Investing in a talented, professional graphic designer is a must for a small business owner. Good design can take your business to the next level and truly affects consumer attitude toward your brand. However, keeping a graphic designer on speed dial can be pricey and Adobe Photoshop even pricier, so learning a few design basics and taking advantage of the Internet's array of free (and affordable) tools can help trim your costs. With just a little elbow grease, you can learn to use the versatile branding package created by your graphic designer to its full potential. You can conserve your design dollars for hiring out large projects and avoid dipping into that budget every time you just want to throw a logo overlay on top of one of your inventory photos or put together a simple discount card.
We've rounded up several of our favorite tutorials, tricks and tools for DIY graphic design.
Free Online Design Tools:
Canva: This Australian company offers our favorite free design tools out there. It's very new, so it's not perfect—but it's close. You can do almost anything with Canva, but their editable templates are where they shine. They have seemingly endless templates for everything from social media icons to presentation slides, and countless shapes, text boxes and illustrations to add. They also have a library full of stock images that you can use for just $1 each (that charge is stored for 24 hours, so you can use that image in unlimited designs for that time period). Canva saves your designs in progress and keeps them in your account library, so you don't have to worry about losing your work. We've created everything from polished invitations to funky blog images with this site—it's an incredibly powerful site.
PicMonkey: PicMonkey is nice because it has a little bit of everything—photo editing, collages, creating simple designs, etc. Compared to Canva, PicMonkey is lacking in a couple areas, but it does come out on top if you are starting with a photo. You can add text and image overlays (like your logo) and you don't even have to have an account to use the site. Most important features are available for free, but you gain access to premium fonts and more through their paid Royale account, which is only $33 each year.
Design Tutorials & Other Affordable Resources:
Skillshare: Skillshare offers affordable online classes taught by industry leaders for all sorts of design topics like calligraphy and hand lettering (great for shop signage!), general branding and Adobe software tutorials. For small business owners, they also have a whole department of Entrepreneurship classes as well, including "Succeeding on Kickstarter," "Intro to Web Design: Friendly Design for Startups and Small Business" and Seth Godin's class, "The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time." If you plan on taking multiple classes, consider their $9.95/month membership.
Lynda: We haven't tried Lynda out quite yet, but we are very impressed with the course catalog. They have hundreds of e-learning programs that are focused around design, animation, video, etc. They offer monthly memberships for $25/month, with new courses available weekly (though we imagine the extensive course list will keep you busy for a while!).
Do you use different online graphic design tools? Let us know which one in the comments!