Pinterest can be a tremendous traffic generator for food bloggers when used well. The first step to generating Pinterest traffic to your food blog is a strong Pinterest graphic or "pin". Here's our tips for creating great food pins along with 7 FBC Member case studies to help you learn what works and what doesn't.
Pinterest is consistently one of the top referral sites for most food bloggers and with good reason. Pinterest is one of the biggest visual search platforms on the internet - particularly when it comes to fashion, lifestyle, home decor, shopping, arts and crafts and of course, food.
Which is why it's so crucial to nail your Pinterest imagery if you want to draw your share of hungry pinners to your food blog.
So let's get started with how to create eye catching, mouth watering, appealing pins that will grab people's appetites as they quickly scroll through their pinterest feeds!
**Note - we won't be talking about writing pin descriptions or hashtagging etc - this is just about the images.
We're going to start with the basics and along the way we're going to be showing you some examples of great pins from FBC Members and why they work.
The Basics of a Pinterest Pin
How Big Should My Pinterest Pins Be?
The first thing you need to know is how big your pin canvas needs to be. Pinterest has stated many times that pins should be a 2:3 ratio. (200 x 300 pixels, 600 x 900, 800 x 1200 etc). For a long time, longer pins (also known as "giraffe pins") have dominated the platform despite Pinterest's recommendations. All that changed earlier this year though, when Pinterest started showing pins cropped down to the 2:3 ratio in people's feeds. It was a not so subtle hint that long pins were out of favour.
Pinterest has said that you can still share pins that are longer than the 2:3 ratio but that they must earn the extra real estate that they take up in the feed. So, if you already have an extremely popular long pin, it's probably going to continue to do just fine. But, under performing long pins may not. New long pins with no track record will probably have an uphill battle. But test this out regularly if you're determined to keep using long pins.
Our Pinterest Recommendation: aim to make your new pins a 2:3 ratio.
Horizontal Pins or Vertical Pins?
You can pin whatever you like to Pinterest but, we strongly recommend you have at least one image on your post that is vertical, just for pinning. Take a look at Pinterest's feed and scroll through it. See how easily horizontal images get completely lost? You don't want that to happen to you!
Our Pinterest Recommendation: definitely vertical pins.
CASE STUDY: VERTICAL PINS WITH HORIZONTAL IMAGES
Don't have any vertical photos? That's ok. Take a page from Bernice at Dish 'n' the Kitchen. Her pins above work because:
- although she was working with horizontal images, she turned them into striking vertical pins
- she uses strong colours that complement the dish and that are instantly eye catching in any feed
- she's used two fonts (we talk about that below). A serif and a sans serif font
- the bold strip of colour below the image balances the pin out and gives her real estate to put her URL and her logo.
- her pins are consistent and cohesive in their branding. You can immediately recognize them as her work.
Should My Pins Have Text On Them?
Long pins were nice in that they gave us lots of real estate to work with. Shorter pins require a bit more creativity to make them stand out and still be informative at a quick glance. So the question has come up - should we still put text on shorter pins?
Pinterest is highly visual and it's a platform that encourages scrolling. Which means that you have very little time to make an impression or to inform users what your pin is all about. A solid photo accompanied by some easy to read text can make for a great one-two punch that makes a viewer stop and investigate.
You don't need to put text if it's very obvious from your photo what the post is about but remember... users really dislike clicking through a pin only to find it's not what they were expecting. If your image is of fully loaded tacos and a user clicks through only to find your recipe is for making your own taco shells from scratch... they might not be super thrilled - and you won't convert them to a regular reader.
Anecdotally, we've noticed in our FBC Tailwind Tribe that pins with text get shared by the group much more frequently than pins without text.
Our Pinterest Recommendation: Have at least one vertical image with text on it - even if you need to hide it from your post (more on that in a moment).
CASE STUDY: USING TEXT ON PINS
Look at the pins above from Julia at Imagelicious. She's done lots of things right here:
- first of all, she's started off working with two very strong, attractive images that showcase her dish well
- she's used two fonts. The words "cold" and "soup" are in a very easy to read sans serif font. Beet is done with a display font. Display fonts can be tricky to use but she's chosen one that's very easy to read while still adding visual interest to the image.
- She's using a transparent overlay that still lets the original photo shine through but also ensures her text doesn't disappear into the image - it's easy to read even while scrolling quickly
- the font colours complement the photo
- she's created two pins for the same post giving her and her readers more options for pinning. She could even test which performs better and then use that one as her main pin
- she's sticking to the 2:3 ratio but has still managed to create a beautiful pin that stands out and has text on it.
- she's branded the pins with her website in an unobtrusive way. It's easy to find if you're looking for it but it doesn't interfere with the food photo
Should I Make Collage Pins?
To collage or not to collage... that is the question! Think about the content that the pin represents and create your pins accordingly. Here's a few examples:
- A recipe roundup or collection - this would be better represented by a collage
- A salad recipe - this could work either way, especially if your recipe also includes a dressing. Your pin could be of just the finished dish or it could be a collage of the salad and the dressing
- A DIY or how-to post - this could also work either way. Your pin could be of the finished project or a collage showing a few steps
Our Pinterest Recommendation: Create something that best visually represents the content of the post.
CASE STUDY: COLLAGES
Let's look at the two FBC Collage pins above:
- these pins are being used for recipe roundup posts so it's appropriate to do a collage - but we've altered our collage template recently to better work with the 2:3 ratio. We use fewer images now so it still denotes to the user that it's a recipe collection but it's not so busy that you can't tell what the roundup is about
- we use two fonts: the number is a serif font and the words are a sans serif font (this font is actually used in our logo and in all our branding)
Now it's time to move on to the ins and outs of creating a beautiful pin...
How To Create a Beautiful Pin
Start with a Strong Image
Pinterest images don't have to be works of art. You don't need to be a whiz at styling food but you do need to have clear, well-lit images that are appetizing. And, most importantly, your image needs to get a message across quickly. Ask yourself who you want to pin this image? (the correct answer is NOT "everybody")
If it's for a quick and easy weeknight meal, don't use an overstyled, over propped photo. That won't make anyone feel like they can whip this dish up in 20 minutes on a school night with three hungry kids making a lot of noise in the background. Keep it simple and approachable: the finished dish in a family friendly serving vessel.
If it's a pin for how to host an elegant dinner party, make sure your photo looks elegant. You will want it to look appropriately styled and propped.
If it's a pin on where to get the best street food eats in your city you may want a collage of a few dishes and a great shot of a food truck.
CASE STUDY: STRONG IMAGES
Check out the pins above from Ayngelina at Bacon is Magic where she shares recipes of dishes from her travels as a culinary blogger.
- her images are strong, well lit and show you exactly what the dish is.
- they are not overly styled - she let's the food speak for itself
- her audience is the home cook with an adventurous palette who wants to recreate dishes from their travels - she's not aiming for the 20 minute/5 ingredient weeknight crowd
- the simplicity, dark colours and strong contrast between the dish and the background makes them pop in a feed of mainly light and bright images
- the text she uses is in direct contrast to her background and she's left white space (or dark space in this instance!) to leave room for the text
- the text is bold and very easy to read - she creates contrast by using different sizes.
Shoot Pinterest Specific Images (Leave Some White Space!)
Now that shorter pins are preferred, real estate is at a premium on your pins. Your best bet for most recipe pins is to show the finished dish. But, if you're putting text on it, you run the risk of covering up an important part of the photo.
Plan ahead for your photo shoot and always take one image that leaves some white space (white space is a fancy word for "empty space") where you can add text or shapes later.
Another trick that works is to use a horizontal photo and add white space to the top or bottom (or both) in a graphics program and put your text there. This is also a handy trick to create new pins for older posts where you may not have vertical images available. (see the images from Dish in the Kitchen earlier in the post)
CASE STUDY: USING WHITE SPACE
Let's look at the pins above from Janice at Kitchen Heals Soul.
- Jan has left white space in both images that make it very easy to add text
- Jan's only using one font - it's sans serif which is easy to read but she's also created visual interest by using a mixture of lower case and upper case words as well as using different font sizes for different words.
