19.10.2016 / Päivi Rucidlo

Low-cost design tools for graphic amateurs

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The purpose of your digital signage screens is to get people to look at them, right?

But how could a graphic amateur such as myself whip up great looking, creative material? The company has no professional graphic designer, ad agencies take too much time and cost quite a bit, and struggling with Illustrator and other graphic design softwares is just too much to bear. Oh gosh, I'm sweating already.

No worries! We've found a bunch of low-cost content design services to allow you to create visually compelling image and video material for digital signage screens.

You need this to get started:

- What's your MESSAGE? Promotion, new campaign, opening hours...
- Your company LOGO. Preferebly with a transparent background (usually in .png file format)
- IMAGE MATERIAL. Your company products, video clips, graphic elements...

Combine the "ingredients" mentioned above to the tools introduced below and you'll be able to whip up fresh content in no time! Remember that visually compelling content drives better results; whether you're aiming for more sales, stronger brand, or improved communication with your target audience.

(BTW, us at FirstView have no connections on these services other than the enthusiasm of using them ourselves)

Photo: canva.com

Image templates especially for short messages, promotions, and offers. Warning! You might fall in love with this tool!

Choose the layout (screen orientation and resolution), find a design you like, change text, fonts, and colors as you wish, add your company logo, and finally download the image in .jpg or .png format. You can buy copyright elements for a very reasonable price. There's also lots of free material. You can also create your own designs and layout from scratch, or just simply change the text in existing templates depending on your needs and timetable.

Here's a list of the Canva templates that fit the most Full HD screens by their size and shape:

HORIZONTAL SCREEN: Documents/Presentation (16:9), Blogging&eBooks/DesktopWallpaper, Social Media & Email Headers/Youtube Thumbnail, Youtube ChannelArt, Google+ Photo, Ads/Facebook Ad

VERTICAL SCREEN: Blogging & eBooks/eBook, Kindle Cover

Go to the top right corner of the page to enter a custom resolution and create an image from scratch. Most common digital signage screens work with minimum resolution 1920x1080p.

Canva also provides an excellent "Design School" guide collection https://designschool.canva.com/

Photo: magisto.com

Ready-made video templates. Especially suitable for short teaser-type videos, product promotion, and to draw attention.

Add your company images and/or video clips, choose a theme, music, and give your video a title (for example "EVENT X 10.11.2016" or "We're hiring! Visit www.firstview.fi"). Magisto service creates an edited video clip with theme-based filters, effects, and wow-factors. You might have to create a couple test clips to figure out how your material composes within the video template. Try out different themes to find the best fit for your need. The Business service costs 9,99 dollars a month and it allows you to change the order of videos and images, add your company logo and text, and nables HD quality download.

If you need to do for example a company introduction, try out ANIMOTO (www.animoto.com). Animoto service also has ready-made storyboards and templates to make you existing company material look professional.

Photo: powtoon.com

Ready-made animation templates. Especially suitable for presentation, exhibition material, or to support a blog article ;)

Powtoon animation templates are edited a bit like PowerPoint slides, which makes it comfortable to use for pretty much everyone. As a result you'll get a modern, fun, and visual presentation that does not look like a 1990's slideshow. There are different categories for different purposes to help you to get started. The style of the templates is laid-back, fun, and fresh. You can add your company images, text, and logos as you wish. For a very reasonable price you can download the finalized presentation in digital signage screen-friendly MP4 format. The service is available either as a monthly service (starting from 19$ a month) or by a single download (starting from 8$ per video).

CLICK HERE to check out our Powtoon test, created in less than two hours!

Photo: pixabay.com

Actually FREE images. There is quite a good range of choices and sizes for different purposes. Pixabay works on donations and every user can give a selection of their own images for the whole world to use. Pixabay also suggests images on services such as Shutterstock, especially if your keyword has no matches within the free image stock. Pixabay images can be used as artwork for example with the template services mentioned before (Canva, Magisto, Animoto, Powtoon).

Photo: placeit.com

Place your image on a tablet, smartphone, or laptop in different real life scenarios and use the image in your own marketing materials. PlaceIt service creates a mock-up of your image on the device screen in the right proportion. Web size images are available for free, and the price of high quality mock-ups starts from 8$ a piece. You can also modify the images by adding text, filters, and other elements. Some of the mock-up templates also work with video material. PlaceIt mock-up images might not be the right choice in all marketing materials, but can work as a great modern and essential addition to a company presentation or product ads.

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