I have a confession: I’m not naturally a very visual person.
I like to call myself a creative, because I trade words for money and that job is no easy task. It requires energy, and an imagination that far-surpasses any thesaurus-dip. So I feel that it's fair to claim my mantle amongst the visionaries.
I’m a writer, and creating prose that resonates, moves and provokes a response is my jam. Sometimes it’s for show-offy up-on-my-high-horse reasons, other times it’s for other awesome businesses, and sometimes I just feel a little Byron-esque and want the world to know how much I love nachos.
But creating beautiful graphics to saddle up to my written content?
Not really a master talent of mine.
But here’s the thing – content needs to be informative at the written level AND visual.
So, I had to learn.
If you’d looked at what I was doing a few years ago it looked like a hipster getting click-happy with Photoshop curves and contrast.
And now? Well, I like to think I’ve improved. I took design and photography classes at university. I play around in Photoshop. I watch Youtube tutorials. I do what I can on my own if the stakes aren’t high, but for BIG THINGS like business cards I hand it all over to a pro, as you should.
Writing good copy (that’s written content) is imperative, but in age where Instagram is fast overtaking all other forms of social media, learning to produce images that make your copy shine is just half of the engagement equation.
Fantastic copy + stunning visuals = an online haven that people love coming back to.
The good news is, you can learn to create semi-ok and moderately re-grammable images just like me! And you won’t have to fork out money for expensive software programs to do it.
Here are my favourite tools for making graphics for Facebook, Instagram, my e-newsletter and website. Some are free, and others offer a premium service for a fee.
Cost: Free to join and then from $2 per image. Prices vary per medium.
I love Creative Market because it’s like the Ikea of creative resources. It’s easy to go in looking for a photo of a computer on a desk, and come out the other side with 5 new type faces and 6 textured backgrounds that look pretty but don’t match your brand at all.
Creative Market is a one-stop shop for digital resources created by independent creatives. You’ll find quality photography, icons, illustrations, fonts, design templates for everything, textures, 3D renders, Photoshop brushes and actions and anything you can think of.
You’ll want to set aside a good 20 minutes to explore this pandora’s box of mouse-made goodies.
Cost: Free and then from $1.98/month
Here’s the thing about free DIY graphics tools – you really need to have an eye for design. Otherwise, you’ll end up producing images that don’t match your branding. Or worse, that look like something 16-year-olds created on Myspace back in 2005.
Go to your Facebook page. Do you like your cover image? How about your posts – are they text-only? Bad news: Facebook doesn’t rank text-based posts so well organically. Good news: Pagemodo does a wonderful job of taking your Facebook page from amateur-hour to Serious Business.
Pagemodo’s interface is intuitive, making for an excellent user experience. I prefer Pagemodo more than Canva, as I feel their quality of images and graphics are of a higher standard. There’s still that level of ‘cheezy stock imagery’ hanging about like an evil graphic design spectre, but if you have an eye for design you can make it work in your favour.
Free accounts mean you have to put up with a tacky Pagemodo watermark, so I recommend upgrading so you look like the real deal.
Cost: Free. Also has a $10/month premium option
Investing in a professional digital camera is a big ask for some small businesses. On top of that, photography skills aren’t so easily acquired for some! Just ask my boyfriend ;)
If taking your own original photography isn’t an option, stock images are your next best bet. No, do not use your iPhone.
There are stock images, and then there are stock images. Professional, high-quality images taken by creatives with an eye for aesthetics vs cheesy, clichéd stock images found on websites selling diet pills. You do not want the latter. Death to the Stock Photo will give you the former.
DTTSP works different from other stock image libraries. Rather than signing up for a free or premium account and browsing through 1000s of images, you opt-in to their mailing list and they send you a finely curated bunch of image each month. You also get a welcome pack.
Pretty sweet deal.
Free for low-res small images, small fee for hi-res images
People can’t interact with your product in an online store – that’s an advantage reserved for bricks-and-mortar businesses. You need to be able to provide a visual representation of what you’re offering, and this is where Placeit comes in.
Placeit creates professional images that shows your website, blog, app, ebook or service in context. You could alternatively just take screenshots, but Placeit gives you the opportunity to show your product or service in action. Simply choose a background or device, upload your image, and Placeit does the rest.
Ah, infographics. Those pretty visual representations only reserved for those with swift graphic design smarts. Wrong. Easel.ly is an aptly named easy-to-use drag-and-drop infographic creator. If design is not your forte (let’s form a club), you can use one of their prebuilt templates. If you’re a bit more savvy, you can go truly bare bones and build the entire infographic from scratch. You’ll love their huge number of icons, shapes, and objects that you can drag-and-drop into your editor.