Cour Collaborative, LLC

Free graphic design tools and tips for small businesses

Free & low cost design tools: vol 1

TL;DR: Digital and print postcards are an engaging way to motivate customers to share your business with their network.

While it’s ideal to have a professional tackle your design needs, there are some tools that can help you save money on smaller tasks.

When it comes to things like logo creation and website design, it’s important to hire a professional to develop these fundamental elements of your business. But if you’re in a pinch for time and money and need a free solution to get you through, there are a few great options available.

Inkscape is a completely free, open source vector graphics editor you can download.

In order to have the ability to scale, pull elements from, and edit designs like your logo, you’ll need vector files of those designs. Vector files allow you to make adjustments without losing image quality or being unable to comply with different design specs. You can’t create vector files from non-vector images. But you’ll usually need specialized software, like Adobe Illustrator, to open, create, or edit a vector file. But programs like this can cost more than $250 per year.

Inkscape allows folks of any design ability to edit and manipulate vector files at no cost. It’s a handy tool to have if you want to add a tagline to your logo, create a white-out version of your logo, export files with a transparent background, or even pull individual elements from a design. You can find tutorials on everything from the basic to the complex on the Inkscape website or by just searching Google for the task you’re looking to accomplish. And because it’s open source, Inkscape benefits from a community of contributors who can continually make the software better with the ability to directly report issues or share new ideas for improvement.

If you don’t have much of a designer’s blood running through your veins, you’ll want to limit your Inkscape projects to small modifications since it doesn’t offer actual design guidance. But there is a graphic design tool that’s perfect for those less adept at design.

Canva offers free, ready-made templates, no design chops needed.

If you need to create business cards, social posts, or print marketing material and can’t afford the help of a designer, Canva can give you access to thousands of pre-made designs to choose from and edit. Their basic level plan is free for everyone to use, and their Pro level plan is completely free for nonprofits. If you find the basic free plan a bit limiting, their Pro level plan is still accessible at around $120 for a year subscription.

We don’t advise relying on Canva if you’re looking for a free or cheap tool to design a logo. Canva isn’t vector-based, so you wouldn’t get the level of quality or flexibility you need from your brand elements. And you won’t get the valuable experience and guidance that a professional designer would offer. But if you’re looking to design a thank you note or a quick ad, Canva is a fantastic tool to have in your marketing arsenal.

Need help knowing what to create, who to target, and how?

Having these tools is a great step toward showcasing your small business’ professionalism, quality, and trustworthiness. Let us help you get the most out of these free design resources by properly understanding your target demographic and prioritizing your projects.

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Best in the (small) Biz

Available November 2023

Cour Collaborative’s Best in the (small) Biz guide will feature a spectrum of businesses & nonprofits across Central Texas that have earned our community’s badge of approval.