How to Instagram puzzle

THE STORY

Not too long ago – round about last summer – I hit a real slump with Instagram. All those algorithm changes and rumours about shadowbans plus a huge dip in my posts’ engagement had me at a low point. Or actually a high point; a high point of frustration!

But I didn’t want to give into the temptation of just giving up, I wanted to find a way to have fun with Instagram again and to create a feed that adds value to my audience by brightening up their day one little tile at the time.

And I knew I wanted it to be a cohesive look that tells visitors something about me and my designs. I wanted my feed to really evoke the emotions JuniperOats is all about: Designs that bring a smile to your day and remind you that paradise is not just a place but a state of your mind. Designs that make you feel alive, mindful and in touch with your inner romantic.

So I set out on a mission to find other accounts I found inspiring and upon oozing over @twigyposts‘ feed and how uniquely she arranged her gorgeous photographs, I knew what I wanted: A feed in which each post is meaningful on its own but also part of a bigger picture. Part of my entire brand’s story; represented through my feed.

Now, ever since I did, I have been getting many many requests from followers and fans, about how I create my feed. And when the amazing peeps at the Preview App asked me if I am open to share my secret I said: You know what I should write a blog post about it.

So without further ado, here are the steps I take and the tools I use to create my feed:

THE HOW-TO

Step One

I create a blank grid of 3×13 squares using Adobe Illustrator. You could also use Photoshop but I like that, by using Illustrator’s art-boards, I can easily export each individual tile later, once I am done designing the feed.

A. Open your illustrator and hit File > New and set it to pixels and a width of 1200 by 1200 in height, RGB and medium DPI of 150.

B. Once created you will now duplicate the artboard over and over again using Illustrators snap-to-intersect function

    • TIP 1: once you selected the artboard tool via SHIFT+O you can drag those artboards around anywhere you want as long as they have a blue dotted outline around them
    • TIP 2: if you hold down ALT whilst dragging an artboard you will actually create and then move a copy of that artboard
    • TIP 3: the latest Illustrator version from Adobe CC has alignment helpers in the form of little pink lines that will tell ensure the artboards are lined up perfectly
    • TIP 4: Holding down SHIFT while selecting any artboards will enable to select multiple artboards

Step Two

I chose my color palette and start layering from the background up. Meaning just like a good old collage back in our school days, I add basic shapes first and then work my way to the foreground with more and more photos.

Note: I use some photos as backgrounds (usually more neutral tones like whites and greys) while other photos will become my “hero” images, the ones that will make up the main focus of a post.

Step Three

Now that the basic outline is taking shape I start layering in those “hero” images and picture by picture create the overall content flow. For that I already keep my favorite fonts that I chose for my designs as well as my logo next to the artboards – ready to use.

I LOVE LOVE typography so I like to incorporate it into my feed not only to make verbal statements but also as a way to further style my page – to create that “vibe” I am all about.

Note: When it comes to my content I follow the 80/20 rule, which means 80% of my content is lifestyle & storytelling while 20% focusses on my actual products and designs.  

This is the most labour intensive step and can sometimes take me a couple days, as I go back and forth until it all just feels right. I also pay a lot of attention to how each individual tile will turn out. You will end up with some “filler” posts and that’s ok, it allows the overall feed to breathe but more or less I try that each little square has something visually pleasing or a small story to tell.

Step Four

Once I am happy with how everything looks (including image resolutions) I export the artboards as individual JPGs using the File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)… function.

Note: I like to use the shortcut for my mac, which is OPTION+SHIFT+COMMAND+S

△ BLOG UPDATE△

After getting many many questions regarding how one could do this using Photoshop I decided to launch a gorgeous little collection of Photoshop templates which are already prepped to be sliced perfectly with the press of ONE button. Sounds perfect? Head over to the shop and take a peak.

Step Five

Once I saved all the posts as JPGs I then airdrop them to my iPhone, (Ha, can you tell yet I am a total apple geek?! Even all my drawings for the shop are created in my iPad Pro.) I then upload them into my beloved Preview App from where I can schedule them and make sure they always come out exactly in the order I had intended.

It also allows me to see it all in context of Instagram’s life size: the phone. And if you then find  some or your elements (type, patterns, images, etc.) end up way too small, you can always go back and edit your source file. But if everything looks good, you are now ready to rock the Instagram world – one gorgeous puzzle piece at a time!

THE SO NOT UGLY BUT AWESOME IMAGE RESOURCES

The so not ugly but awesome image resources

01 – My Social Curator // Jasmine Star’s subscription shop offers captions + images curated for your feed, monthly.

