How to Create an Etsy Banner for Free Using PicMonkey.com

Banner

If you have an Etsy shop, you’ve probably tried making your own banner or purchased one from a graphic designer. With my Etsy shops (Mux Originals and Sweet Yogi Headbands), I’ve experimented with both methods and struggled with wanting to regularly give my storefront a fresh look without spending too much time or money. This is the easiest method I’ve found after much trial-and-error.

I hope this tutorial is helpful to you in your Etsy journey – if you have any questions, let me know!

How to Create an Etsy Banner for Free Using PicMonkey.com

PicMonkey.com is an awesome free photo editing website. You can pay for upgraded features but it’s really not necessary unless you plan to use it all the time.

Step 1: Open a photo in PicMonkey. You can use a photo of one of your products, but if you want a solid-colored banner, like the one shown above, any photo will work.

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Step 2: Resize your photo. Select the “Resize” option in the bottom left-hand corner, and enter the number 760 into the first box. Don’t worry about the number in the second box. Hit “Apply”.

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Step 3: Crop your photo. Select the “Crop” option in the upper left-hand corner, and enter the number 760 into the first box and the number 100 into the second box. Hit “apply”.  If you are using the photo you selected as the actual banner background (as opposed to a solid color) move the crop box around until it covers the portion of the photo you want in your banner. 

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Step 4: Add a solid background (optional). To add a solid background, Select the butterfly icon on the left menu and open the “Geometric” option. Select a rectangle and it will be added to your picture. Using the pop-up Overlay box, change the colors to your liking and then resize the rectangle (using the handles on the corners of the shape) so that it completely covers your cropped photo. It’s okay if it’s bigger than your cropped photo.

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Step 5: Make it pretty! At this point, you can do whatever you want. You can add and customize different shapes from the butterfly menu options and you can also use geometric shapes to create borders and lines. I plan on creating further tutorials on more advanced ways to customize your banner. For now, I’m going to add a simple heart. Use the pop-up “Overlay” box to edit the shape.

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Step 6: Add your shop name. This is the most important part – putting your awesome shop name on your banner! Select the Tt option on the left menu to open the text options. Click “Add Text” at the top of the menu and play around with font, size, placement, and color (using the pop-up Text box) until you’re happy with the results.

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Trouble-shooting: Difficulty selecting the text box or overlay box? 

This will make more sense when you’re trying it, but if you use a big rectangle as a solid background (like my coral background above) you might struggle with being able to select the items “stacked” on top of it (like the heart or text) since the program will simply select the giant coral box. To solve this problem, simply move the background box out of the way temporarily, reposition/edit your overlays and text to your liking, and then return the background box to its original position.

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Step 7: Save your banner! When you’re happy with your banner, select the “Save” option right above the photo and save your banner with the “Sean” photo quality option. You are now ready to upload your finished banner to your Etsy shop! Well done.

To inspire you, here’s a few more banners I created using this simple method:

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banner 2

banner 4

I plan on making more tutorials on this topic, including how to add a pre-existing logo to a PicMonkey.com banner, like the one for my Sweet Yogi shop. I love finding easy hacks to get around learning more about programs like PhotoShop. As much as I would like to do that eventually, I don’t currently have the time or money to invest in that skill – but I still need Etsy banners! If you’re in the same place, I hope you’ve benefited from this tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions.

PicMonkey Collage 1

Cinnamon Rolls + A Little Baking Philosophy

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I made cinnamon rolls today for breakfast tomorrow before we head to northern Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas with extended family. I’ve been making this cinnamon roll recipe since my first job at seventeen, when I was asked to develop a signature roll for the cafe where I worked. The cafe closed after three months in business, but I’ve continued baking these since then because they’re so damn good.

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They’re a pretty irresponsible way to start the day (sugar/carb coma, anyone?) but their extravagance is part of their charm. There have been days where I’ve eaten only cinnamon rolls, grabbing an edge every time I walked by the pan in the kitchen. Bad life choice.

The best time to bake, in my opinion, is at night. It’s okay to drink a little bit; since the events of the day have passed, it’s easier to focus completely on the project at hand; and no one is coming into the kitchen to bother you since all the meals have been eaten. My family, who’s dealt with clunking pans, whirring mixers, and beeping timers at 10:30 PM might disagree with me. Too bad.

