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Review: PicMonkey Online Photo Editor

This post was last updated May 2017, since so much has changed since I first wrote this review!

I’ve already mentioned on this blog how much I love PicMonkey as a photo editor, but I wanted to sit down and do a more formal review of the product. Although this is the right tool for me, it may or may not be the best option for you. So, without further ado, let’s talk about PicMonkey!

Wait…What is PicMonkey?

For those of you who’ve never heard of PicMonkey before, this is essentially an online tool that allows you to do basic photo editing without downloading any kind of software. The best part, for many people, is the price point: free. For those of you who want more function, however, PicMonkey does have a premium version, which I happily pay to use (yes, I’m an affiliate). Unless otherwise noted, everything I’m covering in this review is included in the free version.

picmonkey home pagePicMonkey has three main functions:

  • Edit/Touch Up
  • Design
  • Collage

Edit and Touch Up are listed separately on the homepage, but they’re really the same thing: manipulating your photo. Through this menu, you can crop, resize, add text, change the colors, and more. They even have a special set of tools for touching up images of people, which allow you to make simple changes like removing blemishes and whitening teeth.

The Design function allows you to start with a blank canvas instead of uploading a picture. They’ve also added templates, which are pre-made posters, invitations, and more. Most of these are not relevant for bloggers, but templates are nice if you also want to use PicMonkey for personal projects.

Lastly, there’s the Collage function, which gives users the ability to edit several photos together to make a single larger photo. Once you’ve chosen the layout, you can also choose to go into the Edit functions, where you can further manipulated your images.

Let’s take a close look at these functions, along with some pros and cons of each:

Edit/Touch Up

picmonkey sidebarThe Edit function is split into eight categories of options (one of which is Touch Up – if you choose the Touch Up option on the home page, you’ll simply be take to this group of options first). If you pay for a premium account, you’ll have more options, but even with just a basic account, there are hundreds of ways to manipulate your photos. Here’s a quick overview of what’s available:

  • Basic Edits give you the abilities to crop, change the canvas color, rotate the image, affect the exposure, manipulate the color, sharpen, and resize.
  • Effects allows you to easy change an image, similar to the options available on Instagram. However, on PicMonkey, you have TONS of other options and a lot more control. You can fade effects to be extremely minimal and choose other options based on the effect.
  • Touch Up effects are specifically for portraits. This group of effects includes blemish fix, teeth whitening, and lip tint.
  • Text options allow you to add words to your image. There are dozens of font options, and you can change the color and size. You can also use any font installed on your computer.
  • Overlays are shapes that you can add to your images. You can also add your own here.
  • Frames are exactly what they sound like – different frames you can add to your photos, including drop shadows and simple edges.
  • Textures add entire new looks to your images. Most are premium, but there are some simple free textures to play around with as well.

There’s a tab for Themes as well. These aren’t really different options, but rather compilations of options found on other lists. For example, the “Winterland” theme collects effects like snowfall, overlays like holly, and more all in one place so if you’re editing holiday pictures, you have all the relevant options in one place.

Lastly, you can also access the Templates function from this screen. It’s the final tab on the left-hand sidebar.

Pros

What I love most about the Edit options is the sheer number available. Unless you’re doing extremely advanced photo editing, you don’t need a high-priced option like Photoshop. PicMonkey has almost everything you need! On top of that, PicMonkey is extremely easy to use. Even if you have no experience editing photos at all, PicMonkey makes it easy. Even the premium version is only $33 per year, which hardly breaks the bank.

PicMonkey has so many options, it can actually take some time to find them all. This post on the PicMonkey blog is filled with tips for some not-so-obvious ways to use the different options.

Cons

While I do LOVE PicMonkey, nothing is without its flaws. The biggest one, in my opinion, is the lack of more options for text.  PicMonkey has begun to remedy this. If you are a pro user, you can create simple drop shadows and other effects. This feature alone is worth the price of premium.

The other major flaw is that some of the pre-built overlays do not give you the option to choose colors easily. Instead of being able to simply pick the colors you want, you have a slider, which only allows you to pick a color theme. I like having complete control.

Design

The design function allows you to start with a blank slate instead of starting with a photograph of your own. After that, all of the options are exactly the same, so no need to go through them again!

