The other day, a friend of mine approached me about how I make the title images for my blog posts. It’s actually a part of blogging I find very enjoyable, so I figured why not share my methods with the world? After all, it was quite the process to teach this so myself and I thought I’d save you the trouble.
The program I use to create my images is GIMP, and so that’s what I’ll be using in this tutorial. You can download the program for free here. If you don’t like GIMP, I’m sure you could use something like Pixlr, which I’ve heard is a very good online program, though I can’t say from experience.
Why create title images? For one, they look good on your page. But the larger reason is that it makes your posts look more appealing when you share them. Using title images makes your posts easy to share on Pinterest, which is great especially if you’re a blog that talks about writing, crafting, or other Pinterest-worthy things. Adding images also makes your links look more appealing when you share them on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you like to use.
How do I make one? Well, buckle your seatbelts friends, because I’m about to teach you almost everything I know about making title images in (hopefully) fifteen minutes or less.
Before we begin… Download GIMP, put on some music (unless you work better in silence), and figure out what it is you want to do.
Pick a background image. Usually I try to make the background of my title images go with the subject of the blog post (like Stop The Geek Girl Hate and my Top 5 Heroes/Heroines), but I also sometimes use abstract backgrounds if the subject is too intangible (as is the case with 5 Things I Will Miss About High School).
No matter what I do, I always use a background image that I made myself, whether it’s a photo I took or an abstract background I created. I do this to avoid copyright problems, though I know there are plenty of fair-use image searches you could also look into. If you do choose to take your own pictures, don’t worry about having a fancy schmancy camera – your phone will usually work just fine.
Let’s take a look at GIMP. There are a few basic things you should know before using it. The middle window is your canvas, where you’ll do all the work. Notice that across the top there are menus for File, Edit, Select, and so on. The left window is your toolbox, and the right window is where you’ll find your layers (there are other options here as well, but I’m only concerned with the layers for this tutorial).
If you’re not sure what a tool or option does, hover your cursor over it and GIMP will tell you!
Open your image in GIMP. File > Open or CTRL+O on a Windows computer. You can resize or crop the image to whatever suits you. I like to resize mine to 900×600 and then crop it to 900×467, which is the recommended thumbnail size for Facebook sharing.
To resize: Image > Scale Image opens the resizing box. Put your new dimensions in there. if the little chain icon on the right is linked, GIMP will automatically adapt to keep your current proportions. If you don’t want that, click the icon to “unlink” them.
To crop: use the tool that looks like an X-acto knife and then just click and drag on your image to select the area you want to keep. Press “enter” on your keyboard to crop. If you want to crop to a specific aspect ratio (proportion of width to height), just click that box in the tool options and enter the ratio you want. Now when you crop, GIMP will constrain you to that ratio.
Make other changes to your image. GIMP has plenty of options of changing the brightness, contrast, saturation, and colors of an image, which can be found under the “Colors” menu. There are also filters you can add, found under the “Filters” menu. For example, if you wanted to make your background a little blurrier, go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and then you can choose how blurry you want to make it. Use CTRL+Z or Edit > Undo to undo any changes you don’t like!
Now would probably be a good time to save! Use CTRL+S on Windows or File > Save. Do this often (but you probably knew that).
These next few steps can probably be done semi-out-of-order, but I’m just following my own process here, so feel free to experiment, mix it up, etc.
Add your blog’s URL/web address. That way people know where they’re going! Start by creating a text box using the tool that looks like an “A” and then click to start typing, or click and drag to create a text box with dimensions you want. You can always resize later. Use the tool options or the box that pops up with your text box to change the color, size, font, etc. Position on the image however you want using the move tool (looks like a cross with arrows). Make sure you click on the text itself – just clicking in the text box will move the background layer.
You’ll notice that the text is put on a new layer.Don’t worry about that – if you want to edit the text later, just use the text tool and click on the text box.
Add a background behind the URL. First, you’ll need to create a new layer. Right-click in the “layers” pane in the right window and select “New Layer” from the menu that shows up. You’ll be given a box with some options – Keep the dimensions the same and change the fill color to “transparency.” Make sure this layer is just below the text layer in the list (if it isn’t click and drag to reorder the layers).
Make sure you’re using the new layer you made and select a rectangular area around your text by using the rectangular select tool (red). Next, choose a color by clicking on the color palette (green) and picking a color in the window that pops up. Finally, using the paint bucket (blue), fill in the selected area with the color you chose.
To get rid of your selection, go to Select > None.
Now to add your title. Like with the URL, add another text box, and customize it using the size, color, and font options. (GIMP doesn’t allow you to do that within a single text box, so if you have titles and subtitles that you want to appear differently, you’ll need multiple text boxes, like me.)
As you can see, it’s a little hard to read my text against my background. One way that I like to make the text “pop” a little more is by adding a shadow behind it. You can do this clicking on the text layer and going to Filters > Light and Shadow > Drop Shadow.
NOTE: Make sure you have NOTHING “selected” on the image (you’ll know if there’s a dotted, blinking perimeter around it). Clear the selection before adding shadows.
If the shadow still doesn’t do it, you can add a “tint” over the background. Create a new transparent layer, and order it so that it’s the second-to-last layer, just above the background. Using the paint bucket, fill that entire layer with whatever color you want to “tint” the background image with.
But wait, now I can’t see the background! Never fear, just click on the Tint layer and lower the “Opacity” or the opaque-ness of that layer using the option just above the “layers” pane. You can do this to any layer, so if you want your text to be more transparent, etc. this will also work!
The last step: Once you’ve saved your image, you have to export it as a PNG, JPG, or other regular image file type. Just go through File > Export As and then type the file name with the proper file extension (.png for PNG images, .jpg for JPG images). Don’t worry about the advanced options they give you for saving,
CONGRATS! You did it! I hope this little tutorial helps you with your future blogging. If you have any questions about GIMP or my tutorial, ask away in the comments and I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability! Also, should I post more Blogging How-To’s in the future? Let me know what you think!
Have a great week everyone!
UPDATE 6/14/17 – Check out Part 2 of this tutorial for more image editing tips!