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Create an Awesome (Free) Header in Ten Minutes

A custom header image is one of those personal touches that can really set the tone of your blog and…

A custom header image is one of those personal touches that can really set the tone of your blog and establish your visual brand. What’s that murmur in the back? You don’t have time to create a custom header? Image-editing software is too expensive? Think again. Today, we’ll show you how to create your own snazzy header quickly — and for free.

Creating the right header for the right blog

For this exercise, You’re the proud blogger at the imaginary Goodnight Loon, the web’s premier birdwatching-cum-parenting blog. You need a custom header that will channel your site’s blend of quirky humor, warm parenting advice, and love for all feathered creatures (well, maybe not Kukulkan). What do you do next?

Find a few images that speak to you

Comparing and contrasting a handful of pics can be really useful. You can use something from your own photo library, or a great find you stumbled upon while looking for Creative Commons-licensed images. Focus on high-quality, larger images, and take a look at your theme’s page to see if there’s a minimum-size requirement for the header.

Note: It’s ok if your chosen image is larger than the header image needs to be — you’ll be able to crop it once you’ve uploaded it to your blog.

Select the image you want to work with

We sometime stubbornly try to find images that literally channel what we’re saying. In this case, this would send you on a wild-goose chase (no pun intended) for a picture of two loving loons tucking their hatchling into bed. Good luck with that. Instead, aim for images that are somewhat abstract — a pattern, a landscape, a collection of items shot from afar — but are still evocative of your theme and your blog’s overall vibe. For the site in question, how about this lovely shot of painted eggs from Ukraine:

Pysanky2011

Image by Luba Petrusha (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The eggs create a direct mental link to both birds and the concept of offspring, and there’s a lot to work with here in terms of texture and color. We have a winner!

Edit your image to suit your specific needs

Using a free photo-editing service (in this case, picmonkey.com), you can then tweak your chosen image  – if its license allows users to adapt it — to make it header-friendly. With this one, I first cropped it into a narrower rectangle, to help it fit better into the header space. For readability, I’ve brightened up the image and lowered the contrast. I wanted to create a stronger nursery vibe, so I played with the color palette to give the image a soft, bluish tint. Finally, using the editor’s Texture settings, I made it look like a soft, woven fabric — an egg-patterned cloth diaper, anyone?

Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 12.09.25 PM

How long did this entire process take me? Roughly three minutes (and I’m about as proficient in stuff like Photoshop as a baby loon).

Add in your blog’s name

Still in the photo editor, you can insert your blog’s name into your header-in-the-making. (This is optional: if you opt to display your blog’s name through your theme, you’d want to avoid repetition.) You can choose among several dozen free fonts; here, I settled on a font — and a color — that makes a winking nod at the well-known cover of the classic Goodnight Moon. For good measure, I cropped the image a bit more, to better position the text:

goodnight-loon

Note: While you’re editing your image, you can save as many versions of your header as you like — that way you can always revert to an earlier state if you decide against a change you’ve introduced.

Final touches

Once you’re satisfied with your header, save the image to your computer and add it to your blog — you can do that either from your dashboard, by going to Appearance → Header, or in the Customizer, by clicking on the Header panel.

Then, check how your header fits into your overall look: does it work with your theme? Do the colors blend well with your custom background, if you have one? Does it help build a cohesive look to your blog?

In this case, I wasn’t too happy with the header’s whimsical font after all. A quick hop back to picmonkey.com was in order. There, I switched to a clean, serif font in more subdued colors, but kept the positioning of the text for a subtle echo of the original book cover. The final product:

goodnight-loon2.jpg.

A free, bespoke header tailored to a blog’s particular needs: yours is just a few minutes away, too.

For more tips on photo editing, check out PicMonkey’s free tutorials, including this one, designed for beginners.

Have you used an image editor to customize your blog before? What were you trying to achieve? Do you have any tips for users thinking of creating their first custom headers?

85 Comments

  1. Why when searching in Google does your blog page not show up? Is that a special feature for upgrade? Does it take as while? I just want to know. I’ve been trying to get people to view my page and nothing comes up in search engine. Help please!!!!

    1. Ultimately, search engines have their own quirks. It could also be that your page hasn’t been visited and linked to enough yet, which would push down the search results. Over the long run, though, if you continue to publish quality content, with clear post titles and slugs, you’re search engine ranking is bound to improve.

      1. Thank you, Ben, that was very informative. I was doing it through google search engine. But I did pull it up. Just not through google. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the advice! It is a really easy to follow article and I think it will really help me customize my blog to make it unique

  3. I was able to create a header using all of the advice above. However, every time I try to add it to my header, it is oversized and pixellated no matter how much I resize it. Anyone know what I’m doing wrong. I made it on pic monkey and it is currently 320 x 320 pixels. I sized it all the way down to 20 and it still is too big for the header

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