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The one “down side”, as a blogger, is that the lighting is not ideal for photography at night. I use “” because I actually don’t think it’s a real down side. The whole home baking blog scene has become a little food porn-y for me these days. It seems like a big ridiculous competition to see who can make the most picture-perfect sweets. Who can capture the realest drip of melting chocolate, who can create the best bokeh, who can include the most salt, bacon, pretzels, sprinkles, and dulce de leche.

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I don’t mean to sound so disenchanted. Sometimes I love the aesthetics of it all. I’m as guilty of scrolling through pins and blogs and salivating as the next baking enthusiast. However, at a certain point it ceases to agree with my baking philosophy. Maybe a baking philosophy is a stupid thing to have, but I’ve been thinking about the subject long enough that I’ve inevitably come to some conclusions.

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Food should be pretty. It’s what makes us want to eat it. But I find myself drawn to vintage cookbooks, classic cooking shows (original Martha Stewart, Julia Child, etc.), and actual functioning home kitchens, where the food looks more real. I think the flawlessness of today’s home baking blogs belies the humble beauty of home baking. The flour on the floor, the inconsistencies between cupcakes, the cookies frosted by enthusiastic kids, the piles of dishes in the sink – this is the appeal of home baking to me.

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The internet can set me up to have very unrealistic expectations of real life. It should – everything there is staged and color-corrected and hand-picked to look perfect. The best comparison I can think of is women in movies. In movies made even 15-20years ago (some of Meg Ryan’s and Andy McDowell’s work comes to mind) I’m often struck at how much less perfect the women looked. Their hair was a little frizzy. They wore lighter makeup and less form-fitting clothes. Their bodies were a little softer. And they looked gorgeous. Now, most women in movies have perfectly muscular bodies and precisely shaded eyebrows.

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The crispy, caramelized underside of the roll is my favorite part. 

Baking has followed the same trajectory to me. While I’m all for creativity and  beautiful photography, at a certain point I begin to crave the simplicity and messiness of the home kitchen atmosphere where I first learned to bake. Maybe that just means I need to get off the internet. Why not just not blog? I guess I want to inspire people to embrace the reality of their kitchens without feeling like they are failing if things are imperfect.

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So here is my favorite cinnamon roll recipe, and the photos in this post were unapologetically shot under florescent lighting and in my messy kitchen without props or mini spoons or repurposed wood or napkins from Etsy. Also, unedited. I don’t have any shots of frosted rolls because I’m going to wait to frost them until right before we eat them tomorrow.

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Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 9

Dough:

-2 cups whole milk

-1/2 cup vegetable oil

-1/2 cup granulated sugar

-2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

-5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

-3/4 tsp. baking powder

-1/2 tsp. baking soda

-1 1/2 tsp. salt

Filling:

-1/2 cup salted butter, softened

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/2 cup white sugar

-2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Buttercream:

-1 cup salted butter, softened

-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

-Vanilla extract and salt, to taste

1. For the dough, heat oil, sugar, and milk in a medium saucepan until sugar dissolves (do not boil). Cool to 110 F, then stir in yeast. Measure 5 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in milk mixture to create a loose dough. Spray surface of dough with cooking spray, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and leave dough in a warm place for an hour to rise.

2. In the meantime, combine the remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Measure the filling sugars and cinnamon into another small bowl and stir to combine. Grab your rolling pin and a little flour to keep the dough from sticking.

3. You can also make the buttercream while you’re waiting. Beat the butter in a stand mixture for a couple minutes until it’s very fluffy. Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until frosting is light and shiny. Add vanilla and salt to taste.

4. Once the dough is risen, punch it down and stir in the flour/leavener mixture. Dust your work surface with flour and then roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Don’t make it too thin. Spread with softened butter (I like to use my hands) and then with sugar mixture. Carefully roll the dough up from the bottom of the long edge, keeping it as tight as possible. Pinch the roll to seal and then flip the roll so that the seam is on the bottom.

5. Cut 9 2″ wide rolls using a serrated bread knife. Butter two sheet pans and transfer rolls to pans, spacing them evenly. Preheat oven to 375 F and allow rolls to raise while oven preheats. Once hot, bake the rolls for about 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Cool slightly and then spread with frosting. Eat warm!

Notes:

I’ve also made these with glaze or cream cheese frosting. Equally delicious.

