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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

A new look for my journal(s)....

Posted on 2007.01.14 at 18:07


~ Detail from a tile, 19th century, possibly made by John Meir and Sons.



This all started when I saw just_ann_now's new journal lay-out last week. Ann's new journal was a WOW. I was thrilled by her new look -- classy, sensuous, inviting -- like a red damask-panelled parlour in a ritzy brothel from another century, its floor strewn with Persian carpets. It was utterly evocative of its owner’s art. Ann writes fic that is not only intelligent, but sensuous, hearth-warm, and spiced with a dash of the exotic -- yet soundly rooted in the heritage of our artistic and literary past.

I asked Ann what lay-out scheme she used, too. I thought it exceptionally clear and easy to scan, along with leaving a lot of beautiful background visible. “Nebula”, she answered. I looked it up at once in LJ's styles and themes.

Heavens! What she had done with it! She had taken the lay-out and utterly transformed the look with her custom background, page-header image, and colours. Like Pippin, I was seized with a fit of “I’m getting one!” desire. Ann gave me a couple of links for images and backgrounds along with a good colour chart, and I was off.

The result is this new journal look. I am using it for my fanfic LJ, too, to showcase Threshold. The only difference from this one is that I narrowed the text box a bit more, to make its lengthy chapters easier to scan.


~*~


For my own LJ, although I ADORED Ann’s colour scheme (we have red oriental rugs, with Siamese cats to fur them up), I knew I needed something lighter and more muted in colour, since I present a lot of screencaps and art images. I didn’t want the background to overpower the visuals.

Also, because of my particular interests and because of my Shire-based fanfic, I wanted a “Shire-ish” feel to it. I was thinking of a look that would recall the past, even "old-fashioned", but a specifically English past. And while I wanted the colours to be muted, even a little faded, I wanted the palette to be that of the earth and green, growing things.

I will link the sources below, but I found “background heaven” at a site selling textile and wall products made from the designs of William Morris. After I tested about a dozen “finalists” I chose the textile in this background, William Morris’ “Fruit Minor”. Then, working from the new textile background, I chose the colours for the rest of the lay-out elements.


~*~


For you who are interested in changing your own LJ’s colours or backgrounds from the canned versions, but are as poor at these things as I am, I am making technical notes below for how to try and do it. I will be linking the various LJ lay-out pages.



Note of advice:
Before I changed my actual LJ’s, I did all of my experimenting on a “practice LJ”. I opened another free LJ account under another name. That way if it took days to complete, it wouldn’t make my “real” LJ’s a mess. I just copied and pasted a few sample entries from my other LJ’s into the practice journal so that I could see how the lay-out would look with my own entries, featuring manips, screencaps, and fic chapters.


"How to’s" for 'Nebula' (probably similar for most lay-out styles - read only if interested in journal formats):

To start. To change the look of your lay-out, first open your LJ so that the menu bars show at the top. The User Info page works for me. Starting with “Manage”, go down and click “Customize”. It will open to a selection of pages, each with a tab. The first page is tabbed…..


1. Basics: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/index.bml

There you will find places to enter Journal Titles, make a links list, and select a Style System. I have been working with system S2.


2. Look and Feel: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/style.bml

This page has a number of choices:

-- Layout – This let’s you look at samples.

Here are the sample lay-outs they offer. Take a look at "Nebula" to see how different one can make it look.

I was using “Digital Multiplex” with a slight use of custom colours, but I like this lay-out’s structure better – clean and simple, easy to change, with lots of background area visible.

-- Language

- Themes – Unfortunately, not all the colour (theme) previews work; they didn’t for “Nebula”. I did look at them all by saving and viewing each one, but they were all very loud in colour, not my thing at all.

-- Ad Layout

- Mood Icons (smileys).


3. Custom Options* (This is where the MAIN locus for making visible changes):

Presentation: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

This has a lot of options including how many entries you view on your LJ or Friend’s Page, where basic components are (sidebar left or right) where the text body is (left, right, center), etc.

