Skip to content

11 Tips to Improve Your Instagram Ad Design and Get More Conversions

To make ads that lead to conversions, it pays to plan your Instagram ad design strategy before you pull the trigger on an ad buy.

Greg Sides August 12, 2021
cover illustration

Learn the essentials of great Instagram ad design, and how to make your dream ad a reality.

There are more ways than ever to place an ad on Instagram, but sometimes advertising on social media can feel like yelling into a void. To make ads that lead to conversions and generate engagement, it pays to plan your Instagram ad design strategy before you pull the trigger on an ad buy.

With these 11 design tips, you’ll learn how to make Instagram ads that get noticed by your target audience. You can also take advantage of free templates to streamline your design process.

Bonus: Claim your free pack of 15 Instagram ad templates created by Hootsuite’s professional graphic designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and start stopping thumbs and selling more today.

Use simple designs to stand out

A smartphone screen doesn’t provide a lot of space for your advertising masterpiece. When it comes to getting users’ attention, a minimalist approach is usually the most effective.

Try paring your ads down to as few visual elements as possible. Great ads can be nothing more than an image of your product with some simple text, or even just text on a contrasting background! Summer Sale Save $200

Source: Instagram (

This Risedesk ad has an image that says everything it needs to with only two parts: an image of the product and a short value proposition. Most of us can only dream of having a desk as uncluttered as the one in this ad, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give our audience an ad that’s as clean and well organized as the desk we aspire to.

Bright colors attract eyeballs

Bright, contrasting colors attract attention, and when it comes to designing a great Instagram ad, attention is the name of the game.

When you use colors, you make it easy for users to pick out the important elements of your ad at a glance. A bright color scheme can also provoke positive feelings in connection to your company.

Colorful Standard pre-washed organic socks bright yellow background

Source: Instagram (@colorfulstandard)

Colorful Standard shows that the product itself doesn’t have to be full of saturated color to create an eye-catching palette. Although the socks are pale, the background adds brightness and provides contrast at the same time.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can use a color wheel when making your design. Try pairing colors from opposite sides of the wheel for the most visual contrast.

Keep your product front and center

As much as we may love a compelling mystery, that doesn’t mean you should make your audience play whodunnit to figure out what you’re selling.

Instagram users will only take a second or two to decide whether to scroll past your ad or stop and look. Don’t let them wonder what your product is.

Make your product the center of attention in your ad. You can do this with the product’s color, size, or visual placement, for example. No matter how you do it, make it clear what you’re offering your customers.

Truly Hard Seltzer wild berry

Source: Instagram (@truly)

This video ad by Truly starts with a well-framed shot of their product. Even though the ad includes plenty of dynamic movement, we know right away what’s being promoted, which brings us to the next tip…

Make videos that move

A burst of movement at the beginning of your video ad will help it get noticed. This is especially important for ads that appear in the Instagram feed or the Explore page, since these have limited time to grab users’ attention before they scroll past.

More than any other format, engaging video ads give you the opportunity to tell a story that your customers connect to. Don’t pass up this chance by shooting static videos!

Show off your range

Video, Collection, and Carousel ads all allow you to show more than one product, or multiple aspects of a single product. This is a chance to really show off what you have to offer to your customers.

A good ad will have variety, but it will also have a coherent message that ties everything together. Your customers are much less likely to engage with a jumble of random elements.

Rue Saint Patrick green shirt

Rue Saint Patrick tan shirt

Rue Saint Patrick light pink shirt

Source: Instagram (@ruesaintpatrick)

In this example, Rue Saint Patrick takes a minimalist approach to its Carousel ad. The use of a single style of shirt keeps the message focused while at the same time providing the user with an interactive experience that imitates browsing an online store inside the ad.

Make your text pop

Your ads’ visuals are the most important part of their design, but this doesn’t mean that they’re the only important part. And like the visuals, when it comes to text, less is usually more.

Keep your message short and to the point.

Wordy copy can clutter up your ad, making your audience work harder to understand the message you’re trying to convey. And no one wants to have to work when they’re scrolling through their Instagram feed.

The text you do include should be in a large, easy-to-read font. The majority of your audience will be glancing at your ad on a small screen.

Make it as easy as possible for them to get your message.

Headspace ad 28% less sad

Source: Instagram (@headspace)

The text in this Headspace ad does everything it needs to and more. The placement of the text is integrated into the ad’s overall design, with the well-proportioned text block almost basking in the sun’s warmth.

What’s more, the shapes of the geometric sans-serif font echo the simple shapes of the eyes and mouth in the accompanying illustration.

Keep it consistent

Any single ad you make will disappear quickly, but having a consistent visual identity that connects all your ads will help your company stick in users’ heads.

Kritik consistent color scheme and visual identity

Source: Instagram (@kritikhq)

The ads in this example aren’t identical, but they share key elements that make their style recognizable. Kritik creates a through-line in their social media presence with the color scheme and text formatting, as well as with the use of triangles.

If this seems like a lot to keep track of, there are plenty of tools to show you how to design an Instagram ad with your company’s own distinctive style. One way is to use templates, which we’ll cover later in this article.

