12 Online Design Tools and Resources That Will Make Your Life As a Small Business Owner in Malaysia Easier

Great looking graphics are no longer optional these days. Whether you are creating graphics for your Facebook page, Instagram account or website, nowadays, you need to make sure that your graphics look great.

When I was just getting started online, only people who were good with Adobe Photoshop could create beautiful graphics for their business. The rest of us would have to make do with ugly DIY graphics to shove out a lot of money to have skilled graphic designers to help us with even the most basic graphics.

The good news is that nowadays you don’t need to be a graphics designer to create beautiful graphics. Many tools have now become available to help you with your basic graphics tasks.

Although you would probably not be able to create the stunning graphics that most skilled graphic designers can create, these tools will help you create beautiful graphics good enough to attract your audience.

Even though I am subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud for Photoshop, I still use these tools simply because they make the process of creating basic but beautiful graphics easier and faster.

Let’s take a look at them!

Here are 12 graphic design tools and resources I recommend for those of you who aren’t graphic designers but want to create great graphics for their business or website.

Facebook and Instagram Posts

Stencil (From US$9/month, free version available)

Stencil is my favorite tool to use for creating Facebook and Instagram posts. You have all the elements you need – stock images, fonts, icons – to create a beautiful social media post.

All you have to do is drag and drop them in place:

It normally takes me just minutes to create beautiful social media posts like this:

Stencil is great for creating simple graphics with some text on it. The most common use of this is quotes and announcements (for e.g. discounts, opening hours).

With very little training, small business owners can use it to quickly design good-looking social media posts.

You can get the Pro version of Stencil at $9 (~RM40) a month or use the free version. The downside of using the free version is that it’s pretty limited. You can only create up to 10 images a month and access to a very limited library of stock photos and icons.

Check out Stencil


Pablo by Buffer (free)

If Stencil’s $9 a month is too steep for you, the good news is that there is a free software by Buffer that does almost the same thing.

Like Stencil, Pablo is a drag and drop software that allows you to put stock images and text together into a beautiful social media post:

The only difference is that with Pablo, you get a little less choice compared to Stencil. However, if you can’t afford the $9 a month for Stencil’s Pro plan, Pablo is a great alternative for Stencil’s free plan.

Check out Pablo


Chart Making Tools

Beam by Venngage (free)

If you work with a lot of data, you might want to check out this free chart-making tool by Venngage.

With Beam, it is easy to create good-looking graphs and charts that will attract your audience more than just a bunch of numbers:

Beam is best for converting simple data into graphs or charts. I wouldn’t recommend using it for more complex data representation.

Check out Beam


Infographics

Piktochart (from RM35 a month, free version available)

Piktochart is a Malaysian-made infographics creation software. With Piktochart, you can turn your boring text into something visually attractive for your audience.

Although the free version is pretty limited in terms of the templates, it includes a powerful graphic design tool you can use to create very good-looking graphics:

Best of all, you can save all your designs as a high-quality image without the Piktochart branding!

If you are someone creative enough to build good-looking designs yourself the free version will be more than enough to help you with your design goals. But if you prefer some design guidance, I recommend you to sign up for Piktochart’s basic plan. At just RM35 a month, it’s one of the most affordable infographics creators in the market!

Check out Piktochart


Venngage (from US$19 a month, free version available)

Like Piktochart, Venngage is another infographics creation software.

The biggest difference between Piktochart and Venngage is that Piktochart caters mostly to people who want to DIY their own infographics but Venngage provides consultation and workshops for training people on how to create infographics.

If you are not looking for the full-suite Venngage package at $19 a month, the free version also comes with a powerful infographics creator you can use for your graphics needs:

Venngage offers a lot more templates in their free version when compared to Piktochart. However, all infographics created using Venngage’s free version will have to come with the Venngage branding.

If you want a wider selection of templates and don’t mind the Venngage branding, then you might find Venngage much more satisfying to use compared with Piktochart.

Check out Venngage


Logos

Logojoy (from US$20/logo)

Gone are the days you need to hire a designer to come up with even the most basic logo designs.

Nowadays you can use software like Logojoy to ‘try on’ different looks for your logo before deciding on the one you will use for your brand.

The best thing is that you don’t need to pay to use Logojoy’s full suite of logo design tools. You can use it to design your logo for as long as you want and only pay for the final logo that you decide on.

