How to Create Custom Pinterest Templates for Data Merge in Illustrator
Step 1: Setting up the Artboard in Illustrator
The first thing you'll need to do is set up your artboards in Illustrator. To do this, create a new document by going to File > New and setting the dimensions. When it comes to creating images that stand out on Pinterest, the standard image size is 1000 x 1500 pixels which is an aspect ratio of 2:3. This is the size that Pinterest themselves have said that they want images to be and I have found that this aspect ratio has done well for me.
Now, let's talk about creating titles, subtitles, call-to-action and branding elements for your templates to use with variable data. It's essential to consider the core features of a successful Pinterest pin design to ensure that your templates are effective.
Let’s establish the core features of a successful Pinterest pin design since these should be incorporated into every pin design template you make, thus making variable data merge that much more efficient.
The core elements of a successful Pinterest pin design are:
- Image: Use high-quality, visually appealing images that relate to your content and capture the user's attention.
- Text: Include clear and concise text that describes what your content is about, using attention-grabbing headlines, and easy-to-read fonts.
- Branding: Incorporate your branding elements, such as your logo and color palette, to make your pins easily recognizable to your audience.
- Call-to-Action (CTA): Add a CTA to encourage users to engage with your content, such as "click here," "save for later," or "learn more."
- Vertical Orientation: Pinterest recommends a vertical aspect ratio of 2:3 or 1000 x 1500 pixels for pins to stand out in the feed and be easily viewed on mobile devices.
- White Space: Use white space effectively to make your design visually appealing and easy to read.
By incorporating these elements into your pin design templates, you can create visually appealing and effective pins that grab the user's attention, encourage engagement, and drive traffic to your website or blog.
Step 2: Adding Single Point Variable Text
To add variable text, select the Type tool (T), click once on the artboard, and type in your variable text. Use the Selection tool to adjust the size, change the color and select a font.
Step 3: Adding Area Text Placeholders
For a longer text amount, use the Area Type tool. Choose a font and paste or type in the placeholder text in. Adjust size, color and alignment to suit your needs.
The biggest tip I can give you is to make sure that when you use area text is to deselect the hyphenate check box. This was one of my biggest pain points when I first started using area text variables. I was finding that I had to manually adjust a number of designs which defeats the batch actions export. So to fix this go to Paragraph and de-hyphenate, so you don't have hyphenations in the text.
Step 4: Adding Images as Variables
To add an image as a variable we need to first place a temporary image that is the same size and aspect ratio as the images we intend to use in the future. To insert the placeholder image, go to File > Place and choose the image you want to add. Put it where you want it to be on the artboard. Adjust the size and crop with a clipping mask if necessary.
To make your templates even more eye-catching, consider using bold and vibrant colors, engaging typography, and high-quality images.
Step 5: Preparing a Data Source CSV File
Let’s set up your Google spreadsheet using the variable data information and create the variable identifiers. This spreadsheet will be a template for any future uses with the same illustrator template you create in the future.
Add variable identifiers across the top row of columns, this is where knowing those core elements will be beneficial. Example Variable Identifiers are the Title, subtitle, CTA (call to Action), Website URL and/or Brand Logo and of course the pin image/s.
Remember for images, add the @ symbol in front of the variable identifier. Variable identifiers should not contain spaces so make sure that you eliminate them. Below this first row is where you will add the variable data for all future pin designs.
Step 6: Adding the Variable Data
Create a list of your blog posts that you want to bulk create pins for, you can do every post you have on your website or you can do just the top 10 blog posts to start with. It's completely up to you how many pins you create in your first batch.
Once you have your blog posts copy the Post Titles into the column for the variable identifier “Title”. If you want to split your Blog Post Title into Two sections such Title & Subtitle paste into the relevant columns, do this for all your blog posts.
Next decide on a call to action for your pins, each blog post can have a unique CTA if you choose or you can use the same CTA for all of them. If you have multiple Pinterest pin templates you may choose to have Alternative CTA’s for different pin designs and as such would have additional CTA Columns (Example : CTA1 = Click Here, CTA2 = Read Now, CTA3 = Pin for Later etc.) if you are doing this option it might be best to have the variable identifier as the CTA type making it easier to find in illustrator later on.
