How much time do you spend fussing over the words in a blog post? Probably a lot, right? The tone, the grammar, the storytelling – it has to be perfect. Unfortunately, we often don’t put in the same effort with another aspect of blogging that’s just as important: the blog post’s visuals.
A couple of years ago, Jeff Bullas wrote a great article listing six reasons to include images in your online marketing. Although the article is focused on businesses, it should be essential reading for bloggers and anyone else publishing content online. (And, yes, Bullas’ post does include an image — an excellent infographic that shows articles with images get 94 percent more total views.)
But as important as images are, finding one to include in a blog post often is an afterthought. I’ll admit I’ve been there before. And, boy, did I have excuses: I was on deadline and ran out of time. I didn’t know where to go to find an image. Graphic design is hard.
And it’s true — graphic design can be time-consuming and difficult. The good news is there are tools that make it easy for non-designers to find or create great images for their blogs; you just need to know where to go.
Here are 14 of the design resources we love:
1. Creative Commons Search: Creative Commons licenses make it easy for artists to share their creative work according to whatever conditions they prefer. Conversely, they also make it easy for bloggers to look for content that can be used freely and legally. There are lots of places to search for Creative Commons content; however, my favorite is search.creativecommons.org where you can specify which CC search service to use (options include Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, and the Open Clip Art Library) and what license parameters you want to use.
2. HubSpot’s Stock Photo Collection: There are a lot of stock photo services – some you subscribe to, others pay as you go. If you don’t have a budget, though, you still have options. HubSpot’s collection of 450-plus free photos is one of my favorites. You do have to provide your name and email address, and some of them are business-focused. But I’ve found a number of good images in their packs, especially holiday-themed images.
3. Death to the Stock Photo: One day, two photographers realized they had a lot of images sitting around and not getting used. They decided to email them out in packs to friends, freelancers, and businesses they knew were in need of better images. From that sprung Death to the Stock Photo, a monthly email of 10 gorgeous images that are free to use.
For $10 a month, users can upgrade to a premium subscription that includes access to all photos, past and future, and an extra image pack sent monthly. A portion of monthly sales also goes back into the creative community, funding photography trips around the world for future photo packs. If you want more visual inspiration, Unsplash works in a similar fashion, sending you 10 new photos every 10 days.
4. PR Newswire for Journalists Multimedia Gallery: There’s much more to our media site than customizable newsfeeds. Registered bloggers and other content creators have free access to thousands of high-res photos, videos, and multimedia. Log in, click the Multimedia tab, then browse topic categories or target your search by keyword. All multimedia is free to download and use for editorial purposes when credited to the image or video’s source company.
5. IconFinder: If icons are what you need, Copenhagen-based IconFinder hosts the world’s largest collection with more than 340,000 icons in stock. It also offers free icons under a variety of licenses for commercial and personal use. Either do a keyword search or browse the categories, then filter by free and premium. Prior to downloading, icon backgrounds can be set to white, black, gray, or transparent.
6. Canva: Although I’ve already blogged about my obsession with Canva, there’s no way I’m not including it on this list. It’s a blogging essential I use at least twice a week, and with the constant additions of tutorials and layout ideas, it’s one I see myself continuing to use.
The layout templates and collection of fonts, images, and backgrounds make it easy for anyone to design a basic graphic (they even have a seasonal card template for Valentine’s Day). More advanced photo editing tools are also available. The only time it will cost you to use Canva is if you use one of its premium design items, which cost $1 each.
7. GIMP: If you need desktop software for photo editing and retouching, drawing, resizing and other specialized tasks, but can’t invest in Photoshop or Illustrator, GIMP is your answer. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is freeware and offers a lot of tools. Dig through its tutorials to learn how to do red eye removal, add film grain, or other textures to your images, and other beginner through advanced tasks.
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