I get it. Not everyone can hire a graphic designer, especially during these unique times. However, I don’t want to see anyone creating flyers in Word. Okay?
I promise you, no one else wants to see that either.
There are plenty of design resources available to help you create professional marketing materials for your business, regardless of your skill level or budget.
From page layout to photo editing, these tools allow you to take what is in your brain and put it on paper, so to speak.
If you’re a total design newb, you’ll need patience and time to learn these programs. They most likely aren’t like anything you’ve used before.
The good news is, everyone has to start somewhere, so there are tons of tutorials online to help you learn your way around these applications.
GIMP and Inkscape
Admittedly, I’ve never used either of these products. But, from what I can tell, GIMP and Inkscape are powerful applications that can be used to produce professional-grade work. Not only that, but these design resources are also free.
GIMP is an open-source image editor that is maintained by volunteer developers worldwide. While you can’t quite compare apples to apples, GIMP is essentially a Photoshop alternative.
Inkscape is your Illustrator alternative. It has all of the features you would need to layout a print piece, including support for all color modes. Both of these products have an active online community and plenty of tutorials and resources available on their respective websites.
I think Affinity’s product offerings are legit. Probably the closest comparable products to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign I have seen. Each desktop app is a 1-time purchase of $50, plus there are iPad versions of the applications that are even less.
The cool thing about these products is you can open just about any file type in them. So, if someone sends you a Photoshop file, you can open that up in your Affinity app.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Obviously, Adobe Creative Cloud products are the creme de la creme of the design world. They used to be super pricey (think several hundred dollars for the least expensive product option).
However, Adobe has moved to a cloud subscription model in recent years, so your monthly expense for all of the things is less than $100. If you happen to catch one of their promotions, you could get locked into a really low monthly rate.
Word to the wise, do not use anything from Google image search in your designs. For one, they’re most likely not print quality, and two, these images are not usually licensed for reuse.
What you need to do is get you some stock photography. These images are licensed for personal and commercial use, whether they are free or you have to pay for the license and are probably some of the most utilized design resources out there.
Pixabay is similar to iStock (or the like) in that you can download photographs, vector illustrations, and videos. The difference is that the stock resources are free.
But, as the saying goes, you kind of get what you pay for in the sense that the database is smaller. No hate though. If you are patient in your search, you can find some great stock images here.
This is another free stock photo resource. The photos are all licensed for personal or commercial use, with the option of adding attribution to the photo.
All of the photography on Unsplash seems to have a very similar aesthetic (think hipster), but they are generally high quality, well-composed photos. However, this site also has a very small pool of images to choose from.
In order to get access to premium stock photography, you’re generally going to have to pay for it. iStock offers a wide range of photography, vector illustrations, and videos for you to choose from. You also have a couple of different payment options to choose from.
One, you can pay as you go and purchase credits only when you need them, or two, sign up for a monthly subscription plan. The most cost-effective solution obviously depends on how many photos you will need immediately and in the future.
The font family you choose can make or break your design. Luckily, there are quite a few affordable options for finding professional fonts to use in your print or web design pieces.
Google Web Fonts
Google provides fonts that are not only free to download and use on your computer, but you can use these on your website as well. This is a big deal because, by default, there are only a handful of fonts available in any given web browser.
In order to use a custom font on a website, it has to be installed on your web server. And, in order to be legit, you have to have a license for web use.
The cool thing about Google Web Fonts is that most web site builders, browser-based design applications, and WordPress themes come preloaded with these fonts. This allows you to have consistent typography across all of your branded materials.
I like this site because they have a nice range of “fancy” fonts, as I like to call them. The fonts are all created by independent designers and Font Bundles also has a decent selection of free fonts.
This is especially helpful for me because I rarely purchase fonts. Font Bundles is one of my go-to design resources if I am designing a logo or creating something like an invitation.
Not only is MyFonts home to my favorite tool, WhatTheFont, but it’s also a huge database of professional fonts. Like, every font you can think of.
This is a place where you can purchase popular, corporate fonts, like Helvetica, and also find a wide variety of free fonts as well. I also like to use MyFonts for logo design projects because there is so much variety, I feel I can always find what I have in mind.
Ready-to-use Design Resources / Templates
If you’re not ready or don’t have the time to DIY all of your marketing materials, but still want professional quality graphics, ready-to-use templates are for you.
Regardless of what kind of assets you are looking for, you will be able to find high-quality pieces made by professionals in the industry.
Canva is a great tool if you don’t have a lot of time, don’t have a big budget, and don’t have any design tools (or you don’t feel like using them). I use Canva a lot for quick social media graphics and digital invitations.
The templates are pretty basic (and also… basic, if you know what I mean), but are generally nice looking and you have a little leeway with customizing fonts and colors.
This site operates as a marketplace for graphic designers. Whether you are looking for invitations, Instagram templates, or presentations, you can get professional quality design assets without making a huge investment.
These will be one-time purchases, with the prices set by the designer. However, the Creative Market also has a handful of freebies available.
In general, the Envato brand provides tons of resources. From Tuts+ to Themeforest, you can find just about anything to help you get going with your print or web project.
Envato Elements is subscription-based. However, you get unlimited downloads of items like graphic templates, WordPress themes, and videos to use for your business.