They freeze surprisingly well after baking. You can also freeze them raw prior to second rise.

This batch easily doubles if you need more. Just roll two logs instead of one.

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Christmas Fudge

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I try to make some food-related gift every year for extended family members and this year I decided to make fudge (the easier “cheater” kind because I have a five-week-old and limited time to fiddle with cooked sugar mixtures). Plus, Zach’s family (who we’ll be celebrating with this year) likes their desserts sweet.

While I do have a sweet tooth, I prefer dark to milk chocolate and can’t stomach things like cotton candy and white chocolate. Or fudge, often. All the better that I’ll be less tempted to eat it.

We’re going up north to celebrate with Zach’s mom’s family this Saturday so I made a big batch of Buckeye Fudge today. It was reasonably easy – I made a double-batch in a quarter sheet pan and that was enough to fill a dozen of the little gift boxes I ordered here.

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I wrapped the boxes with elastic ribbon from Hobby Lobby (bought at 50% off) and tags from World Market that were actually cheap. The boxes are lined with parchment to prevent grease spots on the outside. And since this fudge contains 2 cups of butter and 2 cups of peanut butter, that was definitely a very real concern.

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Christmas baking is in full swing around here as the day approaches all too rapidly. I remember when I was a kid it seemed like Christmas would never come. Now it always sneaks up on me. Last night I baked cookies with friends, I’m also making cinnamon rolls for our trip Saturday, and I’ve begun prepping the macarons I make for Christmas Eve. I’m making raspberry this year – last year was chocolate mint.

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I decided after I got married that I would try to add a new tradition or two to Zach’s and my Christmas celebration every year. Last year it was macarons (which Zach LOVES – plus they’re gluten-free, and fiddly enough to be really special) and cinnamon rolls for breakfast before our trip up north. This year I want us all to have Christmas pajamas for Christmas Eve (and take a family photo) and I’m going to make something special for us for Christmas Day breakfast.

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Do you have any yummy food gift ideas (homemade or otherwise)?

Postpartum/Breastfeeding Diet

For the first month after Miles was born, I let myself eat whatever I wanted. I started exercising regularly as soon as I felt like it, but I didn’t make any attempt to change my eating habits.

However, last week I decided to start eating healthier…I still have about 12 lbs. I’d like to lose (10 from before I got pregnant) and my eating choices were making me feel tired and stressed.

My number one priority is to keep it simple. For me, this means…

  • Eating 2,000+ calories a day
  • Eating the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks each day (changing weekly so I don’t get bored)
  • Cooking dinner at home

Basically, I eat a healthy 500 calorie breakfast and lunch and two 250 calorie snacks. I decided not to worry about the calories of my evening meals because I HATE counting calories when cooking (as opposed to when making a salad or breakfast…that’s doable). The dinners I cook are approximately 500 calories, and, if slightly higher, help me make sure I’m breaking 2,000 calories/day (which I feel I need to do in order to maintain breastfeeding and exercising). I’m planning on sticking with this calorie window for a month and then adjusting if necessary.

I also went through the calendar for the next month and chose 5 cheat days where I can eat whatever I want. This is the only way I figured I can survive the holidays – plus the occasional calorie surplus will help keep my metabolism guessing.

This is the food I’ve eaten this past week, the first of my program. I’ve included daily treats because otherwise I will binge on sugar. It makes the most sense to me to have a little something sweet everyday instead of depriving myself and being miserable.

I tried to think this through carefully and come up with something that is doable for me. I’ve tried and failed many more rigorous diets and I don’t have the energy or time to do that again!

Week of 12.11.14

Breakfast:

breakfast

  • 1 piece fruit
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats, cooked, with 2 teaspoons maple syrup and a splash of 2%
  • Coffee with 2 tablespoons half and half (if I feel like it)

Lunch:

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  • Big veggie salad with 3 oz. pepper turkey, 1/4 cup shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons toasted pecans, and 1 tablespoon Caesar dressing
  • 1/2 cup Edy’s Slow-Churned Ice Cream

Two 250 Calorie Snacks:

snack

  • Peanut butter Ritz Bitz and an apple
  • Greek yogurt and 100-calorie popcorn bag
  • Larabar
  • 1/3 ChocoLove chocolate bar + 100-calorie popcorn bag
  • Protein shake
  • Starbucks Grande Peppermint Mocha with sugar-free syrup
  • A beer (this was at our pub trivia night 🙂 )

