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In 2019, 88% of all marketing communication will be visual. What does this mean for you? Regardless if it’s about your website, blog posts or social media posts, you need to share stunning images to attract your readers and keep them engaged. Needless to say, if you are a graphic designer, you could consider half of the hard work done. But when you are a blogger, solopreneur or a small business owner, this could be a highly demanding task. That’s why you have to know which are the best online design tools.   

Even if the video content has had incredible growth lately and for sure it will continue to grow in the future, images are still the most shared type of content on social media.

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So, how do you design astonishing images that stand out from the crowd, especially when you are not a professional graphic designer and you can’t afford to hire one? It’s true that one picture is worth more than one thousand words, but:

how can you create those stunning visuals that are massively shared on social media, drive engagement with your brand and attract traffic to your blog or website?

First, you need some good design and easy to use software and I can’t say that Photoshop or Illustrator meet these criteria for non-designers. Luckily, there are many online design tools that can help you create amazing images. Many of them are free, have a free basic version or at least offer a 30-day free trial to figure out if they meet your needs and expectations.

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How do you choose the online design tools that fit you best?

Well, before deciding which app you use for creating visuals, you should answer the following questions:

  • Does the app offer you the needed templates and the resources to mix and match with your brand? Beautiful templates will always be a source of inspiration and the starting point for your creations, but they are not quite enough. If you want to create vibrant and bold layouts for your online content, you should also verify the pictures, icons, shapes, and fonts the apps provide or if they allow you to upload your own brand design elements.

  • Is the app easy to use for non-designers? Many entrepreneurs and bloggers don’t work with a graphic designer, but they still need professional images for their online presence. That's why it's important for the design apps to be easy to use by people who have fewer design skills.

  • Does it assure a user-friendly experience? An important aspect you should think of when deciding to select one of the online design tools is how fast and smooth the user experience is. Do you face some annoying experiences such as the impossibility of uploading your own fonts or graphics? Or perhaps you can’t download the designs? Or it’s too complicated to use? Then maybe the app is not the right one for you.

  • Is it a multi-purpose design app? Sure, the main goal is to find the best apps for your online images. But ultimately, you would want to find an online design tool to use for all your marketing design purposes – such as online banners, flyers, business cards, brochures, infographics, to name just a few. It’s not just more productive to learn and use a single app, but it will also help you to get more consistency with your brand designs.

I’ve tested over 30 apps and I chose these 5 top online design tools that will help you have professional and vibrant visuals for your online content in 2019.


Best for stunning template-based design creation

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In the 7 years from launching, over 10 million people use Canva for creating documents, editing photos or designing graphics. By releasing Canva for Android in December 2017, over 2 billion monthly active mobile users have had  access to this design platform.

With thousands of templates, a library of over 3 million images, and dozens of fonts and text stylings, Canva is one of those online design tools that make easy for anyone to create unique and engaging designs. Whether you’re a professional designer, an amateur one or you have never designed something in your life, the easy drag-and-drop interface allows you to get started very quickly and with almost no effort.  

The new Canva 2.0 released in 2018 brings new features on the table. From the new search function to the possibility to turn your designs into animations and directly publish them to your social media accounts, Canva 2.0 makes the design process more intuitive, reliable, time-saving and easier than ever.

No matter the design you want, you may start with Canva preset sizes or you can set your own canvas dimensions. Then start building your layout or you may look for inspiration into the Canva’s giant library.

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Canva for free version:

  • gives you access to over 8000 templates and millions of photos (free or starting at $1 each), dozens of shapes, fonts and text styles

  • lets you upload your own graphic elements

  • 1GB storage for photos and assets

  • allows you to organize the designs into 2 folders.

The premium plans offer much more design features:

  • you can easily set your brand guide uploading custom fonts and the color palettes for your brand

  • invite your team members to cooperate

  • save templates for you and your team

  • unlimited storage for photos and assets

  • download designs with transparent background

  • export designs as animated GIFs

and much more.

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One of the features I really love is the possibility to magically resize the designs into custom dimensions. Sure, you must tweak a little bit the new design, but it saves a lot of time especially when you want to use the same layout for all your online and offline visuals.

Once you’ve chosen your template or layout, you can easily replace the pictures, drag-and-drop different design elements, add or edit text, adjust the main settings like fonts, colors, opacity, contrast and add different filters to personalize your design.

Canva offers less customization and flexibility than the professional graphic design software but it exceeds in terms of usability, beautiful templates and user-friendly experience.       

Canva Price: Free for 8,000+ templates, 1GB storage, and up to 10 team members; from $12.95/month (if paid monthly) per user for Canva for Work, you have offered unlimited storage, access to 400,000 free photos, illustrations, and templates, custom fonts, transparent backgrounds, easily find your designs with the search function, export designs as animated GIFs and more.

Design Wizard

Create impressive designs, quickly and easily

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Claiming to be able to “create high-quality content in minutes”, Design Wizard is one of the online design tools that provide an excellent user experience.

This website provides thousands of templates as well as 1 million images to create extraordinary graphics. Design Wizard aims to help users achieve their goals through visual content and the magic resize button is just one of the great features that it has. The app allows you to quickly transform the size of the template while you are creating an image. Individuals and businesses will be given confidence by the tool to create professional images that will help to build a strong brand. You may start your design projects using one of the over 15.000 templates, which are suitable for multiple projects, whatever you might choose: from cards and invitation to marketing material, social media posts and covers, book covers, videos and more.

The library includes over 1.2 million images fully licensed for reuse, 120 fonts, vector files, icons and transparent PNGs, but you can also upload your own design elements and typos for full customization.

The app makes everything easy to work with, from inserting simple shapes to video clips. Once they are all in the same place, a dialog box with many editing options will be displayed. For a unique layout, you can play very easily with various filters and components such as brightness, saturation and clarity.

