I’m no artist.
It bothers me sometimes how easy it is for some people to pick up a pen and paper and create a masterpiece. My imagination, unfortunately, just doesn’t work that way.
My lack of artistic ability poses a threat to my marketing career, especially now that visual content marketing is the hot ticket to success. It makes me nervous because, even though I have other creative
traits, which are key in marketing, I’m worried I’ll get left in the
visual storytelling dust.
And I know I’m not alone.
Visual marketing tools to the rescue
Luckily, we non-artists have a few new tools at our disposal that we
can use to mask our lack of design talent when we don’t have the
resources or budget to hire a full-fledged graphic designer. These tools are all free to use, and they often have some more
advanced paid features for when you’re ready to step up your visual
They don’t replace the expertise of a designer, but can be used for
smaller projects like blog graphics, Slideshare templates, and social
Canva is likely the most well-known and mentioned visual marketing tool, and for good reason. It’s free, easy-to-use, and its chief evangelist is Guy Kawasaki.
The beauty of Canva is that its goals are intentions are clear: Anyone can make a great design from scratch with Canva. Or, as Guy Kawasaki says, “Canva democratizes design.”
In a world where complicated business models and tools run rampant,
Canva practices what it preaches with its eye-catching logo and creative
marketing materials. I suggest starting with Canva, playing with its different backgrounds and fonts, and then moving on to its useful tutorials to get your visual marketing feet wet.
Picmonkey an image editing and creation tool that is like a beefed up version of Canva.
While Canva was designed primarily as a text-over-image tool,
Picmonkey offers a variety of other options, such as photo editing,
touch ups, and collages.
For example, the cover photo on the Don’t Panic Management Facebook page was made in Picmonkey.
These options are perfect for the more advanced user who has
experience with Photoshop and Illustrator, but might seem overwhelming
to the average user.
If you are more interested in a high-quality tool that also offers
simple stitching and editing capabilities, Picmonkey is right for you.
Who here hates Excel?
I’m probably one of the only freaks who actually enjoys using spreadsheets, but I do find myself having some hiccups with their chart functionality.
This free tool enables you to upload your spreadsheets (think social
media metrics, email open and click rates, website metrics, PR reach
data, and more) and then choose which parts of the data you’d like to
You can then create a comprehensive report of as many or as few charts from the data as you wish.
You can customize everything from colors to type of chart, and you
can connect your file-storing and data tools like Dropbox, Hubspot,
Google Drive, Mailchimp, and more for easy data import.
When you’re ready to download, you’re given a high-resolution PNG
file that you can add to your documents for beautiful data
To include custom colors, combine more than one data set, and
increase your file limit, you can upgrade to their paid account for $49
Skitch has been around longer than any of these other tools, which is probably why it has been a bit overshadowed. When I first started using Skitch, I primarily used it as a screen
capture tool so I could show people how to do things via email. I would simply attach a marked-up screen shot so they could see where to look and click.
It’s perfect for drawing over images, circling important points, and adding arrows to draw the eye. If you’re an avid Evernote user, it’s your perfect screen capturing and note-taking companion.
In addition to how-tos, Skitch is great for highlighting specific
data points (perhaps from the charts you create with DataHero),
annotating documents, and providing feedback on content, especially if
it’s in the form of an image.
My favorite part about Skitch is that it lives as a desktop
application so you don’t have to be working in yet another browser
window to use it.
Plus, you can easily save to Evernote or drag and drop into email,
upload to WordPress, add to Dropbox, whatever your heart desires.
Recite This is unique because it’s less about the images, and more about turning words into art. You can take any word, quote, or sentence and make it beautiful by
typing into the tool, choosing one of their templates, and voila.
You now have a shareable quote that looks professional.
The tool is relatively new and beyond simple, so there aren’t a whole
lot of bells and whistles like some of the aforementioned tools. I would
imagine that they will be adding more templates and more customization
options in the future.
Need to manipulate or recreate someone else’s cool text-over-image visual but can’t figure out what font they used? Simply upload the image (or even a part of the image that includes
some text) to WhatTheFont and it will spit out some font options for
you, many of which are free.
The most important thing to remember with these tools is that practice makes perfect. You’re not going to create the nicest looking Canva creation or data visualization on your first try.
Consider your visual marketing goals, the time and resources you have
to play with, and then choose the tool that’s right for the task at
I’m looking forward to hearing your own experiences with these tools.
And remember, you don’t have to be an artist to make great visual
Jess Ostroff is the founder and director of calm of Don't Panic Management, a virtual assistant agency. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.