Everything you share on a social media platform needs an image to go with it, almost all of the time. In fact, if you’re not sure whether an image is necessary, just go with an image. They break up big walls of text, they catch the eye and they’re an effective way of getting a point across even if a reader skims past everything else you may have said in your post.
Making photos can be a bit of a chore if you’re not prepared for it. Generally speaking, using photos you did not take yourself (i.e. downloading one from Google Images) opens the door to legal issues and copyright disputes, which we assume everyone would rather avoid. Unfortunately, Photoshop isn’t nearly cheap enough option for work as lightweight as creating social media images.
Enter the free online image editors! Several free services that work in your browser can help you make professional-grade images without spending a dime (with the option to throw a couple bucks at a project for premium elements) or needed crash course in Photoshop.
This is our usual go-to because it’s fast, it’s easy to make a quality image without spending any money and it comes with several pre-made templates for specific tasks. If you want a Facebook banner, Twitter photo or even to design a promotional desktop wallpaper, Canva has it covered. Note: they’ve hidden away plain shapes and lines behind the “search” tab on the left side of the screen. Click that for more stuff to add to your photos.
PicMonkey is a slightly more complicated Canva, with fewer text styling options but more in the way of filters, overlays, textures and effects that can add a little “oomph” to photos. In our experience, it’s easier to create original, text-based content with Canva, even if you don’t have an image to start with. With PicMonkey, you’re going to want to bring an image to use as a base.
Fotor shares Canva’s focus on typography and also helps users make images that fit specific uses, like Facebook posts and Google+ cover photos. It’s a little different in that it offers geometric shape editing, which Canva keeps hidden away in their “search” menu. It might not seem like much, but sometimes you’ll want to add lines, circles and squares to images without having to remember where they’re hidden, and Fotor helps out there.
For a more robust system, closer to Photoshop in style, you might give Pixlr a shot. As you can see in the screenshot, Pixlr has a lot of rendering effects, as well as a full suite of tools for freehand drawing, image editing and creating art. The downsides are that it’s web-based, which can lead to easily lost work if your browser crashes (which happened to us while making our image), and it’s definitely not a simple solution for quick-and-clean image creation.
GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” What does GNU mean? You know, we actually forgot to ask. But GIMP is a reigning champion in the free image editing software world, with features that rival commercial applications (ahem, Photoshop) at no cost to the user, since it’s open-source software that’s updated most often by the people who use it. We’ve read reports that it’s slow to load and run, but it’s tough to complain for the price.