02 – Kate Max Stock // Kate Max offers a pay-per-photo shop as well as monthly free photos if you sign up for her mailing list.

03 – Stock That Rocks // The Bloguettes have both a pay-per-photo model and two different membership options to get strong stock photography.

04 – Twigyposts // Omg, Jana’s Styled Stock Photos are not only affordable Stock Photos but they are warm, inviting & unique and I am simply her biggest fan! She has a membership option as well as a pay-per-photo one-stop shop.

05 – Stocksy // At Stocksy, you get stock photography + cinematography, made with love. Stocksy is home to a highly curated collection of royalty-free stock photography and video footage that is beautiful, distinctive, and highly usable.

06 – Death To Stock // Every month Death to Stock taps our team of photographers around the world to produce “photopacks” — these packs are carefully crafted stories accompanied with 12+ photos from the perspective of the artist. Get two packs a month with their membership.

07 – Unsplash // Unsplash offers FREE photos for you to download that have been gifted by a generous community of photographers.

08 – Kaboom Pics // Another FREE stock photography resource that provides beautiful photos for your feed.

WANT TO SKIP THE HASSLE OF THE FIRST STEP?
Download my FREE grid template and jump right into the fun design part.

PS: My name is Judith and this is my little slice of the internet. I hope you’ll enjoy hanging out with me from time to time while I ramble on about design, art and of course, lots of romantic minimalism.

61 Comments

  • Christy Habecker10 months ago

    What an incredibly generous tutorial. Your instagram feed is my favorite, and I have encouraged others to follow you! I have never used Illustrator (only Photoshop), but this might encourage me to take the leap. And thanks for all your resources. I knew of a few, but certainly not all. Have you ever tried Morguefiles? They are a good one also.

    It looks like in your example you lay out 39 tiles at a time. Since your colors and feed are so consistent, I have never been able to distinguish where any tiles end, but guess they must start over at some point in time. And while I can tell it is a lot more work up-front, it would certainly be easier to do the layout for a month (or more) in advance.

    This would also be a great way to design a print photo layout!

    reply
  • Jess10 months ago

    I LOvE YoU

    reply
  • Vanessa Quijano10 months ago

    I want to give this a try! I just downloaded the template. This might soothe the struggle. 😉 This format might just represent my brand better with everything that it offers. Not sure where to start or how to go about it, any thoughts for a headstart? @vqstudio

    reply
  • Tsu10 months ago

    Do you think there is a way to do this without needing Illustrator? I love the look of it and the ability to really plan ahead and see the integration of brand images, but i’m just starting out on my new business and finances are tight. Thanks for the inspiration!

    reply
  • Moe Bueno10 months ago

    Hi Ms! There seems to be a problem as I couldn’t type in my email when I wanted to get the template. anyway, this was a really, really generous step you made. Love yah! 🙂

    reply
  • Faye M9 months ago

    Hi, Thank you for the template. I’m a real illustrator novice and need to extend the template beyond the squares on the template. I’ve tried to copy and paste but that doesn’t seem to work. What’s the best way to do this? Many thanks!

    reply
  • Cassie Stauffer9 months ago

    What an absolutely BEAUTIFUL feed you have. Thank you for the tutorial and template. So inspiring!

    reply
  • Tracy K8 months ago

    Let me start by saying AH-MA-ZING!
    Thanks so much!
    But, I’m having a hard time exporting. I’m only able to export a small part of each artboard. Any suggestions?

    reply
  • Damaris Kubota8 months ago

    I’m so happy to make my feed with your help!
    U r so gentle, generous and kind!!
    u deserve all the best to you!

    Thank you so much!

    reply
  • LESLEY8 months ago

    Love this post! I feel so inspired! I do have one question; when you post, do you post three images at a time (the three images on the same row), like a few minutes apart? I ask because if you post one image, won’t that shuffle the whole puzzle making it look “unconnected” until you post the next one and then the final third one from that row?
    Thanks, Les

    reply
  • Chris Pontiroli8 months ago

    Thank you!!!!

    reply
  • Karen8 months ago

    Wow thank you for this. I know Illustrator more then Photoshop and figured there must be a way to do it in Illustrator. I spent all afternoon making 27 artboards so I could three accounts at once having enough for a week. Question I’m using CS6. Is there way to select more then one artboard at a time when saving for the web? I’m doing it individually now. I’d love to select 9 at a time for each account and save them all as save for web. Is that possible? I tried selecting artboard on the left and then tried selecting shift but nothing happens. I tried select all but that’s just selecting everything on each artboard.

