14 tools to create better visuals

Seeking illustrative photos, a tool for building infographics, or a quick way to construct a meme image? Here are 14 solutions to try.

Bloggers devote a lot of time to crafting compelling posts.

Time is spent brainstorming the content, gathering information and then finally writing the perfect post. The fun doesn’t end there—as the perfect post often requires the perfect visual to go with it.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be an excellent photographer, or at least have one on your team. For those who need help, I’ve taken some of Amanda Hicken’s excellent suggestions and added a few of my own for this list of 14 great—and free—design resources for bloggers.

1. Creative Commons Search: Creative Commons licenses make it easy for artists to share their creative work and for bloggers to look for content that can be used freely and legally. Although Creative Commons content is all over the Web, search.creativecommons.org is a great resource that allows users to specify which CC search service (options include Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, and the Open Clip Art Library) and what license parameters to use.

2. Compfight: Compfight is another Creative Commons search tool I’m learning to love. Though it often delivers some of the same images that Creative Commons Search does, the perk is that Compfight will automatically generate HTML code you can embed in your website to properly credit the creator.

3. HubSpot’s Stock Photo Collection: Many stock photo services require a paid subscription, or they will sell photos in a pay-as-you-go structure. HubSpot is a great option for those of us without budgets for our blogs. The collection of 450-plus free photos includes many business-focused images, but there are many good images to be found. HubSpot does require signing up with a name and email address, but this is a short order compared with many of the more expensive stock photo options out there.

4. Death to the Stock Photo: One day, two photographers realized they had a lot of images sitting around and not getting used. They decided to email them out in packs to friends, freelancers and businesses they knew were in need of high-quality visuals. From that sprang Death to the Stock Photo, a monthly email of 10 gorgeous images that are free to use. For $10 a month, users can upgrade to a premium subscription that includes access to all photos, past and future, and an extra image pack sent monthly. A portion of monthly sales goes back into the creative community, funding photography trips around the world for future photo packs. If you want more visual inspiration, Unsplash works in a similar fashion, sending you 10 new photos every 10 days.

5. IconFinder: If icons are what you need, Copenhagen-based IconFinder hosts the world’s largest collection, with more than 340,000 icons in stock. It also offers free icons under a variety of licenses for commercial and personal use. Either conduct a keyword search or browse the categories, then filter by free and premium. Prior to downloading, icon backgrounds can be set to white, black, gray or transparent.

6. Canva: Canva is a wonderful tool, cited as a “blogging essential” by Amanda Hicken on more than one occasion. The templates and collections of fonts, images and backgrounds make Canva easy to learn and a necessary addition to any blogger’s arsenal. Canva is free to use, but offers some premium design items at $1 each.

7. GIMP: My first experience with GIMP was using it as a Photoshop replacement for a newspaper design project. My team and I were assigned to design an edition of our daily newspaper using only free tools found online. GIMP quickly became a necessary addition to the project. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is free and offers a lot of tools, even for Photoshop diehards. Check out its tutorials to learn how to remove red eye, add textures to your images, and conduct many other tasks at an array of skill levels.

8. Photovisi: If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for making collages, Photovisi is an excellent tool that enables you to combine several images in only a few minutes. Pick a template, upload your images, select backgrounds, add text and shapes, and then download and add to your blog post. The free version includes a Photovisi watermark on the collage, though premium versions without the watermark can be purchased. If the watermark is a deal breaker, choose from the photo collage makers in this list by CreativeBloq.com.

9. ReciteThis: ReciteThis is an easy-to-use tool that enables you to quickly design a quotation visual. Plug in your quote and select a ready-made background, and you have a quotation visual ready to upload in no time. If ReciteThis doesn’t have what you’re looking for, some other options to create pinnable quotes include Quozio, Pinwords and ProQuoter.

10. Infogr.am: Want to create an infographic but think you have to be a design genius to pull it off? Infogr.am will help you see otherwise with its easy-to-use interface that enables you to pull maps, videos and other visuals into an infographic. It offers templates and suggestions to help you visualize your data, and it comes with social media sharing tools embedded into your final project, enabling you to easily pin or tweet your new design.

11. Meme Generator: Memes can be a fun way to add humor to a post. Meme Generator lets you browse popular memes or create your own with a list of popular meme characters. You can also upload your own image and add text to create a meme-style image of your own.

12. COLOURlovers: If design isn’t your strong suit, it can be difficult to pair colors in a graphic. This is why I love COLOURlovers. Let the millions of colors and palettes inspire you, and whatever color you like will include HEX and RGB codes to use in photo-editing programs.

13. Awesome Screenshot: Some blog topics, such as how-tos, are often best expressed with a simple screenshot. This can be daunting if you cannot capture your entire site in one go. Awesome Screenshot is a browser plug-in for Firefox and Chrome that lets you take a screenshot of an entire Web page, no matter how extensive it is. It also enables you to edit the screenshot right from your browser, with tools to help you crop and annotate. After using Awesome Screenshot, it’s almost impossible to go back to using that pesky “PrintScreen” button.

14. Place.it: Now that you have your screenshot, maybe you want to show your audience how that site will look in action. Place.it enables you to drop your screenshot into Creative Commons-enabled stock photos of computers, mobile devices and other images that will bring your screenshot to life.

This list is only a start to finding tools to helping you find, create, edit and optimize visuals for your blog. If you have a design tool you just can’t blog without, please let us know in the comments section.

Danielle Capriato is the manager of strategic communications at PR Newswire, where a version of this article originally appeared. Follow her on Twitter @dcapriato.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.