Death, taxes, and now — Facebook timeline. Whether you accepted your fate graciously as an early adopter or kicked and screamed until Facebook forced the new profile upon you, there’s only one thing to do at this point. Design your cover photo.
For all of timeline’s faults, it provides a golden opportunity to showcase yourself or your business. It’s essentially free internet billboard space, and on the worlds most popular website no less. You shouldn’t let it go to waste. So without further ado, let’s get started!
Cover Photo Dimensions
Cover photos are basically 850 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall, but your primary profile picture violates the bottom margin a bit on the left hand side. As you’ll be able to see from the cover photo design inspiration examples I’ve included below, there are some pretty cool things you can do to play off that setup and the other geography the new layout provides, like the “Like” button directly below where the cover photo sits on Facebook pages, which leads us to…
Cover Photo Guidelines
Anyone who has explored the subject of cover photos knows that Facebook has taken a lot of the fun out of them. Here’s what Facebook has to say:
All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.
Covers may not include:
i. price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
ii. contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
iii. references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
iv. calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”
So What Should I Put on my Cover Photo?
Since contact information and calls to action are technically not supposed to be used, it can be hard to decide what to use this big space for. Ultimately, you need to decide what kind of impression you want to give, because it’s the main thing that differentiates your presence on Facebook from anyone elses. Do you want people to think of you/ your brand as funny? Classic? Stylish? Deep? Minimalist? Smart? The nouns are endless. Start by deciding what kind of atmosphere you want to conjure and then decide what to present, that will tell you how to present it.
- Images of Company Founders
- Images of Staff
- Images of your Product or Service
- Images of your Happy Customers
- Your Office, Inside or Out
- Your Desk or Workspace
- Most Popular Products
- Awards You’ve Gotten
- Pictures of your Glorious Self
- Handwritten Notes or Doodles
- Images Relevant to Your Life Events
- You in an Interesting Environment
- References to Memes or Current Events
- Awards You’ve Won
- When in Doubt, Cats, or Your Pet
Cover Photo Design Templates
To make your life easier, I’ve created two Photoshop templates that you can use to design your cover photo, one for pages and one for personal profiles. Cover photos are the same size on both, so technically you can use either template for pages and profiles, but the layout of the buttons and features are slightly different depending on what you’re designing for. Point being, if you want to call attention to a specific element, let the corresponding template be your guide. Beware of the terms and conditions and violate them at your own peril.
The Anatomy of Your Design Template
The template includes three layers.
- FACEBOOK FRAME [ top layer ]. This lets you design your cover photo and profile picture in the context of the layout.
- DEFAULT PROFILE/ PAGE IMAGE [ second layer ]. This sits over the cover photo layer because it’s designed to overlap it.
- COVER PHOTO [ third layer ]. This is where you design your cover photo, beneath the frame and default profile image.
Our templates include guides that make it easy for you to crop your images when you’re done creating them. You can make them invisible when you’re creating your design if they distract you by going to the top navigation and selecting View > Show > Guides.
When your design is ready to be cropped, simply use the rectangular marquee tool to select the cover photo area and the guidelines will do the precision work for you. Then you can either drag your cover photo to be the top layer of the stack or delete the Facebook frame and profile picture layers so that you get a clean cover photo image. Crop it and you’re good to go.
As far as your profile image goes, you won’t be able to crop it from the template and then upload it at that size. Facebook requires that your default page or profile image be at least 180 pixels wide, but in the actual profile display it’s not quite that big. You can crop it from the template and then enlarge it to 180 pixels by going to Image > Image Size from the top navigation without losing too much detail. If that ends up looking too fuzzy you can hit it with the sharpen tool or recreate the profile photo in a 180 pixel square.
Cover Photo Design Ideas
What follow are some of the best examples of various cover photo designs I’ve seen. I tried not to hit you on the head with too many of the same type of thing in this post- for instance, there are 1,000 versions of intersecting the profile picture with the cover photo and a lot of them are cool, but you don’t need to see 30 of them to get the point.
The Livestrong Facebook page presents very cohesive branding, coordinating not only the cover photo and profile image but the apps below as well. A shining example of how much you can do to bring a Facebook page together and make it your own.
Saint Clair Family Estate’s cover photo makes elegant and effective use of the intersection between the profile picture and cover photo.
Coca-Cola has always been brilliant at marketing. This falls into their typical and wildly effective “Coke isn’t a soda, it’s a fun, carefree lifestyle” approach. Notice the bubbles on the cover photo and how they appear to be rising from the bottle in profile picture, a soft way to tie the two pictures together without being too heavy handed.
The Order of the Good Death‘s cover photo reinforces its subject matter, demonstrating the importance of the right photograph and its ability to create atmosphere for your page.
At first glance, the Today Show‘s cover photo may not appear particularly creative or interesting. It’s actually the best play they had though, because even people who don’t watch the show are familiar with those faces sitting together in that setting. It invokes a sense of familiarity and comfort, even though you probably don’t watch that show on purpose.
It’s also the perfect emotional juxtaposition to the example before it, so keep in mind that the lighting and tone of your photo will create a big difference.
The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab cover photo uses pictures of their product, but since their creations are primarily olfactory that doesn’t necessarily mean give you much information about them. What truly sets BPAL apart from any other perfume company is that their scents pair with niche subjects and activities. Here, they show their RPG series alongside D20′S and a myriad of other dice any DND or Pathfinder player would instantly recognize, which is a good play indeed.
This is what cover photos are really intended to be- 100% graphic with no calls to action, and it’s a visually engaging example. Nice work and nice legs, Swedish Hasbeens.
Because everyone loves you, you’re going to get a lot of birthday wishes, so many in fact that you won’t be able to respond to all of them. Apparently that’s what cover photos are for! In this example, Matthew Peteshel thanks his well-wishers and invites them to a show he’s playing, both prime examples of clever and utilitarian cover photo applications.
is was the beauty editor for xoJane.com and much beloved train-wreck. She also sports a lovely cover photo, lending her profile a classic Polaroid-esque/ scrapbook feel.
Jared Leto‘s cover photo is a good example of how your cover photo and profile picture can play off one another and be complimentary without literally intersecting. I like the contrast of presenting the long-range profile view in the small box and the intimate, close-up in the larger area. Artistic and effective, Jared Leto. Very Requiem for a Dream of you.
Hey, that’s me! My cover photo is designed to coordinate with the site you’re currently on.
Cover photos like Anthony Tulliani‘s definitely require a template to get the intersection between the cover photo and profile pictures perfectly lined up. This is one of the better executions I’ve seen, but the options are endless.
Jessica Barnard‘s cover photo is a good example of how much you can do with this space. It’s personable, charming and attractive, but it also cross pollinates her other social media accounts and highlights her professional services.
I’m not quite sure what message Rafa Ferro is trying to send, but I like this.
If you found this post helpful or downloaded a template, please share it!