The only changes I made for this layout were these:

-- Page width* – For my fic LJ I reduced it to 70% (default is 80%), so the text column would be easier to read.
-- Sidebar width* 15% (default is 20%)
-- Which side of page for sidebar – Right (my wider images screw up the display if the sidebar remains on the left, since the “extra” hangs over to the right).
-- Use gradients – I turned this feature off. “Nebula” uses gradients in the entry headers and sidebars. I find this look too contemporary for what I want.

*Note: If you post images that are too wide for the text column, they “spill” over to the right. If they run into the place where the sidebar would go (if it’s on the right), they displace the sidebar to the bottom of the page.

Colours: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

I changed almost all of these, leaving some black and white defaults. To find colours I used mostly two sites, which I’ll list below.

The bore about choosing colours is that there’s no preview function in Customizing. Each time you wish to see what your colour looks like (or which element it is that will be changed!), you have to hit “save”, then, “view journal”. This means that if you preferred the previous colour, if you didn’t write it down, you won’t know what it was. Make notes!


Fonts: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

Because I want a more old-fashioned look, I replaced the default type faces with something more classic. I had been using “Century Schoolbook” in my previous style, and I chose it again. So, in every box that shows a default type font, I replaced it with my desired font.

I don’t know where there is a list for font options on LJ. I just tried ones that I knew from Microsoft Word and entered them until one I wanted worked.


Images: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

This is where you select your novelty backgrounds. To wallpaper an image behind your text boxes and sidebars, enter a URL for the image you want (uploaded to a photo hosting site like Photobucket or Scrapbook), and there it will be (“repeat” the image is the default, which is what you want to make wallpaper). If you want to put a signature image for the page header, you put the URL of that image in the appropriate box at the bottom.


Text: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

I didn’t do anything with this.


Custom CSS: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/options.bml

I didn’t use this page, either.



4. Advanced: http://www.livejournal.com/customize/advanced.bml

I’ve also never done anything with this.



More notes about customizing one's lay-out.


1. Backgrounds.

Finding a background (not the same thing as a colour) you really like is not difficult but may be time-consuming. I found lots of internet-ready stuff Googling up “Backgrounds”. There are loads of free sources.

This one, Absolute Backgrounds Textures Archive, has a wide variety of backgrounds, but little that looks like antique textiles.

Here is a site with image-swatches from [real] wallpaper and borders, free if you are using them for a personal website: Gally’s Graphics Gate.

The place where I found what I wanted for my own journal is a site selling reproductions of the textile and wallpaper designs of Pre-Raphaelite artist William Morris (*swoon*). My wallpaper is made from the lemony-green version of Fruit – Minor. (If you open the site, click on the swatches and they enlarge.)

This came from Charles Rupert’s Wallpapers and Fabrics ~ William Morris page.

None of the swatches are watermarked, perhaps because William Morris has been dead long enough to be out of copyright, so I felt free to copy and use them. But you will need to trim them yourself, since they have text boxes on them.

You also need to test them as wallpaper to see if they will work. These images are made from photos of actual wallpaper and fabric samples, so, sometimes, there is a shadow on one side that you don’t see until it appears repeated as a wallpaper. This makes all the joinings painfully obvious. Some swatches are more uniformly lit than others. For mine, there still was a darker side, so I just trimmed off the darker side and used a smaller, more uniform sample for my wallpaper.

Ann’s background came from an excellent site that features Celtic designs:
Free Ware Celtic Clip Art.

Not all of the web elements there are free, in fact (since these are watermarked, they clearly are not to be copy-and-pasted), but her background came from their excellent page of free ware, which includes textile squares in a range of hues for making wallpapers. On their Clip Art page, they also have buttons, borders, single images -- you name it.

Here’s their "free ware" main page. Most of the elements I would use are all on its “Clip Art” sub-page.




2. The Image for the Page Header.

I loved the page-header image Ann used, an intricate but clear-cut Celtic design with a multiple-banded border. I don’t know where she got her design from, but it’s a beaut. It gives real distinction to her journal page.

