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LEARNING CORNER

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Adding images to your blog posts that you can also push to your social media channels makes you more visible and it can help to extend your blog’s reach and increase readership. Last week in Part 1 of improving your image and creating better graphics for your blog we found some alternatives to the traditional stock photo sites and discussed how to use both stock images and your own unique images to create eye-catching designs in less time.

This week we compare two popular image-editing sites, Canva and Picmonkey, which work in your browser, don’t require downloading any software and don’t require Photoshop-level design skills. We’ll also touch on how to properly attribute an image and get a basic rundown on sizing your images.

Stock Images: Be Discerning

Many bloggers think that using stock images is unappealing and cliché, and this is certainly the case when you don’t use a discerning eye in choosing your stock images. However, the benefit of a stock image is that it saves you time. When you source your images from non-traditional stock image sites as we discussed last week, you can find more original stock images to compliment your blog posts that many bloggers haven’t tapped into yet. The key is to marry your use of stock imagery and your own images into one harmonious relationship, so you’re not spending hours editing images.

Understanding your audience and the clicking habits of people in general is valuable in helping you create a clickable image. Companies, including the brands you love, invest thousands of dollars in valuable market research to understand what makes people click on a particular image. 

Last week we learned what makes blog readers click:

  • Images receive more clicks than text
  • Images without faces get more clicks than those with faces
  • Warmer colored images are clicked over blue toned images
  • Tall, vertical images are clicked more often than short, square images 

Now we’ll break down the features in Canva and Picmonkey so you can decide which one will best meet your image editing needs to save you time and sanity.

Picmonkey

Picmonkey is a photo-editing program that you can use to quickly pop in, edit or enhance and then publish images. Like Canva, Picmonkey works in your browser so there are no programs to download. Although you can create custom graphics in Picmonkey, it is primarily used for editing and enhancing photos and does not include many high-quality stock images.

Picmonkey doesn’t require you to sign up to edit images, so you can literally jump right in. You can choose to do a quick edit to your image, touch up an image with features like teeth whitening and cosmetic edits, design your own image from scratch or create a collage.

What it Cost

Picmonkey has two choices: free and Royale membership. The Royale membership will set you back about $4.99 per month, but Picmonkey offers a 30-day free trial. Be aware that not all editing features are available in the free version.

Getting Started

Picmonkey doesn’t require signing up, so you can start by uploading photos to edit and enhance. Picmonkey’s blog offers basic photo-editing tutorials as well as some nifty, short video tutorials, so learning the features is a breeze no matter how you like to learn.

The Menu Features

Picmonkey has an abundance of image-editing features located on the left side of the screen, including basic edits, effects, touch ups, fonts, overlays, frames, textures and themes. We’ll discuss how each one works on your image.

Basic Edits: Use this feature to make basic touch-ups, to re-size your image, make your horizontal image vertical, adjust the saturation and exposure levels, and other simple enhancements.

For my example, I decided to rotate the image from vertical to horizontal because we know that people prefer vertical images to horizontal images.

Effects

The effects menu has a variety of filters that you can apply to your image to adjust the color tones. I’m adding the “Dusk Effect” filter to create a warmer hue and to blur out the area where I want to place my text overlay:

Touch Up

If you are editing portraits and photographs of people, the touch up feature is a great tool to mask blemishes, whiten teeth, remove wrinkles and even apply a spray tan!

Text

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, if your image is self-explanatory and complements your blog post, then you might not need any text, but for this example I’m going to apply a text overlay to give my imaginary blog post more context. I’m also going to use the text feature to add my website’s URL so anyone who reposts the image will see my website (note: this is not a real website).

Overlays

The overlays feature allows you to add different graphical elements, from seasonal to whimsical. You can add hearts, stars, mustaches and hats to your image, which can be really fun for creating holiday cards. You can also use the overlays feature to create a custom logo to brand your images.

Frames

The frames feature will help you to create a more eye-catching image by drawing the eye inward. You can choose to create rounded corners, add a drop shadow or even apply shape cutouts, like circles and squares. Because my blog post has to do with creating a memorable moment, I chose a Polaroid frame.

Because I added a frame to my image, I need to do a little more editing to make it all fit. I had to bring the text down a bit and move my blog’s URL to a more noticeable spot. Now that the image is offset, it’s more eye-catching from the traditional vertical and horizontal images you spot elsewhere on the web. 

Textures

If you want to add more pizazz to your image, you can use the textures function to create light trails, watery effects and even add light bursts. Just remember to keep it simple and not to go overboard with the effects!

Themes

The themes effect adds unique overlays to your images to create embellishments. Themes include holidays, vampire effects such as fangs, zombie effects with blood and bruises, a comic book feature and even tattoo ink. The themes effect is a great resource for your seasonal posts. 

Creating this image took me less than 30 minutes. I applied a total of four features to the image by rotating the image from horizontal to vertical, applied a warm filter, added text and added a frame. By keeping your edits simple, you can create a quick, eye-catching image to publish with your blog post.

Canva

Canva is one of the hottest tools for creating and editing images that is used by over 1.8 million people to design presentations, social media graphics and more. It’s fast and easy to use, with a library of images, fonts, backgrounds and layouts, and you can drag and drop your own uploaded images to edit. If you don’t fancy yourself a photographer, Canva is a good option because it offers high-quality stock images and templates that you can customize.

