My Explorations with PicMonkey and Canva

What does this picture tell you?

What does this picture tell you?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In my explorations using instagram this week, I discovered that one thousand and ten words is even better. Some of the best pictures I saw on nonprofit instagram pages didn’t just have a picture – they had some carefully chosen text that made the image that much better. I think all nonprofit health organizations should use this tactic to enhance their storytelling online, on sites like flickr and instagram. Donna Moritz, a social media marketing expert interviewed by Michael Stelzner on his Social Media Marketing podcast had mentioned some useful tools for creating these images with text easily and without the help of a graphic designer. I decided to explore these sites and see just how easy it is – and of course, share my experiences with you all!

The first site I tried was PicMonkey. This site has free and “royale” (paid) options, but I just tried the free photo editing. The PicMonkey Royale service offers ad free editing, new designs, more fonts, and “primo effects.” It really was simple. I’ve listed the steps I took below.

1. You pick whether you want to download an image from your computer, your dropbox, Facebook, or Flickr

2. You choose the size and shape – square, Facebook cover, 4X6, 5X7, 8X10, or custom. You can also choose to create a collage (with your own or some of their images).

3. Then you select edit.

4. Chose your photo to edit.

5. Then you select your “basic effects” – crop, canvas color, rotate, exposure, colors, sharpen, resize. I definitely recommend playing with the exposure settings and the sharpening – it can really make your image stand out more.

6. Next setting choice is “touch up” – a lot of options here (like “teeth whitening” and “mascara” – I didn’t play with these too much since my subject in the picture is a dog).

7. Next the best part – selecting the text. You can write your own text and chose different colors, fonts, formatting, location, etc. Definitely play with the blending options – at first, I couldn’t get the text to stand out – but changing the blending to “hardlight” made a big difference.

8. Then you can add in overlays – different artwork. I just chose a simple heart, since I didn’t want anything to distract from the seriousness of my message.

9. Next select your frame – like shape cutouts, rounded corners, polaroid frames, etc. At first I wasn’t going to select a frame, but I decided that the bordering effect actually made the image stand out more.

10. Then you could add texture, like clouds, water, light trails. Again, I opted not to, but the effects were pretty neat.

11. Lastly you select a theme – the choices: school U, vampires, zombies, day of the dead, witches, demons, trick or treat, santa land, winterland, celebrate, or sweethearts. Not sure when these would be useful for a public health message – but possibly.

12. Now you save it (to your computer or your dropbox) and/or share it!

The health message I created using PicMonkey.

The health message I created using PicMonkey.

12 steps may seem like a lot, but it was really, really easy. I am not artistic or tech-inclined, but I had no problems and created my image really quickly. The harder part was deciding which adorable picture of my dog to use.


I also explored Canva. Canva does require you to sign up, but membership is free. It wasn’t quite as easy to just jump in. There is a very brief (23 second) orientation, and then a list of “starter challenges” – that I personally chose to ignore. Canva has a lot of images to use – but they cost a little bit of money. Or you can upload your own. The photo editing effects weren’t offered (or at least as obviously), but you can select different layouts and backgrounds (some free, some with costs). You can also select different fonts, sizes, placements of text, etc.  When I went to publish/ link my image – I discovered it actually isn’t free (or as straightforward as in PicMonkey). It costs at least $1.00. Below is the water-marked free version. I think Canva may be better for creating certain types of images and infographics, but for my simple purposes, I liked PicMonkey better.

My health message using Canva.

My health message using Canva.


I used my images to relay important veterinary medicine topics, but I think the possibilities of using sites like these to create public health images are endless. And really anyone can do it! I encourage any public health organization to really experiment with these sites and others like them to create meaningful images – with 1010 words.



6 thoughts on “My Explorations with PicMonkey and Canva

  1. Catherine – these tools you sought out are great. I’ve been seeing photos and animations that I’d love to learn to do someday – these tools you’ve described are an easy start. Thanks! And I agree…these are pretty effective PSAs for animals. 1010 words.

  2. Great post Catherine! I think this is a great tool to use for creating your own public health ads. One app that I love is diptic… it does cost to download but it was only 1.00. It allows you to make collages, has different layouts, editing effects, and allows you to incorporate texts. There are so many apps out there that allow you to do this. Another great editing tool is snapsneed for photo editing! It color corrects your images allows you to make it artsy. One of my favorites!

  3. Great post! And some really useful resources. They look so much easier to use than Photoshop and Illustrator…….and a whole lot cheaper.

  4. Catherine,
    Great post and really nice ads.I also think that more original the images (such as ur pet’s pictures used in the ad) the more support non-profit organizations can get from general public.

  5. This is really fun and helpful. I have to say that my favorite online tool for creating amazing graphic designs is You pay $200+, describe what you are looking for, and hundreds to thousands of designers around the world respond with their designs. If you don’t like any, you don’t have to pay. If you like some, then you pick a few and have a final round of the competition. I always get incredible work done at this site, for $200, and usually in less than 1 week from soup to nuts.

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