4 Tips to Create Better Blog Graphics

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I begged my girl Mickey to write this post for you guys, because creating aesthetically pleasing images is not only helpful in blogging, it’s downright necessary.

She didn’t want to give away all of her secrets (I don’t blame her), but she was down for giving you a few pointers to help you create better blog graphics. Mickey has been doing it on Horkey HandBook’s behalf for awhile now and it’s easily apparent when I try to do one of my own. 😉

Take it away Mickey!

Creating good blog graphics is becoming the norm in the blogging world.

You need graphics if you want to share your blog post on social media. Graphics not only help you establish your brand online, they make your posts easier to read and they help others share your posts more easily with their own audience.

In this post, I’ll share four things to pay attention to when you create a graphic for your blog.

Disclaimer: I am not a graphic designer, and I don’t claim to be one. I’m not claiming to be an expert either. I’m just a graphic design enthusiast who has reached these conclusions through old-fashioned trial-and-error and a lot (a lot!) of independent study.

Sometimes, I am mortified as I look at images that I created a year ago, and find about one hundred ways they can be improved. I’m sure my style and process will continue to evolve and change, just as it should.

Another thing worth mentioning is that I’m a natural simplifier.

I believe in the beauty of simplicity and “less is more” is not just a cliche as far as I’m concerned.

This is why I tend to use fewer fonts, fewer words and fewer colors in my images than most people.

Gina says that creating graphics is my superpower. Alas, no. My superpower lies in gathering resources that I constantly consult when I need to create graphics.

I’ll share some of these resources in this post.

As always, my advice is to try it out and use what works for you.

So try stuff. And don’t get bogged down by the many options. You have to start somewhere and you can always course correct along the way. I guarantee you will!

I was one of the early adopters of Canva and I use the free version for creating graphics. PicMonkey is another great alternative, but it’s not as versatile. Although the learning curve for Canva is a little bit steeper than for PicMonkey, especially for a newbie, I think you should try it. The free Canva Design School will walk you through the basics of how to use the tool, while also teaching you basic graphic design principles.

Your images don’t have to look perfect.

But there are ways to DIY the images to make them look professional and aesthetically pleasing.

Here are four tips to get you started:

1. Use an Image That Doesn’t Look Like Stock

I’ve had my fair share of sitting through corporate presentations and being bored by Powerpoint slides.

How to Create Better Blog GraphicsPretty much around the same time is when I became allergic to stock images that look like stock images.

You know what I’m talking about.

The one in which everyone is smiling as if they’re in a toothpaste commercial.

And they’re awkwardly shaking hands and smiling. And they’re all dressed in starched business attire… and smiling.

And there’s this woman who’s holding a giant clock in her hand to symbolize time management. And she’s smiling.

Yeah, I wouldn’t touch those with a ten foot pole.

There are so many websites out there that offer free Creative Commons Zero photographs that are fresh, authentic and definitely don’t look like stock images.

Almost too many sites, really.

It’s easy to get lost in them and spend hours scrolling through pictures looking for the perfect one for that post. I’ve been there, done that and came up with a system.

Enter Unsplash

I source most of my images from Unsplash. It’s a website where users upload pictures agreeing to publish them under Creative Commons Zero (sometimes written as CC0 or cc0).

Why do they agree to this? Simply for the exposure that a site like Unsplash brings to a photographer. It’s akin to a freelance writer doing guest posts to attract an audience and get portfolio samples.

Unsplash sends out an email every 10 days with a collection of 10 pictures curated by a creative entrepreneur. And when people source images from Unsplash, that’s where they generally stop.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But the downside is that your site will end up looking like all the others that have used the same photo. (Gina: I’ve been SO guilty of this in the past!)

But not you! You’re smart enough to take that extra step.

The extra step is to create a free account on Unsplash, and get access to an ever-growing library of photos. It is literally growing every day as new users add high-quality pictures under the Creative Commons Zero. Creating the free account will allow you to curate your own collections.

So whenever I have time, I create collections of photos that I might use in blog graphics.

When I need to create a blog post image, I don’t have to scour the internet for the right photo. I just go to my collections and pick one, download it and upload it in Canva.

