As a writer and photographer, I'm highly conscious of what garners positive feedback. No amount of words can compete with the attention-grabbing power of large, vivid visuals.
The good news is that there are numerous excellent free graphic design applications available that you can use to produce stunning social media graphics; you don't even need to employ a designer or spend hundreds of dollars on software. I've been using and writing about these technologies for over ten years, so I know what works well. What isn't, too.
Here are the top free social media graphic creation apps.
The best free graphic design apps for social media
- Canva for template-based design
- Adobe Express for scaling a side hustle
- Pablo by Buffer for quickly making images to share on social media
- Desygner for making your own designs
- Snappa for creating occasional images
What characteristics define a superb social media graphic design app?
You shouldn't spend hours producing social media postings because their lifespans are so brief. Graphic design applications are essential because they provide you access to a variety of amazing templates and design resources (such stock photos, icons, shapes, and text styles) rather than forcing you to start from scratch each time. Then, all you have to do is combine various aspects with those from your own brand to create something powerful and distinctive.
And you don't have to spend a fortune to obtain amazing results. Free graphic design programs don't necessarily mean they're of lower quality. I looked at more than 30 free graphic design apps and discovered five amazing ones. Although some of these free versions of premium products have more restrictions than others, they are all capable of producing fantastic images for your social media marketing channels.
I invested a large amount of time viewing hundreds of themes to obtain a sense of the caliber of each one before rating each social media post creator. Additionally, I used the templates to make at least two test articles (with most of the favorites, even more). I primarily focused on each app's overall usability and professional offerings, but I also had a few requirements that it had to meet in order to be listed on this list:
- Is this app easy enough for anyone to use? In the proper hands, programs like Photoshop and Illustrator are fantastic, but in the wrong ones, they are useless. Any app must be user-friendly because social media management is rarely done by people with design backgrounds. This is not to say that there won't be a learning curve; it just means that you won't need a textbook to get through it.
- Is this app suited well for social media marketing? Again, Photoshop and Illustrator are completely overkill for the majority of people trying to create images for their social media marketing channels despite the fact that they are capable of amazing things. Instead of providing every tool under the sun, I wanted apps that streamlined the process of producing powerful graphics.
- Is the app experience good? It's possible for a free graphic design program to be genuinely frustrating to use. However, even if you aren't (yet) paying for a service, you shouldn't be restricted by a cumbersome, sluggish, and unappealing experience. particularly when there are excellent applications available that you might be utilizing.
- Are the design assets varied and professional?Online, social network templates are widely available, but many of them are terrible. You can't use the same social media post design repeatedly or slap some tacky clipart on a graphic that represents your brand. Only apps with assets that would let you present yourself or your business in a professional light were included. (Honestly, this criterion eliminated the most applications.)
- Can you use the app in multiple ways? It should be simple to adapt a post you write for Twitter to Instagram or even a flyer. Similar to that, you ought should be able to rapidly alter and replace the information from last year's Christmas sale post. The apps on this list couldn't lock you into one way of working; they had to be multifunctional.
Now let's move on to the apps.
Best free social media design app for template-based design
Canva (Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows)
Canva is a robust yet user-friendly template-based free design program. You may utilize millions of layouts, images, and pictures as part of the free plan (that goes up to millions of assets with a Canva Pro subscription).
When you first launch Canva, hundreds of potential designs for everything from posters to Instagram posts are available. Although there is a lot to browse, the built-in search is excellent. To see more precise options, use the search bar at the top of the screen to enter terms like "birthday instagram stories." (I received more than 1,000 template suggestions just for that.)
Once you've located a template to start with, adding your own resources is a breeze using the drag-and-drop editor. You may add any photos or brand components by selecting Upload Media from the left sidebar, clicking Uploads, and then dragging and dropping them into the editor. One piece of advice: If you want to relocate any element behind anything else, such the text (which you can double-click on to change), or the picture frame, right-click on it and choose Send Back or Send Forward.
If you want a second pair of eyes to review your design, click the Share icon in the toolbar and then enter an email address, like you can do with Google Docs and Canva.
When finished, click Download to save your message so that you can really post it. You will have the opportunity to pay to have any watermarks on premium assets that you unintentionally included removed (often at a cost of roughly $1 per item). It's convenient if you only use Canva rarely, but if it often happens, you should sign up for Canva Pro at $12.95/month (or at least check out the 30-day free trial). With Pro, you can upload your "brand kit," which makes it simple to include your logo, brand colors, and font in your designs. Pro also has a ton of additional designs and some nice features, like automatic resizing, a social media scheduler, and the ability to upload your brand kit.
Canva is a clear winner if it works for you; if it does, you can probably stop here. However, if you're seeking for Canva alternatives, continue reading.
Price of Canva: Free for 5GB of cloud storage and more than 250,000 templates; $12.95 per month for Canva Pro, which includes 100GB of storage, millions of assets, and other features.
The best free social media design app for growing a side business
Adobe Express (formerly Adobe Spark) (Web, iOS, Android)
Since Adobe is the most well-known brand in graphic design, it should come as no surprise that they have a tool for creating graphics for social media and the web. Adobe Express isn't as well-known as Photoshop or Illustrator, but it works better for most people who want to create graphics to share on social media (it was on this list last year as Adobe Spark; it has since been rebranded and updated). Additionally, starting is cost-free.
In terms of templates, Canva still outperforms Express. There are fewer options available, thus the search is less effective. Don't get me wrong, there are still a ton of fantastic free templates available. However, your chances of finding the ideal template are decreasing, and you'll probably need to spend some time making adjustments to a close-but-unsatisfactory design instead.
