7 Tools to Help You Design Like a Pro
The 'd-word' - design- can be a frightening word to those with little or no experience; especially when all we see on social media these days is fancy artwork, sleek images with quotes, or photos that look to good to be real. Then, on top of seeing all of that great visual content, we are constantly being told to "attach visuals to your social media posts for better exposure!" It's true, though, here are three stats that show why you should use visuals with your next post:
Who doesn't want more exposure for their social content? So, the question becomes HOW? How can you create awesome visual content? Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly easier for those with little or no design experience to design stunning content with minimal effort (and knowledge). That's at least some good news, right?
When organizing my thoughts for this 'focus on visual design' blog project, it made sense for the first feature to share some design platforms and apps. TWC has compiled some of the most popular (and user-friendly) services that will have you looking like a rockstar in no time - who knows, you might even find yourself asking, 'did I really just create that?' So, here goes my list to hopefully help YOU become more awesome at creating visual content...
1. Canva - Canva has become the 'go-to' service for designers of all levels. Since its launch in 2012, Canva has reached over 4.7 million users who have created almost 35 million designs within the platform. It is a web-based application with cloud storage, in addition to being an iPad app. You can design almost anything from social media graphics (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) to marketing materials to presentations with beautiful layouts. Canva is free though there are certain layout elements, icons, and pictures that can be purchased for a $1.00 each. They have an extremely resourceful "Design School" that offers helpful tutorials, teaching materials, and an expansive blog. A new program called "Canva for Work," which costs $12.95/month (or $9.95/month if purchased yearly) is now available and includes some great new tools, including the opportunity to collaborate and share with an entire design team. Canva is the best place to start with your design efforts!
2. Share As Image - Share As Image is a bookmarklet tool that allows you to instantly turn text into an image. It is super easy to use and compatible as an extension with the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. You simply highlight the text on any web page and instantly turn that text into an image; this is great for anyone looking to make a visual quote (quick and easy, too). Share As Image gives you a wide range of features that include image filters, custom backgrounds, and photos. The service is free but there is also an opportunity to upgrade to a PRO account, which costs $8/month. The PRO account would be perfect for individuals or businesses looking to add custom watermarks and links, as well as having the ability to save and edit the images you create. Like Canva, Share As Image hosts an informative blog where you can find extremely helpful articles about design, productivity, marketing, social media, and more.
3. Easel.ly - Easel.ly is a simple tool for building infographics. It is very useful for educators, students, and businesses who need to present thoughts, plans, or concepts in an easy-to-follow visual graphic. The web-based platform features thousands of infographic templates and design objects which can be customized to meet your needs. There is even an opportunity to build your own layout from scratch. Much like Share As Image, there is a Free account and a Pro account - the Free account permits you 60 free images and 10 fonts to use; the Pro account provides 1,000's of free images, over 50 fonts, and dozens of professionally made templates. The Pro account costs only $3/month. And, finally, you guessed it! Easel.ly hosts a blog, too, that mostly shares information about infographics.
4. Piktochart - Piktochart is pretty much a sister application to Easel.ly - both are used primarily to build infographics. Piktochart probably has a stronger (better looking) interface than Easel.ly, which makes it a bit easier to use and permits you to have more freedom in the design process. Piktochart has a much greater depth of design icons - over 4,000 - but offers a limited number of free templates when compared to Easel.ly. Piktochart does offer a free service, which they call the Standard Account. There are no usage limits and you have permission to upload your own images. The downside is the cost of the Pro Account - $29/month (or $290 for the whole year). The nicest feature of the Pro Account, though, is the elimination of Piktochart's watermark on the images that you create. They do offer special pricing for Nonprofit Organizations and Educators, too. Like the other services, they have a pretty well-round blog and handy resource section to help you build your own infographics.
5. Pablo (by Buffer) - Pablo is most likely the newest of any tools listed here; it was launched last October. It was created by the social media management company, Buffer - which you really need to check out if you are involved in social media management/marketing, but that's for another post! Back to Pablo...you can use the tool with or without a Buffer account. Basically, Pablo is a free, extremely simple tool to create images with text or logos. The application allows you to choose a size suitable for different social media networks, add text/logos, and choose existing backgrounds or upload your own. And, then, just like that you can immediately share on Facebook or Twitter. There is also an option to download the file and to schedule it in Buffer, should you have a Buffer account.
6. Aviary - Aviary is a photo editor app, which is great if you want to design images directly from photos you take on your phone. It is available in Apple App Store and Google Play Store. If you happen to use MailChimp for email campaigns, then you will immediately recognize the app's interface and options since Aviary is used for editing photos in the email program. So, with Aviary, not only will you be on your way to creating great visual content, you will become awesome in photo-shopping. The app is free but you have the opportunity to purchase additional sticker packages for $0.99 each.
7. PowerPoint - That's right, you read correctly, PowerPoint! Hey, if it is a program that you are familiar with, then use it to your advantage. There are many templates and tools available in PowerPoint that will allow you to create images. You can even import real photos to act as a background or get creative with the text, colors, and icons to build something. The key is when you save the slide, be sure to save it as an image and you'll be good to go! Of course, for all of you Mac lovers - like myself, you can utilize Keynote (Apple's equivalent to PowerPoint) in the same manner.
Well, here's to YOU creating visual content - AWESOME visual content! Please feel free to share some tools or tips that you come across in the near future. Happy designing!
Image Credits: Canva, Share As Image, Piktochart, Buffer Blog, and Tech2.