How to Position Background Images to Optimize Your Twitter Profile - dummies

How to Position Background Images to Optimize Your Twitter Profile

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

There are many ways you can design and position Twitter backgrounds to avoid the problems caused by different displays on different screen sizes. Here are four options that can help you avoid display problems.

Repeat one image or using a series of images

Dapo Olaopa (@dpencilpusher), shows off his artistic talents by making his background look like a series of doodles from his notebook. This effect is heightened by his use of a blank page and a pencil in his Twitter header.

[Credit: Dapo Olaopa]
Credit: Dapo Olaopa

Author and photographer Syl Arena (@syl_arena) created a grid of tiny images. By using a combination of portraits, company logos, and goofy cartoon images, he constructed a background with a range of colors and styles. Although the design is a little busy, it works well on any screen size and provides followers with a quick insight into his many interests.

[Credit: Syl Arena]
Credit: Syl Arena

Assemble images into a collage

A slightly more sophisticated way to communicate to the world who you are, and what you are all about, is to create a Twitter background design that features photos, knickknacks, and other things that interest you.

These designs are often created to look like a desktop or corkboard with pinned photos or things scattered across the desk. You see an example created by digital marketing pro Scott Clark (@scottclark). Clark created cryptic messages that look like they were typed on an old-school manual typewriter, as well as maps, images of exotic animals, a worn Indiana Jones–style leather satchel, and a deadly skeletal robot hand.

Done well, collages have a charming, organic quality that makes it feel as if you’re peering over the author’s shoulder as he works at his desk or in his workshop.

Scott Clark cleverly uses a gradient along the right side of the design that fades into a solid color. The effect is that even on a very large monitor, the design doesn’t abruptly cut off at the edge of the image but instead fades into the solid background color, making it seem to be part of a larger backdrop.

[Credit: Scott Clark]
Credit: Scott Clark

Social media director Sean R. Nicholson (@SocMedSean) uses a collage that includes an iPhone, an iPad, pens, and other things that he holds in his hands to do his work. He includes reminders scrawled on his left hand that seem to represent a typical to-do list. He gave the entire design a modern look by using a background image that looks like it’s made of gritty concrete.

[Credit: Sean R. Nicholson]
Credit: Sean R. Nicholson

There is no real shortcut to creating a collage like this. To crop each image and position them the way Sean did, you need a good image editor, such as Photoshop.

Pay attention to the brightness, contrast, and color balance in all the images that you combine in your design. If you put pictures that are really dark next to photos that were shot under bright lights without balancing them, the effect can be jarring.

Use one dominant image

One of the simplest and most elegant approaches to creating a Twitter background is to use one big image. Photographs of landscapes, skylines, or abstract images work well, and repeating the image in the background and the header is a common and effective trick.

You see how Kare Anderson (@KareAnderson), an author, speaker, and consultant who lives in Sausalito, used a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge for her background and the header in her Twitter page.

[Credit: Kare Anderson]
Credit: Kare Anderson

Repeating an image the way Kare does in her Twitter profile reinforces the visual effect and helps visitors recognize the background image, even if it doesn’t fit on smaller monitors.

[Credit: Kare Anderson]
Credit: Kare Anderson

Using vertically aligned text is another way to help ensure your message gets through on small and large screens.

Center the background image

Many of the problems we’ve shown you with Twitter background images getting cut off or oddly cropped at high or low screen resolutions, can be solved by centering the background instead of aligning it to the left.

Twitter originally offered only left alignment for background images. You can now center the image by clicking and dragging your image into the position you choose.

[Credit: Erika Barker]
Credit: Erika Barker

Centering the background makes a big difference because the middle of the design area — where the timeline, profile photo, and header graphic appear — is always centered, no matter how large or small the screen.

Centering the background means the background stays in the same location relative to the middle area of a Twitter profile, no matter how large or small the screen. That solves many problems that are caused when the background stays aligned to the left, but the centered middle area covers different parts of the background, depending on the size of the screen.

Photographer Erika Barker (@erikabarker) creates a clever illusion by using a section of the background image in the header area. The effect appears that the header and background are all one image, even though they were cropped and uploaded separately.

[Credit: Erika Barker]
Credit: Erika Barker

However, this kind of integrated design works only if the background and the header image stay the same distance from each other, no matter what the screen size — and that would not work if the background were not centered.

In the first image, you see what Erika’s page looks like on a monitor with the resolution set to 1920 x 1080. In the second image, you see the same design as it appears on a monitor with the resolution set to 1024 x 768. Despite the significant difference in real estate, the design works in both sizes because the centered background and the centered header line up perfectly on the small and the large screens.

If you create a design that integrates the header and background images, keep in mind that the background image doesn’t display on mobile devices, so the header image also has to work alone.