Social media continues to be a valuable outlet for any artist to display their work and connect with their audience, as well as potential clients. I had found my own Twitter background growing stale and in need of a fresh update.
One method of updating your social media presence is to use any number of backgrounds available on Envato Market where you’ll find anything from multi purpose social media packs to header designs created just for Twitter, including cool photo collage headers.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a cool geometric-design photo gallery yourself, to use as your Twitter header image.
1. Know the Layout
Twitter uses a floating background layout to accommodate variable screen sizes. This means it’s difficult to know exactly which area of your background your audience will see on their screen. Thankfully, there are some general guidelines provided by Twitter to take some of the guesswork out of the process. Twitter recommends a header image size of 1500 px by 500 px. This will actually be resized by Twitter to display at 1263 px by 421 px, but I find it’s wise to follow their guidelines.
Open Photoshop and go to File > New (Control-N). Give the file a name of Twitter Header and set the Width to 1500 pixels, Height to 500 pixels, Resolution to 72 pixels/inch and the background to white.
Establish some new guidelines by going to View > New Guide. Enter a vertical guide at 317 pixels. Then add another one at 1188 pixels. This will divide the canvas into three columns. The center column is the area that is most likely going to be displayed on the smaller screens of mobile devices. So the design must take these two vertical guides into account.
2. Create the Triangular Pattern
Geometric designs are a much more attractive method of displaying several images than a simple filmstrip arrangement. But many artists would prefer to avoid calculating the exact angles of a true geometric pattern. Instead, we will use a few simple tricks to approximate the angles and still keep the design nice and clean.
Grab the Rectangle Tool (U) and set the Fill color to any color that is easy to see against the white background (we will change it back later). Click once on the canvas to get the Create Rectangle dialogue box. Enter a Width to 10 px and a Height of 900 px. Then click OK and move the rectangle to the right-hand guideline.
Use the Path Selection Tool (A) to select the rectangle shape. (Ensure that Path Operations is set to Add to Shape in the options bar.) Go to Edit > Copy (Control-C) to copy the path points. Then go to Edit > Paste (Control-V) to paste a copy of the rectangle on top of itself.
Use Edit > Free Transform Path (Control-T) to rotate and move the copied rectangle so it touches the bottom right corner of the canvas, and intersects the vertical rectangle around the midpoint. The left end also needs to touch the top of the canvas.
With the last path still active, go to Edit > Copy (Control-C) and Edit > Paste (Control-V) again to paste a new copy of this diagonal path on top of itself. Then go to Edit > Transform Path > Flip Vertical to create the alternate diagonal rectangle.
Use the Path Selection Tool (A) again to select both diagonal rectangles. Then copy and paste these on top of each other. Then go to Edit > Free Transform Path (Control-T) to transform this new ‘X’. Move and scale the ‘X’ so it intersects with the top and bottom of the original ‘X’ and with the guide on the left side.
The original ‘X’ shape is still in the clipboard, so there’s no need to copy it again. Just paste another ‘X’ onto the current shape. Then move this new one over to form the triangles on the leftmost side of the canvas. Be sure to have the lines intersect with the top and bottom of the previous ‘X’ shape.
The only piece left of this network of shapes is the vertical rectangle to go along the left side guideline. Use the same technique to select, copy and paste the original vertical shape and move the copy over to sit on the left-hand guideline.
3. Create Photo Triangles
The network of triangles we just created will serve as borders for the photos that will go underneath. Creating them first with rectangles of preset size ensures that the spacing and alignment for all the photos appears consistent. Now when we draw out the triangles, we don’t have to fret over perfect positioning because the border will cover over the edges! It’s brilliant!
Rename the rectangle shape layer to be Border Lines and click the Lock All button in the Layers panel so the shape is not inadvertently moved or edited while working on the triangular shapes.
Click onto the background layer to remove the focus from the Border Lines layer. Then grab the Pen Tool (P) in Shape mode and set the fill to a color that contrasts with both the background and the borders. Draw a simple triangle in the top left corner. Make sure this shape layer is underneath the border lines.
It’s essential that Path Operations is set to New Layer in the Options Bar. That way each new triangle is its own shape layer. Then draw out another triangle to verify the shapes are working as they should.
Continue drawing in the triangular shapes until there are 12 shapes in all, each with an individual shape layer.
Unlock the Border Lines layer and change the fill color of the borders to white.
4. Add the Photos
Once the shapes are all in place, it’s time to start incorporating the photos into the piece. The most difficult process here is figuring out which photos fit best into the irregular shapes. Fortunately, this technique allows for a lot of easy experimentation of photo size and position.
First select the layer of the shape you want to cover with a photo. Go to File > Place Embedded and select a photo to place into the design. Position and scale the photo to fully cover the intended shape.
And here’s where the magic of this technique comes into play. Go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask (Alt-Control-G) to clip the image to the triangular shape. This way the image is still movable, completely independent of the triangular shape. This makes it easy to position the image exactly where you want without having to worry about disrupting the shape and borders.
Repeat the place and clip process for each shape until all 12 of the shapes have an image clipped to them.
5. Final Effects
Having an assortment of photos often makes a design feel disjointed and random. The lack of consistency can be distracting. A good solution is to include a final processing effect to pull all the images together into a single cohesive appearance.
Make sure the topmost image layer is active. It should be right below the Border Lines layer. Then go to Select > Color Range. Set the Select drop down menu to Reds and check the Invert box. This will select all the non-red tones in the image.
Add a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Photoshop automatically uses the selection as a layer mask on the adjustment layer. This means that the effect will be applied to everything except the selected red tones in the image.
In the Properties panel, click on the gradient preview to open the Gradient Editor. Click on the small gear icon and choose Photographic Toning from the list of available libraries. When prompted, choose to Append these gradients to your current list.
Scroll to the bottom of your Gradient presets and choose the Sepia-Blue 2 preset. Then click the OK button to close the Gradient Editor.
Set the Opacity of the adjustment layer to 60% to reduce the effect of the colorization.
Create a merged layer by holding down the Alt key while going to Layer > Merge Visible (Shift-Control-E). Desaturate the merged layer with Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (Shift-Control-U).
Set the layer’s blending mode to Screen and reduce the Opacity to around 30%. Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a Radius of 5 Pixels. This creates a slight soft focus effect for the entire composition.
Go to File > Export As and set the File Settings to JPG. Adjust the Quality slider to be as low as possible without introducing any visible distortion in the preview image. The smaller the file is, the faster it will load when viewed on your profile. After saving the file, go update your Twitter account to add your fantastic new header Image.
To really create a fully implemented design to your Twitter page, be sure to use the same colorization effect and soft focus technique on your profile image too. This has to be done separately from the header image, but would use the same Gradient Map adjustment layer as well as the merged layer with the soft blur filter.
I used this layout to display the results of a number of my tutorials on Envato Tuts+. But the same technique can be applied to somebody who simply wants to assemble their own photographs; it’s a truly versatile technique that can be used for any number of topics!
Creating an attractive, geometric photo display is a great way to add visual interest to a Twitter header image. In this tutorial, we accomplished that by using some illustration tricks so we didn’t even have to do any math to get the angles right! Then we used some post processing to take a variety of photos and make them appear to have the same type of colorization and soft focus so they work together as a unified composition design.
How did your Twitter background header turn out? Add a link in the comments below so I can follow you! Or you can follow me and see my design live @thepixelpro.