I absolutely love creating images for my business – whether they be for articles, for social media, visuals for my website or images for videos and slide show presentations. And I am not alone - the use of visuals is red hot right now – everyone is looking to get in on the act!
But, what if you run a small business and you don’t have access to a team of graphic designers? What if you have no expertise in this area yourself and what if you don’t have a budget to outsource your design needs?
Well, I have three amazing online tools for you that will vanquish all these fears. Using these tools will enable you to create stunning and shareable images in next to no time. I really do mean that.
Allow me to let you into a little secret of mine - I have no graphic design qualifications. I trained as a journalist and editor and, back when I edited a monthly magazine, I had a team of designers to help me create attractive article spreads and front covers.
Of course, I was aware back then of the importance of visual images. No one wants to be faced with reams and reams of text – it’s just overwhelming and off-putting. When I edited my magazine I used images to give my readers a visual break.
The use of visuals has seen phenomenal growth in recent years. Many brands have noticed how visuals engage and how they enable a message to stand out from the crowd.
In addition, and I know I have used this statistic before but:
Oh how I wished, when I started my own business, that I had paid more attention to those graphic designers. That would have helped me so much as I struggled to train myself in Photoshop. It certainly was hard going in those early days!
So you can imagine my delight when I discovered three online tools that enabled me to go from zero to stunning visual content in no time flat.
The three, free online tools that I absolutely love and use pretty much every day in my business are (drum roll please):
I am now going to take each of these tools in turn and give you a quick tour of their sheer awesomeness. I have also created a free video tutorial series that will introduce you to these tools and help you to start using them in your own business. If you would like me to send you this free video tutorial course just fill in the box below.
When you arrive at Canva’s homepage, you are greeted with a menu of templates. You can simply select which template meets your design need. Do you want to create a blog graphic or a visual for Pinterest? Do you need to design a poster or a Kindle cover? Do you want to create a new image for your social media platforms? Canva has it covered with Google +, Facebook and Twitter templates.
Seriously, this takes the sweat out of your design process – leaving you to go straight to the fun stuff! (If you have a specific size in mind that is not covered by these templates, you can create your own design by clicking “Use Custom Dimensions”.)
Once you have selected your template, you are presented with a white canvas of that size on the right hand side of the screen and a series of design options on the left. You can then select your layout. Canva has designed many layouts for you – all you need do is tweak the design to suit your brand colours and fonts and add your message.
You can also create your own layout by selecting “Background” and choosing a colour or texture that will best suit your design. Many of these backgrounds are free. Canva does charge for some of its backgrounds and layouts – but these only incur a $1 single usage fee.
You can add shapes, icons, text holders, frames, lines, arrows, stickers, banners, infographics and buttons by clicking on “Search”. Again, most of these design elements are free but some do cost $1 each time you use them.
Once you have your layout sorted, you can add text. Here you have the option of choosing many different fonts for your main text, sub-title text and body text. Once you place your text onto your image, you can play around with its colour, size and transparency.
If you have an image of your own that you want to use, you can upload that image into Canva. Canva will then keep your uploads safely for you for future use.
Another great feature is that you can stretch an image and Canva will automatically re-size the image to make sure it looks its best. No need to worry about distortions anymore!
Canva also allows you to add filters to the images that you use and crop them to the perfect size. You can also add a link to an image.
When you are finished with your design, simply select the “Link & Publish” button at the top right of the page and you will be asked if you want your image to be published for use on the web or as a pdf for printing. You can also share your image on Facebook and Twitter straight from Canva (see the share buttons at the top of the page).
One of the things I love about Canva is that it enables you to create your designs in batches. This is such a time saver and is a tip that I learned from the awesome Donna Moritz. Instead of creating one image at a time, become a productive genius by creating a design that you can then copy and amend for future use. If you have an editorial schedule, you can use this to create the images for several blog posts and articles in one sitting. It is extremely satisfying, believe me!
PicMonkey is fantastic and was my go-to tool before I discovered Canva. Now I use both for different reasons. I love PicMonkey because it is so intuative and allows you to create a stunning, shareable image quickly and easily.
When you arrive at PicMonkey’s homepage, you have several options open to you. You can edit or touch-up an existing image, you can design a new image or you can create a collage. If you need to design a new image, you are offered five templates and also the option to use your own dimensions.
Once you have chosen your template, you are taken to the PicMonkey editor where the fun awaits. First of all PicMonkey asks you to choose a canvas colour. You can then scroll down a left hand side tool bar that will enable you to create your design.
There are basic edits such as cropping and rotating as well as interesting image effects, frames, textures and themes. You can add text to your image and select from a large number of available fonts. In addition, PicMonkey recently announced a new feature that allows you to use all of the fonts that are housed on your computer in your design.
If you want to use an existing image in PicMonkey, you can either select “Edit Design” on the homepage or you can upload that image and overlay it on a design that you have just created. If this overlay is a photograph of a person, you can use PicMonkey to fix any blemishes, remove any wrinkles, reduce shine, remove red-eye, grow whiskers and even give your subject a virtual spray tan!
Most of these features are free for you to use and I have created hundreds of designs using only the free version of PicMonkey. However, some features are reserved for PicMonkey’s Royale plan, which is $4.99 per month or $33 per year.
Once your PicMonkey design is complete, simply click save and choose the quality that you would like your image to be. You can also share your design to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr straight from PicMonkey.
WordSwag is an app that I have bought for my iPhone and it is amazing. Simple and yet so effective. When you have downloaded this app, click on it and then click on the icon that looks like two polaroid snaps. You can then choose a background for your image. If you already have a background (perhaps one designed in Canva or PicMonkey) you can download it onto your phone and then select it in Wordswag from the “Camera Roll” option at the top of your screen.
Having selected a background, you can choose the style of text that you would like, the colour of that text and its transparency and brightness. You can see different versions of the text styles and colours by pressing the black die at the bottom right of the screen.
To change the text, simply double tap the text on the screen. You can now add your own text or use some of the quotations that Wordswag has collated for you under six different headings. Click on the heading again to see a different quotation or text suggestion.
When you have finished, click “Save & Close” and you have the option to share your image to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or email it to yourself or someone else for future use. Simples!
Well, that’s it – these are my top three tools that have enabled me to create great images for my business. I hope that they will help you too.
I do appreciate that this has been a bit of a whistle-stop tour – particularly of Canva and PicMonkey so don’t forget to sign up for my free video tutorials to get the full lowdown!
Meanwhile, could you recommend any online tools that you use to create awesome images? Please let me know in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading!
Take care, Jane x