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5 Inexpensive Visual Tools For Design-Challenged Businesses

5 Inexpensive Visual Tools For Design-Challenged Businesses

Professional looking visuals to illustrate content are a no-brainer when it comes to standing out from the crowd. But the problem with great design is that it’s traditionally come at a hefty price.

Now, thanks to improving technology, there are plenty of online design tools. You can create professional visuals inexpensively or free, from infographics to cartoons and video – and often with only a few minutes work!

DIY visual tools for businesses and individuals have really taken off in the last year or two, not only because they’re affordable, but because most are very easy to use. Graphic design skills not required – if you can point a mouse and click, you’re good to go!

Here are five of our favourite (inexpensive) design tools.

1. Venngage

 

Infographics are huge at the moment and they’re a fantastic way to present complicated information in an easy to understand, visually appealing format. An infographic can help you grow your social media shares, boost your website visitors and give you a content asset you can use time and time again.

Venngage is a handy platform that lets you create infographics on just about any topic you like, for minimal or no cost.

Venngage Infographic

Image by Venngage

How it works

Venngage is about as easy as it gets. Sign up for an account and choose your template from the hundreds on offer. Next, input the information you want to display to generate your infographic. Customise with images and icons, and add any extra charts and text needed. Adapt the fonts and colours to match your branding or personal preference, and you’re ready to publish.

The Venngage platform also offers templates for reports, posters, brochures, e-books and more.

What it costs

Venngage is very affordable. Payment is by subscription and, at the time of writing, options include:

  • Business – $49 per month
  • Individual – $19 per month
  • Students – Free

Discounts apply if you pay quarterly or yearly.

Why we love it

This is a fantastic tool for businesses of all types and sizes. You can create a professional infographic in about 10 minutes, without any design skills whatsoever!

2. Pixton

 

If you have a story to tell, why not tell it through comics with this quirky and innovative tool? Pixton is an interactive tool that’s as much fun as it is easy to use.

With Pixton you can turn your message into a comic using simple drag and click technology. Create characters, change their expressions and clothing, adjust their postures, add props to your scene, change colours, add text – everything you could possibly want to do is made easy.

Comic about writing

Image: text by Article Writers, tools by Pixton!

Comic style graphics are a great way to communicate a message or engage your audience. They’re perfect for training manuals and organisational storyboarding, fabulous for Facebook, and a great way to give a blog post a touch of humour and visual polish.

How it works

Go to the Pixton site, and choose your purpose category ‘for fun,’ ‘at work’, ‘educator’ or ‘student’. You’ll be prompted to sign up to a free account.

The free account will give you access to a private workspace and basic comic creator. If you want more functionality and features, including the ability to create multiple comic strips and use them for business purposes, you’ll need to sign up for a paid subscription.

Once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll be taken straight to the help guide, which will walk you through the process of creating your first comic strip.

What it costs

A basic account is free but if you want to use your comics for business purposes you’ll need to upgrade to a paid subscription. At the time of writing, business options start at $29 per month.

Why we love it

Cute cartoons. Delightfully easy to use. Professional looking visuals. Cheap as chips. What’s not to love?

3. Canva

 

Canva was one of the first online tools to revolutionise the design industry. As a writing service, we make use of this tool almost daily. Their drag and drop format lets just about anyone create professional looking images, headers, banners and logos for free or at least very low cost.

Canva image creation example

Image: created on Canva

How it works

Canva is free to use and it has hundreds of customisable templates on offer. It’s created especially for people who are not experienced graphic designers, so it’s very simple. All you need to do is select the type of image you want to create and then choose from the many templates available. Each template is fully customisable, and you can add images from Canva’s image library or import your own.

Alternatively, you can design from scratch – set your images dimensions, choose a background theme or colour, add images, shapes or illustrations, add text if you need to, and you’re done.

Once you’re happy with your creation, you can save and export as a PNG or JPG for use elsewhere. You can also share it with other Canva users.

What it costs

Access to the basic design tool is free but if you need more features like custom fonts, templates and up to 50 team members, you can subscribe to Canva for Work. At the time of writing the cost is $12.95 per user per month, or $9.95 if you pay annually.

Why we love it

Canva is simple to use and the results are amazing. Even if you’re design-challenged you can create something that looks professional in a matter of minutes. Canva also has fantastic customer support, so if you do run into any problems help is always at hand.

4. Shakr

 

Video content is bigger than ever, but for businesses with a small budget it’s always been a struggle to produce videos that look remotely professional. It’s easy to understand why – producing a video requires a reasonable amount of tech savvy if you want it to look professional, not to mention specialist software and design skills.

Or at least it did, until Shakr came along.

Shakr is an online tool that makes creating customised videos quick and easy. Using Shakr, you can produce high quality, professional looking videos for a fraction of the cost you’d pay elsewhere.

How it works

When you sign up for an account with Shakr you get access to hundreds of customisable video templates. All you need to do is choose a template, import your own images or video, and add your text. There are also options that don’t require images or video.

Once you’re happy with the result, your video will be ready to finalise and share with the world.

There’s a step-by-step tutorial guide to walk you through the whole process. The hardest part will be deciding which template you like most!

What it costs

Shakr works on a subscription basis, with a range of plans to suit different needs. At the time of writing, prices start with the basic plan at $49 per month (this will suit many small businesses that don’t want more than one video per month). The Pro Plan is $143 a month. For agencies who are producing videos for multiple clients, there’s an option at $249 a month.

Why we love it

Video content is a great way to engage social media connections, to provide ‘how-to’ information, display client testimonials and more. Shakr makes it affordable to produce regular video content for your business, and it’s very straightforward to use.

5. Snagit

 

How-to videos and tutorials are an incredibly powerful tool for business education and relationship building. Snagit lets you turn a simple screenshot into an entire learning experience with a few clicks of the mouse.

Snagit is fantastic for documenting workflows and can be used to create videos and images for presentations, tutorials, demos, training manuals and customer how-to or troubleshooting guides. As well as screen capture, you can record video and audio for a more in-depth, personalised result.

Screenshot of Article Writers services page

Image: Screenshot taken with Snagit

How it works

When you want to make a video or take a screen shot, just click and drag to capture the area of the screen you want to use. Once you’ve taken a screen capture you can add annotations and notes easily with the editor interface.

What it costs

Snagit offers a free 15-day trial so you can give it a go and see if you like it before you commit to buying the software. A single end user licence is $49.95 as a one off payment, which will get you both the Windows and Mac version of the software. If you’re looking to add users, you can take advantage of Snagit’s volume discount for a price reduction depending on how many users you have.

Why we love it

This is an excellent tool that’s great fun to use. Snagit makes it easy to create a whole variety of different visual materials and communicate with your customers or colleagues.

If you don’t have the luxury of outsourcing your content creation and illustration to a content marketing agency, you’ll want the best possible tools to maximise your in-house capacity. These five design tools can empower your team to create professional looking visual content with the minimum of investment in time and money.