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You are here: Home How to Create Your Own Forum Avatar
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How to Create Your Own Forum Avatar

Using an avatar in a web forum helps to set your personal identity and make your posts easy to find at a glance, while at the same time can reflect your personality or show off your ride. However, many computer-challenged folks aren't quite up to speed with how to create a useable avatar, so I was asked to write this little tutorial to assist users in coming up with something unique and creative.

For this tutorial, I'll be using Adobe Photoshop...but virtually any decent graphics editor will suffice. The steps will differ with other software packages, but you should be able to pick up enough information here to make it work with whatever graphics editor you have. I'm assuming you at least have the basic knowledge of how to use your graphics program...I'm only going to be explaining the basics here, there are numerous websites to go to which give you great tutorials on how to further your graphics skills. Also, many of the screenshots used in this tutorial are full-size, which means they're going to be large files to view. If you're on a dial-up account, please be patient while they download.

NOTE: If you simply want to resize an existing graphic (without any cropping or special effects) then can skip this particular tutorial and go to the How to Resize Graphics for Posting tutorial. On that page you can also download a very basic (but effective) image resizing program that might fit your limited needs.

Here are a few examples of avatars used by current FORDification forum members, just for the visual:


FORDification

Comet

willowbilly

1968Ranger

Redcap

flyboy2610

As you can see, the avatars can be various sizes, but only up to a maximum of 80 x 80 pixels and a total file size of 6144 bytes (6.1K) for use on the FORDification forums.

Choosing a picture to use for your avatar requires a little forethought. Since the avatar will be more than likely be square, you must keep in mind that by the time you shrink a picture down to 80 pixels wide, much of the detail will be lost, so a nice panoramic view of the Grand Canyon probably wouldn't be a good idea. Also, trying to fit a wide shot into a square means that you're probably going to end up with white space on top and bottom, as in '1968Ranger' shown above. However, if the extra space doesn't bother you, then it's no problem. Otherwise, even with a wide picture, with a little creative cropping, you can come up with something uniquely yours.
 

So let's get started...........

Open Photoshop on your computer. You should see a window that looks a lot like Fig. 1. Virtually all procedures and actions will be used either with tools selected from the Toolbar or from options listed in the Dropdown Menus. With Photoshop open, go ahead and find the picture and open it up.


Fig. 1

For this tutorial, I've selected a shot of my recent acquisition, a '67 F250 Camper Special, taken with my digital camera. With the picture open, you can see in the photo's title bar the image's name, plus the fact that the picture is being displayed at 50%, since it's a large picture and wouldn't normally fit on the screen.


Fig. 2

The first order of business is to shrink it down enough where we can at least view it at 100% and still have it fit onscreen, so we can see all the details and make our adjustments. (If your picture already fits the screen at 100%, you can skip ahead to the next step.) From the dropdown menus, select View -Actual Pixels (Fig. 3). The image will be very large and probably won't fit your screen. Now choose Image - Image Size from the dropdown menus. You should see a pop-up window that looks like Fig. 4. Make sure the option labeled Constrain Proportions is checked. For adjusting the image size, you can choose between pixels and percent. Make sure you making adjustments in pixels. Enter in a number for the width that will fit on your screen, which depends on your monitor resolution. Since a majority of user's monitors are set at 1024 x 768 pixels, you need to select a number lower than 1024. Just type in 800, for example, and hit OK. Now you should see your full image on the screen, with '100%' showing in the image's title bar.


Fig. 3


Fig. 4

Now, using the Rectangular Marquee tool in your toolbar, you can drag across your picture to select the portion of the image you want to use. Since for our purposes we're creating a square 80 x 80 pixels, if you hold the Shift button down on your keyboard while you're making your selection, the dotted line selection will remain a perfect square. After making your selection, while the dotted line is still active, you can move it around to get it centered where you want. Once you have the Marquee where you want it, choose Image - Crop from the dropdown menus to discard everything outside the Marquee selection. Then to get rid of the Marquee selection, choose Select - Deselect from the dropdown menus. You'll end up with something that looks like Fig. 6.


Fig. 5


Fig. 6

Now all that remains is to size it down to 80 pixels in width. Choose Image - Image Size in the dropdown menus. You should again see the same popup window as shown in Fig. 4. Making sure the 'Constrain Proportions' is still selected and that you're making your adjustments in pixels and not percentages, enter '80' in the width field and choose OK. Your image is now 80 pixels x 80 pixels, shown in Fig. 7 at full size.


Fig. 7

While you could now upload your avatar and use it as-is, it might be nice to touch it up a bit. You'll notice that when the image was sized down, it got a little blurry. Let's sharpen it up a bit. From the dropdown menus choose Select - Select All to get the marquee back around the perimeter of your avatar. Then choose Filter - Sharpen. This will sharpen it up quite a bit to bring out more details, but often that's a bit TOO much. If you'd like to hit a happy medium between sharpened and unsharpened, choose Edit - Fade Sharpen and use the slider to adjust the sharpness level. Fig. 8 shows what a 50% sharpen looks like. Not a major adjustment, but just enough to show details without becoming pixelated.


Fig. 8

Another nice touch is to add a 1-pixel black border around the edge of your avatar. From the dropdown menus choose Select - Select All. Now choose Image - Stroke. In the popup window set the stroke width at 1 pixel and the color to black, and the hit OK.


Fig. 9

Now you just need to save your new avatar. Newer versions of Photoshop have a built-in compression feature, which can dramatically trim the file size of your pictures, which makes for faster downloads once it's on the web. From the dropdown menus, choose File - Save for Web. You'll see a popup window which allows you to choose the amount of compression and to see what your image will look like at various degrees of compression (Fig. 10). You can see that the original 80 x 80 image was 18.8K, but by compressing the image, the exact same image is down to 2.6K with very little image degradation. It's not as important with very small files like these avatars, but with much larger images, the amount of savings will make very dramatic differences in file sizes and download times. Choose the level of compression that looks best to you, hit the Save button, name your file, and then hit Save one more time....and that's it! You're done!

Your new avatar now ready to upload to the forums for use with your posts. Congrats!


Fig. 10


Fig. 11

 

 
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