What it Cost

Canva is free to use and high-quality stock images cost around $1.00. At this time there is only one version, which means no membership levels.

Getting Started

Using Canva is as simple as creating an account and then you can start creating and editing your own images. Canva also features a Design School for tips, tricks and tutorials for those of us who are not graphic designers by nature and need a little guidance. Be sure to check out Canva’s blog for on-the-spot inspiration.

You can either choose to upload a photo or stock image, or use one of Canva’s premade designs and add your own touch. You’ll notice that while Canva’s options for image editing are more limited, it is quicker to create an image because having less to choose from means making quicker decisions!

Menu Features

Canva’s menu features are much more limited than Picmonkey, and for some this is an advantage because fewer options mean less time! 

Layouts

The layouts feature provides you with backgrounds, seals, typography and color blocks to add text overlays and branding, so all you have to do is swap out the text.

Text

Canva provides many different options for creating really unique, eye-catching typography. By encasing your font in a symbol, it draws the eye inward. Canva’s options for typography and seals are also great for creating your own unique logo.

Background

The background feature is different from the layouts feature because it provides you with more of a blank canvas to work from than the layouts feature. 

Creating this image took less than 10 minutes. Yes, you’re reading that right! By keeping it simple and using a pre-designed layout with a seal and typography, swapping out the text made the image come together. Canva provided everything else.

Before:

After: 

Easy-to-Use Advanced Filter Options and Pre-Made Templates

Using Canva to enhance your not-so-perfect images is a great time-saver. Whether your lighting is too low, the image is blurry or it just looks dull, Canva offers easy-to-find and use options to adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, tint and blur, among other options. 

To make the most efficient use of your time, this is what you need to know about the effect each filter will have on your image. Below is a screenshot of the advanced filter options and how each works.

  • Brightness—Lighten images that are too dark or darken images that appear washed out
  • Contrast—Make your dull images appear sharper
  • Saturation—Make your images more vibrant
  • Tint—Correct color issues
  • Blur—Sharpen blurry images and blur sharp images
  • X-Process—Known in the photography world as cross-processing, this produces unnatural colors and high contrast in an image
  • Vignette—Create an image with an effect that is bright and clear in the center of the photograph that gets dark and fades away toward the edges 
  • Filter Code—Once you find a filter you like by adjusting the different options, you can save the filter code to apply across your images to create a consistent look

Templates to Simplify your Life!

Canva’s pre-made templates are worth shouting from the rooftops about! Canva’s templates are pre-formatted to the optimum size for each social network so there’s no wonky formatting between your Facebook cover, Twitpic, Instagram and Google+ images. You can also create a template for your email headings, marketing materials and social media ads from the templates.

How Picmonkey and Canva Compare

Unlike programs like Photoshop, which are expensive and require extensive knowledge to navigate, Picmonkey and Canva are straightforward with their tools, meaning no hidden commands or features that you have to search through a series of menus to find. Here’s the breakdown:

Picmonkey

  • Picmonkey is best suited for editing and designing photos
  • Abundance of image-editing features to touch up photos and add special effects
  • Offers stock images, but they are not as high-quality as Canva’s
  • Picmonkey’s blog features how-to tutorials
  • The free version of Picmonkey has ads, which may be distracting for some
  • Royale membership is only $4.99 per month
  • No pre-designed templates

Canva

  • Canva is best suited for those who aren’t into photography
  • Canva’s design layout is intuitive, with only four menu options
  • High-quality stock images typically cost $1.00, but Canva also has a wide range of free images
  • Great tutorials and a beautiful blog to draw inspiration from
  • Canva walks a fine line between offering a wide variety of graphics, fonts and filters without requiring the user to get too in-depth with image editing
  • Pre-designed templates for consistency in marketing

Image Size Guidelines

Now that you know how to craft eye-catching images, what size do you create them for your blog and all your different social media channels?  Unfortunately, it’s not an easy answer. 

Canva’s templates are pre-sized so no matter what image you create, it will be the appropriate size for Facebook, Twitter and your other social channels. Different blogging platforms, such as Blogger and Wordpress, also have different image size settings. Overall, a good rule of thumb is that your image should be the same width as your content, so play around with your image size until you find the size that works best for your blog.

Mom Blogger’s Club uses the following sizes for our images:

  • Email graphics: 600x270
  • Blog article graphic: Created 800x800 and resized down to 300x300
  • Social graphic: 800x800

These are just general guidelines, and we often play around with sizing our images to find the most appealing look.

Attributing an Image

If you are using stock photos that require an attribution, often a Creative Commons or Flickr image, then you’ll need to attribute it so the artist gets credit for the image, otherwise you might receive a nasty-gram in your inbox asking you to either remove the image or properly attribute it. There are four preferred components to image attribution:

  • Title: Name of the image
  • Author: Who created the image
  • Source: Where the image can be found (a URL or hyperlink)
  • License: The Creative Commons license that allows the image to be reproduced

Sometimes finding all this information on an image is not very clear, so use your best judgment and due diligence to try to at least provide two of the source materials. Check out our post on Images and Your Blog for more detailed information.

Don’t Stress

Great images don’t happen overnight, but sites like Picmonkey and Canva can cut down on your time spent creating and editing images. Dive into the tutorials and blogs of each site to determine which site will best meet your needs and save you time.

We’ve shared our top image websites; now let us know what you use to create eye-catching images for you blog posts in the comments below!

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