That way, I’m not going on a wild goose photo chase when I’m on a deadline.

Other resources for Creative Commons photos:

Please double check the copyright to the images on these sites before using them in your graphics.

2. Use an Overlay to Create Contrast

Once I’ve chosen my image, and uploaded it in Canva, the first thing I do is add an overlay. Adding text straight on the image can make the text hard to read. I use the overlay as a buffer to create contrast for the text to stand on.

Some bloggers add an overlay over the entire image (and that looks great!), but I usually add the overlay only to the middle portion of the image. I still want the original image to be visible, and not just a shadow in the background.

You can opt out of adding the overlay if the image you’ve chosen has a lot of white space where you can add the text.

For example, take this blog graphic from a post written by Gina.

ProTip Add an overlay to your blog graphic
The left image has no overlay. Notice how the text blends in with the background?

Pro tip: I start with a white overlay, and then adjust the transparency from there. You can also start with a black or grey overlay and use the transparency of the overlay to adjust the “feel” of your image.

3. Use Fonts Judiciously

Choosing fonts that look good together is really hard.

There are so many options, and even more ways of combining them.

My first rule of thumb is not to use more than three fonts per blog graphic.

My second rule of thumb is to combine serif fonts and sans-serif fonts. Why? Serif fonts by themselves are hard to read on a screen. Sans serif fonts balance them.

(Don’t know what in the world I’m talking about and who this sheriff is? Check this out!)

Also, don’t fall into the trap of only using script fonts. You may have fantasies of your blog graphic looking as if it was penned by Jane Austen herself, but that’s not the effect it has on others.

Readability matters.

There’s no way you will get your message across if your audience can’t even read it.

ProTip Don't use just script fonts for your blog graphics
Script fonts are hard to read. Limit to one, if you must use script.

My favorite combination now is to pair a bold square font with a script font.

Speaking of fonts, do you ever pay attention to spacing? You should. Both to the spacing between the letters and the spacing between the lines.

Say it again. READABILITY!

Pro Tip Pay attention to font spacing
I might have exaggerated with spacing faux pas in the picture on the left. But it proves my point.

Typography is a fascinating and intricate subject, and graphic designers study it in many a courses. There’s that much to say about it.

Instead, here are some resources that will help you with choosing and pairing fonts.

  • Typegenius – To find a good font combination.
  • Evoking Emotions Through Typography – A very informative presentation from a graphic designer about the effects that fonts have on our emotions.
  • Wordmark.it If you want to know how a certain text will look written in different fonts. Just type the word or phrase and see it appear in hundreds of different fonts.

4. Use Colors Judiciously

The possibilities are endless. Go wild!

Kidding.

Not so fast.

Canva informs me that there are 16 million colors to choose from on the color wheel. Talk about analysis paralysis.

There are entire university courses on how to choose the best colors for your brand. And if you have a degree in Marketing, you’ve almost certainly had to sit through a class in Color Psychology.

These are the three rules of thumb that I use:

1. Keep the color combinations simple and consistent.

Use roughly the same colors in all of the graphics that you design.

Preferably those are also the colors of your branding elements. It will make it easier for your audience to associate that color palette with your website or blog.

2. HEX codes are your friends.

You know that combination of numbers and letters that looks like a censored swear word?

Those are the hex codes.

You can use them to make sure that your branding uses the same colors throughout. I know and use the same hex codes for all the images I create for Gina’s website.

3. Be easy on the eyes.

Choose colors that are easy to read over the image that you’re using as a background.

Make sure there is contrast between the images and the background.

And unless you want your blog graphic to resemble a flyer for mattress liquidation sale, go easy with the flashy colors. There’s a time and a place for that. The time is never and the place is inside a highlighter.

Pro Tip: Use colors that stand out and are easy to read
Colors should stand out and be easy to read.

Some people seem to be born with an eye for color, and they’re the ones who usually have a great eye for fashion too. Me, not so much. That’s why I use these resources when in doubt.

