If you’re using your social media profiles to promote your personal brand or business, chances are that pre-made themes and watermarked templates just won’t cut it. You need a custom design to make your profile stand apart from the rest and convey important information about who you are. Some of our favorite social networks afford us this customization, but there are a few tricks that may save you some time and frustration when creating a custom profile background. While none of these can replace the eye of a great graphic designer, they should help you get a sense of the layout you’re after. ——————————————————————————– Choose an Image Editor ——————————————————————————– To start, you’ll need an image editor. Photoshop is probably best suited for the task, but there are plenty of free alternatives on the web. Gimp() is a free, open source image editing and compositing tool that has many of the layering and filtering abilities of Photoshop. Aviary’s Phoenix is another great free tool that is entirely web based. You can edit and layer images in a Photoshop-like environment right in your web browser, then save the finished product to your desktop. Photoshop.com() also offers a free, “lite,” web-based version of the popular editor. Once you’ve chosen your tool, it’s time to get to work. ——————————————————————————– Twitter ——————————————————————————– A great Twitter() background makes an impression on potential followers. It should communicate who you are and what people should expect from your tweets. Here are some examples of great Twitter backgrounds: Dimensions: The column that contains your tweets and profile information will always take up about 760 pixels of screen real estate. What’s left for the background will be determined by the user’s monitor. Everyone viewing your profile will see it a little differently, depending on the resolution of their screen. A safe bet to ensure that your background will not be cut off or tiled at most resolutions is a 1680 x 1200 pixel image. The image resolution should be web standard 72 dpi. Maximum File Size: 800 KB Layout: Accounting for the 760 pixel center column, the space left over on either side will depend on the visitor’s resolution. The space at the top for the Twitter logo will remain constant at about 65 pixels, and a good rule of thumb is to leave about 200 pixels at the left for your design. This will accommodate most monitor resolutions. Twitter aligns the background image to the top left, so it is important to focus your main content in that area as shown. The further to the left an element appears, the least likely it will be cut off on a low resolution monitor. There are a few tools that may help you determine what your layout will look like at different resolutions. To quickly determine your own resolutions as a reference point, jump over to whatismyscreenresolution.com. For FireFox users, the Web Developer add-on will resize your browser to fit common monitor resolutions so you can see what your layout might look like for other users. Screen-resolution.com is also a handy tool for popping URLs into resolution-specific browers windows. Design Tip: Don’t clutter your background with too much information. Because URLs are not clickable in a background, this space is better suited for logos, photos, or other clean graphic elements that express who you are. If you’re encouraging people to connect with you outside of Twitter, make sure the one URL in your profile links to your contact information. Also, be sure to choose text and link colors that compliment your background.
The two other big dogs of social networking, Facebook() and LinkedIn(), don’t offer background customization options. While this may be a disappointment to some, many would argue that the clean, uniform look of these sites has contributed to their success.