Friday, November 02, 2007

Absolutely Magic Vectorising...

If you're looking for a way to convert dodgy bitmaps into smooth, smooth vector images - and who isn't? - go to In a word, it's fantastic. If you're familiar with tools like CorelTrace, you'll be astounded by the superior results. And it's free. Upload your bitmap, wait a few moments, and the SVG or EPS version of your image is ready to save back to your PC. Cool, cool, cool.
Truly... this is astonishingly cool.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mark Bookmark

Andrew Richardson has just produced a promotional bookmark for the Mark's gospel series he's running alongside the upcoming Church4kids program. "I'm quite pleased with the graphic and the colours," says Andrew - I agree. nice job.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No ordinary flyer...

Bryson Smith has been working on the design for a flyer promoting the Western Plains Christian Convention, which is running under the title "The Life Less Ordinary." He's come up with a beautiful design, though he says he couldn't find exactly the stock image he was looking for..."The grain works because of the region," says Bryson from the heart of rural Australia... "but the flower is still less blokey than I'd like. I'd love a crowd scene in which everyone is frowning and one person is smiling or something like it." Even so, it's a great job, and one that we hope draws a crowd...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Two New Books from Amazon

I've just received my copies of two nice design books - ordered from to take advantage of the current great exchange rate. The first is 'Before & After Page Design' by John McWade - the same guy who does the B&A website and the magazine. Loads of inspiration and step by step tutorials. The second is 'Robin Williams Design Workshop - 2nd Edition.' Robin is the lady behind the 'Non-Designers Guide' which started me on the road to better design. This is a far bigger book, with far more examples - but maybe lacking the distilled clarity of the original. Even so, I've already pickup up some practical design ideas from each book.


Back blogging after a long break - sorry about that. Here's the draft of a flyer I've been working on, which will be re-used around a number of churches in Brisbane in the next few months. The toughest challenge was finding the right kid-shot to liven it up. Ultimately, came to the rescue once again... though they've recently both increased the cost of download credits, AND increased the number of credits per image. These kids cost 2 credits, or around $US4. Hope they do the job!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

MPC Website now LIVE!

Thanks to those who commented on the new-look MPC website. We are now live with a slight redesign at - please drop by and check it out. Sorry Martin - the greyscale photos stay! They're a 'design feature...'

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sneak Peak at New MPC Website

After almost 8 years without a makeover, the Mitchelton Presbyterian Church website was looking dated and tired. Time for a nip and tuck - with Dr Derek Hanna to the rescue. Weilding only a scalpel and a set of handy WordPress tools, Derek has sliced and diced to the point where the old site is barely recognisable. There's news, there are pics, and there are clear links (we hope) to our popular archive of talks and studies. We're still very much in beta, and still adding content and populating pages... but thought you might like to take a look and give your comments while there's still time to change things. Please take a look at and tell us what you think.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Searching for Free Stock Images

Keen poster Mike Pittman from Tuggeranong has submitted the following handy information.

Easy Searching for Free "Stock Images":
In an earlier post I mentioned YotoPhoto and Stock Exchange, which both provide free, high resolution "Stock Images". But how would you like to search straight from your browser? Both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2 have a search box in the top right corner, and now you can easily add stock image search plugins to that box.

The following links will add search plugins to either IE7+ or Firefox 2+

  • To add YotoPhoto - click on this link and then click on "I" to install the YotoPhoto search plugin.

  • To add Stock Exchange - click this link and then click on "I" to install the Stock Exchange search plugin.

Now to search for Photos, you can just click on the arrow on the search bar, select the search plugin you wish to use, type in your search phrase and hit enter. Beautiful, isn't it?

Image Licensing:
A word about image licensing. Many images in these particular stock photo sites have no usage restrictions, but some do. Some images require permission (usually by email), some require attribution (a small note next to each image), and a few are more restricted.

I have set the two search plugins above to search for images that are in most cases 100% no strings attached. To do that, I have configured the YotoPhoto plugin not to find "Creative Commons" licensed images, because even though they're free they always require attribution, which I don't want on my publications. I have also configured the Stock Exchange plugin to use only "Unrestricted" images, which in many cases just means you need permission by email, but I don't want that hassle. If you want to search for all images, including some with slight restrictions, use this link for unrestricted YotoPhoto, or this link for unrestricted Stock.xchng. If you want to know more about licensing, you can find details on either website.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Powerpoint Tips

Thanks to Mike Pittman for emailing this useful powerpoint info.

