One Image to Rule Them All: Size Specs to Work Across Social Media

One Image feature

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but embedding one in a tweet only costs you 23 of your 140 characters. So with limited space to work with on social networks, it’s no wonder that many digital marketers have found success using images to accompany their tweets and status updates.

Indeed, Twitter’s data scientist Douglas Mason concluded that tweets containing photos from verified accounts result in a 35 percent increase in the number of retweets. A similar boost is seen across the social landscape — photos make a huge difference.

But it’s important to make sure the images are sized appropriately for social networks. Consider this image:

IT gets censored

Because of how Twitter automatically crops the image, it shows up in people’s feeds like this:

bad twitter crop

Worse, each social network seems to have its own suggested image size — creating difficulties for the hobbyist blogger as well as for the large corporation. For example, here are the different size requirements for the properties I most often post on behalf of Rackspace:

  • Twitter has a 2:1 ratio and suggests a 1024 x 512 pixel image (although the 2:1 ratio is not quite accurate on Twitter’s iOS mobile app; images are cropped more significantly on the left and right borders and are displayed at a 1.75:1 ratio)
  • Facebook suggests a 1200 x 630 pixel image
  • Google+ seems to post images at 345 x 195 pixels
  • LinkedIn posts a thumbnail sized image at 180 x 110 pixels

Creating unique images for each platform causes a strain on resources.

After transitioning from a content role to the social marketing team, I was determined to simplify the image creation process. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were one guideline, one image to rule them all? An image that could be created once but would look sharp on all of the social networks we post to?

I dusted off my HP-32SII and ninth-grade knowledge of ratios (the whole cross-multiply and divide thing) as I set forth to determine this standard image size. One thing that worked in my favor is that each of these social networks prefers a landscape image — and since Rackspace is not currently active on Instagram (square) or Pinterest (portrait), my job was considerably easier.

After crunching the numbers, I discovered the following universal image size: 1600 pixels wide by 800 pixels high with a 160-pixel “padding” on the left and right margins. Below is a blueprint for that image:

One Image to Rule Them AllYou’ll notice that the width to height ratio is 2:1, but what’s key is the “padding” on the left and right. When I say padding, I don’t mean you should create a white border — that would make your image look silly. Instead, the padding is made up of nonessential elements of your graphic or image.

For example, in the above illustration, the important elements are the text, King Kong, Tower of Sauron, Enterprise and the Death Star. We want these elements to be inside that 160-pixel padding line on the outside edges. The nonessential elements — like the helicopters and the continuation of the skyline — are able to occupy this space because it won’t impact the message if these elements are cropped on different social sites.

Check out how this particular image looks across the four social platforms where we typically post.

Twitter (desktop):

One Image Twitter

Twitter iOS:

One Image Twitter iOS

Facebook:

One Image Facebook

Google+:

One Image Google+

LinkedIn:

One Image LinkedIn

So if you find yourself producing digital content that needs the support of strong images, don’t let the different image sizes for each platform drive you crazy. If you focus on posting to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, be sure to use this sizing strategy for creating one image to rule them all.

digital marketing CTA content apps

Learn more about expanding your digital reach with Rackspace Digital — the digital marketing hosting specialists.

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Garrett Heath works on the Rackspace Social Marketing team. His previous experience includes work as a technical project manager in the cloud and as a content marketer. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation for startups, small businesses and enterprises. You can also read his work at CMO Digital Forum. In his free time, Garrett writes about food and local San Antonio culture at SA Flavor.

51 COMMENTS

  1. Great post.

    It’s worth mentioning that Facebook displays photos in a square aspect ratio when browsing them in albums. As a result, I’m planning on using a modified template that includes an additional safe zone for content that absolutely must be visible as thumbnails. I am starting with an 800×800 square in the center of the 1600×800 template as my thumbnail zone.

    When I used the template with a simple 200px padding and enlarged the brand logo to fill the remaining space, the left and right side of the logo got cut off when displayed as an album thumbnail. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is the “ONE IMAGE TO RULE THEM ALL” text in this example will be slightly cut off on the ONE and RULE if this image was added to Facebook, where it automatically places it in an album.

