Making an inspiration board

14 March 2011

On Tuesday’s post, Amanda asked how I put together inspiration boards. There are many, many tutorials out there, but I thought I’d share the process I use.

Inspiration boards can be useful for so many things, and they can be both very practical (pulling together interior design ideas for your living room, testing out color combinations for new website branding) and very whimsical (piecing together photos that inspire the kind of life you want to live). I love them all!

No matter what sort of board you want to make, the first step is pulling together inspiring images. If you’re making a board for your wedding, don’t feel limited by using only wedding images! Feel free to pull from interior design, food photography, etc. Just look for images that make you pause, images that you can’t let go of.

Since I make a wedding inspiration board (almost) every week, I need a lot of inspiring photos. I find that for me the most useful way to organize is by color, and for years I sorted images in folders named by color on my laptop. (Sidenote: Always save an image you love, even if you don’t have a use for it at the moment — you’ll kick yourself trying to find it later if you don’t!) I’d name the files with keywords designed to make searching for the credit to link to easier later on (i.e. “Janet and Mark on SW,” which would be from Janet and Mark’s wedding on Southern Weddings), which worked most of the time but was not perfect.

Now, however, I have a MUCH better system, and it’s called Pinterest! I still organize by color, but each image links directly to the source, so it’s SO easy to go back and credit an image later. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pinterest, here’s what my home screen looks like:

As you can see, I have all different sorts of boards, from clothes that inspire me to party ideas to inspiration for my future farm :) I also have the color boards I pull from for wedding inspiration boards. Here’s a snippet of green:

And yellow:

So easy! So, once you have a few images you love, it’s time to start piecing them together. There are many, many ways to do this (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Polyvore, even Microsoft Word or Powerpoint), but the program I use is called Microsoft Publisher.

To make a board in Publisher, I open a normal 8.5×11 document and begin pasting in any photos I’m considering using. It might look like a little like this at this point:

Then it’s just trial and error — moving things on and off the board until everything is in roughly the right spot. After that, all that’s left is to sharpen everything — making sure that the space between photos is even, that the color balance is right, etc.

To finish, I export the board as a .jpg and then resize it for P&P in Publisher. And that’s that!

Tips for making your boards look a bit more “pro”:

— I know it can be tempting, but don’t try to cram 8,000 photos onto the board. An inspiration board is simply supposed to evoke a larger event, room, or idea, not detail it out. Simplicity will always look better.
— Likewise, try to keep all of the photos roughly the same size.
— Make the spaces between photos even — you can do this using white lines, but I usually eyeball it.
— If you’re posting a board on your blog or in another public space, always, always, always credit your sources. And no, “Google Images” and “via Style Me Pretty” are not acceptable credits. If you’re unfamiliar with how to credit a source online, check out this post.

If you have any questions at all, I’d be happy to answer them! You can see all 86 previous inspiration boards I’ve posted by clicking here.

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March 14, 2011 2:24 pm

I am OBSESSED with Pinterest. It is also a fabulous source for new images/inspiration.

Thanks for the tips, Em!

March 14, 2011 11:48 pm

Thank you so much for this. I've been trying to think of a good way to put some "thoughts" together for a few different projects and this will be perfect!

March 15, 2011 12:35 am

I'm on pinterest, too, so I "followed" your home board. Feel free to check mine out!

March 15, 2011 1:24 am

Thank you, Emily! This is exactly what I was hoping for when I requested the tutorial!! Happy Monday.

Charity H
March 15, 2011 3:14 am

Awesome, awesome, awesome and very needed for me!! I'm so excited to use this information, as well as the info from frolic…I am guilty of not correctly crediting sources and now that I'm doing more photography, I understand how frustrating it can be to have this happen to you. From now on, I'm a faithful blog creditor!!:) And I can't wait to start an inspiration board as well.

March 15, 2011 2:57 pm

So glad this was helpful, ladies!!

March 15, 2011 5:23 pm

Great Post Emily! Cant wait to follow u on Pinterest!

March 19, 2011 5:40 pm

Love this! I requested to join pinterest a while ago and am still waiting. Does anyone have an invite they could send me? : )

The Outlaw Mom
March 28, 2011 6:35 pm

Thanks for the helpful tutorial, Emily! I'm lucky to have landed on your post . . . I've been inspired :-)

May 26, 2011 2:58 am

I just joined Pinterest today, so I'm following you now! I'll have to take a closer look at your boards.

April 24, 2013 12:06 pm

Hi Emily,
This is a great post. Do you still saving all inspiring photos on your pc for recreating inspirational boards, or there is another way to create them by linking the photos? Thank you,