Really Bad Powerpoint:

Recent Aussie research says Powerpoint often overloads audiences with information and destroys communication. But the experts say don't ditch Powerpoint - just stop being so complex - something Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) both need to learn.

If you've been following Bill's lead, help is at hand. Seth Godin has written a very helpful article about curing "Really Bad Powerpoint". You can also read about good Powerpoint design on the Presentation Zen site, or Guy Kawasaki's "10/20/30 rule" on his blog.

The low-down is to keep it minimal - hardly any bullets, fewer slides, big images, big text (and not much of it), plus blank screens to refocus attention on your message. Because if it's all on the screen, you'll lose everyone, so why not save time and frustration and email the notes?

Styles To Imitate:

If you've got your L-plates on, why not try imitating some of the masters? Check out the visual simplicity of Steve Jobs, see his November 2006 keynote speech, or learn why Jobs is so persuasive. Another master presenter is Lawrence Lessig - his free culture presentation is 8.4Mb, but well worth a look. Others to imitate include prolific presenter Seth Godin or the absolute minimalist Takahashi method.

Look and Learn:

Once you've seen some of the masters, it's also worth taking a look at some good one-offs, like Meet Henry, Drive, Incredible India, 3 Types Of Teachers, or Flickr

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Free New Fonts

The creator of Fontin, previously mentioned in Design4church, has been busy creating a bunch of professional quality free fonts. Visit Jos Buivenga and take a look around. Fontin Sans is terrific... but the full "Delicious" family is delicious too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stock Photos - Great links

Mike Pittman offers the following handy links for stock photos:
This is a search engine for images that taps into several other free image banks. All are high resolution. All are free to use, although some require permission and/or attribution (licensing information is available for each photo).
I've got a plugin for my Firefox browser that allows me to search this site without opening the page first ( There is quite possibly one available for internet explorer, but I haven't got the motivation to look for it
Something else impressive that Yotophoto does is search by colour - see
Many of these are taken on white backgrounds, meaning it is dead simple to remove the background.

Some other resources that may be useful; - by Darren Hester - pixelperfect, designsbydarren etc.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"Clarity" Conference in Canberra - Get the Notes!

Last Friday I presented a graphic design seminar titled "Clarity" at the REQUIP conference in Canberra. Download the comprehensive course notes and ppt file by clicking on the link below. (Please note, some of the material is drawn from previous posts on this blog, supplemented by other material and examples. It's a great way to catch up with previous design4church tutorials in an integrated package.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More on Design Software...

Following up from his previous question on design software, Stuart Atkinson asks, "Do churches/ministers qualify for the academic/not for profit organisation version of Corel Draw($175- against about $800)?"

A few years ago, Corel was certainly offering the educational discount to churches; our church purchased through a company in Melbourne that specialised in academic retailing. I'll try to dig out the details.

Meanwhile, Rob Lamont's Ministry Blue site has links to a number of special offers, including the full Adobe Creative Suite for $580. It's certainly worth a look:
Discounted Software for Australian Based charities, not for profits , missions, ministry, church or youth organisations

Today's Churches Too Old Fashioned for 21st Century Audience, says Author

Here's a provocative extract from an article in Christianity Today:
"“Our audience are used to 21st century advertising - slick, professional, competent. They will hardly even glance at much of what we are offering. We need to chuck out the day-glo posters, meaningless jargon, hand-drawn lettering and naff jokes, and bring in professionally produced posters and witty lines.

“With churches facing declining attendance and struggling to make their message heard in an increasingly noisy world, it beggars belief that so many have a mend and make-do attitude to publicity,” says Creighton. “We have a life-changing message on offer, but we want to wrap it up in crass slogans.”

Creighton gives ‘cheesy’ examples of church slogans such as ‘Carpenter from Nazareth seeks joiners’, ‘Come-in for a faith lift’, ‘Seven days without prayer make one week’, and ‘Free Trip to Heaven. Details Inside!’."

Read the full article here: Christian Today – Christian News > Today's Churches Too Old Fashioned for 21st Century Audience, says Author

Monday, March 12, 2007

Which Software for Church Design?

