One of the most effective ways to grab your target market’s attention with social media marketing is to create and share dynamic, compelling images to which pithy quotes or maxims have been added as text.
But if you’ve ever tried to play around with one of the dozens of image editors out there to create those images-plus-text files, you might well have ended up with several lost hours, a near-lethal dose of frustration, and no share-able file.
Those freebie image editors simply aren’t the most user-friendly when it comes to adding and formatting text on top of images, unless you’re a Photoshop pro and skilled at working with layers. (Yes. I speak from experience. Graphics-proficient, I am not – that’s why I outsource all but the most basic graphics work for SPM clients to some highly creative designers who are PS pros.)
It just shouldn’t be that hard to plop some text on top of an image, am I right?
Well, fortunately, it’s not that hard – if you know which tools to use.
Thanks to some life- and sanity-saving friends, I’ve discovered four tools that fit the bill nicely. Best of all, they’re both user friendly and free.
UPDATE: In a cool bit of synchronicity, Andrea Vahl pointed me in the direction of this post from the New Media Expo Blog all about how to use PicMonkey to create different kinds of images for your blog.
My choice for images-plus-text, PicMonkey is, in my view, the best overall tool in its balance of user-friendliness and available options. Generally, as with most cloud-based apps, the simpler a tool is to use, the fewer options the user is given. PicMonkey strikes the right balance, in my book.
With a lovely selection of fonts to choose from, you can achieve a wide variety of looks for your image. There’s no sign-up process to create basic collages or images with text, and you can save the image to your hard drive in three different image quality/file size combos.
As with most of our tools, PicMonkey has a premium level that’s accessible for a very reasonable $33/year which unlocks a number of benefits, including ad-free editing and a host of additional effects and overlays (the themes alone are probably worth the cost, if you do a lot of holiday-specific work for yourself or for clients).
Three different options for your various image-manipulation needs, ranging from advanced to quick-and-dirty make Pixlr a solid choice for whatever you’re looking to create. Using the Editor, which gives the most options for editing & creating tasks, you can start with a blank canvas, or with an image file from your hard drive or online.
Now, the downside is that the Editor approaches Photoshop-levels of complexity. If you’re not comfortable with that, try the Pixlr Express option. There’s also an Automatic option which is supposed to be “playful” – I found it somewhat less than intuitive, but it’s definitely worth checking out for a variety of borders and overlay effects.
If you’re working with images with the aim to share them on Pinterest, Pinwords is an excellent choice. It makes pinning your edited files super-easy. Billed as requiring “no photoshop skills,” it starts with a fairly simple choice – upload a file or choose a pre-selected template/background – and then pretty much walks you through the process.
A few possible drawbacks (that may or may not matter to you at all, depending on your goal):
- The resulting images are branded with the Pinwords logo, somewhat discreetly at the bottom.
- There’s no choice of formatting here – JPG is what you get.
- While the clear focus on Pinterest is nifty if that’s where you’re aiming your image, and there are other options for sharing (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), there’s no clear download option. You can, however, right-click (or Ctrl-click on Macs) and save the image the old-fashioned way. I used that method with the following example created on Pinwords:
BannerSnack’s big advantage over the other three tools is its assortment of differently-dimensioned container templates. Select the template you want to use at the top of the editor page, choosing from seventeen separate options ranging from large leaderboard banners to small square ads of 250px.
You can also choose to start from scratch and specify dimensions instead – which you’ll have to do if you’re looking to create a Facebook cover image, as the appropriate dimensions (851 x 315 pixels) aren’t among the pre-fab templates.
BannerSnack also has quite a few image templates available for each of its container size templates, if inspiration is failing you at the moment. Editing options approach Photoshop levels of complexity and customization, but they’re all fairly self-explanatory in their labeling. Then, once you make the banner you can either download it, or get the code to embed it into your site via HTML or a widget.
Which Tool Is Right For You?
I suggest playing around with all four – try creating the same end-result file with the same source material, and see which one you find most intuitive, and easiest to control. For me, that’s PicMonkey, but you may need or want the additional filters and effects of something that’s more Photoshop-like, such as Pixlr’s advanced Editor option.
Do you have a favorite image editing secret weapon I didn’t mention in this post? Share it in the comments!