I am no expert graphic designer and most definitely not a web developer of any kind, but I do fancy myself a good content creator. That description requires me to curate and create images with very little formal training and even fewer professional tools. In that endeavor I have come to love and rely on some generally easy-to-use (and free) tools. Some are for inspiration and other purely utility. If, like me, you require some assistance with the visual portion of your content creation, check out this list of my favorite tools for creating visual content.
There are loads of inspiring image platforms out there, notably Pinterest and Tumblr are most popular, but when it comes creating visual content there are a few tools intended specifically with image inspiration in mind. Brainstorming ideas and getting image suggestions is easy with Getty Images’ Catalyst. You pick an inspirational topic and then related words are suggested you can choose words to include and words to exclude. It’s a very valuable tool when you just don’t know what image you are looking for.
Let’s say you’ve found an inspiring image and want to build off of it. Try Adobe Kuler. Upload an image and Kuler will generate a color palate. You then have the option of Bright, Muted, Dark, Deep or you can customize the palate and choose your own colors from points in the image. I love using this especially for infographics so that the colors are perfectly coordinated.
For color pallets from web pages use ColorZilla (for Firefox or Chrome). It is an add-on that assists web developers and graphic designers with color related tasks – both basic and advanced. With ColorZilla you can get a color reading from any point in your browser with the eyedropper tool installed on the navigation bar, quickly adjust this color and paste it into another program. You can even analyze an entire page and generate palette of its colors.
If, instead of an image or web page, you have a specific color in mind and are looking for a coordinating image try Shutterstock Spectrum. You choose your color and it shows hundreds of images saturated with your hue.
I have always found it difficult gauging the size and proportions in web and graphic design. The Measure it! tool makes this task and many other measuring related tasks a breeze. Draw out a ruler that will help you get the pixel width and height of any elements on a webpage. This handy add-on is available for both Firefox and Google Chrome.
Capture that Screen
Often when creating how-tos and other instructionals, screen shots come in handy. While there are separate utilities available to download, Mac and Windows both have tools built-in.
Capturing all or part of your screen on a Mac is simple with their built-in utility, Grab. While it has a few capture options, I find the using the key command to capture a selection is the most useful. Just press SHIFT+COMMAND+4 together and a ‘+’ shaped cursor appears. Then just click and drag, once you have made your selection release the mouse (you will hear a shutter sound) and a.png image will be saved to the desktop. Done. It’s so easy I use this daily.
Windows is just a bit more cumbersome, but there is a WikiHow.
Visual content isn’t only about the image; typography is equally important. I find lots of inspiration for fonts and font pairings on Pinterest, many of which are free. I have quite the font collection and never have any trouble finding the perfect font by browsing Pinterest. But if I fall in love with a type I find on a poster in a coffee shop or an online ad I snap a pic (or screenshot). Then I upload my pic to WhatTheFont that matches the image to the closest thing in the MyFonts database. In the image below I snapped a word from Pinterest (the word in blue) just so happens My Fonts has the exact font. If they don’t, no worries their font enthusiast on the WhatTheFont forum can help you out either by identifying the type or recreating it.
Tip: make sure to zoom in on one word, it gets a little confused when there is an image or lots of text.
The most prized tool for creating visual content in my arsenal happens also to be my favorite, Sketch. A vector graphics app that is simple enough for any one to use, yet powerful enough for the professional. Over the years I have struggled with the industry-standard Photoshop and Illustrator for creating my visual content. The programs seem too feature-heavy for my needs and overall pretty cumbersome for a casual designer like myself. When I was first introduced to Sketch I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use, the tools are easily accessible the app is overall very logical to use. My time was so much better spent not fighting with Adobe. While it is absolutely amazing it does have two downfalls. First, it’s a Mac only app not available for Window PCs at all. Second, it doesn’t play well with others. My only complaint with Sketch is it doesn’t export to a format that is readable by other design software. I have only had this issue twice in the year that I have used it because like most content creators I am only creating images for my own use.
Like I said, I’m no pro in the graphic design world, but with these tools for creating visual content I can produce professional level graphics and images with ease. You too can be an expert. With visual content and visual sharing on social media becoming more and more popular, we marketers have to step up and get creating the best visual elements we possibly can.
Would you try any of these tools? Let us know in the comments!