Stuart Atkinson is looking for software recommendations. "I am currently using Microsoft Paint, Publisher 2003 and Photostudio 5.5(a free photo editing program which came with my Canon printer) to do any layouts for church activities(bulletins, brochures, powerpoint slides etc)," says Stuart. "I find that I end up sometimes using all three, because no one program seems to be able to do everything I need. ie Publisher lets you move stuff around to your heart’s content, but you can’t rub bits out or be very creative. I played around with a trial Coreldraw program, but it seemed too technical. Can anyone suggest something that is more of a one stop shop, but doesn’t cost three hundred dollars?"

It would be great to hear from regular blog-readers on this. I'll start. First up, if you've got a tertiary student in the house, did you know that Office Ultimate (with Publisher 2007) is available for download for just $75? More details at However, as Stu points out, Publisher is a layout program, not a bitmap editor. You really do need both. Stu, take a look through the blog and find the link for Photofiltre, a free bitmap editor that's much better than Microsoft Paint! And for my money, Corel Draw is certainly worth the learning curve. It's almost essential if you want semi-professional results.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Kuler Colours!

Stuck for a creative (and tasteful) colour combo? Kuler can help! WIth active colour discussion forums and an ever growing range of colour schemes, it's a great place for a dash of inspiration.

Easter Ideas

Luke Tattersall at Parramatta City Presbyterian Church is running with the Easter theme "Jesus - Fact or Fiction?" Free copies of the DVD of the same title from Life Ministries are being distributed, with invitations to easter services:
Good Friday—9:00am
Jesus: Fact or Fiction?
The Facts Behind the Death of Jesus

Easter Sunday—10:30am
Jesus: Fact or Fiction?
So What if Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Two neat new free fonts

Free fonts are a dime a dozen - it's only rarely that you'll find a gem that's well enough designed for professional use. Here are two I've unearthed recently at they may even work quite well as partners, with Yanone as headline font and Fontin for body text.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Logo in positive - thanks Aaron!

After the previous post (below) Aaron commented that he thought the simplified logo (in positive rather than reverse) would look better than the original (more complex) version for everyday use on letterheads etc. So I've given it a try...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Simplified QTC Logo for Glass Etching

Here's an interesting challenge. With the rebranding of Queensland Theological College (formerly the Consortium of Reformed Colleges), we needed a crest design to be applied to the glass doors at the college entrance. There's a great new stick-on product that looks just like old-style glass etching... but the design must be simple enough to cut from the plastic sheeting. As you can see from sample A, there's no way the detailed leaves and flames would be suitable... so the design had to be reduced to simple elements that would maintain identity with the original design. This was far from easy, and took lots of hours. The result is shown in sample B. (The plastic sheeting is translucent, sparkly white - I've shown it in blue for your convenience.) In the end, I'm wondering if it might actually work better on letterheads and for general use than the original design. Any thoughts?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Eatons Hill Up and Away

After our orange and green Freshchurch advertising blitz, our Eatons Hill Church Plant launched on Sunday. The results were outstanding - the core group of 41 adults was amazed to be joined by another 22 adult visitors who had come along because they'd seen the ad campaign. Orange and green was a definite theme...

MetroWest Mailout

Here's the front and back of a mailer that Brisbane's MetroWest church is sending out to the Taringa community via Aust. Post. There will be one mailout each month for the rest of the year. Copy by Michael Bennett. Art by Martin Howard.
Michael, the interim pastor is preaching a series on the Sermon on the Mount. This flyer highlights the passage about not worrying.
Tools: InDesign, iMac, cartoon from
Fonts, Helvetica (Light and Condensed Black) and Aroma.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Getting warmer...

