Get the best author info and savings on services when you subscribe!

IndieReader is the ultimate resource for indie authors! We have years of great content and how-tos, services geared for self-published authors that help you promote your work, and much more. Subscribe today, and you’ll always be ahead of the curve.

5 FREE (and Awesome) Design Tools for Writers

(Originally published 11/8/18)

As a self-published writer, you often find yourself in the shoes of a designer too. Here is a selection of less known apps and tools that will help you design and improve the looks of your ads, social media posts, and books. Professional services can be costly and it’s hard for self-publishing writers on a budget to afford them, but these tools are free and will only take a bit of learning and some of your time.

1. Snappa

We all know Canva, but how many of you have heard of Snappa? Even though it’s less popular, Snappa’s is a great app that offers a wide selection of free pics and predesigned templates, including ebook covers and social media posts. What’s more, its features in many ways surpass Canva’s and the app is thus well-worth giving a try.

One of the main benefits of Snappa is that it lets you edit pictures and thus gives you more creative freedom. It’s editing tool, for instance, allows you to adjust contrast and brightness, blur the picture, or add a color overlay. These and other basic features can be most useful when you are designing a book cover or an ad, and they cost nothing!

The only downside of Snappa is that it doesn’t have as good selection of fonts as Canva. You can, however, upload your own fonts. Still, if you are not sure which font to use and need to upload many, this can be tedious and time consuming. In which case, you can first edit the picture in Snappa and then add the text in Canva. Why not get the best of both worlds?

2. Boxshot

Boxshot is specialized in realistic 3D mockups. You can use their free online app Boxshot Lite to create 3D images of your book’s print edition. You don’t need to buy or install any software, all you have to do is upload your book cover and click ‘Render.’ You can also adjust the position of the book, the lighting, and shadow to make the picture look more realistic.

Using this app does take a bit of getting used to, though, but the tool is not too hard to figure out. It will help you avoid generic look and create unique images of your book that will make it stand out from the crowd. You can download your 3D book mockup and upload it to Snappa to add text and create ads or pics for your website.

With the free version of Boxshot Lite, however, you can only download 3D mockups in lower resolution and on white background. Lower resolution is not a problem for general website use, but the lack of transparency is if you’d also like to add a background picture to your 3D book mockup.

You can do that, to be sure, but Boxshot charges $19.99 for a one-time download of an image with a transparent background. That’s a bit steep, even though you can create and download more than one image using that one-time download. Still, if you only need a single image, it’s probably not worth it.

The good news is there is a workaround to it! And that’s why you need the next tool on our list – GIMP.


GIMP is a free open source program with Photoshop functionality. You can use it to create transparent background, adjust and improve image quality, change the size, add text, and work in layers. Doing things such as adding a transparent background to your 3D book mockup is relatively easy in GIMP.

All you’ll need to do is add a transparent layer and then cut out the book with a lasso tool. Due to its simple shape, this will only take a couple of straight lines. Numerous GIMP tutorials will show you exactly how to do this, and they too are available online for free. Simply Google the issue, and various step-by-step guides will appear.

GIMP is a rather complex tool, though, and it does take some learning. But given what you can do with it, it’s well worth the investment of time.

4. Creative Market

Creative Market is a great source of various design-related goods, such as fonts, social media templates, patterns, illustrations, and photos. They might come in handy when you design most anything – from your book cover to social media posts.

Subscribe to the Creative Market’s newsletter, and you’ll get six of these goodies straight into your mailbox every single week for free. Many artists sell their artwork there too, so who knows, you might just find an illustrator for your children’s book there too!

5. Google Fonts

Every designer is well-aware of the importance of good fonts. As a writer, you probably also know that fonts can make or break your book cover. Using the right fonts can do even more for your book than a great image, and some of the best covers and designs were created solely by using striking typography.

Professional fonts, however, can cost a fortune and are well beyond the reach of a self-published writer on a budget. But do not despair – you can find over 800 fonts of all shapes and sizes on Google Fonts. The best part of it is that they are open source, so they won’t cost you a dime.

You’ve probably heard of Google Fonts before, but you might not have been aware that you can download fonts there for free. Not sure how to install fonts on your PC? Follow these steps: select and download the font from Google Fonts or Creative Market, open the font’s folder on your computer, right click the otf or ttf file, and click ‘Install’ on the dropdown menu – that’s all there is to it. You can now use your favorite new font on your desktop in Word and image manipulation programs or upload it to Snappa.

Equipped with these awesome free tools, you are ready to take your posts, ads, and books to the next level!


Mateja Klaric is a self-published author whose latest book ‘You Self-Publish, Now What? How to Promote Your Book’ became #1 New Release in several categories on Amazon as soon as it became available for preorder. Visit Mateja’s website for more information.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that IndieReader may earn a commission if you use these links to make a purchase. As an Amazon Affiliate, IndieReader may make commission on qualifying purchases.