Quick Actions is one of Express's greatest features. You can rapidly edit your photo or video on the home screen by choosing options like Resize Image, Trim Video, or Remove Background. Apparently, these options are enabled by Adobe's Photoshop and Premiere programs, which operate in the cloud. It's a fairly easy approach to gain access to things that may be rather sophisticated in other programs.
Express is an editor with some quite sophisticated capabilities, but it keeps them out of the way. Although almost anyone should be able to use it to create a great-looking social media graphic, there are advanced layer options, blend modes, color toning, and other features taken from Adobe's more well-known apps if you want to dig in deeper and customize things more. Typically, you can find them by choosing any design element and looking in the right sidebar. It really achieves that ideal balance between being quick and simple to use for 90% of tasks and having more robust features available for when you need them.
Although Express is a great standalone software for creating social media images, it's difficult to ignore how well it works with the rest of Adobe's Creative Suite. Express is the best option if you want to grow your company to the point where you will need to use (and pay for) Adobe's more potent products. You may add photographs from Lightroom or brand components from Illustrator to libraries that are accessible from all of your Adobe programs (under the Libraries tab of the sidebar). There are additional graphics and photos from Adobe Stock available throughout the program.
Adobe Express Price: Free for basic features and 2GB of cloud storage; from $9.99/mo for premium features, such as logo upload and placement, branded templates and tools, and 100GB of cloud storage.
The best free social media design tool for creating rapid social media photos
Pablo by Buffer (Web)
The creators of the social media scheduling service Buffer have created Pablo, a simple tool for adding text on top of photographs. Neither the design nor the application of it could be any easier. That's a feature in my book, but if you're looking for something with more possibilities, try one of the other top apps on our list.
Pablo is a basic post-creation app, no joke. You may access the app immediately after opening the page. Because there are no accounts, there is no need to create one. A preview of your photograph may be shown in the center of the screen. You can use Unsplash's image search on the left or click Upload Image to add your own. Click Templates at the top of the screen to select one of the six defaults.You may position the text, apply a filter, change the canvas's size and shape, and add your logo or another graphic on the right. To directly alter the text, double-click on it after you have clicked on it to change its formatting. Oh, and to reposition and trim the background picture, click Reposition. That is it, exactly.
When you're satisfied with your post image (which won't take long), click Share & Download to save it or publish it immediately to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram (or queue it up with Buffer). If you use Buffer to queue it, you can also use Zapier to link it to any other applications you use.
Pablo is still on this list in spite of the lack of alternatives. It makes it quite easy to generate simple, attractive social media photographs, and by removing the majority of elements, it makes it nearly impossible to produce terrible ones.
Pablo Price: Free
The best free social media design tool for producing original designs
Desygner (Web, iOS, Android)
On the other end of the spectrum, Desygner is both easy to use and offers some of the most sophisticated capabilities of any of the applications we examined. A free-drawing pen tool and the option to import from PDF, PSD, and SVG files allow you a lot more creative flexibility if you don't want to use templates (although it does have hundreds of excellent designs to work from).
You can upload and preserve your brand assets for use in every design with Desygner, even on the free plan, which is one of its finest advantages. After logging in, select Assets from the top menu. Then, among other things, you may add photographs, make unique text snippets, and establish a color palette.
Afterward, you'll be able to access them whenever you need to while working on your design. For instance, all of the photos you've submitted are accessible to place into the design if you choose Image > My Assets from the sidebar. The same is true for text, logos, and other items. Similar to this, you have the ability to choose from your brand's color palette when choosing the color of anything.
Having everything ready to go in Desygner might actually save you a lot of time if you produce a lot of new designs each week. It implies that you may choose up a template and have all the colors and visuals prepared for your requirements in a matter of seconds. Then, all that remains is to upload it.
Desygner Price: Free; from $9.95/month for more templates and assets, as well as features like saving your own designs as templates.
Best free social media design app for creating occasional images
Snappa is the only software on this list that offers the same templates, graphics, photos, and other design elements in both the free and subscription plans. The drawback is that you can only download three designs each month rather than needing to carefully consider what template you're utilizing.
It's really nice to not constantly be running into upgrade notifications or selecting themes only to be informed that they're only available on the Pro plan if you only occasionally need to create images for your social media channels—or just want to create a one-off banner for your Twitter account or Facebook page. Even while Canva and Desygner are excellent, the free plans make it clear that there is a paying plan they would want you to be on. Snappa is far less forceful yet just as beneficial.
The second minor difference with Snappa is that, while its templates are fantastic, some of the other alternatives' themes are more completely developed, and there is no convenient method to look among them. Instead of thinking of the defaults as something pre-built to which you can just add a photo and change the wording, you should view them as a foundation upon which you can build and modify.
Look through the templates and choose one with a layout you prefer if you want to create a birthday post, for instance. Then, open it and insert your own image using the Bkgrnd tool in the sidebar by either uploading one or choosing a suitable royalty-free stock photo from the supplied collection. By selecting Effects, you may further alter it by adding a blur, color overlay, or other adjustment—most of which improve the legibility of any text overlaid on the image.
Of course, balloons must be added after that. because balloons appear in every birthday post. Click Icons after selecting the Graphics tool to achieve it. Find a balloon you like using the search, then click to add it. You may utilize the Toggle Grid option in the top toolbar to precisely place objects by clicking it. This will ensure that everything lines up beautifully.
When everything looks as you want it to, select Download to save the image or Share to publish it immediately to your social network sites, provided that you haven't used up all of your free postings. If so, you must update it or save it if you want to keep the file when the monthly restriction is restored.
Snappa Price: Free for 3 downloads or shares per month; from $15/month for Snappa Pro with unlimited downloads, shares, and integration with Buffer and your social media accounts.