This week’s article comes a day earlier, because on Thursday most of our readers will be with family! Don’t forget to share this blog! Enjoy!… Visuals play a crucial role in web design and online marketing, as you are probably well aware. It’s for that reason that we employ graphic designers for various tasks, and we are always amazed by the work they do.
There are some occasions when we need to create social media graphics ourselves. It could be that the budget is just not there, or we may just need a graphic really fast.
In these situations, all is not lost.
We can still continue to maintain a high level of quality in the graphics we produce, while quickly producing some pretty good visuals.
We do this through using a selection of useful tools for graphic creation. There are a number of these now available, and in this post we’ll be looking at a few of the best.
Why You Need Visuals
Visuals are crucial in nearly every type of online marketing, and they are essential for web design. But why?
Images grab attention. Humans are visual creatures, and we are drawn to images in a way that we are not drawn to text.
We process images faster than text, so images are the way to capture attention quickly. This is especially important now that your site has to compete with so many other websites, as well as the competition from social media posts, blogs, and all the rest.
You have to find a way to stand out in all that noise, and images are the way to do that.
Images can communicate a point quickly and bring a website or social media post to life in a split second. In addition, they can provide a greater understanding of the message you are trying to convey.
They also increase engagement, which helps to keep people on your site or reading your blog. This applies to social media as well, where visuals nearly always do better, getting noticed quicker and getting more shares.
The Best Graphics Tools for Non-Designers
So which tools can you use to design your own visuals when you cannot use the services of a skilled graphic designer?
We’ll start with the obvious one: Adobe Photoshop. This is the industry standard for professionals, and it is capable of some truly amazing things. If you hire a graphic designer, this is what they will probably use.
But you don’t have to be a graphic designer to get great results from Photoshop. If you can learn how to use this, you will have everything you need.
The caveat is that it costs money to use, and it takes a lot of time to learn. If you are prepared to put in some time and effort into learning the basics, you may find this is the only tool you need.
But what about if you don’t want to splash out on Photoshop or learn how to use it? That’s where the following online tools come into play.
Canva is, quite simply, awesome.
It is marketed as the tool that allows anyone to be a designer, and it really does go a long way towards doing this.
It is so simple to use that you can create amazing visuals in minutes. Simply choose from the wide range of stunning templates available, including social media templates like Facebook headers, Twitter posts, Pinterest graphics, etc, and all the rest like presentations, posters, blog graphics, flyers, posters, menus, business cards, and more.
It also has a wide range of stock photos to use in your creations, as well as an excellent selection of fonts.
It’s free to use, and you can create stunning designs for nothing if you want to. However, some of the design elements cost money to use, and if you use any of these, you’ll be charged at the end in one go.
It also has a Design School, and you’ll be able to find plenty of tips for getting the most from your creations.
In short, you should absolutely have an account with Canvas.
Pablo is Buffer’s image creation tool, so as you may imagine, it’s primary use is for creating social media images.
It is more streamlined than Canva, and that makes it quick and easy to create basic images that you want to share across social media.
Simply choose your photo, resize it, select the text, and edit the photo to get the desired results, and you can quickly get a great image that you can use on your website or on social media.
With over 50,000 images and over 25 fonts to choose from, it’s a great little tool that can help you create good-looking visuals in no time.
Pixlr is known for being a simpler version of Photoshop—and it’s also free to use. Once you have signed up, you can do all of the basic image editing functions that Photoshop can do, and this may well be enough for your purposes.
Pixlr Express is the quickest way to edit a photo or add some text, and you can use this in just a few minutes. Or you can use the Pixlr Editor for more advanced tasks.
You can upload your own fonts, and you can choose custom image sizes for different purposes. It also has a mobile app, and you will find lots of tutorials to help you create mini masterpieces.
PicMonkey is another photo editor that provides a simpler and free alternative to Photoshop. Again, you can use it to do all of the basic image editing tasks, making it a useful addition to your toolkit.
A free version is available, which allows you to do lots of useful basic functions and create your own designs. But you can upgrade to a monthly subscription if you prefer, and this will provide more features.
It also has a Chrome extension so you can save images you come across and take screenshots as you browse.
Easel.ly is a tool for creating infographics. It has a huge selection of templates to choose from, and it’s highly customizable.
Infographics remain a popular way to get across complex ideas in an easy-to-digest format, and the fact that over 4 million infographics have been created using Easel.ly is testament to their popularity.
Another tool for infographics is PiktoChart, where you can get a free account for the basics or upgrade for better features. It has over 100 themes to choose from, and you can also use it to create reports, presentations, and more.
Logo Garden is a similar tool to Canva, but it specializes in logo design. There are lots of symbols to choose from, and it provides a very quick process for putting together a logo.
It’s a great tool to help with your branding, and you may want to use it to create logos for campaigns or events, even though you won’t be able to use it for more general visual design.
Some Recommended Sources for Stock Photos
Obviously, to create visuals in the first place, you need photos. The best option is to take your own, either using your own professional equipment or by hiring a photographer.
But this is often not feasible, and there are so many great images online these days that you might never need to take a photograph.
So where do you get these?
Shutterstock has a fantastic selection of images. You can either pay $49 for 5 images, or you can pay a monthly subscription of $199 and download 750 images each month, so it depends how many you need (see the plans here).
This is one of the best sources on the web for photos, illustrations, vectors, icons, and even 4K video clips and music. The photos are premium quality and there are plenty of them to choose from. You can also edit images right within Shutterstock.
Pixabay is one of the best sources of free images. It only contains Creative Commons CC0 images in its collection, meaning they are free to use without the need for attribution so you can use them for anything. It contains images, videos, and vectors in its library, and while the selection is more limited compared to Shutterstock, there are some real gems here.
Pexels is similar to Pixabay in that it only has Creative Commons CC0 images. It has a good selection of images, so it’s worth looking for something here.
FreeImages is a great source of photos. You can search for images or look through categorized collections like ‘Fashion’ and ‘Landscapes.’ The free photo library has a good selection, but you can also choose premium photos, of which there are over 2.4 million.
General Tips for Designing Visuals
So now you’ve got your visual creation tools and your stock photo sources, that’s all you need. However, it’s worth keeping a few tips in mind if you are new to designing visuals. Here are a few simple tips to stick to:
- Keep typefaces to a minimum. Inexperienced designers often cram in as many as they can, and this just looks messy. Choose a simple collection and stick to this for the entire visual.
- Simple is best, especially when you are creating small visuals for blogs and social media. Every element needs a reason to be there, and this means sticking to a minimal number of fonts, shapes, colors, etc.
- Take inspiration from other images. As you browse other websites and social media, look out for visuals that really catch your eye, then save them somewhere for inspiration.
- Use lots of white space. Surround the text with it, and use it to give more space to the elements in your visual.
- Choose colors that complement and contrast each other. Also choose various tones of one color to keep it consistent, and avoid cramming in too many colors.
- Be original. There’s no point going to all the effort to create visuals if they don’t stand out, so stick to the basic rules but make an effort to be different.
- For some more detailed tips, check out this infographic at CoSchedule, which is a great resource for creating visuals even if you have no design skills.
Start Creating Better Visuals
Creating stand-out visuals takes time and practice, and it is not easy. However, like anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
Try out the tools mentioned here and choose one or a few that you enjoy using, then see what you can do. Read the tips provided on the site, and you may find that these tools can do most of the tasks you require for your design and marketing.
That way, when you can’t use a graphic designer, you’ll always be able to create stunning visuals for your website and marketing.