How to Make a Twitter Background

Remember, your background will be seen on different screens with a variety of resolution settings.

When birds sing, they use a distinctive voice to announce, "Here I am!" When you tweet on Twitter, do you make your message as individual as possible? Part of that individuality can come from a Twitter background that's uniquely you.

We all know the generic, robin's-egg blue Twitter background. About a quarter of Twitter users never make any change to this unremarkable default scheme [source: Garhamis]. These users are making statements about themselves without intending to. To those who view their Twitter pages, they're saying, "Not much original here. I don't care about presenting a dynamic, personal image for myself or my brand."

Changing your Twitter background is easy. Open "settings" in your account menu and click on "design." Twitter gives you two options for customizing your background. First, you can change the image. Choose from the nine themes offered or upload your own picture. Any image from your computer will work, as long as it's smaller than 800 kilobytes and saved in GIF, JPG, or PNG format.

The other simple Twitter tool for background design is "change design colors." You can choose colors for the background, for the sidebar and for the text and links. You have your choice of any color in the rainbow, but you should pick out colors that go together and complement each other.

Once you've souped-up your background with an image and colors, just click "save changes" and you're in business. The advantage of changing your background using Twitter's existing options is that it's easy and takes at most a few minutes. The drawback is that it's just what many other users do. If you choose a Twitter theme, your background is only slightly more distinctive than if you stuck with the original generic one. You haven't added anything that makes the background shout out about you.

On the next page, we'll cover the ground rules you should keep in mind when creating a Twitter background.

Twitter Background Guidelines

Remember when designing your Twitter background that it will look different depending on the resolution and size of the user's monitor. On low-resolution screens, the Twitter content will take up a proportionally larger part of the area, possibly cutting off your sidebar or obscuring your image. The good news is that today, fewer than 15 percent of computer users' screens are 1024 x 768 or lower [source w3schools]. But remember that not everyone maximizes his or her browser, so it makes sense not to assume you have a full screen to work with.

The various screen resolution settings people may use when viewing your Twitter page make it a best practice to locate your sidebar and anchor your image in the upper left corner. This safe zone can be viewed on virtually any monitor. Remember to drop your content down to make room for the Twitter header. You'll also want to leave a small cushion on the left side for a less crowded appearance.

There are many tools and Web sites out there that will help make your Twitter background shine. Some companies will do all the work for you. Others, like TwitBacks, offer free templates that let you plug in your information, tweak the colors, and upload to Twitter. Firefox add-ons like ColorZilla and MeasureIt can be useful to do-it-yourselfers [source: Lee].

Here are some other important tips to keep in mind when creating your background:

  • Keep it simple. This is crucial. Cluttered and wordy backgrounds are distracting. Users should be able to take the whole thing in at a glance.
  • Be consistent. Make your Twitter background match the images, graphics and colors of your Web site and other social media.
  • Keep things light. If you can, make your background playful. Use humor if appropriate.
  • Stay legible. If you create your own sidebar, use at least 10-point text. Don't make your followers squint.
  • Decency is required. Twitter does not allow pornography. Use it and your account is likely to be barred.
  • Use original content. If you incorporate an image, make sure it's one you own or one that's available for public use. Stealing images or copyrighted material is a no-no.

On the next page, you'll find out how to take steps to really customize your Twitter presence.

Custom Twitter Background

There's no end to the ideas that you can incorporate into a Twitter background. Most custom backgrounds take one of four design approaches:

  1. Tiled pattern -- You can accomplish this by choosing a pattern or design -- there are loads of sources on the Internet -- or by making your own. To set the repeat for your tiled design, check the "tile background" box in upload interface. Tiled patterns are quick to load and have the advantage of being suitable for all monitors. The image can be a texture, a cartoon or a pattern. You might use a photo of stars, grass or flowers. Avoid images that make the tiling obvious, such as those with gradients.
  2. Background image -- Use a single image for the entire background. But keep in mind that much of it will be obscured by the Twitter content, heading and sidebar. The position of the Twitter content on the image will vary depending on the resolution of the viewer's screen. The upper left section of the image is the part that will be seen by all users.
  3. Image fading to color -- Here you use a relatively small image that's pinned to the upper left corner. The rest of the background is a color, usually one that matches and blends with the image (if it doesn't match, you will end up with a hard edge instead of a blended look). This makes the background quick to load, and it works even on very large screens.
  4. Sidebar -- This idea takes one of the three approaches above and adds a sidebar, usually on the left side. The sidebar can contain information or images: a logo, a photo of you or your product, a Web site address, or your e-mail address and phone number. Remember that users can't click on links here; it's just background.

Many users create their background images in Adobe Photoshop, but any image editor will work. Remember to save the image in one of the three file formats that Twitter accepts. Some experts recommend using a PNG format because JPG images lose quality when shrunk, making text difficult to read [source: Mumm]. Twitter allows a maximum image size of 800 KB, but it's a good idea to keep your image to 300 KB or less to allow for faster loading [source: Garhanis].

In the next section, we'll talk more about why you might want to do all this work to make a custom Twitter background.

Reasons to Make a Twitter Background

Why customize your background? Each user has his or her own reason, but here are a few common ones:

  • To be creative -- If you're an artist, a musician or just a blogger, you want your Twitter background to reflect your creativity and imagination. And for all users, putting together a cool background can be great fun.
  • To sell your brand -- If you're in business selling a product or service, you want your brand to be everywhere. And that includes your Twitter background. It's another billboard -- why leave it blank?
  • To convey information -- Your regular Twitter bio and sidebar are limited. A background can tell more about you and point your followers to Web sites or other social media.

Whether your Twitter audience is friends and acquaintances or potential clients and customers, your background is part of what separates you from the pack. Use it to your advantage. Creating a Twitter background is one of those tasks that is a lot easier and a lot more fun than you might expect. A dynamite background will also help you attract new followers. So get to work and make your Twitter space sing out.

Read on for more cool info about Twitter backgrounds.

Sources

  • Garmahis, Michael. "How to design perfect Twitter background Ultimate Guide," Garhamis.com, March 24, 2009. (July 13, 2011) http://garmahis.com/tutorials/how-to-design-twitter-background/
  • Kahn, Saud. "Effective Twitter Backgrounds: Examples and Current Practices," Smashing Magazine, September 19, 2009. (July 13, 2011) http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/09/18/effective-twitter-backgrounds-examples-and-best-practices/
  • Lee, Henry. "Custom Twitter Backgrounds: Tips for Better Readability," twitip.com, December 16, 2008. (July 13, 2011) http://www.twitip.com/custom-twitter-backgrounds-tips-for-better-readability/
  • Mumm, Jonathan. "How To Make Twitter Backgrounds for the New Twitter.com," Banyan Branch. (July 13, 2011) http://www.banyanbranch.com/social-blog/social-blog/how-to-make-twitter-backgrounds-for-the-new-twitter-com/
  • Peekr.net. (July 13, 2011) http://peekr.net/
  • TwitBacks.com. "Create a twitter background for free." (July 13, 2011) http://www.twitbacks.com/
  • Twitter Backgrounds Gallery. (July 13, 2011) http://twitterbackgroundsgallery.com/
  • Twitter.com. "The Twitter Rules." (July 13, 2011) http://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/114-guidelines-best-practices/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules
  • w3schools.com "Browser Display Statistics." (July 13, 2011) http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_display.asp