If you’re anything like us, you’ve seen your fair share of virtual backgrounds. Most of them aren’t especially professional or convincing, with blurry edges around people’s faces and backgrounds that bleed through.

The secret behind a good look isn’t the background image, it’s using a green screen. (We covered our favorite portable option, the Webaround, in a prior column and video.)

Once you’ve picked up your green screen, you could just use one of the backgrounds that come with your meeting platform. But why would you want to use the same background as everyone else?

In this month’s column, we’ll show you how to create a professional, branded background image that’ll make you stand out at your next online meeting.

We’ve also created a tutorial video to walk you through every step of the process. Check it out to see how we created a professional branded background in under five minutes. (Three minutes and thirty-five seconds, but who’s counting? 😆)

Create your background image

Our favorite graphics software is Canva.com, a free online design tool to create your image in a flash. The best part: You don’t need an eye for design or expensive software. Even Josh, whose artistic skills leave a lot to be desired, can create surprisingly professional images. 😜

Ready to create a branded background in seven easy steps? Let’s dive in!

1. Set up an account on Canva.com. (If you use our affiliate link, we’ll receive a small commission to support our work at no extra cost to you. Win-win! ✨)

2. Click “Create a design,” “Custom size,” and create an image that’s 1920 x 1080 pixels.

(Geeky aside: Most platforms display video with a 16:9 aspect ratio. If your image is a different size, you may see black bars alongside the background. Here are the specific recommendations for Teams, Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet.)

3. Give your design a title - like “My background image.” (Click on the “Untitled design” at the top of the screen to name your design.)

4. Add a background by clicking the “Background” tab and picking from among a smorgasbord of options.

In general, we recommend keeping it simple - with a single color that isn’t too flashy. Click the color palette followed by the plus button, then pick out the color you’d like. (In our example video, we’re popped in the code for our brand color.)

Alternatively, you can pick from among the patterns, gradients, textures and abstract images in the Canva library. Again, keep it simple and professional.

If your brand is a bit quirky, head on up to that search bar and look for a fun image that suits you. Remember that you’re going to appear in the video, so leave the center of the image clear.

5. Add a high-res version of your logo. A scalable format like .svg is best. (Others might get pixelated if enlarged.)

Head on over to uploads, click “Upload media,” and then upload from your device or cloud storage.

6. Once your logo has uploaded, click on it to add it to the canvas. Then, drag it to the upper right or upper left corner. Remember, you don’t want to cover it up with your body during your video calls, so keep it small and out of the way. You can click on the logo and drag it to a new spot on the canvas or drag the dots to resize it.

7. Download the background image by clicking on the download button. Select .PNG or .JPG for file type, then click “Download.”

Add the custom background to your meeting platform

Now, it’s time to add your background image to your meeting software. Every platform is slightly different, but the gist is always the same: just upload the background to your meeting software and tell it you’re using a green screen.

On Zoom, for example, open “Preferences” and go to “Background & Filters.” Click “I have a green screen” and the plus button to upload a new background image.

Then, select the image you want and you’re ready to go.

And that’s it - in under five minutes, you’ve created a background image with your logo - for free!

This column was originally published in the August 2021 edition of the Tool Box Journal.