One of the biggest downsides to being an affiliate is that you need to have a broad range of skill sets and you need to frequently acquire new ones as situations change. One such skill is design. You’ll need some basic knowledge in order to create your own banners, but here we’ll focus on quantity over quality to produce some perfectly OK banners, fast and free.
You should know that completing a couple of tutorials and banners won’t make you a designer; you’re not going to master the craft in such a short space of time. It’s why paying a design professional to provide quality work and solutions costs you money.
But it is possible to achieve some decent results yourself as long as you start with some simple tasks such as creating a banner or a Call To Action. That way you can save money which you’ll be able to invest in ads or anything else that will bring you more revenue.
Now, to really optimise the banner creation workflow, you will need a system. The design process isn’t about mindlessly jumping in on a task; it requires research and analysis before anything else. The bigger the project, the more time you need to spend on these two steps to produce good-quality design which works effectively.
It’s also important to set some goals before you begin. In our case, the creation of banners isn’t the actual goal – we need to be more specific. When setting goals you need to set them so they can be measurable; if not, you’re just creating a ‘to do’ task.
So our goal for this task will be: to design a workflow for creating visually attractive banners in the least possible time. Remember that if you outsource these banners, it would save you time. And if that time is more valuable to you than the price, it’s OK and smart to outsource. But in our case, let’s say you’re starting out and have the time, but even so, you don’t want to spend too much time on them, as that won’t be productive.
A NOTE ON WHAT’S BELOW
I’m not only going to show you how to create a banner quickly and effectively, I’m going to explain why they are a good idea and what impact some of the decisions we make could have on your affiliate business.
At the end of this article I’m hoping you’ll have attained a far more useful skill than just creating a banner. And that you’ll be able to use this new skill on anything and any problem you may have. It should help you to think smart.
SETTING UP THE DOCUMENT
Let’s fire up Photoshop and start to build things piece by piece. First of all, create a new file in Photoshop with these settings below.
We will start with a basic 300x250px banner. Click on the ‘Create’ button and find the Layers panel from the right sidebar of Photoshop (you can also go to Window > Layers or use F7 to display the panel). Then click on the ‘more menu’ top right of that panel.
Click on the ‘Artboard from Layers’ option. This will create an artboard – a page with the size of our 300x250px banner on it. We will be adding all the banner sizes we need to this file.
We have already saved some time by doing it in this way, as we only need to open and work with one file and one file alone.
Now start to focus and think long term.
Later on we will optimise the whole file for banner creation and use ‘Smart Objects’ to easily switch the content, for example logos etc. This is a great help if you want to change one or two things across say, 20 PSD banner files. You don’t want to have to open each file and make these changes individually as it would take up a lot of your valuable time.
It’s a good idea to track the time you spend on tasks (you can use time-tracking apps to help make this a seamless and quick operation). Within a month of gathering the tasks and time data, you will be able to see where you could make savings and put that time to better use, for example building traffic or creating content.
Let’s say you spend 40% of your time designing banners, but you only earn 10% of your revenue with those banners; you’re clearly spending too much time for too little return. You need to turn your attention to something that, for example, takes 20% of your time per month, but would earn you 40% revenue.
And using this strategy for your other tasks would mean you could really grow your income just by being more time efficient. Focus on the tasks that make you more money, and outsource services you still need but take up too much of your time.
In order to make better use of your time you need data: you need to track the time it takes to do various tasks. Here are some tools that can help you with that:
Now you may think that this is making extra work for yourself. And it’s true; it does. However, it may only take you a couple of minutes per day if done properly. You need to look at these things long term – you shouldn’t be in the affiliate game for a quick buck. It’s a marathon, and after running all those miles there will be great rewards waiting for you.
CREATING NEW ARTBOARDS
Name the newly created artboard ‘300×250’ which is the size of the banner. This will help you to organise all the banner sizes.
Now let’s add another artboard for the 728x90px banner size. Again, choose the ‘More Options’ menu on the top right of the ‘Layers’ panel.
But this time choose ‘New Artboard’.
In the new pop-up window add these settings:
You should now have two artboards like this:
Feel free to create artboards with other sizes, such as 160×600, 120×600, 468×60, 300×100.
