One of my most frequently asked questions is, “What software do you use to create professional-looking graphics for your blog and social media?”
There are many popular options like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, PicMonkey, Pixlr, etc. Give or take, I’ve used and tried all of them at some point. So I feel qualified to give you an opinion on the ones you should go with.
Now if you’re a professional graphic designer, this article isn’t for you. Adobe Photoshop might be your answer and for a good reason. The piece of software has a great reputation and does everything you need it to do. That said, because it has SO MANY options, it can easily get overwhelming.
I use to use GIMP when I was younger and didn’t have a credit card to purchase Adobe. Other than that, I prefer to use Adobe.
I’ve only used Pixlr once and it seems like a similar, but easier to use version of Photoshop. Honestly, I haven’t explored its capabilities fully, but based on the times that I’ve used, I prefer it over GIMP.
Now unless you can find a tutorial on YouTube to follow, I really wouldn’t use Pixlr either. It’s not as intuitive enough to figure out on your own, but it’s more doable than Adobe, of course.
PicMonkey is the other option that I hear thrown around frequently. I heard it’s pretty good and easy to use, but my memory of PicMonkey is really faded at this moment.
So, Judy, you just put down every one of the graphic design tools you just mentioned. So what’s the deal here?
If you’re a non-designer and never used Photoshop in your life, the best tool to get shit done like a boss is… Canva!
To be honest, I don’t think Canva replaces Adobe (which is why I still pay for Adobe), but it gets the job done beautifully if you need social media graphics done.
Canva is great for throwing quick graphics, art, presentation slides, and freebie PDFs together. Think of it as piecing together a puzzle! Oh, what fun!
Who is Canva for?
Canva is for anyone, but especially helpful for non-designers, bloggers, freelancers, solopreneurs, and anyone who can’t afford their personal graphic designer. I’m not a designer so I’ll recommend Canva’s blog if you want to up your design game.
Anyone can sign up for a FREE account at Canva.com. Canva is one of those tools that give 90% of their features away for free. You wouldn’t even need to upgrade unless you want to.
I only recently upgraded to “Canva for Work” because I was getting sick of using the same fonts they provide. I wanted more room for experiments with my designs for the new year so I decided to upgrade for $115/year after using the platform for two years. You get some additional upgraded features, which streamlines the designing process as well.
But you can TOTALLY have a thriving blog from using just their free version.
What can you create with Canva?
I always believe that Canva is the perfect tool for bloggers because it gives you the exact social media template dimensions. This means you don’t have to go to 10 different blogs to search for the dimensions each time you create a new pin or Instagram post.
C’mon, let’s face it, dealing with those deets aren’t fun.
Canva has premade templates that you can steal.
The most obvious thing about Canva is most likely it’s premade templates. If you’ve used it, you simply can’t miss it!
I create all my social media graphics on Canva. Here are some examples:
Email header example
Pins for Pinterest
Facebook group header
Once you sign into Canva, you can click on “Create a new design” and the drop-down menu will give you an array of options.
I don’t want to mention the obvious creations and designs such as creating a pin for Pinterest. I’m grateful to say I’ve created at least 200 pins using Canva in the past year.
But a few cool things you can create with Canva are:
— Product mockups
— Ebook covers
— Youtube thumbnails
— Freebie PDFs, including checklists, cheat sheets, roadmaps, and workbooks
Even if you’re a physical product business, there’s something for everyone such as business cards, posters, tags, etc.
These templates are similar to Microsoft Word templates, but they are… wait for it… a lot MORE FUN to create.
You get to play with a lot more fun fonts and colors. While your best memory of using MS Word was probably for a class essay. Ugh!
You can add your own branded colors and fonts to Canva.
Canva makes it super easy to upload your brand fonts and colors for future use. This way each time you use your specified font, you won’t need to look for it in another tab, window or spreadsheet.
Once you have your HTML color codes, you can copy and paste them into Canva. An example of an HTML color code is #FFF666.
Canva comes with many pre-chosen fonts for you already. It’s definitely enough to use and play around with, but if you have certain fonts you can use, you can certainly upload your own.
I like to search for new fun fonts on 1001fonts.com. They have many free fonts that you can use. Unfortunately, if you want to use your own fonts, you have to upgrade to the “Canva for Work” plan.
Canva has its own selection of stock photos.
This isn’t a huge plus for me, but if you’re lazy to hunt around for stock photos, Canva does come with a selection of free stock photos, illustrations, icons, frames, layouts, etc you can use.
Think of it this way… Canva has a mini selection of the digital goodies you can find on Creative Market.
I personally love Unsplash for stock photos so I don’t use Canva for this. Canva also allows you to upload your own photos to their platform that you can reuse over and over.
I see that much online software integrates with Unsplash (including my favorite one, Trello), but Canva doesn’t seem as far as I know.
Canva allows you to duplicate your design and use it as a template.
This tiny feature is such a time-saver. By that, I mean you create one graphic template and by “making a copy” of it, you can use that as a springboard template for your next design.
This is super helpful when you’re creating branded social media graphics. I do this for my pins frequently. If you take a look at my pins below, the design is similar, but the colors, titles, and content are different.
I use this tiny feature to create pins in a matter of minutes.
Canva stores all your past and current designs.
This is a something none of the other tools do (or at least I don’t think so). Adobe might do this, but I’ve never used that feature.
Therefore, I have dozens of different folders on my laptop that stores all my different designs.
But imagine not having to save every design creation to your laptop and have all your designs on in one place: Canva. It keeps organization simple and uncluttered.
You can even create folders within Canva to organize your designs if it gets out of hand… though I believe that’s a Canva for Work feature too.
Really, Canva is like the graphic designer you never had.
Or more accurately… can’t afford yet as a bootstrapped blogger.
To sum it up, you can use Canva for all your everyday social media graphics, email headers, launch graphics, and even product mockups.
I know that knowing how to use Canva for your blog and actually doing it is two different things. So I’ve created a step-by-step, “watch over my shoulder” tech tutorial that shows you how to use Canva for your blog graphics. All you have to do is enter your name and email to get instant access!