There are a lot of ugly blogs out there. Don't let yours be one of them! If you feel 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.
Now, I am not a professional designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I can make solid graphics for EntreResource.com and I do them despite 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)
Someone could technically replicate every bit of design work I created on this blog with the tools I am going to share.
Gather Free Stock Photos
I pay for images occasionally, but many of my blog post graphics come from
Be sure that you understand attribution laws and if the images you are using require you to recognize the creator. Thus, using quality free stock images will save you from law attributions
Use Canva for a Majority of Tasks
There are tons of ways to make designs for your blog, but
Canva is great because it is:
- Free (although there are paid options and optional, premium design upgrades).
- Easy to use.
- Useful for many types of design work.
- Able to store your work long-term and allows you to add team members (paid) and common brand elements.
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 with other images (mentioned above in sites like Pixabay.com) to make your own custom designs that aren't cliche.
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Google has a vast selection of fonts and there are hundreds of aesthetically appealing combinations for these free collections.
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.
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 an occasional step-by-step tutorial, 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 several 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
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 Gimp is a strong, free option for editing.
Photo editing tools can be pricey.
#3 Check out Imgur
It's a great site for hosting images and capturing image links for sidebar widgets and ads.
#4 I recommend checking out FlatIcon for a wide selection of free icons.
Icons can add just as much flare as images.
#5 Many readers mentioned Google Drawings as an alternative to Canva
Not a tool that I use currently, but I've heard good things. If you're on a budget, it might be worth checking out. It is part of the Google Drive suite of tools, so that is a big plus.