It has been for a while that I wanted to blog about all the amazing design apps for creating beautiful social media templates from scratch. It seems that new and new tools are introduced every week to address all sorts of design needs and to promise productivity and ease of use. But while researching these tools I realized two things:
One, I won’t blog about something that I don’t know throughout.
Two, I found myself asking the question: Would I switch from my current apps to use them? And the answer is no.
THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT THE NEXT SHINY AND PROMISING NEW TOOL
So no, this is not a “50 design apps you must try in your business” type of post. That wouldn’t be authentic on my end, and also would leave you even more confused because who on earth can pick one winner out from 50?
Instead, I’m going to show you my top 3 choices when it comes to creating blog and social media templates in my business. I worked with these tools for years, I know their ups and downs, their strengths and weaknesses. They are familiar faces, who I know what to expect from.
Before jumping into it, one more thing to mention: I’m not saying that new design apps can’t be better than my 3 preferred tools. I’m sure there are amazing options among them, that are more dedicated for creating social media templates. But consider this: sometimes it’s better to learn one or two powerful tools that you can use in a very versatile way and learn their advanced capabilities step by step, than jumping from one “easy” app to the other, hoping that they bring you better results. The tools itself won’t make you more successful. It’s your dedication and persistence that matters. So research them well and stick to your decision. Don’t jump from one shiny object to the other.
Sometimes it’s better to learn one or two powerful tools that you can use in a very versatile way and learn their advanced capabilities step by step, than jumping from one “easy” app to the other, hoping that they bring you better results.
MY TOP 3 TOOLS FOR CREATING SOCIAL MEDIA TEMPLATES
So here it comes, my 3 favorite design tools for creating beautiful social media templates, or as I call them: The Loved One, The Powerhouse and The Easy-Peasy.
THE LOVED ONE - ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR
I’m a brand designer, which means I spend hours in Adobe Illustrator. I remember, there were a time, when it felt intimidating… yes, there were a time during my university years, when I felt more at ease in AutoCAD (an engineering drawing software) than in Illustrator. So much so, that I created my first ever logo in AutoCAD (for a beauty salon, and it was horrible, believe me). We didn’t have any Adobe related class in our whole engineering program, so I had to use what I could and MacGyver my way through that class.
Looking back I don’t understand my initial fear. Illustrator is a very easy and straightforward software compared to other Adobe tools.
I love Illustrator for creating social media templates, because:
- You can create multiple artboards in one file. This is by far my favorite Illustrator feature because it let’s me set up a 3 by 3 grid of 9 artboards - perfect for planning my Instagram posts. This way I can see my posts in the way as they will be visible on my Instagram feed.
- Linked photo files let you switch photos in a few clicks. Let’s say you really like the layout of your template but just want to change the background photo. With Illustrator’s link panel, you can switch to another photo within a few clicks, without affecting other parts of your template.
- It has Advanced Typography Settings. If you have designer friends you might noticed that we have a crazy affection for nice fonts. Especially when they come in a zillion weight variation that are not always editable in other apps. Why would I choose boring old “regular” or “bold” when I can play around with “hairline”, “light”, and “semibold”. Illustrator lets you easily pick these variations which is fun, when you are as much big of a typography junkie as me.
- You can create your own icons and vector graphics. In Illustrator you can easily import or create vector graphic (= scalable without quality loss) icons and illustrations, like these free goodies I offer every month.
- You can quickly change all the colors without first selecting all the elements. You know how painful is when you create an infographic for your blog and you realize that you don’t love the colors you chose? In many apps you have to select manually all the elements with the same colors and change them one by one. But not in Illustrator, because here you can create global colors that you can edit from the Swatch panel and every object having that color will be magically updated to the new setting.
- Built-in free and paid templates from Adobe Stock. If you prefer to customize an already existing template, Adobe has a huge and consistently growing template library on Adobe Stock.
- Tons of tutorials for newbies: I recommend Skillshare, this is where I learned 80% of my Illustrator knowledge with the help of simple 1-3 hours video classes and engaging home projects.
- You can save your files as template files.
- Cloud storage for your files on Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Last but not least, many of the premade template sets on Creative Market are available in Illustrator format, so you don’t have to start from scratch, you can work from a base product created by a trained designer, like these:
Illustrator might not be a good tool for you if:
- You don’t want to spend too much on a design tool. Illustrator currently starts at $29.99 USD which might not worth it for you if you don’t use all of its advanced features
- You want something easy from the get go. Illustrator requires some learning, but it’s definitely not the most difficult Adobe software
- You want to create animated social media graphics. You would need either Photoshop or Adobe After Effects for that.
