Effective visuals are becoming more important across numerous job functions and industries. We all have seen subpar visuals that lessen the overall quality of a presentation. If you’re looking to elevate the design of your presentations, posters, infographics, etc., this post offers 6 free and easy web-based tools to help you create better visuals.
Before We Get Started
Does This Post Offer Templates?
The goal of this post is to provide you with tools to help elevate your visuals. With the exception of one tool, these tools do not offer templates. Instead, they can help you have greater control and knowledge of certain design elements that will enhance your visuals.
Are these tools really free?
Yes, all the tools are free. Some tools have freemium or premium versions, which require payment to unlock certain features. However, I only included tools that I feel are worth using without upgrading.
Are these tools really easy to use?
While I find these tools user- and beginner-friendly, I understand that my readers have varying skill levels. If you’re super new to creating visuals then I recommend reading through the documentation for the tools to help you get started.
Why web-based tools?
I wanted my readers to have access to design tools regardless of the operating system of their computers. Web-based tools typically only require an internet connection to access.
6 Design Tools To Create Better Visuals
1. Google Fonts
Typography can help set the tone of the information you are presenting. Sometimes it’s tricky to find a font that fits your needs, but it can be even more challenging if you are trying to find two or more fonts that fit well together.
Google Fonts provides access to hundreds of free and open-source fonts. For each font, there is detailed information. When creating visuals, I find the ‘Popular Pairings‘ section super useful to see how fonts would look like together (as well as the real-time preview).
Selecting a color palette can help create a mood, as well as cohesion, in a visual or set of visuals. Figuring out which colors go best together can be overwhelming given the sheer amount of choices out there.
Adobe Color CC is a tool that helps you explore color combinations. You can do this by manually using the color wheel, extracting color combinations for an image, searching using keywords, or perusing through curated trend. When manually manipulating the color wheel, there are various presets that help maintain color harmony to help you find a combination that works for you.
3. Noun Project
Icons and symbols can help communicate key pieces of information on visuals like maps, graphics, and presentations. However, most of the pre-existing icons available in programs like Microsoft PowerPoint or ESRI’s ArcGIS can be lacking.
The Noun Project offers free icons that anyone can use. If you use an icon, all you have to do is credit the creator. If you want to skip the attribution process, you can buy individual icons or purchase a NounPro account (they have education discounts).
Photographs can greatly boost many types of visuals. If you aren’t well-versed in photography or don’t have adequate equipment, then the photographs you might have probably won’t enhance your visuals.
Stock photography can be a solid option, depending on the message you are trying to communicate in your visual. There are numerous stock photography sites out there, but I really like Pexels because of the quality of the photographs. The photographs are free and they have simple community rules of usage.
Typically when you have a photo for a visual, you need to edit that photo in some way (e.g., crop, adjust lighting, enhance colors, etc.). There are a lot of programs out there for photo editing and the learning curve varies.
If you’re new to photo editing or just want a quick option that’s more robust than your local computer’s program (and not as overwhelming as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), Fotor is a great option. The FotorPro option that unlocks certain features (student discounts and NGO premium access available), but I think the free option offers a lot for photo editing.
Once you have all the elements of an appealing visual, you might need a program that can help you bring them together. Some programs have a steep learning curve (e.g., Adobe Illustrator) or might take a bit of work to tweak for your purposes (e.g., Microsoft PowerPoint).
Canva is a simplified graphic design tool website that can help you create visuals. In addition to helping you create various types of visuals, Canva offers templates, stock photography, graphics, and more. CanvaPro offers access to premium content and features (I used at my job and enjoyed it); however, the free version offers a lot and is worth using.
Good design can help elevate your visuals and effectively communicate your message. While not all of us our design experts, there are free tools and resources to help us novices step up our design game. In addition to this post, I have created a Pinterest Board on ‘Design’ where I have saved additional resources. Happy creating everyone!
Have you used any of the tools mentioned? Which one(s) do you want to try out? Is there a tool you want to tell me about? Let me know in the comments below!
*Special thanks to Reina Murray for telling me about some of these design tools.