Change the font, icon, color and element sizes until you come up with a logo you love!

Here are a few new logo designs for Entrepreneur Campfire I was able to come up with within 5 minutes of using Logojoy:

Although these logos still need some refining, it’s a great place to start and get ideas from. I’ll probably use Logojoy for a new version of my logo sometime in the future 🙂

Check out Logojoy


Annotation

Awesome Screenshot (free)

Awesome Screenshot is a free chrome-extension that you can use to take screenshots and then annotate your screenshots with.

This is an especially useful tool when your work often requires you to take show your audience screenshots of how things work.

To use Awesome Screenshot, you need to first download the chrome extension.

Once you have added the chrome extension, the Awesome Screenshot icon will be added to your menu bar. From there you can choose from a few types of screenshots:

As an example, here is a screenshot taken and annotated using Awesome Screenshot of the section you just read above:

It took me less than a minute to produce that.

Before Awesome Screenshot, I used to have to take a screenshot and then put it in Adobe Photoshop to make simple annotations on it. Now with Awesome Screenshot, I can both take a screenshot as well as annotate it using the same software.

Check out Awesome Screenshot


Everything

These are full-suite graphic design tools that can help you with anything from pamphlet designs, infographics to Facebook and Instagram posts.

Because of that, they can be harder to use when compared to the job-specific tools above. They can also be slightly pricier.

Nonetheless, if you are looking to create slightly more complex graphics, these tools can help you:

Canva (from US$12.95/month, free version available)

Canva is one of the pioneer full-suite online design tools for non-designers. Unlike Stencil or Piktochart that we saw earlier, you are not limited to creating just social media posts or infographics using Canva.

With Canva you can create anything from presentations, Facebook covers, e-books, pamphlets and more:

Although the free version comes with much less choice on templates compared with the paid version, for most people this will be more than enough.

Check out Canva


DesignBold (US$19/month, free version available)

The other full-suite design tool for non-designers that I recommend is DesignBold. Based in Vietnam, DesignBold offers everything that Canva offers:

The biggest difference between them is that DesignBold’s Pro plan includes 20 free premium stock photos whereas you would need to pay $1 for each premium photo you use in Canva.

So even though DesignBold’s Pro plan costs $6.5 more, it will still be more affordable than Canva if you are a heavy user of premium photos.

Other than that, I personally feel that DesignBold’s design templates are bolder and more interesting when compared to those offered by Canva.

Check out DesignBold


Stock Photos

What I have found is that although it isn’t too difficult to find free stock images of high quality these days, paid photos have much more graphical detail and effects.

Personally, free stock photos are mostly enough for me but you have to decide for your own business.

123RF (from RM175/five images)

123RF is a stock content company founded by Malaysians. As such, it is probably the only stock content company that offers its pricing in Malaysian ringgit, making it more affordable for those earning Malaysian ringgit also.

From its site, 123RF states that it offers over 87 million high-quality images, audio, and vectors:

Starting at just RM175 for 5 images, 123RF offers one of the most affordable starter pack plans for stock photos around:

Although there are many other stock content companies around, I would recommend you to check 123RF for the content you need first as you will probably save at least 25% compared to other stock content companies.

Check out 123RF


Pixabay (free)

Pixabay is by far my favorite source for free high-quality stock photos.

The collection of stock photos on Pixabay is quite large so you can find high-quality photos in almost any category you want.

Check out Pixabay


Unsplash (free)

Unsplash is my second favorite free stock photos site:

Though the images are usually more stunning compared to Pixabay, Unsplash’s slightly smaller collection of photos places it as my second choice when it comes to looking for stock photos.

Nonetheless all the images I have found on Unsplash has been beautiful and looks great alongside my marketing materials.

Check out Unsplash


Conclusion

There you have it – 12 online design tools and resources you can use to help you shave hours off creating high-quality graphics for your business.

These tools and resources will make it easy for you to create professional looking graphics even if you have no design experience. More than that, you will be able to save a lot of money from having to hire a designer to do even basic graphics for you.

Do you use any of these tools and resources? What are some great tools you think I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Lu Wee is the Founder of The Entrepreneur Campfire. The Entrepreneur Campfire (TEC) is where smart entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia gather. You can find practical articles on how to grow, market and scale your business on TEC.

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