In recent months, Rivka has instituted a Contributing Member policy to help with the server costs to When you become a contributing member you gain certain extra privileges, and get your name on the Wall of Contributing Members. One of the more exciting privileges of being a contributor is a year’s access of the new user theming area. In this new area, you can make your own themes, take a glance at the themes created by fellow contributors, and leave comments on the them.

While making your own theme can sound rather daunting, CoE makes it comparatively easy. All you need is Photoshop or some other similar program to create the banners. The site provides several different design templates for would-be creators. The easiest is the One Banner design. You simply create an 800 pixel banner about your favorite Middle-Earthian subject and plug it in. The rest is easy; you just set the different colors for the page layouts. Your work is saved with each changed submission, and you can set the theme as your own to browse the site and see how it looks at any point before you publish it, thereby making it public. The other designs are for the craftier sort, but are still available for anyone to try.

There are of course some rules to follow in making a theme. All themes must have the words “Council of Elrond” in one of the banners. All themes must be related to Lord of the Rings or something else that Tolkien wrote about. In other words, book related subjects…no themes about the actors themselves. If you wish to use fan art in a theme, you must obtain permission from the artist and post their name in the theme description. If you use an illustration by a published artist you must put their name in the theme description. Also, if you get stuck, there is a helpful FAQ page to read, or you can ask for help in the Creations Forum . Creating themes is easy, and most importantly FUN! Don’t just take my word for it though, after all, I consider staring at shiny objects hours of good entertainment.

Here are some other contributing member’s personal opinions about the new theme section:

I think supporting the site is more important than the extras that come with it. I would not want to lose CoE and all that it offers. I would miss my second home terribly… Give yourself a present of CoE for another year. You deserve it!

But the extras are great! I’ve always wanted lighter themes and have used the Éowyn theme since it appeared. So my goal was to make lighter themes, with different characters that I like. I’ve made a lot of CoE greeting cards and wallpapers and have a CoE Website. You use the same skills for making them as you do for making a theme and the theme interface is easy to use.

Mine are simple but I like having several to choose from depending on my mood. My current is Smaug. I’ve always liked him and for me the muted colors are easy on my eyes. But my preferred theme is Elves! I borrowed Gwyllion’s (With her permission. Here is her gallery.) lovely Glorfindel and beautiful Galadriel and taking the color from her drawings created my very favorite theme.

If you like to play in Photoshop or an equivalent program, then support the site and have some fun at the same time. But even if you aren’t addicted to computer graphics, support the site and you can use one of the new themes. And if you ask, maybe one of the theme-creators will try to create a favorite theme for you. There is so much great art and stills from the movies to choose from, the options are endless!

Although there are many lovely themes on CoE for members to use, there is an added pleasure at being able to make your own. I had a little difficulty at first when making my themes, but after a bit of trying this and that, everything fell into place. It’s a matter of try, try again until you succeed. I started off with the simplest one ~ the fixed banner, then progressed tentatively to the others.

I would definitely recommend becoming a contributing member and it is worth it, not only for the ability to make themes, web site perks, the little green star and special title, it helps CoE and that can only be a good thing.

So there you have it! It is fun, possibly a little exciting, and it gives back to the site that gives you so much. Anyone can become a contributing member by donating $15 through Paypal, or sending the money through the mail to:

Rebecca Smallwood
P.O. Box 3401
Tustin, CA 92781-3401

(Rivka asks that you include your CoE username with your payment)

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