29 Free Resources for Creating Online Visual Content

We all know that visual content is a big deal on the web today. It is clearly expressed on social media platforms, plastered on blogs and online articles, and dappled throughout websites. From images, videos and animation to presentations, infographics and charts, visual content has become a huge component of online marketing.

An Effective Marketing Tool

What makes visual content such a powerful marketing tool? Part of it has to do with what goes on inside our noggins when we process visual information. When we take a look at an image, our brains decipher all of its visual elements simultaneously and store them directly into our long-term memory. How amazing is that? We can instantly interpret and remember what we see. Compare that to how we process text and it becomes clear why imagery has the upper hand in delivering a quick and effective message.

As we read text, we process it in a sequential manner and then store the information in our short-term memory. According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, author of Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn, this process is 60,000 times slower than processing visual information. In today’s fast-paced, on-the-go world, taking the time to read everything is just not cutting it. The demand for quick and easy information is mounting and visual content is stepping in to satisfy it.

Why Visual Content Rules

Relaying a speedy message is just one of the perks to adding images, illustrations, and other visual elements to your online marketing efforts. Take a look at the advantages of utilizing this kind of content in your strategies:


 1.    Quick and Easy

As mentioned above, we can process visual information in a jiffy. That means viewers with short attention spans (lets face it, that’s most of us) can still grasp the message without investing a substantial amount of time, allowing you to get through to your audience with less risk of being shuffled aside.

 2.    Attention Grabber

How often do we flip through magazines and stop on a page with an interesting picture? Valuable images tend to arrest our attention, at which point our interest is peaked and we are more likely to read the caption or article that goes with it.

Help your audience sort through masses of text by throwing in some relevant and interesting visuals.

 3.    Show-and-Tell

Remember Show-and-Tell in elementary school? It was one thing when that one kid said he met the Red Power Ranger. You thought, “Yeah, right. There’s no way.” But then when he whipped out a picture to prove it, your mind was blown and that kid just became super cool.

Show-and-Tell has evolved into a driving online force, and social media is the outlet of choice for consumers and businesses alike. Adding engaging, visual elements to social media is a great way for businesses to prove their accomplishments, earn trust, and enhance their brands.


The Facts

Just in case you aren’t convinced, check out these numbers from MDG Advertising and get a taste of why visual content is online marketing’s rock star.

  • Online articles with compelling images average 94% more views than those without.
  • 60% of consumers are more inclined to click on a business’s local listing if an image appears along with its search results.
  • Facebook posts that include photos receive a 37% increase in user engagement.


Make It Yourself and Make It for Free

Now that the value of online visual content is clear, the next step is to do something about it. But how? The prospect of rounding up or creating photos, illustrations, infographics, charts, animation, videos, presentations, and webinars can be overwhelming.  It’s one thing to hand the issue over to your graphic design department and let the designers handle it, but many small business managers don’t have that luxury and have to take matters into their own hands.

The price and learning curve for Adobe Photoshop is steep, and trying to use Microsoft PowerPoint to patch images together is a pain. So what tools and resources are out there for businesses on a tight budget? Here are 29 great online resources that will make creating visual content easy. The best part: they’re free!

Inspiration: Get the Wheels Turning

When it comes to developing ideas, start by seeking inspiration from the best of the best. The sites below are my favorite sources for checking out the latest and greatest design styles, trends, and new ideas. They feature huge varieties of professionally produced, high-quality images. Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with taking the ideas you see, watering them down, adding a new spin, and creating something of your own.


1. Dribbble


Comprised of the work of web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, icon artists, typographers, logo designers, and other creatives, Dribble offers a glimpse of these professionals’ pride and joy.


2. Creattica


Creattica is a gallery of great design that is submitted, voted upon, and accepted as the best work. There is a ton of stuff on the site, so make the search function your friend and get inspired!


Stock Images

It seems that just about every company that doesn’t have access to a photographer will need stock images at some point. Here are several sites that offer free, and royalty-free images for commercial use. Although there are great images available, be sure to sort through and avoid the cliché and cheesy ones.


3. Compfight


Compfight is an image search engine that utilizes flickr. It allows you to search by license: Any license, Creative Commons, or Commercial.


4. Pixabay


Here all pictures are published under Creative Commons public domain deed CC0, which means you can copy, modify, and distribute the work, even for commercial purposes, without asking permission.


5. MorgueFile


Named with a term that derives from the newspaper business, MorgueFile is an easy-to-use site that simply asks that you credit the photographer when possible.


6. stock.xchng


Here you can find over 350,000 free stock images.


7. Stock Free Images


Here you can find over 900,000 free stock images.


Imaging Tools

Below are two miscellaneous, but fantastic tools that deal with capturing and placing images you see on your screen.


8. AwesomeScreenshot: Capture & Annotate


A free Google Chrome extension, AwesomeScreenshot makes it easy to take screen shots, mark them up, and blur sensitive information in one simple interface.


9. Placeit


This site provides you with dozens of free, high-quality images featuring electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops in realistic settings. The best part is that Placeit allows you to easily place your own images in the screens of the electronics. It is definitely worth checking out.


Image Editors

When Photoshop is not an option, try these free image editors. Some are more complex than others, so pick one that fits your needs best.


10. Pic Monkey


Pic Monkey is great for first-timers and veterans alike. The program is simple and self-explanatory, making it easy to edit photos, make a template collage, or design from scratch.


11. Pixlr


This free online program features three different photo editors, each varying in complexity. Pixlr Editor has both functions and complexities similar to Photoshop. Pixler Express is an easier version that is great for quick fixes. Pixlr O-Matic features pre-made filters that you can easily apply to your photos.


12. GIMP


Gimp is the most complex program out of the bunch. Download it onto your computer and use it as a paint program, expert photo retouching program, or a batch processing system. Add plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything.


Image Compressors

Having page load issues? Make your image file sizes smaller with these two wonderful tools without changing the quality of your pics.


13. JPEGmini


Upload your JPEG images and wait a moment while the file sizes are reduced by up to 5 times! Woot!


14. TinyPNG




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17 Dec 2014

By Kaylee White