I couldn’t find anything of comparable quality [for free], so I made my own. I cut a swatch from my background wallpaper, put coloured borders around it (in my photo program, it’s under “Effects” > “Edges” > “Artistic Edges”, choosing an opaque brush).

To give it a central focus, I trimmed an image of an antique tile and pasted it in the middle. This sounds simple, but it actually took forever, since I had to shop the net for old tiles to download, trim and try. But you won’t have to look everywhere if you like old tiles. I will give you the link to a GREAT site.

Here’s the place I found my tile (I downloaded dozens): Tile Heaven: Aesthetic Tiles.

Again, the image doesn’t have to be clip art, or something you make yourself. It could be a photographic image, an icon, a screencap. Or you don’t have to use one at all! But “Nebula” is such a plain design, I think it is a little bare without a page header image.

ETA: Ann says she got her page header design from Dover Design Sampler. You can sign up and they send samples every week. However, she adds, "One thing about the Dover Design newsletters that I just discovered, to my chagrin, is that the links don't stay active for more than a couple weeks. So if you see something you like, snag it right away! Before it's gone."

Thanks, Ann!



2. Colours.

Below are colour charts with codes. The second two charts are vast, opening up to rows of numbered samples, depending on which hue you click.

To enter a colour in your customization, just copy and paste a code from one of the charts – be sure to use the # prefix each time.

This was perhaps the most challenging part to this computer-design newbie, since I didn't know what the various parts of the lay-out scheme listed referred to, in order to change them. I just had to experiment. One day I plan to open another practice journal and fill in every box with a different bright colour. That way I would be able to see which element is being referred to.

Colour Charts:

1. LJ’s simpler color chart.

2. A nice, full chart with a good page of just greys.

3. An excellent, really extensive chart, but without a separate page for greys.

* I think it’s helpful to have a number of windows open when choosing colours. I have the test journal open -- with its new background in it -- then browse the charts on another window. That way you can jockey back and forth while applying different hues.


And that’s it!

I hope you have fun fooling around with the look of your LJ. But I warn you, it’s *addictive* -- just like the Internet generally.



~ Mechtild

Comments:


Ann
just_ann_now at 2007-01-15 01:36 (UTC) (Link)
I don’t know where she got her design from, but it’s a beaut.

D'oh! I knew I had forgotten something important!

Another really wonderful resource is the Dover Design Sampler. This is a newsletter you can sign up to receive in your email each week. It's from the Dover Publications folks, who produce clip-art books and cd-roms. Each week there are about 6-8 different sets of clip art samples that you can select and save to your own computer. This week's designs, for example, include floral embroidery, Islamic design, Aubrey Beardsley illustrations, and Historic Fashion from Around the World. I don't remember what my header was, I just remember that I liked it and tucked it away for future use.

classy, sensuous, inviting -- like a red damask-panelled parlour in a ritzy brothel from another century, its floor strewn with Persian carpets. LOL!

Ann writes fic that is not only intelligent, but sensuous, hearth-warm, and spiced with a dash of the exotic -- yet soundly rooted in the heritage of our artistic and literary past.

Now, there you go making me blush again! Do you mind if I quote that in my user info? Or have it printed up on a t-shirt? Or tattoo it to my arm, so I can peek at it when I'm feeling unappreciated in RL?

Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 02:37 (UTC) (Link)
Do you mind if I quote that in my user info? Or have it printed up on a t-shirt? Or tattoo it to my arm, so I can peek at it when I'm feeling unappreciated in RL?

You may do all of those things -- in HUGE type! You may even alter the comma usage if it seems problematic.

