Plain and simple, Stencil is our go-to app for creating engaging images and graphics. Today, I am going to take a deep dive into the world of Stencil. I’ll explain how it works and why it should be in your book marketing tool belt.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means Softpress earns a small commission if you click through and purchase. This costs you nothing extra, and in no way influences the products we recommend. Your success is our success so we don’t promote products or tools we don’t love and believe will help you.

 

What is Stencil?

Stencil is a web-based application (app) that makes image creation fun and easy. Whether you need a header image for a blog post (like ours above) or some sort of graphic to post on Pinterest, Stencil will have you designing stunning graphics in no time. The best part is you don’t need much talent nor a degree as a graphic designer to use it!

Why should I use Stencil?

I have mentioned in previous posts how important it is as an independent author to have a social media presence. And, all of that begins with a stellar author website. Consider how bland your website and Twitter feed would be without any sort of images or graphics. How much engagement would you get from potential readers with nothing but huge blocks of text on your blog? How would you market your book without a cool looking graphic showing the cover? Can you successfully attract an audience on Instagram without photos? These are all reasons for you to give Stencil a closer look.

If numbers are more your thing, let’s look at the statistics a bit closer. Here are the facts:

 But I’m Not A Designer

While most authors are very creative in developing their prose, many of you feel that you lack design skills. I understand. While you agree you need images and graphics, you probably feel outsourcing is the quickest and easiest way to obtain them. Sure, you can go to somewhere like Fiverr and take your chances on getting what you want. However, with Stencil you can get designer quality results for a fraction of the cost not to mention the time savings. Even if you’ve never used an image editing program, you can pick Stencil up and use it in seconds.


Getting Familiar with the Stencil Dashboard

The Stencil dashboard is nicely arranged and easy to navigate. When you first log into your account, this is what you will see:

Stencil Dashboard

Your main menu is in the sidebar on the left. Adjacent to that is where you will find photos, icons, templates, quotes, etc. The large white box just right of center is your design area. The icons above and to the right will help you in your designs. Want to change your account settings? Click “My Account” in the top right.

There is one enhancement we have requested. As of this writing, there is no way to zoom the design area. This is usually not an issue, but if you are working with very large or very small design areas it can be a challenge to get text and other elements positioned as you would like them. While we rarely work with very large or small designs, it is problematic when we need to.


Since the Softpress team began using Stencil over a year ago, there have been several new features added to make the app more user friendly and increase functionality. In fact, Stencil strives to constantly improve the user experience and enhance the already fantastic attributes of their app. Let’s take a deep dive into the awesome Stencil features. We love these and know you will too:

Photos Galore!

Stencil currently has over 1.5 million photos to choose from! If that weren’t enough, they add a few thousand new ones each week so you’re not having to use the same ones over and over. Even better, all of the photos are royalty free and “CCO” approved. This means they have a “Creative Commons Zero” license and are free to use for any legal purpose whether personal or commercial.

Stencil also makes it easy to search for and find the perfect photo for whatever you need. When you want a photo, just click the “Photos” tab in the left-side menu and enter your search term in the box above the photo thumbnails.

Stencil Photo Search

Want to upload your own photos? Click on the “Uploads” link in the main menu and drop your pics on the “Upload Images” box.

Stencil Photo Upload

Any photos you use in your designs can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Select a photo and place it onto your design. Click the photo and a pop-out box appears on the left. Here you can choose a filter to apply. Make the image black and white or apply any number of other filtering affects.

Stencil Photo Edit

You can also re-size the image, flip it vertically or horizontally, set it as the background, or apply special effects such as transparency or a color overlay.

Inspiring Quotes

With over 100,000 quotes in their archives, you can make inspiring images with your favorite quotes in seconds. As with the photos, you can search their available quotes by keyword. Just select “Quotes” in the left-side menu and enter your search term. Depending on what you are looking for, you’ll get dozens of available quotes.

Stencil Quotes Search

Amazing Templates

One of the features we like best is the pre-made templates library. There are currently over 650 to choose from and each one can be edited to suit your needs. Just select the “Templates” item in the left-side menu and you’ll see everything available.

 Templates

To further refine your search options for templates, click the “Featured Templates” dropdown and select from one of the 15 categories.

 Template Categories

You’ll find each template is sized appropriately for any of the social media categories you select. No need to worry if it will show up correctly once you post it to your news feed. Additionally, if you see a template you want to save and come back to later, you can save it as a favorite or within a collection. Simply hover over the template you like and click the round dot with the three horizontal lines that appears. A pop-out menu will appear. Select either “Favorites” or “Collections.”

 Favorites

You can even create your own templates and save them under the “My Templates” tab in the dropdown. For instance, Softpress has a standard template we use for our blog header images. Once we arrived at the basic template design we wanted, it was just a matter of clicking the up arrow next to the “Save” button and then clicking the “Save as Template” popup button that appeared. That template then appears under the “My Templates” menu so we can easily find it and use it over and over.