Now drag and drop your logo onto the artboard. A width size of 300px is recommended.
In your ‘Layers’ panel you should have the logo layer on your artboard. Now right-click on it and select ‘Convert to Smart Object’.
This will convert the logo into a Smart Object which has a new icon in the ‘Layers’ panel. Smart Objects create an instance of your logo layer which you can change without destroying the original layer. You can also duplicate this layer, double-click on it and change its contents, and it will automatically update all its linked instances.
Now you need to broaden your view – to think and see a couple of steps ahead into the future. Do you see where this is leading? You are now going to duplicate this Smart Object to each artboard so that the next time you create a new banner, you’ll just need to double click on one instance to open it. You can then change the contents of it to the new logo, save it, and it will update all the other banners automatically.
This will be a huge time saver for you. And you can do the same with the product image, button, background colour, border colour and even text. And not just for this project: you’ve now done the hard work so any further banner collections you may need will take you a fraction of the time.
If it took you one hour to create your banners before, and you did seven in a week, that’s seven hours per week. Whereas using this method it’s going to take around 14 minutes. What will you do with the other six hours you just gained? You could focus on the tasks that you’re really great at and bring you more money.
Depending on the shape of the product image or your logo, you may still need to tweak these but it shouldn’t take you long. You could even say that this is a banner generator – it’s that easy to create new banners with it!
So now you should have a basic understanding of how to create a banner in Photoshop. I’ve shown you how to use some simple and basic tools that can have a huge impact on the way you operate. You could say that there are two items you’ve just designed. One is the banner and the other is the workflow. A design doesn’t always need to be visual; it can be the process itself that is ‘designed’.
I want you to take a moment to think about this approach further, as this exact thinking can be applied to any problem you may have. You should take some time and gather your data, and then come up with a solution or a prototype workflow. And then tweak it. It may take you longer initially to do the task, but in the long term you’ll save time and money.
If you learn and adopt this skill, it will benefit you a lot more than the free Photoshop banner generator tool which I’ll share with you below.
Thanks for sticking with these steps above. As you can see, learning how to use tools and knowing how to design are two hugely different processes and understanding what to do with a tool or two (or 10) doesn’t make you a designer. That’s why the design profession is sometimes misunderstood and people can end up with cheap (and bad) work. And why services like Fiverr are great for larger and more complex design projects.
THE FINISHED PHOTOSHOP FILE FOR CREATING BANNERS
You now know the basics of how this was built and should be able to tweak it to your needs. These are really simple banners but have all the necessary elements to make them work. You should also be able to add any other sizes you want, but the basic default ones are already in there.
To save you even more time, I’ve already added the logo, text, product and even colours to the banners as the setup of these is a bit tricky. So all you have to do is just download the file.
And here’s a small movie on how to use it, since video can show this a lot better than screenshots. In it, I make eight new banners for Google’s Chrome Browser in 1 minute 36 seconds.
Here’s some further explanation for the video:
The green layers are for you to double click and change; you can see the banner assets on the left-hand side of the file. Whenever you change something there, the right-hand side banners will get updated. The text is better positioned in the middle of the Smart Object.
EXPORTING THE BANNERS
The final thing you need to know is how to export the banners. Click on File > Export > Artboards to Files.
And use the settings below to export the artboards to banners.
Open the folder you exported the files to and delete the assets (you can customise the File Name Prefix).
And that’s it; enjoy your banners.
POINTS TO THINK ABOUT
Try and take some time to consider how you would apply this thinking and process to other time-consuming tasks. Work out ways to automate some tasks: if you have thousands of images and want to resize or optimise them, Photoshop can do this automatically for you and will even add watermarks.
But at the end of the day, tools are just tools, and it’s down to you and your ability to create something with them. You could be really bad at some things or simply lazy, and no pricey tool in the world is going to help you. But if you have a goal and want to create new things, any tool will help you achieve that. And remember, there isn’t always just one use for one tool.
Also, don’t overthink things and make them too complicated. Always try and think a couple of steps ahead, how one change to your workflow could impact future tasks. You don’t want to improve one task only to find that you’ve tripled the time of another task!