How to Create Promotional Designs for Instagram

Ever notice how each social networking site has a distinct personality? Facebook’s the amiable people pleaser. Twitter’s sassy, glib, to the point. Snapchat is vibrant but ephemeral. LinkedIn’s the go-getter. And Instagram? Instagram’s all about appearances. It’s pretty, polished, stylish, chic.

That means if you’re a business wanting to market on Instagram, you better not show up in your sweats and Crocs. You gotta make sure you put your best Manolo Blahnik-clad foot forward. Fortunately, we have the tools and templates you need to do it.

It isn’t just for photos anymore

Since its founding in 2010, Instagram has been known as a “photo-sharing” site. But while photography and videos remain their bread and butter, Instagrammers are now venturing off into more graphicky/designey territory. The key is simplicity. What works best on Instagram are designs that are clean, modern, and sophisticated.

These designs use geometrical graphics in soft, neutral tones and simple fonts. Experiment with different combinations, but to achieve this look you’ll want to show a little restraint. That means steering clear of super-wacky fonts, bright colors, and complex shapes. The goal is to keep the focus on your offer or promotion.

Take it up a notch

Minimalism is great and all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play around with different fonts, colors, and backgrounds. If you have a particular contest or offer you want to promote, create something snazzy to show it off. Fool around with typeface, add bursts of color, and use textures and effects that’ll jibe with the Instagram aesthetic.

While we’ve got a wide selection of fonts, we know there are gajillions more out there—many of which are free! You can easily add your own fonts to your designs, something that’s particularly important for small-business owners and bloggers who want to maintain a unified brand.

Same goes for textures. While we’ve got a plethora of textures that you can explore and customize, you can also create your own. Take a shot of your favorite basket, a window blind, a brick wall, a concrete floor—almost anything can make a rich texture. Or consider grabbing one from a free site. The idea is to come up with a unique go-to texture that helps define your look and brand.

Showcase your offerings

There are lots of ways to show off your goods. You can use a single photo with a partially transparent graphic and simple, straightforward text. Or if you have multiple pictures you want to include in a single post, you can bundle them together with a collage. When making your collage, you might want to choose a square layout, since Instagram is optimized for square images. (For example, the Instagram grid uses square thumbnails.) However, if you want to create a portrait or landscape image, that’s perfectly acceptable.

Photos are still the thing

When all is said and done, Instagram is still king of the fabulous photo. So if you’ve got a standout pic of your product, go ahead and make it the star of the show. Choose design elements that are uncluttered in unassuming colors that allow them to blend in and not steal your photo’s thunder.

One thing you can do to your photos to give them a unified look and feel is to apply an effect to them. Effects can soften edges, brighten colors, add a gritty sheen—countless things that will subtly or drastically alter your picture’s mood. You can also create your own custom effect that combines as many effects as you want. That way you’ll be able to instantly make your photos consistent with your brand.

Post engaging content

If you want to promote successfully on Instagram, be sure not to always be promoting. Instagram devotees are there for the beautiful photography, inspiring words, and thought-provoking images that will add something to their lives. You’ll gain their trust, interest, and attention by posting things they’ll enjoy.

Try finding or taking a photo that somehow reflects your business. If you’re a landscape designer, post a photo of an exotic plant. If you sell baked goods, post a photo of a vast field of wheat. If you’re a local tour operator, post pictures of travel destinations throughout the world. Give your pics that extra umph by adding a texture or effect.

Another popular thing among Instagrammers is posting images with quotes. Again, try to choose quotes that align with the values of your brand and reflect the interests of your customers. If you’re a personal trainer, you could create images with quotes about achieving your goals, becoming your best self, or taking care of your body and mind. If you sell camping equipment, post quotes about the great outdoors and the importance of protecting the Earth’s natural resources.

No question about it, Instagram requires some effort. Just being there isn’t enough. A shoddy Instagram presence will likely detract from your business, so you want to make sure to do it right. But Instagram’s tremendous popularity means all that effort will likely pay off!

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Molly Shapiro

Before joining the PicMonkey editorial team as a senior writer, Molly wrote about topics as varied as politics, finance, global health, and online dating. As a fiction writer, she’s published two books, both available on Amazon through totally non-sketchy retailers. A midwestern transplant who now calls Seattle home, Molly firmly believes that the Space Needle is way cooler than the Eiffel Tower.