I have made an effort to keep high quality post images a priority at WPCandy. You won’t find a post here, since the relaunch, lacking a bright, mostly relevant image at the top.
I make sure posts always have them because I like them. I like looking at them, and I think they provide the right energy as you’re starting the post. I like when we can use a large, high quality logo. I like when we create one specifically for the post. I really like it when an image is only parallely connected to the content, but that adds something to it in its own way. It’s our own form of art direction.
After receiving some positive comments here and there about our post images, I thought I would share some of my own techniques and advice for creating them.
The attractive blog image
Keep in mind I’m speaking purely from personal preference: these tips are those I use because I like the way it looks. There are plenty of other reasons, and ways, to use images in blog posts, of course. In this case we’re going to focus on the images that sit at the very tip top of a post.
I would recommend choosing a standard image size to work with, primarily because knowing what size each image you create will be leaves one less question when you pop open Photoshop. It also means the templates that I’m about to give you, and that you create for yourself, will be helpful in the future. At WPCandy we use images that are 600 pixels wide and typically 200 to 300 pixels tall, depending on the image. We use 600 pixels for the width because that’s the width of our post area.
I wouldn’t say I have a system that I use, but looking at my PSD creation habits, it seems there may be an unconscious pattern there. There are a few templates, or forms, I seem to use pretty regularly:
- The image and headline
- The centered peek-a-boo
- The large logo
- The special image
I’ll show you how I do each of these, hopefully give a few pointers, and provide a couple of templates at the end of the post that should help.
Image and headline post image
First is the image and headline. This is a solid standby. See our posts How to organize your content with WordPress custom taxonomies and The world’s best (and only) WordPress podcasts for examples of this format in place. In general, it’s going to look like this:
Really it’s just a visual representation of the header, and honestly doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. But it’s a nice kick that says “this guy spent a couple of minutes on this post”. In a sea of bloggers, people trying desperately to get noticed, this sort of thing will stand out.
Peek-a-boo post image
The second format I’ve used is the centered text peek-a-boo. Can you tell I’m making these names up as I go? Yeah, I do.
For certain posts there isn’t so much a headline as there is a question. Or perhaps a statement. See Jump in the WPCandy pool to guess the release date for WordPress 3.1 and WPCandy’s 2010 year in review for examples.
So in general, it will look something like this:
I like it because while it’s very simple, it tends to make a pretty bold statement at the top of a post. With the WordPress logo, a vibrant color, and a decent typeface we have another worthwhile banner template.
The large logo image
Logos are fun because you don’t see them large very often. Sometimes, when a story is about a business itself, maybe more than a new product or feature, we’ll use a large logo to make the story pop a bit.
When it comes to tracking down logos, I would recommend you just ask for them. Shoot off an email requesting a large format logo for your blog post, and odds are you will hear back before long with a nice big Illustrator or Photoshop file in your inbox.
Special one time images
Sometimes a special kind of post calls for something more than one of these regular formats. A good example would be the Future of WordPress Themes post a week or so back. Rather than use one of the templates, sometimes it’s best to break the mold a bit and get—oh what’s that word—creative. I wish I had made a screencast of the process of making that image, as I went through a number of renditions before settling on the final.
I’m not sure how much guidance I can give you in terms of being creative. Creativity is something you practice, not something you can really perfect and outline. One tip I would offer: use desktop wallpapers. I’ve used them a couple of times. The really well done backgrounds also look great in the backgrounds of post images.
Download a few PSD templates
Below you will find a link to download a ZIP file with a couple of the templates I have described here. Hopefully it will help you get started with a few of these techniques. Do what you like with these Photoshop files: I won’t come after you for using them.
If you find these helpful, why not consider powering WPCandy for a stretch of time? There are a few options available, depending on how much you are able to give. Doing so makes it possible for us to do awesome stuff like this, for everyone.
How do you make post images?
Do you spend time on your post images? If not, might you reconsider now and put a bit more time into the graphic end of your blogging?
Just for fun, I recorded the process of creating the post image used for this very post. It’s not extremely insightful, but hopefully it will show the kind of time, though, and experimentation you should be willing to commit to for your blog post images.