- Jan's focus on simplicity both with the image and with the font makes her stand out in the Pinterest feed because her pins look very different from most of what you'll find in the feed
- she's using a 2:3 ratio but the white space she leaves in her photos allows her to easily use more text without it being overwhelming. The Rhubarb Pie pin tells you exactly what you're going to get: a rhubarb pie recipe AND an easy, never fail pie crust you can make in the food processor.
Pick Your Fonts Wisely
There are three kinds of fonts you need to understand. Serif, sans serif and display fonts.
- Serif fonts are fonts like Times New Roman, Baskerville, and Georgia where each letter has little feet.
- Sans Serif fonts are fonts without (sans!) the little feet like Helvetica, Futura or Arial.
- Examples of Display fonts are script fonts or big bold block fonts
Now, if you're like me (I'm a graphic designer by trade) you may be a font junkie and want to use ALL THE FONTS. This is not a good idea!
Limit yourself to one or two fonts. More than that and your pin becomes too busy and too hard to read - especially when scrolling quickly. If you mix two fonts, try mixing a serif font with a sans serif font to create a bit of visual interest.
Use display fonts very sparingly and make sure they're easily legible as people quickly scroll through. The one shown in the example above (boho script) is cute but can be difficult to read at a small size with fast scrolling.
Branding Your Pins
Branding is more than just a logo. You probably won't want to include your logo on your pins - it will take up too much space and it's not necessary (but with the right design you can make it work if it's important to you). You likely will want to include your URL, though.
You should try to give your pins a consistent, cohesive look that reflects what your blog is all about. You can do this by using the same fonts and colour palette for all your pins - these could even be the fonts and colours already used in your logo and on your site. This can be really easy to set up in a template in your graphics program which will save you precious time and thought in the long run.
If you don't have a logo or you don't feel like your current site or theme really reflects what you (or your pins) are all about, then maybe now is the time to put some thought into that.
Remember, most of the people seeing your pins on pinterest have never heard of you and have probably never visited your site. Your pin is literally their first impression of you. Make sure it conveys the right message. If you're a green living blogger, your pins should look very different from a culinary travel blogger or a DIY blogger.
CASE STUDY: CONSISTENT BRANDING
Look at the above pins from Marie at Food Nouveau. Marie worked as a graphic designer for many years and understands the importance and value of consistent branding:
- her pins consistently use the same interesting ribbon shape overlays at the top and bottom in the same colour
- if you visit her website that same pink ribbon shape is used consistently everywhere on her site - from her logo to her sidebar sections
- That same colour pink is used as her link colour on her site and for her logo
- she makes sure her bottom overlay includes her blog name and you know instantly if it's a "how-to" post or a recipe
- even her use of the w/ to denote with is consistent on her pins
Using Colour On Pins
There are so many ways you can use colour on your pins. In fact, all kinds of studies have been done on what kind of colours get more engagement on Pinterest (warm tones like reds, oranges and browns if you're wondering with light, bright images doing better than dark, dramatic images).
You can use transparent colour overlays, coloured text, coloured shapes. But again, as with fonts, less is more. Try to stick to two colours that complement each other (use a good old colour wheel if you need help with this) and don't overpower the hero of the pin: your food.
Make Sure Your Pin Image Is Accurate
Make sure your pin is an accurate representation of what the user can expect when they click through. This is apparently one of the biggest complaints Pinterest users have: clicking through to discover the pin misrepresented the content. I don't think this is as big an issue in food as it is in other niches but it's something to be aware of.
Creating Multiple Pins
You can also create more than one pin for a post. Especially if the post covers two topics.
For instance, we have a post on how to create creamy, dairy free allergy friendly pasta sauces. It's a how-to post with lots of tips and tricks. It also contains a recipe for a creamy, cashew pasta sauce. So we have two pins for it. One that shows the "how-to" nature of the post and the other that's a recipe pin.
CASE STUDY: MULTIPLE PINS FOR THE SAME POST
A couple of other things to note with these two pins:
- They're completely different but, all our pins use the same font (it's a font we have been using in our branding for over 5 years and people tell us regularly that they recognize our pins just by that font).
