Are you a marketer responsible for creating your own graphics? Looking for an affordable app that simplifies the design process?
In this article, you’ll discover five trusted graphic design apps to create professional images to support your marketing.
What to Look for in a Social Media Graphic Design App
When you're short on time or resources, the last thing you want to do is choose a graphic design tool that's too expensive or difficult to learn. Use this framework to find the right design app for your needs.
Image Editing and Design Capabilities
Do you need a photo editing app that can apply filters, remove backgrounds, and make your images stand out in the feed? Or do you need a fully featured design app that can add text, icons, and other graphic elements to your content (like Stencil, pictured below)?
Make sure the tool you choose has the capabilities you really need and a user interface that works for you. Virtually every graphic design app has a free trial so you can test it out before adding it to your workflow.
Freeform Design and Template Options
If you have graphic design experience, then you'll probably be comfortable creating social media images from scratch. But if you're more of a marketer and less of a designer, it's essential to choose an app that provides templates to get you started (like Visme, pictured below).
If templates are important to your workflow, you'll want to consider both the number and quality of the options your graphic design app offers. Whether you need templates for stories, feed posts, or cover images, double-check that the tool has the right formats.
Stock Photo Library
In most cases, you'll probably use your own original photos and videos to create social media graphics. But occasionally you might need a little something extra. For example, you might need a photo to use as a green screen or a short-form video clip to use as B-roll footage.
A great stock photo library can help you round out your social platform content. If you plan to source stock images or videos regularly, you'll want to choose graphic design software that has a built-in library with free or affordably priced content (like Adobe Express, pictured below).
Team Collaboration and Client Approvals
Do you manage social media marketing with a team or do you work independently? Do your clients or managers need to approve graphics before you publish? Would you prefer posting images to your social platform accounts directly from your design platform?
If you need collaboration or approval features, make sure the tool you choose makes it easy to work with your team or clients. Some apps (like Canva, pictured below) support comment threads, which can keep everyone on the same page.
Browser vs. Desktop vs. Mobile App
Do you need a design app that works on mobile so you can seamlessly create images and post them to your social channels? Or do you prefer to edit images on a desktop device before scheduling them to publish later?
Are you always online or do you need an app that can work offline (like Fotor, pictured below)? Make sure to check where and how the app works so you know it matches your preferred way to create.
Free Forever vs. Paid Subscription
Are you looking for a design tool that can fit into a relatively small marketing budget? Make sure any tool you choose has a free forever plan.
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If your team has more advanced graphic design software or collaboration needs, check paid plans closely. Most apps on this list have annual subscriptions that cost less overall than what you'd spend on a month-to-month plan.
5 Graphic Design Apps for Social Media Images
Which platform is right for your team?
Easily the most popular graphic design tool, Canva is widely adopted for a reason. It offers a full range of completely free photo editing and graphic design tools, and it's easy to use on desktop and mobile devices.
To help you create social media content more efficiently, Canva has hundreds of templates for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social platforms. It's easy to customize any design you create, thanks to the app's dozens of fonts and hundreds of graphic design elements.
With Canva, you can even animate static images and text overlays, which is great for creating engaging stories. The app also supports freeform drawing and it lets you record clips yourself, both of which allow you to create content that feels more personal.
If you manage social platforms with a team, you'll appreciate Canva's collaborative features. Team members can work together on designs and you can also share files outside of the app to get approval from clients or other team members who don't need direct access to the app.
Since Canva integrates with major social platforms, you can publish approved designs directly from the app. You can also use Canva's scheduling tool (available on paid plans) to upload content in advance.
To save even more time, you can use Canva's AI-powered tools. For example, you can prompt the Magic Write tool to create AI-generated text overlays for your Instagram posts and stories. For full access to AI tools and other premium products like brand kits, you'll need to subscribe to a paid plan.
Platform: Browser, desktop app (Windows and Mac OS), and mobile app (Android and iOS).
Cost: Free forever plan has robust editing and design features. Paid plans with brand kits and premium assets start at $12.99 per month.
If you're looking for a platform with fewer photo editing features and more focus on graphic design tools, Visme is a good choice. Originally intended as software for presentations and infographics, it also works well for social media graphics.
From Facebook posts and Twitter covers to Instagram stories and Pinterest pins, Visme has preset designs for all major social platforms. Although you can start with a blank design, Visme has at least a few free graphic design templates for each format. One of the biggest differences between this platform and the others on this list is that Visme has far more premium (paid) templates than free options.
Fortunately, it's relatively easy to design your own social media posts with Visme since the platform has a wide range of icons, shapes, graphics, and fonts. It also has a surprisingly large selection of animated graphics, which work well as stickers for Facebook and Instagram stories.
On Visme, branding works a little differently. Instead of entering brand details manually, the platform’s branding wizard tool does it for you. All you have to do is enter the URL for your website and the platform extracts your logo, fonts, and colors. Then it can automatically create branded templates that you can use across platforms.