Dinners (all gluten-free):

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  • Crockpot ribs, green beans, corn muffins
  • Corn chowder topped with cheddar, sautéed Brussels sprouts
  • Tomato soup with toast and sautéed zucchini
  • Crockpot curried chicken thighs, sautéed broccoli, quinoa
  • Venison broccoli stirfry, rice

A note about Zach:
Zach likes to sleep in until the last possible moment, so part of my meal plan is keeping a grab-and-go breakfast on hand for him. This week I made paleomg.com’s Easy Breakfast Casserole. Lunch is a free-for-all…I just try to have ingredients on hand for meals Zach makes for himself (omelettes, GF pizza, etc.). We obviously eat dinner together. I’ve found the only way to make a meal plan work for me is for it to work for both of us – otherwise it’s just too much effort.

More weeks to come!

New Sweet Yogi Leg Warmers

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Adding new leg warmers to the shop this week. Miles and I have gotten into a good sewing routine together – he hangs out in my Baby Bjorn and is apparently mesmerized by the whirring of the machines; I listen to Serial and try not to hunch (sewing is already hard enough on your back – strapping a 10 lb. human to your chest unsurprisingly doesn’t help).

I’ve been wearing my leg warmers more since winter started and find that I like including them in non-yoga outfits – they add a nice pop of color in the same way that a cowl or scarf does and really do keep me warm.

Christmas Decorations 2014

Last Christmas Zach and I went to Florida for two weeks so our Christmas decorations were pretty minimal…in fact, the tree pictured in my bathroom below was our only Christmas tree! This year, we are sticking around WI for the holidays and I decided that we needed a real tree. Zach’s aunt and uncle happening to have a little one in their backyard that they wanted to cut down so we were able to cut our own for free. Between that and some fortuitous thrifting finds, I’ve been able to decorate just how I’d like without spending very much money. Leaves more for presents 🙂

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I found these Crate and Barrel kitchen towels at a local thrift store for $1.99…

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…this was last year’s tree, complete with mini lights and ornaments and a Christmas pickle. I love the mini tree idea and would like to do a more DIY one down the road (maybe use clay for ornaments?).

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I found this cute printable online and displayed it in a frame/stand left over from my wedding dessert buffet.

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Our stockings were bought 50% off at Hobby Lobby and I used an over-the-door purse hanger (closed in our TV stand drawer) as a stocking hanger. It works really well and I already owned it!

christmas6And finally, our Christmas tree! The ornaments are a mix of shatterproof balls from Farm and Fleet and vintage finds from Goodwill. I bought the star 50% off at Hobby Lobby and made the tree skirt with 1 1/4 yards of fuzzy felt bought at Hobby Lobby with one of their 40% off coupons. I followed this simple diagram (scroll down) to cut the felt and ended up with a tree skirt for just over $3.

How are you decorating for the holidays this year?

Crochet Pattern: Ribbed Wool Winter Hat

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I’ve been working on Christmas presents while I wait for Baby (tomorrow’s my due date!) and this hat is my most recent creation. It’s simple but I like the uniqueness of crocheting vertical ribbing for a hat instead of crocheting it in-the-round (what I typically do). I used Patons Classic Wool Worsted yarn, which cost me $4.40 after a 40% off coupon at Joann’s. A wool hat for under $5? Works for me.

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Supplies: 

  • Size J crochet hook
  • Approx. 3.5 oz. ball worsted weight wool yarn
  • Large darning needle

Chain 47.

Row 1: Sc in the 2nd chain from hook and in each ch across – 46 sc.

Row 2: Ch 1, turn. Working in back loops only, sc in each sc across. Repeat this row until piece measures about 15″ from beginning. This will fit a woman’s medium-sized head. Crochet a wider piece for bigger heads or a narrower piece for smaller. It’s pretty stretchy and forgiving.

Fasten off, leaving a long yarn tail. Thread tail through ends of rows along one long edge and pull to gather for top of hat. Knot securely.

Finishing: Seam short sides of piece together, knot, and weave in ends. Fold up brim to desired width.

Crochet hat 3And that’s it! Simple enough to make multiples for Christmas gifts…plus unisex and easy to size up or down. My kind of crochet project.