Howdy! Are you looking for a good tutorial on how to make great graphics for your blog or social media? I’m here for you in your hour of need. I’ve been making graphics and editing photos for for five years, and I started knowing nothing. Zero things. I’ve learned it a little at a time, and you can too! I’ll begin with a few basics, and then I’ll tell you what sites and apps can make these graphics.
(If you’re looking for a printable to summarize all of this, here you go: printable-how-to-make-excellent-graphics-for-blogs-and-social-media . You are welcome.)
First of all, let’s start with a few very basic graphic design principles. I learned these from a book called The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams (not that Robin Williams. A different, teachery one). You can find it here on Amazon (*affiliate link). I love this book because she breaks down the process into a few simple steps for novices like us. Here’s a summary of the most important principles with some graphics for examples.
We’ll start with this mess I created just as an example. There’s nothing right about this quote. I used a bunch of fonts, and they’re all sort of the same but not exactly the same. The words wander all over the screen and nothing makes sense.
We need to apply the principle of Contrast. Similar isn’t good enough. Make the fonts the same or completely different. Evaluate the type of font you’d like to use. If it’s heavy and fat, then your other fonts should be lighter and thinner.
This is a little better. At least the fonts don’t look close-but-not-close-enough, like when you wander out of the house wearing a blue shoe and a black shoe.
Now we need to apply the principles of Repetition and Unity. Make sure your photo, your font, and your idea blend well together. Repeat colors in the graphic (pull them from the photo, if you’re using one). Use the same idea throughout. If you have several graphics in one blog post, make sure they go together.
Again, a little better. Now we have fonts that make sense, colors that go together, and a little bit of bokeh in the background. Things aren’t so ugly anymore!
Now let’s apply the principle of Alignment: Please don’t allow random plopping of text or photos! Have the edges line up as much as possible. Center things if it makes it stronger, or play with a bottom, right hand alignment. Draw an imaginary line and make sure it’s straight. Your eye wants to follow a line that makes sense.
Now we have our last principle, Proximity: Things that relate should go together. Make sure the white space is also grouped, not dispersed. Things that you want to emphasize should have the larger font, the heavier color, or both. Secondary items should visually move to the background a little bit, but should still be readable. In the graphic below, the main part of the text is readable (thanks to that background circle called an overlay) and the words are also the same size. “So Listen” is what you see first, which was the point I was making with this graphic.
Here, let me show you two more graphics to illustrate what I mean. This poor invitation breaks literally every rule I just shared. It’s an abomination.
But here, I’ve cleaned it up for us. Isn’t it better? The same information is all available, but in a way that pleases the eye. I’ve picked two fonts (three is the max! No more than three!) and they’re clearly different from each other. The main color scheme is black and white, but I added a muted orange-yellow for some contrast. I’ve chosen a right-hand alignment, and our eye is happy to see the visual organization. And lastly, the information that belongs together is all carefully placed together. The reader no longer has to wander all over the invitation, seeking when and where to show up.
Okay, this is all very well and good, you’re saying. But where and how do I make these things? Excellent question. I have several great choices for you. I use all three of these sites/apps a lot, and I’ll start with the one I use the most.
PicMonkey! This was the site where I started and where I made all the graphics for this post. I spend hours here every week, and I cheerfully pay for the yearly subscription ($39). I love this site so much I signed up to be an affiliate, so if you click on the banner above I’ll make a small commission. But let me promise you I don’t advertise services I don’t use, and I firmly stand behind this one. Here’s what I think about PicMonkey after five years of heavy use.
- Excellent tutorials. I’ve learned so much from their amazing blog. Here’s the link!
- Ease of use. It’s simple to resize things, filter images, upload photos, and then save it to your computer. If you have any computer skills at all, you can quickly master PicMonkey.
- Tons of free options. If an upgrade isn’t in your budget, no worries. You can use a lot of the features for free.
- New mobile feature! This is brand new, as of mid-2016. And hallelujah for it!
- Your computer needs to have Flash updated and running well, or PicMonkey can’t handle the strain. Whenever things get goofy for me, I look down and sure enough– my Adobe icon is bouncing.
- No grid to line up text and features. Other photo editors, like Canva, automatically give you lines to show when you’ve aligned with other text. I really wish the Monkey would come up with this soon.
Canva! (Find them at canva.com.) I was introduced to this website last year, and I think it has some great features. It has similar functions to PicMonkey, but the site is organized differently and has a different learning curve. I think I would have loved it if I had started with it earlier, but some of the features are so different than PicMonkey that I keep going back to what I know, especially when I’m in a hurry. Here’s what I’ve learned about Canva so far:
- Amazing tutorials! They’ll even email you every few weeks with a new one. They’re interactive, five-minute lessons to show you how to make great graphics on their site. Click here for their Design School.
- That grid I was just mentioning in the PicMonkey section is a huge bonus. It’s really helpful to keep things aligned and looking spiffy.
- Your earlier designs are saved for you (if you set up a free account). This is awesome because you can go back and rework things (or find them if your computer loses your work!).
- Things get a little weird when I go to download my graphics. Sometimes. Other times it’s fine. I seem to have the best luck if I download a jpg instead of a png. I think it might be a problem with how Canva interacts with Firefox on my work computer.
- Resizing images (which is something I need to do all the time) takes a paid subscription. Since I pay for PicMonkey but I’m not made out of money, I don’t have a subscription with Canva. I do tend to keep about $10 on my account there, though, because some of their elements are pay-as-you-go.
WordSwag! I was also introduced to this app just last year, and it’s been a huge time saver.
- Absolutely zero graphic design stress. You pick a background or photo, and then you type in your text. From there you pick from many, many different text styles, and the app makes it perfect for you.
- Pixabay photos are connected to the search feature. This means you have thousands of copyright free pictures to choose from.
- Mobile only, as of this writing.
- Limited options for tweaking the text. Sometimes things are almost right in WordSwag, but not quite. For example, I write about God a lot since I’m a faith-based blogger. In some WordSwag options “God” will be written “god,” which means an entirely different thing to my reader. There’s no way for me to simply fix that little g. I have to pick other options until I get the capital I need.
My goodness, I hope all this information helps you! If you have questions, find me on Facebook. You can find the link to the right and below this post. Again, here’s the PDF printable to summarize it all: printable-how-to-make-excellent-graphics-for-blogs-and-social-media.
Thanks for reading, and happy graphic-designing!