Creating a visual marketing campaign is not just about telling the story of your brand or product, but finding the right tools to do it.
The marketplace is not hungry for tools, but some of them can be extremely costly (hello Photoshop) and complicated to use (another glance at Photoshop).
If you just need a tool that works without requiring you to take a course, and without requiring a hefty part of your budget, you’ve come to the right place. Visual marketing is pretty much a requirement these days, and the tools that follow will help you get your message across cleanly and quickly.
Get your bookmarking finger ready because we’re about to look at the best tools in the business for designing a visual marketing campaign.
First, we’re going to start with finding the right images, if you don’t already have one.
01. Tools for Finding Images
We made a huge list of 74 places to find free, high quality stock photos for your personal and commercial projects. Head over here to bookmark the ultimate guide to free stock images. We’re going to take a look at a few of our favorites.
Foter. Foter scours through multiples sources to populate your search results with relevant photos. Searching is easy, license details (such as if you can use it without attribution) is plainly stated, and downloading gives you multiple size options.
Gratisography. Gratisography is a collection of free to use photos from one photographer, Ryan McGuire. No attribution, no attitude, just great looking pictures.
Pixabay. Pixabay is a personal favorite because of its ease of search and its high quality photos, vectors, and illustrations.
FreePik. Whether you need inspiration or an graphic resource, FreePik is the best place on the web for finding any element imaginable. It specializes in vectors, but also includes icons, PSDs, and photos. The resources are provided for free by a team of highly skilled designers, but do require attribution. Use these elements to spice up your marketing campaign.
Unsplash. Unsplash is a big resource for free high quality, high resolution stock images. And the best part? There are no license limitations, you can use these beautiful images in any capacity to your heart’s content.
CG Textures. You never quite know when you need a good texture, and we don’t always have the option to go out and take a snapshot of them ourselves, so that’s where CG Textures comes to the rescue. With a huge database of meticulously organised textures, you’ll never be devoid of textures again.
Flickr Creative Commons. You may recognise Flickr as a site usually reserved for protected images, but if you search within the creative commons, you will find an abundance of images that you are able to use (check the licensing to double check the do’s and don’ts). Constantly updated and a huge catalogue, there is certainly the right image for you and your campaign somewhere within.
The Pattern Library. Just like the name suggests, this is a library for all kinds of patterns for just about every situation. Completely downloadable and free to use, these patterns can easily be used within your designs to pep them up, or simply as some inspiration.
02. Tools for Finding Inspiration
Niice. With a name like Niice, you’re sure to find some good inspiration inside. This visual search engine showcases some of best and current trends in design. Sign up is free and gives you access to creating 5 mood boards. However, if you truly fall in love with Niice, you can subscribe to a premium option for unlimited mood boards and no banner advertisements. One of the best parts of Niice is how easy it is to add images to your moodboard. If you’re accustomed to Pinterest, you’ll enjoy the one click and done approach on Niice.
Pinterest. Speaking of Pinterest, although it can get clunky at times, it’s still an awesome resource for finding inspiration. From infographics to newsletter designs, Pinterest should be on your go-to list for seeing what other brands are doing to market themselves. And, after you’ve completed your visual marketing campaign, be sure to pin your design to Pinterest.
500px. Photos becomes art in the hands of the right photographer. That’s exactly what you’ll find in 500px. This vibrant community of photographers showcase some of the most breathtaking images you’ll ever see. If you like what you see, you may even be able to purchase it. 500px also offers a marketplace where members sell premium quality, royalty free photos for your visual marketing needs. You can buy photos individually or subscribe and save.
Behance. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or to hire an artist or designer for your campaign, Behance provides a pool of incredible talent. Unlike other design repositories that are photo-heavy, on Behance you’ll find a lot more illustrations and graphic design.
Designspiration. If you’re looking for a straight-forward but easy to use repository of great design, look no further than the aptly titled Designspiration. To search for an idea or topic, simply start typing. Not only is Designspiration so simple to navigate, you won’t have to worry about risque images popping up on your work computer because of the site’s no nudity policy.
Crayon. Looking for some carefully curated pieces of marketing design inspiration? Well, look no further than Crayon. A comprehensive, well organised and beautifully managed site that lets you save, search and share your favourite pieces of online marketing design. A quick browse through Crayon’s archives makes it hard to not be inspired.
Moodboard. A mood board is a hugely valuable tool to get yourself and your peers on the same visual and aesthetic page, and the site Moodboard makes it all so much easier. Simply drag and drop any pieces of inspiration that fit your intended ‘mood’ into the interface and let Moodboard take care of the rest. A simple, fast and easy way to build up an insanely useful visual board.
