Are you wanting to create more visual content but don’t know where to start?
I asked 19 visual social media experts about their favourite, go-to, can’t-live-without visual content tools.
What follows is their best of the best picks, all wrapped up into a post for you.
Our 19 experts don’t just “talk” about visual content online. They create visual content on a daily basis.
They are in the trenches creating everything from images to infographics for their businesses, websites, blogs and social media channels.
They know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to visual content creation tools.
They know which “go-to” tools they use daily.
They know which tools they simply can’t live without. And they have shared them in this post!
When asking the Pros to contribute to this awesome list, I made it very clear that they should:
- Pick the visual content tools they use daily (or most regularly) and not just the ones they think others won’t mention (ie repeats are ok in this post)
- Not worry about listing a tool that may be already listed – because they think the tool is not easy to use, or not mainstream enough, or is already a crowd favourite.
- Give a reason for choosing each tool – why they love it and use it regularly.
These are the top 3 responses from each expert, along with their reasons for choosing each tool. There are 36 different tools in total, not counting the popular duplicates!
These guys may be Pros but they have one thing in common – they all want to create visual content quickly and easily. Many of these Pros are not designers, but they know how to use tools effectively.
Pssst: This list is jam-packed with some awesome tools, but if you want to get the super condensed version, be sure to make it to the end of this post as we have a cool cheat-sheet for you with the Top 5 Tools the Pros Can’t Live Without (funnily enough, these are 5 of my favourites too!).
Syed Balkhi, Online Entrepreneur
Syed is an online entrepreneur and founder of WPBeginner, OptinMonster, among dozens of other websites. Over 400 million people visit his websites (yes you read that right), and I can safely say that Syed is one of the smartest guys I know when it comes to content marketing. Oh, and did I mention he is pretty savvy with design too?
Unlimited power, no restriction. A bit old school, but this will never let you down. I find it more reliable than any other application in the market.
When I’m on the go or specially at conferences, I use InstaQuote to easily create quotes to share to my Instagram and Twitter followers. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.
Instead of buying tons of image packs, I use Unsplash’s free subscription service. It sends you 10 new images every day. All are high quality and they’re released under CC0 meaning you can use them however you want, no copyrights. (editor’s note: currently it’s 10 images every 10 days).
Jenn Herman – Social Media Consultant & Instagram Trainer
Jenn is a globally recognized Instagram expert and founder of the award-winning blog Jenn’s Trends. If you want to keep up with trends in social media management then be sure to follow Jenn for awesome advice!
I love the Instagram app for its ability to turn an average photo into something beautiful. Use the filters and photo editing tools to enhance your photos and create unique, branded content for all your marketing needs. Available on iPhone and Android.
PhotoGrid is an app that I use to share to Instagram but you can use to create graphics to share anywhere. This app allows you to import non-square shaped photos onto a square background, edit backgrounds, add borders, and add text overlays to images to create compelling calls-to-action and motivational quotes to your own images for unique and fresh visual content. Available on iPhone and Android.
This usually gets a laugh or an aha moment. I love this simple software that most of us are comfortable with to create all my own personalized and branded content. It’s easy to use, manipulate, and create your own designs without needing fancy software experience or training.
Zach Kitchske, Head of Communications, Canva
Zach is Head of Communications for Canva, an online platform that makes graphic design simple for everyone. He has been featured regularly in publications such as Inc., Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes and The Next Web talking about visual content. Of course Zach uses Canva (a master uses his own tools, as do many of the experts contributing to this post), but Zach has some other great tools to share too:
Canva makes it super easy to create graphics that get engagement on social media. With hundreds of layouts for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +, it shouldn’t take long at all to create something that stands out and looks great online. There’s plenty of other design types for marketers too, from email headers to blog graphics!
This is a fantastic free plug-in for Google Chrome that allows you to get the HEX color code for any color from a webpage. Very handy when you see a color you like and want to use it in your designs.
Designspiration not only has stacks of great design inspiration, it also has a cool feature that allows you to search by color palette. By doing a color search, you can pick up to 5 colors you like and see all the designs that have used that palette. It’s a great way to get inspiration for new designs.
Ian Cleary, Razor Social
Ian is the founder of Razor Social where he helps companies get better results on social media through the smart use of tools and technology. He’s also pretty smart himself and is my go-to guy when it comes to Tools. Be sure to check out his Tool Directory on Razor Social.
We use Canva for our main images in our blog and also for sharing content on social media channels. Simple to use and we use it every day.
Love using this app to dress up any images we want to share from my mobile phone.
