How to use stock photos to make autumn website banners for free

DIY made easy

Every year when autumn approaches I get a hankering for a makeover. Yes, that means I want to get a new haircut and buy tall boots and new scarves. But it also means I want to dress up my websites. How does one dress up a website, you ask? It’s easy. Just use the digital version of a scarf — website banners!

What’s a website banner?

A website banner is an image that appears across the top of a blog, landing page or eCommerce website. It can also be in the sidebar of your blog (where ads might appear) or inserted into the body of an article or the middle of a web page.

If you have an online store then your main banner usually shows what you sell or showcases your logo and some information you want to get across to customers.

Related: How to use Canva to create branded images in less than an hour

What’s included in a website banner?

Website banners are fun because you get to use pretty imagery and you have the option to add text as well. They can be a photo or even just a solid-colored shape with text placed on top. If you are making a banner to appear on someone else’s website then you’d also include your logo or some reference to your website address or link to what you are advertising — like a free download. Great for list-building!

Here’s an example of the standard un-themed banner that I have in my Sarah Design Mockups Creative Market shop:

Website Banners Mockups

If I wanted to decorate my website banner for each holiday, I could add some seasonal cut file designs (courtesy Holly Pixels) to my drinkware and a focus color.

For instance, here I’ve used some spooky designs and the color purple to decorate my shop for Halloween:

Website Banners Purple

And for fall/Thanksgiving I can easily incorporate orange along with some autumn cut files designs like so:

Website Banners Amber

Both of these examples are a departure from my usual pink brand color, but they add a fresh look to my shop for the season that will make the experience richer for my customers.

I could also switch things up by changing the white furry background to a seasonal scene. Using photography is a great way for all kinds of businesses to add some holiday flair to their website banners.

Editor’s note: Need a little help with your website design? Check out GoDaddy’s Website Design Service, which includes eCommerce and WordPress design. You’ll get a mobile-responsive website in as little as 10 business days — with features (think appointment setting, customer login and blog) that will make it easy for you to engage with your customers.

What photos are safe to use?

Many new online businesses don’t realize there are rules about photo usage online. I have seen dozens and dozens of new web-based entrepreneurs who think they can just search on Google for a photo and use it for free without repercussions. It’s not that they’re being malicious, they simply don’t know the rules. I’m no lawyer but I can tell you the basics.

You can’t use images without permission.

 

You can purchase stock photos and follow their rules about usage. Or you can find Creative Commons images that can be used either with a reference to the original photo owner/photographer, or in the case of “Creative Commons Zero” or “CC0” images, you can use without referencing the originator. Zero means it requires zero attribution. You don’t have to give the photographer credit. Or you can take your own photos. Just be careful not to show brand/logos or any people, unless you get a model release.

Related: The smart guide to using stock images

I like to keep this simple for new business owners and just look for those CC0 images. I also use Unsplash which has a similar license, for imagery like this “autumn” search:

Website Banners Autumn

Or this “halloween pumpkins” search:

Website Banners Pumpkin

Where to find free stock photos

There are many sites online that provide these free stock photos that can be used for commercial use. Below are a few of my favorites. Be sure to read their licensing carefully, though, as this information could change. Look for CC0 or similar licensing.

Website Banners Pixabay

How to use autumn-themed graphic accents

If you don’t want to use straight-up fall photography, but instead just want to add a little holiday “spice” to your existing banners, then you will love adding autumn accent graphics. You can cut these out of free stock photo images using a program like Photoshop. Or do yourself a favor and purchase some graphics that are made to be easy to use. Here’s a pack that includes 78 PNG files for the season:

Website Banners Graphic
Image: Hand Drawn Autumn Collection on Creative Market

Tutorial: Create a Halloween banner in Canva

Want to create your banner right now? It’s easy and totally free with Canva and some free CC0 stock photos. Let’s get started.

1. Sign into Canva (you can create an account for free).
2. In the “Create a Design” section, click on the plus sign marked “More.” This brings up a page full of pre-sized templates.
3. Scroll down to choose an appropriate banner size. I chose “Etsy Shop Cover.”

Website Banners Canva

4. This brings up a fresh page with a blank area where your banner will go:

Website Banners Blank

5. You can search on the left side through images that Canva provides. Some are free and some cost money.

Website Banners Search

6. I looked through the options and didn’t find anything I liked so I downloaded a stock photo from Unsplash instead.
7. Once your image is downloaded, upload it to Canva, and it appears on the left side of your window.
8. Click on the image to add it to your template:

Website Banners Upload

It will come in small and you just drag from the outer corners to resize it to your liking.

9. Then you can add your text by clicking on “Text” on the far left.
10. Click “Add a heading” and the text appears on your design. You can edit the font and size from the dropdown menus at the top of your page.

Website Banners Text

11. Then edit the color to match. While the text is selected, click in the color square along the top of your Canva window to bring up some color choices. You can choose one of the existing ones — like this orange shade.

Website Banners Color

12. If it doesn’t look quite right, you can adjust it further. Just click the plus icon in the Document Colors window:

Website Banners Adjust

13. Use the color wheel dot to dial in your exact shade, and the color bar to make it lighter or darker:

Website Banners Shade

14. When you’re happy with the layout, click the Download button and choose the format you want: PNG, JPEG, or PDF:

Website Banners Download

Then upload it to your site and you’re updated for the season! It’s easy to switch it back later, or update it again during the next season or holiday.

I hope you can see that autumn themed banners are easy to DIY, even for non-designers, and don’t have to cost you a dime to create. Have fun making over your website banners!

Related: Holiday marketing checklist — 5 steps to prep your marketing for the holidays

Image by: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash