Facebook cover photos were introduced as part of the social network's big redesign in late 2011. A Facebook Timeline cover photo is a large horizontal image that appears stripped across the top of each user's profile page, which is known as their Timeline page.
Timeline cover photos are basically the same for both regular users and businesses who have Facebook pages. (See example of singer Adele's 2012 cover photo at right.)
Cover v. Profile Pics
Each user also has a separate profile photo, which is a smaller image that appears right below the cover image, slightly inset into the large cover photo. The example above shows how Adele has a small, black and white profile picture, inset into her larger color cover pic. The large cover has her name overlaid in text, a common marketing move for businesses and celebrities.
The smaller profile picture is what will appear beside your name in the news feeds of other users whenever you send a status update or take an action that triggers an update for your friends. (Learn more about the different types of images on the social network in this Facebook Photos Guide.
Facebook Cover Purpose and Size: What You Need to Know
A Facebook cover can be a photo or other graphical image. It is meant to make a visual statement about the person or company using Facebook, because it's the first thing other people see when they visit any user's profile or business page.
Timeline cover images are public default, and you can't take them private. Anyone can see them, not just your friends or subscribers.
Facebook cover pictures are very wide--Timeline cover photo dimensions are 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall. That's more than twice as wide as it is tall. It's also a lot bigger than the square profile picture, which is 161 pixels by 161 pixels.
Since most cameras don't have an aspect ratio anywhere near the size of the cover photo, you'll need to crop your image to be the right size for a Facebook cover photo.
How to Crop a Facebook Cover Picture
To crop your cover photo, open it in a photo editing program like Photoshop and select the crop tool. Change the resolution/dpi to 72 and enter 851 pixels in the width field, and 315 pixels for the height.
Position the cropping arrows where you want to compose the image and then click the Enter button and save your file, typically as a .jpg for uploading to Facebook.
To upload, go to your profile area on Facebook (It was renamed to be called "Timeline" in 2011.) If you have never uploaded a cover photo to your Timeline before, click "choose cover photo" and navigate to where your images is stored, and then click "choose."
After you've created one cover photo and you want to change it, different language will appear. First, go to your Timeline page and mouse over your existing cover image. Click "Change Cover" when that text appears, and then "Upload Photo." Navigate to find the picture you want on your hard drive and press "choose" again. You can also select "Choose From Photos" and it will present you with your saved Facebook photos.
What Makes a Good Cover Photo--and How to Create Them?
The best Facebook cover photos make a statement about you or your life. They should be original images that you took or created yourself.
But a lot of people prefer to display images created by others as their Facebook Timeline covers, and that's fine, too.
A ton of Facebook cover template images are available online at stock photo sites like those listed below.
Most of these sites also can offer inspiration for ideas to create your own cover photos. Some offer custom cover creation tools that let you edit your images to fit the Timeline layout.