Images matter when you blog. Posts with images help your search rankings because they’re linked to more frequently than posts without images, and they help your social media reach because they’re more likely to be shared on Facebook and Twitter.
If you’re just getting started, there are plenty of places to find free stock photos that aren’t boring and generic. Death to the Stock Photo sends image packs straight to your inbox once a month, and HubSpot has four packs containing hundreds of photos that you can use anywhere.
But what if you want to do more than just include a photo? Maybe you want to add a headline to an important post to make it stand out even more on social media, or maybe you want to create an infographic explaining the benefits of a new service for patients. You could hire a designer or spend hours trying to get your graphic just right, or you could use one of these simple tools to create an eye-catching graphic in minutes.
Canva has gotten a lot of attention lately for its flexibility and ease of use. All you have to do to get started is pick a canvas size (it has presets for blog and social media graphics) and a layout template. From there you can modify existing text in templates, replace images, and make any other tweaks you need.
If you feel more confident in your design abilities, you can also start from scratch and put together image and text elements any way you like.
No matter how busy you are, chances are you can find an extra 30 seconds to make a blog graphic. That’s how long the folks over at Buffer declare it takes to create engaging images with their own image tool, Pablo. How? By stripping out all the options you don’t need and leaving only the bare essentials.
Instead of choosing a font point size, you click a button to toggle between small, medium, and large type. There are only ten font faces and two font colors to choose from, and buttons turn contrast, blur and black and white filters on or off.
All of that adds up to a tool that’s not nearly as powerful as Canva—but intentionally so. The simple selections mean you can crank out images in just a few seconds because there just aren’t many elements to confuse or distract you.
When you think about creating graphics, PowerPoint probably isn’t one of the first programs that comes to mind, but it can do all of the things Canva does, and it lets you save slides as JPGs or PNGs from the “Save As” dialog.
With “Page Setup,” you can set your slide to be any size you like. Add an image to be used as a background, then right click on it, select “arrange,” and select “Send to Back.” To add a filter for contrast, draw a shape over the entire slide, fill it with a solid color (or a pattern), and change the transparency to something like 30 percent. The normal slide layout options can then be used to arrange your text.
The advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your view) of PowerPoint is that you can select from your system fonts. If you don’t have PowerPoint, you can do the same thing with Keynote for Mac or even Google Slides.
Of course, blog headers and social sharing images aren’t the only images you may want to create. If you’d like to give your readers step-by-step instructions for something, annotated screenshots are always a good idea. Skitch from Evernote is the best out there when it comes to marking up screenshots, whether you just want to add arrows or outlines or include text, icons, and shapes to get your point across.
You don’t need an Evernote account to use Skitch, but if you have one, you can use it to save and categorize your screenshots for easy access anywhere.
You may be thinking that Photoshop isn’t an easy way to work with graphics, but for certain common adjustments, it can save you time over other tools if you have it on your system because you don’t have to open up a web app.
For example, I use Photoshop many times every day to resize and crop photos for blog posts, social media, and more. The great thing about using Photoshop for this task? Its fixed selection size. If you find yourself cropping pictures to the same dimensions all the time, just click the selection tool and change the “Style” pulldown menu to “Fixed Size.” Type in a width and height in pixels and Photoshop will automatically resize your selection no matter where you click on the image.
Another useful option in Photoshop is “Save for web and devices.” Don’t worry about all the options that come up when you click on it—just use the “JPEG Medium” or “JPEG Small” preset and Photoshop will save the file as small as possible so your pages load more quickly.
If you need more control over your images than you get with one of the first three tools but don’t have Photoshop or just don’t want to deal with it, Pixlr is a great web app for adjusting images. It actually has two versions—Pixlr Express for minor tweaks and Pixlr Editor for bigger ones.
The Express app lets you open existing images on your computer or from a URL, while the Editor app lets you create entirely new images from scratch with dozens of automatic adjustments and filters and the ability to work with layers to get your images just right.
PicMonkey is another handy web app somewhere in between the functionality of Pixlr Express and Pixlr Editor. Its layout is easier to figure out than Pixlr Editor’s if you’re not already used to image editing programs, with a smaller number of icons to choose from and an intuitive picture next to each adjustment option.
If you’re not a typeface expert, PicMonkey makes picking one simple by dividing its selection of fonts into categories and listing them separately from the fonts on your system. And when you’re ready to save your handiwork, PicMonkey gives you three quality options to choose from depending on your needs.
Quality images are only one piece of the blogging puzzle. Ready to learn more about what successful hospitals are doing? We examined hundreds of hospital blogs so you don’t have to. Download our free ebook, How to Make Your Hospital Stand Out with a Blog, to see what we learned.