Do you want to create viral social media graphics that generate engagement, followers and sales? Then you must check out this complete guide...
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To be successful on social media in this day and age, you’ve got to create visuals across a ton of platforms (the alternative is learning TikTok dances).
Images drive the highest engagement on top social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. On top of that, networks like YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest focus primarily on images and videos rather than text.
I’ve had a lot of experience helping businesses use visual networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. One of them is Crazy Egg, a site optimization tool. I used to manage its Pinterest page and helped create engaging images to drive traffic.
That’s why I’ve made a complete guide for creating viral social media graphics. You’ll learn the different types of social media graphics you can make, the tools to make them with, and tips on creating them.
Let’s get started.
Social media image size cheat sheet
Throughout this post, you’ll find the size and dimensions of every type of social media graphic you’ll be creating. But here’s the TL;DR cheat sheet:
- Profile image: 170 x 170 pixels
- Cover photo: 830 x 312 pixels
- In-feed images: 1,200 x 628 pixels
- Stories: 1,080 x 1,920 pixels
- Link thumbnails: 1,200 x 628 pixels
- Profile image: 180 x 180 pixels
- In-feed posts: 1,080 x 1,080 pixels
- Stories: 1,080 x 1,920 pixels
- Reels: 1,080 x 1,920 pixels
- Highlights: 180 x 180 pixels
- Profile image: 400 x 400 pixels
- Header image: 1,500 x 500 pixels
- Tweet images: 1,200 x 675 pixels
- Link thumbnails: 800 x 418 pixels
- Profile image: 180 x 180 pixels
- Cover image: 1,600 x 900 pixels
- Board covers: 200 x 200 pixels
- Pin image size: 1,000 x 1,500 pixels
- Pinterest story pin size: 900 x 1,600 pixels
- Profile image: 400 x 400 pixels
- Background photo: 1,584 x 396 pixels
- Post images: 1,104 x 736 pixels
- Link thumbnails: 1,200 x 628 pixels
- Profile image: 250 x 250 pixels
- Channel art: 2,500 x 1,440 pixels
- Video thumbnails: 1,280 x 720 pixels
- End cards: 1,280 x 720 pixels
- Watermarks: 150 x 150 pixels
- Posts: 500 x 500 pixels
- Stories: 1,080 x 1920 pixels
On various social networks, you can create a smorgasbord of posts. Here’s a list of visuals you can make and publish on different networks:
Facebook is a very visual network. According to Newswhip, the top-performing posts are images, which drive the most engagement.
You’ll notice that even link posts that do well tend to have large thumbnail images.
Here are some Facebook graphics you should make:
The profile image displays at 170 x 170 pixels. You need to upload a square, but the final image will appear as a circle. (This seems to be the case across the board for each social media channel in this post.) You can upload images up to 2048 x 2048 pixels for higher quality. It’s best to use a headshot or logo here.
Remember to use YOUR headshot—not your dog’s or cat’s or some celebrity you like or a caricature of someone you hate. You want people to see it and go “Hey! I know this person! Maybe I should follow them.”
Here’s a good one from Neal Schaffer:
It’s a headshot where he’s smiling and looking approachable. This says, “I’m a friendly guy, come Like my page.”
The cover photo measures 820 x 312 pixels, but you can use something smaller. It has to be a minimum of 400 x 150 pixels at least. You can also upload videos. Use this real estate to describe your Facebook account or your company and its products. You could also include a sample picture of the type of images you regularly post to entice people to follow you.
Here’s an excellent example of a Facebook cover image from Omniconvert.
This graphic describes exactly what Omniconvert’s software helps its audience do. Omniconvert also uses its logo for its Facebook profile image.
These are images that appear in the Facebook newsfeed. The recommended size is 1,200 x 628 pixels. But Facebook will resize them in the feed to have a maximum width of 680 pixels, and the height adjusts according to the width. Users can view a larger version if they click on the image. Uploading a larger image improves the sharpness, even though Facebook reduces the size.
Source: Burrard-Lucas Photography
Facebook Stories are a popular format. They measure 1,080 x 1,920 pixels and take up the entire mobile screen. Stories are popular for two reasons. One is that they appear at the top of the feed and people see them as soon as they log in. While the other is that they only last 24 hours and people want to get a peek before they disappear forever. The FOMO is real.
If Facebook and stories were a real-life thing, people would be jumping queues and shoving each other to get a glance. Good thing they’re online.
The ideal thumbnail size is 1200 x 628 pixels. The minimum size is 560 x 292 pixels, and the aspect ratio is 1.91:1. Using images of this size will ensure that the large thumbnail appears when you share a link.
You can separately attach the thumbnail to links while making ads.
You can only publish images and videos on Instagram. This is why it’s imperative to create the best images. But you won’t magically get powerful results just because you publish beautiful images.
