If you are reading this post, you most likely already value quality graphic work.
Be it for print materials, in service screen graphics, creative social media posts etc… you agree that this should be done and be done well. And most likely you fall into one of two categories (sorry in advance for “labeling” you), either you know how to do this the right way, or you don’t. As a youth pastor I’ve had reoccurring conversations around the topic of wishing I could somehow add graphic design to my past formation. The truth is, however, software like Photoshop and Illustrator, while being industry standards, are both expensive and hard to learn (at least for the average ministry worker).
So I’ve complied a list of 5 Apps that I personally use as workarounds when I need graphics made. I’ll say first off, I am happy to pay for custom work that I commission professionals to create, be it free lancers of even the occasional request on Fiverr. There are instances, however, when time and low priority needs simply don’t allow for me to outsource the work. It is in those times that I turn to these apps.
Finally I must add that I am using the term “app” both in it’s fuller definition of “application” or “software” as well as its modern use as related to phone or tablet software.
1. WORD SWAG
If you are just starting out, or looking for cheap, quick, easy yet stunning graphics, this app is the way to go. At $4.99 for download and a potential one time $1.99 in app purchase for more styles, the possibilities are virtually endless. Word Swag specializes in adding text to photos and images, while keeping a very cool and artistic look.
When you open the app you immediately can choose from your own photos or from the thousands of Pixabay free images (artistic and high quality stock photos and backgrounds). You then choose from a crop size, based on your need. Of course they have the standard square and 16:9 rectangle as well as other Instagram, Facebook and Twitter presets.
You then progress to adding text and choosing the style of your text. Here you can pick from a variety of styles and layouts (depending on how many you have purchased). Each style has five layouts and the option to “roll the dice” and randomize the look some more. From here you can then play with the color (hex codes supported) and texture of the text as well as add a variety of filters to the image as a whole.
Exporting the image is then incredibly simple as the SAVE button immediately adds the image to your camera roll where it is ready to be posted on your social media outlets. Also you have your typical options of sharing to social platforms directly as well as texting or emailing your work. One feature also worth mentioning here is the ability to add a Logo or Watermark at the end of the process which simply helps further your branding.
Word Swag is great for the ministry worker on the go, without much need for an eye for creative graphics as the app does most of the heavy lifting. This app is especially good for quotes of your speaker, recapping the weekend program. It also can be used to make incredible verse images that you can post as encouragement to your followers. The biggest con with this app,however, are the design limitations. Because of it’s ease of use, there are some things you may want to do, or features you would expect that simply are here. Fear not, there are other apps for that.
While Canva is probably the application I use the least, it is truly an incredible resource. Available as a web based software as well as a phone and table app, this software is capable of so much. While it would take me too much time to highlight each individual feature, or even bunch them together, let me simply point out a few of the things that I think make Canva a valuable Photoshop workaround.
First of all it has all your standard features: custom canvas sizes, presets for web as well as printed materials, even a feature to create slides for a presentation. It has templates in case you are uncomfortable starting from scratch, a wide variety of fonts, layouts, elements to add to your work such as shapes, lines, vector art and more. You can search stock photos or illustrations and whatever isn’t free, can be purchased typically for $1. It also has some good export features for when you are finished including a PDF format with lines set as guides for cutting your printed work.
The user interface is easy to work with and intuitive, but does have some limitations,especially if you are trying to work on your phone. I recommend the web based version for easiest outcome.
Now for some of the not-so-expected, yet incredible Canva features. If you are interested in purchasing the upgraded version “Canva for Work” (billed $12.95 monthly or $119.40 for the year) you are in for some real treats:
- Access to a lot more stock photos and illustrations
- The ability to add team members under your same account that can access and even work on your designs for you
- Magic Resize which allows you to create something once and automatically have it resized for multiple platforms and design types (/disclaimer, I haven’t actually tried this feature, although it sounds like a real time saver/)
- The ability to save your brand’s color palette, logos, even fonts and “go to” designs for recurring use
Canva.com is also an incredible resource for learning more about graphic design. They have tutorials for select features you may need, as well as a section on the theory behind designs. Font pairing, color choosing and overall project layout, are all sample topics that are covered in this free educational portion of the site.
Premium features of Canva for Work can also be obtained free of cost if you apply for the non-profit work version, reserved for registered 501c(3) corporations.