When you want to make more significant changes to your images Pixlr provides an easy to use editor with great features
Cynthia is the CEO and founder of Oh So Pinteresting. She has been featured by Social Media Examiner and Entrepreneur and is considered a leading expert on Pinterest. She is also one of my go-to-people for updates on all things pinnable!
Every piece of content I create for my business, whether it’s a blog post, a video or podcast show notes needs to include an eye-catching image. For my business, it’s crucial that it’s a pinnable image meaning that it will be a tall images as well as an image that conveys the message of the piece of content it links to. I use Pinterest to monitor trends and for inspiration for layout and design ideas.
Since Canva came on the scene it has saved me so much time and has helped me to significantly improve the quality of my images. It’s easy to use and it saves my work so I can make changes to it anytime I want.
I love the collage feature of PicMonkey. It makes it super easy to create tall infographic-style image that are perfect for Pinterest.
Rebekah Radice, Digital Marketing & Social Media Strategist
Rebekah is the founder of Rebekah Radice, LLC and a founding partner of Imagine WOW; digital marketing agencies committed to helping business professionals align strategy and intention for breakthrough social media results. There is a reason why Rebekah was listed as one of the Top Ten Content Marketers of 2014 and recently one of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs by Social Media Examiner. Her knowledge of social media, content strategy and branding is Top 10, and it’s no surprise she has a huge following.
Who doesn’t love a tool that completely simplifies the graphic design process? I have been a fan of Canva since it’s inception and next to Photoshop, this is my daily go-to tool. Now that they’ve taken it from online to app, it’s the perfect all-around tool.
Over is an app available for Android and IPhone and one of my original go-to apps. While I love Wordswag as well, Over keeps me coming back with features that give me far more flexibility over the design.
QuotesCover is a busy marketers dream! This online tools takes the ease of Canva and marries it with the built in templates and fonts of Over and Wordswag. There are no design skills needed with QuotesCover. Simply add your text, choose your background and font and voila, you’re done!
For those of you that are visual creatures, here is the SlideShare (or you can jump to the Cheat Sheet at the end of this post).
Nik Parks, Founder of Launching Creative
Nik Parks is the co-founder of Launching Creative and the host of the Launching Creative Podcast, where he helps creative individuals become business savvy creative professionals. The guy that spearheaded the Anti-Starving Artist movement, Nick is super-creative and teaches other creative people how to earn money from their talents. I wanted his input on this post!
I use this Chrome extension for inspiration. Every time you open a new tab, you’re provided with a new color palette and a new set of font combinations””it’s brilliant.
This app might be a bit too feminine for some brands but it’s a wonderful way to spruce up your photos. It’s filled with beautiful fonts and filters, which is great for photography challenged creative professionals like myself. Available on iOS and Android
Some people (myself included) struggle to capture visually appealing photographs. Afterlight’s scalable frames, textures, and tweakable filters can be a real lifesaver. Available on iOS and Android
Aaron Lee, PostPlanner
Aaron is a social media manager, entrepreneur, and Grand Master of Customer Delight at Post Planner. He’s a.k.a. @AskAaronLee on Twitter and has a huge loyal following, which is no surprise as he truly is one of the most savvy social media experts on the net. When Aaron writes a blog post, just read it (just sayin’) – especially if it is one of his posts on the awesome Post Planner Blog. It’s no surprise that Aaron was ranked 5th on the Social Media Power Influencers list by Forbes in 2013.
Canva is like graphic design for dummies. It comes with great design options and will make you feel like a graphic designer.
Old school but I have been using photoshop for YEARS. What I love is I can save templates (actions) and replicate designs in less than a minute.
Azure Collier, Content Manager at Constant Contact
Azure manages Constant Contact‘s Pinterest and Instagram channels, and creates educational webinar and blog content for small businesses on social media and email marketing best practices. Hot Tip: if you want to see what is possible with social media for business, follow Azure and her team at Constant Contact.
#1 PicMonkey (royale/paid version)
I love PicMonkey because it takes its tools from the best parts of a graphic designer’s and photographer’s brains. You have all the basics you need, but also a lot of instant, extra options like collages, overlays, fonts, and themes to bring ideas and creativity to your images.
Canva is a great a la carte platform – you have free options for templates, icons and backgrounds; you can pay $1 for some images and backgrounds; or you can upload your own. They also make the design process a little easier with templates already sized for each of the social networks, as well as suggested layouts that you can purchase or use for inspiration.
Photoshop is the old school industry standard with endless tools and possibilities. Once you know some basic techniques, you can create some standard templates (for instance, I have templates for pinnable images to link to our blog posts), then bring in your colors, branding and other design elements (like logos and icons for your business) to quickly create images to go with your social media or blog content.
