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Making a Facebook timeline cover photo without spending a penny

Updated on February 21, 2013

While structuring a Facebook page for a company, I came to the conclusion that I didn't have any particularly good images to use for the cover photo. Being an entity with no physical address, this company only exists (so to speak) online.

With over a billion users, a Facebook page's cover photo is prime real estate... That image should certainly be optimized to showcase the company's most valuable asset - its website. But how does one go about doing that in a simple and efficient manner?

The Basics

As with any other task, there is only one place to start - at the beginning. According to Facebook's help center, the cover photo should be 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall (we can talk about pixels elsewhere). If an image is smaller, Facebook will automatically stretch it to fit. However, it's important to know that Facebook won't accept a cover photo that is less than 399 pixels wide - you simply have to upload one that's wider. Can you upload one that's bigger? Absolutely... but Facebook will only display a portion of the image that fits into its standard dimensions (luckily, you get some say in the photo's positioning).

Having said that, you're reading this because you want to make an image yourself, not use one that's already floating around the internet. You could go the complicated route and buy all kinds of fancy software to do the job (Photoshop, anyone?).

Or, you could take the easy route by using a piece of software that's on every Windows PC - Microsoft Paint.

Creation

Based on the assumption that you know how to find Microsoft Paint on your computer and that you know how to open it, I'll spare you the redundant explanation.

Access this menu by navigating from "Image" to "Attributes" or simply by pressing Ctrl+E.
Access this menu by navigating from "Image" to "Attributes" or simply by pressing Ctrl+E.
Edit the dimensions to 851 pixels (width) X 315 pixels (height).
Edit the dimensions to 851 pixels (width) X 315 pixels (height).

By now, you likely have at least a rough idea of what you would like your cover photo to represent...

Starting with a blank canvas, we'll have to set the image parameters (the dimensions we discussed earlier) before we can do anything else. To do so, simply access the "Attributes" from the "Image" menu. You can also use the Ctrl+E shortcut to save yourself a couple mouse clicks.

Set the dimensions to 851 pixels (width) X 315 pixels (height).

Now, I know it seems early, but save your image (again, I'm assuming you know how to do this). You're thinking, "we haven't done anything yet." You're right... We've only created a template. A template that you'll use over and over again, each time you make a new cover photo. Call it "cover canvas" or something equally obvious. As a note, I recommend using the ".png" file format - it produces a cleaner graphic than a traditional ".jpg" format, particularly when text is inserted into the image.

Let's call this guy "Super Ivan."
Let's call this guy "Super Ivan."

Add to it

I happened to have this digitized (scanned?) sketch of a very muscular soldier dude with a hammer and sickle on his T-shirt. It fit with the company's theme, so I wanted to integrate that into the cover photo... we'll be using this image for the purpose of this exercise, but you can substitute one of your own, if you like.

Adding an image (like Super Ivan over there) to your existing cover photo template is quite simple. Open the target image with Microsoft Paint:

  • right-click the file
  • select "Open With" from the menu
  • select "Paint"

You'll then want to select (Ctrl+A) the image, copy (Ctrl+C) it from its source and paste (Ctrl+V) it into the destination template.

There's Super Ivan pasted into the formerly blank canvas.
There's Super Ivan pasted into the formerly blank canvas.

Now, you're thinking, "but what if my target image is too big?" That's a very valid question since a difference in size can drastically throw off the canvas dimensions. We'll get to resizing selections and entire images as well as other Tips and Tricks in MS Paint at another time. For the purpose of this exercise, the target image (Super Ivan) is the proper size.

By default, Microsoft Paint pastes your selection to align with the upper left corner (the technical "beginning" of an image, in computer terms) of the destination image. In other words, if Ivan was smaller, he would go to the upper left of the canvas when you paste him in rather than taking up the entire left side.

Keep Facebook's page layout in mind when you're structuring your cover photo, however. Remember that a page's profile photo cuts into the bottom left of the cover photo? We don't want to block off Ivan's legs, so we'll reposition him.

Since Ivan is still selected after being pasted, all you have to do is click on him, hold down the mouse button, and slide him over to another location in your template. We'll move him all the way to the right for this example. On the off chance that you happened to deselect him somewhere during this process, just use the "Select" function at the top of the toolbox to select him manually.

See?  Super Ivan slides right over.  Easy peasy.
See? Super Ivan slides right over. Easy peasy.

Add a Caption

Now it's time to add some text. See that big "A" button in the middle of the tool box? That's your Text Tool. Click it to activate... now draw the text box on the canvas:

  • Click the canvas where you want the box to begin
  • Hold down the mouse button
  • Drag the mouse to the point where you want the box to end and let go

Draw the text box by dragging the cursor across your canvas.
Draw the text box by dragging the cursor across your canvas.

With your text box in place, simply type your message or caption. This is a good place to showcase the URL to the company's website, for example.

Type your text in the box.
Type your text in the box.

And that's it... Obviously, you can add more images to the canvas (like we did with Super Ivan) or change the background color by using the Tool Box. But your main steps are:

  • Creating the canvas
  • Adding and modifying an image
  • Creating a caption

Of course, you'll want to save your new cover photo. Make sure you use the "Save As" function and give the file a different name. Otherwise, you'll just override the canvas template. As a reminder, use the ".png" file format instead of the default ".jpg" - it'll do a much better job of preserving image quality, especially if text is inserted to the canvas.

Is it fancy? No, definitely not. But it's quick, it's easy, and it's just the right size for Facebook.

Alternatives

Want fancier text? You can use a word processor (Microsoft Word, for example) with your favorite font to create your caption... then, crop the text from a screen shot to import to your canvas. We'll get into that kind of stuff in another Hub. Here's an example:

Example of text as an image, imported to the canvas.
Example of text as an image, imported to the canvas.

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    • Eddie Dagstanyan profile image
      Author

      Eddie Dagstanyan 4 years ago from California

      Thanks, Kimberly! Glad you found it useful. :) I look forward to writing more.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      Welcome to HubPages Eddie! This is an interesting, helpful, and well written hub! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • Eddie Dagstanyan profile image
      Author

      Eddie Dagstanyan 4 years ago from California

      Thank you, iguidenetwork. :) It's definitely not anything fancy, but it gets the job done in a hurry... I hope others will find it useful, as well.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

      This is really simple yet helpful hub, especially if you want a personalized and individual FB cover photo. This is really nice. Up and useful. :)