Friday, November 14, 2014

Add Another Dimension: Online Graphics

Today I’m ecstatic to share with you some tips on making graphics for Pinterest, other social media, or, especially, your blog. I’m sure you’ve heard the advice that says use pictures in your blog post. I’ve suggested this myself. There are multiple reasons for this, but one of them is to make your posts easier to share, especially on Pinterest. Well, many bloggers take that to another level by not only including pictures, but creating graphics specifically for a post. I do this relatively often, though not necessarily for every single post. So here are some thoughts on creating graphics for your blog. But first, a graphic. Hehe.

Graphic for Graphics blog post 5

It’s easy to go overboard when creating graphics. There’s so much you can do, and it can be really fun. But overboard is not going to help you. When creating graphics, remember one thing: SIMPLICITY IS BEST. So, with that overarching theme, let’s get into some details.


When you set out to make a graphic, think about it for a moment. What’s the point of this graphic? Is it to share to Pinterest as a standalone picture or quote? Is it to illustrate a blog post? To link to a blog post? Why you’re making this graphic is important in establishing how you’ll make it. Here are some examples of graphics I’ve made for each case that I’m happy with:

Standalone for Pinterest

Picture montage Shakespeare and Bilbo quote

Though they’re small, you get the gist. I made each of these specifically to pin a quote I wanted to put on Pinterest. You can find the actual pins here and here. The thing to remember with Pinterest is that it’s all online and visually driven. Complicated graphics are tiring to the eyes online, so when the whole point of the graphic is to be seen, you especially want to be simple. If the text of your pin is long, then you’ll want a background that is similar all the way through. You wouldn’t want a crazy mix of colors, because text is difficult to overlay legibly in that case. If your text is short, you have a little more flexibility. But make sure that the section you place the text on is simple.

Illustration for Blog

History Quote

 The text in this is a quote from the blog post it’s found in. I included it both for the purpose of giving the post a picture and for pinning. With blog illustrations, you want to keep in mind the same things as for pins. Since this is something people are supposed to see as they read through your post, make it readable. Don’t make the text too long, make the background uncluttered, and make the picture big enough to see.

For Sharing a Blog Post

Since I have a graphic for this post, I won’t include another example. It’s simple, has my blog’s name in the corner (that’s optional, but it probably helps with exposure), and has the title in large, legible text. You’re trying to catch someone’s attention in a good way so they’ll read the actual blog post. So, if something detracts from that purpose, get rid of it.


Okay, now that we’ve covered different purposes and looked at some examples, let’s get specific. To illustrate the different elements of making a graphic, I’m going to share some of the stages I went through in making this post’s graphic. First of all, there are plenty of places to make graphics for free. In the past, I’ve used Poster My Wall, which is a simple grab/upload-a-background-and-add-text kind of thing. You could also use Canva, which gives some options for more detailed work. But my personal favorite is good old Microsoft Publisher. You have more options there than you might expect, and by saving your work as a JPG, you’ve got a picture at your disposal.

Picture Montage graphics post

Usually I don’t go through this many rounds of work on my blog graphics, but this time my brain wanted to go a couple of different directions, so the results were all over the place. I created it entirely in Publisher.

  1. This was the original picture that I picked out for this graphic when I started the whole process. It looked neat and was the best vaguely-out-there picture I could find to capture the idea of dimensions. I decided on using “Agency FB” font early on in the process, and the color matched the picture without blending in and disappearing. I like to pick a simple color scheme for my graphics, usually only two colors, and I like drawing at least one of them out of the picture I’m using as a background. I messed with this version for a long time, but I finally decided that it didn’t have enough black space for the text. It kept running into the picture in a way that didn’t feel balanced to me.
  2. So, I started messing with cropping and adding black space, which led me to scrapping the original picture and going with a pure black background instead.  I added a striped border to the top and bottom and made it the same color as my text, which is still Agency FB. As for the arrows, I honestly don’t know why I added the one on the left to begin with. I must have been meaning to add a line of some sort, but I don’t think it was supposed to be that line. Still, I liked the effect, so I added another one. My blog name is usually one of the last things I add, so I obviously hadn’t finished that one completely. It bored me a bit, though, so I changed it again.
  3. At this stage, I went back to a picture. I love the colors in this one, and because they were totally different from my previous color scheme, I changed the font color to yellow. My blog address is also yellow, though somewhat darker because it’s on top of other colors. I didn’t like my previous font with this picture, so I changed it. I like this one because it has adequate blank space at the top, and the font color ties the text to the picture. I came really close to using this graphic, but then I was drawn back to the previous one.
  4. In an attempt to solve the boredom problem I previously had with this graphic, I added a crazy spiral. But then it was way too crowded. I had lost my simplicity principle, and I didn’t like the result at all.
  5. So, after removing the spiral, I messed around with the font. Number #5 is an example of my Agency FB, blue font with an outline effect. It looked super cool in Publisher, but, as you can see, it’s very difficult to see as a picture. Previewing your work is incredibly important. I added my blog address in purple down in the corner because I liked the contrast. Besides, I like using my blog colors (orange and purple) when I put my blog address on graphics. It adds a bit of continuity.
  6. When I really thought about the purple that I was using for my blog address, I realized I liked it a lot, so I decided to apply it to my title. Lo and behold, I had the contrast I needed. I was no longer bored by my graphic, which had previously been all the same color. Contrast is great for graphics, but it doesn’t have to be a drastic contrast.

So, why didn’t I go with #6? I only changed a couple of things. One was the effect on the font. That one is embossed, while I ended up putting no effect on the final product. I just preferred the crisper lines I got without embossing. I felt that it fit my topic and graphic better. The other change I made was very subtle. I wanted to make my blog name stand out just slightly more than it did. I felt I was losing it among the stripes. So, I added a rectangle over each of the borders, filled it with the same color as the stripes, and then made it mostly transparent. This softened the effect of the white stripes, allowing my blog address to not get lost.

Hopefully you got something helpful out all that. Here’s some summary, along with the thoughts that didn’t come out earlier:


  • Consider why you’re making this graphic and decide what you want it to accomplish before making it.


  • Keep your backgrounds simple. If you use a photo, make sure it has blank/similar space for text. But don’t be afraid to use colored backgrounds, either. I like using Publisher’s background tools for mixing colors.
  • Don’t use fancy text. Straightforward fonts are best – I use “Book Antiqua”, “Bookman Old Style”, “Bell MT”, and “Copperplate Gothic Light” most often. If you want to simulate handwriting, as I sometimes use with notebook/notepad backgrounds, I suggest fonts like “Monotype Corsiva” or “Papyrus.” Fonts with excessive loops will just be annoying on a screen, though.
  • Use a simple color scheme, with colors that both match and contrast, to some degree, your background. Don’t use colors that blend in too much or hurt the eyes.
  • Use elegant lines. If you want to stagger your text on different lines, go ahead, but make it match up somehow, maybe diagonally. I don’t suggest jumping all over the graphic, because that feels chaotic. Whatever you do, remember that those of us who use English as a first language read left to right.

So, what do you think? Did I use the right version of this post’s graphic? Ultimately, graphics are largely a personal preference. What you like may not be what someone else does, and what someone else likes may not fit your idea of what graphics should be. That’s okay. Create the image you want to represent yourself, and be happy with that. Just remember:

Simplicity is best.

Now, let me know in the comments: what do you like in graphics? Do you like creating graphics for your blog/Pinterest?

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