If you’ve ever wanted to quickly crop a photo or make a collage without having to invest in learning all the ins and outs of professional software, there are a slew of creative tools available online that you can use. Here’s a review of the top tools we’ve tried, for both digital and print applications. Most have both free and paid options, depending on your needs.
Keep in mind that when you are designing with on-the-go the tools focused on digital first, they may not offer an easy way to set up bleed. If you want your image to print to the edge of the sheet, you will need to leave an eighth of an inch extra to be trimmed. (See What is bleed? for more details.)
Simple Designs, Ready for Print or Digital
For simple photos with text overlays, these two tools tie for easy-to-use basic design. More experienced designers may not like them as much as professional software since customization is limited and clunkier than starting from scratch. But they will get you a quick graphic when you need it. Both let you download high-quality images that can be printed, in addition to images sized for digital use.
Canva starts you out with a selection of templates based on what you want to make. Free or paid templates make it easy to create social media images, posters, and blog graphics. When you are done, you can download a print PDF for free as well as smaller files for digital uses. Choosing PDF for Print with a social media image gets you a 300 dpi file at 8.33″ square.
Equally easy to use is Adobe’s Spark, available as an app and accessible through a web browser. The built-in free photo finder is a bonus, but the video option actually makes a slideshow and does not work with video files.
Where Canva has images included with layouts for you to use, Spark is more flexible because it lets you search photos right in the design space. Both also allow you to upload your own photos. The downside here is that if you don’t have a Creative Cloud subscription, the image you download will be branded to show it was made with Spark. Spark downloads print 8.5″ square at 300 dpi.
Basic Photo Editing for Digital Use
PicMonkey is an easy-to-use photo editor, perfect for cropping photos for your website or resizing for an email newsletter. This service also offers a design app if you need to do more, but this link is for the photo editor.
Full-On Photo Editing
Photopea is a pretty robust photo editing tools. It lets you easily access files on the go including PSD files. You can even install Photopea inside Google Drive to update existing files.
Mobile Photo Layouts
Create collages, set borders, overlay text, and add stickers to bring your photos together. LayApp is a great tool to make collages on mobile devices, but it is limited to square frames. You can export your final design in two sizes that will work for print: the medium setting prints at 300 dpi up to 8″ and large prints up to 16″.
If you use the Instagram Layout app to create collages, you can also print the images that are saved to your camera roll. Our experiments show photos from Instagram apps are around 1.5MB, which will print 8×8” at 300dpi.
Layouts Beyond Photos
LucidPress hits a sweet spot for more professional designs on the go. You can set up anything from a poster to a magazine and choose to export it at 300 dpi or 100 dpi. It’s easy to use because it combines familiar tools, pairing the ease of using Microsoft Word with added professional options closer to Adobe InDesign. If you are working from different locations and need easy access to your files, this is a great way to work from the cloud without needing to install software on all your devices.