Luke Tattersall has locked in the title and poster for his series playing off the "Inconvenient Truths" movie. Here's how it's looking...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pic 2 Colour

Here's a handy online utility for automatically generating colour schemes from bitmap images... pic2color. Seems to work just fine...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fresh New Church at Eatons Hill

Our church plant launches next Sunday morning - so thanks to Rob Hanson at Photograve Pty Ltd, we're going to have some great new signs and banners. We're hoping they'll catch the eye. The fence banner (above) will be 2 metres long. A series of direction signs will lead to the carpark (below)

Inconvenient Truths - A series

Luke Tattersall is planning a topical sermon series later in the year, which is going to pick up on Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. He's planning to call the series one of the following:

* More Inconvenient Truths
* Other Inconvenient Truths
* An Inconvenient God

The series will look at what the Bible says about topics like:
o Heaven & Hell (Judgement)
o At Least you have your Health (The Health myth)
o In the Last Days… (Terrorism and the state of the World)
o Angels & Demons (Satan and the Spiritual Realm)
o The Illusion of Freedom (Sovereignty of God)

Luke was looking for suggestions for titles for two more talks, on Tolerance and Sin. My suggestions are:
o Totalitarian Tolerance (Pluralism)
o I Did it My Way (Sin)

Inspired by Luke's idea, Bryson Smith suggested a series poster based on the movie. It could look something like this...

Marketing Tips

This is slightly off topic, but thought readers might find these direct marketing tips (which are guaranteed to work, or your money back!) provide some food for thought. They're tried and true marketing secrets, they're free, and they're here in pdf format.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More tips for church websites...

These church web design tips come from ... with permission. Solid gold!

Your church site will be the first point of contact for many people in your community. First impressions count. It should therefore be at least as professional and attractive as your outside sign-board or newsletter. Extra
Do not place too much information on your homepage. It needs just sufficient graphics and text to explain at a glance who you are and what is available elsewhere on the site. The homepage should be a doorway, not a stopping point. It should not take the form of a welcome letter from the pastor – a website is not the same as a printed brochure.
And all important information should be ‘above the fold’. In other words, almost everything should be visible without needing to scroll. The homepage should not be much more than one screen in height.
Avoid ‘churchy’ graphics – open Bibles, stained glass windows, doves, candles. And appeals for money. These are off-putting to many non-Christians. There are even church sites out there using 1990s animated graphics: revolving golden crosses and doves with flapping wings.
Do not add automatically starting Midi hymn tunes or music files to your site either – these are very irritating. And finance, if it must be mentioned at all, should only be in areas clearly aimed at the members.
Use at least one graphic of a person’s face on the homepage. This tip is so important, it is in here twice! Churches are primarily about people, not buildings. A well-chosen picture can express far more than many words, and illuminate the meaning of your text.
A 3-column layout is often the most suitable for a church site. You can get ready-designed template coding for pages – already set up with headers, columns and footers to use in your own HTML editor. If you use the industry-standard Dreamweaver software for web design (and non-profits can buy this at a quarter of full price), it contains ready-made templates ideal for church sites. Do not skimp on design software, and read reviews before choosing. The alternative is a ready-made site – see #45.
Never use an introductory ‘splash page’. A ‘splash page’ is an introductory page containing nothing but a graphic (or even animated sequence) plus ‘click here to enter’ link. These are intensely irritating to users. Many people will leave the site, rather than clicking through. Splash pages can also reduce your ranking in search engines.
Every page should display the same overall appearance, with the same navigation options in the same place. Pages which lack consistent style will confuse users, who wonder if they have strayed onto a different site. A navigation menu should appear on all pages – don’t force people to go back through the homepage to find another page. Extra
All links, menu options and buttons should be clearly identified as ‘active’ – they should change color when hovered. Links and buttons, which do nothing when hovered, appear dead. People need these visual clues. Also think long and hard before introducing link styles that are not standard. A blue underlined link remains the ‘language’ that most people understand. (Don’t underline any text which is not a link – this is really confusing!)
If you use Javascript – a special hidden code written into a web-page, which can carry out functions within the page after it has downloaded – for any effects, ensure everything on the site still works for those with Javascript disabled. Make sure that words or links which only work with Javascript are actually made invisible (rather than just non-operational) in a Javascript-disabled browser. Provide alternative options enclosed within ‘noscript’ tags if necessary. 5-10% of web users have Javascript disabled. That is a lot of visitors to your website over a year. In fact, many Javascript tricks can be produced by other means, using CSS and PHP.
Don’t use frames – a page design with code which enables one or more blocks of content to be scrolled independently – for site design. Although there are a few specialized situations where frames can be used effectively, a standard church website is not one of them. They have a range of disadvantages, which even expert design cannot overcome.
Learn how to use ‘include’ files – a great time-saver. If you have not yet discovered the time-saving benefits of site-wide ‘include’ files (where a single file generates headers, footers, menus, etc. within a page) now is the time. Do a Google search for ‘server side includes’. Also learn how to use CSS. CSS (Style Sheets) is another essential site-wide method of setting page appearance and structure with a single file – see the ‘Extra’ link. Time spent learning ‘includes’ and CSS will repay a webmaster many times over. Extra
Use colors correctly: understand how to choose a color scheme, how colors relate to each other, and what mood they communicate. Ask a graphic designer for advice. Most of us do not have an eye for color. Clashing or inappropriate colors will negate the message of your site, and drive visitors away. Extra
Don’t use patterned graphic backgrounds behind body text. With very few exceptions, black body text on a white (or near-white) plain background is best.
Consider a ‘liquid’ page design: the content should flow naturally and fit together, at any screen resolution (i.e. size of the monitor screen measured in pixels) or reasonable font resize by a user. This is arguably better than making a fixed-width 800-pixel-wide page design. (A majority of people now use 1024 x 760 anyway.) The Internet Evangelism Day site, for instance, is completely liquid, even down to the old 640 x 480 screen resolution. And don’t put ‘best viewed at resolution’ or ‘best viewed in browser Y’ on your website. This is irritating to people who use a different resolution or browser. It is your job to make their viewing experience a positive one, whatever screen resolution, browser, or operating system they use. Don’t put a visible ‘visitor counter’ on your pages either.
Don’t include ‘mailto’ email addresses in plain coding on the site. They will be ‘harvested’ by spammers. Create a contact form instead. Or at the very least ‘obfuscate’ addresses using coding that hides them, with a heavy-duty Javascript encoding. (You can use multiple contact forms to direct mail to different church departments.)
Your site need not be large or complex. If you do not have the gifts or staff to maintain a large site, it is OK just to have an attractive single page, or a handful of informative pages. A group of churches in a locality could even build a combined co-operative website.
Don’t leave out-of-date content online. Few things rob a site of credibility more than this.
Use several people to proof-read for typos and poor grammar. Mistakes also rob a site of credibility in the eyes of many people. Proof-reading is best done on paper printouts, not on-screen.
Make your pages printer-friendly. This can be done automatically, using a ‘print’ CSS style-sheet. This page uses a print style-sheet derived from – follow the ‘Extra’ link. Extra
Take time to assess your target audience, their interests, needs and circumstances. Understanding your audience is essential to any form of communication. Use our worksheet planner to help you build up a clear picture of your potential site visitors: click on the Extra link. Extra ]
Not least, pray – both for planning and implementation. A church site has the potential to touch many needy people. We need the Lord’s wisdom for initial planning and strategy, and for ongoing effectiveness. It is a ministry that needs prayer.

