5 Apps to Use for Gorgeous Pinterest Graphics
You ready to hear a shocking confession?
I am not at all the Canva fan that the whole entire internet keeps telling me I should be.
(…Phew. That was easy. Though, on the other hand, did you know I’ve been hemming and hawing and sitting on this post for more weeks than is sane? Maybe I wasn’t as ready to share as I thought!)
Now, I knoooow about all the things that everyone loves, like the masses of templates and layouts, the speedy customisations, the free-ness and overall lack of cost… But it just hasn’t clicked for me. I’ve never taken to it the way I have to other things – or, clearly, the way other bloggers / content creators / keen creatives have embraced it for their needs.
(Plus, I love feeling like I’m not tied to my desk, so I do quite a bit of work on my tablet. And the Canva app? Pretty, but never the smoothest for me, so that hasn’t helped.)
Odds are this might describe you as well, though. I’ve seen so many stressed, frazzled women online express their confusion, their overwhelm, their frustration with Canva. So many others, too, who’d just like to have an easy to grasp alternative on hand.
Luckily, there are several apps* available that split their talents between a mild form of photo editing and some creative, text-based graphic design. They all have their benefits and their drawbacks, of course (I mean, don’t we all), but hopefully at least one of the apps that I’ll be going over will make your life easier when it comes to designing graphics for your pins, your social media or your blog.
(*This post brought to you by the iOS gang. I’m sorry, I tried to find reasonable alternatives for Android, but they all seem plagued with horrendous, intrusive, making-me-want-to-throw-my-phone-against-the-wall ads, and I just can’t. The only things that worked even remotely like I wanted them to were April and Fontmania.)
The app at a glance
First, but that’s not the thing I mean, it has a built-in search engine. That means you don’t have to get into your browser to go through a cache of stock photos. You can instead do it right from the comfort of the app. And let’s face it, with five million other things to do, there are days when any little time-saver can help.
And the valuable thing comes in right about… Now.
When you’ve picked your stock photo from the abundance of search results yielded by Pixabay, Typorama lets you pinch your fingers together and make that photo smaller. And what does that do? Magic! It enables you to actually get that all-important negative space that you need when text and photo would really be better off letting each other breathe.
An overview of all the cropping sizes that Typorama allows you to pick. For Pinterest, I tend to go with the iPhone wallpaper format.
As you can see, you can either let your photo fill the frame of the graphic, or you can choose to zoom out until you like what you see. The one drawback here is that you can’t drag the picture up or down after you’ve pinched it; it will just stay centred onto the canvas. It’s not necessarily the most awful transgression, but I do count it as a bit of a flexibility-abduction.
You can still get creative with the app, though. In other words, it’s on to the fonts.
Getting down to brass tacks
Like most apps on the market these days, Typorama has a free and a paid version. In this case, the two are distinguished from one-another by the presence of a watermark, and the limited number of font styles you can use. (You can look at it as a drawback, but God knows watermarks aren’t insurmountable, and the app is stingy with less-useful stuff like special effects overlays, rather than with the Typo-component of its name, i.e. the fonts.)
There are – I’m counting them as I type – 38 font styles available in the free version, with an added 15 styles if you choose to go Pro. Not all of the free text styles will be Pinterest-useful, but let’s be super honest and admit that that’s the case for pretty much any design app. The upgrade is a one-off payment, which is less of a headache than a subscription but does suggest they’d have no serious incentive to upgrade the styles, and comes in at something like $7.
In addition to its text functionality, Typorama lets you do a bit of editing of your stock photo, through the use of overlays (special layers that put light effects such as leaks or bokeh over your photos, and which should be used as sparingly as possible, at as low an opacity as possible), filters (a respectable 9 in all), and adjustments.
Here, too, effects such as vignetting and blurring should be used sparingly, as they affect the photo from the outside in, meaning the edge turns transparent as soon as you drag that control. It looks really awful.
The biggest benefit of Typorama
Aside from the ability to force your way into negative space territory as you’re picking out your stock photo (the app lets you search for photos on Pixabay and – if you buy Pro – Unsplash), the bestbestbest thing about Typorama is that you get to add a second, third, whatever-th layer of text as you go along.
