Prep for April Blog Train: Making Previews

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Prep for April Blog Train: Making Previews

I noticed during our February blog train that there was a lot of variety in how people did the preview images for their designs. Preview images are VERY important for me, especially now that I am trying to be much more discriminating about what freebies I download.

I hope this is not too blunt a thing to say - I offer it completely in the spirit of support and helping us all to become better designers: There were several parts of the blog train that I would not have downloaded based on their previews. I'm so glad I committed to downloading and looking at every single part, because there were some stunning designs hiding behind those previews! But I wouldn't normally do that, and I'll bet many visitors checking out someone's part in the blog train won't either.

We have a lot of variety in terms of styles of designs, and I am sure there is just as much variety in what people consider a "good" preview. So I thought we could share our ideas here, and any tips or hints we have, and maybe Marisa or Brooke or some of the other more experienced designers could even make a tutorial or guide.

One thing I looked for and could not find during the previous blog train was templates to help make previews. The only one I found was this one for papers: and it is only available through a $20 club membership. It's one of those tricky items that is very hard to google for - all the phrases I try lead me to links that are not helpful. Studio Wendy makes some actions (here's one: but $27 is pretty steep when I'm just making freebies to give away.

So here are my questions:

*What do you think makes a good kit/paper/element preview? What takes away from the quality of a preview or turns you off?

*Please share any tips or thoughts you have about how to make previews.

*Do you know of any templates (or actions) that assist in making previews?

I'll start us off. Here are some elements that are important to me when I am evaluating a preview and trying to decide whether or not to download the designs:

- Sharpness of image (Marisa has started a thread on sharpening images for the web elsewhere in this forum)

- Shadows - if items layered onto the preview don't look at least somewhat distinct (through proper shadowing) my eye tends to just skip over the whole thing. On the other hand, if something is overshadowed, and items appear to be floating unrealistically, that would probably turn me away as well.

- Paper texture and textures in general. People have really different feelings about this one, but for me, realistic texture is what attracts me the most. If papers look "flat" in the preview, just like squares of digital pixels, I probably won't download. So it's important for me at least to make sure you can discern the texture of my offerings right there in the preview.

- Show me everything! There were some great surprises in some of your kits when I opened them up, but I would have been that much more excited to download if I had known what all was coming. I think it's okay to have more than one preview. Maybe one that shows everything together, and then separate ones of just papers and just elements, or even several if you have many types of elements (like how Janet made a separate one just for her word art)

- This one is very much personal preference - I prefer paper previews that are stacked flat over the ones that look like rolled papers side by side. This is because of my texture obsession - for whatever reason I get a better sense of paper texture from the flat sort of preview. But I think both ways can look good - anyone else have a preference for one over the other?

- The bigger, the better. I want to be able to see what I'm getting! Maybe upload a large image that can show up smaller on your blog if you like but still be clicked to expand for a more detailed view.

- Background…. wow did I spend an unreasonably long amount of time trying to figure out what background to use for my journal card previews (if you have papers in your preview you don't have to worry about this one). I finally settled on a thickly textured kraft-colored sort of burlap background that I pieced together from a bunch of different parts. Anyone have any opinions about backgrounds? The art and science of that is still something of a mystery to me.

You're correct in saying that the previews make a huge difference. I know that I also gloss over downloads that I don't particularly think the previews are attractive. And I've been struggling with my own previews because I've sort of been stuck in the rut of the "old fashioned" previews most designers use to use back when I was selling my kits. Here are my thoughts on some of your points:

Sharpness: I don't bother changing the sharpness on my previews. I use the program default when I use the "save for web" option. I think it looks fine - at least on my monitor...

Shadows: I always try to use realistic shadows on everything. I hate that when things look like they're floating a couple inches above the page or they're just flat.

Paper texture: This one is a toss up for me. When I'm looking for papers, it depends what I want to do with them. If I'm just going to use them for digital scrapbooking, then I want texture. If I'm going to use them to print out, I don't want texture because it looks muddy when you print it. So I think if you're gearing your kits toward hybrid crafters - less/no/very very light texture would be better.

Show me everything: This is a toss up for me again. I like to be able to see the actual things in the kit, but I don't want to look at a big cluttered mess either. I think if there's so much that you can't see at least 50% of the element, then the previews need to be split up. On the other hand, I like previews of the separate parts of the kit just because you can see more details.

The bigger the better: I agree. I like to be able to click on the picture to get an expanded view and see more detail.

Background: This one is one I spent waaaaay too much time on as well. I finally came up with a textured kraft colour as well. It was a toss up between that and a grey background. I think these two colours are trendy right now and a lot of of designers are using them. I'd like to be a little different, but I also realize that people like what is on trend, so that is what will draw them to your preview, and your kit.

