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And as a photographer and writer, I know exactly what I like. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok, post more visual content like photos, videos, and graphics.
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The good news is that you don’t need to hire a designer or spend hundreds of dollars on software to get great visuals—there are free graphic design apps you can use to create great social media graphics. I’ve been writing about and using these types of tools for over a decade, so I know a good one. And what are they?
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Our collection of the best apps is written by people who have spent their careers using, testing and writing their own software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as intended and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We are never paid to post articles or sitelinks – we appreciate the trust our readers place in giving us honest reviews for the categories and apps we review. To learn more about our process, read the blog post How we choose apps to feature.
Social media posts have a very short life cycle, so don’t spend hours creating them. Getting your content out into the world where people can actually see it is more important than having every pixel perfect. This is why a good graphic design app is so important: you always have templates and design resources (such as images, icons, shapes and text styles) right from the start. Then it’s just a matter of mixing and matching elements of your brand to create something unique and powerful. Being able to replay the notes you make is a big plus.
You don’t have to pay big prices to get great results. What makes free graphic design apps suffer is not a lack of quality, but a lack of some powerful design features. Social media graphics are not what they should be. I reviewed about 40 free graphic design apps and found five great, free resources. It’s true that the premium products’ free maps are limited, but they’re all up to the task of creating amazing imagery for your social media marketing channels. If you’re willing to pay a few bucks a month, I’d highlight what you’re getting – some of these options have great payment plans.
I’ve relied on Adobe Photoshop for over a decade and it pays off for superior products. I didn’t expect these free social media post creators to succeed, but they should provide great service. I don’t recommend anything if it’s empty or dangerous.
Social Media, Seo, Email, Graphic Design: 100 Free Tools For Digital Marketers (infographic) / Digital Information World
To test each app, I spent a lot of time looking at their themes. I also created at least two test posts using the templates (with many options, more). I mostly focused on the general ease of use and professional recommendations of each app, but I also had some basic criteria to make this list.
Canva is a powerful yet easy-to-use template-based design application. There are over a million templates, graphics and images you can use as part of the free plan (this applies to millions of assets with a Canva Pro subscription).
When you open Canva, you’ll be presented with dozens of templates for everything from posters to Instagram posts. We have a long way to go, but there are many good studies. Click the search bar at the top of the screen and search for something like “instagram birthday story” to find specific options. (I’ve recommended almost 4,000 free templates for this, but very few have Pro components that you have to pay $1 for.)
Once you’ve found a template to work with, a drop-down editor streamlines your resources. Click on downloads, then download the files on the left, add images or markup elements and you can drop them into the editor. Tip: Right-click on any element and click Cancel or Next if you want to change the text (you can double-click), or click behind things like a picture frame.
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Like Google Docs, Canva lets you share and collaborate with others, so if you want to take another look at your design, click the share button below the tool, then add an email address.
When you’re done, click the Submit button to save your post. If you happen to include premium assets, they will have the option to pay to remove your tokens (usually around $1 per asset). This is great if you use Canva occasionally, but in most cases you’ll need to sign up for Canva Pro for $12.99 per month (or at least try the 30-day free trial). Pro has many additional designs and some nice features such as auto-sizing, social media scheduling and the ability to download ‘brand kits’ so you can easily add your logo, brand colors and fonts to your designs.
If Canva is cheating on you, you can stop here – it’s a winner. But if you’re looking for alternatives to Canva, keep reading.
Canva Pricing: Free for 1,000,000+ templates and other assets and 5 GB of cloud storage; Starting at $12.99 per month for Canva Pro, it offers 1TB of storage, several million assets, and more.
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Adobe is the biggest name in graphic design, so it’s no surprise that their app is designed for creating social media and web graphics. Adobe Express (formerly known as Adobe Spark on this list; updated and updated last year) isn’t as well-known as Photoshop or Illustrator, but it’s a better choice for most people who want to create graphics to share on social media. It’s free to start.
In terms of templates, Express still lags behind Canva. Her options are limited and her quest is limited. Don’t get me wrong: there are still thousands of great free templates out there, but you’ll find that perfect template and spend a few minutes tweaking something that’s close but not quite there.
Express is a better editor for this in many ways. There are quick gestures on the home screen that can do things like zoom in on photos, turn videos into GIFs, and remove backgrounds. They are powered by Adobe Photoshop and Premiere applications that run in the cloud. It is a custom method that can be an advanced tool in other applications.
The editor has many of the powerful features of Express, but keeps them at bay. Almost anyone should be able to create beautiful social media graphics with it, but if you want to dig deeper and make things more fun, there are advanced layer options, blending modes, color grading, and better features of Adobe-specific apps. You can usually access any design element by checking the right sidebar. It really hits that sweet spot: fast and easy to use for 90% of jobs, but with powerful features when you want them.
Sprout Social: Social Media Management Solutions
Express is a great standalone application for designing social media graphics, but its integration with Adobe Creative Suite is hard to miss. If you want to expand your business to use (and pay for) Adobe’s more powerful tools, Express is the way to go. You can create libraries that are available in all your Adobe applications and draw Lightroom images or elements through Illustrator. Adobe Stock images and graphics are also included in the application.
Adobe Express Pricing: Free for basic features and 2 GB of cloud storage; from $9.99 per month for premium features such as download and installation of logos, templates, and embedding tools, additional Adobe apps, and 100 GB of cloud storage.
Pablo is a minimalist tool