Put your captions to work

Your Instagram ad isn’t just a photo or video. A creative caption is also part of the experience you’re presenting to your audience. Give it the same voice as the rest of your ad.

And for ads with a playful tone, using emoji in the caption can add visual interest and an element of fun.

Like any text in your ad, be sure to keep it short. The most important part should be visible without clicking more.

Angus Reid Forum reward $ for sharing thoughts

Source: Instagram (@angusreidforum)

Angus Reid accomplishes a lot with this short caption: It directly addresses the viewer and gives them a reason to engage.

And most importantly, it does this without making the user click more.

Make videos that work without sound

On Instagram, silent movies are still more popular than talkies. Almost 99% of Instagram users will see your ad on a mobile device, which means most people will watch your videos with the sound off. Video ads should say what they have to say even when they’re muted.

If the sound is important to your video, consider adding closed captions. This makes it more friendly to sound-off browsing and more accessible to people with hearing impairments.

Refine your designs with A/B testing

Starting with the principles of strong ad design is great, but nothing beats practical knowledge about what gets your target audience to stop and pay attention.

Once you have a few solid design ideas, you can use A/B testing to discover which ones speak to your customers the most.

An A/B test is a way to find out which ads your audience responds to. It involves presenting different versions of the same ad to different people and tracking how often each version is engaged with. This gives you real-world data about which color scheme, caption, or call-to-action button, for example, is best for your advertising goals.

This may sound daunting, but there are a variety of tools for A/B testing that can help you with this process, including AdEspresso by Hootsuite.

Don’t let the perfect ad get in the way of effective ads

It’s important to put thought into your Instagram ad designs, but don’t fall prey to the lure of the perfect ad!

No matter how impressive your next creation is, if your audience sees the same thing over and over again, they’ll start to experience ad fatigue and stop paying attention.

This is what makes ad templates so useful. Once you nail down your advertising look, you can reuse your templates to freshen up your social media presence with new ads whenever you need them.

Instagram ad dimensions

Depending on the type of Instagram ad you’re placing, there are different technical guidelines to follow when creating it.

When designing your ad, you’ll need to consider its format (image, video, Carousel, or Collection) and where it will appear in the Instagram app (in feed, Stories, Explore space, or Reels)—although not every format can be placed in every part of the app.

Knowing these guidelines will help you create striking ads wherever they appear. When in doubt, Facebook for Business has the full details for both recommended and required guidelines.

Instagram image ads

  • Recommended formats: JPG or PNG
  • Maximum file size: 30 MB
  • Recommended aspect ratio: 1:1 for in-feed ads, 9:16 for Stories or Explore ads
  • Minimum image resolution: 1080 × 1080 pixels
  • Minimum dimensions: 500 pixels wide

Instagram video ads

  • Recommended formats: MP4, MOV, or GIF
  • Maximum file size: 250 MB
  • Video duration: 1 second to 60 minutes
  • Recommended aspect ratio: 9:16 for Stories or Reels ads, 4:5 for Explore or in-feed ads
  • Minimum resolution: 1080 × 1080 pixels
  • Minimum dimensions: 500 pixels wide

Instagram Carousel ads

  • Recommended formats
    • Image: JPG, PNG
    • Video: MP4, MOV, or GIF
  • Maximum file size
    • Image: 30 MB
    • Video: 4 GB
  • Recommended aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Minimum resolution: 1080 × 1080 pixels for in-feed ads, 1080 × 1080 pixels for Stories ads.

Instagram Collection ads

  • Recommended formats
    • Image: JPG, PNG
    • Video: MP4, MOV, or GIF
  • Maximum file size
    • Image: 30 MB
    • Video: 4 GB
  • Recommended aspect ratio: 1.91:1 to 1:1
  • Minimum resolution: 1080 × 1080 pixels
  • Minimum dimensions: 500 × 500 pixels

Instagram ad design tools

You don’t have to be a professional designer to make ads that stand out. Whether you’re looking for a little inspiration or detailed guidance, there are many tools to help bring out your creativity!

Most offer free accounts in addition to paid ones with more advanced functions.

  • AdEspresso offers a full suite of services to manage your social media advertising. It combines design tools and templates with features to help with planning your ad strategy and analyzing the results, plus a very helpful split testing tool that will help you optimize your campaigns.
  • Adobe Spark provides design tools on a platform that’s integrated with Adobe’s other products. It can be accessed from a desktop browser or a mobile application.

Publish and analyze your Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn ads alongside your regular social media content with Hootsuite Social Advertising. Stop switching from platform to platform and get a complete view of what’s making you money. Book a free demo today. 

Request a Demo

Easily plan, manage and analyze organic and paid campaigns from one place with Hootsuite Social Advertising. See it in action.

Free Demo

Bonus: Get the Instagram advertising cheat sheet for 2022. The free resource includes key audience insights, recommended ad types, and tips for success.

Get the free cheat sheet now!

Become a better social marketer.

Get expert social media advice delivered straight to your inbox.

By Greg Sides

Greg Sides is a freelance copywriter, editor, translator, and general dealer-with of written things.

Read more by Greg Sides

Related Articles

You’ve unlocked 60 days for $0
Hootsuite Offer