How to Make Kick-ass Blog Graphics from Free Stock Photos

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This post may contain affiliate links. This means I makes a small commission from purchases made from my links, but this does not affect the cost of the item. I do not promote anything I don’t highly recommend. 

Are you afraid that using free stock photos from sites like Pixabay or Pexels will weaken your authenticity as a brand?

I mean, the most popular stock photos get used on a lot of different blogs.

Does it make you look like a copycat?

I’m all for using stock photos. I’m all for using pretty much any easy workaround and making graphics is no exception.

The problem is that despite the fact that there are thousands of stock photos out there, there are only a few that really capture what you’re trying to say visually.

And those are the ones getting used. By EVERYONE.

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When you’re making a brand that stands out, the LAST thing you want to do is use the same photos as everyone else. And even the last LAST thing you want to do is settle for crap quality just to have something different.

Raise your hand if you’ve felt this way

  • You are trying to juggle too many things at once.
  • Lack of photos and graphics keep you from publishing your content.
  • You don’t have the time to photograph your own photos for each and every blog post.
  • You don’t have the patience to draw all of your graphics from scratch.
  • You don’t want to pay a graphic designer to draw your graphics for you.
  • You’re afraid that using stock photos will cheapen your value and you’ll be seen as a fraud.
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But here’s the thing. Blog posts with graphics are WAY easier to read.

Easier to read = more shares!

Learn how to make kick-ass blog graphics from free stock photos! #blogging #branding

The idea is mixing stock photos with the idea of spot illustrations. I’ll explain what spot illustrations are in just a minute.

It’s a great way to transform stock photos so they so they match your brand. The best part is this can be done fast with easy-to-use graphics programs like Canva (which i recommend because it’s so easy). So you don’t need to know a lot about graphic design to look awesome.

And you can do this 100% on your phone or tablet! In fact, my entire workspace is on my iPad.

Don’t let the fear of using stock photos get in the way of sharing your blog.

Before we get started, first things first…

Related: How to Create a Killer 3D Pop-out Picture Without Photoshop (under 5 min)

What are spot illustrations?

Spot illustrations are small self contained pictures sprinkled over blog posts or magazine articles. They are a visual representation of the thoughts and points made in the article.

They add some dynamic to make articles more visually interesting to read.

Here are some examples of more traditional looking “spot illustrations.”

Spiffy graphics | how to make blog graphics from stock photos | spot illustrations | stock photos

They illustrate the ideas you’re writing about in a drawing. There’s more to it than that but for the purpose of this blog post, that’s basically all you need to know. They typically don’t have borders and they’re used to emphasize a thought or idea. Stray Curls does an amazing job using spot illustrations on her blog and that’s an even better example than what I provided above.

I like to combine stock photos with the idea of these spot illustrations to make my own kind of collage art, but you can adapt this method to match your own brand.

To make things simple, I’m going to use this one stock photo (below) to show you how to apply these different stylizing tips to make stock photos match your brand. I’ll be using Canva to do this.

Let’s get started!

remove the background

I’ll admit. I have a background removing addiction. It’s my favorite thing to do when I make my blog graphics. The outcome can be so versatile depending on how you layer different objects (I’ll get a little bit into that later on). Not to mention if the background is “busy” looking it can really clean up the visual clutter.

Canva has an amazing tool that removes the background with one button. It’s a pro tool so it’s not available in the free version. If you don’t have the pro version of canva, you can still remove the background with free apps like Adobe Photoshop Fix. You just have to remove it manually and can be a little bit of a pain.

I prefer the headache-free one-click-canva way, myself.

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Go for a frame that isn’t traditional

Think outside the square on this one. I’m a little partial to this “pop out” photo effect.

But if your brand has a lot of symmetry in it and uses a lot of squares and rectangles, don’t betray your brand. Just get a little creative with it.

I have a tutorial here to show exactly how to achieve this 3D pop-out effect in Canva.

Here is an example of I mean. I used this for a brand kit that uses a lot of squares, but I used this particular photo idea in a very non-traditional way.

You can simply make your photos all round. Or play around with the frames they have in Canva to get an idea on branching out beyond squares and rectangles.

This is something you can get REALLY creative with. Just make sure it’s consistent through your branding so once you pick a style you like, stick to that one.

Add different patterns, textures, or doodles

You can see an example of the different things you can add to your photos above. Don’t get too complicated with this. Pick one or two elements to jazz up your photo and call it a day.

For the image above I simply added a doodle looking circle to give it some character.

You can use shapes, lines, or simply add arrows or other types of marks to pull the reader’s eye toward a specific word or Call To Action.

I use scrap paper, tape, and a halftone dot pattern to mine.

In Canva, pick just three things, add them to a folder and that way they are always there without having to search.

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Conclusion: Things to keep in mind

These are the three big ways to customize stock photos and create incredible graphics for your next blog post. It’s such a fun way to add some personal style and really amp up your brand!

Remember, be consistent!

Ask yourself these questions when you’re coming up with your graphics:

What type of style would appeal to your ideal audience?

What type of style reflects your personality?

Which method are you going to use to spiff up your stock photos? All three?

Leave me a comment and feel free to show off your stuff!

Until next time,


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