  • Color guide for content marketing – A crash course in color theory.
  • Brandcolors – These are the hex codes for the world’s biggest brands. Coca-Cola? They’re such a ed1c16. Facebook? That baby is 3b5998.
  • Coolors – Hit the space bar and it will generate color schemes for you.
  • DeGraeve – Enter the URL of an image and it will reveal the hex codes and the palette.

In Conclusion

If you want to improve the blog graphics that you’re creating, here’s my honest (and very obvious) piece of advice: Always be learning.

Learn from free resources online, such as the ones I linked to.

Learn from what others are doing.

Google “boutique graphic design studios.” Take a look at their portfolio pages. Not just an “Aww, that’s cute” look. Study their designs and ask yourself why they did it that way. Why did they choose that font spacing? What effects does the color have on me, the person looking at the design? What can I learn from their font pairing?

Always be curious. Never copy. Always learn.

Do you have any other tips for creating blog graphics? I’d love to read them. It’s part of that learning thing I was mentioning…

71 thoughts on “4 Tips to Create Better Blog Graphics”

  1. Thanks Mickey for sharing the tips.

    Overlay creates a great impact on the images. I use Canva for all my design needs. Aprt from Unspalsh, I use Pixabay for my background images. Most of the time, I prefer the minimal design by playing with the text. Being a non-being graphic designer, II always Google for color combinations.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for this information-packed post, Mickey! (The visual aids really help too!)

    I used Canva for a little while but struggled with some (perhaps overly-OCD) tweaks I wanted to make to the final product. I’ve actually found that I can put together great graphics in Power Point of all places! I can do overlays, font shapes, and even picture editing — though I still do most of that in PicMonkey.

    Reply
  3. Thank you SO much for all these resources. I am so, so, so terrible at anything related to graphic design, but as you said, as long as I keep trying new things and learning, it can only get better. Thanks for teaching me some tricks. 🙂

    Reply
    • There are entire manuals dedicated to the art of typography, so there’s always a lot to know.

      I thought people might enjoy a quick and easy explanation instead. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Thanks for this post. Love the tips especially #1! I discovered Canva earlier this year and love it! Easy to use, even for me. 😀

    I’d recommend getting feedback for different perspectives and ideas of what works and what doesn’t.

    Reply
    • Yup, Canva is easy to use. It might have a lot of bells and whistles, but you don’t have to learn them all at once. You most certainly shouldn’t use them all at once 🙂

      Reply
  5. I have been assigned a project to create images in Canva and create a blog post and I have never done this before. I’m struggling with it all. Your post helped give me a little guidance. Thank you.

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  6. Really great tips, Mickey! I definitely need to cut down on the time I spend finding and tweaking my graphics. Your post will help me so much with that. And this helps me be brave about putting text over my images again. It can be so frustrating sometimes!

    Reply
    • I used to spend so much time going through all the stock photo websites in search for that “one perfect picture”. There is no such thing as that “one perfect picture”. You have to tweak it to look good, but don’t expect it to complete your life 🙂

      Reply
  7. Such a great post! I feel like I have so much to learn, but with these resources and your tips for using them, I now feel like I can do it. Thanks for writing this!

    Reply
    • Honestly, I think the free version has so many great features already. The only thing I miss is the ability to copy/paste from one design to another. I’ve found workarounds for that, and my volume is not as large so as to bust my productivity.

      I say learn Canva first. That way, you’ll know exactly if the Premium version adds anything to what you’re already doing with the free version.

      You can always try it for free for 30 days.

      Reply
  8. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m shocking at graphic design and still learning Canva – I can’t wait to put some of these awesome tips to practice!

    Reply
    • I so know what you mean. I’ve been there, done that.

      It’s easier to exercise self-restraint when you work for clients with a deadline 🙂

      Reply
  9. Wow, this is some great stuff Mickey! I also get free pics weekly from picjumbo by subscribing. He also offers access to hundreds of pictures for cheap (was it $9 or $19?). And if you get on AppSumo’s email list, they offer a deal from deposit photo every 6 months or so. I think it’s 100 photos (you choose) for $25.

    I also found out about Pablo by Buffer last week and started playing with it. It’s pretty simple for a newbie like me. Canva had me a little overwhelmed, but I know it’s the bomb!

