I have had a lot of people ask me how to make layouts and how to use programs like GIMP, I don't have time to reply to everyone individually so I am going to try and help you on this page. I will keep trying to add to this page with more help when I have time, to start with here is some of the basics.
Programs to use
Obviously if you can afford it Photoshop is the best program to use for this kind of thing, but there are several good, free, alternatives, I use:
these are both free programs that you can safely download from the internet.
You can also use the creative kit in Picasa which is done by the same people as Picnik which has now stopped
The main features you need to get used to using
If you want to start making manips yourself there are a few main features that you need to know how to use.
You need to be able to add layers to your pictures, this means you can do things like add horses to a different background.
then you paste the picture of the horse or whatever on the second layer and erase the background around the hose so it is now on the background on the layer below!
How to get the pictures you have made onto the internet
You can use Photobucket or tinypic to do this, they are both completely free and safe, but I tend to use photobucket. What you do with these websites is upload a picture you want to use in a layout or as a banner and it will give you the URL code, this is like the address for your image and you can use it to post your picture in forums, on your page or use it in a layout.