My Favorite Things: Creative Edition

By: Rachael McGrew, Landmark CPAs

As a marketer, oftentimes I find that the “other duties, as assigned” line in my job description makes up a LOT of what I do. It means party planner, photographer, editor, social media guru, and many times creative director and graphic designer. Fortunately for me, in addition to a marketing degree, I also have a background as a graphic designer. I know that is pretty uncommon, so here are a few of my favorite creative tools to have up your sleeve when you need to wear your designer hat.

Stock photos: There are a ton of places to get stock photos, but my go-to is Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/). The photos are free and you can create collections inside your account. Plus, there’s a plug-in in the Chrome Store that you can use to make the home page on your browser a new photo every time you open it or another tab. Plus, you can download the photo from right there! Other free options include Pexels (https://www.pexels.com/), Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/), Freepik https://www.freepik.com/, and Burst (powered by Shopify) (https://burst.shopify.com/). Paid options include Shutterstock (https://www.shutterstock.com/), iStock (https://www.istockphoto.com/) and Adobe Stock (https://stock.adobe.com/).

Creative Market https://creativemarket.com/: This is one of my absolute favorite tools that regularly makes my (work) life easier! Creative Market is marketplace for ready-to-use design assets like graphics, templates, photos, font add-ons and bundles, and even 3D models. The prices are very reasonable, and each week there are new free goods to download. You can pay per item or purchase credits that come with bonuses. Once you create your account, you can use the “Collections” feature to save any items you like, which I find very handy when I am working on everything from invitations and cards to softball t-shirts (you know, all of the important things!)

Adobe Creative Cloud https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud.html: This is a BIG one and it is complicated too. Creative Cloud is “a collection of 20+ desktop and mobile apps and services for photography, design, video, web, UX (user experience)and more.” The Cloud includes programs like Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Lightroom, which are the ones I use the most. In addition to the apps, you also have access to Adobe Font, an online collection of fonts you can easily turn on and off (no downloading!) to use in all of the Adobe programs. Since it is a cloud-based program, you can store all of your assets (anything, really) in a central location and then access from anywhere—home, work, or even on your phone! Adobe recently added a few social media tools like Premiere Rush for video and Spark for graphics, and it appears they are developing a Photoshop Camera app powered by AI to use for enhancing photos. Creative Cloud is a subscription-based service that runs $79.99 a month per license (the team version). That includes all of the apps, fonts and 100GB of cloud storage.

Now, let me stop here and say that Adobe is not easy to use. I spent a couple of years learning it in school and have been using Adobe programs for more than 10 years now, and I feel like I have barely scraped the surface. However, the tools are powerful, and you are only limited by your imagination. Adobe is my go-to for just about anything. Rarely a day goes by that I am not using one of the programs for something.

Canva (https://www.canva.com/): I did not start using this tool until earlier this year, and I am surprised at how much it has to offer. It is much easier to use than the Adobe Creative Cloud, and there are plenty of options to choose from with the free membership. You can easily design flyers, infographics, brochures, invitations, and presentations plus there are free and paid stock photo and icon options. There’s a graph maker and photo editor, too. You can even have your items printed right from the site. Canva’s tutorials get you started, and there are several courses in their Design School you can watch for free. The Canva Pro option starts at $9.95 a month and includes more content and features as well as better organization options. You can try the Pro version for free for 30 days. I might have just sold myself on going Pro!

Pixlr: Pixlr https://pixlr.com/ is a free online photo editing tool. You can adjust images, draw on your photos, retouch, filter and add overlays and borders. There is a web app and a mobile app. Pixlr also has a Dropbox extension. Pixlr is part of the Inmagine Group https://www.inmagine.com/ which offers other products like Vectr (a free vector graphics software) https://vectr.com/, The Hungry Jpeg (a design resource site) https://thehungryjpeg.com/ and Story & Heart (a video footage library) https://www.storyandheart.com/.

What are your favorite tools? What are the ones you cannot live without? Drop me a line at rmcgrew@landmarkcpas.com and let me know! I love to learn about new tools.