Since I started using Pinterest for my business, I have become more and more convinced that pin design is massively important for success on the platform. Your pins could be missing out on valuable exposure, not because your content isn’t great or your strategy isn’t on-point, but because of your pin design. How do I know this? Because I am truly sad to say, I have done it. Most of the time, if a pin has truly valuable content, I will re-pin it even if it’s not represented by a pretty pin. But in those instances, I genuinely feel I’m re-pinning the content in spite of the pin. Imagine if both your content and your pin designed worked together to get the exposure it deserved? What if both your design and content connected meaningfully with your audience?
I sincerely believe that even the least design-savvy among us is capable of pretty pin designs, especially with tools like Canva at their disposal! That’s why I’m giving away a set of Canva pin templates for free, and addressing the five most common mistakes I see on Pinterest.
Before we dive in, you might think some of these examples are exaggerations. I assure you, they are not. I took all of these mistakes from actual pins I have seen out there in the wild! If all of the awesome entrepreneurs out there were to correct just a few of these five mistakes, it would go a long way.
Mistake 1: Bad Pictures
It’s no secret that Pinterest is a picture-oriented platform, just as much as Instagram or perhaps even more! This makes it that much more essential to have great pictures. In the age of incredible smartphone cameras, blurry, grainy, and poorly lit pictures are fully preventable! Everybody can create beautiful pictures.
Tip: Use All the Pixels They’ll Let You!
First, you should make sure you’re taking full advantage of the perfect pin size, according to Pinterest headquarters itself: 2:3 aspect ratio, at least 1000 x 1500 pixels. I’d guess that many fuzzy pins could be helped by bumping up the quality just a bit! If you’re using Canva, rather than use the built-in pin size, start by creating a “custom” sized canvas—the same pin templates from Canva you’re used to seeing will still pop up, just sized to fit.
Tip: Step Up Your Lighting
But more than anything, good pictures depend on good lighting. The ideal is to find a big natural light source, and scoot a table or a chair with a board right up next to the biggest window in your house. Set up so that the lighting is coming naturally from the right or the left of the picture. Second best (and what I often do), is to grab a big strong artificial light source like this portable one that I have, and bank it off of a wall or a poster board. I often do this in tandem with a window, and it gives the lighting just the right amount of extra push.
Tip: Use the Grid
Don’t forget to turn on the grid on your smartphone camera’s screen, so that you can line your product up with the rule of thirds—this helps guide the eye to the part of the picture that is most important! If your built-in camera app doesn’t have grid, you can always download a third party app.
Tip: Process Consistently
Lastly, process your pictures consistently. My go-to apps are VSCO and Snapseed. Pick one filter (or at most, two very similar filters), and process them so that they look similar.
Finally, there’s nothing wrong with tapping into some great stock photos! I often do this, as long as the picture actually connects with the topic at hand. My favorite sources for free stock photos are Unsplash and Pexels. Jana Bishop is my favorite paid vendor!
Mistake 2: Design Element Overload
Less is more! Don’t clutter up your pin with lots of elements and tons of text. Pins are small, and can only fit so much stuff! You don’t need to go quite as minimal as I did for the example above, but you definitely don’t need more than one or two decorative elements, especially since your picture should capture attention on its own!
Tip: Pick One Emphasis
Decide what the central component of your pin will be, and try to design it around that element. Sometimes that will be the text/title of the pin, and sometimes that will be the picture; each piece of content is different. But if your text, your picture, your logo, your website URL, and several decorative elements are all constantly competing for attention, it will feel visually overwhelming.
Tip: LEverage Your Pictures
Perhaps you’ve just got a lot to put on a pin, and that’s that. Understandable. In moments like those, think about the kind of picture you’re using—if you have to use a lot of elements, don’t choose a picture with a lot going on. See what a big difference (above) a slightly less busy picture can make? Both pictures are objectively good pictures, but the one on the right just has one element; the rest of it is wood. If your picture is really busy and you just can’t change that, balance that with lots of white space with your other design elements. If your picture has more white space, you can use that opportunity to use a little bit more text.
This same principle is important when you’re overlaying text on a picture, especially if you want to use a semi-transparent shape like the circle above. Believe it or not, the circle on the second example is not more opaque—it has the same opacity as the first example. The background image just has fewer elements!
Tip: Watch your photography styles
All of the pictures above are great pictures! But on the left, the backgrounds and photography styles are pretty drastically different. If you’re going to use two different pictures, make sure you process them the same, choose similar photos to begin with, or shoot two photos during the same photoshoot so that the lighting/surroundings are the same.
Finally, sometimes it’s unavoidable—you’ve got a lot to include on a pin! If you find yourself suspicious about how much you’re trying to cram onto your pin, just create more pins instead!
Mistake 3: Color Overload
Picking a ton of colors all for one pin isn’t always a good idea. If your picture is naturally very colorful, then it may be a good move! But if your picture is pretty subdued and neutral/muted, it’s best to stick to only one or two colors. Work with the flow of your picture, not against it.
In my second example, I chose colors for my text and design elements that match the colors in the picture itself. The second pin’s use of color feels intentional, not just attention-grabby.
If your brand is naturally very colorful, and you want to use your branded colors, then choose colorful pictures too! Even better, find a handful of objects that are similar in color to your branded colors, and include them alongside your products when you take pictures. This will make your branded pins feel more cohesive and intentional.
Mistake 4: Font Overload
Try to keep it to two or fewer fonts on a pin! More than that can be very visually disorienting. If you find you’re needing some more dynamics, try using fonts in different colors or sizes (but not too many there, either!) Pro graphic designers usually try not to use more than two different fonts even in a large design piece—and when your space is limited to the size of the pin, this is even more essential.
Mistake 5: Too Much Text or
Too Little Room to Breathe
Use just enough words to say something, but not enough to compete with your actual description. At minimum, give your text some margin, and some room to breathe on either side—see what a big difference that makes with the above? The text on the pin on the right is completely legible, but it is much more pleasant to look at because of the white space! This doesn’t just count for the edges of your pin—don’t let your text intrude on your picture, logo, or website, either!
You may find it helpful to use a title/subtitle format: Big text accompanied by small text. Think about which words you should call out on the pin, and emphasize it with the larger text. This will help you fit more text on the pin, without overwhelming them.
Got a lot to include? Create multiple pins!
Free Canva Pin Templates
Well, I did promise not to just tell you what you might be doing wrong, but to help you do it right too! To that end, I’ve created some free Pinterest pin templates in Canva, just for you! They will help you avoid some of the mistakes above, and they come with a PDF instructional full of helpful tips on using them.
16 fully editable and customizable Pinterest pin templates
High-resolution (2000 x 3000 px)
Designed for ease of use, with snapping to help center text perfectly, both horizontally and vertically.
Labelled to help you figure out which template to use for each piece of content (e.g. this pin features a longer title; that pin really focuses on your picture)
Subscribe to my email list below to stay in the loop about new templates, and gain access to your freebie! Being on my list isn’t a huge commitment, I promise—I will pop into your inbox no more than once or twice per month (or, let’s be honest, probably less often), and I will frequently come bearing more gifts!