3. PAGES FOR MAC
You may not have expected to see this software in this list, but let me explain. I started using Pages when I purchased my first Mac, back in 2005. In my opinion, this word processor really is a hidden gem in the line up of stock software the Apple offers upon purchase of a computer. It has all the capabilities of any software of it’s kind, paragraphs, word count, margin and spacing tools etc… All of your word processing needs are met in this elegant and intuitive layout.
What I believe sets it apart, however, from it’s sister software, is the ability to create quality,artistic looking files. Be it with the Apple standard templates or from scratch, you can truly unleash your creativity with this app. If you can see it in your head, you can pretty easily create it here. So whether you are designing a summer calendar, flier for an event or even just want to better brand your forms and documents, Pages can effortlessly do it all.
You can create custom canvas sizes, so you aren’t limited to just A4 printed elements (I have been known to use Pages to quickly create screen graphics and announcements). You have the ability to make anything a “floating” element, so you can truly place items on any part of the page. You can easily slide text and images up and down the hierarchy of your page to create cool effects and looks. The alpha tool quickly eliminates backgrounds to photos and images giving you even more freedom to place throughout the page. Being an Apple software, it’s also worth mentioning, that it is incredible simple to drag and drop features and even add downloaded fonts.
While not necessarily created for graphic design, there are so many simple ways to create in Pages. I use it daily for both professional looking documents and reports, pretty much anything needed for print, as well as the occasional digital graphic need.
If you are looking for a true Photoshop replacement, then this is the app for you. Similar feel,features, tools, even the layout looks a lot like the Adobe original. And yet Pixelmator made more sense to me for a couple of reasons. First off, the price!! Coming in at $29.99 makes it a very affordable software. At the same time, the price point doesn’t make you feel like you are buying a super cheap knock off. It handles a lot of the same tools and features as Photoshop has and it also has a wide variety of tutorials created by Pixelmator as well as online users. The cost of this application along with the ease of use make it a great alternative for someone who wants to do a little more than what a phone app could handle, but isn’t yet ready for the full blown software learning experience. There is also a recently added feature called Vectormator incorporated to the software which handles all vector aspects of your designs. A well crafted software for a steal of a price. And the updates and new features keep rolling out.
The final app I want to highlight is the one I tend to use the most. Over is a cell phone app that I have had in my tool set since early on in it’s releases. The app is currently free although in-app purchases give you access to many fonts and some crucial tools. You can also pay a $9.99 monthly subscription for access to all the tools and more images. The benefit of the subscription is that you also get access to a ton of pre-made graphics that are useful to build off of, get inspiration and make great work! So what’s so great about this app? Here we go:
- Custom canvas sizes including easy to select social media presets
- Access to images (/camera roll of course/), as well as Unsplash, Pixabay and Google images built in
- A decent amount of fonts to pick from (/it is possible to add custom fonts, but on the iPhone this requires a second app and access to cloud software like Dropbox or iCloud/)
- Graphics which typically are PNG images you can download from their databases or from your phone (/there is even the option here to store your PNG logos all in one spot for recurring use)/
- Those are the bigger features.. adding photos, then adding text and graphic elements to them.The true beauty, however lies with how easily you can then edit all of these choices:
- Font alignment, spacing, all caps and curvature
- Color adjustment for images, fonts and design elements
- Sizing, shadows, opacity
- Precision placement on the canvas called “nudging”
- A mask tool which really sets this app apart from simply placing text on a photo* blending with a full set of filters and options
The other reason this app is so useful is that the user interface is intuitive and all these customization tools are incredibly easy to use, even on a small phone screen.
When it’s all said and done, nothing will ever, truly replace Photoshop and Illustrator when it comes to graphic design. However, while learning those software, or saving up funds for the purchase of them, there may be simpler graphic needs that can be met with an app workaround. Give these 5 a try and let me know if there are any that are better or should take the place of one of these. Until then… happy creating.
Middle School and Assimilation Director
Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church | Lexington SC
Daniel Stevanus grew up overseas in Bari, Italy as a missionary kid. There he developed his passion for people and call to ministry. After high school he moved back to the United States to attend Columbia International University, where he earned his degrees in Pastoral Ministry as well as Bible. He then served as a youth pastor on Long Island, NY for 5 years and is currently the co-director of Student Ministry at Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, SC where he has served for the past 2 years.
Ultimately, he is passionate about the church and seeing God’s people grow in their relationship with him through discipleship and the relevant teaching of His Word.
Daniel is also excited about the use of technology in ministry and working with students allows him to use this avenue to better reach those he is trying to minister to.