Apu Gupta, CEO at Curalate
Apu is the CEO and co-founder of Curalate, the all-in-one visual marketing platform for Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr & Facebook. If you want to get to know the visual web, then talk to Apu…with Curalate analysing over 200,000,000 images per day, he knows more about visual content strategy than anyone I know.
#1 VSCO Cam
VSCO and other image editing tools allow us to take on new and transformative roles – as artists, as journalists, as explorers. It’s amazing how something that’s free and so easily obtainable can have that effect on so many people. Available for iPhone & Android.
Part of the power of digital photography is that it allows us to experiment and have fun with our surroundings. It’s not just about selfies either. You can completely change the perspective of your images with this simple, quirky accessory.
Similarly, tools like the olloclip help us view the world around us quite literally through new eyes. Fisheye and wide-angle lenses are just a couple of the ways you can get creative with your photos.
Ben Wong, WordSwag
Ben is the founder and creator of the amazing typography app WordSwag and also the newer Videohance for editing video in real time on your phone. These are two of my favourite tools at the moment – WordSwag gets used almost daily and I wish I had hours and hours to play with Videohance as it is so cool! Be sure to check them both out.
I’m probably weird but when I was 10 years old, I was obsessed with drawing, and asked my mom if she could buy me this program. She obliged and it’s been my go to tool for anything visual since then – from sketching ideas to creating graphics to designing apps.
When I have the time, I love using Lightroom to add another dimension to my photography. It’s like Photoshop but in a much more streamlined package.
Apologies for plugging my app here, but it’s still my go to when I need to create graphics or content for social media. I recently added free imagery from Pixabay and am regularly impressed by their quality of photography 🙂
No apologies necessary Ben – I would have been disappointed if you didn’t – a master creates and uses his own tools!
Dustin W. Stout, Designer & Social Media Consultant at Dustn.tv
Dustin is a designer, branding enthusiast, social media consultant and storyteller. CMO of Weal Media, digital marketing and PR firm. Dustin’s blog Dustn.tv is truly a place where “social media and creativity” collide… he shares awesome tips for design and branding but in a way that everyone can benefit, not just designers.
#3 Photoshop CC
Peg Fitzpatrick, Author of The Art of Social Media
Peg is the Co-author of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users and social media strategist focusing on Pinterest marketing and visual media. Peg is also one of the most productive and creative people I know on social media. If you ever get to watch Peg in action…creating, posting and engaging visual content, then you will learn a thing or two! This post would not have been complete without knowing the top tools used by this master!
#2 A sharpie and legal pad or journal
I still like to plan some of my content 100% old-school and like to keep writing materials handy so I can catch my ideas. I have a lot of great ideas during conversations so I like to scribble them down.
This is where I keep my digital ideas. I use it on my smartphone, tablet, and laptop as well as with the Chrome Extension. No matter what device I’m on I can easily locate what I need. I like to create notes that have images, links, and sometimes just the title to build on while I’m thinking of my content.
Grab the Cheat Sheet!
Want to Fast Track these tools and get the Cheat Sheet with the Top 5 Can’t-Do-Without Tools from all 36 of them? Click the link to grab it now!
Rich Brooks, Flyte New Media
Rich is the president of Flyte New Media, a web design and internet marketing company. He’s also the founder of The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference and The Marketing Agents Podcast. Rich is also a rare combination of someone who “gets” design and branding and understands social!
Yes, I know it’s old school, that it’s ginormous, that it’s expensive! But, hell, I’m a desktop guy! Nothing rivals it in terms of sheer power and macros make light work of making all of my blog post images have a consistent look and feel.
Instagram is easy to use, easy to share, and an amazing, robust community, One of my favorite social platforms to boot.
Sue B. Zimmerman, The Instagram Expert
Sue B. Zimmerman is the founder of the online Instagram course Insta-Resultsâ„¢, the author of Instagram Basics for your Business, a CreativeLive instructor, a speaker and business coach. She teaches entrepreneurs, business execs, and marketing professionals how to leverage the power of Instagram for real business results. Sue is also zany, fun and so enthusiastic about Instagram that you know she doesn’t miss a trick (which makes a great go-to-Instagram-Gal if you ask me!).
#1 Camera Plus
Visual content will never be the same now that we have the Camera+ app. One of the most valuable tips for Instagram users is to make sure that every single photo you post is a high quality awesome image. This will ensure you attract the right follower and they know you are serious about what is delivered to their feed. Camera Plus is the premier app for iphone and ipad that helps you post the best pics always with the use of handy photo improvement features.
This app for Android and iphone offers something very simple but critical to better posts on Instagram. Use it to post entire images. Meaning, you do not need to cut off pieces of your image anymore to crop the photo to the right size for a platform. Post full size images, simply amazing. Available on Android and iOS.
