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Jul 8, 2013
I'm often asked which software I use for creating logos. I have an iMac and I use Paint Pro, which is available in the Mac Appstore. It's cheap and cheerful but sophisticated enough for my use and for my level of technical ability. Genuine graphic designers — which I definitely am not — will tend to use Photoshop, which is a much more intricate (and much more expensive) piece of kit. I believe there are some open source alternatives available online (GIMP, for example) but I haven't investigated them properly yet.

Whichever program you use, as long as it has the following features, you'll be fine:
  • The ability to work with layers
  • A transparency tool
  • The option to save images as .png files
  • The ability to zoom in close to do detailed pixel-by-pixel colouring
  • A colour palette with the options to fill large areas or paint individual pixels
  • Straight lines, curved lines and standard shapes (square, circle, triangle, etc.), which can also be coloured using the colour palette.
The standard pixel size for FM logos is 180x180px at 72dpi, while the icons can be 25x18px or 18x18px. Customised skins can impose alternative logo sizes on the game but you won't know that unless the person you're doing the logo for tells you what skin they're using.

As you'll have seen in my logo creation thread, or if you follow me on Twitter, I also post logos at 400x400px. I do this for show — because I can and because it enables the person I'm doing the logo for to see it in (sometimes, not so) glorious detail, even if the game itself renders the logo smaller and the details within it less easily visible. To then downsize it in proportion requires just a few taps on the keyboard and use of the Save As... option.

When I create logos, I make them as big as I can, so I will typically be working with a canvas of 880x880px though this will often be reduced by some of the processes involved. For roundel logos, I take them into PowerPoint and superimpose the text using the curved text effect, and then export it as a .png file at 520x520px, before adding the finished touches back in Paint Pro — as I have said, I am not a graphic designer and I don't know how to use Photoshop. I used to work with graphic designers and I'm sure they would have a chuckle to themselves if they saw me going back-and-forth into PowerPoint!

You can't see them because of the way the images appear against the white backdrop of the FM-Base website, but in the two templates attached above, there are transparent areas. Download them and open them up and you will see. As long as your graphics software allows it, by doing SELECT-ALL >> COPY >> PASTE, you can turn the flat file into a layered file, which will enable you to slip blocks of colour or images under the visible layer. This is how I achieve the gold edging that I often use for my logos; the gold itself is a large rectangular image of a graduated gold colour with a highlight effect running through it. Once placed on the bottom layer, I can rotate and position it as I want to get the highlight effect to appear where I want it. You can also use flat coloured squares or circles, selecting from the colour palette or (if your software has it) using the colour pipette tool to sample colours from other images.

For logos that feature large expanses of colour or stripes, the colour is just rectangles, layered on top of one another or positioned alongside each other. If I'm doing black-and-white stripes, for example, I will put a large white rectangle on the bottom layer and then put a single, thinner black rectangle (stripe) in the middle of the frame. Then I copy and paste that stripe several times, butting them up against each other to fill the area where I want stripes to be visible. Then, keeping the middle one, I will delete every other rectangle going to the right, and then again going to the left, so they appear as stripes. Each rectangle is its own layer, so by bringing the shield outline layer above them, the rectangles fit into the space I want them to viewed (e.g. the middle of the roundel or the lower half of the shield).

The green areas you can see in the templates are there to "block" out the bits of coloured rectangle or image that I don't want to be visible. When I get the bits into place, I can flatten the layers and then use the transparency tool to remove the green blocks and replace it with a transparent background. This will lead to ANTI-ALIASING, which is that effect you see when the edges of a logo are rough, as though the logo used to be on a different background and wasn't cut-out properly. It happens because the software doesn't know exactly where the edge of the image should be. I overcome this by drawing lines around my logos, during the finishing stage. By zooming in close and using the straight line tool, the curved line tool or the circle tool, I can superimpose a smooth edge on top of the existing rough edge. Then I save the file as a .png, which is a file format that supports transparency (.jpg does not, so saving as .jpg is verboten).

In the roundel template, the centre is blocked out. I prefer to do the outer roundel first, get the colour for the transparent area sorted out and then flatten the image and use the transparency tool to remove the green block from the centre. Then I can work on the centrepiece graphics by slipping items in behind that layer. You get a lot of anti-aliasing with roundels so zoom in and use the circle line tool to superimpose a smooth edge (which can be a separate colour or a continuation of the colour you were already using). Due to the PowerPoint shenanigans, I have to leave the far outer edge of the roundel to the very end, after I have exported the roundel out of PowerPoint and back into Paint Pro with the text in place.

The drawback of using a cheap and cheerful software program is that once I create it, I can't go back into a logo and edit it (except for the most superficial changes). Most requests for changes will require me to do the logo again from scratch, which is why I don't always have time to amend them straight away — although it is easier to remake a logo than to make one for the first time, due to having already gone through the decision making process and having already overcome any problems I might have encountered in trying to do it the first time.

As you get better at making logos, you can start doing slightly more adventurous things. Those that don't stick to a shield template can be tricky to do but when they come off, it's quite rewarding. I like using bright images of animals and having them break out of the confines of the logo's holding device (shield or roundel, etc.) and into the transparent area outside of it, particularly if I can get one side of the animal to sit on a lower layer and bust out on the top layer on the other side (which requires duplication of the image, cropping it into segments and very carefully placing it on top of the lower image so you can't see the join in the middle. Easier to do on Photoshop, I'm sure!

I did pick up a few tips from the graphic designers I used to work with:
  • Alignment — where suitable, align text and images either centrally or to the left and right edges
  • Spacing — position different items with roughly equal gaps between them, within the confines of your logo holding device
  • Colour selection — football clubs will typically have designated team colours so, as far as possible, limit your colour palette to a small range of colours and use the pipette tool to sample colours from images to use elsewhere (e.g. for the text, for the logo outline, etc.)
  • Images — search for vector images online; DO NOT use any images that have a watermark on them (you have to pay to use those); for images that are not watermarked, you can call it "fair use"/"proof of concept", as long as you don't charge for making your logos (which I don't)
  • Fonts — different fonts can convey different ideas about the origins of your club. Copperplate Bold is quite a good one to use if you're trying to invoke the idea of turn-of-the-twentieth century local industry; Seravek is a personal favourite, quite a strong and unfussy font. The interlinking effect demonstrated in the QPR logo favours a thin font with extended serifs on certain letters. Horses for courses; trial and error; learn by doing.
In addition to the graphics work and (hopefully) achieving a quality looking logo at the end of it, I enjoy researching real places to come up with ideas that relate to the history, geography, industry, wildlife or notable people of that location. My logos will often take inspiration from a town or city's Coat of Arms or its flag, and if the place has a Roman heritage or is infamous for some notable historical event, I will often try to incorporate those ideas into the design. Of course, the most common request is to put a lion in the Manchester City template, which I can also do — but it's not as challenging to me as being able to create my own design within a few given parameters. Colourful birds and other animals are my favourite to work with but things like Roman soldiers, weapons and geographically specific landmarks or monuments also tend to go down well.

That's all I can think of. If you get into logo making and get stuck with a particular issue, feel free to get in touch either in my logos thread or on Twitter and I will advise as best I can.