Four Free Graphics Editors—Which One Is Right For You?

Four graphics tools reviewed on Plugged In Work

Adding visuals to your online content does two things: it increases engagement (we do live in the visual age, after all) and it helps build brand recognition by presenting your message with your unique look and feel. With the right app and 5 to 10 minutes, you can start creating social media graphics like a boss!

But with so many tools available, how do you pick the right one? In this article I’ll tell you what I like best about four graphics editors—and I’ll tell you who I think they are best suited for. Continue reading “Four Free Graphics Editors—Which One Is Right For You?”

5 Quick Tips For Better Blog Graphics

Photo of a colourful makeup palette

Use these tips to get more mileage out of posts you publish on LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, and your blog.

#1 Remember What Graphics Are For

Graphics grab attention in a noisy online world. Even the best writing will go unnoticed — which means unread — unless you can somehow get the reader’s attention. That’s where your graphics can help. Try to find photos that tell a story or choose colours that stand out. You’re competing with hundreds of other online distractions. The graphic should make the reader curious enough that they want to read the title and intro to your post.Photo with quote: Graphics grab attention in a noisy online world Continue reading “5 Quick Tips For Better Blog Graphics”

How To Use Free Images Like A Pro

Photo: City street filled with people
Photo credit: Morguefile.com
Photo credit: Morguefile.com

Adding images to blogs and newsletters is like adding seasoning to your favourite food. A pinch of salt (or hot pepper flakes, if you’re like me) can turn a flat dish into a memorable experience.

Images are readily available from a number of paid sites like Shutterstock and iStock Photo, but what if you have little or no budget? You’re in luck. There are many free sites Continue reading “How To Use Free Images Like A Pro”

Easy Ways To Add Visuals To Your Messages

Sunflowers in a field
The Future of Social is Visual
Photos and illustrations are an effective way to visually break up text on a page, build interest, and convey messages. Check out http://www.pinterest.com/ to see what the social world likes to look at.

Visual messaging is hot. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re seeking a bit of relief from the hundreds of written messages we get in a day (email – Gah!) or if the accelerated pace of our lives is driving us toward whatever is quickest. They say the human brain processes visual messages 60,000 times faster than the written word. I’ve never been able to find the science behind that claim, but let’s just agree that pictures are an effective means to build interest and convey information.

It’s no accident that the two fastest growing social networks — Pinterest and Instagram — are visual. Here’s an experiment you may want to test out in the office. Continue reading “Easy Ways To Add Visuals To Your Messages”

3 Free Tools To Make A Custom Facebook Timeline Cover

FacebookFridayWideDiagonalDoes your Facebook timeline cover reflect your personality? If you’re like many of us, you’re putting up with a picture you don’t really like because it seems too difficult to come up with something better. Have I got some ideas for you! Here are three programs that will help you create a cover to be proud of. No calculator needed to plot the location of your profile pic. These tools will do that for you automatically.

PicMonkey

This photo editing app will turn you into a graphic artist in no time. Use PicMonkey for free, or upgrade to one of their paid memberships. It works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and iPhones.

To make it even easier, watch Jackie Johnstone’s step by step video:

Canva

Don’t like PicMonkey? Try Canva. It’s still in beta but you can sign up for a user ID to try it out. It’s easy to use and will export your work directly to Facebook if you wish.

Timeline Banner Cover

Here’s a third option: Timeline Banner Cover. This one has been around for a while. It’s easy to use and has lots of options.

All three programs are free to use so go have some fun. Unleash your creativity!


Have you found the Plugged In Workplace page on Facebook? You’re welcome to join the conversation!

Easy Ways To Make Your Own Graphics

PicMonkey CollageSometimes you know exactly what you want in a graphic but you just can’t find it anywhere. Or, you find what you like but purchasing the correct type of license for it isn’t within your budget. I finally got serious and decided to search for a software program to help me create my own graphics.

After much research, I selected two open-source programs: GIMP and Inkscape. I used them to create the four graphics you see on this page.

Raster versus Vector Graphics

My two programs, GIMP and Inkscape, are capable of producing similar works, with one major difference. GIMP produces raster graphics while Inkscape is a vector program. The best way to illustrate their differences is to look at what happens during resizing. Have you ever expanded a picture only to be disappointed with a rough, grainy texture? That’s what happens when you expand raster graphics. Vector graphics, on the other hand, are infinitely expandable with no distortion.

What I love About GIMP

There are two functions that make me love GIMP: photo editing and painting with digital brushes. Removing the background to create an isolated image is ridiculously easy in GIMP. I can do that in Inkscape as well, but there are more steps. If all I need to do is crop a photo and overlay some text, GIMP is the easy answer. An unexpected bonus is its digital painting capabilities. It had been about five years since I picked up a paintbrush. As soon as I became comfortable with a couple of GIMP’s standard brushes, I started creating landscape paintings similar to the ones I used to do in acrylics (and just as badly, I’m afraid, so no samples provided in this blog post). GIMP comes with a set of brushes and a powerful eraser that removes all fear. You can download extra brushes made available by kind-hearted souls all over the ‘net.

What I Love About Inkscape

Hands down, what I love about Inkscape is the flexibility to transform images with no distortion. This is really handy as I may use slightly different versions of the same graphic for Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each social media platform has its own ideal image size — and these can change without notice. Company logos are another perfect example. How many times have you tried to increase the size of a logo only to end up with a fuzzy design? Not good. For these reasons, I tend to do most of my work in Inkscape.

Here’s How To Get Started

Give yourself a little time to become familiar with these programs. If you’ve used a graphics program in the past, some features and concepts, such as layers, will be familiar. I was a total newbie so I headed straight for YouTube.

  • Useful Graphic Design Tutorials – Caroline and Davina have some of the best videos for both programs (and lots of other topics as well). The videos are short, clear, have good sound, and are easily followed. They gave me a solid start in both programs. I still access their videos whenever I have a question. Twitter link: @GraphicDesTuts
  • For lessons on special effects, filters, and tricks, take a look at Little Web Hut‘s videos. Website link: www.littlewebhut.com

Later this week, I’m publishing information on three websites that will help you make a customized Facebook timeline cover. No graphics design training needed and no software programs required. They will even calculate exactly where your profile photo sits so that you can design around it accurately.

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