If you're ready to start creating images for social media that stop fans in their tracks when scrolling, then you're in the right place.
In this post, I share, step-by-step, how you can create eye-catching images that drive engagement and shares – all without a designer.
BY DONNA MORITZ | UPDATED JUNE 2019 (PUBLISHED 2 DEC 2016)
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So you've heard how important visual content is, and you figured that you'd better jump in and start creating images for your social media posts….right?
But where in the heck do you start?
If you're not a designer and you don't think you are creative, then you are in the right place, as this guide will help you!
There are 10 elements to creating a great image, and if you apply even a few of these, your visuals will get noticed and shared.
Oh and there's a cool infographic below created by the team at Easil … be sure to check it out!
Let's jump in! You can use some or all of the following tips when creating images for social media. The more you use, the better chances you have of creating shareable visual content.
Beginner's Guide to Creating Images
1. Start with an Idea
This might sound simple but it's important you spend a little time getting this right.
Firstly, decide on the “type” of image you want to create. It should do one of the following things:
- Entertain us in some way
- Empower or motivate us
- Educate us and give us Insights
- Help us to Solve a problem.
If you get this right then your visual content will Entice us to Take Action.
Some examples of images that you might want to create are tips, quotes, how-to images showing a process, behind the scenes images, step by step visuals, small infographics and memes.
There's no need to panic about design yet, just think about what it is you want to create. I highly recommend you create images in “batches” of 10-20 or more so you can schedule them out.
You can still post “live” or create images on the day you post them, but getting some images “in the can”, ready to schedule ahead of time, can make your life easier for content creation.
2. Size Matters
With so many social media platforms available, how do you know where to start when creating images?
There are two key things to remember with size, and this will help you create visuals without being overwhelmed by options:
- Three image sizes cover most platforms: Square, Portrait and Landscape.
- Square works for instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Portrait works well on Pinterest (and shares reasonably well to Facebook or Google+).
- Landscape works well on Twitter and also shares well on Facebook and even Instagram.
- Choose the main 1 or 2 platforms you want to focus on. Once you know those main platforms, it becomes easier to choose your primary image sizes.
For instance, if you are focusing mainly on Instagram and Facebook, you would start with square images.
If you are focusing mainly on Facebook and Twitter, you would create landscape images to begin with.
You will save time by focusing in on a couple of core platforms.
3. Choose an Image or Graphic that Catches Attention
If you are creating an original image, then you will need to choose a background Image or Graphic for your post. We'll talk about templates as an easier option in #4,
You can use your own photograph, a stock photograph or an icon or graphic. Wherever possible, your own photos are best as they tell your brand story like nobody else can.
If you do use a stock photo when creating images, then either buy one or if it is free then be sure of your rights to use it.
Keep a record of any terms and conditions, whether it's a paid stock photo or not. Using a photo from within a tool is also a good way to go, as they will have arranged a deal with the stock libraries.
How can you choose the right image that catches attention?
There are 5 ways you can catch attention with images – but to summarize, try to make sure your images tick the boxes for at least one of the following elements:
- original (so they stand out on the newsfeed – we love “new” content. Even a photo we haven't seen will catch attention)
- timely (post about an event or celebration that is current – we will get excited).
- relevant (suited to the platform you are posting on, in terms of the type of content people love to post and share)
- snackable (easy to process and consume while your fans are scrolling their devices and multi-tasking);
- include a call to action (make it clear as to what you want fans to do – like? comment? share? click through? … what is the intention of the visual content?).
HOT TIP: when it comes to being timely, take advantage of upcoming events and celebrations and plan ahead with your images. I have included a link to a free tool that will help you find great “timely” content on the PDF Planner.
Other than the image types mentioned above, funny photos, memes and images that make us a little nostalgic about the past work really well too! If we feel emotion, we are more likely to share!
Before we jump into 4, 5 and 6, check out this infographic! it explains the life cycle of an awesome, shareable image. I teamed up with the savvy guys at Easil to put it together:
Please include attribution to this post at sociallysorted.com.au with this graphic or use the embed code below:
Share this Image On Your Site
Before we jump in to 4, 5 and 6, please note: 4, 5 and 6 are friends… they go hand-in-hand so you may work on them at the same time (ie choosing a template will help you with style and font and colour!).
4. Select a Style (or Use a Template)
So you have your idea/concept, you've decided on the size of image you want to create, you've chosen a photo or two (or an icon or graphic)… Now it's time to start putting it together.
Here's where you need to think about the overall style, and I have one word for you:
Whether you are a non-designer and need some help, or if you are a creatively savvy and want to create images quickly, Templates are your friend when creating images for social media.
Here are two ways to use templates when creating images:
1 Use a ready-made template – Choose from the selection in the visual content creation tool that you are using. For example, I created this image below using a template selected from a huge range in Easil (see the pink one at the bottom).
All I have to do was change the text and the color (if I wish) and boom… instant image. Now that I have this image, I could even go ahead and create a whole bunch of these quotes if I wanted to – by “batching” my images and creating more than one image at once.
2 Create Your Own Template – You can create your own background, with a logo, or design your own style that you can then use to add text to. This way, you can easily create a whole bunch of images at once.
A great way to start out is to use ready-made template and edit the text, font, and color (even the background image). Then as you get savvy with this, start creating your own.
Remember, the tools are there to help you! Just 3 years ago we didn't have anywhere near the number of tools to choose from than we do now (and now we have Easil too!)
5. Choose Your Fonts (Wisely)
It's easy to get stumped with fonts. There are so many of the dang things!
