Facebook hates design.
At least that how I've felt when trying to design images for Facebook. They use image compression on any image you upload, leaving artifacts and fuzzy images, and when you go to their help center to try to figure out what you're doing wrong, their help center is anything BUT helpful.
I got you.
I spent my Sunday figuring out the best options for posting on Facebook, so you don't have to.
From Facebook’s help center:
“Your Page's profile picture:
- Displays at 170x170 pixels on your Page on computers, 128x128 pixels on smartphones and 36x36 pixels on most feature phones
- Will be cropped to fit a square”
When you try to upload a 170x170 image for your profile picture:
When you upload a 180x180 profile picture:
Okay, let’s try 360x360.
Okay, no warning message this time - here’s the profile image saved as jpg, file size 5.84K.
Same image as 3.5K png:
Both are suffering from Facebook’s image compression, but it looks like the png is standing up slightly better.
Let's try 720x720px:
Let’s try a 1200px square, to see if we can get rid of a little of the fuzziness:
For a black and white design, I would choose the 1200x1200 png for the best quality image. But since it’s black and white, it’s easy to keep the file size small, avoiding heavy compression from Facebook.
Let’s try a more complex image and see if the result is the same.
Winner: 1200x1200px png
How about even more complicated colors?
Winner: 1200px jpg or png
What about photos?
Winner: 1200px jpg or png
For simple designs, use a high resolution of png for greatest clarity.
For more complex images, experiment between png and jpg at a high resolution.
Facebook’s tips for cover photos:
“Your Page's cover photo:
Displays at 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall on your Page on computers and 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall on smartphones
Doesn't display on feature phones
Must be at least 399 pixels wide and 150 pixels tall
Loads fastest as an sRGB JPG file that's 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall and less than 100 kilobytes
For profile pictures and cover photos with your logo or text, you may get a better result by using a PNG file.”
First of all, I had to look up what a sRGB JPG was. It’s the specific color profile used by most web browsers to display images on the web. The technicalities of it are a bit beyond my scope, but it comes down to how colors are translated online.
To save as a sRGB JPEG in Photoshop, use the File>Export>Save for Web (Legacy) command (Cmd+Alt+Shift+S) and make sure the Convert to sRGB box is ticked.
I tried to find you a way to save as a sRGB JPEG in Canva, but couldn’t find any information on it. Sorry, Canva users! But good news! GIMP, a free editing software that’s a lot like a watered down Photoshop, has sRGB as it’s default JPEG color profile, so (if I understand correctly) any jpeg you save in GIMP with be a sRGB JPEG.
For the rest of this article, all of the jpegs I’ll be testing will be saved with the sRGB color profile, per Facebook’s suggestion.
Before we start exploring different sizes and file types, let’s set up our basic header template. Personal headers display differently on desktop and mobile, so we want to make sure all the important design elements will be displayed on both views. Your profile picture and some gray buttons also overlap your header on desktop. On mobile, the top of your header is overlaid with a search bar and the bottom is overlaid with your profile picture. A lot of moving parts going on.
Here’s what all that looks like:
Just to be clear, only that odd shape in the middle will show up clearly on desktop and mobile.
My suggestion for design: put your most important information in the safe zone. Anything else you can place in the upper part of the header, and just accept that on mobile the search bar will obscure it. I would also avoid any weird cropping - make sure any design elements are either fully contained in the mobile, or completely cut off on mobile - avoid having any elements overlap the vertical blue lines in the diagram.
So let’s try a design-heavy image at Facebook’s minimum sizes.
Not to my surprise, Facebook image sizes aren’t useful in creating quality images. Next, I’ll try doubling the resolution of the images.
Not bad, but what if I make it 3 times as big as Facebook’s suggestions?
Making the files even bigger didn’t seem to add to the quality of the images; both the 1640x720px and the 2460x1080 were compressed about the same amount, just in slightly different ways. None of them escape compression artifacts, unfortunately.
Winner: 1640x720px png
Let's try a photo header.
Winner: 1640x720px png is slightly sharper than the rest.
Note: Facebook suggests keeping the file size under 100KB, but the image has to be so small to get the file size to under 100K that you run into quality issues either way.
Opt for photo-heavy headers, and save as png at 1640x720px
Business Page Header
From Facebook: Facebook currently redirects you to the instructions for the personal page header, even though the business page header design changed at the beginning of 2017.
On desktop, the header is displayed at 820x311px. On mobile, it displays at 1080x605. Which means the mobile view of the header is taller than on desktop. Fortunately, that is the only consideration when designing a business header, as no elements overlap it.
Let’s try out some design-heavy headers
Winner: 1080x605px png
The same holds for a complex design:
And for a photo header:
Since the business header is the most recently updated graphic, I can’t help but hope this means Facebook is moving to a more design-friendly interface across the board.
Design your business header as a 1080x605px png.
From Facebook: “Keep in mind that your cover photo must be at least 400 pixels wide and 150 pixels tall.”
On desktop, the groups banner displays at 820x250px. On mobile, it displays at 1080x609.
But group headers are perhaps the most complex to design, because you have three views to consider:
On the groups page, the header is shown only in a small circle thumbnail. It ends up looking like this when you consider all three views:
Based on the dimensions it’s displayed at on desktop and mobile, it should be at least 2014x609px.
Let’s try out a design-heavy banner:
Not looking great - let’s see if an increase in resolution will improve it.
It seems, as with the personal header, Facebook just has no good options for design-centric group headers.
Use photo-dominate images for Groups Headers, saved as pngs at 2014x609.
“We automatically resize and format your photos when you upload them to Facebook. To help make sure your photos appear in the highest possible quality, try these tips:
Resize your photo to one of the following supported sizes: 720px, 960px or 2048px wide
Save your image as a JPG with an sRGB color profile”
At 720px wide, the tallest you can make your image before Facebook starts cutting it off is 1079px tall.
Here’s how design-heavy and photo-heavy images fair at the three sizes Facebook suggests:
If you can, save your images as 2048x3070px pngs, but 960x1439px pngs can substitute if you don’t have images large enough.
From Facebook: no information on linked images, just a short excerpt about how to post a link.
Linked images are displayed at 462x255 on desktop and at 1080x558 on mobile.
Facebook seems to leave linked images alone, so using a 1080x558 png works perfectly.
I hope that wasn't too overwhelming. To help you sort the information, here's a summary of what I suggest for your Facebook images:
Profile Photo: 1200x1200 png
Profile Header: 1640x720 photo-dominant png
Business Header: 1080x605px png
Group Header: 2014x609 photo-dominant png
Posted Image: 2048x3070px png, or 960x1439px png if 2048x3070 isn't possible
Linked Image: 1080x558 png