If you are interested in submitting a banner for the top of the home page, here are a couple of step-by-step tutorials to get you started. The first gives the steps for Windows Picture Manager, which is included on many PC computers. The second gives the steps using an online editing tool, which works for any computer, Mac or PC. I hope this is helpful to other users!
TO MAKE A BANNER USING WINDOWS PICTURE MANAGER:
1. Right click on the picture, and open it with Windows Picture Manager.
2. On the Picture menu, select Resize. A box will open to the right side of the screen. Where it says Custom width and height, make the width of the picture at least 1200. You may want to start with 1500, to give you a little more leeway when cropping, especially if you think you may want to trim some from the sides, as well as the top and bottom, of your original picture. Look at the New Size numbers at the bottom of the right hand box. If the width is less than 1200, try making the size 1500 x 994. The second number does not matter, as long as the width is at least 1200. The ideal width is at least 1400, so I aim for a finished size of 1500 x 150. Click the OK button at the bottom of that editing box.
3. On the Picture menu, select Crop. Grab either the top or the bottom center
crop handle with your cursor, and slide it until the height of the picture in pixels (in the box on the right side of the screen) reads exactly 150
. Don't worry yet about which part of the picture is showing in the crop box; you are just selecting the SIZE of your banner in this step. Using the center crop handles will only affect the height, while using the corner ones will affect both height and width. Your size should now read 1500 x 150, or at the smallest, 1200 x 150. DO NOT CLICK OK YET!
4. Put your cursor in the center of the highlighted area. (It will look in focus, while the outside area is whited-out.) Use your cursor to slide the crop area up and down, until you have the portion you want in the banner selected. At this point, IF you had 1500 as your width, you can also adjust the width of the banner down to 1200, if it will give you a better visual appeal.
5. Click the OK button to apply the crop. If you decide you don't like it, you can still click on the "Undo" arrow, or select "Undo" from the edit menu at the top.
Under your File menu, select "Save As"
and rename your banner. This way, you will still have your original picture as well as the drastically cropped version.
7. When you close Windows Picture Manager, it will tell you there are unsaved changes. Choose "Don't Save"
or it will overwrite your original image with the cropped banner image. I learned this lesson the hard way. If you are certain you did step 6, and renamed the banner with "Save As," go ahead and click "Don't Save." If you want to double check, choose Cancel, Save As, and then again close the program. Choose "Don't Save" so you will retain your full image. Be sure you make note of WHERE you save it, as well, so you can locate it later.
8. Go to this link to submit your banner:
9. When you enter a title, it will only submit the first 20 characters, including spaces, even though the box will accept more than that. Keep your title short, and add any additional information in the "Optional Additional Information" box. [Update: The title box will now accept up to 50 characters. Thanks, Dave!]
Edited 10/16/12 to add:
The system does not send you a message when your banner has been approved or scheduled. You won't get a message until the day the banner runs, when you will receive an acorn for it. In the meantime, you can go back to the Site Banner Forum, and click on "Upload a Banner" on the far right. You will see a list of all the banners you have submitted. In the far right column, you will see one of three messages: Awaiting Approval, Approved, or Scheduled for XXX date. This will let you check on the status of the banners you have submitted!
I'm no photo-editing expert, but feel free to send me a tree-mail if you have questions!
Thought I would update this first tutorial to include the information on how to make a banner with an online tool, since each computer seems to come loaded with a different photo tool. These directions seem to work well for everyone, regardless of whether they use Mac or PC:
MAKING A BANNER USING PIXLR.COM ONLINE
I recently found a very basic free online photo editing tool that works well for making banners. It does not need to be downloaded onto your computer, you don't need to make an account or give any contact info, and at the end, it saves your image onto your computer, not to any online site.
1. Click Browse, and find the picture on your computer.
2. Click on Adjustment, and a long bar will pop up along the bottom of the picture with options.
3. Click on Resize, and make the width 1500. Click on the check mark to apply.
4. Click on Crop. Use the little squares in the corners to slide the crop bars up and down, until the height in the box at the bottom is 150. The height has to be EXACTLY 150. It will not accept a submission of a banner that isn't 150 pixels high. The width is a lot more flexible, as long as it is more than 1200. I've found 1500 to be my ideal, but some pictures just don't lend themselves well to that proportion.
5. If your height is not exactly 150, go back to Resize. Enter 150 in the height. It doesn't matter if the width isn't exactly 1500 (it can be any width, as long as it is wider than 1200), but the height MUST be exactly 150.
6. Click the Save box in the upper right. Enter a name that will be easy to remember (I include the word banner in each one), and slide the Image Quality up to the maximum. Click the check mark, and then select what folder you want to save it in on your computer. Personally, I have a folder called My Pictures, and within that I have a folder called Gardening. Inside that folder is another folder called Banners. That way, all of my banners are in one place, and I can locate them easily.
Hope this helps someone get started, even if you don't have Windows Picture Manager on your computer!