Your success hinges on how well your images educate or entertain the Instagram crowd. Do that and they’ll Like your posts, comment on them and buy the products you recommend later. If you only publish promotional posts, people might want to unfollow you.
A company that does this well is Sainsbury’s. It’s a supermarket, so it publishes recipes most of the time (that make me incredibly hungry).
View this post on Instagram
It occasionally intersperses these posts with more promotional messages.
Here are all the images you should make for Instagram success.
It displays at 180 x 180 pixels. You will need to upload a square image, but it shows as a circle.
Ideal sizes vary for square, portrait, and landscape images.
Square image size: 1,080 x 1,080 pixels.
Portrait image size: 1,080 x 1,350 pixels.
Landscape image size: 1,080 x 566 pixels
The dimensions you choose should depend on the image you are making. I find that square images work best most of the time because they’re perfectly sized for Instagram’s grid gallery format.
However, this study from Dash Hudson found that portrait images may actually do best:
Square images came in second and landscape images came in last. The differences aren’t monumental, but they can add up over time.
Instagram stories are 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, and they take up the whole screen on mobile. Just like Facebook stories, they vanish in 24 hours.
You can also overlay interactive stickers, such as questions, polls, countdown timers, and quizzes. Get really creative here! I especially like questions and polls because they help you interact with your followers and learn more about them.
Instagram stories last for just 24 hours. After that, they’ll appear in your archive. You can restore them any time and place them under your bio as highlights with a cover photo.
Cover photos are circle-shaped, but you need to upload a square image. It should be 180 x 180 pixels, just like the profile image. But you can upload a larger image for better quality. Because the bio is limited to very few characters, you can use highlights to inform people about your business.
As you might guess by now, images get more retweets. Many of the most retweeted tweets are images. Here are the different types of graphics you can make for Twitter:
A circle profile picture is displayed, but you should upload a square image. The recommended dimensions are 400 x 400 pixels.
The header image appears at the top of the account. It has to be 1,500 x 500 pixels.
Here’s an excellent example of a header image from Warner Bros. Pictures promoting a new movie.
The header image you use should depend on your overall business and Twitter goals. Warner Bros. Pictures used this header because it recently released the movie. The goal is to get as many people as possible to watch it while it’s fresh. Once a new movie comes along and promoting it becomes a top priority, it’ll replace the header.
Think about what your highest priority is now. Do you want more email sign-ups, followers, likes, or sales? Create a header image that’ll help you sprint to that goal. After you accomplish that goal, you can formulate a new one and create your images accordingly.
The ideal image size is 1,200 x 675 pixels.
The ideal Twitter link thumbnail size is 800 x 418 pixels. But the image you use for the Facebook link thumbnail will work because the aspect ratio is the same (1.91:1).
Pinterest is probably the most image-centric social network. You can publish videos here too, but images make up the significant chunk of content. Make this network your top priority if you want to drive traffic.
As this report from Shareaholic shows, it drives the second-highest amount of social traffic. You’ll also notice that the traffic from Facebook is dwindling while that from Pinterest is rising. It’s because networks like Facebook and Instagram have gotten a bit greedy and started hoarding visitors for as long as possible. While Pinterest is an image search engine where people search for things and click on results. It’s very similar to Google images.
This should be a minimum of 180 x 180 pixels. The recommended size for uploading is 600 x 600 pixels. Here too, it’ll unfold as a circle even though you must upload a square.
You can see the cover image at the top of the profile. The ideal image size is 1,600 x 900 pixels, but you can also use video. If you don’t want to use an image or video, you can display your latest pins as seen in this cover from Lulus.
It’s a nice way to give potential followers a sneak peek of what they’ll see if they follow you. Make sure you pin top-quality images if you plan to display your latest pins.
You can also add covers to your boards. These should be 200 x 200 pixels.
Pin image size
The ideal Pinterest image size is 1000 x 1500 pixels, and the aspect ratio is 2:3. Portrait images do well on this site.
Portrait images do better on Pinterest because of the way the feed appears. On most social networks, posts appear one below the other. On Pinterest, they appear next to each other in columns. When you create a taller image, you have a longer column that overshadows smaller images, occupies more space, and attracts more attention.
Pinterest story pin size
You can publish story pins on Pinterest, but they’re different from stories on other networks. These pins appear in the feed, and show up as carousels with a minimum of 2 slides and a maximum of 5 slides. Story pins have to be 900 x 1600 pixels (9:16 aspect ratio).
Use slideshows when you want to include more information in images. Pinterest recommends slideshows for stuff like sharing step-by-step guides, projects, and recipes. They’re awesome for anything DIY.