Obviously – and this goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. You’re not decorating a Christmas tree or making everything chicken. You’re cooking up graphics that you want representing your brand and attracting people to your content or products.
That means you aren’t going to go splitting up your headline or other promotional text into 2-3-word chunks, and then throwing a little bit of everything on that poor image. You’re gonna stick to one, maybe two fonts, and a little bit of creative placement, and you’re going to make graphics so rocking that our socks won’t know what hit them.
Of course, with that said, you do get to pick whatever font combinations you like, and you do get to decide what “creative placement” even means for the particular image you’re fashioning. But the flexibility of not having to put in all your relevant text in one go and hope for the best? And in the free version of the app at that? Priceless.
Download Typorama here, or keep reading for more apps.
The app at a glance
Let’s start with a little bit of like-unlike. As in, how is it like Typorama, and how is it unlike it?
Well, like Typorama, Typimage has a built-in search engine. Unlike Typorama, this app is not free to download. That means there are no premium features for them to lock behind a paywall, so you get both Pixabay and Unsplash right off the bat.
Here, too, picking out a pic leads you to a cropping screen, where you select the size of your final image. There are far fewer options available than in the previous app, but they do have the essentials covered, especially for what we’re looking to do.
Unlike in Typorama, you cannot shrink your base photo. You can try to pinch it together – it’ll just bounce back and snap to the edges of the canvas. You are, however, just as free to slide it side to side until you hit upon the exact crop you want. (It shouldn’t rate a mention, I know, but I actually tested a bunch of apps for this post that had no cropping options at all.)
The heart of the matter
OK. Deep breath. You ready? There are a whopping 65 text styles available for you to play with in Typimage. 65! Added on top of them are the 21 image filters that you can apply to your photo, and the 52 SFX layers (bokeh, lens flares, clouds, all that stuff that it’s better to avoid than to use).
That’s almost enough to give you analysis paralysis. Thankfully, we can once again be sure of two things here. One, not all styles will go with the stock image they’re popped on. And two, not all styles will go with your personal taste. So it’s gonna be easy to find your feet.
Since I gushed so effusively about the possibility of adding multiple separate bits of text in the previous app, it’s probably clear to you that the same can’t be said for this one. What you’ve typed is what you’ll be left with. That said, Typimage does have one ace up its sleeve.
The layer mode in Typimage enables you to fiddle with your typographic design at a granular level
They call it ‘Layer Mode’, and it works like this. The app will treat every separate line – be it a line of text or a line of vector art – as one layer that can be edited individually. They can be moved apart, rearranged, and even modified to some extent.
Where the art is concerned, editing it will mean dragging it off into the bin or being able to erase it selectively.
Where the text is concerned, however, the app gives you the option of changing the font layer by layer, irrespective of the style you chose at the start. You can imagine that, if you go back to that A icon and pick a different text style, your customisation will be gone.
The biggest benefit of Typimage
Typimage does its absolute best to be a total one stop shop for you. Starting from scratch and needing a stock photo? They have you double-covered. Need some design inspiration for your text? They have you covered so hard there’s spillover. Need to add a branding element or watermark? So covered. Need to come back to your design and change… basically everything? Covered, covered and covered.
As a sweet little bonus, Typimage lets you really experiment with the way your text looks. For one thing, you have the option to fill your text with a solid colour, a more or less complex pattern, or a gradient that you can define and design as you please. For another thing, tapping the magic wand gives you access to 4 typography enhancers – as you can see in the preview images a few paragraphs above. Even though you can’t stack these enhancers, you still have a one-tap way to make your text pop just that bit more.
Download Typimage here, and stick with me.
Funny story true story. This post would still be percolating somewhere in my mental ‘Intentions’ drawer, had it not been for a post on this app on Anastasia’s blog, which she happened to link to in an email she sent out this week. Seeing that article reminded me “I was gonna” put this guide together, and got me moving double time to get it done.
