When it comes to social media marketing, visuals are crucial. If you look at the top 3-4 social networks today, you’ll notice they all rely heavily on images, videos, and graphics.
The reason behind this is humans process visual information better than text. So we naturally gravitate to platforms like Instagram and Snapchat where a majority of the content is visual.
Even textual platforms like Twitter and Facebook have evolved to become much more visual and users love it. Tweets that include an image receive 35% more Retweets, and those with videos get 28% more. To sum it up, you need to implement visuals in your social media strategy. But you don’t want to use any old image. It needs to be high quality.
Aside from taking photos and uploading them, there are a ton of free design tools that will allow you improve/edit your own photos or create custom social media graphics from scratch. We’ve compiled a list of 18 of the best free design tools to take your social media graphics to the next level without breaking the bank.
Tools for Custom Designs & Graphics
If you could only choose one tool on this list, Canva would probably be our top option. It’s a simple drag and drop tool that allows you to make everything from social media graphics, flyers, infographics and more.
It’s also great for people who aren’t naturally talented with design because it provides a large library of templates and free elements that make it easy to create professional looking graphics.
Piktochart is similar to Canva in that it has an easy to use drag and drop interface. However, one of the main differences is Piktochart was primarily built for making infographics, charts and presentations.
You can also choose from plenty of great templates to get started if you don’t want to start from scratch.
You’ve probably seen the popular quote graphics on Instagram before. They have a nice background and a text overlay. You also may have noticed they drive a ton of engagement and shares.
You can get similar results by making your own. You don’t need to go out and buy Photoshop or try to whip up something in Paint. Buffer created a tool called Pablo that allows you to make social media graphics like the one above in less than a minute. Just choose a background, write your text, select a font and you’re done.
These graphics work great on Instagram, but you can also use them for Twitter, Facebook and other social networks as well.
Tools For Fonts & Typography
DaFont is a massive library of free downloadable fonts you can use for Photoshop and other image editors like the ones we’ll mention later on. Most non-designers don’t realize it, but many of the amazing ads and flyers you see aren’t made with the generic fonts you find in Microsoft Word.
Often times they’re either premium fonts that you have to pay for, or fonts downloaded from a site like DaFont. The different font styles you see on DaFont are made by its community members.
The upside is you’re able to get fonts that are similar to some of the premium ones that you’d otherwise have to pay for. For instance, they have a font called Coolvetica based on the popular Helvetica font.
5. Google Fonts
Google Fonts is another good option to access a big library of fonts. While the fonts are meant to be used for online projects like websites, you can also download them to use on your computer.
This is a great bonus because if you find a font you like, you can use it for your social media graphics as well as your website to keep your branding consistent.
Let’s say you stumble across a font on a website that you really like. You want to use the same design for your own graphics but aren’t sure what the font is called. This scenario happens all the time which is why WhatTheFont has become such as popular design tool.
WhatTheFont allows you to upload an image with text on it and it will guess what font is being used. Most of the times it’ll give you several options to choose from. If it’s a free font you can probably find it in your image editing tool. Otherwise, they'll still give you the option to buy the font from myfonts.com.
Tools for Icons & Clipart
Adding icons to your social media graphics can give them a nice extra touch. For instance, maybe you want to include your social media usernames at the bottom of your graphics. You could have an icon for each network and list your username.
One of the best places to find those icons and a lot more is IconFinder. Just as the name implies, IconFinder is a database of flat and 3D icons you can download as vectors or .png format with a transparent background.
If you want something a little more than icons, Clkr is a database for various clipart. When you want something specific like a certain type of arrow, foods or any other element you can think of, just do a search and you’ll find tons of options to choose from.
All the files are downloadable with a transparent background so you can upload them to Canva, Photoshop or other design tools.
Freepik is a popular design tool among Photoshop and Illustrator users. It’s a resource that allows you to search for free vectors, photos, and PSD elements to use in your designs.
A common use for these types of elements is for infographics. Many of the well-designed infographics you see online with mascots/characters, graphs and banners aren’t made from scratch. The designer generally uses premade vector elements from sites like Freepik and puts them together into an infographic.
Tools for Inspiration & Ideas
10. Design Seeds
If all of your designs have the same color scheme because you’re not good at putting together different patterns, Design Seeds will become your new best friend.
One of the biggest problems non-designers have is trying to figure what colors go well together. Design Seeds uploads photos and graphics with great color schemes and gives you the color codes for all the colors used in the image.
The next time you’re struggling to come up with colors for a social media graphic head over to Design Seeds and get some ideas.
This design tool is like WhatTheFont, but for colors. If you see a color in a picture or graphic online that you really like, upload it to this color tool and you’ll be able to click on different parts of the image and see the color code for it.
A classic design tactic to keep your images cohesive is to use different shades of a single color. This is another great tip for people who aren’t the best at choosing color schemes.
You can either enter your own color code or pick one from the home screen. Then 0to255 will find all the different variations of that color and give you the color codes.
Tools for Stock Photos
The multifamily industry is notorious for using very generic stock photos on websites, flyers and even blog posts. You know the ones we’re talking about.
The problem with those photos is they’re dull and boring, and those aren’t the words you want people to use when describing your business.
Gratisography is a site made by a photographer who allows anyone to download and use his images for free. After a quick glimpse at some of his photos you’ll realize they’re far from the dry “man in business suit” stock pictures you’re used to.
StockSnap is another great option to find high-quality stock photos that aren’t boring. The options are a bit more conservative than some of the photos you’ll find on Gratisography but they’re far from boring.
The pictures are typically more modern and casual than awkward photos of people smiling at the camera giving the thumbs up.
Tools for Image & Photo Editing
The best way to describe Gimp is a free alternative to Photoshop. If you’ve used Photoshop or similar image editing tools, you should feel right at home with Gimp. Many of the features and general layout of this free design tool were built with Photoshop users in mind.
Gimp is also open source, so there’s a large community of people that make different add-ons and downloadable effects you can use to streamline your design process.
If Gimp is the alternative to Photoshop, you can think of Inkscape as the free alternative to Illustrator. Inkscape is a vector graphics editor. If you’ve ever downloaded a .SVG file and had no idea how to open it or what to do with it, Inkscape solves that problem.
You can do some very in-depth designing in Inkscape like drawing, vector manipulation and much more.
Gimp and Inkscape are definitely on the more advanced side of image editing tools. Pixlr, on the other hand, isn’t quite as robust. It doesn’t have as many functionalities, which makes it great for beginners. You still have the core functions you’d expect in an image editor like layers, replacing colors, a lasso and more so you can still do a lot with this tool.
One of the biggest benefits of Pixlr is that it’s cloud based. You don’t have to download any software, and can access it anywhere you have internet access which is very convenient.
PicMonkey is a flexible image editing tool that allows you to be as simple or advanced with your edits as you’d like. You can do everything from adding a border, text and shadow on your images, to adding professional looking effects to enhance your photos.
PicMonkey also lets you create collages which can be great for Instagram and Pinterest. Combine multiple photos of your available apartments or even pictures from a community event. You have a lot of freedom with PicMonkey and the interface is very simple and user-friendly. Get more ideas for how to use images from our huge list of 40 Apartment Marketing Ideas Guaranteed To Get More Renters.
It’s time to stop putting out lackluster social media graphics. Use the free design tools above to create images that drive engagement and make your brand stand out for all the right reasons.