One additional “pro” that I’ll add here, though, is that when you hover on the design button, it brings up a few of the most commonly used options, like the size you need for a Facebook cover photo.

The design function now also gives you several pre-built template options, which are great if you are designing a poster, invitation, business card, etc. I especially love that they have some templates for digital graphics, like Facebook covers. Most of the templates are only available for premium users, but there are a few free options as well.

Collage

Lastly, Collage is for mashing pictures together, which is extremely useful. You don’t have to worry about getting the spacing right, and PicMonkey has tons of options for pre-made collage templates. You can also choose to edit a template as you go by adding more photos or playing with the sizing.

When you go into Collage, it will automatically ask you to upload some photos. If you just want to play with the function, they have some test photos to use as well. You can always add more photos later. You’ll see a basic template to start, but you can easily change that by choosing one of the other templates, which are organized into categories. Here’s where I’ve found that having a premium account comes in really handy, since there are lots more templates available. PicMonkey also has “swatches” (i.e. background patterns) you can use if you don’t want to use a picture in every spot.

Want to change the dimensions of any of the template’s spots for pictures? Simply position along the border until you get the little arrows and then drag left, right, up, or down. The template will change (and your pictures with it).

Lastly, you can choose the spacing and color for the background. If you change the overall size of your collage to be bigger or smaller, you may want to change this spacing, since these won’t change relatively. You can also move the spacing to zero, which puts the images directly next to one another, or you can choose a transparent background.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Collage feature:

Pros

I love, love, love that this is a simple drag and drop. It’s so freaking easy! You can also make basic edits to each individual photo (resizing, rotating, exposure) without leaving Collage mode. The ability to zoom (which is effectively resizing the image) directly within Collage mode with the images exactly how you want them, is especially helpful!

Cons

Actually…there’s not much I can say here as a con. I do think they could stand to add a few more template options, especially to the jigsaw category, because if you’re not skilled and making your own layouts, the choices are limited. But really, I’m nit-picking. I think it’s much more urgent for them to add better functionality to the text feature than it is to worry about adding more collage templates.

The Hub

PicMonkey recently introduced a feature called “the hub” which is AH-MAZ-ING. The Hub is only available to premium users, but it allows you to save your images within the PicMonkey application so you can work on them again later. This was one of the MAJOR complaints I used to have with PicMonkey. Once you save a file to your computer, it is a flat image, which  means that you can’t edit the layers anymore. There is no “PicMonkey” file format, like there is with Photoshop.

But, if you save in the Hub, you can come back to it later, and your layers will be there as though you never left. This feature is AWESOME. I’m not sure how much space you get with the Hub, but I haven’t run out of space yet.

Mobile App

PicMonkey recently released a mobile app, which is free. If you have a premium PicMonkey account, you can log into your Hub from the mobile app. The mobile app does not have all of the options you get with the browser version (not even close), but it does give you pretty much everything you need to edit a photo on the go for posting to Instagram, Facebook, etc.

From the mobile app, you can access:

  • Crop
  • Adjust (brightness, contrast, clarity, levels, saturation, temp, and blur)
  • Effects (there are 17 options)
  • Draw
  • Stickers
  • Text

Stickers are fun little graphics you can add, and they switch them out all the time. As of writing this review, there are a bunch of winter stickers, for example. The text option allows you to choose from one of their 24 most popular fonts, and you can also justify the text, change the color, and add a drop shadow if you want.

All in all, the mobile app is bare bones compared to the desktop version, but it has everything most people need when on the go. They didn’t have a mobile app at all for a LONG time, so developing one was a huge step forward.

If you are only going to use the mobile app, I still recommend premium so you can save things to your hub and access your hub. That way, you can save work and come back to it later, instead of being forced to do all your image editing in one sitting.

Conclusion

If you aren’t using PicMonkey already, you don’t know what you’re missing. This is hands down the tool I use most often. I would give up just about any other online tool to continue having access to PicMonkey. Adding images to my blog posts isn’t my favorite task (understatement of the year), but PicMonkey makes it 100 times more pleasurable. And if you’re tech-challenged, it is amazingly easy to learn how to use.

While free PicMonkey is awesome, I highly recommend upgrading. Seriously, I would gladly pay twice as much…even three times as much…for an annual subscription. Shhh…don’t tell the PicMonkey people! 🙂 My point it, I get so much value out of my premium account that it is, to me, worth much more. And while I am an affiliate, I would promote PicMonkey even if they didn’t have an affiliate program.

