There are a lot of ugly blogs out there. Don't let yours be one of them! If you feel like you don't have the time, experience or budget to create your own quality design work, read on!
A beautiful blog won't fix terrible content. Focus on content and then appeal. Quality blog design is an ongoing process (I am nowhere near finished with EntreResource), but each post you write needs to be top quality when you share it.
Now, I am not professional designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I am able to make solid graphics for EntreResource.com and I do them in spite of having no prior design experience or natural skills. Even better, I do them for free 95% of the time!
There are tons of other free tools you can use, but I want to keep things simple and share just the ones I am currently using. You can do just about anything you want to do with just these few tools and shouldn't feel at all restricted.
Types of Design You Need
I use the tools and methods I am about to share for:
- Blog featured images
- Custom ads and side banners
- In-post images.
- Social media posts
- Social media cover art
- Ebook covers (for lead magnets)
Every bit of design work I created on this blog could technically be replicated with the tools I am going to share.
Gather Free Stock Photos
Be sure that you understand attribution laws and if the images you are using require you to recognize the creator.
Use Canva for a Majority of Tasks
There are tons of ways to make designs for your blog, but Canva is the one I use a majority of the time.
Canva is great because it is:
- Free (although there are paid options and optional, premium design upgrades).
- Easy to use.
- Useful for many different types of design work.
- Able to store your work long-term and allows you to add team members (paid) and common brand elements.
Canva is where I make almost all of my blog post images.
Understand Font Pairings and Basic Typography
Now, when you use Canva, you may be tempted to use the templates they have over and over again. Fight this urge!
While these designs are great and made by professionals, everyone and their mother is using them and they aren't changing much about them except the words.
So, the best way to leverage Canva is to understand the different font pairings available to you and use them in conjunction with other images (mentioned above in sites like Pixabay.com) to make your own custom designs that aren't cliche.
Bookmark this article -> "The Ultimate Guide to Font Pairing" I reference this constantly and use these basic font pairings in Canva to make sure things look decent.
Google has a vast selection of fonts and there are hundreds of aesthetically appealing combinations for these free collections. Check Femmebot.com and access 25 of the better font pairings available for free.
If you're the adventurous type, you can create your own font.
Get Your Colors Right
I am not proud to say, my eyesight is poor. Fortunately, there are tools that help make sure I have complimentary colors so I don't have to judge too much myself.
I recommend checking out Adobe Color CC and find great complimentary colors for your blog designs.
Also, you may want to copy colors from other places (images, other sites etc.) and there are a number of tools that make this easy.
If your blog is like mine and involves occasional step by step tutorials, screenshots can be incredibly valuable in adding clarity to your message and, if done correctly, they will also make your post look better.
I typically use Snagit which is a premium tool, but you can grab screenshots with a number of other free tools.
Most operating systems have built in screen capturing abilities. On Mac I use CMD + SHIFT + 4. On mobile, you can usually take screenshots. On iOS, you will use HOME + POWER in a tapping manner. Be careful though, holding both will cause a hard restart.
If you want a quality free solution, I recommend first, Skitch by Evernote. It is simple to use and works on all devices with or without internet.
Another alternative is Awesome Screenshot, although I favor skitch
Create Simple Quote Images with Pablo by Buffer
Image quotes are a bit overused perhaps, but people (myself included) still love them.
Don't make things more difficult than they need to be.
Buffer.com has a tool called Pablo that allows you to add a quote, select an image, change some basic filters, download and share.
Additional Recommended Tools
#1 Use Tinypng to shrink images. Your blog loads the fastest when your image files aren't any bigger than they need to be. There are a lot of methods to optimize your blog's images without losing quality, but I judge for myself if I feel an image is too compressed or distorted by resizing. For most ‘full page’ web images, you want the image to be 80Kb-100Kb at most. Dropping image quality to 30-50% will usually leave you with a picture that is still very clear to the naked eye. You can drop 1-3 Mb images to 80kb-120kb with little change in quality.
#2 Photo editing tools can be pricey. Gimp is a strong, free option.
#3 Imgur is a great site for hosting images and capturing image links for sidebar widgets and ads.
#4 You may want icons for different types of design projects. I recommend checking out FlatIcon for a wide selection of free icons.
#5 Not a tool that I use currently, but many readers mentioned Google Drawings as an alternative to Canva. It is part of the Google Drive suite of tools so that is a big plus.
NOTE: All these tools are totally awesome and allow you to create graphics that help your blog stand out, but there is one caveat to using them, they ALL require passwords. Thanks goodness for sites like LastPass that let you store all your passwords in one place. Be sure to check it out.