- They also use a max of two colours - that usually take their queue from the colours in the photo.
- The one on the left uses a transparent colour overlay so that the photo itself is still visible but the text doesn't have to compete to be seen on it.
- The one on the right uses a solid colour shape instead of a transparent overlay. This is due to the fact that the only image we have of the finished recipe is a square image that won't work well on its own on Pinterest. Adding the solid shape to the top adds height to the pin so it will fit well in the feed.
If you don't want all your pins to show in the post you can hide them with a simple bit of code. With this they'll be hidden from the post when anybody reads it but, if they use a pin it button or tailwind it will show up as an image available to pin. All you need is a simple little div statement before your image code!
<div style="display: none;"><img src="https://yourfoodblog.com/wp-content/uploads/yourlovelypinterestphoto.jpg" /></div>
Tools For Creating Pinterest Images
There was a time where if you wanted to create cool graphics you had to be a Photoshop wizard. Not so anymore! There are lots of tools out there that can help you turn out beautiful graphics with ease.
ONE BIG TIP: templates. Seriously. Templates are a must. They'll save you loads of time across all your social graphics and they ensure you stick to a cohesive, consistent look. We're going to talk about the big three: Photoshop, Canva and PicMonkey
As a graphic designer, Photoshop is my tool of choice. It is a paid tool and there is no free version but, it has tremendously powerful capabilities. I've created a stable of templates that make it easy for me to whip up social graphics in a flash, with all my branding assets, including paid fonts.
It's also part of my workflow - I can easily export images from Lightroom to PS and back to LR with ease as well as between other Adobe programs like Illustrator and InDesign. Photoshop also gives me a finer level of control with photo editing, image resizing, text, shapes and overlays. If you are a subscriber to Adobe's Lightroom/Photoshop bundle then you have everything you need to make gorgeous pins and edit all your photos.
But... and it's a big but... Photoshop is overkill for most web and social media graphics needs. And if you're a beginner, it has a considerable learning curve and is lacking in pre-made templates. So if you struggle with the artistic side of creating an attractive graphic and don't know where to start with a blank canvas, you may find it overwhelming.
I don't have a lot of experience with Canva because I default to Photoshop but from what I've seen, it has an awful lot to offer for free. It comes with an impressive array of templates for every type of social media graphic. No matter how challenged you feel in the graphics department, you'll find something attractive here that will work for you. It's also web based so you can access it from all your devices. And it's free (for the most part).
But... you are limited in the types of fonts you can use with the free version. If you've purchased fonts for your logo or branding then you will need to use the paid version of Canva to use those. There are other limitations to Canva (no support for image transparency which is super useful for web graphics and no support for image quality control) but they shouldn't affect your ability to make Pinterest images.
PicMonkey is a paid tool (although you can try it for free to get a sense of whether you'd like it or not). It's less expensive than Photoshop IF you get the basic version. If you want the premium version you will be paying about the same as Adobe's Photoshop/Lightroom bundle.
Most food bloggers won't be using stock images for their graphics but a lot of other blogging niches do and while Canva offers these with their free and paid plans, PicMonkey doesn't. You also can't create PDFs in PicMonkey.
But... PicMonkey does have some useful features that Canva doesn't. They support image transparency which can be super useful when creating graphics for the web (Photoshop also supports this). PicMonkey (and Photoshop) also support different image quality levels and Canva doesn't. This can also be very useful if you want to use your graphics for other things (like print!). Like Photoshop and Canva's paid version, PicMonkey will allow you to upload custom fonts.
Our Last Tip!
Your goal is to make your pins stand out in the feed! You want people to stop and look at your pin and be intrigued enough to click on it. Do you research before creating your photos or your graphic. Search for a similar recipe or topic on pinterest and scroll through the results. You'll notice a lot of images all look very similar - similar photos, colours, fonts and graphics. How can you make yours stand out?
Maybe it's using a radically different colour as a backdrop or for your colour overlays. Perhaps you go super stripped down and minimal if everyone else's pins are busy. Or if everyone is minimal you do something more elaborate. However you create your pin, try to stand out from the crowd (in a good way!)