THE POWERHOUSE - ADOBE PHOTOSHOP
Photoshop is a powerhouse beast! What originally was created for photo editing and digital art, grow into a software with animation, vector graphic and 3D editing capabilities. This is why I say that if you want to spend on a professional design tool, start with Photoshop. It does not go too deep into each territory (for those reasons you are better off with a dedicated app, like After Effects, Illustrator or Lightroom) but for your day to day design tasks Photoshop will serve you incredibly well. And 99% of small businesses needs just that.
In fact, when I make social media templates for sale, I always offer the files in Photoshop format because that’s the most requested file type I’ve seen. And for some other interesting reasons too:
You can create animated social media templates in Photoshop. Only basic animation, but that’s honestly enough to grab the attention of your followers. You can achieve animation effects like in these templates:
You can use special layers, called “smart object layers” that make it possible to swap image files easily and create rendering of smart phones, laptops showing your product on the screens. If you’ve ever saw this type of visuals they were most likely created in Photoshop with the use of smart object layers.
Many of the pros mentioned for Illustrator are available here too: sophisticated font editing, easy color management, tons of tutorials and premade templates.
Photoshop starts at only $10 USD / month which makes it the most affordable and most versatile design software for small businesses
What you might miss from Photoshop:
You can’t create multiple artboards like in Illustrator. This means that you can only work on one social media template in one Photoshop file.
In my opinion it’s more difficult to learn Photoshop than Illustrator. This is partly because Photoshop is packed with so many features from photo editing to animation.
Choosing and modifying elements is more complicated than in Illustrator. In Illustrator you can easily select an element, in Photoshop you have to find the layer on which you placed that element. And if you put more than one element on one layer, it’s harder to modify them separately from each other.
THE EASY-PEASY - CANVA
I personally don’t use Canva as much in my business as Illustrator or Photoshop. But because I’ve got many requests in my Creative Market shop for Canva-ready social media templates, I looked into this very cool and easy to learn online app. I also helped other small business owners to start using Canva for creating their social media graphics. Last but not least, I had a chance to test their customer support when I had some very specific questions and my experience was fabulous. They not just answered my questions within a day but exceeded my expectations with useful links and by sharing their plans about their upcoming features.
Choose Canva if:
- You need a cheap tool. Canva is free and it has a Pro version with slightly more options for $12.95 USD / month. But you can just start with the free version because it has everything you need for creating social media templates and graphics. Here’s more info about their pricing.
- You are just starting out and get intimidated by sophisticated software like Photoshop. Canva is very intuitive and easy to use. You can learn it within 30 minutes.
- You want to work from existing templates. Canva has a huge template library for all kind of occasions from simple blog post graphics to restaurant menus and flyers.
- You want to access your work from anywhere. Canva is 100% web based, you can save everything under your account and access it from wherever you want. No more problems with fonts that you had on one computer but forget to install to another one because everything is online.
- You want to share your templates and graphics easily: send them in emails to other team members, share them on Facebook groups to get feedback from others on your design.
- You want to get awesome tips and tutorials: Canva is very easy to use, still tutorials can fuel your creativity and give you amazing new ideas. So I highly recommend if you go with Canva, check out their Canva Design School page.
On the other hand, you also have to consider some limitation when it comes to choosing Canva:
Font editing is very limited compared to Illustrator and Photoshop.
You can draw new vector graphic elements or icons and edit them in Canva. Instead, you have to use what you find in the built in shapes library or create your illustration in Photoshop or Illustrator and import it into Canva as a PNG (at this point it might be better if you stay in the Adobe apps).
You are not able to create separate layers in Canva, everything is on one layer. So if you have many elements, it might be hard to select the bottom one when you want to modify or move it.
ARE YOU STILL UNDECIDED? HERE’S A FREEBIE TO HELP YOU
These 3 design apps are all amazing for creating social media templates and graphics but I know you might still be confused about which one to pick. So I made a freebie, The Comparison Grid For Photoshop, Illustrator and Canva to summarize this post and help you choose the best tool for your business. Click on the image to gain instant access to this helpful freebie.