Free graphics are everywhere. However, finding HIGH QUALITY free graphics can sometimes feel like searching for a unicorn.
Best practices tell entrepreneurs to use a graphic that stands out from the rest. No one likes to use an image and then see it on someone else's page or post. Yet if you are a steady creator of content, a subscription to a graphics site can become very expensive.
I'm a bargain shopper - first. When I have something to purchase, I want to find the least expensive way to make that happen. I get to decide when and where to invest a bit more.
The same is true in graphics creation. Sometimes I use my account at Shutterstock to get the "just right" photo for a promotion. But most of the times, I run to one of these three sources.
I started scouring Pixabay a few years ago. They are typically my first stop when "shopping" for free graphics. And I'll admit that some of the stuff there is just so-so.
However, over the last year the quality of the content has gone through the roof. They have become an incredible curator of good free graphics. The graphics are available through a Creative Commons Zero License which allows you to download, modify and use without attribution.
It's easy to do a search for the kind of image you're looking for. Their content includes photos, vectors, illustrations and videos. Once you begin your search, you can filter for color, orientation, category, size and color. I like that there are multiple size downloads as well. You can give a thumbs up to the artist, and even make a contribution if you'd like.
WordSwag (reviewed below) has a built-in Pixabay link, so it's easy to coordinate your image search and transformation in one quick move.
Unsplash was the first high quality free graphics site I discovered. I am blown away by the beauty of the photos you find there. It is really amazing that you can get these images for free. Right there on the front page it says, "Free Do Whatever You Want". The photo artists submit the work under the Creative Commons Zero License as well.
I know I will always find something unlike anyone else's work when I head over there. However, because they are becoming more popular, you see more and more of the images around the web. Some of them are curated on the Pixabay site.
My suggestion is to dig deeper into the photos and discover that unique gem you can add your mark to. You won't regret the few extra minutes you invest looking through their free graphics. I can promise you will discover beauties you'll want to figure out some way to implement in your work.
Unsplash categorizes their photos via New, Featured and Collections. As a result, if you're look for the perfect picture for DESKS, you can view the entire collection of photos that have been tagged with the word desk. Nice.
Free with a Premium Option
Death to the Stock Photo is the rebel child of the bunch. And honestly, I love that. They are a site for the person with a creative spirit.
The great thing is, they don't just have photos. They have ALL KINDS of things on their site.
When you invest your time to visit the site regularly, you will find gems to teach you about things like:
- How to be a better photographer
- Tips on Photoshop
- Extra specialty downloads for free that don't come through email
- Tips on writing to communicate more powerfully
You can sign up for the premium service, but the quality of photos I've received on the free end are really wonderful. They are not the run-of-the-mill photo you'll find all over the web. For content creators, that's excellent news.
With the free service, you might not always get something you can use. For instance, I got some things for craft beer. I'm not opposed to beer, but I really don't highlight it as a cornerstone of my work.
Editing Tools to Make Your Free Graphics
Uniquely Your Own.
It's fabulous to find the Just Right free graphics. But the real key in marketing is to turn them into something more unique - and BRANDED - so you truly step outside of the crowd of content creators.
I understand working against a deadline. Because sometimes all we want to do is fill up that blank space on the blog post or get something uploaded to Instagram or Pinterest. Yet, creating next-level content is EASY with these apps and programs.
Free with a Paid Upgrade Option
Phonto is my go-to app. It's quick and clean. There are a lot of font options and you can set up standard text you want to use all the time; for instance, your website.
You can spend a lot of time playing around on it. But when you're in a hurry you can create something wonderful in no time at all.
A couple of cons are:
- Not connected to Pixabay or another image curation site
- Can't manipulate the basic graphic to blur or soften. (There are ways to do this, it just takes more time.)
It is available for iOS and Android, for your phone or tablet. It's free, but if you pay a small one-time upgrade fee there are some cool extra features. Here's a good video for the basics of using the app.
Here's a recent graphic I created with Phonto.
This one has a little more creativity and some of the Phonto overlays.
Free with a Paid Upgrade Option
WordSwag is a very popular app for iOS and Android. The best thing is that you can select free graphics straight from Pixabay in the app.
There are some hyper-cool text overlay options - BUT - you are limited to how they show up on the actual picture. I've discovered that you have to re-swag to add different text elements. That isn't great for me.
I do love that you can manipulate the images themselves. This can create a beautiful result. I'm especially fond of this one.
HUGE Disclaimer here...I am not a regular user of Adobe Spark. However, I know a lot of entrepreneurs are using this relative newcomer to the graphics manipulation world.
You can create photos, pages and animated videos either online on your computer or with their app on your phone or tablet.
My good friend Matt Iocapelli of Decorating with Less is a prolific creator of graphics. He truly creates some beautiful things. Like this!
To make sure I gave Adobe Spark a fair review, I created the graphic below in less than 5 minutes, so I'd say it's relatively easy to use. It was simple to find a free graphic by using the search terms element. And, the style suggestions bar was fun to play with. Just whirl it around until it gives you a text style you like.
BUT note the "Adobe Spark" logo and not mine. I was able to get my website url in there, though. There is a note in the help files at Adobe that gives some instruction on how to remove the watermark, but it isn't an obvious fix as you're creating. You cannot remove their watermark from pages or animated videos you create through their site. The faq says they will be considering that in future releases.
As a result, I doubt I'll be a regular user of Adobe Spark.
Free with Premium Pay-as-You-Go Options
I've played around with Canva a bit over the years. Seems like it is the most popular of the web-based programs. Some heavy hitters have endorsed it from the beginning. The good news is Canva has recently created an app for the iPad.
You can definitely create some stunning free images. They have an interesting pay-to-play feature. Some of their options are fee-based. You can add just the elements you want to your graphic and you pay before you download or share the image.
Their claim is that they help "anyone become a graphic designer." They also give free access to a Design School. When you are just starting out in the graphic world, learning some best practices is a good thing.
Primarily, I use Canva to create infographics. And, I'm a bit of a newbie in that realm. Due to the fact that infographics are a hot item, I know it's important to build that skill. Here's one I recently created using Canva for my post about building a virtuous definition of success into your business.
Free with a Paid Upgrade Option
Finally, I come to a web-based program I gravitated toward instead of Canva. I've used both the free and the Royal (paid) version. I chose it over Canva because I like knowing how much I'm going to pay for something when I start. I liked using their upgraded optional features and used PicMonkey until I got a can't-refuse deal on Adobe Creative Cloud which includes Photoshop.
PickMonkey is very easy to use. You can upload your own photos or create from scratch. I truly believe it is one of the unsung heroes of the graphic transformation family.
The free version has ads in the margins, which are a bit of a distraction to me. If you don't mind them, there are a ton of editing options. You can even edit headshots like a pro with the image touch up tools.
However, the premium version is CRAZY AFFORDABLE at just $4.99 a month or $33 a year. You can try out the premium version for free for 7 days.
Don't let this gem pass you by when you are making your decisions.
Last Words about Free Graphics and the Tools to Transform Them
There are a lot of choices out there for graphics and transformation. It is important to be smart about when and where to use free graphics.
My suggestion is that you NEVER EVER IF AT ALL POSSIBLE (sorry...was I yelling?) use them as is.
Invest the extra 10-15 minutes and create something custom. You will get a lot of traction around the web and via social media if you do something special. Just because vanilla ice cream is tasty, doesn't mean it isn't better with chocolate, nuts, whipped cream and a cherry. Give your audience a hot fudge sundae experience when it comes to graphics. They'll thank you by sharing your works of genius.