6 Effective Graphic Design Tools for Non-Designers

beginner graphic design tools | graphic design program on computer screens

Creating your own visual marketing assets can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not a graphic designer by trade. You want to make sure your graphics are visually pleasing, while also accurately conveying information about your business.

Fortunately, there are several web-based tools available that are accessible to designers of all experience levels. Below are six of our favorite beginner graphic design tools for non-designers.

1. Canva

Featuring a drag-and-drop interface and one-click professional editing tools, Canva is a great way for non-designers to create compelling visuals. This free tool features a continuously updated roster of free images, fonts, and templates to help bring your ideas to life. The premium plan, starting at $12.95 a month, includes additional features and assets.

Pro Canva Tip: Use the text box shortcut by pressing ‘t’ to save time and frustration. For more Canva information, take a look at these six tips.

2. Crello

Crello lives up to its slogan of “graphic design made easy”. It comes with several templates optimized for various platforms, but also gives you the option to start from scratch or edit any elements you choose. Crello also boasts a plethora of free images and fonts, themed collections, and even tools for motion design. Further images and features are available for an additional cost.

3. PicMonkey

PicMonkey serves as an all-in-one photo editor, graphic design tool, and collage maker. The free version allows you to edit existing photos as well as create original images – a task made easier with the help of tutorials, templates for new designs, and themed backgrounds. PicMonkey also includes vector graphics, which use math equations and geometric elements to create crisp, high-resolution images.

4. Pixlr

Pixlr has been compared to Photoshop in terms of its functionality – and it’s both free and beginner-friendly. The program allows for easy image adjustments and photo edits, as well as the ability to create graphics of any size. You can also upload your brand fonts to Pixlr if they aren’t already available. While the main Pixlr tool is web-based, you can also download the mobile and desktop apps to design on the go.

Designer Tip: Try out some preset filters, or adjust your tint manually, to change the feel of your photo.

5. Snappa

Snappa’s main focus is making each step of the design process as quick and easy as possible. The browser tool allows you to choose the exact image dimensions for various platforms, including emails and social media. It features templates, stock images and one-click design tools to create your digital assets easily. Snappa also allows you to schedule and share your visuals instantly.

6. Stencil

Stencil is specifically marketed toward non-designers who are looking to boost their social media engagement through DIY visuals. In addition to photo editing capabilities and various design assets (including a quote collection, icons and images), Stencil also features a resize option to optimize your images for different social media platforms. The free version comes with a limited number of images; the Pro version grants access to all features for $9 a month.

Great visuals can help you stand out from the crowd and launch your business to new heights. With the help of these tools and a dash of creativity, you’ll have everything you need to turn your design vision into a reality – the only limit is your imagination.

Looking for more DIY marketing help? Our coaching packages will give you the tools and resources you need to power up your DIY marketing strategy. Get more details here or contact us with questions.

6 Canva Tips to Improve Your DIY Marketing Visuals

You’ve heard the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true in the world of marketing – you may have an amazing product or business, but you’ll need to capture your audience’s eye for them to see what you have to offer.

Larger companies may choose to outsource their graphics work, but if you’re a small business, you may be taking on marketing visuals yourself. This can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a background in graphic design.

Fortunately, there are many graphic design programs that are both functional and user-friendly. One of Lightning Media Partners’ favorite programs for DIY marketing visuals is Canva, an online tool loaded with features to help you create engaging visuals with ease. Here are six Canva tips to help you work smarter, not harder, to create high-quality visuals for your business.

1. Use the text box shortcut.

Canva screenshot of user using the "t" keyboard shortcut.

You can always use the “Text” icon on the left-side toolbar to create a text box or select pre-designed text boxes. However, if you don’t want to navigate away from what you’re working on, you can simply type “T” and a text box will appear. This is a great shortcut if you’re creating multiple text boxes, or are adding multiple elements (e.g., a series of photos) and don’t want to go back and forth between screens.

2. Group Canva elements.

The user groups separate elements on the page to move them together.

To interact with two or more elements at the same time, you can group them together – just hold down the Shift key, click on each desired element and select “Group” on the top white toolbar (you can also press “Control/Command” + “G”). This is especially useful if you’ve aligned multiple elements to each other and want to move them in a different location on the page (without having to spend the time to re-align them!).

3. Experiment with Canva frames.

The user creates a photo frame to create a custom image.

Frames can be a great way to add interest and overall cohesion to an image. Canva has tons of frames available for use under “Elements” on the left-side toolbar. You can select “Frames” > “All” and browse, or you can type your term into the search bar if you have something specific in mind. From there you can select the frame you want, then drag your photo into the image space. The frames range from unique shapes to phone screens to letters – so have fun experimenting!

4. Select elements behind other elements.

The Canva user selecting hidden elements by holding "CTRL" while clicking.

If you’ve stacked several elements on top of each other, it can be difficult to accurately select the one you want to work with (especially with a laptop touchpad). You don’t want to undo the hard work you’ve done to align your elements, so it’s useful to have a shortcut for selecting your desired elements. You can select elements behind other elements by selecting the element at the top, then entering CTRL + click.

5. Change the tints of photos.

The user adjusts the tint of a photo to create different visual effects.

The tint of a photo can make a huge impact on the overall feel of your piece. You can explore Canva’s photo filters by selecting “Filter” on the top white toolbar and adjusting the intensity as desired. To customize your filter even more, you can select “Adjust” (next to “Filter”) to fine-tune elements such as brightness/contrast, tint, and saturation. 

Another way to change the tints of photos is to add a colored shape over the photo, then adjust the transparency. You can find shapes under “Elements” > “Shapes” on the left-side toolbar, then change it to your desired color on the top white toolbar. On that same toolbar, you’ll see the transparency icon (a fading checkerboard pattern), where you can adjust the transparency until you get the tint you want.

6. Make a thin square or rectangular border.

The Canva user creates a thin border by using the corner resizing tool.

This is a very specific tip, but if you’re like me and you love a thin border, read on. 

When searching for a solid square or rectangular border, Canva’s results will yield a thick line – while this definitely works for some visuals, sometimes a thin line better fits your image. To make your square or rectangular border thinner, use the corner resizing tool to decrease the overall size of the border – this will simultaneously make the border narrower. Then, increase the size of your border from the length/width resizing tool (i.e., pulling from the sides). This will increase the overall size of the border, without increasing line width.

Eye-catching marketing visuals can help propel your business to success. With tools such as Canva, you can create your own visuals without having to learn complex programs or outsourcing your graphic design. We hope these tips will inspire you to try something new and save yourself valuable time.

Looking for more DIY marketing help? Our coaching packages will give you the tools and resources you need to power up your DIY marketing strategy. Get more details here or contact us with questions.