You don’t want to call your designer every single time you are writing a blog article or doing news entry. It is too expensive and inefficient. You need a tool, but struggle to convince your boss to buy another Photoshop license? Well, there are a few online editors, and I will be putting them to real life test to see how efficient they are.
As a test, I’ve decided to make this little banner, and to make it, the following series of tasks need to be completed:
- import photo
- crop and resize the photo to fit predefined size
- add a text to the photo
- add a logo in vector format (or .png as a fallback)
- export to .png file
Before jumping into cloud solutions, I’ve decided to see how Paint will perform.
Importing the photos is very easy, as you can just right-click on it and choose open in, or drag and drop to the application window.
1.2. Crop & Resize
This is where things start getting ugly as there is no way to crop to specified size.
1.3. Adding Text
Adding text is relatively easy, and you can use all of the installed fonts. However, basic controls like text alignment are for some reason missing, and as soon as you add text, it’s being merged with the graphic below, meaning there is no way to correct any typos or do any further changes.
1.4. Adding Logo
There are no layers or objects in Paint, meaning you cannot combine two or more images.
In summary, Paint is pretty much useless, and even cropping photos here is a guess work.
Advertised as the closest experience to Photoshop as possible, I jumped in excited, just to hit the wall.
There is no drag and drop to the browser, you will have to use file menu, but the import is quick, and there is no compression forced on the user (no loss in quality).
2.2 Crop & Resize
This is where things get ugly. Crop tool here is just as useless as Paint’s. I found some workarounds and manage to produce the exact size image eventually, but it is not natural neither productive workflow.
2.3 Adding Text
All the basic text tools are here, and you can access all your desktop fonts. Unfortunately, the text is not created automatically on a new layer which I found annoying. Text rendering in Chrome was not too good and produced fuzzy text.
2.4 Adding a Logo
There is no vector support, but you can import as many images as you like using “import image as a layer” command.
All the basic file formats are there, and you can easily download your work. There is no cloud storage though which may be a disadvantage for some.
There are plenty of advanced features here, but the most useful, essential features are implemented in a terrible way. The whole UI is very unintuitive even for a seasoned Photoshop user.
Pixlr Editor, an older brother of Pixlr Express, is a comprehensive photo editor. It also tries to mimic Photoshop layout and people with Photoshop experience will find their way quickly.
Just like in Sumopaint, use the file menu and enjoy working on your uncompressed images.
3.2 Crop & Resize
Very simple, set the output size on the crop tool and select area.
3.3 Adding Text
There is unnecessary, additional popup window where you write the text, and it’s not possible to mix font styles in one textbox. On top of clunky experience, the text here is just as fuzzy as in Sumopaint, so avoid using Chrome with this one.
3.4 Adding Logo
Again no vector support, but you can easily import an unlimited number of images to separate layers.
Standard formats, download or save to Pixlr cloud.
Pixlr is like a better version of Sumopaint. There are still UX issues, though, and the interface is nowhere near Photoshop’s. For those willing to learn and wanting the biggest flexibility this is the best solution, especially if you want proper layers with blending modes and masks.
Fotor is an app that despite its name, focuses on design rather than photo manipulation.
The approach here is more structured than in the editors mentioned above. You define your document first, by choosing from many size options, labeled by purpose (like facebook cover), then you can choose from a range of templates, backgrounds and stickers, or go straight to your images.
4.2 Crop & Resize
There is no need for resizing, as when you add your image to the design it will be masked nondestructively by the canvas, and you can resize and re-position it in the background at any time.
4.3 Adding Text
Text edit tool is great, it allows for multiple font styles in one box and offers plenty of controls in an easy and intuitive way. The text is rendered beautifully, and there is an excellent choice of fonts, but you can’t access or import your own.
4.4 Adding a logo
No vector support, but you can add multiple images to one canvas. There is no visible layer window or controls other than transparency and order.
Export formats are pretty standard, and you can save the design to your Dropbox as well.
I do think that this approach for many may be preferable. It focuses on layout dumping most of the advanced functionality. The stickers are mostly useless, but there are a few generic shapes that can be helpful. The unique feature that I like is the preview button which shows a mockup of your little design in the context (for example how it will look like an actual Facebook cover). All in all, it is a great tool, but only for those who are happy without their brand’s font.
Canva like Fotor positions itself as a one-stop design tool. They go another level further and integrate a stock image shop inside of their app.
This is done the same way as in Fotor. The images get automatically compressed, but they are back to full quality once exported.
5.2 Crop and Resize
Masked by canvas size, just like in Fotor.
5.3 Adding Text
No multiple font styles in one box allowed, only premium users can upload their fonts.
4.4 Adding a logo
Canva claims experimental .svg support, but I failed to make it work and needed to fall back on using .png
On top of .jpg and .png, there is a .pdf support, which is a welcomed addition.
For the task at hand, Canva doesn’t seem to be much better than Fotor. However if you are willing to spend money on Canva for Business, it can transform the way you produce content in your company. You can have your designer create a set of corporate layouts for different occasions and since it supports multi-page PDFs you can use it for your entire customer-facing communication. I can see this as a Microsoft Word replacement.
I’ve almost overlooked it, which would be a shame as it is pretty much Paint done right.
Just drag and drop, this is the only online tool that supports that. There is, of course, access to Google’s cloud storage as well.
5.2 Crop and Resize
Cropping uses a non-destructive clipping path, which you can edit and reposition at any time. You can even choose the shape, so if you want a photo clipped to an arrow, it’s dead easy. You cannot specify the size of the cropped area, but you can easily set the size of the document and then just use the crop handles to position the image.
5.3 Adding Text
All the controls you may want, and text rendering is smooth, but the fonts range is limited to Google’s repository.
5.4 Adding a logo
No vector support, a big disappointment considering Google Drive can show the preview of vector files, but working on multiple images is as easy as it can get.
Google Drawings has the most extensive range of formats. From the typical ones, through PDF to a vector format. Then you can download or publish your image to Google Cloud and get a link or embed code.
Drawings are hands down the most responsive tool with a simple and intuitive interface that will make most of the simple jobs fly. If you can leave without your font in any case.
For those who are OK with Google fonts, Google Drawings seems to be an obvious choice. It’s simple to use yet fast and feature rich.
Those who are looking for a free online Photoshop alike can quickly jump to Pixlr. UX issues aside, this really is a great and powerful tool.
Those who want to transform the way documents and images are created in their business can definitely look into Canva. Just don’t get yourself sucked into all those stock images and templates. You should stick to your brand guidelines for a unified and recognizable look.
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