Content creation. Unless you’re a graphic designer, it can be a phrase that’s said with dread. Yet an increasing amount of marketers, CEOs and customer service representatives are faced with creating content for online and offline channels. If you’re asked to create content for your digital screens, this can pose even more of a problem. What size should it be, what format? Where do I get images from, how can I get it up onto the screen when I’m done?
Stop. Have a green tea or something stronger.
Creating content for digital screen displays is just as easy as creating for the web or social media. With the seven free tools below, ScreenCloud and a TV screen, you can be powered up in minutes. Here’s our pick of the bunch and how to use them to create the optimal digital signage display:
1. Canva - creating presentations
Best for: brochures, presentations, tenders and slide decks
Canva is the Netflix of slidedeck creation tools. Forget InDesign, Powerpoint or anything else masquerading as a content creation tool. Canva is slick, intuitive and comes with a host of designs, templates and cool tools that allow you to get going on impressive presentation decks, brochures and social media content. As well as brochures, PDFs and showreels. Here are a few reasons why it’s ideal for creating digital screen content:
- Thousands of images. Canva comes stocked with illustrations, vectors and stock photographs that are available for your perusal. Each stock image costs $1 which is super cheap and there’s also a selection of free images to choose from. No external sourcing saves time finding the right images to illuminate your displays and allows you to work within one window. Using stock images means you won’t lack the resolution needed to make your images look great on a digital screen. You can also upload your own, making it easy to drop in logos, headers and the assets that suit your brand.
- Drag and drop interface. You don’t need to be a designer of any type to use Canva. Its drag and drop interface allows you to play around with designs until you find something that feels right.
- Intuitive. By clicking on an element (photo, illustration, text, chart) you get a series of options to change colours, typefaces, sizes and so on. Every aspect is self-explanatory so there’s no learning curve needed to get you up and running.
2. PicMonkey - editing images
Best for: images, collages, social media headers, customer testimonials, menu displays
PicMonkey is a popular online photo editor used by bloggers, marketers and anyone looking to create fast, good-looking images. The best thing about PicMonkey is that it lets you do image editing and design without downloading any type of software. Here are a few of its most endearing features:
- Photo touch up. This allows you to manipulate photos in any way, shape or form; crop images, change the exposure, straighten (I’m always using this one), manipulate the colour, sharpen and add canvas colors. This includes adding frames, overlays and textures and so many filters and filtering options it makes Instagram look like a novice.
- Options. What we love most about PicMonkey is the sheer amount of editing options. Unless you need very advanced photo editing tools, PicMonkey’s options will suffice and the premium ‘Royale’ account, which opens you up to even more options, is only $33 per year. The only thing I would mention is that the options available for creating text aren’t as advanced as they could be. The fonts are limited and it can be difficult to fit your copy to your brand guidelines without the premium account or creating text as an image elsewhere first.
- Creating collages. As well as options for editing an image and creating an image from scratch, PicMonkey also lets you create collages. This can be useful for customer testimonials and social media images, among other uses.
3. Font libraries
Best for: digital posters, menu boards and adverts
It’s likely you’ll already have branded fonts to use within displays, but digital signage can sometimes call for a new variation. Text used on screen often needs to be bigger, more widely spaced or within a different formation for it to work.
A couple of free font options where you can source new font designs for your projects include:
- Type Genius. Type Genius is super useful if you’re looking for a combination of fonts. Perhaps one for your header and another for subtext, but that work together and look great. It provides you examples of fonts being used together on other websites as well, so you can see what works before committing it to your screen.
- Font Squirrel. If you need a free font for commercial use, such as creating great content for your digital screen display, then Font Squirrel is the place to head to. The website is super simple to use and has a variety of fonts to choose from.
- Jeff Schreiber. For more stylised fonts there are sites like that of Jeff Schreiber. Jeff is a designer, illustrator and typographer from The Netherlands who releases free fonts which are great for poster and digital screen work. There aren’t a huge amount to choose from but this can be a good approach if you’re looking for something unique that’s going to make your content pop.
