So for about 10 years I’ve been working as a free-lance graphic designer. I’ve been on staff at our church and have had the privilege to do work for some amazing churches and ministries over the years. I still remember the ridiculous designs I would do in Microsoft Publisher before gradually moving on to something more professional. However, the industry has changed and you no longer need to be completely proficient to make something decent as long as you are not picky.

I’ve learned a thing or two about the average church over the years. Not all churches can hire a professional on staff and even hiring out is a challenge. Today’s church most likely has a youth pastor or worship leader who wears many hats and sometimes that role is the graphic designer.

So here are a few secrets that I have acquired over the years. (Notice, I said, “on the cheap”, which means not entirely free, but there’s some great stuff out there for a few dollars.)

1. Get a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Gone are the days of needing to purchase a $700 Adobe Photoshop software that will most likely be outdated within a year. Adobe now sells their Photoshop and Lightroom subscription package for as little as $10 a month. You can’t get around it, Photoshop rules the industry. You can try using other knock-off graphic tools, but at the end of the day, it’s important to use what the creative industry is using to ensure you get the best quality stuff.

2. There’s nothing wrong with using templates!

With as many things that are on my plate. Many times I find myself content and amazed at what others are doing. Why try to reinvent the wheel if someone else has already done the work for you. You can try to head on over to websites like LifeChurch.tv’s OPEN Resources or Elevation Church’s Resources for free ready-to-go Jpeg’s and Photoshop PSD files or even head on over to graphicriver.net and spend between $5-$10 for high resolution print-ready files. CreationSwap is also a favorite of mine as well and offers both free and paid stuff. There’s more websites out there and if you know of any, feel free to share in the comments.

3. Use your phone for quick social media graphics.

In the day and age of iPhone and Android Apps galore, it’s a must to be able to use it for quick Instagram ready announcements. I use VSCOcam for quick picture edits and programs like PicLab and Over for adding text and graphics. There are tons more out there, but these are the first that come to mind. It’s amazing what you can pull off with your phone and although your phone will work for the majority of social media, the main disadvantage is in printing (postcards, flyers, pamphlets, etc.) However, I wouldn’t doubt we’re heading in that direction where you can do everything on your phone someday.

4. Forget cheesy photos from Google images.

It’s a well-known fact that photography speaks in many volumes, and for a lot of applications, Google images can work, but you might not always have the highest quality stuff. Again CreationSwap may be your friend as well as freeimages.com, but you can always head over to iStockPhoto.com and DepositPhoto.com for the highest quality images in the size you need. I recently found a great Christian stock photo gallery at Lightstock.com. They have by far the best photos for church use anywhere.

5. Stop with all the fonts!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I only use about five fonts on my entire computer. I keep myself limited to Arial, Helvetica, Century Gothic, and a few other fancy ones like Avenir and Bebas. I rebuke the need for Papyrus and Comic Sans in the name of Jesus!

6. Keep it Simple

At the end of the day, all graphic design, whether it’s for a sermon series, a flyer, or producing artwork around the church, is meant for communication. Don’t let tons of content bog down your message. Some of the best designs are minimalistic and embrace white space. Keep it concise and clear. Avoid everything that is unnecessary information.

This will probably be an article I will expand more in the future, but this is just a few thoughts from the top of my head. Hope this helps.

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