Free backgrounds for school web pages are easy to create or acquire. However, it's important to keep some design principles in mind when decorating your website this way.
Backgrounds Need to Stay Back
One of the most common design errors made by web designers in the early days of HTML was to pick out some very beautiful image for their background. In the case of high school websites, the most obvious image was usually that of the mascot, a cartoon figure in high-contrasting colors.
The problem came in the way that HTML would implement the background image. The BACKGROUND tag itself was pretty straightforward when called in the BODY declaration, but once the <Background IMAGE="your image here"> was filled in, the HTML would simply tile the image over and over on the web page. This not only made it a very busy and eye-straining screen, it also often made it almost impossible to read any actual text.
Even with the use of tables and more solid colors through Cascading Style Sheets it is still easy to have a very busy background. Some Twitter home pages are like visiting the web of 1995, with people not taking the time to put actual design aesthetics into their pages. A school web page should be bright and friendly, especially if designed for students and parents alike, but there is a level of professionalism that needs to be maintained as well.
Rules of Thumb for Backgrounds
Here are some simple things to keep in mind when putting free backgrounds for school web pages up on the site:
- Less is More: If they are at the site at all, the odds are they are familiar with the school mascot. For that reason, you don't have to make it blatantly obvious. Putting a portion of the mascot, or a silhouette, or setting the background image opacity at 30% can give the feeling of the school spirit without being too blatant about it.
- True Colors: Almost every school has very contrasting and complementary colors that work very well as accents or outlines to simple white or black frames on the site. Background colors in your school team pigments is about as free as it gets, since it only costs you the time it takes to look up the hexadecimal code.
- Once is Enough: There are very few times when a background image needs to be "tiled" over and over across the background of the screen. Use HTML properties such as "repeat-X" within the <background> tag to control and best implement whatever background image you want to use.
Where to Get Free Backgrounds for School Websites
The web is full of available images, some free and some which seem free but are actually protected by copyright. No school wants to be sued for illegal use of images, so the first thing to check with any image is that you are allowed to use it. Even images that seem obviously related to the school, such as mascot icons, may actually be tightly licensed for use by the teams alone.
Some sites also have background patterns designed specifically for websites, but finding one that suits your school can be a very frustrating and drawn out process. However, they are worth a look to see if the right one jumps out at you.
- All Free Backgrounds has a wide range of colors as well as a tool to let you see how the backgrounds look when "tiled"
- Apple Blossom has both tiled and "themed" web page backgrounds
- Background City falls into the category of "busy backgrounds" but has a depth of color and professional texture to all the tiles, as well as themes.
- Pegaweb has several photoshop tutorials including how to create your own seamless background.
One way to make sure your school has the rights to a background image is to use that tutorial to create it from scratch in collaboration with the school art department. An obviously commercial use for creative artwork can be a great learning tool, and you may end up giving an aspiring artist their first resumé reference.Flickr is the preeminent photography website, and doing a search for "creative commons" licensed imagery can give you a wide variety of images. Many of these are free to use as long as the artist or photographer is given credit.. Taking the time to browse these photos can lead to some great connections between your school and various artists. You'll not only be helping them get exposure, but also protecting your school from any legal entanglements. Best of all, you can get quality artwork on your site for free.