If you’re running an online business, you’re going to need a lot of graphics. You’re going to need header images, favicon images, background images, navigation images, eBook covers, product images, banner ads and more.
Sure, you could outsource some of the work. If you’re not a graphic designer, you should probably outsource the extremely difficult aspects of graphics editing. Also, anything that needs to be done by hand (such as a sketched out logo) should be outsourced, unless you have the drawing skills.
However, basic image editing is absolutely a skill that every online business owner should know. If you need simple edits done to an image or if you need to put together your own graphical navigation bar, that should be something you can just do yourself in an hour or two.
In addition to costing money, outsourcing takes a lot of time and attention. You have to find someone to do the gig, you have to wait for the project and you have to make sure they follow through. There are plenty of places for the ball to get dropped.
For simple or fast gigs, you should be able to just do it yourself. There are plenty of tools both online and offline that make this task simple and easy. Here are the top 10 graphics and photo editing tools for online business owners.
Tool #1: Adobe Photoshop
When it comes to image editing programs, Adobe is the crème of the crop. The king of kings, the queen of hearts.
Whether you want to color correct an image, retouch a photo, design a banner from scratch or create a brand new eBook cover, Adobe Photoshop has all the tools and capabilities you need to make it happen.
That said, Adobe Photoshop has many barriers. For one, it’s difficult to master. You can learn the basics of the software in about a month, but to really learn it in and out could easily take as long as a year.
It’s also one of the most expensive software packages on the market.
If you’re willing to put in the time and the money, Adobe Photoshop wins out, bar none. If not however, one of the other tools on this list may work better for you.
Tool #2: Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator is Adobe Photoshop’s close cousin, with one big difference: Illustrator edits in vectors, while Photoshop edits in raster.
What’s the difference?
Raster editing is when you’re editing an image in pixel-graphics form. The image editing software knows the color value of every pixel in the image. When you edit the image, you’re editing its pixels.
Vector editing works with lines. These lines are saved as mathematical equations. When you edit a vector image file, you’re editing the mathematics underlying the graphics, which changes how it’s rendered.
The main difference is that vector graphics can be scaled up infinitely large without losing resolution. You could design a vector graphic for a tiny logo, but while retaining the ability to blow it up to billboard size without losing any resolution.
Generally, you want to use vector graphics for logos or images that you want to use across multiple mediums. Everything else should be done with raster editing, as raster is generally more powerful.
Tool #3: GIMP
GIMP is widely recognized as the #1 alternative to Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop however, GIMP is 100% free.
GIMP is licensed under the GNU open source license. It can do everything from color correcting to photo manipulation. It might not have some of the bells and whistles that Photoshop does, like perspective editing or fancy filters, but for everyday image editing GIMP can definitely get you where you need to go.
Tool #4: Paint.net
Paint.net (which isn’t located at paint.net – It’s at http://www.getpaint.net) is yet another free downloadable image editing program. It’s a close second to GIMP on the market.
Paint.net isn’t open source like GIMP. Instead, it was developed initially as an alternative to Paint, the original graphics editing program that came with early versions of Windows. It was developed under the tutelage of a Microsoft developer. Today it’s supported by donations.
Tool #5: Editor.pho.to
Editor.pho.to is an online editor that’s fantastic for quick and easy edits.
It can zoom in and out of photos, rotate photos, resize photos, crop photos, apply simple color corrections, apply artistic effects and add text.
You won’t be able to do anything fancy, like blur out just the background of a person or make someone look younger. For quick and dirty edits however, the tool is fantastic.
Tool #6: Pixia
Pixia and Phierha were image editing tools first created in Japanese, then ported over to English once they got extremely popular online.
Because of Pixia’s unique background, it works a little differently than the rest of the photo editing programs. Pixia is fantastic for creating cartoons, graphics or other simple yet stylistic images from scratch. If you’re looking to edit realistic photos however, it’s probably not the tool of choice.
Tool #7: Da Font
If you’re looking to create a cool looking text graphic, look no further than Da Font. Da Font is the net’s largest font database. What makes this site really cool is that you can type your text in right there on the site and it’ll generate an image of that text.
All you need to do is find the font you want, then type in your text and screenshot the image or save it. Then you can put it in your banners, your site design, your brochures or anywhere else you want to use the font.
Tool #8: Microsoft Excel
If you have Microsoft Office, you already have a fantastic tool for generating graphics for your website. If you’re looking to put up any kind of data – For example, for infographics or for analyzing industry trends – Microsoft Excel really does the job.
Recent versions of Excel come with the ability to publish all kinds of 3D graphics, charts, graphs and other goodies. All of them look highly professional.
Tool #9: Pixlr
Pixlr is a full featured image editor that works entirely on the internet. It works very much like Photoshop. Even the interface looks a lot like Photoshop.
Pixlr uses layers of graphics to render the final image, which means you can do some pretty complex effects with Pixlr.
Tool #10: Splashup
Finally, we have Splashup. Much like Pixlr, Splashup is a free online photo editor that works a lot like Photoshop. It also uses layered graphics, giving you a lot of leeway to create interesting effects.
Unlike Pixlr, Splashtop supports different blend modes and opacities on different layers. This makes more complicated effects easier to perform.
These are the ten top tools on the market today for editing or creating graphics, photos and images if you run an online business.