Free Graphic Design Editing Software

Adobe
Adobe has some of the best software, including Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator. But it is also some of the most expensive. Photoshop alone starts at $649. You can sometimes get free 30-day trials, however, which should be more than enough time to create your banner and avatar. The programs are not super-easy, but with some playing around, you can make a nice banner.

Cooltext
Cooltext is very easy to use, but does not have a lot of options. To make your banner wide enough, you will most likely have to put spaces on either side of your text. But it will take a little trial and error to see if the logo you created is the right size (your banner needs to be 1.04 x 7.94 inches). At the default text size of 70, if you put in a total of 16 letters and spaces, it will be wide enough, but with a little white space on the top and bottom. The white space shouldn’t look bad, though, since on your site there’s already white space on either side. Here's my example, which took about 5 minutes, once I figured out the sizing:

To check the size, you can save what you made, and then paste it into Microsoft Word. Double-click on the image and then click on the “size” tab. You can then either re-do the image in cooltext if it's not quite right, or change the size to what you want in word if it's not too far off. Make sure to unclick, “lock aspect ration,” change the size, click okay, then right click on the image to save.

Photofiltre
Photofiltre is free and easy to download. It’s a basic graphics editing program with enough options to add text, photographs, and change the size to what you want. It’s not super-easy to use, but after playing around with it for about 20 minutes, I created the following banner by taking a photo I had, resizing it to 72 dpi, cropping it, and then adding text:

Graphic Converter (for Macs)
Graphic Converter in is similar to Photofiltre in that it is free, not too hard to use, but has limited features, which can be frustrating if you are used to something higher end. The difference is that it works on a Mac.

Other programs that I've heard of but haven't tried yet include:

Gimp
My Dad loves this program and says it's like a free Photoshop. I haven't tried it yet, but I do trust my Dad.

Picasa
Picasa is another program that people swear by that I'll have to check out some day, but it may only be for photo editing (I'm not sure if you're able to add text).