Optimizing Your Profile With Instagram Highlights

The best thing in life are free (or REALLY expensive) *cani I get an amen*

One of the best pieces of your presence on Instagram are your stories because they can be so versatile! As they are not a permanent piece of your feed, this allows them to be a mixture of behind the scenes moments, sneak peaks, and in general a more authentic opportunity for YOU to bring your presence to life. They also bring the opportunity for engagement with your audience. Stories are the perfect opportunity to be interactive with your audience through polls and questions. Remember – your audience will always tell you what they want from you and Instagram Story Polls are not only an amazing way to maximize this, but also keeps polling and interacting with your audience so simple and convenient for you both. Whether it is a poll on a new product or service or a vote on whether you coffee should be iced, ask your people. And let them vote. That interaction is pure gold.

In December 2017, Instagram rolled out Story Highlights allowing us to share our stories beyond their 24 hour life span *thank you Instagram*

Next level presence comes with consistency (and consistency builds trust – so this is truly a win win move you are about to learn)

Having a rhyme and reason to your Highlight Cover Photos brings a very together, easy on the eyes, kind of vibe to your presence. So let’s walk through how to make your Highlight Cover Photos with ease! 

Creating Your Highlight Cover Photos

I am going to walk you through creating CUSTOM Highlight Cover Photos using Canva. 

I recommend Canva for a few reasons. First, Canva is SUPER easy to use and while it has a paid upgrade, it starts off (and can remain) FREE unless you choose to open up options like creating a brand kit with saved Brand Colours, Fonts and Logos to have them always at your fingertips. Second, when you create content in Canva, it is automatically saved within your account allowing you to access on any device that you are signed into your account on. Meaning, you can create content on your computer and access for saving / posting right from your phone. Easy Peasy. 

Highlight Categories

Before you see another piece of your brand come to life in your Highlights with beautiful cover photos, you will need to choose what categories you will share.

You can create custom categories that reflect your brand and presence. You can always add to them! But I would encourage you to get four up asap! 

Why? You can see FOUR highlights at any given time. Starting on the left with what has been updated / added to most recently (you cannot choose the order of your highlights)

A few ideas to get you started:




Behind the Scenes

Sneak Peaks

Blog Posts

Promo Codes


Another idea is to have a look at mentors and accounts you look up to in your industry / niche and see what categories they’re sharing and know that you can always change the category name and cover photo.

We are going to create a Travel Highlight Cover in MINUTES. And yes, you will be able to do it this quickly too! 

Step By Step Guide To Creating Custom Highlight Cover Photos

1. Open Canva on your Desktop.

2. Choose Create a design on the lefthand side of your screen OR go straight to Custom dimensions on the top right of your screen. Enter 1080 x 1920 and choose px from the drop down menu. This is the size of all Instagram story posts and all Highlights. 

3. Now that you have a white 1080 x 1920 px template to work with. you can leave the background white OR choose a custom colour for your background.

If you have a brand colour, this is where you will pull that in.

4. You have a few options here for how you will choose your background colour.

If you are using Canva for work *the paid version* you will be able to save sets of brand colours. Choose the colour you want from your palette and you are done this step. 


5. If you don’t have saved set of branded colours but know your brand colour: by tapping the + you can add in the six digit colour code for your branded colour that you will use as your background colour.

Don’t have a brand colour? Or want a different shade of it for your highlights? When you hit the + the Canva Color Picker will pop up with a sliding scale of colour choices spanning the entire colour wheel. Click and drag your mouse around until you send a color that you want to use.

Release the mouse and take note of the 6 digit code for the color you choose for reference and future use. (Color codes are universal and you can use them for future design of graphics, websites, ect.)

By releasing the mouse you will have also added this colour to your  design image. You can change this simply by doing these steps as many times as needed until you find a color you are happy with, that represents you and your brand. 

6. As we are creating a travel highlight, we will now search the photos and icons within Canva for an airplane.

Simply click Elements on the left side and type airplane in the search bar. There are plenty of free options within Canva, by checking the Free only box you will only have those options load.

7. Once you see an airplane that you like, simply choose it by clicking and it will automatically end up on your design space.

Next level professionalism (aka killing it with your highlights) is to keep all ICONS on your stories the same colour. (I currently use this muted pink as my background colour and a charcoal for all of my icons.)

Same method of choosing from the colour palette as you did for your background colour. With your icon highlights (with a box around it) click on the colour box up to the top left next to Crop Flip and choose from the palette OR enter a colour code

As your highlights are small, you want to keep them as simple as possible. Shades of white and black will be the most aesthetically pleasing as well as easiest to see what your highlight is about for your viewers. 

*note that some photos / icons don’t allow a colour change, most do, and you will know if you can see the little coloured box next to Crop + Flip

8. Once the icon is on your background colour, you can also resize as needed.

Approximately 650 pixels wide is a great ballpark size to start with *you will be able to see the size of your icon as you drag any of the white corners. While some icons will go right to the edge of the “square” like this airplane, others will have space around them. If the icon has space around it, the width size will be a larger size to account for the empty space.

Play with it until you see a size you like keeping in mind that the icon should fill 50-60% of the width to be visually appealing and noticeable from your Instagram profile. 

When you have the size you want, Canva will also have lines to show you where the centre of your design is. Use them to centre your icon.

9. Last step for Canva – Name your design and change the File Type to JPG. Hit Download and VOILA! You have created a custom Highlight Cover Photo!

You can either send the above photo to yourself via DM, messenger or email OR assuming you created this graphic on a computer, simply open Canva on your phone, save the photo to your camera roll and you can upload to Instagram!

You’re a rockstar! Find me on Insta @StudioNinety9 and DM me one of your cover photos! I wanna see! ~Jess