You have a blog. Maybe you have a website. You have social media accounts. But what about graphics? Visual content is a huge piece in the puzzle. It has the power to catch the attention of an audience or to discourage interest. While graphic designers abound, their services can be pricey, ranging from $25-45 an hour for just an average freelancer. But guess what? You can learn how to make your own graphic design!
Where to Begin
Thanks to the internet and several websites —that we’ll get to in a moment— DIY online graphic design has never been easier. But let’s start with what you’ll need. Learning how to make your own graphic design requires . . . wait for it . . . a laptop. Or an iPad. Technically, you even use your phone thanks to apps, but that phone screen is tiny. So, I’d recommend a laptop to start.
Next, let’s think through the different types of graphics you want to design. Thanks to graphic design software, you can make:
- Banners and headers
- Blog post Images
- Quote graphics
- Event graphics
- Newsletter graphics
Did I mention it’s cheap graphic design software, too? Are you getting excited yet? Before we dive into the step-by-step process, let’s cover one important question.
Where to Find Copyright Free Images?
Although some graphic design software, like Canva, includes a bank of images, you might find the selection limited unless you pay for a premium account. While we’ve reviewed Canva before, it’s worth noting here that for $12.99 a month, or $9.99 per month if you pay annually, Canva will let you access a collection of 75+ million premium stock photos. Yes, I do love Canva, how can you tell?
Still, while strong in stock photos, Canva doesn’t have everything, so let’s take a look at some more resources for copyright free images:
With an amazing, ever-expanding collection of photos, Unsplash’s photos are “freely-usable.” This means, to quote Unsplash on usage directly, “All photos can be downloaded and used for free.” And yes, this covers “Commercial and non-commercial purposes.” Do you need to cite them? In their words, again, “No permission needed (though attribution is appreciated!)” As a bonus, Unsplash provides an easy copyable attribution when you download an image that you’ll notice we use in our blog post captions. Share the love!
Pro Tip: Several museums and libraries are using Unsplash. For historical photographs and artwork, don’t miss these accounts:
- The New York Public Library (@nypl)
- Birmingham Museums Trust (@birminghammuseumstrust)
- Europeana (@europeana)
- Austrian National Library (@austriannationallibrary)
But wait, there’s more!
This was the first website I used when, several years ago, I began to teach myself graphic design. With 2.3 million and counting images, Pixabay also includes music and videos in its free collection. Searching Pixabay is easy. The downside though is that Pixabay does allow ads that often, frustratingly, are much closer to what you are searching for than Pixabay’s images. Still, for outdoor and nature photos, this is a great resource. (It could be just me, but Pixabay seems to have more European contributors, so it’s also good if you’re on the hunt for European landscapes, architecture, etc.)
If you’re trying to cover news or history, Wikimedia Commons just might be your friend.
Pro Tip: Not everything in Wikicommons is fully copyright free, so pay attention to the attribution and licensing info.
To find an image on Wikicommons, my favorite way to search is type “item you want” + Wikicommons into a Google image search. For example, let’s say I want an iconic baseball image. I look up baseball and notice a great black and white photograph of Jackie Robinson. I click through to the Wikipedia page and check the licensing . . .
I read the fine print, this is one I can use, and boom . . .
One great baseball photograph ready for use!
If you’re on the hunt for art proper to use in your graphic design, Wikiarts is a treasure trove. I’ve found that the same Google image search I use for wikicommons usually works: “artist/subject” + “Wikiarts.”
Let’s say I want a dog. I search for “dog” + “wikiart” and . . .
There you go! (True, there were lots of dogs, but I decided this one was my favorite for an example.)
And now that you’ve got a list of 4 amazing websites for copyright free images, let’s turn to . . .
How to Make Your Own Graphic Design: a 4-Step Guide
Ready to get started on a step-by-step guide? You probably won’t be surpised by our first step.
1. Create an Account with Canva or Canva Pro
As I mentioned above, for a free or cheap graphic design software, Canva can’t be beat. Canva is very user friendly and not only does it have stock images —it’s real worth lies in the amount of templates available. Remember that list we made of different types of graphics you might want? You can make them all with Canva!
2. Choose a Template
With an assortment of free templates for all Canva users —and even more available in Canva Pro— you can create your own image from scratch, or rely on one of Canva’s easy to modify templates.
Within the template, you might want a photograph.
Let’s say you decide to make a quote graphic for an Instagram post. You pick out your Instagram quote template. You have a quote about dogs in mind, and you’d like a more classical background, but none of the photographs on Canva match.
So off to Wikiarts you go. A little searching and back to Canva to upload your selected photo.
Now that you added your background image, it’s time to add the quote. Click the text, type in your quote, and if you want, change the font’s style or size.
Now I’ve done that, but it’s a little hard to see.
Not to fear —add an element, choose “position” to send it back behind your text. Once you’ve done that and played around till the element is the size you want, it is time to . . .
3. Match Your Template and Design Colors
Looking at Canva’s design, you’ll notice it shows color squares (like the ones above) to show your text, element, and even background color. If you’re using a photo background, Canva usually offers a sampling of color matches, but occasionally these colors aren’t the ones you want. If you want to pull that one color from the photo that isn’t in the Canva’s choice, there is another option. Thanks to Color Picker you can find the exact color you want by uploading your image/photo and then finding the HEX color # to input to Canva. (I did this just the other day when I wanted to pull a tiny shade of blue from the background of an image.)
4. Create and . . . Share with a Friend, First!
Now that you’ve found a template, inputted your text, added a possible image, and updated your text colors . . . you are ready to share your image with a friend and see what they think.
In my case, a friend with experience took a look at my graphic, and pointed out I didn’t have enough space between the text and the text box, suggested experimenting with the text box’s transparency, and brought my attention to the fact that the left side of the image had more space than the right side. As she said, “Having things centered and creating consistent spacing around objects is the secret to instantly more professional design.”
Resizing my font and text box, adding transparency, and tweaking the text box . . . I now have an even better image to share with the world in general, and you in particular!
Now that I’ve guided you through these steps, you know how to make your own graphic design. Also, don’t forget as you’re having fun creating visual content that you can use it to optimize your blog’s SEO. You have all the pieces . . . now it’s up to you. Go off and create something —and have fun!