Visual tools Could they help you in your work?

Need help doing visuals?

This is simple guide listing software that may help you produce visuals – graphics, animations, explainer videos, ebooks. We can also point you towards some free resources, like graphics and photographs.

It's not a complete list, but it's a good introduction for anyone looking for help on a budget – many options are free, some involve payment.

Best tips

Adobe Spark, Canva, Microsoft Sway and Prisma are the current, initial suggestions to you.

Adobe Spark is easy to use when producing simple explainer videos, a range of graphic banners and individual web pages – like what you are looking at now. A free version is available for sign up, while makers Adobe offers guidance – in a pdf document, explainer video and blog, among other places. You can use Adobe Spark in a web browser or as an Android or iOS app.

Sign up page shows free option is available.

Canva is a popular tool for a wide variety of still graphics and some animations. Here's some examples of Canva-produced materials we produced for social media to promote an event.

Canva-produce materials.

Free and paid-for-pro versions are available – the latter being offered at no cost for non-profits. A blog and design school help you. Aside from online, Canva is available on Android and iOS.

Microsoft Sway is targeted at producers of newsletters and reports. Free and paid options are available to run on a web browser, with this getting started guide. The blog, though, seems to have run its course.

And finally, for initial suggestions, photo-filter apps like Prisma are great for turning images into something else – think sketches, cartoon strip elements, art paintings, etc. Available on Android and iOS.

Resources, like icons and photographs

There's a few free photograph archives available. Unsplash gets a lot of use – it's where this image and the header came from.

Example image from Unsplash. Photo by Erik Mclean.

Sometimes you may need graphic icons that represent your subject. Plenty of archives are available, many offering free graphical elements – some of which include The Noun Project, iconmonstr and Streamline. The same applies to choosing your font – free or nominally-priced options are available from Google Fonts, Font Squirrel, FontSpace, Lost Type or DaFont.

Quick tip: always check the suppliers terms and conditions. When they give you work for free and ask for accreditation, please try. For the header image I've acknowledged authorship above and at the foot of this guide.

Paid for archives also exist. Two being Design Cuts and Mighty Deals.

If you are new to all of this, the above tools and resources are probably more than enough things for now.

If not... other things rounded up

Nearly done. Here's a quick list rounding up some of the many other options.

It's by no means a complete list. If you've got something you need but don't know where to start we'd always recommend the obvious... a Google search will usually offer up good options.

Industry standard

Go into a firm employing graphic designers, video editors and animators and there is a good chance they will be using Adobe Creative Cloud's suite of apps – which is paid-for, now on a subscription basis and has a massive store of help guides. These apps are almost always downloaded to your device.

If you're reading this it's likely Adobe Creative Cloud is out of your price range, Affinity's software series individually caters for layouts, photo editing and graphic manipulation.

Affinity Publisher, Photo and Designer have a one-off cost of £50, often discounted to £40, while users get plenty of support for software downloaded to a PC, MacBook or iPad Pro.

Adobe, meanwhile, do a series of apps for tablets and smartphones on Android and iOS – for the latter search Adobe in store to see. They're not as strong as the paid-for Creative Cloud software, but they are free and still good.

Others have produced tools that are free – including desktop publisher Scribus and graphic manipulator Inkscape.

One last thing... accessibility

General advice is always think of your audience when producing materials. That includes making sure your visual items are accessible, as explained by the government, for those with impaired vision, learning disabilities and other considerations. It is possible to include great visuals and be accessible.


Header image by by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash.