In this post, I'll teach 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 below too.
What on earth is a featured post image anyway?
A featured post image is essentially a visual graphic element that is used to support a blog article or web page.
Some people call it a blog post image, or primary image. You can call it whatever you wish. This image is usually found at the top of content pages and blog articles. It's the first image a viewer sees that's at least relevant to the content.
Now when it comes to sharing a link to a page or blog post on social media, the featured post image also acts as the meta image. Of course, these are critical to a brand's success on social media. So your featured image must stand out in order not to be ignored. This is often overlooked in modern website design.
Featured images come in all shapes and sizes, however, here at FVM, I use a featured image size of 1200 x 630 px. This is the default recommended size when it comes to sharing images or links on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Are featured post images really that important?
In my humble experience, yes I believe they are. In fact, here are some interesting stats about featured images I think you should know.
Tweets with images, for instance, in this case, can get up to 150% more retweets.
And according to Social Pilot, LinkedIn posts consisting of images get, on average, 98% more comments.
What about Facebook?
Well, according to Jeff Bullas, Facebook posts with photos receive on average 37% more engagement.
So, the outcome is obvious. it's important that you give some attention to your featured blog post images if you're interested in getting more inbound conversions for your shared content.
Featured post images don't just extend a blog post, they also encourage visitors to click on your shared link whether it's a blog post, page, podcast, or whatever. You can look at the featured image as a magnet to help draw interest and curiosity.
As like I said earlier, featured images are the immediate 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 your content might be, folks may not feel so compelled to want to click and read. Then you've lost a potential reader, subscriber, or even customer for your products or services.
What tools do you need to create amazing-looking featured post images?
What I'm going to do first is share with you the tools that I use to create my own featured images for my blog posts, social media, and YouTube content, 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 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 -
- Photoscape (Free and premium App)
- Affinity Designer (Premium professional vector graphic design App)
- Affinity Photo (Premium professional photo editing App)
- TinyPNG (Free online service)
I work mainly on a Mac Studio, and all of the above tools work seamlessly for me. But, I'm not biased. 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 now here are some other tools I think you might be interested in checking out and using -
Canva is probably the most popular online graphic design tool to use. The great thing about Canva is that it comes with a lot of templates that are ready to use, which can save you time. Not everyone has the time to create their featured post images from scratch.
Where to get high-quality images from?
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. Many moons ago, 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 -
How to use free stock images in your featured images
The best way to use free stock images in your featured post-image design projects is to customize them. Add some personal flair to them.
Don't just use them in raw format, because chances are, many other websites, social platforms, and blogs out there will have used those images too.
A step-by-step guide to creating custom featured images using a free tool
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 which is different from the tool used in the video above. 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, but we're going to use the free version here.
Alternatively, 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.
So I'm going to show you how you can transform a beautiful photo like this one, and turn it 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 at the time of updating this post, it's completely free to use.
Step #1. Editing the photo
The first thing we need to do is crop the image and resize it to fit 1200 x 630 px.
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 in Photoscape, 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 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 greyish box to our image and resized the box shape to fit halfway 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.
Step #2. Adding some text overlay and branding
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 the 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.
Step #3. Adding further customization to our featured image
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.
Step #4. Saving our featured image
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 them 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 the 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, 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!