A social media marketer has to wear a lot of hats. They have to have a solid grasp of marketing techniques, be comfortable with multiple different social networks, be able to take high quality photos at events, consistently write good, relevant content, and be able to create memorable, shareable graphics. Graphic creation, especially, can be intimidating. For the beginning social marketer, you may be tempted to stick to stock photos or “borrowing” other people’s creations. Don’t do that! Stock photos by themselves get boring, and people who’ve worked hard on images don’t like seeing other people use them without permission. Avoid blah images (and DMCA notices) by using these resources and tools to create awesome images for social media.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create fun images for social media. (Need a new logo? That’s another story.) The sites below all offer courses and information to teach you the basics of graphic design, and will help make sure your images go from “Meh” to “Marvelous!” (Thanks, PicMonkey.)
So you’re just starting out and you have no idea how to make a compelling graphic. You might know what colors look good together but need help with typefaces, or the other way around. Canva tutorials are a great introduction to the principals of design. They teach you elements of graphic design including layout, color palette, and typeface, and they teach how to work with Canva to create beautiful images. It’s no substitute for actual courses in graphic design, but it is a good way to start learning the basics.
Unlike Canva, Lynda.com courses are not free. But unlike Canva in a good way, the courses are comprehensive, taught by a professional in the field, and often have resources and practice files so you can improve your skills with hands-on learning. The basic membership is $19.99/month, while Premium (which gets you access to those practice files) is $29.99/month. Lynda isn’t cheap, but they have a great variety of courses in all sorts of fields. If you can commit to an hour or two of lessons per day, its probably worth it.
Similar to Lynda, Skillshare offers online courses for creators. You can do free lessons or go Premium – Premium gives you access to an extra 3,000 (or so) classes, allows you to save courses to watch offline, and membership fees go to pay the teachers. With Skillshare, you select three skills you want to learn (like Photography, Design, Business, etc) and Skillshare will recommend classes for you. Skillshare also offers their Community, where creators can share their work, host AMAs (Ask-Me-Anything), and teach tutorials.
Not everyone can afford Photoshop. (It’s expensive!) If you want to make great images on a lower budget, try out some of the free tools below.
Canva is a free online image creation and manipulation that lets you create fun and beautiful graphics – everything from Instagram posts to e-books. Canva has a variety of pre-designed layouts for your use, or you can create your own. They also have “elements” you can use: background images, shapes, icons, and text layouts, many of which are free. The paid elements are just $1 apiece (far less than stock image sites) and you have 24 hours to edit your image without penalty. Canva also offers a more in-depth “For Work” version that lets you upload your own styleguide and fonts, alter the image dimensions, and more. But for beginners, the free version is certainly more than enough.
Don’t have Photoshop but wish you did? That’s where GIMP comes in. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is an open-source software that is free to use and lets you do pretty much everything Photoshop does: edit and retouch images, create original artwork, and produce graphic design elements. GIMP is available on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux, among others, so there’s no barrier to use. Whether you use a Macbook Air or clutch your Dell closely, GIMP will work with your system.
Sometimes you need a high quality photo, or you realize you don’t have access to the font you want to use. That’s where these sites come in.
A few years ago the founders of Unsplash had some leftover photos from a shoot that the client had decided against using. Rather than archive them in storage, never to be seen again, they got permission from their client and posted the photos for free online. Since then Unsplash has become a major force, with photographers from all over the world contributing high quality beautiful photos that are available to freely download. Their search engine is fairly robust, and the photos are all beautiful. This isn’t the site for you if you want an exterior photo of a McDonald’s. But if you’re looking for scenic photos of sunsets and oceans, Unsplash has you covered.
Tired of seeing the same old stock photos used over and over again? Sign up for Death to Stock and once a month receive an email with beautiful high-quality photos with all sorts of themes. Sometimes the theme is “Office” with the requisite photos of Macs and coffee cups, sometimes it’s animals, sometimes it’s something completely unexpected. Unlike Unsplash you cannot search their archive, which is too bad. But hey, who doesn’t like free things every month?
Pixabay is yet another resource for free-to-download photos. It has a fairly comprehensive search engine and a good selection. Pixabay hosts photos that users upload, and their TOC states that once uploaded, no attribution is needed. Sometimes (and its fairly rare) a photo slips in that is not eligible to be used like that, and some users have received DMCA notices because of it. Pixabay is pretty good about vetting their photos, but as they themselves say, they cannot 100% guarantee that every photo in their archive is eligible. That said, they have a much wider variety of photos than either Unsplash or Death to Stock, and a wider variety of styles as well. They’re a great resource, just proceed with caution.
Need a cool-looking font but are unhappy with the selection on your computer? Google Fonts to the rescue! Google Fonts offers hundreds of open source fonts that are optimized for the web and free to download. You can sort the fonts by serif or sans, display, handwriting, or monospace, and can even narrow down by thickness, slant and width. Once you find the font you like, you have two options: if the font is available for download, you can save the TTF file, which stores the font as a raster so it can be sized without loss of quality, and use it in your program of choice. If the font is not downloadable, that doesn’t mean you’re up a creek without a paddle – it just means you can only use the font online. Google will provide you with the font’s code, and you can add that to your website for use there.
So! You have your lessons, your software, and your resources – everything you need to design awesome images for social media. So what are you waiting for? Get designing! Still feel like you need some help? MLP offers graphic design services – email email@example.com to learn more!