Social media is a must for companies looking to connect with customers. One of the best ways to show followers exactly what your brand is about is with beautiful images designed specifically for your social channels. Beautiful, on-brand posts that grab your followers’ attention don’t have to take a ton of time. Use these social media design tips and easy-to-use tools to create graphics that stand out.
Follow Your Brand’s Style Guide
Social media is a prominent extension of your brand that fans see more often than your website or brick and mortar store. Make it easy for followers to associate your graphics on Facebook and Instagram with your brand by following the guidelines already laid out in your business’ style guide. Each element of your branding, from your logo and fonts to your color palette and voice, should be used as a guide when creating social media content.
Consistency in your graphics (as well as your voice and posting schedule) lets followers know what to expect. Fans followed or liked your profile expecting to see content similar to what you’ve already posted. An off-brand image could easily confuse followers and even cause them to unlike your page. Remember, consist doesn’t have to mean boring!
Use Templates for Each Platform
One way to stay on brand is to create templates for your social media graphics. Design a collection of complimentary templates that are unique enough to keep things interesting but give your profile a cohesive look. When you’re happy with the feel of these templates, recreate them using the ideal image size for each social channel your company uses.
Ideal Social Media Image Size
- Facebook: 1200×630 pixels
- Twitter: 440×220 pixels
- Instagram: 1080×1080 pixels
- LinkedIn: 550×375 pixels
- Pinterest: 600×900 pixels
We design social media graphics using Photoshop and InDesign, but there are tons of free (or almost free) tools that make creating social media templates basically fool-proof. Play around with the templates and design elements in these programs to find one that fits your brand and comfort level.
Tools for Social Media Templates
Adobe Spark Post: Spark Post offers themed layouts, colors and fonts for professional-looking posts in almost no time at all. The free version includes the Spark logo on all your downloaded images, which isn’t great for your brand. The good news is that with an affordable upgrade, you can personalize your posts with templates that integrate your brand elements.
Canva: Drag and drop your photos or their images into templates that let you change colors and fonts. There are a limited number of fonts included; to upload and use your brand’s fonts you’ll have to upgrade. Upgrading will also give you access to more templates, the ability to resize images for different social channels and create animated GIFs.
Crello: This social media graphic design tool is filled with features that make it easy to customize your images. The interface here is similar to Canva’s, but it includes a lot more template and font options within its free version. There’s a decent collection of photo editing tools included as well.
Easil: Clean, modern templates and pretty stock photos make Easil stand out from other tools. Upgrade to create a folder with all of your favorite elements for quick, on brand designs. You can upload your own fonts, download animated GIFs, merge designs and more.
Snappa: The templates Snappa offers are bold and illustration-heavy. If this imagery works for your brand, Snappa could be the tool for you. The free version is fairly limited, with only 5 downloads per month. Drag and drop images and fonts, either from the tool or your own (available when you upgrade to Pro). If you get stuck, there are video tutorials to help you out.
Choose a Filter and Stick with It
Using similar imagery across your digital presence keeps things cohesive. One of the easiest ways to tie photos together is using a single filter on each image before posting it. There’s no need to go overboard with effects. A natural overlay is more than enough!
Cohesive social media graphics are an important aspect of an engaging profile, especially on Instagram. Because of the way the platform works, users have to visit your profile to follow you or visit your website. To make the best impression (and increase the likelihood of gaining a follower or website visitor), your feed needs to look great as a whole.
Unless you’re interested in learning Photoshop (which is a great skill to have but is a time-consuming venture), a quick photo editing app is your best bet for creating images that stand out on social media. Some of the template tools above, including Canva and Crello, offer basic photo editing and make good all-around tools. For more precise photo editing and a wider variety of preset filters, take a look at the tools below.
Edit Like a Pro with These Tools
Afterlight: Make edits to the tones and specific colors within your photos using Afterlight. There are also overlays, premade filters and the ability to save your own filters. It’s not free, but we think this powerful app is a bargain. Unfortunately, Afterlight is only available on the App Store.
Instagram: While not the most robust editor out there, Instagram’s built-in filters are convenient. If your photos already look great, popping a barely-there Instagram filter over them can be just what you need to tie your feed together.
Photoshop Express: A easy to use yet powerful app, this Photoshop product lets you edit more than just colors. Crop, straighten, add text, fix perspective and remove blemishes all from your phone. This isn’t Photoshop by any means, but it’s pretty good for an app.
Pixlr: Pixlr is available online and on your phone, so if you’re interested in using a single photo editing interface on all your devices, this may be for you. Lots of filters, effects and overlays (Pixlr says over 2 million combinations, to be precise) are available to help you create beautiful social media designs.
VSCO: This popular app is a favorite among hobby photographers and bloggers. There are plenty of filters included in the free app. For more dynamic images, you can purchase collections of preset filters in trendy themes like “Classic Films.” There are also desktop presets available.
Keep Things Clean
High-quality photos and professional-looking graphics win over haphazard posts every time. As with most things in life, in social media graphic design less is definitely more. This goes for the other aspects of your social media posts too. Make sure you use proper grammar and proofread your copy!
A balanced mix of template-based graphics and photography make your profiles interesting. Depending on your business and staff, taking high-quality photos yourself may be difficult. It’s okay to use stock photography as long as its natural-looking and on brand. For affordable social media stock photography, we suggest checking out Adobe Stock, Shutterstock and Pexels.
Adobe Stock: Download 10 images a month with the most basic plan. This is probably more than enough to fill your social content calendar. There are tons of nature scenes and artistic shots to choose from here.
Shutterstock: The basic plan will get you 10 new images every month here as well. Shutterstock’s images are well-lit and well organized.
Pexels: This website offers completely free stock photography. This means that there’s a lot less to choose from, but it’s a good place to start!
Follow the Video Trend
Social media algorithms love video, which means you should be including it in your social media content calendar. Video seems intimidating, but there are a lot of ways to incorporate it without hiring a professional videographer. Make educational animations, playful GIFs and short videos shot on your mobile phone.
Add Motion with these Tools
Animaker: We’ve been playing around with Animaker and we love how easy it is to use. Short animations take just a few hours to put together and make great shareable content, especially when they’re filled with valuable information.
Boomerang: Instagram-owned Boomerang is a super simple app that makes video loops (they’re basically GIFs). They’re easy to shoot on your phone and don’t require any editing before posting them to Instagram.
Giphy: GIFs are a great way to add personality into your social media designs. Turn any video footage into a GIF with Giphy, which also lets you add text and other elements into the video.
Magisto: Upload photos and videos and Magisto will add a filter and assemble them around a theme into a mini-movie. This is great for recapping an event or going behind the scenes at your store.
Incorporate User Generated Content
Passionate customers are probably already sharing images of your products on social media. Engage with your followers and decrease the number of images you need to create yourself by sharing content your users created.
Create Sharable Graphics
Social media is, of course, social. Your social media designs should be engaging and encourage your followers to share them with their own friends. Infographics (there are lots of templates available!), holiday greetings and informative content are all share-worthy.