Do you want to create professional posters, presentations, websites, invitations, or reports? Then you need the tools and resources to design better. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite (and most promising) design tools to help you with your design skills. From easy to advanced, and from free to paid.

Professional photography

You can find high-quality images for free, so you never have to use an image from Google images.

Pexels.com: high-quality copyright-free images

Free copyright-free images

For specific images, see some other image libraries

Paid stock photography

Since everyone will use free images where possible, it’s sometimes better to buy stuff. These images are more unique since fewer people will use them. So use them for your branding for example.

Stock video

Change it up with some stock video images for your next presentation! Most stock image sites will also have video available if you need more options.

Icons & illustrations

  • Phosphor icons (free)
  • thenounproject.com Millions of simple icons downloadable in any color. Free options with attribution or $3.33 per month. I mostly buy icons from this artist
  • flaticons.net Royalty free icons, free.
  • biorender.com Full design tool to create scientific diagrams, mostly in cells. Free for limited use, or $35 /month
  • scidraw.io Simple icons, like cells, vials, neurons and lab animals. Free under the creative commons license.
  • bioicons.com Icons in color for researchers, from cells, medicine, lab equipment, chemistry & physiology and animals. All free under the the creative commons license.
  • Need something more custom? Create your own icons and shapes shape.so Free limited or $59 per year.
  • Illustrations drawkit.com Free and $79/Year
  • Open peeps Free hand-drawn people illustration library.
  • More icons that you can possibly need icones.js.org
  • If you need funky 3D hands check out handz.design

Mockups

All-in-one memberships

There are more and more membership services where you can download all sorts of designs. Like images, icons, presentation templates, music, sound effects, fonts, stock video, 3D mockups and report templates. Usually a very good deal!

  • Envato elements has anything you might need €14.50 per month.
  • Illustrations, 3D and mockups storytale.io From $19 per month
  • Creative market for graphics, fonts, templates, photos, web themes, 3D, and even add-ons. Free or $19.95 per month.
  • Storyblocks.com Digital assets such as videos, audio, images, from €15 per month.
  • Monster One. Images, video and 3D models, but also WordPress templates. $7.40 per month.

All-in-one online design software

Create your own amazing designs with these free and paid tools. These tools also have their own design library with images you can use plus templates made by designers. It’s simple and free and I often recommend it to people with no design experience.

  • Canva is an easy to use online editing program that’s great for social media posts, flyers, posters, invitations and simple infographics. With a lot of templates to kick-start your design with. Free or $12.99 per month.
  • Visme.co Online editing program suitable for print, social and more complex infographics and graphs and even video. Free; Paid plans start at $29 per month
  • Mind the graph. Very promising design tool aimed towards scientists to create poster presentations, diagrams and graphical abstracts. You can create detailed graphics of bacteria, amoeba, and molecules. Free and paid plans starting at $14 per month.
  • Piktochart helps you create infographics, reports, videos, and more with just a few clicks. Free or $29 per month.
  • Easel.ly for reports and infographics. Free or $2 per month for students and $4 per month for individuals.
  • Infogram is an online design tool with a focus on graphs and data visualisation. Free or $25 per month.
  • Snappa is good for simple graphics for social media, ads, blogs. Free or $15 per month.
  • I’ll mention biorender.com again, since this is also an online editor for creating scientific diagrams. Free for limited use or $35 per month.
  • Venngage for infographics. Free or $16 per month.

Datavisualization tools

For more complex datavisualisation you can try any of these tools.

Google fonts has a wide collection of fonts you can download for free

Fonts

  • fonts.google.com is the place to download great free fonts for use in presentations or websites.
  • dafont.com: Free fonts (but not always very legible).

Simple tools to help you design better

Some other tools I use all the time:

Writing tools

From simple grammar tools to AI-powered writing bots.

  • Grammarly is a browser extension that helps me write without spelling mistakes wherever I am on the web.
  • Quillbot.com is a paraphrasing tool I use all the time to see some other options for my text.
  • Hemingway App checks your text for readability and improves your writing style.
  • Jasper.ai is a full AI-powered writing tool that helps you write entire blogs.
Some design tools, from easy to difficult and from free to expensive.

Image editing tools

  • Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign). A great design tool. I do 90% of my design work with this software, but there is a steep learning curve. If you’re a student or employee of a university check whether you can get a free or cheap license. If you’re a researcher in the Netherlands, check out Surfspot.
  • Alternatives for Photoshop
    • Photopea, a free online image editor that supports PSD files.
    • Gimp.org is a free and open source image editor.
    • Inkscape is a free design tool.
    • Affinity designer is a full suite that can replace your creative cloud. One-time only payment of €48.99 with discount.
  • Free online photo editor in your browser edit.photo
  • Design 3D in the browser

There is probably a lot more to discover, but if you want more, check out this directory for more design tools: https://tinytools.directory/

Do you want to learn to design with these tools and create beautiful posters, presentations, and graphical abstracts? Check out our Crash course design.

About the Author: Liesbeth Smit

Liesbeth combines her knowledge of science communication, technology and design to explain difficult topics to a wide audience. You can use her practical tips immediately in your (poster) presentations to create a bigger impact. She developed dozens of websites, infographics and animated videos, and regularly gives workshops about design at The Online Scientist.

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