Avoid Low-Quality Graphics to Create Better Designs (Pro Tip #3)

Another very common question I get from new designers is, “Where can I find good graphics for my projects? Google Images doesn’t cut it for me.”

I hate hearing that folks have relied on Google Image search for so long—and I cringe thinking how many copyright violations are happening on the daily from those who don’t know how many incredible resources actually exist.

I’m not saying don’t EVER use Google for image searches. You can tweak the filter settings to search for large files and/or those available to use under the Creative Commons license. But I’d venture to guess that most folks don’t do this.

By finding images on Google instead of using a high-quality stock graphics site, you run the risk of:

  • Downloading a low-quality, pixelated photo
  • Using a photo you don’t have the rights to
  • Creating deliverables that look unpolished

So, where can you source quality graphics instead?

Better Graphic Resources

I’m excited to share with you a couple of my favorite resources for finding high-quality images, graphics, and other visuals that you can use for your eLearning projects.

These sources can be used without attribution, meaning you don’t have to give credit to the source in your projects.

Quick recap:

  • Don’t use Google Images.
  • Instead, try using resources like Pexels or RawPixel to find high-quality graphics, photos, and more.
  • Remember: the higher the pixel number, the higher the resolution! Try not to zoom in or scale up on an image that’s itty-bitty, because that’s how you get pixelation issues.

Want a little more guidance on how to use graphics correctly?

I have just the resource for you!

I know I already mentioned in in Lesson 1, but I truly cannot recommend the course, File Types & Graphic Resources, enough.

I created this *super* affordable on-demand resource with my many overwhelmed mentees in mind, who are always flustered by just how many resources and file types there really are.

Not only do I walk through 5 file types and 11 top-quality graphic resources, but I’ve also included top-quality PDF reference guides and a graphic scavenger hunt for you to practice sourcing stock photos on your own.

I’m quite proud of this one, and I think y’all will love it. 🙂

Here’s a little overview again:

LXD Basics: Learn File Types & Graphic Resources ($10)

In this mini-course, I’ll help you learn the most common file types used in graphic design and eLearning. (So many acronyms!) I’ll also point you toward my favorite free and low-cost design resources to find high-quality photos, graphics, icons, illustrations, and other media for your projects.

In less than an hour, you’ll be up and running with the basics, plus more!

What’s the TL; DR of this lesson?

Let me break it down:

  • No more Google Image searches, please and thank you!
  • Leverage high-quality resources like Pexels and RawPixel to grab high-quality graphics for your eLearning projects.
  • Check out the File Types & Graphic Resources course for even more resources and guidance around how to use graphics
  • Have FUN! It takes a little playing around to get comfortable using all of these resources.

Remove Backgrounds with PowerPoint to Design Better Graphics (Pro Tip #2)

New IDs often ask me: “How can I remove the background from this image?” They’re usually working with a JPEG that needs a transparent background. The truth is, there are countless ways to achieve this; some are just easier than others. (Spoiler alert: PPT is my fave.)

When I was in my design program waaay back when at the Academy of Art University, I learned to remove backgrounds from images using Photoshop’s Magnetic Lasso tool.

I felt like an absolute rockstar knowing this technique at the time.

This is still a fine way to achieve the intended results, BUT, it’s time-consuming and tedious—plus, it requires having a copy of Photoshop to make it happen.

Today, I tend to gravitate toward a few alternative, time-saving solutions: Canva has a great background remover, and online tools like RemoveBG allow you to remove backgrounds from images with ease.

(I love Adobe Creative Cloud, but it can be cost-prohibitive for some, especially new instructional designers.)

That said, I just don’t think you can beat PowerPoint when it comes to getting the job done quickly.

Here’s why.

Using PowerPoint to Remove Backgrounds from Images

Many folks I talk to don’t even know they can use PowerPoint to remove backgrounds from images, and when I show them easy it is to do, they’re always pleasantly surprised!

It’s great because it means you can stay within a single program and not skip a beat in your workflow. Plus, it also means you don’t need a costly design program to achieve it.

Here’s a 4-minute explainer video that walks you through how to do it.

Recap: How to remove backgrounds from graphics using PowerPoint:

  1. Open PowerPoint.
  2. Insert a JPEG graphic onto your canvas:
    • Insert > Pictures > Pictures From This Device.
  3. Click to select the graphic, then go up to Picture Format.
  4. Then, click Remove Background from the Adjust ribbon. PowerPoint automatically detects the areas of the photo to remove.
  5. Select Mark Areas to Keep. Then, use the pen to draw on the graphic itself to clean up the edges of your graphic. If you accidentally do too much, you can also select Mark Areas to Remove.

By removing the background from a JPEG, you can treat it like a PNG and layer it on top of other graphics to create a beautiful graphic design composition.

Practice: Try removing backgrounds on your own!

I’ve created a FREE interactive PowerPoint workbook for you to download and practice these steps on your own! Practicing removing backgrounds from graphics in PowerPoint will help you fine-tune essential design skills you need to create graphics for eLearning.

Why is PowerPoint so great for eLearning?

PowerPoint is a dynamic tool that can be used for all sorts of fancy graphic design tricks! It’s my go-tool tool, along with Canva, whenever I’m creating high-quality eLearning visuals. It’s super easy to use, as well as intuitive and affordable. I use it as part of my Microsoft 365 suite, which comes with all of the great desktop + web-based apps.

Again, folks are always surprised when I tell them how frequently I use PowerPoint instead of Photoshop or Illustrator to create designs, but I really believe it’s an awesome tool that every new LXD should to take advantage of when learning how to become an instructional designer.

