Adapted from “The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.”
In July of 2014, LinkedIn started rolling out cover photos for all members, not just Premium LinkedIn account holders. This cover photo, like most other social networks, is a background photo for the top of your LinkedIn profile. It’s purpose is to help communicate quickly to viewers of your profile who you are and what you’re about.
But there are two significant problems with LinkedIn cover photos.
First, because of the professional nature of the network, it seems inappropriate to upload the personal kinds of photos commonly used on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter. Even an image that’s perfectly benign, like one of the provided textures, seems a complete waste. Instead, you should be using that space to help convey something about you or your business, right?
Second, and most importantly, as far as cover photos go, LinkedIn’s implementation is the most complex and therefore most challenging to create a graphic spectifically for it.
What I want to share with you in this article is how I went about creating my own branded graphic for use as a LinkedIn cover photo, and the assorted considerations that have to be made in order for it to work for you. This was an exercise that I went through in March and documented most of it in The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile within the section on cover photos, but since that guide is almost a year old, you may not have looked at it recently and realized all of the updates that have gone into it.
LinkedIn Cover Photo Requirements
LinkedIn, like all of the major social networks, has very unique and specific cover photo image requirements. This is information that I routinely monitor and keep updated, so you can be assured this information is current and accurate.
Do note that this is for personal LinkedIn profiles. Groups and Company Pages have seperate image sizes and requirements, which you can also get from the guide.
The recommended size for LinkedIn Cover Photos is 1400 x 425, and the maximum file size is 4MB.
Keep that size in mind when we get ready to start building our new LinkedIn profile background image.
For me, using Canva (www.canva.com) to create any of my graphics is a no-brainer. I have very little in the way of graphic design skill. I have some very specific, limited expertize when it comes to PhotoShop, so my blog and social media graphics have always suffered. However, when I was introduced to Canva early in 2014, it was one of those pivotal moments. My blog graphics got better, my social media cover photos improved, and suddenly I was even able to create infographs, book covers and more.
I like Canva for it’s ease of use and integrated stock image library. But if there’s an alternative tool you’d like to use, like PhotoShop or PicMonkey, please feel free. Most of the information here will still be perfectly applicable.
LinkedIn Cover Photo Considerations
Don’t just upload an image you like — make sure that image communicates something about you and your business to prospects, and add text to help contextualize the image, or at least add additional information.
Sorry it’s a bit squished, since the live graphic is quite wide. This is how one of your connections will view your cover photo. You can use the “View Profile As” button to see how your profile looks (but you’ll need to ignore an overlay bar that appears below the black menu bar). Or, if you have someone else nearby who can look at your LinkedIn profile logged in as themselves, that works better.
Note the following challenging aspects of creating a LinkedIn Cover Photo:
- The black “Home” menu renders on top of your cover photo, cutting off the top slice of your graphic (approximately 25 pixels).
- Your profile image and current details render above the center of your graphic (975 x 175).
- The bottom slice of your graphic is cut off (approximately 25 pixels).
- A next profile widget appears in the lower right quadrant, suggesting other similar profiles viewed or the next profile in your search (150 x 150).
- Left and Right portions may be hidden depending on the width/resolution of the viewer’s browser.
The result is a cover photo graphic that will have the majority of the graphic hidden from view. Plus, when you are viewing it within your own profile, the overlays are displayed differently suggesting that your cover photo graphic needs to be edited. Here’s what mine looks like to me:
As you can see, my profile and contact area is larger and now covers the title of my second book, while the next connection widget is missing entirely. So, it’s important when crafting your LinkedIn Cover Photo that you ignore how it looks to you and concentrate on how it looks to your connections and potential connections.
While I had been very happy with how my cover photo looked on other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), I was not happy at all with the result on LinkedIn. Even though I’d created it specifically for LinkedIn, due to the size of the graphic, the image I’d used looked pixelated, was cut off, and the text I’d wanted displayed was mostly hidden. So I created an entirely new set of cover photos in Canva, with the goal in mind of having a LinkedIn cover photo that did a better job of communicating something about me.
Here’s what the new graphic looks like on it’s own:
I decided that I wanted to test using my cover photos to promote my books, and went with the same color scheme, design, and font choices as my Hootsuite book cover. While I love Canva (www.canva.com) since it allows non-graphic designers like myself to create great graphics, there are some limitations. Namely, you cannot transfer or copy elements from one design to another. So while it was easier to create each of the social network cover photos once I’d decided on and finalized the first one, it was still a process of starting from a new graphic each time. Fortunately, Canva does offer templates for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ that not only set your graphic to the right size, but also insert profile elements, like your profile image, as markers so you’ll know where they’re going to go in relation to the rest of your graphic (sorry, no template for LinkedIn yet).
To use Canva yourself, go to canva.com and instead of choosing a template, click on Use custom dimensions and enter 1400 x 425 for a LinkedIn cover photo, like this:
This will simply provide you with a blank canvas on which to place whatever visual elements you wish. A few recommendations:
- Remember that the top 25 pixels will be cut off, as well as the bottom 175 within the center, leaving you about 175 – 200 pixels of space to work with. With the left and right sides fluctuating due to the screen, and potentially covered with a widget, concentrate any text within this space.
- Consider using graphics elements instead of a picture. With Canva, you can upload any images you like, and in fact that was the route I took with all my cover photos last year – using a picture of radio telescopes to convey the idea of communication. But nearly every image you might choose to use is going to be severely limited in this instance. Instead, consider the use of colors, textures and shapes, or a picture which doesn’t have specific items in it that will be cut off.
- Adjust the zoom within Canva to work or view your work accordingly. When you start, your graphic will be zoomed out so that you can view the entire thing, but with such large dimensions, you’ll want to zoom in to have an easier time working with individual elements, so keep that in mind.
- Like any professional graphic, make sure that your LinkedIn cover photo, and all of your cover photos, use consistent colors, fonts and elements for great branding and a wonderful overall look. The fonts also do not have to be too large. The main text (book titles) on my LinkedIn cover photo graphic are just 24 pt.
If you can have a set of cover photos professionally created for you, I highly recommend it. A graphic designer will find it much easier to work with the peculiarities of LinkedIn’s cover photo implementation, as well as offer tremendous visual and branding recommendations. But, if that’s just not in the budget, Canva offers a great alternative. (In case you’re curious, I do all of my personal profile cover photos, but my business cover photos for Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even LinkedIn were all professionally designed.)