Want to create more pins for your blog posts? Create variations of your blog post titles and subtitles that are still relevant. There are many ways that people search for the same thing so make sure that you are reaching your audience potential with your titles.
If you have used ChatGPT yet for your content creation business this is a great place to start. Take your blog post title and ask ChatGPT to create 10 unique SEO highly clickable titles for an article titled [insert your article title] and now you have 11 unique pins now multiply that by the various pin designs that you have created in Adobe Illustrator!
Step 7: Adding Image Variables to Data Source
To add image variables, go to your folder that contains your images and copy the path file for the image and paste it below the image variable identifier column. On windows this is done with highlighting all your images and either pressing ctrl+shift+c or right click > Select copy file path.
You can use any variety of methods for getting images for your pins, you can use purchased images, downloaded copyright free images from stock websites or created unique AI generated images in Midjourney. Choose what works best for you and your niche.
Step 8: Download Data File as CSV File
When you have filled out your data sheet with everything you need (this really shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes if you are using Chatgpt and Midjourney, or similar time saving tools) you will need to save or download as a Comma Separated Values file or CSV.
Step 9: Setting up in Illustrator
Locating the Variable Data Merge Window
- Open Adobe Illustrator - open your premade templates file.
- Go to the "Window" menu and select "Variables" to access the Variables panel.
Import CSV file to Illustrator Variables Panel
Next you will want to import your csv file that you saved or downloaded from your google sheets (Or Excel or Numbers) as your data sets. Select the import button on the variables panel and locate your csv file from your folder system.
Binding Variables to Objects
Now we need to bind the variable elements with the variable identifiers, click on all the placeholder text boxes for your main title across all your pin template designs, click on the variable identifier that correlates with this variable and click the 'make text dynamic' button. Do the same for all other pieces you want to bind with the spreadsheet data. Then, click on the image and repeat the same steps for your image variable identifier.
Provided that we use the same google sheet template next time with the new data we will just need to import the new variable library and all the same bindings will apply to the new data sets without having to be rebound which makes this so much faster every time we use it.
Previewing the Document with Each Data Set
In the Variables Panel use the drop down menu for Data Set: Select the first data set (dataset 1) and then use the left and right arrows to cycle through the variable data sets to check that everything looks good to go.
Step 10: Use Actions to Batch Export
The Variables window in combination with the actions window are absolute productivity powerhouses that you need to get familiar with to increase your output and results.
Create an Export Action for the file type that you need (jpg,png etc). Using the Actions window/ panel and select the drop down menu in the top right corner, select batch and use the export action.
Creating an Action in Adobe Illustrator for Batch Export
- Once you've created your merged document, go to the "Window" menu and select "Actions" to open the Actions panel.
- Click the "Create New Action" button and name your action for this example I would go with Save as png.
- Next click the record button, and go through the actions to Save As your document as a png when finished saving the first one click stop recording. This has now created an action for “Save As png” that you can use in any new or existing adobe illustrator file you want to use it with.
- To Batch save all your data sets, select the hamburger menu icon in the top right corner, Select Batch, choose your saved action “Save As png” from the drop down menus, the “Source” is Data Sets, Choose your destination to save your new files to and choose an option for the data file name of the exported files. Select okay and wait for your files to be exported into your folder.
I tested this with 10 pin design templates in adobe illustrator and 10 blog post titles which gave me 100 unique pin designs in 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Which would mean that we could generate 1200 pins in one hour using this method.
Keep in mind that you do need some prep work in generating your titles and subtitles for your blog posts and of course gathering or generating the background images. With ChatGPT 3.5 I was able to generate 10 alternative SEO highly clickable titles in less than 60 seconds.
If you are using Midjourney you can generate 4 images per prompt so with 25 prompts you should have 100 background images, I would estimate that to take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. I use only 10 images to create my 100 fresh new pins.
I estimate in order to create 1200 fresh new pins it would take me approximately 3 hours in total.Ready to take your Variable Data Merge skills to the next level? Check out our article on The Top 7 Ways to Use Data Merge in Adobe Illustrator for 2023, complete with tips and tricks for maximizing this powerful tool. Click here to learn more and up your design game today!