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.
You can find high-quality images for free, so you never have to use an image from Google images.
Free copyright-free images
- pexels.com (our favorite)
For specific images, see some other image libraries
- New York Public Library
- Library of Congress
- The State Library of New South Wales
- National Library of Ireland
- Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art,
- the Met, and
- the Art Institute of Chicago
- For COVID images, see the CDC
- The National Park Service library has black and white nature images “Open Parks Network.”
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.
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
- 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
- LS graphics Mockups, Illustrations, and UI Tools.
- Ceacl free or from €9 per month.
- Realistic humans https://generated.photos or faces https://generated.photos/faces
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.
For more complex datavisualisation you can try any of these tools.
- 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
- Contrast checker Make sure your texts are legible by checking the contrast.
- color.adobe.com/explore Inspiration for color schemes.
- colorzilla Browser extension to pick colors from any website.
- stripegenerator.com Free tool to create striped patterns.
- Remove any object, defect, people, or text from images https://cleanup.pictures/
- Clipdrop.co removes backgrounds
- https://www.remove.bg/ removes backgrounds (my favorite)
- SVG to 3D https://studio.morflax.com/shift/
- Create your own maps with https://www.mapchart.net/
- Create the right sizes for your fonts https://type-scale.com/
Some other tools I use all the time:
- Compress images so they don’t take up so much space on your website imagecompressor.com
- Remove line breaks from text copied from a PDF (life saver!) https://www.textfixer.com/tools/remove-line-breaks.php
- Online image resizer that can also crop your image imageresizer.com
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.
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
- Spline app is a free online 3D design tool. I built a unique animated 3D environment for a research group with this app. https://www.developmentmatters.nl/
- Vectary is very similar and can build entire 3D worlds.
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.
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