Last Updated on April 27, 2020 by Fabrizio Van Marciano
In this post, I'm going to show you how to create stunning featured blog post images using some free graphic design tools, from start to finish. Don't forget to check out the video tutorial where I share with you my process for customizing featured post images.
First of all, what is a featured post image?
A featured post image is an image that is used to support a blog article or web page. You can also call it the primary image.
This primary image can often be found at the top of content pages and blog articles.
By default, featured images are usually pulled up first when sharing the link of an article on social media.
Featured images come in all shapes and sizes. For Magnet4Blogging, I use a large 1200px x 630px custom featured image. This is also the optimal image size for most social media platforms.
In my humble and professional opinion, yes I believe they are.
Here are some interesting stats you need to know about:
Tweets with images, for example, in this case, can get up to 150% more retweets.
And according to Social Pilot, LinkedIn posts consisting of images gets, on average, 98% more comments.
What about Facebook?
Well, according to Jeff Bullas, Facebook posts with photos receive on average 37% more engagement.
So, it's pretty important that you pay some attention to your featured blog post images if you're interested in getting more clicks for your shared content?
Featured post images don't just open up a great post, they also compel visitors to want to click on and read a particular article or page. You can look at the featured image as a magnet to help draw interest and curiosity.
And like I said earlier, featured images are the primary image that's often associated with a shared link on social media, so it is the first thing most people will see before anything else.
If the image is poor, no matter how great the blog article might be, folks may not feel so compelled to want to click.
What I'm going to do first is share with you the tools that I use to create my own blog post featured images, and then share some other tools which I think you might be interested in using yourself.
The reason I want to do it this way is that I use mostly premium (paid for) tools in my business.
This tutorial is not technology dependant, so you don't need to go out and spend money on any new graphic design tools just to create some simple images for your blog posts or website. There are plenty of free image editing tools you can find and use, and I'll list a few of them for you here shortly.
So, for me, here are the tools I use to edit images and create custom blog post graphics -
I work mainly on a MacBook Pro, and all of the above tools work seamlessly for me. These tools are also available for Windows.
OK, now you can check out the video tutorial below to see how I create my custom featured post images, as well as video thumbnails, with Affinity Designer for the Mac.
OK, so here are some other tools I think you might be interested in checking out and using yourself -
These days, free stock images are in abundance.
There are so many websites out there offering high-quality stock images for both personal and commercial use.
If you can cast your mind back to just a few years ago when finding suitable images was a complete nightmare. Once upon a time, you'd either have to use Flickr images and give credit to the author every time you used an image in your post/page or pay a huge wad of cash for images on premium stock photo sites.
Here are some of my favorite free stock images sites -
The best way to use free stock images in your featured post image design projects is to customize and add some personal flair to them.
Don't just use them in raw format, because chances are, many other websites and blogs out there will have used those images too.
OK, so I've shared with you my method for creating featured post images, now let me show you how to create some for your own blog posts, using some free tools.
The tool we're going to use below is called Photoscape. You'll need to download Photoscape if you don't already have it. There is a premium version of this tool if you're interested in checking it out.
Or, you can simply use any other photo editing tool that you have on your computer right now.
So, I'm going to create a simple 1200px by 630px featured post image, which again is also the optimum image size for a shared link on Facebook.
First, I want to find and download a nice photo from the Pixabay website.
I do have a user profile on Pixabay which you can check out here. I like to contribute to the site by sharing my own images from time to time.
Here's one I found that I really like. It's a beautiful photo of Hong Kong at night taken by Peng LIU.
I'm going to show you how you can transform a beautiful photo like this one, and turn in into a cool customized featured post image, all using the free version of PhotoScape X.
Remember, this tool is available for Mac and Windows and it's completely free.
First thing we need to do is crop the image and resize it to fit 1200 x 630.
The next thing that we'll do is emphasize a specific color in the photo and neutralize the other colors. So we're choosing the cool blues in this image to stand out. See the image below.
To achieve the above look, simply go to Edit > Adjustments > Point Color / Emphasize Color.
Next, we want to add a gradient filter.
To add a filter, all you have to do is create a square shape, then change the color of the shape to whatever you want, then apply a gradient.
The reason why we do it this way is so that any text or objects that we place over the top of the image later on, including a logo, will be clear to make out and not clash with the background image.
So, just for the fun of it, we've added a simple dark blue box to our image and resized the box shape to fit half-way across the image only.
Next, we'll combine the photo and gradient layers together (Merge into Background). You can do this by going to Layers > Merge.
Next, we'll add some custom text to our featured post image.
Again, in PhotoScape X this is very simple to do. Go to Insert > Text. You can also adjust line-height, letter spacing, color, and opacity.
I've used a font style that I already have on my computer, so for this tutorial I'm using my favorite font, Poppins.
Text Layer Tip: For the text, I used a new text layer for each line of text. Then resized each line to fit square with one another before adding some space between each line of text. This is quite laborious, but makes the text layout appear much neater.
I've also added my custom logo to brand my featured image. See the images below.
With the PhotoScape tool, you can really customize your featured image and make it look exactly the way you want it to. You can design your image to match your brand style.
All I'll say is that you keep your image design minimum and clean. It's so easy to get carried away with customization, and before you know it, you end up with a featured image that looks too busy and tacky.
OK, so once we've created our featured blog post image, it's time to merge everything together one last time and save it.
Once again, merging elements together is very simple to do in PhotoScape X, all you have to do is go to Layers > Merge.
When you save the image, don't forget to give it a good title too. Also, consider including your SEO keyword in your image title.
Tip: I recommend saving your featured images in JPEG format and adjusting the quality to around 100 to 120KB before uploading it to your website.
You can also save it as PNG for better quality images, however, the size of the file will be much larger and may take longer to load on your website.
You can compress PNG or JPEG images further using a tool like TinyPNG. See image below.
So there you have it, that's how you can create amazing and personalized featured post images for use in your blog posts and website pages.
The process shouldn't take much time at all, probably 5 or maybe 10 minutes at the most, and depending on how creative you want to get with your featured images too.
Hopefully, you will be able to do the same after reading this post, especially if you're not including images in your content right now.
Best of luck!