Church Web Design Checklist

There's a useful design checklist for church websites here ... I haven't dared assess our church website yet, but I think we're doing okay with the site designed by Paul Harvey for our freshchurch plant. Along with graphic design issues, the checklist asks useful questions like" "Is there a purpose statement displayed on the homepage which, while perhaps good at motivating your members, could be off-putting to some non-Christians because it is all about ‘reaching others for Christ’? Or do other aspects of the site give the impression ‘We are out to convert you’, rather than ‘We are a family of flawed real people, please come and share the journey with us.’" If so, deduct 15 points... a penalty only exceded in magnitude by having a non-functional splash page at the front of your site (-20)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Freshchurch Launch News

Just to keep connected with the real world, here's a quick update on the "Freshchurch" publicity campaign. Our team has letterbox dropped around 3000 flyers in the Eatons Hill area, and handed out free oranges at a local shopping centre. Here's some great coverage from the "Northwest News"... click the image for a larger view.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Four Cardinal Design Rules - a Free Preview

Happy New Year - and sorry for the lack of recent posts. I've mentioned before the excellent "Non-Designer's Design Book" by Robin Williams (Peachpit Press). Here's something cool - if you search for the book on Amazon, and then click to 'look inside", you get to read the page that summarises the four key design principles of Consistency, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. It's the most important page in the whole book - and you get to read it free! Having said that, it's probably still worth buying the book...
Can anyone else recommend good design books? Leave a comment.