Here’s the link to sign up for an account – either free or paid. I hope you check it out and leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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3 Ways to Create Better Images for Your Blog Posts

A version of this post was originally published on the NMX blog. It is reposted here with permission.

Without a doubt, creating images for blog posts ranks pretty low on my list of favorite tasks. Yet, I’ve found that having compelling images, not just stock photography, is important for getting social shares and keeping my readers interested, especially with longer posts. Pinterest shares (pins) are especially dependent on having a good image. (Check out other Pinterest miskakes here.)

I’m not a very good photographer, though. It certainly isn’t a passion of mine, and I don’t own a DSLR (yet!). However, I’ve still come up with a few ways to add compelling images to my blog posts. Here are my three best methods:

1. The Title Image

One of my favorite types of images to create is what I call the “title image.” I like this type of image for my blog posts because they look professional and are readily shared on Facebook and Pinterest. They’re also easy to make using stock photography. Here’s how to make a title image:

  • STEP ONE: Find some stock photography with licensing that allows you to edit it.

The image should be related to your post, but since you’re going to be adding text, the relationship can be looser than if you were only going to use the image. It’s very important that you look not just for Creative Commons images, but also images where the owner stated that it’s okay to alter, because you will be adding text to it. For this example, I’m going to use a picture my sister took during a visit to Disney World:

disney example pic

It’s great if you can find an image, like this one, that has a big blank spot. If you can’t, however, not to worry! Focus on finding a nice shot that fits your post topic rather than an image that is so-so image with a blank spot. I’ll show you in the next step what to do if there’s not a big blank spot.

  • STEP TWO: In your favorite photo-editing program, add your title.

I’m going to show you using PicMonkey, which is free and easy to use (I’m an affiliate, but would recommend them even if I wasn’t). You don’t even have to download anything; it’s an online editing program and the basic version is free. You could also use Photoshop or whatever other program you have that allows you to add text.

Select a font you like and add the text. It usually works to either center the text, adding breaks so it fits nicely, or to justify the text left or right depending where it is located on the image. Let’s go with centering the text for now:

Disney Example 4

 

This is a nice font for our silly made-up title, but the clouds in the background are a little distracting. So, a bolder font would probably work better. I’m also going to add a shadow in a contrasting white color to make the words really pop:

Disney Example 3

That looks pretty nice, and it only took me a few minutes. You can also play around with using different fonts and sizes to make certain words stand out. Remember to create something that represents your brand and your niche well. Here’s an example of a more playful look:

Disney example 5

This one took a little longer, but gives you a completely different look. There’s no formula for choosing the right font, size, and colors; you just have to play around with it until you get a look that you like.

But let’s say that your image didn’t have a nice open spot like this picture of Cinderella’s Castle. Let’s say instead you have this picture of the Tree of Life:

Disney Example 7

In this case, any place you add the text, the busy background will distract you and make it hard to read. So, I suggestion added a faded block of color behind the text. I usually use either black or white and fade to between 30% and 50% depending on how distracting the background is. Here’s how that looks:

Disney Example 6

This technique works best if your text fits on one line. If you’re using a more advanced program, like Photoshop, you can also use type layers to add a more pronounced drop shadow, highlights, or stroke (outline) to make the words stand out even if the background is busy.

2. The Collage

Another option you have if you want to make a highly-sharable image is to do a collage. I most commonly add the title of my post to these as well, but how you use a college is really up to you. This method is great for list posts or when you’re talking about several tips/products/etc. throughout the course of your post. It allows you to highly several images at once this way.

  • STEP ONE: Find images to illustrate all of your points.

In this case, I’m going to create a collage of my boyfriend wearing silly hats on vacation (this is my life…). As always, remember to use images under the Creative Commons license where the owner allows you to alter if you don’t have your own pictures.

  • STEP TWO: Open PicMonkey in collage mode.

Again, you can definitely use other image editing programs as well, but PicMonkey is hands down my favorite tool in this case because it has a mode specifically for collages.

  • STEP THREE: Choose a layout that will allow you to highlight your text (if you want) and add images.

There’s no one right way to do this. You could, for example, choose to have a large box for the text (to add later) or you could create a college where you’ll later add the text over top of the images, like with the title slide.

