I’m no artist, and sometimes it bothers me how easily some people pick up a pen and paper and create a masterpiece.
My imagination doesn’t work that way.
This lack of artistic ability poses a threat to my marketing career, especially now that visual content marketing is the ticket to success. Even though I have other creative traits, I’m worried I’ll get left in the visual storytelling dust.
I know I’m not alone.
Luckily, we non-artists have a few tools to mask our lack of design talent.
These tools are free, but often have advanced paid features for when you’re ready to step up your game. They don’t replace a designer’s expertise, but you can use them for smaller projects, like blogs, social media graphics, or Slideshare templates.
Canva is likely the most well-known visual marketing tool, and for good reason. It’s free, easy-to-use and has Guy Kawasaki as its chief evangelist. Canva has been getting a lot of media attention lately, including a fun tutorial on Spin Sucks.
Canva’s goal is clear: To help anyone make a great design from scratch. Or, as Kawasaki says, “Canva democratizes design.”
Play with Canva’s backgrounds and fonts first, and then move on to its useful tutorials.
Picmonkey is an image-editing and creation tool. It’s like a beefed-up version of Canva.
While Canva is primarily a text-over-image tool, Picmonkey offers other options, like photo editing, touch ups and collages.
I made this collage of the Arment Dietrich team in less than five minutes:
This collage is simple (I told you I’m not artistic), but Picmonkey has many more design and editing options than Canva.
For example, the cover photo on the Don’t Panic Management Facebook page was made in Picmonkey.
PicMonkey is perfect for advanced users who have experience with Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as beginners.
If you are interested in a high-quality tool that also offers simple stitching and editing capabilities, Picmonkey is right for you.
Who hates Excel?
I’m probably one of the only freaks who actually enjoys using spreadsheets, but I have some trouble with Excel’s chart functionality.
This free tool allows you to upload spreadsheets (think social media metrics, email open and click rates, website metrics, PR reach data and more), and choose which parts of the data you’d like to visualize. You can then create a comprehensive report of as many charts as you wish.
I used some sample data to show you what it looks like:
You can customize everything from colors to chart type, and can connect file-storing and data tools like Dropbox, Hubspot, Google Drive, Mailchimp and more for easy data import.
When you’re ready to download, DataHero will give you a high-resolution PNG file.
To include custom colors, combine more than one data set, and increase your file limit, upgrade to the paid account for $49 per month.
Skitch has been around the longest.
I used it primarily as a screen-capture tool so I could show people how to do things via email. I would attach a marked-up screen shot so they could see where to look and click.
Skitch is perfect for drawing over images, circling important points and adding arrows. And if you use Evernote, it’s your perfect screen-capturing and note-taking companion.
In addition to how-tos, Skitch is great for highlighting specific data points (perhaps from the charts you create with DataHero), annotating documents and providing feedback on content (especially if it’s an image).
My favorite part about Skitch is that it lives as a desktop application; you don’t have to open yet another browser window to use it. Plus, you can easily save your images to Evernote, drag and drop into an email, upload to WordPress, add to Dropbox—whatever your heart desires.
I made this in 10 seconds by snapping a screen shot from Facebook.
5. Recite This
Recite This is less about images and more about turning words into art.
You can take any word, quote or sentence and make it beautiful by typing it into the tool and choosing a template. Here’s one I made:
Recite This is simple to use, so it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles like some of the aforementioned tools. I imagine Recite This will add more templates and customization options in the future.
Do you need to manipulate or recreate someone else’s cool text-based visual, but can’t figure out what font he used?
Simply upload the image (or part of the image that includes some text) to WhatTheFont. The site will spit out some font options, many of which are free.
The important thing to remember is practice makes perfect. You won’t create the best Canva creation or data visualization on your first try. Consider your visual marketing goals, time and resources, and choose the tool that’s right for the task.