Have I said enough about this one yet? The Word Swag app for iphone lets you add awesome text to your photos in seconds. Bam. And now the updated version has added a library of over 290,000 free images you can also use as backgrounds to create Instagram posts and more that differentiate you from everyone else in your space.
Angelo Dodaro, Top Dog Social Media
I’m not always interested in firing up Photoshop if I need to do something simple like remove a background from an image. For these tasks, I use Acorn for OSX because it’s quick, easy and gets the job done.
Hands down my new favourite tool for creating visual content in 2014 and I expect it to come up multiple times in this list. Rightfully so! The interface is so user friendly that it will make the graphically-challenged feel instantly capable of creating professional graphics to showcase their content.
Sometimes more basic programs like Acorn and Canva aren’t going to cut it when you have a more specific vision to execute…this is where Adobe Creative Cloud will save your butt. The ability to work on an iPad and backup to the cloud is also a huge perk for content creators on the go.
Amy Porterfield, Facebook Marketing Strategist
By far, Canva is my favorite app for quickly creating all my visual content. It’s simple, easy to use platform helps even a non-techie girl like me create content my followers will enjoy.
We know that images on Facebook along with an engaging question are sure to get more likes, shares and comments. WordSwags lets you easily take an image, and pair it with a witty, inspiring or fun quote. WordSwag easily lets you add text to photos in their fun little app. I love it!
Viral content, anyone? An infographic done well can go viral very quickly. Piktochart is a go-to app when wanting to create infographics to tell a story or share information. They have an easy editor that makes it a breeze to use.
Kim Garst, Boom Social Media
I love Canva for two reasons! One it allows me to create visual content for multiple social platforms, quickly and easily. The second reason I love Canva is that my team and I can use it as a collaboration tool. We can all see the graphics, make suggestions and changes as needed.
Pictaculous is a color palette generator and allows you to upload any image and get a matching color palette within seconds. If you have ever wondered what colors to use with a specific image, this will solve that problem!
I love Wordswag because I can create amazing graphics on the fly, from my phone! Recently, Wordswag updated their app to include a transparent background option. I am loving this upgrade because now I can use that transparent “text” on any photo.
Pauline Cabrera, Digital Strategist, Web Designer & Graphic Designer.
This is the most awesome tool I’ve ever had and I’ve been using it since I was 16! It’s been my partner since my business was born. It’s awesome because:
- It’s powerful (no doubt). It provides endless features. I use it basically for everything – for photo editing, for creating blog post images, infographics and much more. I just can’t live without it!
- One of the best features they have is the ”˜Processing a batch of files’. I love how I can save multiple images at once, and use actions for all open images.
- Another favorite of mine is their ”˜Action’ feature. I love how it automates my workflow. It saves me time and help me be more productive.
It’s awesome because..
- It’s easy to take a screenshot. You can take a screenshot on some parts of your screen or the whole screen.
- I love the built-in editor! You can add arrows, add text, draw on your image, pixelate, and add a marker or highlight some parts of your screenshot without noob-looking output. It’s like a premium ”˜paint’ tool.
- I love how it automatically sync the images to Evernote and easily share them via Mail / iMessage (YES!!!) / Twitter / Facebook
This is my favorite iphone photo collage editor app! It’s awesome because…
- It’s slick. I love the design and they don’t put too much ads unlike other apps.
- Lots of awesome features. You can adjust the frame, the background, add text and inject some cute stamps (really cute ones!) on your photo.
- Super easy to use! You can save it to your camera roll, other apps and you can easily share it via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Flickr.
Phew! That’s 36 Visual Content Creation Tools in Total…
Yes, that’s 19 experts, 36 tools in total (not counting a few of the tools mentioned more than once!).
As business owners, we are all pretty lucky when it comes to visual content design. We have not always had the calibre of desktop apps, tools and programs that we have available to us now. Just two years ago, most of these tools were not in existence (and the magic they achieve was not possible for the average business owner like you and me).
Grab the Cheat Sheet!
Want to Fast Track these tools and get the Cheat Sheet with the Top 5 Can’t-Do-Without Tools from all 36 of them? Click the link to grab it now!
Now, you may be wondering what my Top 3 Tools are? Guess what? They are all listed in the Cheat Sheet, and I have to say I will be taking a few new tools out for a spin too – namely Quotes Cover, Palletab, and I have been loving learning to use VSCOCam.
But to get the Top 5 list, be sure to grab the cheat sheet.
Over to you!
What are your top 3 tools for visual content creation – and which tool from this list will you try first?
Love this post? Grab my free training to get your visual content strategy started!