Putting your artwork on the web with your own web site. Advice and links. Photoshop graphics, HTML editors, software recommendations. For the artist.
Becoming Web Ready
Creating a "web presence" is something that more of us artists want to do, but it's intimidating for technophobes. The good news is, it's becoming easier (and cheaper) to get your site on the web. If you've been putting off the notion of a creating your own art site, or don't know where to begin, I hope I can give you some advice and encouragement. Of course, I hope it's understood that I am (one would say with great charity) an "intermediate" webmistress. I'm no great shakes at sophisticated or high-end professional web design. But, I do know the basics, like putting text and pictures on a page. (Obviously!) I've been wanting to write some detailed and thorough advice for people who want to make their first web pages (more about that later), but first I want to give you some tips and opinions about creating your first web site.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY TO MAKE A WEBSITE.
I put that title in all caps because I really felt it needed to be emphasized. There are too many businesses (and scam artists) out there who will try to convince you that it's just too difficult or scary to do yourself, so you need to buy their expensive or convoluted software or service. But it is just not so. Web domain name registration (yourname.com) isn't expensive anymore. Web hosting isn't expensive anymore. Web design software is in abundance and is relatively easy to learn. There are tons of books and tutorials available. You can even get older versions of high-end software for dirt cheap. DO NOT be convinced that it costs a lot, or that you are incapable of doing it yourself. Creating web pages is not this mysterious, elusive thing that only techno-geeks can master. If that were the case, I'd never have made any pages at all!
What kind of computer is required?
Probably the one you've already got. You should be running a browser (Netscape, Internet Explorer) that is higher than the 4.x version (at least Internet Explorer 5, Netscape 6, any version of Firefox). It doesn't matter if you've got a Mac or PC. I create all my sites on a Mac, and I'm sure many people use Linux for web design. Windows 95, Windows 98, Mac OS 8, OS 9—it's fine. Sure, it's better to have a newer computer, but if your goal is to publish pictures and text on a web site, then very likely whatever you have right now is more than sufficient.
Do you need a domain name (www.myname.com)?
Sure! They are cheap these days—around $10 a year. Get a domain name and you'll never have to worry about people not being able to find your site. A domain name has prestige—and at such a low price! Go to a registrar like GoDaddy or NameCheap and choose a domain name. However, I will warn you—do not have your web host register your domain for you. Most of the time this is perfectly okay, but when you have someone else register your domain, you run the risk of them withholding login information or access to your domain name at a later date. If your host turns out to be dishonest, or suddenly goes out of business and cannot be reached, do you want them to be the only ones who know how to access the settings of your domain name? You need to be in complete control of your own domain name.
What kind of software should you use?
I am very partial to Dreamweaver (now owned by Adobe), but that can get a little pricey. I got my foot in the door with Dreamweaver through an upgrade. (My scanner had some software bundled with it which included an old version of some Macromedia software, which qualified for an upgrade.) And actually, that's what I recommend to anyone who is on a budget—go to someplace like eBay and find an old (and registerable) version of Dreamweaver. Then use that to upgrade. Or, just use the old version of the software. I have found that Dreamweaver 3 or Dreamweaver 4 is really quite nice and would make anyone a perfectly adequate art site. You don't have to get the latest and greatest. (Be warned—anything less than version 3 of Dreamweaver probably won't run on a Windows XP machine.)
If you don't want to use Dreamweaver, I hear that FrontPage 2003 is pretty good (but for Windows only). Older versions of FrontPage are not so good, though. And you can always use a straight HTML editor (where you edit the code that makes up web pages). HTML editors are easy to come by. Many are free.
How do you photograph or scan your artwork and get it ready for the web?
If you have drawings or paintings that are under 9x12," you can probably photograph them using a scanner. Even if you have larger works, you probably still need a scanner. I have tried many scanners in my day, and have settled upon Epson as my scanner brand of choice. A lot of people love Canon scanners.
You can photograph your larger (or 3-D) works using a digital or film emulsion camera. I have a modest digital camera, but still love my film camera. I scan a lot of slides and negatives into my Epson Perfection 3200 (which has a film adapter).
As for graphics software, I love Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. (A lot of scanners come with a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements.) Like with web design software, you can get by with an older version of graphics software. You can even go back as far as version 4 with Photoshop and not do too badly. (Adobe is now on version 9, so version 4 is a ways back!) In addition, any version of Photoshop Elements should be fine. A lot of people do okay with PaintShop Pro, but it's PC-only (and I never liked it much when I was using it), so I can't really say much about how it is to work with these days.
Web Hosting Services?
Don't go with an overpriced plan with Yahoo or Tripod or something. Eek. Oh, okay, I guess they're okay for starters, but they are overpriced. There are much better web hosting plans out there. I currently have this site hosted with eMaxHosting.com. They've been very reliable. And they offer a lot for the pittance that I pay them—much more than what I'd get if I went with Yahoo or Tripod! Other good (and inexpensive) hosts are ReadyHosting.com, Site5.com, uplinkearth.com, and Bliksemhosting.com.
I have a lot more to say about web design and getting yourself on the web, so I decided to start a whole new web site about it. I remember how it felt to go from "newbie" to "prolific webmistress," so I wanted to create a tutorial site to help show others how to do the same thing. This site is still in the creation stages, so it's rough around the edges (i.e. more typos than usual!) and still needs a lot of fleshing out in some areas.
On this site I am building a section specifically for fellow artists. I've already got a tutorial about how to fix up your photographed (or scanned) pencil drawing in Photoshop. I know from personal experience that this is one of the most frustrating and daunting things for some of us. Our drawings often don't photograph well, and even when scanned on a good quality home scanner, they need touching up.
I've also had fun working on the section on the site called "Web Design on the Cheap," where I talk more about using old versions of software, or freeware. There's so much that can be done on a budget. Don't feel that you can't "afford" to the tools to make your own site. That's no longer the case!
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