Campaign Monitor. A beautifully compiled database of some gorgeous pieces of email inspiration. Whether you’re designing for email directly as a part of your visual marketing or another medium all together, this site is a fantastic resource for inspiration. If you’re researching email design, also don’t forget to check out our top 50 picks.
03. Tools for Capturing Your Own Images
VSCO Cam. Armed with the right app, your smartphone could rival a high-priced DSLR camera any day of the week. If you’re working with a meager budget, be assured that you can create high quality images with an app on your mobile device. One of the best in the market happens to be free, and its name is VSCO Cam. Use VSCO Cam to take your photos instead of your device’s native photo app. VSCO Cam gives you power to create professional-looking edits to your photos without being trapped in the Instagram bubble. When you’re done with your edits, you can share your photos with your social media over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
Awesome Screenshot. There comes a time in everyone’s life where you need a good screenshot. For web-based products and SaaS, you may need to show how to use your product as part of your visual marketing campaign. Or perhaps you’d like to share your workflow with others as a teaser for a course tutorial.
Whatever the reason, Awesome Screenshot is an awesome choice. Not only can you capture the entire page (not just what’s visible on the screen), but you can annotate focal points and blur out the stuff you don’t want to be seen. You can also share your screenshot with your social media directly from Awesome Screenshot.
Gyazo. GIFs are increasingly appearing just about everywhere, and while the average Adobe-savvy designer can whip one up in no time, Gyazo provides a more entry-level way to capture and create a GIF from scratch. Completely free and straightforward to use, Gyazo is a great introduction to the world of moving images.
TiltShift Effect | Miniatures: Tilt-Shift Time Lapse Videos. If you’re on an Apple iOS, you too can use tilt shift in your visual marketing. Consider TiltShift effect for your still photography or Miniatures for your videos.
04. Tools for Finding Fonts
DaFont. DaFont is a first choice for finding new, popular, and off-the-wall font choices for a visual marketing campaign. Searching is easy. You can search by style, popularity, or recently added. And, you can input your own text to get a preview of what the text will look like in your new font before downloading. Be sure to verify licenses before downloading. Some fonts don’t allow for commercial use.
Font Squirrel. Like DaFont, Font Squirrel is a repository of fonts, but it goes one step further by providing fonts that are completely free for commercial use. You can search by classifications such as Serif, Sans Serif, Retro, or Hand Drawn. It’s free, easy, well-designed site that makes font hunting a fun activity.
WhatTheFont! Have you ever come across a font that you just can’t get out of your head? You know it will be perfect for your campaign, but you just don’t want the the name is? WhatTheFont! is an incredible resource for finding that specific font so that you can use it in your own marketing campaign. Upload an image (such as a cropped screenshot) of the font to WhatTheFont! and you’ll receive the exact image name.
Type Genius. Need to pair two fonts together? Type Genius finds the perfect match for one font type, and gives you a live example of the two fonts working together. This site let’s you peek over the shoulder of other designers to see which fonts look great together.
Fontface Ninja. Have you ever envied a website’s beautiful type selection? Well, Fontface Ninja is here to get you one step closer to replicating that typographic beauty. Simply install this extension to your browser and whenever you come across a webpage with stunning type, Fontface Ninja will tell you immediately the name, size and even line spacing of each piece of type.
Beautiful Web Type. Do you prefer to see typefaces in action before downloading them? Well Beautiful Web Type has you covered by providing a site that showcases the best Google fonts by displaying them in action. A quick and easy way to make informed typographical decisions!
Font Park. Font Park is the biggest database of free fonts for both commercial and noncommercial use. With over 70,000 fonts under their belt, live preview functions and a decent amount of categories to help sort the content, Font Park will certainly have something to fit your needs.
Lost Type. A small but stylish database of the current trendiest typefaces, all available for download under a ‘pay what you like’ deal where you can pay anything from $0 to $1000+.
The League of Moveable Type. Yet another database of carefully selected, beautiful, and free typefaces. Chosen by hand to ensure only the highest of quality typefaces are included, this site is a one stop shop for some beautiful typographic treats.
Type Wolf. Created by a designer who was fed up with seeing example type set only in “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, Type Wolf catalogues various images of typefaces out in the wild, on real websites and in actual use. A great resource to browse through for when you feel a little uninspired typographically-speaking.
Now if you’re looking for the perfect free font but feeling a little overwhelmed by these resources, don’t forget Canva has over 140 curated free fonts to choose from.
05. Tools for Finding the Perfect Color
ColourLovers. One of the best reasons to choose ColourLovers is for the social aspect. With this site, you’ll find custom created color palettes from its enthusiastic community of, well, colourlovers. ColourLovers combines unusual colors to amplify the feelings of harmony, excitement, believability– all of the feelings you may want to inspire in your visual marketing campaign.