The app at a glance
Word Swag is the last of the applications on this list to let you search for stock photos in-app. To no surprise whatsoever, it too is plugged into Pixabay. (Those guys must have a wicked amazing API or something.)
Right off the bat, you’ll probably love the clean, minimalist interface. The layout really just makes you wanna use the app.
As soon as you’ve selected your pic, you’re presented with a wide array of cropping options. Just like with Typorama, I prefer using a longer format for my pins, such as IG Stories, rather than the crop you get when you pick the Pinterest option. I like that slightly longer look.
Getting to the point
Here’s where things get a bit… dicey. Because Word Swag uses a subscription revenue model, it means that
- your designs will bear a watermark (it’s pretty subtle – and again, not insurmountable),
- you’ll have 21 out of 68 (I know! 68!) design models available,
- there’s no adding your own branding, nor creating that always-nice second / third / whatever layer of text.
In other words, the truly advanced editing is unavailable unless you put your subscription where your fingers are.
To be clear, they’re not stingy by any means. The free fonts and free text options are plenty elegant, and the entire app is clearly conceived with branding / bloggers / influencers in mind. So you can make use of the free version of WordSwag without truly needing to feel like you’re missing out.
The biggest benefit of WordSwag
In the age of millisecond-short attention spans, two great things about the app are that, one, it gives you the ability to hunt down your stock photos in-app, and two, it automatically exports your design to the Camera Roll when you click “Save”. Aside from that, the best thing about Word Swag is their take on typography and design. There’s little for me to say other than to repeat myself: for the most part, the fonts and layouts are clearly put together with bloggers in mind.
What’s more, if you do download Word Swag, even just to check it out for a minute, I want you to take a look at how the app is set up. Not just in that it looks like it was built on the Genesis framework. Look at how subtly the design encourages you to want the pro options, to almost feel like you’re missing out without them. Is it something you can incorporate in the way you market?
And, lastly, the subscription model can be a good thing. In theory, it should mean they’re incentivised to keep all that in-app typography fresh. Hopefully that turns out to be true in practice, but until and unless you want to put that to the test, the free version is nothing to sneeze at.
Download Word Swag here. And as we’re now past the halfway point, on we go.
The app at a glance
Let me lead with the biggest change: no more search & select for us here. We’re working strictly off of whatever is saved up in our Camera Roll.
Although, this does give you more flexibility, if you think about it. Sure, you need a lot more prep time going in. However, because you can head over to any one of your stock photo sources, you have the luxury of grabbing an image that you feel truly fits your post / your intended pin / your brand, rather than be limited to Pixabay (and / or the odd Unsplash, as you saw above).
Check out those screengrabs! You’ll notice OVLA too boasts a minimalist interface. But where Word Swag is Minimalism for the Millennial, OVLA looks entirely like a slice of Radio Retro goodness. Handy for when you don’t want to be overwhelmed by too many options, or just when your nostalgia revs up, if that happens to you.
The nuts and bolts
And so we’ve come to the second-biggest change. No more smorgasbord of fonts and text styles. We’re working with a grand total of 18 fonts here. As with the other apps, you won’t find all of them usable for your Pinterest graphics, but that’s OK. The handful of basics will do the job nicely – and besides, that’s not where the gold is.
The strength of this app is in its blend modes. There are so many things you can do to that text once you’ve decided on a font, that it’s almost surreal.
Let’s start with the layout. You saw above that you can already manipulate your font as soon as you choose it. You can adjust the kerning and the lead (the space between the letters and between the rows), and you can also drag that horseshoe along its line to curve the text inward or bow it outward.
Next, you can treat your text as one whole paragraph, or add separate layers of text as you please, as many times as you please. As you can see above, the app has a little Layers panel that will give you an overview of your different text fragments you might use.
Other clever things happen at the “Color” level. You can choose a solid colour for your text (no colour wheel on hand, there’s a pre-chosen spectrum). You can choose one out of the 12 fill patterns available (they can look garish, but you’ll see why that’s the point in a minute).
Additionally, if you click the little camera, you can choose another picture from your camera app and fill the text with it. Essentially, the type is going to act as a clipping mask on your selected second pic.
