At the time of writing, February 2012, Facebook is rolling out the ‘timeline’ view as the default for profile pages and is encouraging users to switch from the old standard view to the timeline. Many people do not think it is an improvement, but we are stuck with it! At the top of the timeline is space for a header image that Facebook calls a ‘cover’. You can leave the space blank or use one of the many free images that have sprung up on the internet, but you may as well join in the spirit of Facebook and have some fun by creating a cover image that is unique to you.
Fortunately, PowerPoint is a great graphics program that can make it easy to create your unique timeline cover. The only tricky part is getting the size of the image right, and I’ve worked that out for you. Here is the process step-by-step:
- Begin by drawing a rectangle shape (any size) and set the shape outline to ‘no outline’.
- Right-click on the shape and, in the context menu that pops up, find the size control. (If you get a ‘move here/copy here’ context menu, you moved your mouse slightly while clicking. Try again.)
- Set the width and height by typing the following numbers (followed by ‘Enter’), into the appropriate boxes:
• if using centimeters: high 5.33 wide 14.40
• if using inches: high 2.10 wide 5.66
- When eventually saved as an image, these dimensions produce the perfectly sized image that Facebook shows: 850 pixels by 315 pixels.
You now have before you the exact shape of the Facebook timeline cover with which to work. You can slide it off to one side to keep as a reference.
Now you can set about the creative work!
Change the shape’s colors, fill, etc., or import a picture and re-size and/or crop it to create the background image for your cover. Add text and other images, using PowerPoint’s graphical capabilities to re-size and rotate them.
If you have some of the add-ins that help you create graphic effects, such as a Opazity or FillSlammer (excuse the plug!) then use these to make your Facebook timeline cover even more unique.
For inspiration, there are some witty examples of the way people have used their cover space here.
Do not forget that part of the bottom left hand corner of your cover will be overlaid with your profile image.
What sort of content can you include in your cover?
I find that people often forget that they don’t own their Facebook profile or pages and so they think they can put anything they like on them. That is not so! It all belongs to Facebook and if you don’t play the game their way they can easily take away ‘your’ Facebook presence.
Facebook keeps changing its rules about what you can an can’t put on a timeline cover or, as they would see it, the guidelines evolve as Facebook finds out what people are putting into the images. Their intention is that the images should reflect you, so images of you or the places you like are certainly okay. ‘Commercial use’ of the image space is banned, but undefined. How most people are interpreting this at the moment (February 2012) is that you cannot sell the space for advertising. Images and text that promote your own business, if you have one, including a reference to your web address, seems to be acceptable – after all, it is an important part of your life. However, it is probably best to be restrained on the self-promotion.
UPDATE June 2013: As noted above, Facebook keeps changing its rules about what you can and can’t put on a timeline cover. Early in 2013 they relaxed their ban on promotional text AS LONG AS the area occupied by the text isn’t more than 20% of the image area.
When you have finished, group all the elements of your image, then right-click on it and select ‘Save as picture’. Saving your new cover image as the default .png file is fine. In Windows Explorer, if you hover your cursor over the saved file, the screen tip should tell you that it measures 850 x 315 pixels. (Do not worry if it is saying the size is one or two pixels out.)
Now upload your cover to your Facebook timeline. By the way, if you are using the Firefox browser and the upload ‘Save’ button does not seem to do anything, switch to another browser to do the upload. Also check that you do not have an advert blocking browser plug-in activated.
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