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Getting graphic with online tools

Graphic for sites mentioned in blog postI’m not a graphic designer, but I’ve found some online tools that make it easy to get professional results without expensive software. For important things like book covers—for fiction, especially—I’d suggest hiring a pro, but for quick promo banners, Facebook or blog posts, or tweets, here are some fun options.

All of them offer tutorials. I think they’re worth the few minutes it takes to get you oriented to each site.

PicMonkey

I’ve been using PicMonkey for about a year now to create my web, Facebook, and Twitter banners. I also used it to create the book cover for Productivity Tools for Writers and an excerpt booklet for my Kiss & Thrill blog members.

The free version offers access to royalty-free fonts, overlays, and design elements. The paid upgrade gives you access to everything.

Excerpt booklet cover art

Booklet cover made with PicMonkey

Pros

+ Allows for a custom or pre-sized canvas

+ Choose from collage layouts

+ Fairly short learning curve

+ You can use your own images

+ Save/export designs in multiple formats and quality levels

Cons

– Can’t reopen design to edit once you close your project

– Can’t align a group of objects/no snap-to grid

– Can’t select multiple objects to move or modify

– Navigation is sometimes confusing

– Doesn’t save uploaded images for future use

Best for: Quickly adding text or overlays to an image and working totally freeform. Also good for creating collages with your own images.

Canva

Canva is similar to PicMonkey, but has an easier-to-navigate interface, and includes lots of templates and royalty-free images. You can create a free design (like the one at the top of this post, or below), or use premium elements for $1 each. You only pay when you “publish” (save or share) the final design.

Canva comes with a number of templates for banners, ads, book covers, and more.

ad designed with Canva

Simple ad designed with Canva

Pros:

+ Saves your projects for future editing (great for maintaining a branded look and when you need to tweak an existing design)

+ Includes grids to help you align objects

+ Allows you to export or share to multiple formats and platforms

+ Has custom and pre-szied canvases

+ Provides ready-made layouts and designs

+ You can use your own images

+ Short learning curve

Cons:

– Occasionally glitchy when trying to add photos to layouts or align objects (I believe this is a beta version)

– Not all of the templates provide access to the same options (images or layouts)

Best for: Nearly every type of graphic design project, especially those you might want to reuse. Banners and ad designs are quick and easy.

QuotesCover

QuotesCover is a specialized graphics site for quickly creating meme-worthy quote images. You don’t even have to know the quote you want. Just browse by topic or search by keywords. The text comes out pre-styled, but you can choose from a variety of layouts and fonts, and you can use asterisks to mark words that you want to emphasize.

image created at QuotesCover.com

Image created at QuotesCover.com

Pros:

+ Quick and easy to use

+ Look up a quote or add your own

+ Automated layouts means you don’t have to know anything about typography or design

+ Free

+ Download project in PNG or JPG formats, or share to Facebook

+ Allows for custom backgrounds

+ Multiple canvas sizes

Cons:

– Can’t choose layout or font from a list or grid, must click Previous or Next to go through without visual cues

– Can’t edit past projects

– Limited design control

Best for: Quickly creating a professional looking quote-based image or banner.

I’m sure there are many other cool online graphics sites out there. What’s your favorite?

Inspiration for writing and life

512px-Inspire_Sunburst_Italian_AlpsOver the years, I've been collecting quotes that inspire me when I'm low, or need a reminder that it's not supposed to be easy, or when I'm rooted in fear. I'm sharing some of them with you in hopes that one of them will inspire or help you when you need it.

You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one.
– Nora Roberts

It's never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise.
– Nancy Thayer

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
– Aristotle

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
– E.E. Cummings

Not all those who wander are lost.
– J.R.R. Tolkien (Gandalf’s poem in LOTR)

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyhow.
– Earl Nightingale

Don’t wait!
– Gwen Hernandez (Don’t wait blog post 5/15/12) [Yes, I'm shameless. :-)]

I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
– Ray Bradbury

I dwell in possibility.
– Emily Dickenson

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.”
– Stephen King

Never let fear decide your fate.
– AWOLNation, lyrics from “Kill Your Heroes”


Image credit: By User:Nauticashades/w:User:Nauticashades. (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons