off a custom design order. Also, a FREE custom design is being given away at Grasping for Objectivity. You should pop over there and enter, and hang around a while. Rachel, the owner, is hilarious!

village-peddler-scrapbook-h-8392116 The Village Peddler’s special for free CUSTOM headers only lasts a few more days. Simply become a follower during February and she will design a header for you for FREE!


Subjective Beauty is giving away a custom blog design. To enter go to A Daily Dose of Toni (sporting a new design by Subjective Beauty) and follow the guidelines for the giveaway.


February 24, 2009 By Amanda Padgett


While I love using free templates, I was getting tired of the pink and green bubbles. So, Summer of Designs by Summer whipped up this gorgeous header for me and I am simply thrilled with it!

It’s amazing how much a beautiful header can enhance a blog!

Now, please excuse the mess around here, though, as I will be moving things for a little while as I tweak the template (changing out from the Made by Madeline to a plain three column template). Also, I will be experimenting with colors for the background, thanks to a great post by “Old Dame” Penniwig.

Wondering how you can tweak your template, too? Simply go to one of the sites I mentioned in the post before this, or that are listed in the left sidebar. You can do it!

Special Note: Just noticed the header overlaps some of the text when viewed in Internet Explorer (I have been using Firefox more lately). I am working on fixing this problem.

February 23, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

I was ready to showcase another designer, but decided first to talk about basic blogging.

Through my surfing to find blog template designers, I have seen many blogs with great blog templates, yet they are a mess with too many buttons, pictures and buttons that are all askew on the sidebars, posts that have no paragraph breaks and more. Those things can detract from your blog design and even turn away readers.

Do you want to have a blog that is attractive, flows well, draws readers in and keeps them there a while? I strongly urge you to visit the many excellent sources of blogging tips and tricks. Go to one or more and listen to what is being said. Read the design tips they offer, listen to the pet peeves that are listed, find out all the little things you can do to improve your blog before you ever install a gorgeous free template or contact designer for a custom blog design.

The authors at my favorite blog-aid sites were successful with their own blogs before starting a blog-tech blog.

Here are the one I frequently go to:

Modern Media Mom (also the designer at Fruition Designs).

Darn Good Blogging (also the author of Simple Mom).

Blogging Basics 101 (also the author of Bloggy Giveaways).

Blog Coach (also the author of Baby Cheapskate).

There is also a forum at Blog Coach where you can ask Angie, the owner, and other bloggers about anything related to blogging.

Hopefully as I grow in my confidence with blogging, I will feel qualified enough to give advice, but for now, I will simply point you to the experts!


February 19, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

birthdaybashcustomblogdesigns-5187356 Diana, the designer at Custom Blog Designs is celebrating the studio’s first birthday and boy is she going all out! She is giving away a custom blog design, worth $45 to one winner. Go read her birthday celebration post and see how to enter.

But wait! There is more! She is also having a party on Saturday, February 21, from 10 AM-noon, CST. All participants get an extra entry into the blog giveaway, which will be drawn at 5pm CST.

Here is the party schedule:

10am- Makeover game posted- 2 winners, each get a custom digital brag book (using winner’s photos).

10:30am-noon Chat window will be posted on her blog, chat will feature Q&A with Diana and some fun games with prizes.

11:15am- Blog quiz game posted- 1 winner gets choice of 4 headers that she has created that will be customized for them.

Now, here is a little showcasing for Custom Blog Designs. Diana is a talented designer who has done many creative things with headers and blogs. She started Custom Blog Designs one year ago and during that time she has redesigned over 60 blogs and provided other graphic services to many wonderful clients.

Also, during the past year she has also donated $299 of her profits to Starfish Foster Home for special need orphans in China. So, when you order a design from Diana, you know you are helping a very worth cause.

Below are just a few of the beautiful blogs or headers she has designed.

If you are in need of a new header or a whole new template design, head over to Custom Blog Designs and join in the party. If you already have the design of your dreams for your own blog, tell a friend-in-need about it.


February 17, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

The last designer I showcased was Smitten Blog Designs and I was ready to showcase another designer this week until I discovered that today Smitten Blog Designs has just launched i.Smitten, a site dedicated to very affordable, beautiful premade blog templates.

Each blog templates at i.Smitten is just $5!

That price is perfect for the many mommy bloggers who are on a tight budget (who isn’t these days). Since the price of the templates is next to nothing, if you choose to add on some extras like a signature or a button or two, you can still afford to do so.

Here are some of the gorgeous premade templates they have made:

To purchase a template, simply click “add to cart” under the template you want and pay via Paypal. Once you have paid, you are taken to your template, complete with instructions on how to install it.

I purchased “Just Happy” (for $5 of course) and within 5 minutes I had the template installed on a new blog I just started. Here is the result. It was amazingly simple!

