A trained graphic designer, I am not. But I do enjoy tinkering with various online graphic design tools to try to make nice images and banners to make the blog look pretty for you. I just started using a new one that’s so fantastic, I thought I’d share the love and try to send a few more people their way. Maybe you’ll love it too.
Online Graphic Design Tools
Notice the plural. Tools. That’s half the battle – there are so many to choose from these days. Some of us remember when the only real choice was Photoshop or things like Corel Draw. (Showing my age, oops).
With the evolution of the web, we’ve seen a proliferation of online graphic design tools over the years. No software to install, everything is done through the web browser. These have co-evolved alongside social media channels, and so there’s a focus on being able to produce quality content for various platforms, quickly.
Whilst I like to try to maintain fast workflows for getting things done, I also love trying out new software in the eternal belief that there’s always new cool stuff around the corner (because it’s always true!).
What’s the best Online Graphic Design Tool?
Up until now, I might have said Canva, or PicMonkey. It’s great for producing images for blogs and social media channels, but if you get carried away using the high quality images, the costs can rack up. Often, I would end up scouring free image sites like Pixabay or Unsplash, and then spend more time uploading these into graphic design tools like Canva or PicMonkey.
Next (and fairly recently) I found Snappa.
I thought Snappa might be the one. I liked the snappy [sic] interface and it seemed quicker to get things done. But somehow I ended up falling into the old patterns and relying on Canva, or even Photoshop at times.
And then I bought into Stencil, and I think it’s going to change my workflow for good.
Is Stencil The Best Alternative to Canva?
There are always pros and cons, but I’m going to focus on the reasons why I’ve decided to go with Stencil.
Here’s some reasons you might love Stencil too
The integrated image library is vast with nearly 1 million images (and growing all the time, all royalty free.
This is a massive time saver. No more searching Pixabay or other sites. Find what you need right in Stencil and with one click, it’s added. Huge time saver. Of course, you can upload your own images to use as well.
Over 50 great templates to choose from, and adapt.
To be honest, I haven’t used these much, as I find it so quick and easy to create things from scratch. What is really useful is the ability to create a design and save it as your own template. This makes it super easy to tweak for the next blog post / YouTube video, and helps to keep a consistent look and feel to your images.
Logos are stored in their own category.
It’s really handy to keep logos separate. They can then be flicked on or off (it will even remember the position and size, so you can keep various logos for different types of images. E.g. You might want your YouTube logo in the top left of the custom thumbnail, but for a blog post header image, a logo in the bottom right. You can set these independently in Stencil.
Over 200,000 icons of all kinds. Plus, upload your own favourites.
Search the icons category for any specific thing and you’ll get great results.
Custom sizes built in. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Ads, Blog posts.
Create the perfect sized image for every platform. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to tweak the image for the various platforms. E.g. Create a blog post image, then save it. Resize to a facebook post, and tweak slightly for the best fit, then save again. Repeat for Twitter / Pinterest etc and in a very short time you’ll have perfectly optimised images for each and every platform. It’s never been this quick and simple.
Quote generator. Tons of great, searchable quotes with great viral-potential.
I thought this was a bit gimmicky at first, but it’s actually a really good way of generating shareable content for social media channels. There are thousands of quotes in the system, and it takes just minutes to create a great image.
Just pick a quote, choose a background image, tweak as desired and save/publish.
Social connections – simple to post to your social channels.
You can connect with facebook accounts and post to any pages or profiles you have, as many Twitter accounts as you want, Pinterest, Buffer and even Instagram via SMS.
The free version of the app lets you save up to 10 images per month. (Snappa doesn’t allow you any). The backgrounds and templates are limited however, and you need to be on the Pro package to unlock all that. It’s currently $9 per month.
At the time of writing, they’ve been having a big promo re-launch (apparently Stencil has been re-branded and used to be known as “Share As Image”. So, if you’re really quick you can get 50% off a Pro or Unlimited account if you use the code HOOKUP50.
50% off with code HOOKUP
Update: October 2017
I’ve continued to use Stencil for most of my needs around creating images and graphics for online purposes. But there was always one little thing that bugged me slightly – the inability to save work into different folders. But this just changed!
Stencil add a new “Colletions” feature
Stencil are great at listening to customer feedback and responding to it. I know this had been a much requested feature for some time, and Adam, the main man at Stencil even emailed me personally to let me know this was coming, just a few days before it was announced to all customers. Now, that’s customer satisfaction!
Here’s a video of me using the new Collections for the first time.
As you can tell, I love this tool, so if you need to make graphics online for your social media pages etc, Stencil could be the best tool for you too.