    reply
      • Karen8 months ago

        Judith,

        Thank you for the helpful video. This is amazing. Now I just want to keep playing and making new boards. Your feed looks amazing.

        reply
  • Bobbie7 months ago

    I am a total newbie to Instagram, so I started looking into “how to” options and I am so glad I stumbled across your page! It is gorgeous! A work of art! Just a few quick questions for you: when you post using Preview, do you always post bottom up and right pictures to left (so that the puzzle shows up correctly on Instagram) — not sure if that totally made sense or not. And do you create all the info/pictures ahead of time or are you tweaking things as you go based on events, etc. that are happening (and if you do tweak it, how do you do that?)

    reply
  • Deborah7 months ago

    This tutorial is the best thing I have found! Works perfect for a beginner (That’s me!)
    THANK YOU!!!!!!!! Love your feed.
    Greetings from Venezuela 🙂

    reply
  • N Bandaranayake7 months ago

    This is SO great – thank you! I was contemplating hiring a creative agency to get a more professional look to our account but came across this and took a stab at a grid puzzle. Relaunching Insta account now with a really great aesthetic! @barressentialuxretreats if you’d like to take a look.

    Thanks loads!

    reply
  • Armando Cabrera6 months ago

    Hello Juniper, I’m from Colombia, your work its awesome!! I have 1 question, how do you combine photos and videos in the same puzzle grid?

    reply
  • McQuaid6 months ago

    I’m so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

    reply
  • foldeknive5 months ago

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    reply
  • Roger5 months ago

    Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing this. How long does the link typically take to appear? I signed up so I could grab the Illustrator file but haven’t received anything yet.

    Thank you again for your awesome work. Been following your work on CreativeMarket and it’s always so great 🙂

    reply
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  • Verna5 months ago

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    Thanks!

    reply
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    reply
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    reply
  • Bara Perglova4 months ago

    Hi Judith”,

    thank you very much for sharing this, it’s awesome! I checked your instagram account and noticed that for some tiles you use video? Or is it gif or something? Could you please give me a tip how to create these? We are working on some rebranding of our shop and I would like to take care of new visual on Instagram as well but I stuggle a bit with this. I would like to do something like you did on post from for example 5th June, but I do now know which tool to use. Thank you very much in advance for all advices! <3 Bara, @hnst.ly

    reply
      • Bara3 months ago

        Great! Thank you Judith, I’ll definitely try this way!

        Thanks so much for help

        <3 Bara

        reply
  • Georgia4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your
    efforts and I am waiting for your next write ups thank you once again.

    reply
  • Jeanelle4 months ago

    I just stumbled upon your blog when I am researching some effective ways on how to boost our instagram feed. This is very informative article you have. A very big thanks to your efforts. How generous you are to even share this.

    Xoxo

    reply
  • Janeen3 months ago

    Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this website.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability
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    Excellent Blog!

    reply
  • anna3 months ago

    Hi Judith, I just found out this blog and I instantly love this blog unlike usual. Thank you for your generous sharing. You have inspired me so much to start my own beautiful instagram feeds. I really can’t thank you enough because I was kind of desperate to start with not enough knowledge or inspiration, but you made it easier for me.

    Please keep sharing this inspiration.

    reply
  • Lena3 months ago

    Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?

    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is excellent, let alone the content!

    reply
  • Stephen3 months ago

    Thanks for finally talking about >How to create a unique Instagram feed | JUNIPEROATS <Liked it!

    reply
  • Dani3 months ago

    Hey there, You’ve done an incredible job. I certainly digg it and have personally suggested this to my friends.

    reply
  • Ramona3 months ago

    Keep on writing, great job!

    reply
  • Jacqui Kipfer2 months ago

    Oh I cannot thank you enough for this! I just completed – well, almost completed – my first set of posts using this method and your template. You’re a GENIUS. Thank you, thank you, thankyou!

    reply
  • Davita2 months ago

    Judith thank you for sharing this post! Quick question… How do you insert video into the puzzle instead of a photo using Photoshop? Or would I have to use a different program?

    reply
  • Shaun2 months ago

    whoah this weblog is magnificent i like reading your articles.
    Keep up the great work! A lot of people are searching for a new way of using Instagram and this is just fabulous.

    reply
  • Farzin1 month ago

    oh, I’m falling in love with you and your work by everytime looking at them!
    Thanks a lot for the tutorial.

    reply

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