I am very excited about i.Smitten and know of several friends I think would love these templates and the price.

February 14, 2009 By Amanda Padgett


I hope you all are having a lovely Valentine’s Day. If you are looking for Valentine’s buttons or backgrounds to add to your blog on this special the day, read this post. The above button was found at April Showers.

I have shared my best Valentine’s Day memory over at Moving Forward, my personal blog. Come on over if you have time.


Friends – Links and Buttons

May 29, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

After watching my SiteMeter referrals obsessively occasionally, I noticed that I had a some traffic coming from individual blogs. How could that be? Well, after heading over there, I saw that they had my button on their blog, or listed me in their blog roll. So, I decided to return the favor and I am creating a “Friends” page, which will also be listed on my sidebar.

If you would like to trade buttons or links, please leave a comment and I will add you to it. Starting small now, but got to start somewhere, right? If you already have me on your blog roll or have my button, please let me know and I will add yours here.

My button is in the left-hand side bar. Simply copy the code and paste it into a friends post like this or into a gadget on a sidebar.

Those without buttons:
Los Luceros de Arizona
The Wonderful Wibblers
The Sweet Jelly Bean

designworkbench-5208062 2d10aax-1833369 movingbutton-5280131
button-1-2154159 blogaroozer-badge-8780248

Making Your OWN Blog Template

February 12, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

So, you have been searching and searching for that perfect free blog template yet you can’t find it. You cannot afford a premade or custom design either, so what should you do? Just keep the same old, boring Blogger template you chose when you created your blog? Nope! I have the solution for you!

Yesterday I found this wonderful site that helps you learn to create your own blog template, including buttons and other extras. The site is SJH Blog Design and the owner has done an amazing job of breaking down the steps you need to take in order to create a complete, well designed blog template.

You will need to download a digital scrapbook kit in order to create the backgrounds and header, but don’t worry, there are many places that offer free kits. I will begin relocating those sites (I have seen them, just need to get back to them) so I can pass them on to you. In the mean time, Google “free digital scrapbook kits” and see what you can find.

SJH Blog Designs provides instructions for all the extras you may want when creating your own blog template. Here are the tutorials she made available:

  • Three column layouts
  • Scrolling middle layout
  • Adding fonts
  • Adding new Gadget sections to a template
  • Adding an email link
  • Making clickable buttons

How cool is this site? I love it! When my Usborne business slows down in the summer, I will create a test blog with the sole purpose of creating my own template and I will share the finished product with you.

If you use SJH Blog Designs to create your own template, please come back here and let me know your blog address so I can visit your site and even included it in this post for future readers.

Another site you can utilize to help you make adjustments to your current blog template or to one you create with SJH Blog Design, is Blogger University. The author of that blog has found how to tweak and fix many common template troubles.


Getting a New Blog Design 101

December 11, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

Since I just went through the process of getting a custom blog design for the third time, I feel like I know enough about the steps to share them with you. Hopefully it will help equip new bloggers for their first design, and help designers by working with better prepared customers.

Step One: Finding the Designer

Once you know you want a custom look for your blog, the first step is to find the designer you want to work with. Don’t rush into a contract with the first designer you come across. Instead, look at several designers before deciding on one, and here are the things to look for when shopping designers:

  1. Portfolio – do they do the style of design you want? If you really want a modern look for your blog and all they design are scrapbook style blog, then they may not be the best designer for you. Also, are the blogs in their portfolio pleasing to you? Are you impressed with her work?
  2. Prices – these will vary depending on the designer’s skill level and experience. The more experiences, highly trained designers will demand well over $100 for their work. The more self-taught, still-developing-their-skills designers will price their designs anywhere from $30 to $75.
  3. Waiting list or “queue” – this is how many bloggers they already have contracted to design for. If you are in a hurry for a new design and the designer you are looking at has a waiting list that reaches until March, then keep shopping.
  4. Policies – these can be different things, like how many revisions to the design they will do, which images you have to pick from, how many changes you can make after a design is installed. Most designers are very reasonable and set policies to protect themselves from being taken advantage of by needy bloggers who change their mind too much.

Step Two: Get a Vision for Your Blog
Before contacting the designer, look around for blogs you admire, both in the designer’s portfolio and around the Web. Decide what you really want or don’t want. Write down the URL address to blogs you like.

Don’t expect a designer to create a design exactly like a blog you show her. Not only does she want to create something original, exactly duplicating another blogger’s design is wrong and akin to stealing.

It is acceptable, however, to use another blog for inspiration. Your designer may use similar effects to achieve the design you invision, yet stay far from the original blog’s design. For example: I was very fond of many design elements used at A Soft Place to Land, and we were able to get some of the same effect for BBD using different images. You would not come here and think you were there and vice-versa.

