Time to talk graphics and I have to say things have come a long way with graphics apps since my days at university.
Back then, Photoshop and illustrator were only used in companies that could afford the software, your everyday Joe on the street didn’t have access.
Now we can create amazing graphics and illustrations without selling a kidney and even do it on our phones!
There are a lot of great illustration and graphics apps out there, I have dabbled with a few, these are the ones that I use on a regular basis, I’ll explain why, what I use each one for and how I use it, what I love and hate and what the current price point is. Then I’ll wrap up with how to pick the right app for you.
Some of these apps can post across to social media but I’m not going to address that as I don’t use it and haven’t tested their capabilities. I talk about how I schedule my posts over here.
Disclaimer: Some of the following links are referral or affiliate links which means I will get a commission if you decide to buy, at no cost to you.
STENCIL GRAPHICS APP
I got Stencil in an App Sumo deal, it was a $49-lifetime deal and I have been using it for years. If you want an easy to use, nothing too complicated app, Stencil wins. It works well on the computer but there isn’t a mobile app version, I have tried to use it online on my iPad Pro and let’s just say, we weren’t friends after a while.
I use this mostly for things such as YouTube thumbnails and website graphics that I have templates set up for. It’s quick for me to drop in, change the text/image and download.
- Easy to use, it’s not overwhelming like some of the more complicated apps.
- Good basic features for those who are not confident using graphics apps.
- Has the grid feature which is brilliant if you are creating graphics for Facebook Ads and need to keep under 20%
- The quotes feature is a nice touch and a quick and easy way to make quote cards for social media
- Good range of nicely designed templates that get added on a regular basis.
- The company listens to suggestion from users
- Easy to set up your branding logos, fonts & colours
- Only available on a computer
- Icons/stickers are not great
Basic available for free
OVER GRAPHICS APP
I use Over mostly on my iPad Pro, they do have a desktop version but I don’t enjoy using it plus the two platforms are not synced. I do believe they are working on that though. I create mostly Instagram graphics and printables for The Wonder Mom Success Club. The masking tool and the stickers/graphics elements are great, for me that is the selling point but it comes at a hefty price tag when you compare it to Canva.
- Beautiful, fun modern graphics.
- Graphics are inclusive and often new packs are added for the season.
- It’s great to use on the iPad Pro.
- It has some great features such as masking and filters.
- Ability to add layers including video layers.
- The desktop and mobile version are not synced.
- The desktop version is frustrating to use.
- Branding not easy on the desktop version.
Basic available for free
Teams – contact them for a quote
Canva Graphics Design App
I have a confession here, I used to hate Canva. It used to be super glitchy and slow and because so many people used it, you could tell right away they had used a Canva template. BUT I have to say they have upped their game and Canva is beyond a shadow of a doubt the queen of graphics apps right now!
The big thing with Canva is the pricing. You can go Pro and then you have free run of everything on there or use the free version and pay for specific elements – which can get expensive fast.
Because they have improved the app so much it also means that it is more complicated and can be totally overwhelming especially if you are new to the app or not very techie, there is a definite learning curve.
I have only recently gone back to using Canva and slowly started making new templates over there (I am a big fan of templates, it saves me so much time). Recently I have been using it to make Montessori PDFs and other teaching materials.
- Loads of templates, graphics, photos, GIFs…
- Resize feature is a time saver. Create one graphic then resize for other purposes.
- The animation tool is fun, quick and easy to use.
- Easy to set up branding.
- Has mobile and desktop apps and it syncs across both.
- Using the free version, the elements cost adds up quickly and legalities are confusing.
- Bit of a learning curve.
- The iPad pro app version is annoying when it comes to adding text.
Basic available for free (but you need to pay for some elements)
Enterprise $30/month per person
Classrooms + non-profits FREE (contact them for details)
“Just a minute Jo… Slides is not a graphics app! “
I know, I know, hear me out…
When I was starting out I used photoshop for most of my graphics but sometimes it was too much of a drag and if I wanted to create a PDF I couldn’t do that in Photoshop. Plus I was bootstrapping so I had to get creative.
Slides can be resized to whatever size you like and I like it so much more than Docs for creating PDFs. BUT… I also design graphics in there too, things like the navigation buttons I use inside The Wonder Mom Success Club. As you will have gathered by now, I am a fan of setting up templates and because they are already set up, I still use them, even though there may be better ways of doing it now.
- It’s free.
- Easy to keep organized with the rest of my content as I use Drive to store everything.
- Easy to use.
- Easy to import your photos straight from Google photos -no uploading and downloading!
- It’s not really designed for creating graphics.
- You have to be creative to use it, everything is made from scratch.
- Using the iPad pro, doesn’t have all the features compared to the desktop.
Free, just need a Google account.
This one is different to the rest. Procreate is an iPad App artists app and is brilliant. It is more on a par with Photoshop and/or Illustrator.
I use it to make graphics for 193mysteries and sometimes for artwork for social media. But more for just my own entertainment. I would love to do more surface design work but for now I basically just play with it. It is a really powerful app and has such a huge array of features. I found the best way to learn how to use it was by doing tutorials on YouTube or Skillshare (get one month free with this link) because artists tend to share their tips and tricks as they teach you a technique*.
- It is an amazing app, well designed and they update it often with new features.
- Price, it is ridiculously good value.
- Community, users tend to be a lovely supportive tribe.
- BIG learning curve, I feel like I have only scratched the surface
- Need an iPad, for ease of use, iPad pro and apple pencil
Price $9.99 one time
Which Graphics App Should You Use?
If I was starting out right now, I would probably go for Canva and set time aside each week to learn how to use it properly and I would opt for the pro version as it saves time. You don’t need to set up the branding each time plus all the elements, photos, stickers etc are already paid for, so you get free access to it all.
If I was bootstrapping and not ready or able to invest in something yet, I would still use Canva and a stock photo site (lots listed here if you need it plus tips to stay legal), learn how to use Canva and start budgeting so that I could pay for it.
If I found Canva totally overwhelming I would either use Stencil or pay a VA to do the graphics for me. This is my VA, actually a team of sisters, I tend to do most of my graphics myself but I am confident in the sisters to take over if/when I don’t have time plus they do other work for me.
Other things to consider is what are you going to be working on? Computer, iPad, other tablet, phone? Pick the option that works best for the equipment you have at hand. And even if you don’t consider yourself artistic, with the templates available you can throw together decent looking graphics in a matter of minutes. Plus the more you practice and the more you pay attention to the graphics that catch your eye, the quicker you will improve.
To keep your branding consistent, pick out a couple of colours and one font, maybe two and stick to them. Learn the hex code for them (the 6 figure alphanumeric code) so that you are not guessing the colour and getting it slightly off each time. For all the paid graphics apps you can create a branding set making it easier to create consistent graphics every time. Just by doing that you will create consistency. There is a whole lot more to branding but that is a whole different blog post I have to write!
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