I had a great time in Atlanta last week. It’s always so much fun getting to meet the blog readers and learning more about what people do in the real world. Two things always stand out during these trips:
- There is no one way to do elearning. We use the same words, but we don’t always mean the same thing. Some people build courses, some create marketing material, and some use the rapid elearning software to create multimedia information.
- People don’t have money. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a big company or small; odds are you are working on a limited budget. That means you’ve got to be creative with the resources you have.
One of the sessions I did in Atlanta was on how to get the graphics you need for your rapid elearning courses. So I thought it a good idea to share the presentation with the rest of the blog readers.
Understand Graphic Formats
You don’t need to be a graphics artist, but you should know the difference between a bitmap and vector image because they play a role in the quality of what you see on the screen.
You’ll notice that some graphics will scale up and remain crisp and others get pixelated. The reason is that they’re two different types of graphics. The ones that get pixelated are bitmap images. When you scale the image, you’re scaling the pixel. Thus the pixels themselves get larger and become apparent.
The images that don’t pixelate are vector images. When you scale them they remain nice and crisp. They can be scaled because instead of pixels the image is based on a mathematical formula.
It’s Not about the Images
Before investing a lot of time finding the right graphics, invest time in learning basic graphic design. Graphic design is about using screen elements to communicate meaning. So it’s important to not only know how to create screen the elements (like your graphics) but also how to create meaning with them.
The E-Learning Heroes community has a great exercise that walks you through getting the right look and feel for your elearning course. It’s worth spending some time on this because it will help you create the right visual context for your course content.
In addition, it’s important to understand basic graphic design. Many people are familiar with the C.R.A.P. acronym which stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. Those are basic design principles that help direct the learner’s eye and use the visuals to assist in the communication process.
You can do a search online for “CRAP design” and find all sorts of free help. If you want a book, then try the Non-Designer’s Design Book, Slide:ology, or any basic graphic design book. In either case, learning the principles will help you build screens that look good and are effective.
Now let’s look at some tips and tricks to get the graphics you need.
You Already Have What You Need
If you’re building rapid elearning courses, then most likely you’re using PowerPoint. And in that case, you already have an application that lets you do quite a bit. Despite all of the lamenting about bad PowerPoint presentations, the fact remains that PowerPoint the application is quite powerful and offers a lot of flexibility (and capability). So you should be able to create much of what you need.
Microsoft Provides Free Resources
A good tip is to try and find images of the same clip art style. This way you can maintain consistency throughout the course. Just click on the style number under the image properties and you’ll get all of the images in that style. Keep in mind that not all images are grouped in styles.
Customize the Clip Art to Meet Your Needs
I’ve covered this in the past, so you can check out the following posts to learn more. The main point is to ungroup the vector clip art images and then add or subtract the elements you need to create the right images for your course.
As you can see, you ungroup the clip art to pull out characters or props, modify the people, and create custom backgrounds.
- What You Need to Know When Working with Grouped Clip Art
- Little Known Ways to Create Your Own Graphics Using PowerPoint
- 3 Simple Steps to Create Background Images for Your Next E-Learning Scenario
Create Your Own Illustrated Objects
I’m not a trained illustrator. What I do know I learned by copying what others do. This has helped me develop some basic illustration techniques and taught me how to get more out of PowerPoint.
I’m a big advocate of visiting some of the illustration tutorials online and applying them to PowerPoint. You’ll find that you can do much of what illustrator does and you’ll learn how to do a lot more with the tools you have.
Here are a few previous posts where I show you how to use PowerPoint to do your own illustrations. It takes a little practice, but soon you’ll find that you can create quite a bit on your own.
If you don’t want to learn to do the illustrations, you’re more than welcome to download them from the community since I’ve made them all available for free.
- Here’s How to Get Past a Screen Full of Bullet Points
- See How Easily You Can Create Graphics in PowerPoint
- Rapid E-Learning Workshop: How to Create a Tabbed Notebook
- Create E-Learning Templates With a Consistent Clip Art Style
- How to Design the Visual Elements for Interactive Elearning Courses
Take Your Own Photos
If you have a budget you can buy stock images, but if you don’t AND you don’t want to use clip art then taking your own photos is easy enough, especially nowadays with the digital cameras.
Some things to consider:
- Get a signed release so that you have permission to use the images.
- Try to get as much light into the scene as possible. You’ll never get better quality than the starting image.
- And read this post that offers more tips and tricks.
Fixing the Bad Stuff
Clip art can seem boring and trite, and if you take your own photos most likely they’ll look a lot different that the pro quality images you can find on stock sites. So here are some tips to help you fix some of the bad stuff.
Use Image Filters to Convert Boring Clip Art & Bad Photos
Most graphics editors (and PowerPoint 2010) offer simple filters that help you convert your image. In the example below, I applied a pencil filter to a common piece of clip art and added it to a piece of paper for effect. Here’s a post that offers more detail and a free PowerPoint template.
You can do the same thing for pictures when the lighting is off or you want to have the essence of the image, but not all the detail. The cool thing is that if you have PowerPoint 2010, you already have most of the features you need to make these types of edits.
Silhouettes are the hot thing. They’re the Lady Gaga of images (only more discreet). You see them all the time in advertising. They work great for elearning because they represent objects without any detail. It’s easy enough to take photos in-house and then convert them to silhouettes. This way you can make up for fading fashion styles, bad lighting, or blurry images.
You can also create silhouettes out of clip art, which is another way to get more life out of something many people fine old and overused. Here are some posts that teach you how to create silhouettes:
- 3 Easy Ways to Create Silhouette Characters
- 5 Ways to Use Silhouette Graphics in Your E-Learning Course
- How to Turn a Picture into a Silhouette
Most of us aren’t trained graphic designers, so we’re scrambling to find the tools and resources that help us get the job done. The tips above are easy enough to apply and don’t really cost much more than time to learn. The good thing is that once you learn how to apply some of these tricks, it goes faster the next time.
And as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t want to build them, then feel free to jump into the community and download the stuff that’s already there for you to use.
What tips do you have for creating your own images? Feel free to share them with the community.
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- We'll be adding events for 2017 soon. If you'd like to see one of our workshops in your area just let me know.
- Mar 20 (Orlando). Want to learn to build courses with the right look & feel? Join David Anderson at his all day workshop on Graphic Design Essentials for Non-Graphic eLearning Designers.
- Mar 22-23 (Orlando). Come by the booth at Learning Solutions and say hello.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Variables Made Easy with Articulate Storyline. Limited seats, so sign up now.
- April 13 (Minneapolis). Articulate User Meet Up. Details coming soon.
- April 14 (Minneapolis). PACT Meeting: Facing Today's Instructional Design Challenges.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.