Pinterest is ideal for B2C businesses such as bakeries, restaurants, and ecommerce stores. But if you’re a B2B SaaS company that helps startups with their semantic search or anything technical, Pinterest may not be right for you. You’re better off focusing on a B2B network such as LinkedIn. Images do well here, too. Even on buttoned-up sites like LinkedIn, people vastly prefer them to other types of content as Andy Foote found from this poll.
Here are the different images you can make.
LinkedIn recommends you upload a 400 x 400 pixel image.
The LinkedIn background photo or cover image should be 1,584 x 396 pixels. The aspect ratio is 4:1.
Source: Tara Robertson
Post images should be 1,104 x 736 pixels. This is for both pages and profiles.
Link thumbnails must be 1,200 x 628 pixels. It’s the same as Facebook. The recommended aspect ratio is also the same (1.91:1).
Source: Tracey Wallace
Most people think YouTube is a video social network or search engine where you can only publish videos. But there are several types of images you can post here. These include:
For YouTube, the final image ends up being 250 x 250 pixels in size, but you must upload an 800 x 800 pixel image. It gets cropped to a circle.
The channel art is similar to a cover image on other networks as it soars over the channel. It should be 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.
The thumbnail is 1,280 x 720 pixels. It appears on videos when people search for them or when YouTube recommends them in the feed. You also see thumbnails when you visit a channel.
End cards appear in the last five to twenty seconds of a video. You can place elements such as recommended videos, playlists, a subscribe button, and a link. You don’t need to place a background image, but adding one that’s 1,280 x 720 pixels helps reduce distractions.
After the video starts, you can set the time at which your watermark appears. You might have seen a watermark on the bottom right corner of videos. When you scroll over this image, a subscribe button appears. Most people use their company’s logo or a call to action. Keep in mind that your image has to be 150 x 150 pixels at least.
You can post pictures in your channel’s community. YouTube suggests an aspect ratio of 1:1 since images appear as squares in the feed. I recommend a minimum size of 500 x 500 pixels.
Source: Simon’s Cat
Like on other networks, stories are 1,080 x 1,920 pixels and take up the whole mobile screen.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a Photoshop master to create stunning social media graphics with a great aesthetic. Many online photo editors have sprung up over the past decade, containing easy-to-use builders and templates. With the help of these tools, amateur designers can whip up top-quality visuals in minutes.
Here are a few you should check out:
Crello is a free graphic design tool. It has templates for almost all the top social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Simply pick a template, modify it, and directly share it to social media. Alternatively, you can download it and then schedule it with a social media management tool.
Crello also features templates for creating other visuals and documents such as blog images, ebooks, and presentations. The platform makes videos, too! You can directly access millions of stock photos and videos right from the dashboard.
Pricing: You can only download five designs every month with Crello’s free plan. To get unlimited downloads, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro plan, which costs $9.99 per month or $95.88 per year. Luckily, on AppSumo, you can get it for just $67 for one year.
Pixelied is another easy-to-use graphic design tool. You get access to templates in 25+ design formats and over 3 million stock photos. Just load a template, add the photos you like, and overlay illustrations, filters, icons, and text. You can use the illustrations and icons provided in the library or upload your own.
Pixelied also has some extra features, such as a background remover and custom borders.
Pricing: A free plan is available for Pixelied. The paid plan costs $9.95 per month or $84 per year. But you can get it on AppSumo for life with a one-time payment of just $59.
Crello and Pixelied are great tools for creating visuals. But depending on your needs, they aren’t always the best for sharing on social media. You can share directly to social media with Crello, but it doesn’t let you schedule the posts. Most people have to download the image and upload it to a social media scheduler and schedule their images to go out at the best time.
One way to avoid this is by using PromoRepublic, which lets you create images and schedule them from one dashboard.
It even has a calendar where you can see your scheduled posts and upcoming events to help you prepare timely content.
Pricing: PromoRepublic has a 14-day free trial. Plans cost $49 and $99 per month or $468 and $950.40 per year. There’s also a custom plan. But on AppSumo, you can get it for life for a one-time payment of just $49.
Canva is probably the most popular online graphic editor with over 30 million users. You can use it to create both images and videos. Canva is ubiquitous because it’s free, easy to use, and offers over 420,000 templates and 75 million stock photos, videos, and audio. The tool also makes it possible for the entire team to contribute. It recently introduced social media scheduling, which lets you schedule to seven social media platforms.
Be sure to check out our Canva review to learn how to use this powerful tool.
Pricing: Canva has a generous free plan, but to access all features, you must upgrade to Pro. It costs $12.99 per month or $119.99 per year. There’s also an enterprise plan that costs $30 per month/person.
Snappa is another image editor you can use to quickly create visuals for various platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. You can pick a template, add images from their library of 5 million+ stock photos and overlay text and illustrations.