4. Hubspot’s free Infographic templates
Best for: statistic displays, reports, presentations
Infographics are great ways to display information that could otherwise be fairly droll. Save hours of design time by using Hubspot’s 15 free infographic template downloads. Not only are they beautifully designed but they also come with a handy guide on choosing colour schemes, selecting a style and the best practice for using an infographic template. The files are downloadable in either PowerPoint or InDesign, so you can begin editing in either programme instantly, then save as an image to finish up and voila! You have a lovely looking infographic ready for your screen display. Just be aware that these templates come in portrait mode, so you may want to play around with the dimensions or flip them on their side if you’re working with a screen in landscape.
5. Stock images and video libraries
Best for: menu boards, adverts, images and video
To get your content up quickly it can be useful to have a pool of stock image and video sites that you can quickly collate content from. The benefit being, that you can source high-quality images that work well within a screen format and that are of professional quality.
A couple of our favorite image and video stock sites include:
- Death to the stock photo. These guys are kind enough to send you a new pack of stock photos each month which can be used commercially however you desire. Launched by a bunch of creatives looking to promote the use of less boring stock images and illustrations, the image packs range from countryside, to office and even food. For access to more images, users can sign up for a premium package, at $10 a month. The agency also crowdfunds trips to locations, with any users who make a pledge receiving hundreds of images taken from the location - ensuring that your photos may never need be boring again.
- StockSnap.io StockSnap has a huge collection of free high-resolution images that you can use with no attribution required. The best thing about StockSnap’s collection is that the images don’t look like they come from a traditional stock site. Think Instagram and WeHeartIt rather than iStock. The site also has a great search feature where you can hunt by keyword and refine by most popular, number of views, favorites and so on. It’s definitely one to check out!
- Motion Elements This site provides stock footage of video clips and animations that you can use within your own creations that start from around $5 per month. Benefits of using the site including free After Effects templates and unlimited usage of the footage once bought. If you sign up to the mailing list on their homepage you also receive 30 elements for free. The only downside, is that being based in Singapore, some of the footage is very Asia-centric, for example, the cityscape footage is mainly of Asian cities. Other good video stock sites to try if you can’t find what you’re looking for include Free HD Footage and Ignite Motion. Both are a little old school in their site design, but do the job nethertheless.
6. Placeit - creating branded collateral
Best for: creating demonstrations, slidedecks, product shots and testimonials
Placeit is a great tool if you’re looking to add your own branding to a stock image or something that’s been taken by a member of the team. Unless you’re a designer, led by designer tools, manually customising an image to blend with an image you’ve already had, or have sourced from a stock site, can be difficult. Placeit allows you to upload your images and screenshots into a stock photo template. For example, allowing you to add a screenshot of your CRM to a stock photo of a PC or allowing you to add a dashboard or shot of your video player onto a screen that’s mounted on a wall. The images available span from mobiles and tablets, through to laptops and desktops, in a variety of situations and settings so there really is something for everyone.
7. Design Seeds - choosing color schemes
Best for: overall themes, dashboards, customer testimonials, menu boards
As we mentioned in this post, choosing an appropriate color scheme for your digital sign display can be difficult. Different rules apply to digital screens, than print or even most online content. This can make it hard to create a color scheme that’s eye catching but not garish, on-brand but still easy on the eye. That’s where Design Seeds comes in. Design Seeds is a website that provides hundreds of variations of color palettes which work well together. The format of the site shows the color scheme with a photograph and six color strips to match, allowing you to see what might work for your own website, images or screen content. The images are personally curated by the owner and can be anything from an image of a bird, to a street or aeroplane. Once you’ve selected a color palette, you can gain access to each color’s HEX code by hovering over the color strip. If you need further inspiration, check out their Pinterest board - it turns everyday items into color palettes in a beautiful way.
So there you have it. Seven great, easy-to-use tools that turn marketers into designers and standard digital screen content into excellent digital screen content. Once you’ve had a play, use our free trial of ScreenCloud to get your fresh new content up onto your screens