    Example: https://github.com/Quantastical/scmedia-template/blob/master/Social%20Media%20Image%20Template.jpg

    • Thanks Jeff—this brings up a good point. If you want this to work for Facebook Albums (and Instagram square posts), simply have a 400px “gutter” on the sides; this will put all the text in an 800px by 800px square.

      • Garrett,
        400px “gutter” as in 200px on the left and 200px on the right?

        also… wouldn’t using a 1600×900 be better that using 1600×800 since 1600×900 is (16:9) aspect ratio. What’s you thoughts.

        Awesome post by the and thank you for your time.

  2. OMG Garrett! You are seriously the bees knees! Awesome! Amaze! Everything that is perfection for this! lol. I literally have been doing multiple images, which takes SO much time. This is going to save me a ton of time per week. Now if I could just figure out how to make this work for Instagram and Pinterest, I will seriously be THE happiest chick on earth!

    Thank you,
    Jae
    thebedheadsociety.com

  3. Hi
    I have been searching around on Google for the perfect image size to alle social media platforms, so this article is really welcome.

    I miss something about the padding in top and bottom. I think that is important too. If you place your logo at the bottom wouldn’t for example be cut of?

    Best regards
    Morten

    • @Morten, it shouldn’t cut it off. The only exception would be if you were to manually create a Twitter card in the backend of the Twitter Ads platform. But with the new ability to “automagically” allow cards to be created from the featured image of your blog, this should no longer be an issue. More information on Twitter cards can be found here: https://dev.twitter.com/cards/types/summary But if you are not technical (like me), the best bet is to use a plugin. For WordPress I recommend Yoast.

    • @Kris,

      I haven’t run as detailed of an analysis, but if you are trying to capture photos for both Portrait AND Landscape apps you end up basically having to center your focal point in the photo. To see what I mean, cut out two 2:1 rectangles (which is a close approximation of the ratio you need) and stack them on top of each other in landscape and portrait—you’ll see the intersection is that square in the middle.

      Regarding portrait ONLY apps (e.g. Snapchat and Pinterest are the first that come to mind), I haven’t run a ratio for just them. Thanks!

      Not optimal, but I hope that this helps.

  4. Following on from Jeff’s comment:- if you post an image on Twitter and it is automatically also posted on Facebook – I believe it is displayed as square. Is that correct??? In which case we should be using 1600×800 – with an 800×800 “safe area” and 400×800 “gutters” either side??? This has been causing me a few headaches recently!

    • @Phil – I don’t cross publish like that using automation software (e.g. Zapier or IFTTT) so I don’t know how that would work. Sorry!

  5. Great post, thanks!
    I’m mostly interested in a facebook image size that would look good both on mobiles and desktops – any ideas?

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  7. I needed to know the best size of an image that can be shared on all social media accounts, viz-FB, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest. I use Buffer, and get problems often for this thing. I think i got the solution, thanks!

  8. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the
    structure of your blog? Its very well written; I
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  9. Hey Garrett! Great post and love how much awesome nerd-ness (or is it geek-ness?) you put into your example image. I’m think your headline might need to be something like “One ‘Father Image’ of The Online Jungle To Rule Them All and How To ‘Make It’ So!” Ha ha!

    I’m in this space as well with a startup I launched this year at http://relaythat.com and we repurpose a lot of the sizes to automate this process for users too. We’re the only tool that allows users to resize and remix a unified brand in a few clicks.

    As you suggested I have to build layouts for square purposes but the other thing that’s important is that a lot of people want borders and logos on their images. From a design standpoint this content can look a little odd when place in safe areas. When you go from a Pinterest image to a wide Display Ad banner things can get really ugly. 🙂

    It certainly is a challenge to find all of the scenarios once you add images into the mix. For example, we have a remix tool that “flips” or rearranges layout assets so the user can see how the same assets look in different ways. It can get a little tricky to show all the options but I would definitely appreciate to see what your inner “ninth-grader” thinks of what we’ve created.

    Cheers and great job once again! – Craig

    • Craig – that’s a tough nut to crack, especially if you want borders. In that case, you’d be best off designing them specifically for the platform. Sorry for the bad news 🙁

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  12. Thanks so much for this! With the new version of LinkedIn (no more thumbnails in news feed) are you continuing to do it this way?

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