Beginner’s Guide to the Twitter Profile Photo

Posted by on March 27, 2013

Social media sites don’t make it easy to understand how to customize your account pages with images. For designer types like myself who want to know precise image dimensions and anything else that may affect the resulting image quality, it can be frustrating. User help pages often leave out important details and Twitter is no exception. I’ve spent hours googling to find the answers I’m looking for. Hopefully, this article and the ones that follow on the Twitter header image will save you time and spare you the frustration that I experienced.

Let’s start by identifying the three images you can customize on your Twitter account:

  • Photo (avatar)
  • Header
  • Background

Diagram of Twitter image areas

The diagram above shows a Twitter home page before any image customization has taken place. The photo is also referred to as an avatar. You’ll see both terms used.

Display Dimensions

Profile photos are displayed in five different sizes. The size (measured in pixels) depends on where the image appears.

  • Up to 500 x 500: A large version of the photo is displayed in a pop-up window when someone clicks on the 73 x 73 photo on your home page.
  • 73 x 73: Home page, Profile Summary window
  • 48 x 48*: Following, Who to follow, Tweets, Retweets
  • 32 x 32: Lists Subscribed to / Member of, View my profile page
  • 24 x 24: Favorite

*The 48 x 48 size will be viewed most often by the online world.

Photo Upload Specifications

Image Dimensions

Twitter is silent on the ideal dimensions your image should be. The size it’s displayed in the header area (inside a white border) is 73 x 73 pixels and that seems to be a common size that people use. However, after much testing of various image sizes and formats, I’ve found that the end result is blurred, even though I didn’t resize the image when uploading it. It started at 73 x 73 in Photoshop and ended up at 73 x 73 on Twitter with a mystery blur. Other sizes blurred to a greater degree so I settled on 73 x 73.

The blur shouldn’t be noticeable on photographic images with graduated colour tones. It will become more obvious on graphics with sharp detail and small text may become unreadable.

Images can be scaled or cropped during the upload process. If an image is rectangular rather than square, it will be cropped to a square.

Image File Size

The image file you upload can be up to 2MB.

Image Format

Acceptable images formats are JPG, GIF, or PNG. Twitter doesn’t support animated GIFs anymore but users who already had animated avatars when this restriction was imposed weren’t affected.

Changing Your Photo

Default Twitter photo changes upon logging inWhen you first sign up with Twitter, your profile photo will be a default egg image. This will also display if you remove a photo you previously uploaded. Once you log into your Twitter account, the default “egg” photo will change to show a blue button with a plus sign.

Navigate to the Profile Page

There are four ways to get to the Profile settings page to change your photo:

Clicking on the default avatarWhen the photo with the plus sign is displayed, click it to go directly to the Profile page.

Clicking on the Edit buttonAny time your cursor is over the header area, an Edit button will appear. Clicking on it will take you to the Profile page.

Choosing Edit ProfileClick on the gear icon in the top menu bar to display the drop-down menu and select Edit Profile.

Choosing SettingsClick on the gear icon in the top menu bar to display the drop-down menu and select Settings. Then click Profile in the left sidebar.

Image settings on Profile page

The screen shot above shows the section of the Profile page where the Photo and Header settings are located.

Upload a Profile Photo

Change photo menuOn your Profile page, click the Change photo button. A drop-down menu will appear with these options:

  • Choose existing photo (This means an existing photo stored on your computer.)
  • Take photo (Adobe Flash must be installed and enabled on a desktop computer or this option won’t appear in the menu.)
  • Remove photo (This option won’t appear if the default egg photo is in effect.)

Choose existing photoClick Choose existing photo and a window will pop up showing your computer’s file system. Navigate to where your photo is and select it. Click the Open button in the file window. (It may be labeled something else, depending on your browser or operating system.)


Upload a profile image windowA popup called Upload a profile image will appear with a preview of the image you chose. It has a slider bar you can use to scale the image. When the image extends beyond the boundaries of the preview frame, you can click and drag it to reposition it within the frame. Once you’re satisfied with the size and position, click the Save button.


Upload success messageYour photo will upload to the Twitter server. Upon completion, a message, “Your avatar was published successfully,” will display above your photo.


Save changes buttonClick the Save changes button at the bottom of the page to finish.


Save confirmation messageA message will appear above your photo: “Thanks, your settings have been saved.”


Options for navigating to your home pageTo see your new photo in action on your Twitter home page, click “View my profile page” at the top of the left sidebar or Me in the top menu bar.

Take Photo

This option lets you take a photo with the computer’s webcam, if it has one, and upload the photo. Adobe Flash must be installed and enabled on a desktop computer to use this feature.


Selecting the Take Photo optionClick the Change photo button and choose Take Photo from the drop-down menu.


Upload photo permission windowA popup called Upload a profile image will appear. A Flash Player prompt will ask if you want to allow or deny access to your computer’s camera. Click the Allow button.


Upload photo composition windowNext you’ll see a dynamic image of yourself (in this case, an imaginary cat) inside the preview window. Pose yourself and when you’re ready click the blue Take picture button.


Upload photo edit windowThe window will display the resulting photo. It has a slider bar you can use to scale the image. In this example, the parts of the image outside the preview frame are shown with a semi-transparent white overlay. Those areas will be cropped. When the image extends beyond the boundaries of the preview frame, you can click and drag it to reposition it within the frame. Once you’re satisfied with the size and position, click the Save button.


Upload success messageYour photo will upload to the Twitter server. Upon completion, a message, “Your avatar was published successfully,” will be displayed above your photo.


Save changes buttonClick the Save changes button at the bottom of the page to finish.


Save confirmation messageA message will appear above your photo: “Thanks, your settings have been saved.”


Options for navigating to your home pageTo see your new photo displayed on your Twitter home page, click “View my profile page” at the top of the left sidebar or Me in the top menu bar.


Remove Photo

It’s not necessary to remove a photo before uploading a new one but if for some reason you want to remove your photo and go back to the default egg avatar, follow these steps.


Selecting the Remove photo option from the menuClick the Change photo button and choose Remove photo from the drop-down menu.


Remove photo confirmation messageThe photo will change to the default egg and a message above it will say, “No more picture for you.”


Heather Jones (3 Posts)

A graduate of the Multimedia Design and Communication program at Applied Multimedia Training Centre, Heather is an integral part of the Lanoie team and is the team lead in terms of design, content, and quality control.


One thought on “Beginner’s Guide to the Twitter Profile Photo

  1. Pingback: Changing Your Twitter Header Image (Part 1) | Lanoie.com Blog: Education • Development • Marketing

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