Save As Button

Incidentally, if you click the “Save” button, the design will then be saved to the “Saved Images” link in the left-side menu. This can be done for any image you create, not just templates.

Saved Images

If there is any downside to the Templates, it would be that there is no way to search by keyword for specific templates. Perhaps we can persuade them to add this in a future upgrade. For now, you’ll just have to refine by category and then scroll down until you find what you want.

Fantastic Fonts

With over 2,300 fonts to choose from, you’re sure to find one that matches your current branding. To add text to an image, click the “Add Text” icon to the right of the image window.

Add Text

A text box will appear for you to type in whatever you want to say. Once you have finished typing, hit “Enter” on your keyboard. This will save what you typed. Now, click the text you just entered, and a pop-out box will appear to the left where you can edit the font style, color, and size, as well as line height and background color.

Modify Text

If you want to change the font, simply click the drop down and select the one you want. If you can’t find one you like, or you use a specific font in your branding that’s not in their list, it’s easy to upload your own! Just click the down arrow button as shown below and select from over 2,000 fonts from Google.

Available Google Fonts

Still not finding what you want? Fine. Head over to DaFont (or similar free font site) and choose from thousands of fonts. Once you find what you want, download the .tff file. Go back to the Stencil app and click the “My Fonts” tab and select “Upload Fonts.” Select the .tff file you just downloaded.

Upload Font

Tons of Icons

Whether you need social media icons for your website, emoticons to drive engagement, or cute cats and bunnies for your latest blog post, Stencil has you covered. In fact, with over 1 million available icons, I seriously doubt you won’t find what you’re looking for. Broken down into 11 categories and easily searchable guarantees you find what you need.

Stencil Icons

Once you locate your desired icon, simply click on it to add it to your image design. Most icons have some allowable customization including size, transparency, and color.

Upload Your Own Logos

Do you have a nice logo for your brand? Perhaps you wish to watermark an image. If so, upload your graphic to the “Logos/Watermarks” archive and you can add it to any image with the click of a button.

Logos Dialog

Once you turn on the logo or watermark, it can easily be re-positioned and re-sized.

Pre-sized Design Areas

If you aren’t aware, each social media platform has specific requirements for image sizes so they display correctly to your audience. Stencil has already pre-loaded their library with over 41 of the most common sizes. And, selecting one is easy. Simply click on the current image size below the design area (lower left side) and choose what you want:

Image Sizes

Across the top of the box you will see a menu of available sizes for “Posts,” “Ads,” “Headers,” and “Custom.” While we use the posts and headers menus the most, we have also created custom size images for various promotions and client needs.

Like a graphic you designed for Facebook, but want the same one for Twitter? No problem. Just re-size the design area and everything will be adjusted accordingly. You may need to tweak the layout somewhat after re-sizing, but that’s also quick and easy.

Saving Images

While saving an image isn’t necessarily a “feature,” I wanted to cover it briefly to show you the capabilities. On the dashboard in the lower left, there are several options to save your work and even share it on social media.

Various Save Options

I covered the “Save” button in the templates section above. As you will recall, this button allows you to save your work as a template or image to the program library. You’ll want to use the “Download” button to save your work to your computer hard drive. When you click the download button, a menu board will appear like you see here:

Download Image Dialog

You can enter any filename you choose at the top. File formats are either JPG or PNG. It says JPG is recommended, but we like PNG for designs we will use on the web. You’ll also want to use PNG if you have created any sort of transparency on the background. Transparency is not preserved in JPG formats.

The default dimension size is whatever design area you chose initially. If you would like a higher definition image, select the larger size. Under “Media Type,” digital is the right choice for online use. However, choose the print option if you’ll be using the design in any material that may get printed such as your media kit.

Handy Browser Extensions

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the handy Extension for Chrome (and similar Add-On for Firefox). Installing the extension is quick and painless and allows you to bring up the app anytime you desire – right inside your current browser tab. Create your design and then close the app. It’s that simple!

Pricing

Stencil has 3 pricing options to choose from. If you’re only needing a few graphics, choose the FREE option. You’ll be able to design up to 10 images per month. Be aware that this option limits your choice of photos and icons. You’ll also be limited to only 10 saved images at a time.

Step up to the Pro plan, and for $9/month you can design up to 50 images per month and store 100 favorite designs. No limitations on any of the other features with Pro.

Go all out with the Unlimited plan, and for $12/month you get all Pro features plus unlimited image creation and storage.


Bottom Line

The Softpress team uses Stencil. We love the ridiculously simple ability to create engaging and unique graphics for our clients, marketing, website, and social media outreach. In fact, this tool is completely indispensable for us at this point. Pricing is a bargain, and they have a plan to fit anyone’s budget.

If you’re serious about your author brand, you’re going to need great graphics to compete alongside your competition. And with so many features to choose from, why wouldn’t you want to use Stencil as your go-to app for creating engaging images and graphics? Try Stencil for free today!

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