When I first started out dabbling in branding and design, I thought it was so important to be using professional (and expensive) programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to create great designs.
While these are amazing programs, they often require years of learning and practice to be able to use them to their full capacity. For people who are not graphic designers (nor want to be), this is an unnecessary and time-consuming step.
Just because you can’t use, or don’t want to use, programs like the Adobe Creative Suite, doesn’t mean you can’t still create great designs with other programs.
I am all about empowering entrepreneurs and design junkies to use free or low-cost programs to help them create beautiful designs.
Just because you don’t know how to use Adobe Illustrator, doesn’t mean you a) have to pay someone else a lot of money to use this to create your branding or logo and b) you can’t do it yourself!
Will you be able to create intricate, customised logos or 3D imagery for your designs using other programs? Probably not.
But do you need to?
If you are looking for tools to help make your branding for your business look more professional, or are putting together a design project (redecorating your bedroom or planning your wedding) you definitely do not need the Adobe programs. Nor do you need to pay someone top dollar to do it for you.
Here are 11 programs and tools you can add to your design repertoire right now that will help you uplevel your design game!
(click on the names to go directly to these tools)
No list will be complete with out Canva. This is truly a game-changer when it comes to low-cost, easy-to-use and accessible design programs.
If you are serious about creating professional and well-designed graphics or content for your business, Canva Pro is a must. At just $12.95/month it is seriously the best-priced tool you will ever find.
Create designs, use templates, access their huge library of stock photos and video, there is so much you can do with Canva.
For more details on what exactly you get in Canva Pro and to decide if you need it, read this article.
This is a colour palette generator that helps you create a 5-colour “perfect” palette. You can randomly generate colours, pick colours off an image you upload or input your own hex codes. Then you can export or save the palettes.
Use this to search thousands of fonts, download them to use in your designs. Just make sure you read the licencing print. Some are only for free personal use, but many of 100% free!
This is a mobile editing app. Use it to spice up your snaps for IG stories or Facebook. You can create your own filter recipes to save and create a consistent look to all your editing.
While not 100% free, you can use this mobile editing app with some of the free filters on offer. Use this to edit your photos on the go.
This is a great alternative to the complicated Adobe Illustrator for editing vector (SVG file) images. Use this to edit SVG files to change the colours or fonts or create your own from scratch. You can also use this to create rounded text and logos.
Another alternative to the complicated Adobe programs, Vectr allows you to create vector images quickly and easily. They’ve got tons of tutorials to help you bring your design ideas to life.
If you aren’t using Canva Pro (where you now get access to thousands of free, high-quality stock images) this is a great alternative. In May of 2019, Canva acquired Pixabay (and Pexels) and so as a Canva Pro user you get access to this library of images with your subscription. But if you don’t use Canva Pro, head to the website directly to search and download images.
This one I used to use and recommend before Canva introduced it’s ‘remove background’ feature. If you still haven’t been swayed to the magic of Canva then this is a great alternative. You can download a lower res version of the image without the background, or pay a small fee to download a higher-res one.
Want to create a mock-up of a design on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone? This is a great free site that lets you do that. It tells you the dimensions your image needs to be, upload it, place it and voilà! You’ve got a mock-up that didn’t require Photoshop.
The ultimate tool when it comes to design inspiration! I use Pinterest every day to find and save inspiration for style, my dream Paris apartment, branding, patterns, colours, everything! I get my clients to create a board in their Pinterest when we are designing their branding to gather images that they like. This helps me get a clear idea of what sort of aesthetic they are after. Warning: It’s very addictive!