Here’s the image without text:

jeffrey silly hats

Here’s a version with the text in a larger box:

silly hats example 1

Here’s a version with the text layered over the images:

silly hats example 2

3. The Quote Image

Lastly, a really easy type of image that is usually shared a lot is what I call the quote image. I’m taking a page from print design for this one! When you’re reading a story, especially in a magazine, there are often pull quotes – quotes from the actual text that have been pulled out and made into larger images because they are interesting or important.

This is so easy I’m not even going to break it down into steps for you. All you do is paste a line from your post into a photo editing program. You can use an image or texture for a background or use a simple colored background that coordinates with your blog’s theme.

Here’s an example of a quote I used for an image in a post featuring Walk Disney, to go with the theme of the other samples I used:

Walt Disney quote

Even better, you can connect an image like that to Click to Tweet and tell your readers via the caption to click on the quote to share it. A good quote is irresistible to share!

So there you have it, my three favorite ways to create images for my blog posts even though I’m not a photographer and don’t know much about editing images. How do you add images to your blog posts? If you have a great method to share or have tried any of the above methods, leave a comment!

Three Common Pinterest Mistakes Most Users Don’t Realize They Are Making

Pinterest is by far my favorite social site (so much so that I have an entire blog devoted to the recipes found on Pinterest), but I see a lot of bloggers and business owners making mistakes on this network. I’m starting to get a little twitchy about it.

Pinterest is not Twitter. It’s not Facebook. It’s not any of the other social or bookmarking sites you use. Pinterest is its own animal that you have to learn how to tame. If you don’t understand how to use Pinterest, it is, frankly, better to not have an account at all than to continue to muck things up over there.

Sadly, most users plow ahead, not even realizing the dreadful mistakes they’re making on Pinterest. Before you repin another image, check out the three most common mistakes I see on this network, and make sure you aren’t an offender:

1. Never Commenting

It’s called “social” media for a reason. We all seem to be quite content with the fact that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and every other social network under the sun requires engagement in order to grow an audience and a create a community that will love you. But what about Pinterest? Most of us just do a daily drive-by-pinning and say “woo hoo, we’re using this cool new platform!”

If you actually want to use Pinterest in a way that matters, get out there and engage just like you would on other networks. Commenting is extremely under-utilized. Find out who is pinning your content and say thank you or open a dialogue. Comment on the pins of those you are following to add tips, answer questions, or just generally talk to people in your community.

2. Pinning Crap Images

You want more people to pin your blog posts? Create better images. I see a lot of bloggers – especially bloggers who don’t write in traditionally visual niches – complain that they don’t get much traffic from Pinterest. I think this is a really unfair assessment of the platform. You have an amazing opportunity to tap into this market. Someone on Pinterest who is pinning images of cakes and dresses is the same person on Twitter promoting your post about social media. They want your content.

But do you have a nice, pin-worthy image?

If you pin a stock photography image and put the title in the description, you’re not going to see much repin activity. Descriptions get deleted pretty easily. You need to create what I call a “title image.” You’ll notice that every single post on this blog includes a highly pin-able image, and none of them are of desserts or fashion. This is a great tutorial about creating title images and other great images for your blog, even if you blog in a niche that isn’t super visual.

3. Not Optimizing for Search

Pinterest’s search function is pretty heavily used, so if you aren’t pinning with this in mind, you’re blowing it. It’s really tempting to never change the description on a repin. I used to get sucked into this. But remember, unlike Twitters, which are pretty much gone within 24 hours of you posting them, pins have a much longer shelf life. When you optimize, you increase the change that someone will find your pin, which means they might follow you. So optimize every pin, even repins.

Optimization is pretty easy. Don’t write in the description “I love this blog post!” or “Great advice!” Write what the post is actually about and include some keywords.

You should also optimize your boards. Pinterest is constantly changing, but right now the title of the board is what is most important, so get your keyword in there. I also like to include my keywords in the board description. Right now, this doesn’t really matter when Pinterest ranks search results, but it could in the future, so you might as well get ’em in there.

If you’re still stumped when it comes to Pinterest, I would love to speak to you more about this platform and help you get started. Check out my hire me page to order the Pinterest Package or simply contact me for some one-on-one Pinterest training.