Creating Custom Images from Scratch – University Events

By March 4, 2015 No Comments

Content is Still King

Creativity is becoming more and more commonplace throughout the various facets of marketing and promotion. Gaining a creative edge is crucial for successful higher-education marketing campaigns, and it can be difficult working without a (generally expensive) creative professional. This is a guide to help the everyday marketer design his/her own custom images without an internal designer.
Custom images convey a personal message that can be manipulated and tailored to multiple instances and events. Rather than stock images or campus/student photos, custom images show that you took the time and effort to create something for a specific occasion. They derive a sense of personality. Audiences are much more likely to interact with something they find personal over a corporate entity. Custom images can help your branding, link building endeavors and social media campaigns. They are extremely versatile.
Adobe illustrator is by far the most popular and well-rounded tool to create custom images and graphics. Through the Adobe Creative Cloud, you can download Adobe Illustrator for $20/month or you can get the entire Adobe suite for $50/month.

Creating Your First Custom Image

Start with a square

  • Most social media platforms acknowledge squares as a standard image shape. Square images will be your safest bet for social media post integration.
  • Go to the shape tool on the left side of the screen, click and hold to bring up a drop-down menu and select the rectangle option. Shift-click to draw a large square.
  • The bigger the better, you can always reduce pixel dimensions and retain image quality but not the other way around.


  • Remove the border around the square so that only the “fill” remains.


Add Your University Colors

  • To retain brand consistency, use the eyedropper tool to add your university colors.
  • Click on the square you made and ensure the “fill” is selected rather than the “stroke” or outline.


  • Make sure the illustrator window isn’t taking up your full screen and that you can see something on your screen that has the colors you want to use. I would suggest your school logo.
  • Click on the eyedropper tool, and then click on the inside of your square and HOLD the mouse button. Drag the eyedropper tool to your university color (outside the illustrator window).


  • The square should now have copied the color you want. Click on the swatches panel and go to add new swatch. Your new color should show up in a pop-up window. Click ok and your new color will now be in your library for you to use consistently.


  • Repeat this process for any other colors you wish to import.
  • (Your university most likely has an extensive brand standards document outlining the various official university colors. This is definitely something to consider implementing if your school doesn’t have one already.)


Create a Gradient (Optional)

  • Click on your square and click the gradient button on the RIGHT side of the screen. There is one on the left as well, ignore it for now.
  • Make sure your square’s fill is selected.
  • Click on the square on the top left corner of the gradient box to make your shape into a gradient.


  • Add your custom colors by clicking and dragging them from your swatches library into the gradient window.
  • You can use the gradient tool on the LEFT tool column to change the orientation of the gradient.


Add Icons


  • Note: Illustrator, like most digital workspaces, works in layers. If you ever want to bring forward or send back a certain layer, such as text, icons or shapes, simply use the key commands “Command + ]” to move forward and “Command + [” to move backward.

Add Text


  • Adjust Kearning (spacing between letters) by clicking the orange “character” button at the top of the screen.
  • Resize different lines to create more depth and highlight certain phrases or words.


  • Change the color of the text. Feel free to match your school’s brand or branch out and use new and unconventional color options. Again, I’d stick to no more than three colors overall for your custom image.

Add your Brand

  • Lastly, add your University Logo somewhere.
  • Add hashtags and/or the event theme, slogan or motto.
  • Refer to spacing restrictions and brand procedures procured by your institution. Many universities have necessary white space restrictions in regards to logo placement.

You can see my final design below. I added a couple white text boxes with the rounded rectangle shape tool to add more depth and help the text and logo stand out. I’ve also added opacity characteristics to the text boxes.
OU Russ Prize Image

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