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If you want to add a wider range of colors to your social media posts, you can choose from over a dozen preset themes. These themes are particularly helpful for marketers who aren't trained designers and need a quick way to apply a coherent color scheme.
It's important to note that Visme has one major drawback. Any content you download using the free plan includes a watermark. To remove the Visme branding, you have to subscribe to a paid plan.
Platform: Browser, desktop app (Windows and Mac OS), and mobile app (iOS).
Cost: Free forever plan has limited templates and design assets. Paid plans with full access to file formats and integrations start at $29 per month.
#3: Adobe Express
Whether you want a powerful photo editing app or a design tool, Adobe Express offers the best of both worlds. Unlike many other design apps, Adobe Express offers design tools like a background remover for free, which makes it easier to clean up images before posting them to social media.
Although you can certainly design social media content from scratch, Adobe Express has plenty of templates you can use to get started including preset image sizes for all major social platforms. An Adobe Express feature I've found really helpful is its automated recommendations. In the example below, the platform suggests different fonts that would be a better fit for the graphic.
If you prefer to choose design elements manually, Adobe Express has all of the customizations you need. You can select from preset photo filters or apply enhancements to get images just right. You can also add text, shapes, and design assets to make your graphics pop.
When you're looking for inspiration or stock images, the Adobe Express public libraries can help. They offer advanced templates, graphics, and images that you can add to your account at no cost.
If you need a tool to create branded content, consider upgrading to a paid plan. Adobe Express has a brand kit feature that lets you save logos, colors, and fonts—and share them with other users. Paid plans also include unlimited social platform scheduling so you can design and publish content in a single app.
Platform: Browser, desktop app (Windows and Mac OS), and mobile app (Android and iOS).
Cost: Free forever plan has basic editing tools and 2,000 Adobe fonts. Paid plans with 20,000 fonts and 160 million stock photos start at $9.99 per month.
Stencil is a browser-based design platform with an extensive stock image library (5 million+ royalty-free photos), a decent template library (1,350 free templates), and an easy-to-use interface. Of all the tools on this list, I find Stencil the smoothest to use and the easiest to navigate.
The platform's photo editing tools include all of the basics, like filters and overlays. With Stencil, you can also add text to any image, with about 100 different font choices. Although the template library is a bit more limited than some other options on this list, it offers a good starting point for designing social media posts.
The Stencil feature I like most is the automatic resizing tool. Whether you use a royalty-free image from the platform's stock image library or you add your own creative assets, you can click to change the aspect ratio of your design at any time. Since Stencil has preset sizing for all major social media placements, you can switch from an Instagram post to a YouTube thumbnail with one click.
As great as Stencil is to use, it does have a few drawbacks. First, it's an image design tool only, which means it doesn't support video editing. If you're looking for a platform that does both, go with one of the options above.
In addition, the platform's icon library is pretty limited. It doesn't have the stickers or design elements that others provide. Stencil also limits you to 10 free designs per month, which may not be enough for marketers who create a lot of content.
Platform: Browser and Chrome extension.
Cost: Free forever plan supports up to 10 designs per month. Paid plans with templates, icons, fonts, and stock photos start at $15 per month.
Fotor is a photo editing app with tons of helpful design tools and templates. It also has AI capabilities to help you design faster, as well as brand kits that make it easy to apply a consistent look across all of your content.
Whether you want to create a Facebook cover, an Instagram story highlight cover, or a YouTube end screen, Fotor has a preset template with the right aspect ratio. The platform also has hundreds of designs that you can use to start creating graphics for your own social channels.
The Fotor design dashboard is similar to Canva but the editing tools are pretty different. Fotor lets you make basic adjustments and apply simple filters for free but the platform's advanced filters and AI-powered design tools require a paid subscription. If you want to use the background remover or face retouch tool, for example, you'll have to pay.
However, you can test out Fotor's AI capabilities by using the platform's free design tools, which are available on the website instead of in the design app. For example, Fotor offers a free background remover, photo enhancer, and text-to-image AI generator.
Also similar to Canva, Fotor offers a premium brand kit option. With a paid subscription, you can upload your brand logo, choose colors, and set a font that you can easily apply to all of the social media graphics you create. If you add a lot of text overlays to your social platform graphics, a brand kit is probably a smart investment.
The biggest downside to Fotor is that it doesn't support collaboration. Accounts are designed for single users, which works just fine for solo marketers. But if you need to work with a team or share content with clients, Fotor won't be your best choice.
Platform: Browser, desktop app (Windows and Mac OS), and mobile app (Android).
Cost: Free forever plan gives you access to basic editing tools. Paid plans with AI design tools and more creative resources start at $8.99 per month.
Great social media images require much more than a quick crop or a basic filter. With the right design tool, you can create stunning graphics for all of your social platforms that help your brand stand out in the feed and get your audience to engage.
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