10 tools for DIY design that don’t max your budget

Hiring a designer isn’t always in the budget, and it isn’t always necessary! For simple projects, there are tons of DIY resources online that will help you put together that quick image for your newest social media post, blog post, or to stick in an email campaign. Many of the resources have free and low-cost options that are still pretty powerful and will get the job done. Here are a few I trust:

Photo editing

To overlay text on an image or otherwise doctor it up, you don’t have to have fancy software. Online resources like Canva.com and PicMonkey.com allow you to easily create those fun customized images I’m sure you’ve seen on social media and blogs. Both resources have free tools as well as more powerful paid options.

**If you have a big event or campaign coming up, I can create artwork for you to overlay on your images, like I did for the Small Business Development Center for their Valentine’s Day social media campaign. They used PicMonkey to place the artwork I created over pictures they took at some of their clients’ businesses, and put them on Facebook and Instagram, like this:

photo credit: Small Business Development Center

Free photos and images

I’ve posted about them on my Facebook page before, and I love them: Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com have free, high-res stock art you can use wherever you want to and for whatever purpose, including commercial use. TOTALLY FREE! You don’t even have to give artist credit when you use them (but it IS the nice thing to do). Unsplash has photos only, but Pixabay has videos and vector art in addition to photos. (I even have a couple of my photos out there!)


Sometimes I get stuck when trying to find the perfect color to compliment a main color, or I want inspiration for a palette of colors that go well together. If you find yourself in the same boat, check out Colourlovers.com. Colourlovers has tons of color palettes, and you can use search terms to find just the mood you’re looking for. Or if you know exactly what color you want, Colorzilla.com is a free add-on tool for your web browser that lets you pull colors from literally anything you can pull up on the web. Use the little eyedropper tool to click on an area of a photo or webpage on your screen, and it will give you the RGB and hex color codes for that precise color. Pretty neat-o! This is also helpful for when you’re trying to describe that VERY SPECIFIC color you want to your graphic designer. 🙂


photo credit: Pixabay.com user “vixrealitum”


If you’re tired of the fonts that came with your computer and want to find something to better fit your branding or the voice of the message, it’s hard to know what sites you can trust to download fonts. DO NOT just Google “free fonts” and get download-happy, lest you end up with nasty viruses and a big ole’ computer repair bill. A site I’ve trusted for just about ever is dafont.com. Pay attention here though – many of the free fonts are only licensed for personal use, and you’d need to contact the designer (read: pay for a commercial license) before using them commercially. I recently discovered FontSquirrel.com, which has only free fonts that come with the commercial license (and therefore can be used for ads or pretty much anything). GOLD MINE!

Bonus fun for font nerds: if you just HAVE to know what a certain font is, there’s a site called Identifont. You answer a bunch of questions about the different attributes the font has, and it spits back what font(s) it could be. Then you can use it in your own project!


When a picture needs to tell a thousand stats, Piktochart.com is a great tool. With multiple price levels, including basic free tools, you can get that data looking good and much more appealing to your audience. HubSpot.com also has 15 free downloadable templates you can edit in Powerpoint.


So, there you go! Now you have a bunch of free or low-cost tools to get you on the path to creating your own designs when hiring someone just isn’t in the budget. Of course, this list isn’t intended to be all-inclusive or exhaustive. There are tons of other great options out there too! Know some reliable and trustworthy sites? Share them in the comments here!

If you you do use some of the resources shared here, I would love to see what you come up with! Share it with me on Facebook (facebook.com/bluesunmankato) or Instagram (@bluesunmankato).

Finally, when you DO need a designer (like when your time carries more value than the cost of hiring a designer, or when the project is beyond your abilities, or when you want something a little less home-grown and a little more professional), I’ll be here! Reach out and tell me about your project!

Happy creating!



cover photo credit: Pixabay.com user

marketing: are you telling the truth?

Recently, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I came upon one of those sponsored posts advertising social media marketing strategies. It promised a free download: something like “10 easy tips to increase your business’ visibility on social media”. I’m sure it was a catchier title than that to have stopped my scrolling, but anyway, I read the post and it seemed interesting. The tone was friendly and professional, and it seemed legit. I read the comments and they were appreciative and complimentary of the content. So, I clicked the link and filled out the form, expecting little but hoping for at least a nugget of information I hadn’t heard before.

Message received

When I hit submit, I was brought to a confirmation page. The tone of the confirmation page was jarring and a complete 180 from the initial post. There was a brashness and extreme casualness to the tone… there were even swear words. Quite a few of them. Now, I am known to drop an eff-bomb here and there… and there. It wasn’t the swearing that got me. It was the complete switch from what I had read before. It was a breach of the contract I thought I was agreeing to, and it threw me off. I decided to wait until the promised 10 Easy Tips arrived in my email inbox before I fully formed an opinion.

10 easy tips?

The next day, the email arrived. Skimming it, I found more of the same brash language that I had seen on the confirmation page. But WORSE, I saw multiple type-os. This woman was advertising her social media/marketing strategies, offering tips on writing content, even offering services to write your content for you, but her very first email to me was riddled with errors. I don’t even know if there was a link to the 10 Easy Tips. I didn’t care anymore. I don’t want 10 Easy Tips from someone who doesn’t know how to spell words. I unsubscribed from the email list, deleted the email, and thought about the lesson there.

Business consideration

Has a scenario like this happened to you before? Have you walked into a store or engaged in an online transaction only to find what you were receiving was totally different than your expectations? What did that feel like? Maybe a violation of trust or a betrayal? I imagine it didn’t increase your confidence in that business or organization.

Now, think about it from your own employment point of view. Your company or organization promises something with its marketing. It sends promises overtly through its messaging about the products or services offered and indirectly through the language and visuals chosen for that marketing, so ask yourself:

  • Does your advertising accurately showcase who you are in a consistent and engaging voice, without type-os? (If not, I can help fix that!)
  • Are the visuals interesting and the design user-friendly? (I can help there too.)
  • How’s the follow-through from your organization–does the action meet the promise? (That part’s on you and your team.)
  • And how about you personally… do you hold up your organization’s promise through your individual actions in your day-to-day? (Also on you.)

It’s something to think about. After this, I looked more closely at my website and my social media posts to make sure the tones aligned, and that they matched my personality and how I want my business presented.

Maybe it’s time to examine your processes and make sure your customers’ experiences match your organization’s marketing promises. Or maybe things have changed, and your marketing needs to be tweaked to better convey how you are currently doing business. Either way, people will quickly move on if they feel the promise made wasn’t kept, so it does no good to rope ’em in if they run at the first chance they get. People trust people who tell truths and are more likely to return to (and recommend) you when their expectations are met.

We know all this… but do we do it? I’d love to hear your experiences.


photo credit: Tero Vesalainen via Pixabay.com