Part II: Athletic Design for Marketing, Promotion and Social Media at the High School Level

I get asked quite often about how to design graphics for social media, specifically, what type of software I use to create the graphics. I’ve dabbled in Photshop for years on both a personal and professional level, but have begun to get more serious with it during the past few years as I’ve become more serious with creating graphics in my profession.


Photoshop is a beast of a program with so many options and limitless potential. It can be overwhelming when first opened, but once you begin using the tools on a daily basis, it becomes much easier.


There are also a number of YouTube videos explaining the different tools, skills, tips and tricks to creating graphics using Photoshop. These really are great resources whether you’re just getting started in the design world or even if you’ve been doing it for years. I still learn something new every day from Photoshop and believe I’ve only scratched the surface as to its capabilities.


When creating infographics and one-off pieces, I often try new techniques that I’ve researched or gotten personalized tips from someone whose work has caught my attention. This article will help you understand my thought process and walk you through a simple design you too can use to grab a lot of attention and promote your student-athletes, coaches and teams.


I’ve found two of the easiest designs to start off with are “Game Day” and “Recap” graphics. Both of these will start to give you an idea on how to work in Photoshop, while also giving you the ability to promote many student-athletes, which is of course the reason why we do this!


On our game day graphic, I often put a single student-athlete as the focus, whereas on the recap, I try to put a team, multiple student-athletes, or a great play as the focus. With these two designs alone, you will be able to highlight a number of student-athletes.


Now here’s a disclaimer – I am by no means an expert. I follow and have talked to many designers who have given me tips and tricks for graphic creation. In Photoshop, there are many ways to do the same thing. Whatever works for you is the best way. So go ahead and get creative.


I will now walk you through the steps of how I come up with the following graphic:



Step 1: Take photos of the student-athletes in game play. We use a Canon Rebel T3i with a couple of interchangeable lenses. Between my Associate Athletic Director and myself, we try to take pictures at all home games.

TIP: Try to take a variety of shots – ones with a single athlete and some of multiple athletes without the opposing team. This allows you the ability to be able to insert a particular student-athlete into any graphic even if you weren’t able to take photos at that specific event.


Step 2: On our school server, we have a folder that holds all of our pictures. We first break them down by sport and then by game. This way they are easy to find at a later date. We also specify special games like “senior day,” “rival game,” etc.


Step 3: Let’s open Photoshop to start creating the graphic! Once you’re in Photoshop, go to FILE, NEW and let’s create a 960×480 with the resolution at 300.

TIP: We use 960×480 because we feel is displays well in Facebook and Twitter. TIP: I set the resolution at 300 in case the student-athletes or parents want to download the graphic to be placed in a scrapbook. We created a Flickr account to hold all of our designs. You can view here:

Screen Shot 1

Step 4: Bring your picture into Photoshop and resize it to fit the background. EDIT – TRANSFORM – SCALE, hold the shift key and drag a corner to resize. There are all kinds of design concepts that you could use, but use basic framing techniques. Check out this article:

Screen Shot 2

Step 5: To add some depth and creativity to the picture, you can place a background design to lie over the picture. In this design, we used a geometric background and changed the opacity to 60% and switched the blending mode to soft light. (These are located at the top of the layers window) You can play around with the different modes and opacity levels to create your own unique design.


Screen Shot 3

Step 6: Adding font. I suggest a ”chucky” type font to use. In this example I used SP Complex Edgeless, but there are many free font sites that you can download free fonts for personal use. I chose to place the font in the middle, but just below center. Again, your creativity can run wild, but make sure the font does not take away from the photo, but rather enhances it. I then added a basic drop shadow on the font and copied the layer to make it stand out a little more.

Screen Shot 4

Step 7: I knew I wanted to add more text under GAME DAY, so I put a line under the text for separation. I took my line tool and drew a line under the text and then moved it so it was visually appealing.

Screen Shot 5

Step 8: Next, I added more text about the game being played, such as home or away, sport level, and time. As you can see in this example, I have a home and an away game.

Screen Shot 6

Step 9: The text is a little difficult to read because of the background. An easy fix that will also enhance your graphic is the use of the gradient tool. Select your original picture and make sure it is highlighted. Next, click your gradient tool so a crosshair appears on the screen. Move that under the picture and at the center, click on your mouse, holding it down and then drag it towards the font and release. You will notice that the bottom of the picture becomes darker. You can repeat this process to get the look you want. I usually do this process three times.

Screen Shot 7

Screen Shot 8

Step 10: Save the original .psd file and save again as a jpeg. This way, you have your template to use again. The next time you want to use your graphic, open the .psd file in Photoshop and open your new picture. Drag your new photo on top of your old photo and delete the old photo. Now you can resize the new photo around the text. Next, change the text for your next game. Once you have done this a few times, it will only take a matter of minutes to produce a few of these!

TIP: I have an external drive that holds all of our designs, templates, backgrounds, vector shapes, other graphics, etc.  This way it does not take up space on your computer’s hard drive, makes it easier to take with you and everything is in one place.


An example of taking that same concept and turning it into a “recap” graphic:





Examples of “recap” graphics that I have designed.  Again, many of the same concepts as the “game day” graphics.  Info on the game that was played, info on the next game, and shot of multiple student-athletes.

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Jeff Walrich

Director of Athletics at Gilmour Academy

Jeff Walrich is in his fourth year as the director of athletics for Gilmour Academy and his 15th year overall in K-12 independent schools. Since his arrival at Gilmour, he has been instrumental in developing the athletic program’s presence in social media, establishing its relationship with Nike, creating professional development opportunities for the coaching staff and kicking off a plan to make Gilmour athletics more recognizable on campus and throughout the community.