One other thing I found hard was how to incorporate my logo onto my preview. I didn't want it so large that it took attention away from the preview, but I wanted it prominent enough so that people would recognize it and remember it. Its all very confusing and time consuming.

I hope mine are OK. I usually try to make the papers visible... I use more papers than elements, so if I can't see the papers, I won't download/buy. Some previews are so cluttered with elements the paper is practically invisible.

Also, when the logo is so large it becomes the focal point... that's a problem. It really, really detracts from the designs. You want to show off what you've created, not your logo!

As for backgrounds behind elements... I rarely make just an element pack but when I do, yep, I use a crumpled brown paper background for them. If it's part of a kit and I'm just showing off the elements, I use a solid paper from the kit behind them. smiley

I don't know if it helps or not, but I have a couple freebie preview templates on my blog. It could be a starting place at least.

Great thread ladies. I uploaded my paper preview template here, feel free to use and modify it however you'd like. The font I used is here.

Also, I made a quick tutorial here for customizing the preview for any number of papers.

I'm hoping that mine was okay. I knew there was no way to cram all of the goodies into one preview (thus having two). Next time, if I have as much I may need to do several previews so people can get a good look at things. I'm guessing that some of the papers as well as their textures were a mystery.

I also tend to prefer flat previews vs. rolled paper...but that's because I make too many papers to be able to put them in a preview like that. Along with that, I tend to prefer just a basic view like Marisa's preview vs. the preview links above. I think you see more of the product that way without any other extra stuff distracting. Maybe I'm in the minority there though.

I know that one of my huge downfalls is that the only preview I have for the kit is here on Pixel Scrapper (don't have a blog nor does my Facebook welcome page have a photo - don't want to pay the extra money for something that I only use once every couple of months). I'm not sure of a way around that other than to start a blog...which won't be happening anytime soon. smiley Any suggestions out there?

I'll look into sharpening for the web (don't usually do it in my layouts as they're just for me but can see why it may be suitable for something like this).

Janet, I don't know if you use Dropbox, but if you do you could have one public folder where you keep your previews and other stuff you like people to see. It's the least work intensive. You just place the files in the public folder and remember the url that will be displayed on the Dropbox website for you to hand out to people.

I put a few files in my public folder so you can see what that would look like.

One thing you have to remember while using DropBox is that it is a folder on your harddrive so if you do not want the originals in the Dropbox you need to copy the files to the folder instead of just dropping them in.

Here is the link to my public folder. Christine's Dropbox

It is free, I don't remember exactly with how much free space you start(it has been years since I started mine)out but if anyone signs up for DropBox using my link here I get 500MB and so does that friend on top of what you already get from DropBox. At the moment I have 8.0GB.

Dropbox also lets you share your downloads. I know from other blog trains that some use Dropbox to host their download. I don't know how much bandwidth they allow you. There is a bit of information here:

But you could always let it download from another place and host your previews on your Dropbox in the convenience of you own computer.

I will leave my public folder on for a while if others want to have a peak what it looks like. The cute baby photo is my new grand baby Amaury. smiley

** added info
You can also share a private box/folder with someone. I have for instance a shared folder with my daughter, who lives in the Netherlands. She places pictures and videos of the baby in there and I can instantly download them to my HD. And we put our digital work in there so we can see from each other what we work on and help each other out.
It's handy if you would work or collab with someone on a project that you both have access to all the files that you place in the shared folder on your computer.

This is all great stuff, thank you all so much! It's really interesting to hear everyone's thoughts and see where our opinions converge and diverge.

@Cat, I did not even think about what happens when you print out digital papers, that makes so much sense! I guess I will not be designing for hybrid scrappers.

@Sugarbutt & Melisa, thank you so much for the templates, that is awesome.

Great thread Violet, lots of good info. I know I am not typical in this opinion, but the one thing I don't like about previews is when they are too cluttered - just too much stuff to visually sort through. I tend to skip those. I would rather see fewer items, beautifully coordinated and well designed.

I really enjoy seeing everyone helping each other to be the best designer we each can be. I truly appreciate the suggestions and insight.

The problem with previews is that if you make a kit of any size it pretty quickly becomes impossible to see what's in it. Luckily for the blog train things shouldn't be too overwhelming since they're meant to be mini kits, but in general I just kind of crowd everything in because I figure if people really want to know what's in it they can just look at the assets included in the kit. Then you can see exactly what you're getting...

