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Making a Facebook Timeline Cover Photo: Tips and Tricks in MS Paint

Updated on February 20, 2013

Welcome Back

In a previous Hub about making a Facebook timeline cover photo, we discovered that simple graphics can be created without expensive software like Adobe Photoshop. Instead, Microsoft Paint (included with every PC that runs on a Windows operating system) offers a free and somewhat versatile solution for elementary graphic design. If you haven't read that Hub already, I recommend you do so just to brush up on the basics.

Now we can look a little further into the functions of MS Paint... I won't go into every single function - you can browse through the "Help" file included with the software for that. But, we'll cover some tips, some tricks, and some ideas to help guide you along.

"Print Screen" is Your Friend

Have you ever seen something on your screen that you wanted to convert to an image? Maybe it's not just a picture online... maybe it's a collection of open applications or chat windows. Did you know that you can capture what's on your screen? Yup, it's pretty cool... it's the "print screen" function.

It can be activated by pressing the "print screen" button (sometimes labeled as Prt Scr, Print Scrn, Prt Scn, or Prnt Scrn) generally located in the upper right section of your keyboard. Doing so will capture an image of your screen and temporarily store it on your computer's clipboard. You can also press Alt + Prt Scn to capture only the currently active window.

Remember this function... you'll be using it extensively with MS Paint. :)

Find the Button

Typical keyboard, Print Screen button is usually in the upper right region.
Typical keyboard, Print Screen button is usually in the upper right region. | Source

Text as an Image

Previously, we discussed the Text Tool built into MS Paint... It's quite basic, so it's understandable that you may want text that's a little bit more interesting.

While Paint will allow you to change text size, font, and color... neither background color changes or overall text spacing changes are possible without manual modification of the graphic. So, there is a quicker way to format your caption unless you're looking for simple black text.

Your caption in MS Word.
Your caption in MS Word.
Screen shot captured and pasted to MS Paint.
Screen shot captured and pasted to MS Paint.

You can use your favorite word processor (I use MS Word for this example) to type a message or caption in your favorite font and color. Depending on your word processor, you may be able to modify the background color of the text, as well. When done, transfer to MS Paint:

  • Print Screen (or Alt + Print Screen to capture only the active window, the word processor).
  • Open MS Paint.
  • Paste (Ctrl + V or right-click into the canvas, then "paste" from the pop-up menu).

This gives you the graphical basis for your text. You can save the entire screen shot or reposition the caption and crop the canvas to size.

TIP: As a reminder, save the image as a ".png" format instead of the default ".jpg" for better quality.

Cropped screen capture, text is now an image.
Cropped screen capture, text is now an image.

Cropping

You can crop the image to include only your text. Start by repositioning the image. Upon pasting your screen shot into the canvas, the entire image will be selected (if it isn't, press Ctrl+A to select all). Simply click the image, hold down the mouse button, drag it until the caption is close to the upper left corner of the canvas, and let go. There is no specific guideline for "close," whatever looks right to you.

TIP: Make sure to deselect the image after moving it - simply click outside of the selection.

Then, you can manually set the image size parameters as we discussed in the previous Hub. This may require a little trial and error as you set the image's pixel height and width. Remember, you can always reverse the most recent change - Click "Edit" and then "Undo" from the upper menu bar or use the Ctrl+Z shortcut.

Until you get the hang of pixel parameters and dimensions, it may be more practical to adjust the outer edges of the canvas by hand.

When looking closely at the outer edges of the canvas, you'll see small blue markers. The markers on the bottom can be clicked and dragged to adjust the canvas height. The markers on the right are for the canvas width.

TIP: The marker on the bottom right corner of the canvas (the one I've highlighted here with a red box) adjusts both height and width simultaneously.

Resizing

More often than not, the images you'll want to combine into one will be different sizes and may not fit well together. Some will need to be resized...

Our old friend, Super Ivan.
Our old friend, Super Ivan.

If you remember our previous discussion, a Facebook timeline cover photo must be 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall.

In his original form, Super Ivan here (being 284 pixels wide and 523 pixels tall) would offset the standard timeline canvas size significantly. So, we must shrink him to fit into the 315 pixel height requirement. You can practice with any image, but I'll use Ivan for this exercise.

Begin by opening the image with MS Paint - right click on the target file, then select "Paint" from the popup menu.

Adjusting the size of the target image (Super Ivan, in this case) doesn't take much effort.

  • Select the "Image" tab from the main menu.
  • Click "Resize/Skew" from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can use the Ctr+W shortcut.

From here, you'll see the popup window that allows you to adjust the size of the target image as a function of percentage. Note that the adjustments can be made independently... but doing so will stretch your image in odd ways that may not necessarily be useful.

Want to experiment? Adjust the horizontal but not the vertical size (or vice versa) and see what happens. You can always undo your most recent change by pressing Ctrl+Z. Go ahead, I'll wait... :)

Alright, back to it, then. For this exercise, we'll adjust both horizontal and vertical size simultaneously.

Knowing that Ivan's height of 523 pixels is too tall for Facebook's timeline cover photo guidelines, we'll need to shrink him to fit into a 315 pixel height. Calculating that the required 315 pixels is roughly 60% of the original 523 pixel height, we must reduce Ivan to 60% of his original size.

  • Enter "60" into both horizontal and vertical size boxes.
  • Press "OK" to confirm the change.

And voilĂ ... Ivan is now 171 pixels wide and, more importantly, 314 pixels tall.

TIP: Calculate the required adjustment easily - divide the desired measurement by the current measurement, then multiply by 100. For our example, 315 divided by 523 = .60, multiply by 100 to get 60. That's 60% target size. Same works for increasing size.

Skewing the Image

MS Paint also allows for adjustments of the image as a function of angle. The "Skew" option is accessible from the same menu as the "Resize" option.

  • Click "Image" from the main menu.
  • Click "Resize/Skew" from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can use the Ctr+W shortcut.
  • Enter values for horizontal and/or vertical skew between -89 and 89 degrees.

Examples below are with 45 degree skews, independent of each other.

Inverted Ivan
Inverted Ivan

Invert Colors

Inverting colors is the same as creating a negative... It produces the opposite color in the spectrum (not to be confused with complimentary colors on a color wheel, for instance).

  • Click "Image" from the main menu.
  • Click "Invert Colors" from the drop-down menu.

The effect isn't necessarily aesthetically pleasing... but it is eyecatching. I recommend using this one sparingly.

Combining Effects

The only thing left to do now is to combine your favorite target image(s) with the appropriate caption(s). Individually select each edited component (the resized Ivan or the text that we converted to an image), copy them, and paste them into your cover photo canvas. You can refer to the previous Hub for a reminders on how to set cover canvas parameters as well as how to select and transfer image components.

After combining all components into the main canvas, don't forget to save your image. Yet another redundant reminder... save with the ".png" format rather than the default ".jpg" format to preserve image quality, particularly of the text. Your end result should look something like the image below...

Source

TIP: You can perform each task in separate windows - or "instances," in technical terms - of Paint, if necessary. For example, you can resize an image in one window while converting text to image with a screen shot in another window. Paint is versatile in that it can exist in multiple instances, allowing the user greater flexibility in editing various components simultaneously.

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