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Learning How to Use Photoshop: Designing Ads

March 14, 2017
Table of Contents

Welcome back! We hope our first installment helped you get started with helpful information, tips, tutorials, and free assets. Today, we would like to focus on the steps that go into the creation of ads. If you are ever strapped for time and need to take matters into your own hands, the below tutorial will help you create awesome and effective ads with surprisingly little effort.


One of the fastest growing departments in digital agencies today is paid media. Both Paid Social and Pay-Per-Click advertising campaigns require high volumes and variations of ad creative in order to maintain a standard of effectiveness in your campaigns.

The various rules, regulations, and requirements of each platform require digital marketers to be very strategic with their creative. In order to effectively capture your audience’s attention, both the targeting and creative strategies should be working together in order to ensure your ad dollars are working for you and not being thrown away. You can effectively design effective ads with as little as 2 or 3 simple layers that can lead to hundreds of conversions if done effectively.

Google Display Advertising

Google’s Display Network paved the way for strategic online advertising. The GDN has come a long way since the days of spammy banner ads to a very sophisticated platform that can prove to be very effective with the correct targeting and ad creative. The GDN network has a standard variation of dimensions that typically include:

300×250, 728×90, 160×600, 468×60, 120×600, 300×100, 300×600, 336×280, 320×50

You will want to try and create as many of these variations for each ad in order to get as many placements as possible.

Tip: First create a template or standard layout for each similar dimension in order to complete an entire set of ads as efficiently as possible.


Social Advertising

Facebook – Facebook advertising has emerged as one of the most effective platforms for businesses and marketers alike. The distinct rule about Facebook’s advertising platform is that the amount of text you have on an image determines its reach potential. Therefore, you need to get creative with your design in order to catch someone’s attention while they aimlessly scroll through their news feed.

Newsfeed Ads – 1200 x 628 pixels


Carousel Ads – 1080 x 1080 pixels



This platform is emerging as a popular place for e-commerce companies to effectively reach their target audience. You may notice a growing presence of “sponsored” posts in your Instagram feed as Facebook’s strategy is translating over to one of its most popular acquisitions. The upside of advertising on Instagram is you can be very creative and authentic with your ads using almost no copy at all.

Instagram Ads – 1080 x 1080 pixels

Key Elements Of Ad Creative

Imagery – Oftentimes the hardest to find, but most important element of an ad (depending on your business or branding). Your best bet is to rely on your client’s imagery or creative assets when available. However, stock websites can be effective if you use them strategically despite their bad reputation.

Logos – Although not always required, including your client’s logo somewhere on your ads is often a standard practice. This is simply to create brand awareness right off the bat.

Shapes – You can effectively utilize simple shapes to create placeholders for copy, logos, or simply as design elements.



Overlays – The use of overlays to either darken or alter the overall color of your ad is one of the most widely used techniques for ad creative. These overlays not only create an entirely new look of the imagery behind the overlay, but also allow your copy above it to be legible over a seemingly busy image.


Typography – The of bold, but simple typography is very common and often very effective. Type is one of the most versatile elements in design. So much so, it is an artform in itself. You can create amazing artwork using your type tool alone. We highly suggest exploring the art of typography and find inspiration that can be reflected in your ads.

Buttons & CTAs – It is often a common practice to include buttons on your ads. You can simply do this by using the shape tool and adding (or not depending on your client) a slight drop shadow to create the effect of a button you can physically click on. It’s simple, we know, but it works!


Commonly Used Tools

The following tools are often used when creating ads.

Paint Bucket (G) – The main use of the paint bucket is to create an overlay layer as explained above. Simply add a new layer, choose the color of your overlay

Tip: If you are using colored overlays, make your background image black and white. This will amplify the effect of the color you are using.

Shape Tool (S) – Use this tool to create placeholders for text, interactive effects, and borders around your images.

Type Tool (T) – As discussed above, the type tool is often your most versatile tool when it is appropriate to include copy on your ads.

Download 100s of Free Fonts Here

Marquee Tool (M) – Use this tool to remove, duplicate (using alt/option), or rearrange sections of your ad.

Ruler (Cmd + R) – If you hover over your ruler, click, hold, and drag your cursor onto your workspace, you will notice a blue grid line appear. You can use these grid lines a million different ways help you, such as: organize your layout or elements in an orderly fashion, find the center of your workspace, and ensure important design elements are aligned as desired.

Layer Style – A layer style is one or more effects applied to a layer or group of layers. Double click a layer to pull up the Layer Styles dialog box. There are a number of style options to choose from including drop shadow, color or gradient overlay, stroke, outer glow, and many more. Simple additions of these layer styles can create eye-catching effects with little effort.


Wrapping Up

In order to create effective ads, you need to do your homework. You have very little space to convey multiple messages that represent the brand, campaign strategy, and message. Study your client’s brand, as well what types of campaigns and ad creative their competitors are producing. Additionally, searching for inspiration on portfolio websites such as Behance for design inspiration to continue improving your skills and keeping your ad creative fresh.

“Didn’t you know you had that much power? You can move mountains. You can do anything.” – Bob Ross

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