Depending on what photos you’re using and what you’re looking to do, the effect can be staggering.
To the right of that, there are two panels where you can adjust the outline and the drop shadow of your text. Then, a smooth swipe left gets you to the holy grail: the blending.
Here’s what this little menu bar has in store for you.
- The Blend icon lets you go through the various blending modes that can be applied to the text layer. (Linear burn, Soft light, Exclusion. You know the stuff.) If you want to spend some time playing around, try to combine a blend mode from here with one of the kooky patterns in the Color menu.
- The Embossing icon is pretty self-explanatory – have text, apply relief effects. Again, the best thing to do is to play around with the options. It may look good, it might not. The point of it, generally speaking, would be to add some subtle, almost undefinable contrast to your text. Embossing might be one of those things that makes the important messages (such as your CTA) leap out of the design.
- The 3D icon, the Magician and the Eraser are all about making your text look like it’s coming out of objects or blending in with them or whatever else. Pinterest is not usually the place for those shenanigans, but who knows what niche you might end up tapping into.
The biggest benefit of OVLA
Now, don’t let the layout fool you. True, OVLA does have an interface that makes it seem like you’re in for a steep learning curve. You’re not, though. Stick to the basics while you figure out any fun stuff, don’t try to do too much at once, and you’ll be fine.
Of course, just like with every other app you read about throughout this post, ‘don’t try to do too much’ is gospel. It’s the golden rule, the must, the absolutest, even after you feel like you’ve mastered what you need to.
Making your designs too busy or overwhelming would be a little like throwing a fistful of spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks… Then unpeeling that spaghetti off the wall and serving that for dinner! (Trust me, I’ve just grossed myself out every bit as much as I grossed you out.)
Grab OVLA here, and read on for our final app.
Yes, thank you, I will in fact be steering clear of that ‘last but not least’ cliché for the duration of this post.
Actually, in many ways, although pretty of interface and useful of function, Under Ink will seem like the ‘least’ out of all our contenders. I’ll disabuse you of that in a tick, but first, let me explain.
The app at a glance
You will have seen this coming, I grant you, but I’ll say it anyway: no search engine for you. (I… actually forgot what movie imitation accent you’re supposed to read this in? I can hear it clear as a bell in my mind, but I am blanking something fierce. If you see what I mean, remind me! Please and thank you. On we go.)
But wait; yes, no search engine for you, but it gets better. You only have the barest of bare bones in terms of cropping options, out of which you need to tap on ‘Wattpad’ to get a 2:3-looking crop of the kind that Pinterest needs.
(If you’re wondering why this even made the cut, remember: several of the apps I tested didn’t let you crop at all. Now yes, I’m an independent woman and I don’t need no app to crop, but given the inherent waste of time involved in remembering, heading to the photo, cropping, and only then accessing the app… I feel like you’re just better off looking elsewhere.)
But does it do the job
Real talk: I didn’t put it on the list just because I was desperate to get to 5. But the fact of it is, Under Ink does one job. The one very simple and very specific job of putting text on an image.
This is not your app if you want to recolour your picture using filters.
This is not your app if you want to change the opacity of your picture by slapping on a black or white fill layer and fiddling until it fits.
This is not your app if you want crazy text effects like gradient fills or pattern madness.
This is not your app if you want to enhance your typography with little vector elements like doodles, frames or curlicues.
This is only your app if you just want to put some pretty text on a pretty stock picture, and make an honest pin as pins are intended.
Boy, I’ve just made this sound like the gruel, the oat bran, the Mystery E of text-over-image apps, didn’t I? Sad, unpalatable, barely something you’d wanna touch in a pinch.
Well, I actually really hope you don’t come away thinking that. It would be a huge disservice if you did.
More to the point, though, as pared down as it is, I think it’s important to have an app that’s not about the bells and whistles. An app that – to put it in marketing-speak – is so niched down it has one offer, aka sticks to one thing. Because the key here is that it does its one thing really well.
As you can see, the fonts are grouped into 7 distinct categories, and they average out to about 16 fonts per category. You can tap “Add text” to your heart’s content and make as many type layers as your pretty little heart desires. You can increase contrast and visual interest by playing around with a drop shadow function, an opacity slider, and a soft brush eraser that will let you make your text peek out from ‘under’ elements in your stock pic.
The biggest benefit of Under Ink
I think this is the app where I can actually say it: I think you could make professional-looking graphics using every single one of those fonts.
How come? Well, it ties back into that ‘niching down’ thing. Under Ink’s primary mission is not social virality. It is designed for authors – indie authors specifically – who want to craft their own pretty covers for their books. So Under Ink gets not to care as much about social media cred, because its focus is giving you the tools to create images that sell.
Bam! See? Told you it wasn’t the least of anything!
Wrong. I’ll spare you the gif, but… Wrong. You always have something to sell.
Think about it.
Your Pin? It’s there to sell people scrolling through their feeds that
- your image is worth freezing their finger for,
- that it’s worth going the extra length with the click, and
- that the post tied to that image is worth the read.
Your blog layout? It’s there to sell
- your sense of style,
- your commitment to making readers feel welcome and giving them a great browsing / reading experience, and
- your ability to put an effort into this whole online writing thing (kind of like not showing up at a job interview in your PJs, right?).
Your writing style? It’s there to sell people
- on your personality,
- on the connection they could have with you,
- on the know, like and trust factor that we all instinctively want to cultivate.
Everything is selling. We just tend not to call it that when there’s no monetary exchange.
5 apps you can use to make great Pinterest graphics
Typorama (free to download, $ 6.99 / 7.99 € one-time IAP) lets you make text-based graphics with a variety of typographic styles.
The free version:
- lets you choose between a solid colour, an already-saved photo, or a stock picture you can search for as your background,
- lets you ‘crop’ negative space into your photos,
- lets you dress up your text in 38 different styles.
The one-time IAP unlocks:
- 15 more typographic styles, as well as numerous photo filters and overlays,
- freedom from the in-app watermark,
- the ability to add your own brand elements to the final design.
Typimage ($ 3.99 / 4.59 € to purchase, no IAP) gives you near-total control over your creation. The highlights of everything the app provides:
- the ability to search Pixabay or Unsplash for stock photos by default,
- 65 typographic styles, as well as an abundance of colour filters, texture fills and effects,
- the ability to add a solid colour layer over your picture so as to improve the readability of your text,
- the ability to switch out the fonts in any given style,
- the ability to add your own branding elements to your design.
Word Swag (free to download, $ 4.99 / 4.99 € monthly subscription) lets you make elegant text-based graphics that look like they belong in a Genesis framework blog.
The free version:
- lets you take a picture on the spot, choose an already-saved photo, or search Pixabay for a stock picture to use as your background,
- gives you modern photo filters,
- lets you dress up your text in 21 different styles.
The monthly payment unlocks:
- 47 more typographic styles,
- the ability to add more than one text layer,
- freedom from the in-app watermark.
OVLA ($ 0.99 / 1.09 € to purchase, other IAP optional), is a minimalist typographic design app that packs a blending punch.
The basic version:
- lets you add colour and texture filters (grunge and / or scratches) to your photos,
- gives you 18 fonts to lay your text out in,
- lets you enhance those fonts through blending modes and visual effects.
The IAP options unlock:
- additional colour filters for your photos,
- a “user fonts pack” that probably enables you to add your own fonts,
- a “5 colored-artwork pack”.
Under Ink (free to download, other IAP optional) is a typographic design app that gives you full control over the fonts you add to your images.
The basic version:
- lets you take a picture or choose one from your preexisting files,
- gives you more fonts than you can shake a stick at,
- lets you add as many text layers as you want to your image,
- enables you to add contrast to your design through colours, drop shadows, and transparency effects.
The IAP option unlocks the ability to add 3D effects to your text.
Phew. That was a lot.
And now it’s your turn! Go forth and download any one / all of them, so you can save as much time as possible making pretty, pretty pins for your products or blog posts.
P.S. Think you can guess which of my pins for this post was designed where? Comment to see if you’re right!