Welcome to Wild Magic Designs!
0

Your Cart

The 11 Best Free Tools for Making Printables

Vertical image that says "The 11 Best Free Tools for Making Printables". Features a woman with two laptops in front of her. She is testing colours in a paint tray.

This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase after following an affiliate link, I get a portion of the proceeds. The services advertised this way are something I use on a regular basis—I join affiliate programs for products I enjoy, and I hope you like them, too.

Making printables to sell—or for your own use—doesn’t have to be costly.

There are so many different options out there for creating printables for free that I wish we had a decade ago. There are free images, free elements, free software, all available at the touch of a button. All you have to do is find them.

I’ll give you a head start. Each of the websites and resources that I have linked here is either completely free or has free options so you can start building your printables empire—without spending before you start making.

Free Photo and Graphic Editing Software

Most people either don’t have the money to pay for a product like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, or they understandably don’t want to support Adobe’s predatory practices and shitty business model (in the case of Photoshop). Either is fine. And as someone that’s been there, where the tools I needed for my work were out of my reach, I get the lack of money part. Aside from watching Humble Bundle for worthwhile specials or saving up for the above-mentioned softwares there are other options, so let’s go over them.

GIMP

GIMP is open-source, reliable software that has been around for years. I know so many people that swear by it. It operates about the same way as Photoshop and every other photo editor, it has a range of plug-ins available to it, and there are lots of tutorials out there to help you figure out how to operate the program.

Since the first time I used it over 15 years ago, GIMP has added a ton of new features and has improved by leaps and bounds. It can save to and open most common file formats, produce transparent PNGs, repair damaged photos, make all the necessary adjustments, and even save directly to an archival file format like ZIP. GIMP even has its own healing brush tool and clone brush.

You can easily replace Photoshop with GIMP and use it for your printables throughout your career. It really has improved.

Krita

Another open-source art program, Krita was developed by artists with artists in mind and is packed with features. The interface has multiple docking points that you can set up to match your workflow, there’s brush stabilization, a whole host of different brushes, vector tools, wrap-around mode for seamless patterns… and they even have guides for people that are moving into Krita from Photoshop and other software.

You can download and (optionally) support Krita by visiting its website here.

Inkscape

If you prefer working with vectors, Inkscape is for you. The benefit of vector graphics vs a raster format (for example, a jpg) is that you can blow it up as big as you want to and not lose any detail. Or shrink it. Or do whatever you like. If you work with Illustrator on a regular basis, then you’ll have an idea of what you can do with Inkscape. Yes, there’s a learning curve, and yes, it’s worthwhile.

I would recommend working with Inkscape if the majority of your designs are text-based, as vectors are much kinder to printable quotes than raster files are. Photoshop, for example, is notoriously iffy with its text and you will notice a huge difference in quality when using Inkscape for text.

Canva

Canva is an online point-and-click style graphic design tool that has a free version and a monthly or yearly paid plan. The free version provides access to hundreds of design elements, photos, fonts, and templates as well as the ability to save in JPG, PNG, and PDF. You cannot save as a transparent PNG, so keep that in mind when using the product.

The free version of Canva is a good start for getting up-and-running as a printable creator, though I recommend it more for its social media templates. Its collection of free elements—especially cutouts—is extensive and you’re able to use those elements in designs you sell.

I highly recommend Canva‘s subscription service for $16.99 CAD per month for its print PDF capabilities and magic resize options. Being able to resize a document to fit a variety of different paper sizes—without having to fuss around too much—is a godsend.

Free Stock Photographs and Free Graphics

Unsplash

Unsplash is my favourite source of free stock photos. All the images are high-quality, clean, and available in huge resolutions that are perfect for everything that we do. There isn’t much else I can say about this site that a visit won’t say for me. Go check out Unsplash and you’ll love it—and its licensing—as much as I do.

Stocksnap.io

Stocksnap is my second go-to website for free stock photos. It also provides beautiful photographs at high resolution under a Creative Commons license that allows you to use any image you download for commercial purposes.

The Graphics Fairy

The oldest vintage graphics database on the internet, The Graphics Fairy has been around since 2007 and hosts thousands of antique and vintage images that you can incorporate into your printables. I highly recommend The Graphics Fairy. Not only did they inspire my love of vintage imagery, they have provided me a ton of joy over the years and I have used their imagery for my printables, too. Go check them out.

Wikimedia Commons

Not every file on Wikimedia Commons is public domain, though it is a really good place to find public domain images. You can search for images that use the CC Zero license—that’s the one that places media in the public domain, allowing you to use them for whatever you like—or dig through the old-fashioned way. Whatever you do, just keep an eye on what license the image is filed under.

Pixabay

A site that describes itself as “vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images, videos and music.” With over 2.4 million files and counting, you’re bound to find things that will work for your projects and that you can repurpose if they’re close enough.

Pixabay’s license allows free use of all files on its platform. You aren’t required to credit the artists, and you are able to use the files in commercial projects. Some artists actually want to know what their stuff is used for simply because they’re curious, so you may even make a friend or two out of your work.

Free Word Processing Tools

Google Docs & Google Sheets

Yes, you can create printables in Google Docs and Google Sheets (or any of the suite of Google products). Sometimes you’ll want to make printables that use tables, or maybe you’re used to working with Word and want a replacement. That’s where GDocs comes in.

All that you need to use Google Docs, Sheets, and everything else under Google’s umbrella is a free gmail account. You’re able to log in and start creating as soon as you sign in for the first time.

Docs supports saving files as PDFs, and you can share the links to your files so people can create copies that they can then edit. This is great if you decide you want to make things that people can customize—just make sure you set the share links to be ‘view only’, or else customers will be able to edit the original file.

Now, a lot of people are understandably nervous about Google’s internet monopoly, so if you’re not comfortable with GDocs based on that, you ought to try…

LibreOffice

The successor to what would become Apache OpenOffice, it’s open source, and it’s constantly being improved by a community of users that loves it. LibreOffice is powerful. It’s the next best thing to Microsoft Office, with more stability and constant updates that you won’t see in OpenOffice—which I was going to include on this list until I remembered that it was more-or-less abandoned in 2011 after its parent company laid off a ton of developers.

Like Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is a complete office software suite with word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, a drawing program, and formula editor. It’s able to open and save to .docx files without issue, which will help you save face if you offer downloadable templates. Just saying.

If nothing else, this software suite has a thriving community that’s always happy to lend a hand if you’re lost. You can learn more about LibreOffice here.

The Last Word(s)

There are tons more free resources that you can use to make your printables, so if your favourite thing wasn’t covered in this post please sing its praises in the comments. I’m always looking for more tools to play with, and so are your fellow readers.

Cheers and happy creating,

Mel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.