If you don't know where to start, try these tips:
- Use a template (there I go with the template thing again). But truthfully, all of the tool companies have cool templates. And they have already chosen the fonts that work for you! Job done!
- Look at other designs. See what you like. Take note of font designs that work together and write down the font if you know it or find something similar.
- Google “Font Pairing” or “Font Pairs” as there are loads of articles that tell you about how to pair fonts. Let someone else do all the hard work.
- Experiment and play with what works. You'll find your groove with this and it will be easier to play with fonts.
Here's an example of how you can use a template to get inspired. I liked this layout on Easil:
So I searched for something fun from their free Easil Stock images, swapped out the text and swapped out the image.
Here's the final image, in case you are in a Pinerest-y-have-to-pin-all-the-things kind of mood:
If you look at a lot of my content you will see that I use the two fonts Pacifico and Raleway together.
How did I find those two fonts? I saw them in an image once and liked the pairing. Simple! Look around, and be inspired.
6. Select the Perfect Color Palette
You say color, I say colour… I'm Australian so it gets confusing! But let's run with color for my North American friends.
Color helps to catch attention on the newsfeed, and it doesn't always have to be a technicolor dream… just one or two colors can stand out well – even just black and white.
Start out with just one or two colors, to a maximum of 3… create your own “color palette” that you will stick to if creating a series of visuals.
Again, if you get stuck with color when creating images… go to the templates (did I just say that word a-GAIN?). Look at what the designers are using in your favourite tool…you'll find great combinations that you can copy.
HOT TIP: Grab the HEX Code of the color you like – no matter where it is on the web. Some visual content creation tools have eye dropper functions or color pickers like Easil does (Picmonkey does as well), but if they don't then use this cool eye dropper color tool. It can grab color codes from anywhere on the web.
Here's a tip straight from the infographic:
Just remember – keep it simple with color. Which leads us into …
7. Don't Cram It Up
This one is self explanatory. Just as with color, don't cram too much to your image. Keep it simple.
There is such a thing as white space, and it's glorious. Did you know that some of the most shared images online are just a couple of words on a white background?
We love white space.
So keep your image clean, simple and to the point. If it's a photo, make sure it's relevant. If you need to add text add it, if you don't then keep it simple.
To see this in action, take note of what works on any platform – what gets shared? What do your fans engage with? Do more of that!
8. Add a Description
Most social media platforms allow you to add a description with your image – for instance, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, all allow you to add a short blurb (or a long one) that gets shared along with the image. Take advantage of it.
Here are a few key tips for adding descriptions:
- Facebook Descriptions should be short – less than 80 words if you can, but the shorter the better. People want quick, engaging, snackable content on Facebook. And if you have a link to a blog post or something you want people to click through on – add it here.
- Instagram Descriptions can go a little longer. Instagram is not a link-driven platform, so it's not easy to add links in the description unless they are short links like bitly.com. But you should add your most important link to your profile. Instagram users also like to stay on the platform so you can add more detail, like a mini-post.
- Include a call to action in your description – here's how:
9. Include a Call to Action
A call to action can have many forms but the main ones are usually:
- Click through
And generally the share or click through to your blog post or website is worth more than a like or comment, but it really depends on what your goal is when creating images.
Sometimes visual content is posted to help build engagement and sometimes you want someone to click through or to share.
Regardless, it's useful to think about what your intention is for each piece of visual content (or series of images if you are batching them).
HOT TIP: There are two places you can add a call to action. You can add it:
- On the image – something like “Read More” or “Click Here” or it can be more subtle like “New On the Blog”
- In the Description – You have plenty of room in the description to add more content. Remember to add a link too if you have one.
- On both! Sometimes you can have your call to action on the image and in the description – go crazy.
Personally, I like to tease with my image, make it eye-catching and add enough information to make people want to find out more. Here's an example of how I might “tease” with an image on Instagram:
The chameleon is an amazing animal. But when it comes to your online brand and how you connect with your audience, it can be kinda tricky if you are changing your colours all the time (whether that's your physical brand colours or your voice and message). In short, don't be a chameleon. Consistency of message, consistency of brand, consistency of voice is what connects you to your community and establishes trust. . . Now, I don't mean that you shouldn't surprise and delight… go for it and show some different colours from time to time.. but bring it back to what they know and trust about you and keep consistency in your online presence! . . . . . #branding101 #instagramtips #instagramforbusiness #instagramstories #smallbiztips #businessgrowth #startup #startuplife #startuptips #entrepreneurs #entrepreneur #advicequotes #adviceoftheday #DIYDesign @visualchallenge
You can always add more detail in the description. Every image is different. Some visuals need no words at all!
Now that you have your image all prepped, there's just one thing to do. Create more of them! Add captions to 10 photos, not just 1. Create 10 photos with your template instead of just the one you need to post in the morning.
10. Post It!
Don't forget to post and promote your image. I would need another blog post to contain all the tips for promoting visuals, as promotion is just as important as creating images in the first place.
All you need to remember is to be consistent with your content. Post regularly and always come back to engage. If you do that on any platform you will grow following and engagement.
But for now, focus on creating images for social media.
Check Out Easil
As you know from this blog, I always try to share with you the latest tools and tricks for creating images. Then you can test out your favourites!
As I mentioned, lately I am LOVING Easil. It's SUPER-user friendly and I love the fonts and templates and their “Easil Stock” images. You can resize easily, and there are a lot of cool features including new Teams features that allow you to create team templates, add a team brand kit and lock down your designs!
The best part is that there is a free plan, and you can also try their “Plus” level for 30 days.
Over to You:
Are you savvy when it comes to creating images for social media or do you need a little push?
What's the one thing you will do more of with your visual content creation, after reading this post?
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