It took about 5 months before we came up with a formula to design and compress the ecard images you see at Inspire21.com. In fact, the first few months of ecard production were virtually washed out, because the early designs had to be reproduced in the format we're using today.
First, of course, the hand lettering of the quote or verse must be generated using india ink and calligraphy nibs on glossy-smooth paper stock. Once a lettering style and layout of the text is complete, it is scanned (scanning secret withheld). Then it's touched up and saved as a PhotoShop document and filed. An appropriate photo, art image or background is then chosen for the design, and saved as a PSD (in the same file as corresponding calligraphy). The lettering is then copied to a new layer over the background image, sized, colorized and positioned. Any desired special effects (ie. drop shadow, outer glow, etc.) are then applied, the author (credit) line is typed and placed, as well as our copyright line.
Once the layout of the ecard is finalized, the colors are 'tweeked' to provide the best results for reducing to size and saving for web in jpeg or gif form. Adobe PhotoShop 5.5 offers a lot of flexibility in generating the web image, which makes our job a little easier. Horizonal ecards are usually reduced to around 6 1/4" by 4 3/8" in dimension, and compressed to about 30k (depending on the number of art layers, the size of the lettering in the layout, and sometimes the colors used - reds don't crunch very well). To reduce the file size any smaller (and some very well come in at 24 - 26k) often 'fuzzes' the text and creates a muddy image.
Finally, after finishing the ecard, the designs are also reduced to around 3"x3" for the slide shows, and 2"x1 1/2" (horiz.) for the navigational thumbnails on each Topic Page. As you can see by those, it becomes difficult to read some of the quotes when compressed as such. All in all, it takes an average of 3 hours - EACH - to totally produce an eCard image for this website.
We've been warned about creating a graphic intensive content site, but I'm convinced people with migrate to faster computers and ISPs in the near future. The Internet offers so much - for free - that it will become unbearable for those who truly love it not to upgrade soon.
Thank you for your understanding in the production of this artwork. We hope you will enjoy it, email it... and grow with us.
NOTE: Inspire21.com is designed to be viewed in Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape 4.7 or higher.