I haven't been doing it long, 4 days now LOL. But I have had a lot of time to devote to learning Paint Shop Pro 9.
There a lo of people here that use photoshop, that thread that Abby's mom lead you too, will have good info on The programs and stuff. There are also good links in there for websites with free Fonts that you can download. Abbysmom told me that Neat fonts are very important in the design of a siggy, and boy was she right! It makes ALL the difference.
As far as designing it?
I try to be consistant, I like to you one or two realy good shots of the cat, create my own background that coordinates with the colors in the kitty picture or the theme I am going for.
I also like to give a good amount of attention to the Font. Like these i did the other day, I used the green in Simba's eye, and the mauvey pink in Abby's skin to make the background base colors. Then I went in with other brushes and played around with the effects to get a cool look, while still keeping everything in the same color family. For simbas, he is a bengal, so I tried to mimick the bangel markings in the background. Abby was so bright and shiney in her pick, I tried to get the Font to be just as feminin and bright.
For this siggy, Mom2salem wanted a Texas themed siggy. This one I happend to have some pics of texas I took over a new years vacation that I really loved, so I just played around with them until I got the effect I wanted, and then added the kitty pics. Again, what seems like just Text, really took a long time. I spend a good amount of time on fonts.
This one I let the pictures do the speaking. I loved the two pictures she had of Nathan and Nedicks. they looked like they were up-to-no-good! So i created a darker background, but one they would still stand out against, and used a darker type font. That font I had to play around with a lot in order to get it to stand out against the background.
The last one is my Polly. I am not sure "Where" the idea came from. Maybe because I downloaded a Buffy font and wanted to see what I could do? But That logo took me HOURS! lol It was also the first sig I attempted. I have two versions, the 'color' one and the sepia toned one in my sig.
I try to use large pictures of kitties, make my background from scratch, and spend some time with the font. I let the kitties decide what the theme will be.
That's it for me. If you have any questions i would love to answer! Those are the only sigs I have done, I am sorry I don't have more to show you!