Make Perfect Facebook Cover Pictures with Google’s Free Picasa

Blount County Courthouse

Facebook has moved everyone to the Timeline layout, so everyone needs a cover picture.

The cover picture format is 851 x 315 pixels. Your pictures can be bigger than that – Facebook will resize them to fit. The main thing is to make sure they’re in the 851:315  aspect ratio before you upload them so you can control how they look. Here’s how to do that in Google’s free Picasa photo editor.

Cantilever Barn in Cades Cove

1. Bring up the picture in Picasa.*
2. Click the Crop button.
3. From the dropdown menu choose Add Custom Aspect Ratio.
4. Here’s the real trick. For Dimensions, enter 2.7 x 1. (851 pixels divided by 315 pixels is 2.7 and change.) For the Name use Facebook Cover Picture. Click OK.

Creating a custom Picasa crop ratio for Facebook

With that aspect ratio saved, it’s easy to make Facebook cover pictures any time by choosing Facebook Cover Picture from the dropdown menu.

5. Drag your cursor to crop the photo the way you want it to look.

  • Picasa will constrain the crop rectangle to a 2.7:1 ratio that will fit exactly in the cover picture area without losing any part of the picture.
  • You can drag the corners and sides of the selection area to make it larger or smaller.
  • You can grab the middle of the selection area to move the rectangle.

6. When the crop looks the way you want it, click the Apply button.

7. Optional: Click the I’m Feeling Lucky button to see if you like the improvements Picasa makes to your image. You probably will, but if you don’t you can always click the Undo I’m Feeling Lucky button.

8. Export the picture. Go to the File menu and choose Export Picture to Folder. You want it to be at least 851 pixels wide, but wider is better – someone may want to see an enlarged version. The surefire settings are Use Original Size and Automatic image quality. Make a note of the Export location so you’ll know where to find the file, or click Browse and send it to the Desktop.

Export to Folder

9. Upload it. On your Facebook wall hover over your cover picture, click the Change Cover button and choose Upload Photo.

* If the photo isn’t in Picasa, go to the File menu and choose Add File to Picasa. If you want to choose from a bunch of photos, put them all in a folder. Then go to File and choose Add Folder to Picasa.

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Trying Out the New Effects in Google Picasa 3.9

The latest version of Picasa has lots of new effects, so I tried them all. I used the default settings with two exceptions to maintain the picture shapes: I turned off rounded corners in 1960’s and letterbox in Cinemascope.

Click any picture to embiggen.



If you’ve been itching for the distressed Instagram look spend some time with Cinemascope, 1960’s, or Orton-ish. Lomo-ish is the opposite, with intense colors plus a vignette.



If you like black and white, Holga-ish is an instant winner that never gets old. It converts the picture to B&W and applies a vignette. I did that, manually, to this picture of Charlie using Filtered B&W and Google’s new Vignette control, but I could have done it in one step with Holga-ish.



I didn’t expect to like Posterize and I love it. It turns a picture into something that doesn’t look like a photograph. It would be perfect for cell phone pics, or for salvaging photos with good subjects but with bad lighting, poor focus, or other snafus.

Other Effects

There’s a fifth tab in Picasa for minor effects.

  • Vignette is pretty much endlessly handy and is a welcome addition.
  • Boost intensifies colors in a different and seemingly better way than the old Saturation control.
  • Comic Book adds halftone-style dots around the edge of the photo.
  • Pencil Sketch and Neon sound neat, but I haven’t been able to get good images out of them.
  • Polaroid, Museum Matte and Border give you some options for dressing up the photo. Polaroid doesn’t have a text tool, but you can add text back on the first tab.