How about placing your elements? Where or how do you like them to be placed? Do you want to see all of the elements, or don't you mind when they overlap (a lot?). Do you like all your elements to be on one side and the papers on the other? I tend to treat my preview as a layout; I spent WAY too much time putting all the elements in 'the right place' (whatever that is). So a little advice would be great!

Making previews is my biggest problem. I can do the papers with no problem, it's the element placing that I have the biggest problem with. I try to place them all over the preview but still leave enough of the papers showing. My previews always look crowded and it's something I've tried to work on, I'm just not good at it. I would rather hire someone to do that part for me, lol. Kinda like a CT member but that would be their main task. I know it's done by other designers because I applied for that position way back when I started digital. I will be taking a lot of these tips and try to implement them into my own previews. I have started (late last year) making a separate preview for the papers.

I like my elements layered like a layout too. I think it helps people visualize how the elements will look when they use them, but they do crowd up the page and takes so long! I found that it helps to do a kit preview, a papers preview, and an elements preview. I think the most important feature to add to previews are the shadows. Good shadows can really make something stand out.

thanks for all the help! there's a lot of very useful information here! smiley

Thanks Jenn!

I, too, have passed over kits because of the previews, and this is excellent advice when doing previews.

zPreviews are very hard to make. All the info here is very helpful but I still wander if there is a perfect solution. Thank you ladies for being so helpful smiley

I try to make my previews a little like a layout or place items in a way I was thinking when I designed them. I think if you show how the elements work together then others might be more attracted to your kit, especially if you have elements that might look good clustered.

I don't like the rolled paper look...and I think it's because of what I just said in that I don't roll my papers in my layouts. I want to see what those papers would look like in my layout. Shadowing is important to me also. I think the element looks better shadowed and if I see a kit with a bunch of neat elements that look really good in it I grab it!

I use Marisa's layout preview template and modify it as needed. Also, as I design a kit I placed the itms in the preview as I go. This helps me a lot because there have been times when I have created an element and then when I put it in with all the other stuff, I'm like " that doesn't go at all!" Sort of like accesorizing an outfit, som things go together and some things don't and you don't know until you've put the whole thing together.

I do the same thing Karry. I place my papers and elements on my preview as I am working on the kit. It doesn't only help me in determining whether it all goes together, it also helps me to see if the elements are too big or small or the papers too 'loud' or dull.

Any pointers for learning to make previews like the examples? (Just picked two)

What aspects of these previews are you looking for advice about, Jessica? I do think finding previews you really like is a great starting point, and then you can start breaking down the particular constituents of those previews. For example, just at a quick glance I see: flat papers (not rolled), with texture visible, full size paper views (go all the way top to bottom, instead of wider paper previews that only go halfway, with a row on top and a row on the bottom), elements clustered towards the vertical middle but spread across the preview horizontally, realistic shadowing. I would guess that the Mommyish preview is a touch sharpened and the Bella Gypsy one isn't, but it might just be the particular image you pulled for the example.

Did I touch upon the kinds of things you were wondering about? There's an art to clustering, and it's a similar but not quite overlapping art to make previews like these. If you don't trust your own eye, or want a rough starting place, you can look at size balance (both have bigger things in the back, like frames and journal cards, and alternate or stagger elements of different sizes going both horizontally and vertically), color balance (look for how far apart similar colors are spaced, same for color vs. black & white vs. metallic), shape balance (the spacing or clustering of rounded, angular, wide/skinny/tall/short element shapes), and how the word art is arranged weaving throughout the elements - for example they're pretty evenly spaced horizontally and vertically in the Mommyish and balanced in a different, interesting way in the Bella Gypsy.

Paper arranging is also something to consider. I don't really have a science for that - I just move papers around in relation to each other until they look "right."

Hope that's helpful. If it's not what you were asking about, let me know!

I, too, detest the "rolled paper" look - I think it makes a preview look amateurish, and it suggests to me that what's inside the kit will more than likely be amateurish, as well. I've made up my own basic preview, loosely based on Marisa's template - I use the same font but not the kraft background - and I tweak it to suit each individual kit.

Out of the two previews in post #22, I prefer the bottom one - it's cleaner-looking - to the top one (which looks messy to me, and is a bit of information-overload). There are some beautiful items in the top one, but it's a bit hard to see them unless you look really closely.

Just my thoughts, anyway!

I have such an issue making my previews. I usually start with the preview template uploaded to Pixel Scrapper, and then add my items and try to place them in a way that they are presentable, and you can see everything included. I never feel like the placement is done well enough, and as for shadows, I just shadow realistically as if I were scrapping a layout. I feel like it just takes practice, because I feel like each blog train mine get just a tiny bit better.