Tips for Creating a Facebook Cover Photo

by Sean Setters
 
In this day and age, Facebook is as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola (and maybe even more so). As such, I'm guessing that most of our site visitors have Facebook accounts. With that in mind, I thought I would share some things to keep in mind when making your profile cover photo.
 
First of all, the cover photo is that wide, panoramic-looking image that adorns the top of a user's profile. As a photographer, this space offers a great opportunity to show off your skills and/or creativity. But to create an image with the greatest impact, you need to understand the following:
 
1) The Facebook cover photo’s dimensions are 851 x 315 pixels.
Utilizing the space accordingly means having to keep that [uncommon] aspect ratio in mind. I strongly suggest uploading your cover photo at a resolution of 2048 x 768px so that it looks best when someone clicks on the image to view it full screen.
 
2) The image is blocked in several areas, either by the profile picture or by the user’s name or miscellaneous buttons.
Understanding where those visual blockages occur can help with deciding on your image's composition. We've designed a handy Photoshop CS5 (and later) template to help you out with that.
 
3) Facebook darkens the bottom part of your cover photo with a gradient.
Not only is a substantial amount of the bottom part of the image blocked by various buttons, but you'll notice that the bottom part of your cover photo image is darkened. Be sure to keep this in mind when choosing your image framing as this darkening can further de-emphasize this part of the image.
 
4) Only the bottom half of your cover image will be seen when someone loads your profile on a computer.
When someone clicks on your profile, only the bottom half of the cover photo is visible. The full cover photo is only displayed if the user scrolls up. Update: In Fall 2017, Facebook rolled out an update that displayes the entire cover photo when viewing user profiles. (thanks Rich!)
 
5) Your cover photo will look completely different on mobile devices as only the center part of your cover photo will be displayed.
If you care about how your image will look on mobile devices (and you probably should), then you must keep in mind that mobile devices will display only the middle-part of your image (just how much of the "middle-part" shows depends on the device's orientation and resolution).
 
Here's what you'll see when opening the Cover Photo Template:
 
Facebook Cover Photo Template TDP on Load

How to use the template:
 
  1. Crop your image using a ratio of 851 by 315. Downsize the image to 2048 pixels wide. Otherwise, simply import your photo at 100% resolution and downsize/position the image for optimal framing. If you import at 100%, you'll need to crop your cover photo before exporting it for use (851x315 ratio)
  2. Place the image in the layer group named "Place 2048px Cover Photo Here" and position the image so that it snaps into an upper corner of the template.
  3. If you'd like to watermark your image, place your watermark just above your cover photo layer and position it for optimal visibility, taking into account the areas of the image which will be covered by various elements.
  4. Use the template to preview how your cover photo will look on the initial load, full monitor and various mobile screens.
  5. If you imported a 2048px resolution image and you're happy with it, you can simply upload it to Facebook using the small camera icon at the top/left of your profile picture. If you imported a larger image, you'll need to turn off the overlay group layer and crop the image using an 851x315 ratio selection box and save the image for uploading.
You can toggle the visibility of the smartphone and initial view guide layer group to see your entire cover photo in all its glory. You can also get rid of the PS guides by pressing CONTROL+H for a much cleaner view.
 
Bonus Tip: The guides can be used to create a continuous cover photo where your image continues through your profile picture (like the one at the top of this post). In order to get it right, you'll need to do the following:
 
  1. Make a square selection on your cover photo layer that encompasses the part of the image that is covered by the profile picture.
  2. I'm not quite sure why, but to get it to line up just right on Facebook, you'll need to move the selection down by pressing the down arrow twice.
  3. Edit --> Crop
  4. Make the Overlay Group Layer invisible and save your new profile picture.
  5. When updating your profile picture on Facebook, be sure to set the Zoom/Crop to none. Otherwise, Facebook will default to a zoom/crop that does not include the white area at the bottom of the image.
Did I miss any good tips/considerations when making a cover photo? Let us know in the comments.
Posted: 7/27/2015 8:51:55 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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