I've had a couple of people ask me how I did my blog makeover, so I thought I would post and tell how I did it, for anyone who is interested. I'm no expert on Blogger or blogging, by any means, but I did manage to get a result I was pleased with, and I'm more than happy to share.
First - the template. I used Blogger's design feature to select a clean and simple background and style that I liked. Blogger has a preview feature, so I played around with it until I found one in the basic style and color I wanted. I personally find the old Blogger interface easier to use, so I have kept that link in my favorites. However, you should be able to change your design template from the same screen that you create and edit posts from.
The old Blogger interface has tabs at the top where you can select the settings for your blog.
I clicked the "Design" tab, then "Template Designer" which was located right under the tabs. There were lots of choices and I selected one I liked, then customized it.
I just looked at the new Blogger interface too, and the choices are the same, except they are on the left sidebar.
Once you have a look you like, be sure to hit "Apply to Blog" in the upper right hand corner. I didn't do that the first time, and had to start over. =(
Next, the header photo: Blogger lets you post only one photo in the header. So how did I get five pictures up there?
Easy. I used Big Huge Labs and made a mosaic. I use mosaics a lot on Flickr, either to show a group of my favorites when I do a swap, or sometimes to show more than one image of something I have made or received.
If you've never used Big Huge Labs, go to www.bighugelabs.com/mosaic.php and follow the instructions on the screen. You have lots of options... You can create a mosaic of up to 36 photos set up as square tiles, like this one I did for the zakka needlebook swap...
or you can choose to have a large center photo surrounded by smaller images, like this one I did for the swap package Laura sent me.
From there, you can choose your photos from your Flickr photostream, from your Flickr faves, or upload photos directly from your computer.
Hit "Create" at the bottom and it will make your mosaic (sometimes this process takes a minute).
When you get to the next screen, you will see your mosaic, and there are options at the top to let you go back and edit your photos, save the mosaic to your computer, or save it directly to Flickr or Facebook or wherever.
Note that Big Huge Labs always names your photo "My Creation". You can change this before you save or share.
Now you can go to that same Blogger Template Design page you were at before and upload your photo.
Click on "Edit" on the header tab. Go to "Image" and it will allow you to upload your new photo.
It gives you some placement choices. I chose "Behind text" so that my blog title would be on top of the photo, and not hidden by it.
Be sure to hit "Save" or all your hard work will go to waste.
Finally, you can arrange the various items on your sidebar, like your "About Me" box, your archives, or your blog list and get them just the way you want. You can drag and click these in any order you like.
Once you have everything the way you want it, be sure to hit "Save" so all your hard work doesn't go to waste. I know I keep saying this, but that's because I've had to re-do all these changes more than once because I forgot to save my changes.
Oh, yeah, one more thing... Someone specifically asked how to turn off comment verification. On the same screen where you enter your posts, there's a tab entitled "Settings" and underneath that, a link titled "Comments".
Scroll down until you see ""Show word verification for comments" and click "No." That's all there is to it.
And if you want the little robot icon in your sidebar, click on the one on my sidebar, go to Lucy's post, and grab the HTML code, go to your "Manage Posts" screen and add it as a gadget.
If you have any questions or something isn't clear or doesn't make sense, leave a comment or message me and I'll try to help. As I said, I'm not an expert, but I'll help if I can. And if this helps you do your own blog makeover, I'd love to hear about it.