My sister Christel has never been comfortable using a computer. An experienced pediatric nurse, she works in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital that handles the toughest cases in a five-state region. She can resuscitate a two-pound preemie without breaking a sweat, but she doesn’t know how to use Google. Occasionally she calls to ask me for some random piece of information and I say, “Well, you know, there’s this brand new invention called the Internet…”
Every year about this time she starts collecting photos to make a family calendar — or rather, nine family calendars, since she always makes different versions for her siblings, parents and in-laws. For the past couple of years, she’s been using a popular photo sharing site that that offers rigid templates and a rather convoluted user experience. Creating the calendars is a painful process for both of us, since she demands that I sit next to her the whole time to provide technical and moral support.
So I was excited when I tried out the new MyCanvas calendar utility, which is so easy to use that I think even my technologically-challenged sister can manage it on her own. Best of all, the creative possibilities are endless. Our creative director, Chris Trainor, has designed a lovely template with a different layout for each month. If you stick with the template, you can build a calendar from start to finish in just a few minutes. But it’s more fun if you think of the template as a starting point for your own imagination.
Here’s the default layout for January. I can just drop a couple of photos into the image boxes and I’ve got a nice looking page.
But let’s say I want to keep the portrait (vertical) orientation of this particular photo instead of auto-cropping it to fit a landscape (horizontal) image box. I can just extend the image box by dragging the bottom edge all the way down, and then resize the photo to make it fit better on the page. If I’d wanted to, I could have deleted both image boxes and designed my own page from scratch.
When I get to April, I decide to keep the default layout, but I want a different background.
No problem. MyCanvas has a large and growing selection of page backgrounds — almost 400 the last time I checked — and I can use any of them in my calendar.
Notice that when I changed the background, the white leafy image in the bottom right corner of the page stayed put. That’s because it’s an embellishment, not part of the original background. I can either leave it there or delete it and add some new design elements to the page — in this case a couple of butterfly embellishments.
Now let’s look at the bottom portion of the calendar. By default, the bottom page has a white background.
If I want to jazz it up a little, I can apply a background to the bottom page, too. Here the background essentially functions as a border, since most of the page consists of a block of dates.
If you want to make your calendar a little more personal, you can use one of your own photos as a background — just as you can in a MyCanvas photo book. Go to the My Photos tray in the left-hand side of the main workspace, right-click on a photo and then click “Use as background.”
If you look at the top toolbar, you’ll see a Calendar transparency icon, which lets you adjust the opacity of the block of dates so that the background shows through. In the example below, the calendar section of the page is 62% transparent.
Remember to pick a background for the bottom page that coordinates with the top page for the same month. You’ll get a chance to preview your calendar, so if you end up with two pages that look goofy together, you can always go back and edit that month before you place your order.
For September, I decide to apply a warm background called “Autumn Yellow” to the bottom page. Now I’m ready to add some special events. You can add up to three events per date. When I click on a date, a little black bar appears with the words, “Add/Edit Events.”
When I click on that bar, a box pops up with spaces for up to three events, such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and any other day that you feel like celebrating. The calendar is pre-loaded with standard U.S. holidays, but if you live elsewhere you can easily delete those and add holidays that are relevant to you.
After entering a birthday I can even add a photo of the birthday girl. Each date is a self-contained image box. I just drag the photo onto the page and drop it into the box for the right date.
Using the zoom and pan tools, I can enlarge and reposition the photo so that the birthday girl’s face fills up the whole box.
Then I just click anywhere on the page to crop off the rest of the photo.
As always, you can insert text anywhere on any page. Note that if you enter events using the pop-up box, you will not be able to change the typeface or font size for that particular bit of text. You will be able to change the font color and alignment, however. You can also apply a different background color to the text box and even adjust the transparency of the background. If you don’t like the default typeface, you can simply create a new text box (by clicking the “T” icon in the top toolbar) instead of using the pop-up. That way you’ll be able to access all the options in the text editing toolbar — including the new feature I just mentioned that lets you change the background color and transparency of the text box.
If you’ve used MyCanvas to create a book or poster, you know that I’ve touched on just a few of the many ways that you can manipulate photos and other design elements in MyCanvas. If you’re new to MyCanvas, you might want to check out some of my other recent blog posts to get a few ideas. Anything you can do on a photo book page you can also do on a calendar page.
If you have any comments about the calendar utility, feel free to post them on this blog or send us a message through the “Give Feedback” link in the top right corner of the main MyCanvas workspace. I’d love to hear what you think!
P.S. We had a miscommunication that resulted in some mixed messages about our holiday promotion. The correct discount is 20%. If you saw a message that said 15%, just ignore that number and go ahead and use the code provided: ANHOLIDAY. Sorry about the confusion! The 20% discount applies to all MyCanvas products ordered before midnight PST on December 24. However, if you’re ordering holiday gifts you’ll want to get your order in by December 1 for premium books or December 11 for all other products…unless you want to pay for expedited shipping, and I know you don’t want to do that unless you’re truly desperate. The expedited shipping deadlines are December 4 for premium books or December 16 for everything else.