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How to Make Good Screenshots


by weaponstar

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First things first: if you came here in the hopes of learning how to create screenies, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. This guide, rather than explaining how to find and push down on the Print Screen button, will hopefully give you a decent rundown on the dos and don'ts involved in making Good Screenies. If you're new to the business, this would be Step Two. Step One is how to transfer the image you see on your screen to a paint program, alter appropriately, and then upload. You can find one of them by asking on the Help Chat.

Tired Subjects

You know those screenies where a 30+ month old account is asking a "newbie" question, and the age and text are outlined in a dumbstruck red? How about the ones where some spammer is claiming to be a celebrity, but they can't even spell "their" name? Have you seen the screenies of overpriced items on the Trading Post that are all too common?

Avoid these if you don't want your reader to fall asleep. Certainly, someone who has encountered Neopian screenies for the very first time could well find them amusing, but the high usage of such screenies makes them pall very quickly. By the time I saw my fifth screenie showing a silly spammer telling a tall tale of some mad kind of situation he/she was in, with the comment saying "And you went on Neopets while this was going on...?" I wanted to rip it out of the screen and stamp on it. Above all else, you must use your common sense, and be creative.

Old jokes are old jokes. They may have been funny once, but you can bet they won't be anymore. Of course, if you can manage to think of something really original to say, then go ahead. It's only dull repetition you ought to avoid.

Another thing, telling the reader that you are not responsible for injuries sustained from the viewing of your screenies is also past its prime, and, in my opinion, anyone still using this little joke ought to replace it with something new and original. The phrase "No sticky paws" is shorter and has a point in itself, which makes it more acceptable. It's cute, precise, and is basically a more appealing version of "No stealing". You get bonus points for a friendly atmosphere, you know.

Image Size

When I find myself staring at a page chock-a-block with the overgrown hulks of screenies that still have the ugly grey features of someone else's browser around them, my first action is to hit the "Back" button.

Nobody likes having to scroll sideways to view the rest of an image. Nobody likes unnecessary white space or ugly grey bits. Nobody likes uncropped screenies (except the screenie man, who eats them). If you've read any of the number of screenie-making guides that litter Neopia, you will probably already be acquainted with the necessity of cropping. However, I feel it is worth suffering the repetition.

Even screenies that don't go off the edge of the screen can still be "too big". Aesthetics is another important factor, and large, in-your-face images full of white do nothing for the look of your page.

...And they can't be too small either, or your reader will be forced to squint painfully, flatten their nose, or skip the miniature screenie altogether. Often, one's image hosting site can be the cause of such small images. Check what it says about automatic image resizing when you upload, and make sure you're using a file type the site accepts.

Image Decoration

You can write your comments on the screenie itself, or type beneath/above the image once you've got it on the page. It doesn't really matter - use whichever method you prefer. Often, screenie-makers will put their humorous comment on the screenie, and add more of an explanation to what it was all about in text. Of course, if you were going to do this, you'd probably want to make sure you wrote above the image, so that the reader doesn't have to scroll up again to make sense of what was going on. Ideally, you shouldn't need an explanation at all, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

Make sure to keep the writing you do on the image neat and 100% legible. Deciphering someone else's handwriting can be difficult at the best of times, and unless you're pretty handy with a mouse or tablet, you should stick to using the text tool on your paint program, rather than writing with the paintbrush tool or something similar. Make sure to use a colour that shows up well against the background, and which won't burn your reader's eyeballs.

Chatspeak (textspeak, leetspeak, et cetera) is a big no-no. Even the common abbreviations of "you" (u), "be" (b), and "two/too/to" (2) should be dropped. Many people find chatspeak highly irritating and displeasing to the eye, and you would do best to exclude it. Try to use as much correct spelling and grammar as you can, too. People tend to be more lenient with such mistakes than the use of chatspeak (nobody can be expected to be word perfect all the time, right?) but any effort made on your part would be a plus.

Never let your text dominate the image, be too bright and glaring, or contain a high degree of not-so-good spelling and grammar. Your reader simply won't enjoy your screenies, funny or not.

The idea of drawing little anime or cartoon creatures on an image (often of oneself, one's pets, or the ever popular "Bob") is being taken up more and more of late. You have probably encountered a few, yes? Small, mouse or tablet drawn representations, sometimes just the head, often with colour-coded text nearby to signify their contribution to the screenie? The whole idea, I find, greatly improves the screenie-viewing experience. If you can manage to cough up at least a so-so picture, and have the extra time and patience needed to add this lovely touch to your screenies, I'd say it's well worth doing. Obviously, if you can't produce anything far enough beyond the word "stick-figure" to cut it, it probably isn't a good idea. Good art adds, bad art takes away. I'm still waiting for someone to do a half-decent representation of "Bob". There's no law saying he has to look like a twig, is there?

Don't forget to give your picture a personality, whether it be of you, your pet(s), or something completely different. You can do this through their expression, stance, what they say, and how they say it. Character brings those pixels alive.

And last but not least, smilies. Don't you just love them? =3 No-one needs to tell me I have a soft spot there. But I understand how some folks aren't so keen on smilies, and would prefer it if people's sentences didn't use them as another kind of full stop. It's understandable. On the internet, smilies and other "emoticons" are used to convey mood and emotion, but if one drowns one's sentence in them, their meaning is bound to become immaterial, and our smilies will be reduced to mere annoying splodges of colour. Basically: be sparing.

