Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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Rawkin' Neopia!


by x_nimrod

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Ultimate Userlookup?

You happily made yourself a background using Paint. You trotted down to your image hosting site to upload it. You carefully pasted it into your “About Me” box. You went to the boards and asked for your fellow Neopians' opinions. You only realised how terrible it was when the best comment you received was “at least the ‘close’ button works.”

No one ever said making userlookups was a walk in the park, but no one ever said it was impossible either. Just keep a few simple things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to getting that userlookup award you always dreamed of.

1 – Let's Start At the Very Beginning…

Neopets lookups are created using Cascading Style Sheets, otherwise known as CSS. Some HTML can also be used, but CSS is easier to edit and understand, especially for beginners. CSS and HTML can be very difficult ‘languages’ to learn, but there is no need for you to know all of it. Some kind Neopians have set up pages which include useful codes essential for making lookups. A good example of this is CSSHelp’s pet page. On there you can find almost every userlookup code you could possibly need. As you continue to make more lookups, you will find that these codes get burned into your brain, but for now you may find it useful to save some on your computer.

2 – A Genre? No…A Theme!

Not having a theme is one of the most common mistakes made by amateur userlookup makers. How many people would like to view a lookup which has a potato background, a Shoyru sidebar and a Jhudora’s hairbrush blog, compared to a lookup in which all three were Negg themed? My guess is not very many. Themes can be hard to choose, however. Perhaps you could use one of the following suggestions if you’re stuck for inspiration:

Your favourite petpet

A special day coming up soon in the Neopets calendar

A new avatar

Your favourite paint brush or morphing potion.

If you want to make a lookup with a seasonal theme, remember it is seasonal! We don’t want to see Wreathy and Fir lookups in the middle of June.

If at all possible, try and avoid very popular themes such as plushie. Neopians want to see original ideas, even if your lookup isn’t the best thing in town.

3 – Vision: Seek and Employ

Now that you have a basic idea of what your lookup is going to be based on, you need to gather together your resources and get creative! Have a look all over Neopia to find the images that are just right for your lookup. If, for example, you want to make a rainbow lookup, search for the keyword ‘rainbow’ in the Neopets search. Then head off to the Rainbow Pool to get the pictures of a few pets or petpets that can be painted that color. Also check the shop wizard for less common items, and the ‘Stuff’ section for additional images. The one thing not to do is take the work of another Neopian. You could neomail them and ask politely if they could make you a similar graphic for your lookup, but NEVER take without asking.

Now you’ve got your images, it’s time to make them into something you can put on your lookup. You could try a technique called blending, to merge the images together and create a professional-looking ‘blend’. Or you might want to try something more simple, such as positioning the images together and adding a border, if you don’t have access to a good graphics editing program. Whatever you do, try to make it as unique and eye catching as possible.

4 – Oops, I Dropped My Link and Broke It

Links are one of the key factors of a lookup. Without them you wouldn’t have got there and you wouldn’t be able to leave. That’s why broken links are so annoying. You are just about to find out about [insert_username_here]’s favourite type of asparagus when a huge ‘404: Missing Page Alert’ pops up. Always check that ALL your links work before asking someone else’s opinion of your lookup.

Make it easy for the viewer to find your links. A good trick is to make links a different color from the body text. If the layout of your lookup doesn’t include the standard Neopets sidebar, it is essential to include links. Whether it is in the form of a custom sidebar, or just some text links is up to you.

5 – Lights, Camera, Music?

It is debatable whether or not music makes a userlookup better. If you are going to include music, keep in mind that not everyone will want to listen to it. If possible, use a miniature media player on your lookup so viewers have the choice of stopping and starting the music at will. If not, notify everyone that the music can be stopped by pressing the ‘ESC’ key.

Try to keep the music tied in with your theme. For instance, don’t use the Mootix Drop music if your lookup is Meepit themed. Also, remember to make sure your music comes from a reliable source, contains no offensive language and is of good sound quality.

6 – Hide and Seek!

Not everyone will have the same computer as you. Therefore they won’t have the same resolution as you. It might look perfect on your screen, but on someone else’s your userlookup could be completely mis-aligned. The most common resolution is probably 1024 x 768, so if you can’t make your layout compatible with all sizes, that would be the best one to go for.

Another problem with viewing lookups is the fact that there are different internet browsers. Some lookups are perfect in Internet Explorer, but end up as complete jargon when viewed in Mozilla Firefox. Ask some of your neofriends, people in your guild or just kind Neopians on the boards that have different resolutions and change any parts of your lookup.

7 – Quality Not Quantity

Sometimes the best userlookups are the simple ones with just one or two graphics, a clear background and a plain, easy to read font . However, to achieve this you must make sure everything you have done is done to the highest of standards. For example, don’t use graphics that are pixelly as they aren’t nice to look at.

It is often the small touches that make a userlookup look extra-special. Adding a colored scrollbar and making links a different color or adding effects can sometimes mean the difference between a bad lookup and a good one. However, that does not mean that’s all you have to do to make a successful lookup.

8 – You Will, You Won’t?

Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow whilst making your userlookup.

Do

- Keep previewing to see how it looks.

- Be patient and do things carefully and accurately.

- Create your own graphics especially for the purpose of putting in your lookup.

- Be open to suggestions from other people.

- Choose a specific theme and stick to it.

- Make your text a sensible size, color and fontface so the viewer can read it easily.

Don’t

- Steal lookups or graphics from someone else. Not only is this an infringement on the laws of copyright, it could get your account frozen.

- Add too many complicated parts if you’re not very good at CSS. Keep it simple and stylish for now.

- Go over the top with flashing images and loud music.

- Have broken links or text that says ‘TEXT HERE’.

- Get upset if someone doesn’t like your lookup. Just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it is bad.

- Include lots of huge images that take forever to load. There is nothing more annoying!

9 – Je Suis ‘Unique’!

Your userlookup is representing you, so should therefore be unique. Experiment with different color schemes, background patterns, position and number of blogs, text style, music and graphics until you find one that you like and looks different from everyone else’s.

It may take you a few tries, but before you know it you’ll have the lookup you’ve always wanted and you’ll be going up proudly to collect your ‘Userlookup Spotlight’ award.*

Good luck, and happy creating!

    By x_nimrod

*Note: I do not guarantee you will actually win the Userlookup Spotlight by reading this, but I’d be very interested to hear from you if you do!

 
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