ColorZilla. Another must-have browser extension for color picking on the go: ColorZilla. Available in both Chrome and Firefox, ColorZilla lets you quickly read any color on your browser page. This can come in handy if you need to quickly find the color used on an image, logo, or graphic element.
Pictaculous. Do you have a photo that you really love because of the color story? Perhaps you want to recapture that mood for your visual campaign. Pictaculous is a simple tool that will help you do just that. Upload the photo to Pictaculous and it will magically return a 5 color palette matching the hues in your image.
Pictaculous does something else great, also. It gives you recommendations for different color schemes matching at least one of the colors in your uploaded photo. If you’re not married to one particular palette, play around with Pictaculous to find a new color arrangements.
Colorful Gradients. A well-crafted gradient can make a world of difference to your design, but they aren’t always the easiest things to create. For a little bit of inspiration for all your gradient needs, look no further than Colorful Gradients. It does what it says on the tin: catalogues a beautiful selection of colourful gradients to make your life just that little bit easier.
0 to 255. Ever find a colour that is almost perfect, but could be that little bit better? Well, that’s where 0 to 255 comes in handy. The premise of the tool sounds insanely simple, but it actually comes in handy more than you’d think. What 0 to 255 does is displays the variations of any colour you input, the lighter and the darker shades, to make your colour picking process 255% easier.
Design Seeds. Want to have a look through some beautiful palettes and the images that inspired them? Look no further than Design Seeds. A beautiful site that compiles palettes sampled from images. A great source of inspiration and an easy way to design a palette that sticks!
Coolors. Coolors is a simple, beautiful and quick way to devise a unique palette that fits your needs. With a minimally designed interface that puts the palette in focus, creating an effective palette was never easier.
Google Chrome Eye Dropper Extension. Ever see a colour used on a website that you love, or need to match your design to a specific hue? Install this extension to your Google Chrome browser for on-the-go colour sampling that takes the stress and time out of finding that one specific colour.
06. Tools for Designing from Scratch
Canva. Canva combines a stock library of over 1 million photographs, illustrations and graphics with a drag-and-drop design tool – making it the ultimate visual content creation resource. Including over 140 free fonts to choose from as well as the ability to edit and enhance images, Canva allows you to create designs with professional results – even if you don’t have any graphic design experience.
As well as Canva’s easy to use functionality, our epic library of hundreds of professionally designed templates can be customized to suit any design. Free to use, Canva allows you to create awesome branded social media graphics, email designs, flyers, brochures, posters and more.
Animoto. Cloud-based and perfect for creating short, attention-grabbing videos, Animoto takes all of the hard work about video editing and gives you a stellar product in minutes, not days. What’s even better– you can peruse their extensive music library to add high quality and royalty free music to spice up your video.
PowToon. Your audience may be adult, but who isn’t captivated by a cartoon? PowToon gives you the tools to create an engaging marketing video or presentation in a variety of styles. It skews to the funny, but as long as you’re not in the funeral business, most brands could benefit from lightening up in their marketing strategies.
CloudConvert. When beginning a design process, the last thing any of us want to do is get bogged down in technical errors like incorrect file formats. For a quick and easy solution to all your file format woes, check out CloudConvert, an online conversion software that supports over 206 formats of audio, video, document, ebook, archive, image, spreadsheet and presentation formats. Got a big file? No worries, CloudConvert can run in the background and email or notify you when it’s done, or it can save your newly converted file for safe keeping until you’re ready to use it.
Subtle Patterns. A garish pattern has the potential to break your design, but what about a subtle one? This database of beautifully simple (and yes, subtle) patterns can help you add something extra to your designs without overpowering them. Use them as a background, a texture, an added element to spruce up your design, whatever your use, enjoy them entirely for free! Do not though, that each beautiful pattern is open to commercial use but only with some form of credit.
Screen Sizes. Yet another insanely simple tool, but one that should definitely be saved in your bookmarks. Just as the title suggests, this webpage has a simple, comprehensive and detailed list of all the aspect ratios, physical sizes, operating systems etc. of the most common phones, tablets and monitors. It even ranks the devices by popularity. Definitely a resource to hang onto!
Desinion. Hailed as the social media for indecisive designers, Desinion is another feedback-oriented network that allows for you to post the two versions of your design that you’re tossing up between to allow for other designers to vote on which one is most effective. Seeing others’ opinions in plain numbers can be a huge timesaver for the indecisive amongst us.
Flat Icon. Icons are fantastic ways of representing links or ideas visually and directing attention. Flat Icon is a big database of simple, flat icons that are flexible and best of all, free. Whether you browse for inspiration or download a few yourself, Flat Icon is a good resource to have under your belt.