Content

There are the typical categories: Neoboards, Random Events, Avatar REs, Winnings, Pound Screenies, Miscellaneous, Fanmail. Misc is a tricky one, I know, as often people's "Winnings" can be included in this category, along with stuff like Shop Wizard snipes, the triple six thing, odd userlookups, pets with stats that are in the minus, broken images on the site, other glitches, TNT's typos... I could go on.

Now, I'm going to split these categories into Funny and Not Funny, based on what they usually are.

Funny

  • Neoboards
  • Miscellaneous

Not Funny

  • Random Events
  • Avatars
  • Winnings
  • Pound Screenies
  • Fanmail

I understand that this might not meet your idea of what is funny or, I should say, entertaining, but from my experience this is correct for what it is: an average. Pound Screenies, of course, present extra ambiguity, as a lot of people find them really quite interesting - but think how much more interesting you could make them by writing more than 'Missed! D=' or 'Wow' or 'Yes! Got him!'. (Note: those funny little drawings talked about above would come in real handy here to keep your readers interested. I know there isn't that much to say on Pound Screenies.)

One of the things people are known to dislike about Neoboard screenies is the constant shots of whiny 'n00bs' being flamed with endless sarcastic remarks. They don't like someone being made a show of. We all have feelings. You might consider trying to concentrate your efforts on the amusing, harmless things people say every so often instead. The Neoboards can be a hilarious place sometimes. Even spammers can create some amusement, when they can be bothered to be original. But leave out the crude topics, please - nobody wants to read those.

Your job, as a screenie-maker, is to keep your reader entertained (if not laughing) all the way through each category. The fact that folks don't have to read the stuff they don't enjoy is irrelevant. When I find myself trudging down a long line of bare and boring avatar events, or wind up staring at neomail upon neomail upon stuff like this: "Your screenies are awesome! I give you 10000000000000/10!" ... Well, then I start getting even more lethargic than normal. Such a listless feeling is common after staring at the screen for a while, and it's not going to do you any harm (well, not in small doses I suppose; I'm no doctor), but lethargy isn't pleasant and boredom only makes it worse.

Screenies aren't necessarily supposed to be funny - they're supposed to be entertaining, engaging, and pleasurable.

I can't teach you how to be witty. You already know to avoid dull dull dull jokes, if you read the Tired Subjects section. You can learn from reading other people's screenies, just like an author can learn from reading other people's books. But remember: never, ever copy. Just let yourself be inspired.

And another thing. You don't have to stick to the common categories. For example, I once came across an interesting thing the creators called a 'Screenie War'. Simply, they drew each other being hit or attacked by items they sent. I suppose someone's going to neomail me saying that was more like a comic than a screenie, but (for those who try to make their screenies funny) I'd say the two are a little intertwined.

Layout

A nice, easy to navigate layout is an important feature. Your screenies might be hilarious, perfectly sized, and ever so original, but how much of that is a reader going to notice if they are distracted by a garish, animated background, multiple marquees scooting across the page, or text simply too large and bright to read? As seen in the Image Decor section, you should always make sure your text is readable, and that your reader can view your screenies with ease.

Your layout should be pleasing, and not in the least chaotic. Personally, I am a big fan of calm, plain, and spacious layouts, but that is my choice. It doesn't take great coding skills to knock up something like that, or, if you'd prefer, you could just as easily find a graphics site and use a premade. If you decide to make your own though, remember to be creative, and allow room for those personal touches that make a page "unique".

But don't forget: your lovely layout only really needs to be serviceable - it's the screenies you want the reader to look at. Although it is perfectly okay to create something above average, it shouldn't continually distract people from the real show. In other words: tone down on the animations and such, please. Moving, glittery backgrounds shouldn't even be allowed, in my opinion.

How you organise (or don't) your screenie categories is completely up to you. Everyone has their own preference, from an all out chronological arrangement to sectioned areas complete with title banners and mini navigation panels. There are a lot of variations on the basic ideas, too. Brainstorm.

Epilogue

I hope you found my guide both interesting and constructive. Feel free to neomail me any comments, queries, or hate-mail. I have attempted to make it clear where the content shifts from common consensus to my own personal opinion, so with any luck nothing written here will offend anyone.

For those of you who have nothing to do, I have assembled some trivia in the form of an FAQ:

Q: How long did it take you to create this guide?

A: Less than a week, and only on-and-off. I could probably have done it all in a couple of days if I'd really set to.

Q: What inspired you?

A: Well, just the general lack of this type of guide really. Most guides, I've found, simply tell you how to make a screenshot and stop at that. I've seen a lot of not-so-good screenie pages in my efforts with my directory, and I suppose the fact that there are so many finally got to me.

Q: What percentage of the pages listed in your directory do you think need to read this guide?

A: According to the statistics based on my rating for each page, 32.7%. They are the ones who got a rating of 1, 2, 3 or 4 out of 10. They're the all around flop. But a lot of people with higher ratings have one or two areas I'd have them brush up on, too.

Q: You make screenies yourself, don't you? Would you say they comply to the rules written here?

A: Well, they're nonexistent at the moment, but assuming they were: My fault is that I'm not very funny, so they don't comply, no. Not to my mind, which says the whole point of screenies is to amuse. But I'm pretty sure I got the other points down all right. =3

 
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