I’ve done freelance design for a long time. Since my friends know I’m a designer, a lot of them come to me asking me to help them make simple, business related graphics such as logos, flyers, posters and business cards.
The problem is, I’m too busy these days to take on a bunch of small projects, even for people I really like. I usually try to coach them on how to do it themselves easily.
If you’re like my friends, you might have a need to create some graphic content for your business, event, or personal project - but don’t think you have the design skills or resources to do it yourself.
Well, I’m here to tell you you can absolutely create your own gorgeous content with relative ease, thanks to a growing amount of web based tools catering to non-design professionals.
Here’s my top 8 easy to use design resources for non-designers to create gorgeous content!
These tools are all easy to use if you don’t have a design degree, but they are also tools I use all the time because of their professional look and results. Most are free to use, but some have paid options - but I’ve kept them to reasonably priced options for people who aren’t going to be making a living from design work, but just need personal graphic content from time to time.
Canva is a wonderful tool. I own Adobe CC which is the industry standard for graphic design, and I used Photoshop every day. However, I still use this wonderful little web app all the time for simple graphics, business cards, flyers, all kinds of things.
Canva is a drag and drop content creator. It’s incredibly easy to use thanks to its large library of gorgeous pre made templates for all kinds of graphics. All the templates are perfectly pre-sized for you - from any social media image you might need, to presentations, posters, and even resumes. It’s got a large library of stock images, icons, illustrations, and other pre-made content, or you can upload your own. The content library has a large amount of free content, but there are some paid templates, images, and icons. There is so much that I rarely need to make a purchase, and the paid items are only $1 each. Everything is fully customizable. All you need to do is pick a template, and start editing. Change the text, the fonts, drag and drop new images, or create a new design from scratch using a pre-sized base. You can download your creations as PDFs for multiple files such as a presentation, or as PNG or JPEGs for single images. Did I mention it’s free for life for the basic version? The Canva for Work option is $12 a month, but that option is for teams of multiple people. I use the basic free version and It’s been amazing. This is the one tool I recommend for everyone to use - it’s so simple, professional, and useful.
2. Design Seeds
This visually stunning website is a great option for finding color schemes. There are other options for getting color schemes on the internet, but for non-designers, this one is the best. For one thing, it’s stunning to look at. The color schemes are all chosen from beautiful photographs and are just fun to go through. There are hundreds of color schemes, and you can search by color, or by descriptions such as food or nature, making it easy for someone who doesn’t have a designer’s grasp of color but knows what kind of feeling they want. I’ve used Design Seeds color schemes for planning inspiration boards, client’s color profiles, and website design - including this blog! You can Pin or save the color images to your computer, and the Hex codes (codes that you paste into your design program’s color picker to get the exact color) are all listed on each color palette.
This is a really cool and useful app tool with a huge amount of functions - I haven’t even used them all. It’s free to download, but they have a Patreon account if you want to donate to keep them going. This tool is most useful to me for 3 things - easy screenshots, easy screen capture for making video tutorials, and easy color picking. You will need to read the simple user manual if you download ShareX, as it is hotkey based. Hotkeys are combinations of keys you press together to signal the program to do an action. (Such as CTRL + S pressed together to save a file.) I have my ShareX set up to select any color from my screen if I press the hotkey combination - so If I am looking at an image I love online, instead of downloading it, opening it Photoshop, and using the eyedropper tool to select the color I want, I can simply hit my hotkeys and an eyedropper tool shows up on my monitor. When I select the color I want, the Hex code is automatically loaded as the next thing that will paste if I hit CTRL V, which is my paste hotkey. As I mentioned before, I also have hotkeys set up to take screenshots, which I use all the time, such as when creating images for this article. And the screen capture function allows me to record whatever I’m doing on screen by starting and stopping easily. This is great for shooting how-to videos when using applications or programs. The video files are saved as Mp4, which is universally useable.
Pexels is a site for free, high quality stock images. This is a GREAT resource, as stock photo images like Shutterstock and Istock are fairly expensive. Not everyone knows, but it is illegal to use images from Google image search in anything but personal art projects. For example, you can print out a birthday card for your friend using an image you found on Google. You can’t sell cards you designed using a Google image, and you can’t use them for your blog, your website, or your business in any way. If you need a great place for high quality, free images, Pexels is great.
Dafont is like Pexels for fonts. If you want to get some fun fonts for your project, you can find a bunch of unique fonts here. Be sure to read the licensing when using these for your work. A lot are free for personal work, or limited commercial work. Some require a small fee. I love this site because it’s so easy to download the fonts. Some font sites are nasty and filled with malware that’s easy to accidentally download instead of the font. DaFont is super straightforward, no malware. Just cool fonts. I find a lot of the really nice handwritten script fonts that are so popular right now on DaFont.
Creative Market is a goldmine of assets. If you want to make lovely graphics, mockups, resumes, presentations, or other media projects, Creative Market is a huge resource. Talented designers share their pre-made wares here for reasonable prices. You can get just about anything graphics related. For instance, you can get super nice designer made powerpoint presentations, packages of vector images or hand drawn floral elements for use on websites or stationary, mockups for showing off apps or websites, or tee-shirts - endless options. The designers who sell on Creative Market are all vetted so you will get nothing but high quality, well made assets. And the best part? Every week there are 6 free downloadable assets you can get. Every single week! I have a ton of great free assets I’ve gotten from Creative Market. They are usually a grab bag of different things, but it’s such a great offering.
Skillshare isn’t free, but it’s worth it. It’s a membership based video classroom website where you can learn all kinds of wonderful skills, from watercolor painting, to graphic design and website building. The classes are structured to be broken up into short and easy to follow steps, and the teachers are very professional. I pay $15 a month for my month to month membership, but there is an option to pay $99 for a year which is a good discount. I have watched many classes and learned a lot of fun and enriching skills from this website. One of my favorite things to do when I want to relax or have some creative downtime is to watch a modern watercolor class and follow along. My favorite teachers are Yasmina Creates, Amarilys Henderson and Ana Victoria Calderon - all modern watercolor artists! Bonus, if you sign up through my affiliate link, you get 2 free months and I get one free month! Awesome!
Wondershare is a software company that makes a great little video editing program called Filmora. Now, I can do a lot of creative things but I can not edit video professionally. Filmora is an affordable video editor for those of us who need an easy, professional option. It’s $40 for a 1 year license or $60 for a lifetime license. I got the lifetime license and I have used this program so much. It’s very intuitive and easy to figure out. There are a lot of great pre-set options for adding text and effects to the screen, simple editing tools and easy drag and drop transitions. Instead of struggling for hours in After Effects trying to figure out how to edit a video, I can do it quickly and easily in Filmora. It’s really made video editing more accessible and less scary for me, and If you want to make nice videos easily, I think you will love it.
There you have it! I use these 8 tools all the time to create great, high quality content, even though I own expensive professional software and asset subscriptions. I know that you can use these tools to create whatever kind of assets you need, from social media and web content to professional graphics to video content.
Design can be hard, especially if you haven’t trained, you don’t think you are creative, or you can’t visualize things very well. All of these tools make it easy to produce great looking designs without having to worry about that stuff.
Instead of being stressed about making things, you can now have fun with it! So go out there and create something amazing - I believe in you!
P.S. - I've made this post into a handy slide deck for SlideShare! It's easy to read, and great for sharing on social media.