Things to think about are:

  1. What style do you want? Scrapbook, modern, shabby-chic
  2. How many columns do you want for your blog? One, two, three?
  3. Do you want a menu or navigation bar?
  4. What style font do you like?
  5. Is load time a factor for you? Some backgrounds take the longer to load.
  6. Do you want post dividers, sidebar dividers, other design elements?

Step Three: Contact the Designer

Once you know the designer you want to work with, know the look you want for your blog, then you contact her to place an order.

  1. Follow whatever procedure they instruct you to on their site. Some just have you email them, others have you copy a questionnaire to paste into an email, and have you answer the questions in that email.
    • Make sure to fill out the questionnaire completely, including any pictures or images you want used (like a picture of a child you want put in your header). Sending those at a later date makes more work for the designer as she will have to sift through emails to find the “pieces and parts” you want for your blog, rather than just opening up the one email that should include everything.
  2. Pay the Paypal invoice they send you. This will secure your spot in their queue. They will invoice you for either all or half their design fee. (I have worked with two that require a deposit and one that required full payment). The final invoice will be sent after the design is final; you’ll be invoiced and must pay before they install it on your blog.
  3. Watch your spot on their queue. Don’t pester them with emails about when your turn is coming. Most all of them have a waiting list on their sites which you can keep track of yourself. Also, make sure that you are ready for when your design comes up. If you see that you’ll be on vacation, contact her so that she can move you down and another blogger up.
  4. Check your email often. This is VERY important through the whole process! They will be contacting you only via email, so stay on top of it. If they have a question for you and you do not respond in a timely manner, they will place your design on hold and go on to the next customer. This is their business and you are holding them up from another job.

Step Four: Designing the Blog

The first thing your designer will do is look at the questionnaire you filled out about what you like, don’t like, what blogs you like the look of, what styles you like, etc. Then she will create a first draft based on those answers. She will notify you, with an address for you to view the design. Once you see it, do the following things:

  1. Really look at the design. It may not be exactly what you envisioned or it may be nothing like you envisioned, but give it a few minutes to register for you. Then, pick out the things you DO like about it (if it isn’t want you want as a whole) and write them in a reply email to the designer. She will keep those effects while revamping the rest. Maybe give her some ideas in your reply so she knows better the direction to go in.
    • Example: When I was having a new design made for Moving Forward, Summer’s first draft was nothing like I envisioned, but there were a couple of things I liked about it. She kept those and then scrapped the rest. Her next version hit the mark much better.
  2. Be concise about changes you want made. If you love the first draft but need a few changes, list them all out in ONE email. Take your time before sending the email so that you have a chance to think of all the little tweaks and changes you would like. I am sure it is irritating to a designer to get 10 emails listing tiny little changes; put them in one email.
    • I struggle with this one, so know that it is an easy mistake to do. Bless Erin’s heart!
  3. Compare Browsers. If you use Internet Explorer, be sure to look at your new design on Firefox and vice-versa. Sometimes the design won’t “lay” right, and the designer will need to modify a few things. This step is necessary because your readers may be using a browser you are not and if your site is all quirky and out of sink, they won’t stick around.
  4. Don’t be too picky. Yes, you paid for a custom design, but don’t nickle and dime your designer to death; they can only do so much. If you paid $500 for your design, then you probably have more room to be ultra-particular about everything, but if you paid $55 for your design, be respectful of your designer’s time.
    • Example: The swirly font in my new design was a little two swirly for me. Erin gave me some other options, which didn’t suit me either and rather than have her spend more time searching, I stuck with this one, and I have since grown to love it!

Step Five: Making the Design Live

After the designer has made all the revisions you asked for and you are content with the final look of the blog, she will ask you for your ID and password to your blog. Or, you can make her an author to the blog and she will be able to go in and install that way. I have done it both ways and they work fine.

Things to remember during this step in the process are:

  1. Decide on a time when you want it installed. You will want to be around when it is so that you can move things around because some gadgets and text will be displaced during the transition. I call this time “unpacking.”
    • Example: I asked Erin not to install until the afternoon, when I would be home to “unpack.” I didn’t want the site to have things look out of place or in weird spots (to me).
  2. Be timely about back-end changes. If there are things you notice that need changing, email her right away, while she is still “on” your job. Don’t come to her three weeks later and say “oh, by the way, can you change…”
    • Things to look at are spacing of the text at the margins and sidebars, even in the comments. Those are often overlooked by bloggers during the process.
  3. Acknowledge your designer in a blog post. She has worked hard for you and word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising in their line of business.
  4. Do NOT change the design. The blog template your designer has created is their creation, their name is attached to it. When you tamper with it, while keeping their name on it (usually in a button on the side or at the bottom) you may inadvertently put them at risk for legal trouble if you add an image that is not legally yours to use (usually done without knowing). If you wish to change something, first notify them.

