So, you need to design a graphic to promote your new course, eBook, or blog post. Where do you begin? You want something that looks great and will entice people to buy, download, or read your content, but you don't know the right way to go about it.
Should you hire a designer to work with you on this? Unless it's part of a wider branding strategy or blog redesign, probably not, for the same reason that no entrepreneur should pay $10,000 for their first website. No, you can learn to create your own beautiful blog imagery yourself, and I'm here to help! Here's a design process to follow.
The makings of a great blog graphic
There are five main steps that go into designing a blog graphic:
- Purpose: Deciding what the image needs to achieve.
- Imagery: Choosing a photo or graphic that fits your brand and the message you want to convey.
- Color: Working with a color palette that matches your brand and stands out.
- Fonts: If words are needed, think about the typography on your image.
- Bringing the elements together: Using simple software to bring your image to life.
Creating a good blog graphic first involves understanding its intention. Of course you want it to look good, but design is more than making things pretty. Design can have a positive impact on the number of visitors who purchase your product or share your article and can bring in a new audience. Rather than setting out to create an image that looks nice (that's a given), instead you need to decide you're going to create an image that fulfills a need.
Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the graphic.
- Does it need to visually encapsulate the article?
- Encourage people to click?
- Look enticing enough to share on Pinterest?
- Communicate an important concept?
- All of the above?
Cool, keep that as top of mind when deciding on your visual elements and make sure they align with your goal. (Read more about design thinking here if you need a hand understanding that.)
The imagery you use in your blog graphics should be cohesive and tie in to your brand. You've got a few different options here. You could go for:
- A photo
- An illustration
- Maybe even a texture
The option you pick will depend on what best suits your content or your brand. Photos are great for creating a personal connection and for showing highly visual subject matter, but if your content is more conceptual or theoretical, then illustrations or a texture could work really well for you (and save you trying to come up with a relevant photograph).
Think about how the image will look not just on this single blog post, but in your blog directory too. When you see a grid of six of your posts together, you want them to all feel like they fit together without looking exactly the same. Pat Flynn does a great job of this with the illustrations he uses to accompany the posts on Smart Passive Income. They're all different, but they belong together.
For photographs, taking the approach of an Instagram theme (where you try to post photos that have a similar style or tone to them) works great for a blog too. Pauline from the food blog livingthehealthychoice.com has this down! Her blog imagery is beautiful on its own, but it's clear that the photo style is a part of her brand, and looks great together in the directory too.
If you don't have the photography skills of Pauline or access to an illustrator to create custom graphics like Pat Flynn, here's some of my recommended resources for sourcing imagery:
- Stock photography – The cliché woman laughing with salad is a bit cheesy, but there are many sites that offer elegant, beautiful stock photography without the cringe-factor. Unsplash and Death to Stock are great resources we use for the ConvertKit blog, but keep in mind that the more popular a resource site is, the more common it is to see the images used on other blogs. If you're using stock photos it's a good idea to add graphics or text to them to tie them in with your brand and make them more unique.
- Taking your own photos – You don't need a fancy DSLR or professional training to take great photos. Going the DIY route for photography will guarantee you unique, personal images for your blog. Check out these tips for taking great photos with your phone and this guide to taking beautiful flatlays to get you started.
- Graphics and illustrations – Creative Market has pre-made graphics or illustrations for purchase to suit just about every style, and they also give away freebies weekly that you could use on your blog. Iconfinder is also a great resource for, you guessed it, icons to represent an article topic.
- Textures – Lost and Taken and Subtle Patterns have beautiful background textures that would look great with an icon or text on top to accompany a blog post.
(And if none of those resources strike your fancy, check out our post with 101 graphic design resources for a whole lot more)
While it's often enough to stop at imagery, if you're going for a graphic approach or want to use text over your images you need to be working with a consistent color scheme. Stick to your brand colors or colors that complement your brand colors and the image you're using. Don't be afraid to mix it up here for added interest.
I love the way Mariah Coz uses her color palette on Femtrepreneur. The images all have a similar layout, but she creates variation by mixing up the colors in each image.
If you need a hand choosing a color scheme for your blog, check out our post on the basics of color theory and get to color picking!
Adding text to an image is a great way to make it super compelling for Pinterest as a potential reader will know exactly what article they're about to click into no matter what the pinner has titled the image on their board. You can pick a great font and simply type the name of your article on an image, or you can flex your design muscles and try some typographic arrangements like the beautiful images on the Creative Market blog.
It's only fitting that they have beautiful typographic images as they're a great resource for beautiful fonts! We shared more font sites in our design resources post, but keep in mind that free fonts are more likely to be seen everywhere than a font you pay for.
If you want your typography to stand out from the crowd either find a creative way to use a free font or get your wallet out and pay for a lesser-used font that will be a bit more unique to you. And make sure you read up on typography basics to get your head around the nuances of working with type.
Once you've gathered together the assets, you'll need to use some form of design software to combine them and produce your blog graphic. There are loads of great free tools to help with layouts, like Canva and PicMonkey, that allow you to upload images to create your own design or pick from a template to give you a head start.
You might find however that some of the beautiful assets you've downloaded could require more robust design software to edit if they're a .psd, .eps or .ai file. An Adobe Creative Cloud subscription gives you access to tools like Photoshop and Illustrator to edit these (along with a bunch of other stuff), but if you're not quite ready for that yet, check out Gimp as a Photoshop alternative and Vectr as an option to try instead of Illustrator for working with vector assets. And for a little taste of Adobe without the high price tag, check out their social media image building tool Spark.
Now for the nitty gritty of making your graphic:
- Whatever software you're using, you'll first need to create a canvas that's the size you need your blog image to be (this will depend on your blog design, but 1080x720px is a good place to start if you're not sure). Then start building your graphic from the base up.
- Add your image then arrange your text on top of it. A tip here to create balance in your image is to place your text on the opposite side of the main focus of the photo or graphic.
- It's easy to get carried away with different fonts, icons and colors, but the age-old rule of ‘less is more' definitely applies to blog graphics. Don't try to overload your image with every new asset you've downloaded. Instead pick one or two and save the rest for future images! Remember the graphic is there to support your content, not overshadow it.
- If you're struggling for inspiration, get layout ideas from Pinterest, Dribbble or Designspiration, but don't be tempted to copy designs you see exactly. The point of creating your own unique blog imagery is just that: to be unique! You can still take inspiration from these sources without directly copying by remixing, and being influenced by multiple images and styles. Writer Austin Kleon has a great book on the topic of ‘stealing like an artist', where instead of copying one person, you take little pieces of inspiration from different work you see and put your own spin on them to combine them and make something new! So when you look for inspiration, make sure you're being inspired by multiple different sources and aren't copying one too closely.
- Export your image when you’re happy with it by saving it as either a .jpeg or .png and upload it to your blog!
Putting your blog graphic design process into action
Now that you've got a process to follow, it's time to get to work on creating beautiful images for your blog. It's worth putting in the time and effort as the right graphic can increase the shareability of your post, entice more people to buy your product, and strengthen your brand. If you've got any questions you'd like to ask a designer, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll pop in to answer them.