You can directly share your creations on social media or schedule them by taking advantage of its integration with Buffer.
Pricing: Snappa starts with a free plan, but you can only download three images with it. For unlimited downloads, you need the Pro plan. It costs $15 per month or $120 per year. There’s also a team plan that costs $30 per month or $240 per year.
Here are some tips to help you design better social media graphics.
1. Narrow down a goal
Choosing a goal is crucial as different types of images serve different purposes. For example, if you want more engagement with your text content, you should create quote images or infographics like this one:
View this post on Instagram
This image includes all the information the user needs without them having to visit an external link. People will be more likely to remain on the network, engage with your image, and comment on it.
On the other hand, if you want traffic, you should create an image like the one below that describes the page users will visit and offers a preview:
In this example, the audience can see the name of the recipe, a brief description, and the ingredients involved. But to see the actual steps, they’ll need to visit the website.
These images will drive less engagement since the user will leave the social network to visit your website. But if the goal is to get traffic, you’ve just whipped up the perfect image.
2. Decide which network you are creating it for
You should choose the social networks you are creating the images for based on the demographics and the goal.
For example, if you want to reach the 18-to-34 age group and your goal is engagement, then Instagram is ideal.
Meanwhile, Pinterest may be better suited for traffic goals and target a different demographic.
3. Create unique images for each network
Different types of images work well on different networks. On Facebook, it’s usually landscape images. Instagram, on the other hand, favors square images, and Pinterest goes for portrait images. Instead of posting the same image on all networks (and risking unfortunate cropping), you should create a unique one for each.
To save time, you can use Crello. It has a feature that automatically resizes the image you’ve created for different networks.
Crello has also preset templates for each social network that you can take advantage of. For added assistance, there are also companies like Viral Marketing Stars that sell ready-to-use templates for designing social media graphics.
4. Follow a theme
You should maintain consistency while creating your images. If you follow a uniform brand style, your followers will recognize your posts in their feeds immediately, whether you publish them on your account or someone else does it on theirs.
A strong visual theme can catalyze your growth on new social networks. Fans who already follow you on other networks will follow you on the new network, too. For an example of creative consistency, check out Tony’s Chocolonely:
The company remains very consistent in its visual identity by only using red and blue (or a combination of both) in its images. It also uses the same font in white.
Maintaining this level of consistency is easy as most online editors contain branding kits where you can save design elements like fonts, color palettes, and logos.
5. Use negative space
A common mistake marketers make while creating social media images is drowning the image with text and icons. When you overcrowd an image, it can look chaotic and throw your viewers off, since they won’t know where they’re supposed to pay attention. This is why you should take advantage of negative space.
Negative space simply refers to the space present around the main elements of the design. Space helps divert attention to the most critical parts of the image.
Here’s an example of negative space done right from Creative Fabrica:
The text stands out here because the image isn’t crowded with too many elements. Most of the activity occurs in the area readers should be focusing on: the title. The contrast between the black text over the silver dial as well as between the silver button and the blue background also helps.
6. Engage before you sell
Just like with any other form of marketing, you should engage before you sell on social media. When you engage your intended audience, you build trust and credibility. They’ll pay more attention to you when you sell.
Plus, engaging before selling favors social media algorithms. Most algorithms on feeds show posts to people who have engaged with you previously. If you focus on this strategy, your reach will improve—then when you publish a more sales-focused post, more people will see it.
But if you only create posts that sell products, fewer people will see the post and interact with it. After all, no one wants to be sold to constantly. A “sell, sell, sell” mindset can also cost you followers. A good ratio to maintain is helpful or entertaining content 80% of the time, interspersed with promotional posts 20% of the time.
For some ideas, check out the Califia Farms Instagram account. You’ll find a lot of posts like this one that don’t directly promote products:
View this post on Instagram
These posts share recipes to nurture followers and build trust. Among them are promotional posts that feature Califia Farms products. You’ll also find posts like this one that combine promotion and education:
View this post on Instagram
It’s a recipe video, but it also features one of Califia Farm’s products as an ingredient. Some viewers may buy the product to create the recipe.
This works for Califia Farms because it’s creating content for a specific audience: those looking for healthy non-dairy recipes or vegan recipes. Informative and useful content attracts followers and nurtures them, while posts promoting products generate sales.
Publish your best work on social media today
Creating and publishing social media graphics and videos takes more time than just publishing text posts. But the rewards of dedicating this extra time to your images are substantial.
So make sure to reserve a few hours each month for brainstorming and creating unique images and videos. You can cut this time short by several hours with social media graphic design tools.
If you want to find the best tools for a fraction of the price, check out the AppSumo store. We’ve got tons of lifetime deals for social media image design tools, video creation tools, and templates. Now get out there and get creative!