Phew! That is the longest post I’ve ever written. I sure hope it proves useful! And, whoever wins the custom blog design I am giving away this week should read over steps two through five to make the process easier from herself and for Erin.

Designers – If you think of something you would like me to add or change, please contact me.


Navigation Bars

June 25, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

As you know, I recently had BBD critiqued at BlogCoach and one of the main things suggested was adding a navigation bar (nav bar) or menu bar to the site. By doing that I could eliminate all the long lists in the right-hand sidebar and give the blog a cleaner look and make it easier to use.

I began searching on how to create my own nav bar and found some tutorials, like this one at April Showers or this one by Adori Graphics The average blogger can make their own, and I could have if I had the time. However, I have so much going on that I asked Summer from Designs by Summer to handle that for me. She was awesome and within 36 hours my nav bar was designed and installed! And, I only paid $15!

Here is a shot of BBD before the nav bar was installed. (Sorry the images are different, I didn’t have a “before” picture, so I borrowed this one from BlogCoach.)

Here is the blog after Summer installed the nav bar:

Notice that the change is subtle, but very effective. The long lists are gone and I now have an “about” section which will help readers understand BBD and me a little better.

Now when visitors stop by the blog (or my wonderful followers), they can click on one of the categories in the nav bar and go right where they want to go. And, they can also click on home to go back to the main page (I love that feature).

So, if you have a lot going on in your sidebars such as awards, buttons, blog lists, etc., consider creating a navigation bar for yourself, or hiring a blog designer to make you one. Your blog will look cleaner and more polished, and your readers will appreciate it!

If you receive my posts via a reader and haven’t seen the changes I have made to BBD, please pop in and let me know what you think. I have more additions planned, but they will happen later in the summer.

p.s. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a custom Twitter design

Freebies From Professionals

August 29, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

Typically Beautiful Blog Designs only features bloggers and designers who are woman, and not considered “big dog” professionals. I have steered clear of listing free Blogger templates or WordPress themes from huge, professional sites because I wanted those who come here (mostly women) to be able to relate to the designers I focus on and to help out those women trying to make extra income, working from home.

Well, I decided that I would have at lease one post listing professional sites that offer attractive, free templates or themes so that those utilizing this site can decide on their own whether to use them or not.

Free Blogger Templates

Free WordPress Themes

I am sure this list will continue to grow, but I thought it was a good starting point. If you know of another place for free templates or themes, please let me know in a comment.

Don’t forget that I have listed free Blogger templates and WordPress themes made by work-at-home women (mostly moms) in this post.

Custom Twitter Backgrounds

May 31, 2009 By Amanda Padgett


With so many bloggers joining the Twitter world, I thought I would write a post discussing Twitter backgrounds. If you have no idea what Twitter is, click here to be taken to my Twitter page and you will probably get the idea. It isn’t complicated or too time consuming, but it is a good way to connect with other bloggers and to bring attention to posts, reviews or giveaways you have at your blog.

The standard backgrounds Twitter provides are perfectly lovely, however, if you would like to make yours a little more personal or add extra information to your home page then you need to either find a designer who offers custom Twitter designs or look into customizing it yourself. Either way is fine, and I wanted to share designers who can make something custom for you. Or, if you need something free, check out my post on free Twitter backgrounds.

Designers who can create a custom design for you:

Would you like to follow me on Twitter? If so, click here and click on “follow” below my picture. I am not quite the Twitter addict as many, but I do tweet many times during the day, and try to announce giveaways and helpful blog posts.

If you design Twitter pages, free or custom, let me know and I will add you to my lists.


Blogging Help From The Experts

February 23, 2009 By Amanda Padgett

I was ready to showcase another designer, but decided first to talk about basic blogging.

Through my surfing to find blog template designers, I have seen many blogs with great blog templates, yet they are a mess with too many buttons, pictures and buttons that are all askew on the sidebars, posts that have no paragraph breaks and more. Those things can detract from your blog design and even turn away readers.

Do you want to have a blog that is attractive, flows well, draws readers in and keeps them there a while? I strongly urge you to visit the many excellent sources of blogging tips and tricks. Go to one or more and listen to what is being said. Read the design tips they offer, listen to the pet peeves that are listed, find out all the little things you can do to improve your blog before you ever install a gorgeous free template or contact designer for a custom blog design.

The authors at my favorite blog-aid sites were successful with their own blogs before starting a blog-tech blog.

Here are the one I frequently go to:

Modern Media Mom (also the designer at Fruition Designs).

Darn Good Blogging (also the author of Simple Mom).

Blogging Basics 101 (also the author of Bloggy Giveaways).

Blog Coach (also the author of Baby Cheapskate).

There is also a forum at Blog Coach where you can ask Angie, the owner, and other bloggers about anything related to blogging.

Hopefully as I grow in my confidence with blogging, I will feel qualified enough to give advice, but for now, I will simply point you to the experts!