    Reply
    • I tried Pablo a while ago, when it was still in beta.

      I found it a bit limiting, and what I created for one of my clients ended up looking very much like all the other stuff that was floating on Twitter.

      But I think they’ve added to that since I last tried it. I remember I got an email from Buffer in which they were pushing it really hard, so it must be good.

      Thanks for the photo tips as well, Vicki 🙂

      Reply
  10. Who can’t benefit from better graphics?

    This is a great primer, bookmarked for reference.

    Thank you Mickey and Gina for helping me enhance my skills, learn, and grow.

    Reply
    • Seriously, they have so many loyal fans, it’s no wonder they’re disrupting their slice of the market. And they offer so much for free.

      Reply
  11. This is amazing information – just what I was looking for to set up me new website. I’ve gotten into perfection paralysis and overwhelm, and just as you say, it has stopped my progress dead in its stinky tracks.

    Thank you so much Mickey and Gina. You rock!
    ~Cate

    Reply
    • Oh, you’re so welcome, Cate!

      Now challenge yourself to make something in half an hour. Seriously, set the timer in Google and only allow yourself 30 minutes to get an image done. Then save it, and come back to it another day if you’re still not happy with it.

      It works wonders for “perfection paralysis”.

      Reply
  12. Congrats, this is an awesome post and every blogger should read it. And I really mean that!
    Graphic design is something we all struggle with, but there are tools out there to make it easier. When I discovered Canva, I fell in love with it, and I have gradually improved my graphics over time. The only tip of yours I do not already follow is using stock images. I always try to take my own pics. They may not look very professional, but they make me recognize my posts as my own.

    Reply
  13. Hi Mickey,
    Thanks for the great tips. I especially love your tips on fonts and spacing. I often see stuff of stock images, but not as much on the fonts and colors you need to pick.

    Question for you: How do you get the overlay on only part of the image in Canva? I know how to adjust the transparency so the entire image looks like that but can’t figure out how to do the overlay.

    Thanks!
    Corinne

    Reply
    • From Elements > Shapes. I usually select any square shape and adjust it with my cursor. Once you have that open, you’ll see that the Transparency options shows up. Adjust from there.

      Reply
  14. I’ve started using the paid version of PicMonkey, and it has so many more options! I like Canva too and love how it’s easy to make everything symmetrical. One thing I have been doing is keeping my fonts and colors consistent with my branding across the board. That way when someone sees your graphics, they are recognizable.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, Amanda. That’s what the pros recommend too. I’m curious why you think PicMonkey Pro is worth it more than free Canva.

      Reply
  15. This is such a helpful post, Mickey! And it came at just the right time for me as I was trying to figure out how to improve my images for my blog. So much to learn–but set the timer for 30min. and at least start learning something as you mention in the comments above! I’ll be saving this post & referring back to it a lot!

    Reply
  16. So many great resources mentioned here. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been playing with Canva for almost a year and am looking forward to checking out Unsplash and Typegenius. Thanks!

    Reply
  17. This rocks Mickey! I’m a little late to the party but I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the tip and resources.

    I especially liked all the side by side comparisons that went along with the tips. It helped to visualize exactly what to avoid. Cheers!

    Reply
  18. Hi, brilliant tips. This is just what I need. I use Canva and Pixlr editor. I used to just copy paste picture from the free source. I mean there is nothing wrong with Pixabay for ex., but for branding is not very good. You are not taken very serious. Thanx for sharing these great tips with us.

    All the best,
    Rahela

    Reply
  19. I’m going to bookmark this post. As a romance writer, I’m going to be posting my stories on my author site in serial format. Due to the adult content, I don’t plan to make the posts public, BUT, I wanted a way to bring in readers. I think creating image quotes on Twitter and FB will be safer. LOL

    Reply
  20. Mickey and Gina, this was an amazing article. I am newer to Horkey HandBook but I’m already a big fan. This post is definitely one to bookmark. Thank you both! – Kari

    Reply
  21. Reading this article couldn’t have come at a better time. I spent 2 hours tonight trying to design 1 creation for my blog. Thanks to this article my next design on Canva went extremely smooth!

    Reply

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