Craft blogging is all about telling visual stories. You make things and then show what you've made, teach how you made it, and explain the techniques you used. To do it you (and I) depend heavily on images. Great visuals convey meaning more effectively than words. They attract the eyes of new readers, they make posts memorable, and they make your blog (or ebook or pattern or whatever digital content you're creating) a delight to take in.
I'm incredibly excited to show two new graphic design hacks that I've recently discovered, and to share them both with you, so that we can all make lovely and compelling images easily. Perhaps best of all, they're both free and neither requires any special training.
Are you ready for amazing?
Death to Stock Photo
Death to Stock Photo is a very simple subscription service. Sign up for free and once a month you'll get an email containing a pack of beautiful high-resolution stock photos. You can do whatever you want with these images – use them in blog posts or buttons, for example – and not worry about licensing restrictions.
I signed up and, like the eager beaver that I am, mentioned on Twitter how excited I was about the whole thing. David Sherry, co-founder of Death to Stock Photo, offered to email me a pack so I wouldn't have to wait until next month (how nice!).
What I got took my breath away. This pack has a food theme. Check it out:
Wow! So gorgeous. See that pomegranate photo up there at the top of this post? This is where it came from. I'm collecting all the photos in a folder on my desktop so I'll always have a perfect photo when I need one.
I got curious about how this whole idea came about so I asked David to tell me more about it.
"Allie Lehman, co-founder of DTTSP, and I are both full time freelancers ourselves, and have had some difficulty in finding authentic looking imagery online in the past. Being that we both shoot photos as well, we decided to do something about it."
"We got started this past July as a way to help our fellow blogger, designer, and developer friends produce their best work without having to compromise on photography. We love seeing what people have created with our work, and have a great time talking with different creatives who are involved in the project."
"We also have a premium subscription plan that allows people to join the cause, receive more images per month, and store all of our photos online for download at any time. This helps us pay our hosting bill."
Allie has a nice blog herself, by the way. I especially love her series Tips on Blogging.
Go sign up for Death to Stock Photo and begin building an image library for future projects.
Once you've got a photo, you can easily add some graphic elements and text to these puppies with another new service that will knock your socks off: Canva.
Canva is a new graphic design sight that, dare I say it, rivals PicMonkey. In fact…I think it might be better than PicMonkey in some key ways (I can't believe I'm saying this. PicMonkey, I still love you for photo editing!). But Canva. Wow.
I made this graphic in 60 seconds.
Start a new design on Canva by choosing what you'd like to make: a blog graphic, a button, a Facebook cover, a business card, among others.
A new browser window will open for your project and you'll see dozens of pre-designed templates you can use to get started.
I chose to make a new Facebook cover. For those of us who are graphic design challenged, these are brilliant. I liken it to making a holiday card on a site like Tiny Prints. Each template is professionally designed so your finished product looks gorgeous without much effort.
A Facebook cover image I made in just a few minutes on Canva.
You can edit the colors, add elements, upload your own images or your logo, and overlay all sorts of awesome graphics and backgrounds.
For $1 each you can purchase premium images and graphic elements from Canva to use in your project. There's plenty of great elements and images to use for free, but I love this micro-payment idea. Like purchasing a single song on iTunes, I'm much more likely to buy a single graphic element for my project than a monthly subscription, even if it means I spend more overall. The psychology of spending is weird that way.
To use Canva you have to create a free account, which is awesome because it means the photos you upload and the designs you create stay in your account (unlike in PicMonkey where they're gone when you shut your browser window). You can go back later and edit some more. This is fantastic!
Canva also allows you to share your project with another user who can edit it and make changes. How amazing is this for collaborative projects! This means I can make a draft of a graphic and then my collaborator can change the colors or the font and send it back to me. We can work together!
Wait, there's one more thing! You can easily save your finished graphic as a PDF. Need to make a beautiful cover for your next pattern? Ta da! I'm in love.
Canva is still in closed beta. Sign up to reserve yourself a spot. I got an acceptance email a few days after signing up.
Use these two sites in combination and you've got a world of beautiful graphics for your craft blog right at your fingertips, for free, no design experience needed. 2014 is going to be the year of awesome images.