Many of you are struggling to make all the print materials you need for your library on a tiny or nonexistent budget. You want your print materials to look professional but your background isn’t in art. I want to help.

I’m lucky to have two graphic artists on staff to help create the print materials for 41 library locations but I do understand this struggle. In my spare time, I coordinate the marketing for my church. It’s a volunteer position with no staff. I’m a writer, not an artist. I have a teeny-tiny budget, which I share with the guy who maintains the video projector in the sanctuary and those babies are always breaking. So basically, I have no money for print.

Today I’m sharing some websites I use to design print materials–posters, fliers, postcards, bookmarks, door hangers, and more–all for free. They have templates that make the design process easy and give you a finished product that looks professionally designed.

But before you dive headlong into designing your own materials, it’s important to keep a few design basics in mind.

Keep it simple. Library marketers often try to put all the information about a program or event on their printed marketing materials. This makes the piece look cluttered and less inviting to the eye. Research shows the use of white space or negative space increases reading comprehension by almost 20 percent. Use bold graphics or well-produced photos in your printed material to draw attention to the piece. Include only the basic information–the points your audience needs to know and remember about what you are marketing. Then direct users to visit your website or to ask a staff member for further details.

Keep your design consistent with your brand. That doesn’t mean you have to use the same font for every print piece but it’s a good idea to choose several fonts that you can rotate. Include your logo somewhere on the piece and make sure the wording is brand consistent.

Here are my four favorite websites for creating professional looking print marketing materials for free!

Poster My Wall: They have about a dozen library-themed templates and dozens of other templates that are super easy to customize. Downloads are free, as long as you’re cool with a tiny watermark in the corner of the poster (I think it’s pretty unobtrusive). If you have a budget but no printer, you can order printed copies of your work from this company.

Canva: I use this for the majority of my church marketing materials and I know a lot of library marketers who rely on Canva for their work. They have the widest selection of templates and the most intuitive platform for custom design. You can download files as a .png, .jpg, or PDF and they recently added the option of ordering prints of your materials, which is awesome if you want to create postcards or other collateral. I pull from my list of free stock photos, upload them to Canva, and I get tons of compliments on my work. I am not a trained designer. I could not even draw a stick figure. That’s how intuitive this platform is.

Desygner: This is a new service. Their selection of free materials is small but I wanted to mention them because they do have some beautiful designs and they’ll likely expand as more people start to use the platform.

Adobe Spark:  If you’ve already got a Creative Cloud account, you’re halfway there. Adobe is used by designers everywhere and their free Spark plan lets you create beautiful print materials (and social media graphics) with an easy-to-use template. You can change the shape, color, font, opacity, and spacing to suit your needs. The Adobe suite of products is awesome and this is no exception.

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