And as for the Dover Design Link,I will open it immediately. I may edit it into the body of the text. Thanks, Ann!
Ann
just_ann_now at 2007-01-15 02:40 (UTC) (Link)
One thing about the Dover Design newsletters that I just discovered, to my chagrin, is that the links don't stay active for more than a couple weeks. So if you see something you like, snag it right away! Before it's gone.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 02:48 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Ann. I added all that in an ETA. *smooch*
(Deleted comment)
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 04:22 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Mews!
Mona
lame_pegasus at 2007-01-15 05:57 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! Your new layout looks awesome, and I wanted to change the background of my LJ for ages (and replace it with the background of my website), for thankfully enough I'm now able to do so, because of my new laptop - and this wonderfully detailed manual what exactly I have to do. Thank you so much for posting this!

Funny enough I knew instantly that this was a William-Morris-design... though the only "original" I ever saw was in a book about Beatrix Potter and her houses.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 14:00 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Mona.

You saw it used in Beatrix Potter's houses? Did she furnish it in William Morris designs? Lucky her!!!! His is just about my favourite, if I had to chose just one person's designs to decorate my own house. If I had the money, I'd do it.
Estelanui - Francesca
estelanui at 2007-01-15 08:08 (UTC) (Link)
Your new lay-out is beautiful and warm. I love it!

Thank you, eclectic lady, also for the useful news and informations.
*hugs*
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 14:04 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome, Estelanui. Your journal was another that inspired me to want to use images for a background. Your M-E map looks *super* as your background. I did try using a similar map image a month ago, but with my previous lay-out. Not enough of it showed to make an impact.
Maewyn
maewyn_2 at 2007-01-15 13:29 (UTC) (Link)
You've certainly been very busy! Changing LJ layout can be very challenging. What a good idea setting up a test LJ to do it! Sometimes you get near what you want, and change one little thing, and the whole thing stuffs up. Then you can't remember what it was you did that messed it up! If I change mine again, I'll check out your instructions. Thank you for posting them!
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 14:07 (UTC) (Link)
Actually, Maewyn, I found it even better to have TWO practice journals, but I didn't want to confuse everybody. That way, while I was working on it, I could use one of them as the "control" for the new design, updating both, but changing only one of them first, then comparing the effect with the "control" to see which I preferred. It was a lot of fun, but very time-consuming.

Ann also suggested opening a "dummy journal", since your journal can become a total mess for hours or longer, right while your friends are trying to look at it! She also said that it protects against disaster when you have a major screw-up.
Maewyn
maewyn_2 at 2007-02-04 08:43 (UTC) (Link)
I thought I'd mention that when I view your journal, the side bar is positioned underneath the posts and comments.

Perhaps it has something to do with the size of my screen (it's 15"). If this section were to be moved about 1/2" to the left, I think the side bar would move up beside the posting section (on my screen, that is).

I've set up a dummy journal that I've been playing around with. It's a great idea. You can always go back to it to experiment when you have a bit of time.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-02-04 14:03 (UTC) (Link)
You're right; it's because your monitor is smaller. If my pictures are wider than the text bar, even on my 20" screen, the side bar gets booted down to the bottom. Unfortunately, the option is to move the text bar left (now it's set at "centre"), which moves it all the way over to the left, so that ALL the background is only on the right, a look which doesn't please me. I am sorry the format doesn't really work on smaller screens, though, since a lot of people have them. Maybe I'll change formats again sometime.
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-02-04 14:10 (UTC) (Link)
I just changed it over to "left" alignment, as you can see. It does leave a tiny left border of background, afterall, so maybe I'll leave it.

Maewyn, if you have time, could you look at the mechtilds_fic journal and see if the bar is at the bottom on that one, too? None of the illustrations on that LJ are wider than the text bar, but maybe the text bar itself is too wide and I can reduce its width? Thanks!
wendylady1
wendylady1 at 2007-01-15 19:10 (UTC) (Link)
Oh Mech...what total fun you have had !!!
I love pootling around with LJ...and d'you know what's even more FAB ?!!
You can have a different theme set up for each Journal layout, and just opt for a different layout whenever you fancy a change...I discovered that by accident, when I was changing my theme again..I clicked on a journal theme option that I used to have when I first set my journal up, and hey presto..there was my old journal colour scheme all exactly as it was..
"How utterly convenient" I thought, and went about designing themes for myself in several layouts, which are all waiting for when I get fed up with the current one, and desire a change of scenery...try it yourself, and you will see what I mean...change your journal theme back to what it was before, and your journal will look like it did before...change it back to the Nebula theme, and this one will be there unchanged...
Moreover, I think that when you are fiddling around with your journal, all other people see is the current page theme, whichever you set last...of course, if someone were to visit your journal several times during the course of your theme change, they might possibly see all your interim try-outs, every time you click on refresh to see what it looks like...

