The Cool Girl’s Guide to Instagram Stories

Followers guaranteed

by Charlotte Zoller

So you’ve mastered the basics of Instagram Stories—paint brushes, location tags, filters, stickers, etc.—but where do you go from here? Open your Instagram app, start tapping through stories, and you’ll likely see a lot of the same. Most have a couple emojis, a bit of text, perhaps an occasional squiggle of paint. Simple is fine, but why not get outside your creative comfort zone? Play with proportion, color, and repetition. Grab the neon brush and plop down some extraterrestrial polka dots.

As with any creative activity, it’s easy to fall into a rut. Just because your story disappears in 24 hours, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be curated with the same loving touch as your main feed. To lend a hand, we’ve experimented, scoured the digital depths of IG, and double tapped until our fingers went numb, to bring you a roundup of the best ways to spice up your story. Click below to explore some innovative techniques, and maybe discover a new IG account or two. 

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Use bold patterns

My go-to pattern is a mix of dashes and dots. Coordinate the colors in your image with the color of your brush tool. I like using the marker brush for a rounded playful pattern (see above). If you prefer your stripes a little more uniform, use a large size of the chisel tip brush for a slightly cleaner look.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Layer and space your text

Choose two colors (ideally ones found in your photo/video) and lay one version of the same text slightly askew over the other. You can even kern the text a bit—just add a space or two between each letter. Take it one step further by pressing and holding one of the nine color dots, which will activate a large color gradient from which you can choose a custom shade. 

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Explore Instagram’s seasonal stickers

Keep your app up to date to have the latest Instagram seasonal stickers at your fingertips. Busy image? Throw a splash of color behind the sticker to calm things down.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Use multiples of the same emoji

FYI: Instagram doesn’t provide the full emoji library in their sticker library. If you can’t find what you want in the upper right menu, just create a new text field and use your phone’s keyboard to select your emoji of choice.

P.S. Instagram, if you’re listening, could you put the most recently used emoji at the top of the stickers menu, please? Scrolling to find an emoji is tedious

Photo via @saramlyons Instagram

Make emojis work for you

We all know the pencil emoji won’t actually do the writing for you, but it doesn’t hurt to pretend. (It also helps if your handwriting is as cute as Sara’s!)

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Frame your subject

Whip out that paint tool and channel your inner Fruit Ninja by scribbling around the best part of your image. Something about furiously swiping your finger across the screen is damn cathartic.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram


It almost goes without saying, but Boomerang is one of the most fun features integrated into IG stories. If you’re like me and love ~options~, use the standalone Boomerang app to capture a few before making your final selection. But if you’re in a hurry, just select the Boomerang option in the IG story’s camera and get down to business.

Photo via @mollyraskin Instagram

Repeat text full frame

Sometimes text gets your point across quicker than imagery. Go full frame by copy/pasting your text. As you can see, Molly wants everyone to know she takes her beans very seriously. 

Photo via @eloquii Instagram

Play with the color and proportion of text

One of the best and most consistently great brand IG stories is one from plus size fashion brand, Eloquii. They upload DSLR photos but then use the native Instagram text tool to make it feel natural to the platform. Want to recreate the look? Select a letter or phrase and change its color individually.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Layer emojis on top of polka dots

Use the marker brush to plop some large polka dots on your image, then overlay a color-coordinating emoji over each dot.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram, featuring @ADAMJK


While not featured in-app like Boomerang, a Hyperlapse can elevate your IG story. Shoot a video in the standalone Hyperlapse app, choose your speed, save to your camera roll, and upload to your IG story. Boom.

Photo via @cz77 Instagram

Create atmosphere

Sometimes emojis on their own won’t cut it! Make your stars sparkle with a sprinkle of paint brush dots. Pro tip: use both the circular and neon brushes for extra dimension.