07. Tools for Sharing Visual Content
Tailwind. Marketing on Pinterest is huge right now, and if you haven’t considered it for your visual marketing campaign, you should. One of the best tools for managing and marketing over Pinterest is Tailwind. Use it to schedule your all of your pins (including your self-promotional) so that you don’t post a huge group all at once and alienate your audience.
Meet Edgar. Working exclusively with social platforms Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, Edgar is billed as “the only app that stops your social media updates from going to waste.” With Edgar, you can create, schedule, and distribute content over your social media profiles (up to 10 on the Starter Plan and up to 25 on the Premium Plan).
What makes Edgar unique is that after your content is delivered, it doesn’t vanish into the ether. It goes back to your queue for future distribution. This brilliant move makes it possible for your content to be seen by more eyes, and it eliminates gaps in your social media activity stream.
Instagram | Flipagram. For many of you, Instagram needs no introduction. It’s a fully visual platform where you can broadcast images to your followers. Instagram filters are legendary, and great way to get across a retro/ vintage-y look. What you may not be as familiar with is Flipagram. Flipagram allows you to create short music videos from videos and images. You can upload your Flipagram video onto Instagram or other social networks, including Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.
Post Planner. If you market on Facebook, we think Post Planner is a must. It allows you to schedule all of your Facebook posts in advance and have them automatically delivered at optimal times to reach your audience. We’ve partnered with Post Planner to help you create the best visual marketing campaign possible with our simple to use tools. You can learn how to create viral and engaging Facebook posts here.
08. Tools for Creating a SlideShow
GifDeck.in. Say you’ve created a slideshow, but all of your audience is on Twitter, and you don’t want to take a chance that they’ll follow you to another platform to view your slideshow. Bring your Slideshow to them. GifDeck allows you to create a .gif of your slideshow and then post it directly onto Twitter as playable media. No extra hoops to jump through. You can also share your newly gif’ed slideshow in emails or on your website or blog.
09. Tools for Tweaking and Enhancing Your Images
Thinglink. Use Thinglink to make your images and videos interactive. You can increase engagement with annotated notes, maps, polls, and rich media links. On your marketing campaign, you can customize your calls-to-action.
PlaceIt. Earlier, we talked about why you need Awesome Screenshot. But, if you want to take it one step further and package your screenshot in a fun and engaging way, don’t overlook PlaceIt. PlaceIt gives you over 600 free product mockups. You can drag and drop your screenshot or other image directly into the mockup. If you’d like a higher resolution image, you can pay per image or buy a subscription.
TinyPNG | TinyJPG. TinyPNG and TinyJPG are two simple tools for compressing and reducing the size of your images. Simply drag and drop your large files (up to 20 at at time, maximum 5 MB each) on the website and it will magically compress the size of your images, while not losing image quality.
GraphicBurger Mockups. So you’ve completed your design, it all looks great, but now what? A simple mockup can make the world of difference when displaying your work online or to a client, if you can’t afford to make actual prototypes. GraphicBurger’s mockup site has you covered, with a huge selection of mockups from t-shirts and book covers, right through to beer bottles and signage, give your design a more tangible feel with an easy-to-apply mockup.
10. Tools for Editing Your Videos
iMovie for iOS. We live in such an age where home videos can rival Hollywood productions. If you have a smartphone, you have the capability to create stunning video. But raw feed in itself won’t persuade, so take your iPhone produced videos to the next level with iMovie. Add voiceovers or music without fuss. The smartphone app is almost as robust as the desktop.
Magisto. Apple users don’t get all the fun. If you’re a proud Android phone user, you too can create killer videos with Magisto– an app that’s available on both Apple and Android devices. Magisto is geared toward the non-techie who just wants to create a beautiful video without getting caught up in the details. It magically and automatically edits your videos for free, but if you want advanced features, you’ll need to subscribe to their premium service.
WeVideo. If you’re looking for an online video editor, WeVideo is worth considering. Although WeVideo is available on mobile devices, you can upload and edit your videos from your desktop as well. Plans start at free but subscribing to premium or pro plans give you greater cloud storage, a wider selection of licensed songs, and email support.
Videolicious. The biggest reason to choose Videolicious is its extensive tutorial library. Although it’s easy to use, if you’re serious about producing a professional video for your marketing campaign, take a few courses from Videolicious Academy. Here, you’ll learn how to swap between between videos while recording live video– and it’s actually easier than it sounds.
Fly. Considered one of the best apps of 2014, Fly is a great option for teams. It’s comprehensive but intuitive. One of the most unique features of Fly is the ability to record from four different iPhones simultaneously. You can record one event from multiple angles, and then edit, splice, or switch between those videos on one phone.
It’s Your Turn
Do you know of a resource we left off the list? Share with us below!