7 free tools to improve your email designs

 
Sure, you may be satisfied with your current email designs for your distribution lists, but you can't afford to become complacent. That's because there's more competition than ever before.
 
For example, it's estimated 269 billion emails are sent every day with an average click-through rate of less than 13%. Even though billions of emails are being read each day, you must stay creative to stand out from the crowd.
 
At the same time, the number of users you'll be able to reach is also growing. There were 3.7 billion email users in 2017, but Statista projects that number will reach 4.3 billion by 2022.
 
Every email and campaign must provide the best possible return on investment (ROI). With that in mind, here are seven free tools to improve your email designs and keep them fresh. 
 

Top 7 free tools for email designs

1. Email-Gallery

Instead of reinventing the wheel when it comes to email designs, you can always find inspiration in what other designers are doing. Email-Gallery is one source you'll certainly want to check out.
The first feature you'll notice is most of the sample emails come from national and international companies including Subway, Amazon, Blue Apron, and Shopify. This allows you to see how their substantial marketing and design budgets are being realized without making that investment on your own.
 
While the default display on Email-Gallery's home page shows the latest designs, there are additional built-in search criteria. For example, you can filter emails by the number of columns used, ranging from one to three. You can also search by 11 color schemes, everything from black to gray to orange to pink to yellow.
 
Finally, you can search by type of business such as automotive, education, podcast, and even religion. This allows you to see what competitors in your industry are doing as well as investigate other areas to discover different design elements you might want to incorporate. 

2. Pixabay

Of course, the first way to capture readers' attention is to incorporate eye-catching graphics. But, as a professional, you know randomly grabbing images via a Google search just doesn't work. Instead, you need to use a site like Pixabay which has over 1.5 million royalty-free images. 
 
You can search Pixabay's library by the type of image you need – photo, vector graphic, or illustration – as well as by portrait or landscape orientation. Images are grouped into broad categories such as architecture, education, and nature, or you can drill down by using your own more specific search terms. Plus, you can filter results by custom image size as well as color scheme. 
 
When you download an image, you'll have multiple options for which size you want. In addition, each image has a Creative Commons licensing statement, so you'll know you're in the clear when using it.  
 
Pixabay also has a wide selection of videos you can download and use in your email designs. As research shows, you can increase click rates by 300% through the use of video. 

3. ImageOptim

When using images, you don’t want ones with dimensions larger than optimal for your email template or with unnecessarily big file sizes. The first issue will impact ease of reading while the second will cause slow loading times. Worst case scenario, your email may even be sent to the spam folder or blocked.   
 
If you're a Mac user, the solution is ImageOptim. This free download allows you to easily optimize images to cut loading times in half, use progressive rendering, and have its API automatically format image sizes for multiple devices. Or, you can apply heavy compression for high-density displays which keeps file size to a minimum. 
 
Not a Mac user? ImageOptim offers a web-based service, but you will have to pay for it. If you don't want to do that, you might check out ResizeImage.net. Its simple, web-based interface allows you to upload images and then either crop them or change the aspect ratio. You can save files as a JPEG, GIF, PNG, or BMP, and you have a range of compression and optimization options to choose from. 

4. GIFMaker.me

Just as videos increase click rates, the use of GIFs has also become widespread to create more visually appealing emails. Need proof? Take a look at this comparison of static versus GIF-use emails to see the difference their presence can make. 
 
GIFMaker.me is a free online tool to create animated GIFs, video animations, and slideshows. Plus, you can also incorporate music via YouTube. The interface is simple to use, and there is no registration required.
 
To begin, you'll select up to 300 JPEG, PNG, or GIF images to upload. Then, you'll set the custom size of the canvas to use, ranging from 100 x 56 up to 500 x 280 pixels. After that, you'll choose an animation speed which can be from 1 to 10,000 milliseconds. You can also set your animated GIF to play once, multiple times, or in an infinite loop.  
 
You can also create avatar GIFs for use in online forums, reverse a GIF, and either split or join two separate GIFs. Because GIFMaker.me is web-based, it works across multiple platforms. You must, however, have Flash installed for it to work correctly. 

5. Hemingway App

Text-based content is often overlooked in the design process. It's just words, right, as opposed to a visually based element? 
 
Not so fast! 
 
Your text must be as clear, concise, and direct as possible to convey the maximum amount of information in the least amount of space. After all, you don't want a needlessly wordy text to distract from other design elements and lessen their impact.
 
The Hemingway App is the solution. Named after the famously terse American writer Ernest Hemingway, this web-based application allows you to paste text directly into it for analysis. First, a color-coded system highlights problematic writing: 
 
Gold: hard-to-read sentence
Violet: very hard-to-read sentence 
Green: the use of passive voice
Blue: adverb which could be deleted
Purple: shorter/simpler word could be used
 
In addition, an overall grade reading level is assigned, and a reading time is calculated. Plus, you'll be told how many characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs were used.  
 
There's a downloadable desktop application you can purchase for either a PC or Mac. This also allows you to have one-click integration with the WordPress and Medium publishing platforms. In addition, you can export text as an HTML file if you're doing email designs at the code level. 

6. Da Button Factory

Too often, call-to-action (CTA) buttons on your emails are predesigned or existing images. While this may seem adequate, it can also lead to lower click-through rates depending on factors including size, color, design, and whitespace.

Just as you demand control over all other design elements, you can also have this with your CTA buttons thanks to Da Button Factory. First, you can input the text you want on your button along with the font, size, and style. Then, you can select the button style, color, background, border, and shadow. When you're done, you can either grab the code from the website, embed it directly into HTML, or download it to use later. 
 
The default button design parameters are relatively basic, but there are many more button presets you can choose from to work with. Although it may seem like a simple thing, CTA buttons and their design are critical, so email recipients select the action your message is designed for them to choose. 

7. Canva

So, you've looked at other email designs for inspiration, have a new set of correctly sized images to work with, the GIF animations look good, the text is just right, and the CTA buttons are ready to go. Now, you're ready to begin designing your actual email. 
 
Canva is a great place to do this. You can easily set up an account and start working on a variety of design projects beyond just email: posters, flyers, letterhead, infographics, and more. 
 
Once you select a general design category, you'll be taken to a workspace where you can choose from multiple predesigned templates in that style to work with. Or, you can start from scratch and build your own. You'll find the drag-and-drop interface intuitive and easy to use. When you're done, you can save, download, or share your work.
 
While there are paid Canva accounts available for individual team members as well as enterprise licenses, the free plan has robust capabilities: 2 folders to organize files, 1 gig of storage, and access to over 8,000 templates. Plus, you can always upload your own images to use. 
 

Wrap up

In today's business world, standing pat with your email designs is the same as falling behind. Now more than ever, free design resources are readily available. These include sample work from industry-leading companies, free high-quality stock images, and powerful yet simple email-building tools. Everything you need to stay ahead of the design curve is already here. All you need to do is incorporate it into your project workflow. 

About the Author

Tyler Sutton

Tyler Sutton is an Email Specialist on the Professional Services team at Emma.

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