What wonderfull links you have provideed us with...and you are right, your theme is very William Morris...I recognised the style immediately...
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-15 20:48 (UTC) (Link)
Wendy, that is so cool that it has a "remember" function! I printed out a copy of the colour code page to remember, should I want to put it back. I needn't have!

Yes, *love* that William Morris.
Whiteling
whiteling at 2007-01-15 22:31 (UTC) (Link)
Wow, fantastic links and great instructions, Mechtild. Thanks muchly! I'll soon have a go at trying out... hopefully, I'm not going to completely lose myself in all those endless possibilities. *rubs hands*
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-16 01:33 (UTC) (Link)
It's pretty easy to get carried away! I look forward to seeing what you do -- first. I'll bet you make a series, over time. :D
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-01-16 13:02 (UTC) (Link)
Stunning!

Thank you so much for the technical notes Mechling.

Perhaps when little miss it-looks-o.k.-as-it-is-and-besides-I-don't-have-time-yet-with-all-those-new-fangled-devices (a.k.a. me) gets round to it she might just give it a go. :-D
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-16 13:53 (UTC) (Link)
Did you open the link and look at the sample "Nebula" Este? It's so UGLY! Who'd have guessed it could look so great!?!?!? A million thanks to Ann for showing the way.

It is, indeed, very time-consuming, Este. But it's always great to fix up a real room to suit oneself better; this is just as gratifying, and (actually) faster and cheaper than totally redecorating a real room.

Just don't forget to make a practice journal to do it on. I even made two, letting one be the "control" as I keep making changes. It's a bother to keep logging in and out (you can't change settings on a journal unless you are logged in as its owner), but it's worth it.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-01-20 15:17 (UTC) (Link)
Did you open the link and look at the sample "Nebula" Este? It's so UGLY! Who'd have guessed it could look so great!?!?!?

I did, and you are right in saying it is so ugly. Although I believe that a certain amount of artistic talent is required to make such a delightful silk purse out of a sow’s ear *grin*

P.S. I named one of my practice journals, "Mechling".

That is quite lovely, it is such a pretty name. I’m glad Frodo named you that in one of my Frodo-dreams *bigger grin*

P.S. If you get to read this whilst visiting I wish you and your family well.

-Estë
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-02-01 02:54 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Estë! I'm back home and just beginning to look at the mail. There are a million notices and messages. I think I am just going to cruise lightly to see if there are any bruhahas.

You dreamt Frodo called me "Mechling" in a dream? I had forgotten that! *gives you little kiss*
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-02-05 14:09 (UTC) (Link)
You don't have to answer this little note. I know you have a lot of catching up to do. I just want to wish you welcome back Mechling! *hugs*

Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-16 13:54 (UTC) (Link)
P.S. I named one of my practice journals, "Mechling".

*smooch*
Julie ... five more minutes
bagendbabe at 2007-01-17 13:54 (UTC) (Link)
You clever old thing, Mech!!!

It looks absolutely gorgeous. As soon as I opened your LJ I screamed to myself "William Morris". I adore his designs.

~Bang
Mechtild
mechtild at 2007-01-17 13:58 (UTC) (Link)
You lucky dog, you get to see them in person all over the place. Have you ever visited the William Morris Museum? I forget where it is but it seemed like the outskirts of London. I'll bet there are posh homes all over Britain that have original stuff by him -- in homes where they didn't have it all tossed out to put in Art Deco or Danish Modern decades later.
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