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The best part? The DesignWizard’s UI is excellent compared to other online design tools, and not only. As it is built for visual oriented people, you can easily make changes by dragging and dropping content into place or rectify mistakes made along the way. Thus, you can effortlessly experiment with multiple versions of your design.

DesignWizard Price: Free for 15,000+ templates, 15MB storage, Integration with Hubspot, Marketo and Buffer, set color pallets and add custom fonts; Pro Plan is $9.99/month (if paid monthly), you have offered 500MB storage space, 60 image credits, publish directly to social media, and more. For those looking to use it intensively, DesignWizard’s Expert Plan could be the perfect choice. Each month, customers receive up to $150 worth of images and templates, 1 Free HD Video and 1 GB of storage space to work with, priority support as well as a dedicated account manager.

Gravit Designer

Best for more advanced Social Media Design

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If you feel intimidated by the design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or Sketch but you want similar functionalities, then Gravit Designer may be the right tool for you. 

I was surprised to see how many of the classic design software features are included by Gravit – from layers to grouping, shapes, symbols, text and design effects. All of these with a much more intuitive and easy-to-learn interface, specific for online design tools. And if you have some bit skills in using Photoshop or Illustrator, it’s a lot easier.

Being also a graphic designer, I have to admit that Gravit suited me perfectly. I have all the design and the effect tools already available or easy to find, so I could create my own design from scratch without losing too much time. Gravit comes with a large library of already preset shapes, icons, frames, illustrations, stickers, and lines, but you can also create yours.

The Tutorial, User Guide and Blog tabs from the Help section provide you with all the information you need to get started.

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Anyway, if you need some inspiration, you can use one of their pre-sized templates and just replace the images and text and use some design effects. Unlike the other online design apps, Gravit doesn’t provide you a photo library, so you should look for them in some photo stock resources. But for an online design tool, I think it already exceeds many of its competitors.

When you finish the design, you may export it as .jpg, .png., svg or pdf. You can also save the designs directly on your computer or to the Gravit Cloud – which is also free. All you have to do is to sign up to Gravit, enable the sync option and that’s it!

 Gravit Designer is a free online graphic design software.

The only tool you need to create beautiful images

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Stencil is one of the online design tools I discovered lately and I have to admit that it’s perfect for creating social media posts, content marketing visuals, email images and more.

And there are many reasons for which you could love it too.

With Stencil, you can make outstanding visuals without being the best designer in the world, the app helping you to create detailed and colorful pictures with just a few clicks.

You may start using one of their over 50 templates and adapt it, by changing the image and font, or you can start from scratch. If you want to create something completely new, Stencil helps you by offering multiple preset dimensions, filtered by categories such as Posts, Ads, Headers and Custom (where you can set your own dimensions).

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In terms of visuals, Stencil streamlines the process and provides you a vast image library of over 2.200.000 pictures to choose from, +800 templates, +2.500 Google fonts, +2.000.000 icons and graphics, +100.000 quotes and more. Plus, you can upload your own brand design elements, set the colors and adjust the text style, add icons and different shapes.

The possibility to create a design and save it as your own template is one of the options I love and I find it very useful. This way, you can tweak the image very easy for the next blog post, or use it across different social media channels, keeping a consistent look and feel to your brand. 

Quote generator is another great feature, especially when you want to create viral content for social media channels. Stencil provides you tons of great, searchable quotes. All you have to do is to pick one, add a background, adjust is as desired, and save or publish. It takes just a few minutes to get a great image.

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To make things even easier, Stencil allows you not just to create a design online, but also to share it directly to your social channels. You can connect your Facebook account and post on any profile or page you have, Twitter, Pinterest, Buffer and even send it on Instagram via SMS.

Stencil’ Price: with the free version you can save up to 10 images/month, upload up to 50 images and create up to 10 collections, you can access limited photos and icons and get 10 Instagram SMS/months. Pro Plan is $9/month (yearly billing), you have offered access to +2,2 million photos, + 2 million icons and graphics, 800+ amazing templates, +2.500 Google fonts, you can upload your own fonts and logo, and more; if you look to use it intensively, Stencil’s Unlimited Plan could be the perfect choice. Each month, you can create, upload and save unlimited images, keep unlimited favorites and get 100 Instagram SMS/month.

Get Stencil here.


Best for quickly design images for your social media posts

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Even if You know how important is social media for your business, you don’t have too much time to spend on creating social media designs.

Therefore, you should try Pablo, created by the social media scheduling tool Buffer. One of the free online design tools, Pablo is the simplest and the most minimalistic online design app I have ever seen.     

Pablo has only a few features and really a single workflow, so you can use just for creating visuals for Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can start by choosing a template and change the image with one of the dozens of free and royalty-free pictures provided by Unsplash or upload your own photo. The keyword search is fast and precise, so you can create professional visuals for your social media posts with just a few clicks.

As Pablo has a very simple and minimalist approach, you can play with a few filters to customize your image. For adding text to your design, you have to check the three options from Text Menu and choose those ones that fit you best. Even if the text can be adjusted just in three dimensions (small, medium and large), you can still get great and impactful visuals by choosing from a list of fonts a typo that will match with your graphic.

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The Quotes option just brings you different quotes that can match your graphic, so you don’t have to look for them somewhere else. In the end, add just your logo and you are good to go!

When finishing to create a design, you can share directly to social media, schedule it with Buffer or download to your computer.

Pablo is free of charge, but for sure it’s recommended to subscribe to Buffer.

Bottom line:

Note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Even if you want to design a great image for your blog post and social media channels, or to draw extra attention to your online content, these apps will cover you. And they are just a few of my favorite online design tools that I sincerely hope will help you master the fragile game of creating stunning visuals for your online presence.

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