Want to create better designs using PowerPoint?

Yes? Well, I’ve created a few Learning Nuggets, just for you!

I love teaching new IDs and LXDs just how powerful PowerPoint is, and then watching them really up their graphic design game with the tricks and tips I teach them!

I’ve put together a few of my favorite techniques into small, self-paced courses which you can check out.

Each of these offerings includes video-based tutorials and interactive workbooks (like the one you downloaded above) for you to download and practice your new skills.

I created these Learning Nuggets specifically for new and aspiring IDs and LXDs hoping to learn targeted design skills that can be applied right away.

LXD Foundations: Make Your Graphics Pop With PowerPoint’s Crop Tool ($22)

Make no mistake: cropping photos is a technical artform that will drastically enhance your design skills. Most folks just don’t know how to do it right. In this course, I share four helpful techniques that will literally change the way you design forever, all thanks to the Crop Tool.

LXD Basics: Edit Graphics Like a Pro Using PowerPoint!($22)

New to instructional design, and need to build design skills fast? In this course, I share a few easy but powerful ways you can use PowerPoint to gussy up your graphics and make your work really shine.

What’s the TL;DR of this lesson?

Here’s a quick recap:

  • PowerPoint is great for removing backgrounds from graphics
  • By using PowerPoint, you can easily use a JPEG just like you would a PNG by removing the background first
  • If you like this video-based + interactive workbook style of learning, one of the above courses could be for you!

To wrap it up it up, you may be asking…

“This is great, Kathy. But where can I search to find graphics for my eLearning projects in the first place?”

Don’t you worry.

We’ll cover that part in the next lesson!

Use the Right File Type to Design Better Graphics (Pro Tip #1)

The #1 question I get asked from new IDs is “What type of file should I use for this?”

While there are many of files you’ll use throughout your instructional design career, a good rule of thumb when it comes to learning the basics is this:

If you can easily identify the difference between a JPEG and a PNG, you’ll be ahead of the pack.

These are both graphic file types we use a LOT, but unfortunately, it’s not always intuitive or clear which one to use, especially for new IDs just starting out.

I’m a visual learner, so I’ve created a couple of explainer videos that will hopefully showcase the differences in a way that will stick with you, no matter your experience level. 🙂

Let’s dive in.

What’s a PNG?

Quick recap: PNG quick facts
  • PNGs have transparent (or semi-transparent backgrounds)
  • PNGs are great for creating logos and layering compositions
  • PNGs produce crisp, high-quality results due to “lossless compression”
  • PNGs usually have a larger file size and slower loading times

PNGs are my go-to image type when I’m creating my work, and I expect you’ll find yourself gravitating toward these for almost all of your work, too.

What’s a JPEG?

Quick recap: JPEG quick facts
  • JPEGs are used namely in photography and web publishing
  • JPEGs have solid backgrounds
  • JPEGs lose some data when they’re compressed in order to keep the file size small
  • JPEGs lead to faster loading times, but can also have lower image quality.

Want a little more guidance on graphics?

JPEGs and PNGs are just a few of the many file types you’ll encounter.

You’ll also likely need to know EPS, SVG, GIF, and more.

If you’re just beginning your ID journey—or if you’re anyone who works with graphics on the computer, ever—I can’t recommend the course, File Types & Graphic Resources, enough.

I created this highly affordable on-demand resource with my many overwhelmed mentees in mind, who are always flustered by all of the file types and where to go searching for them.

Here’s a quick course overview.

LXD Basics: Learn File Types & Graphic Resources ($10)

In this Learning Nugget, I’ll help you learn the most common file types used in graphic design and eLearning. (So many acronyms!) I’ll also point you toward my favorite free and low-cost design resources to find high-quality photos, graphics, icons, illustrations, and other media for your projects.

In less than an hour, you’ll be up and running with the basics, plus more!

What’s the TL;DR for this lesson?

JPEG and PNGs are both common graphic file types that you’ll encounter and use as an LXD and eLearning developer, and it’s important to know which one is which.

If you need to design something quick and scrappy, a JPEG will probably do the trick.

If you need to design something without a background—like, say, a logo—a PNG is the way to go.

But what happens if you have a JPEG, and need to remove the background to treat it as though it’s a PNG?

Ah, I’m so glad you asked. 🙂

Find out more in the next lesson!

Design Better Graphics With These 3 Pro Tips [BLOG SERIES]

This blog-style mini course is made for IDs, LXDs, and more!

This Learning Nugget sampler—which I see as a mini-course—covers hands-on techniques to improve your design skills while you have some fun doing it!

Whether you’re a new instructional designer, a teacher transitioning into eLearning, or just someone who wants to make graphics and visual content look a bit better, you’ll walk away with valuable tips and techniques to improve your work right away.

Here’s a little sneak-peak of what’s covered in this 4-part blog series.

I love learning! But what’s the catch?

I am a firm believer in creating high-value content for new and aspiring instructional designers at a highly accessible price point, and the Learning Nuggets can really be seen as the “Best of Kaborzi” lessons that I’ve found to have the biggest impact on new LXDs.

My hope is that you’ll love this sampler content so much that you’ll be inspired to check out the on-demand courses and live workshops I’ve created, too. I’ve cherry-picked some of my favorite lessons right from the Learning Nuggets to create this blog-series—so if you like this material, you’ll like them! (Also: More are on the way!)

But also, no pressure!

This blog series is full of highly valuable information that I truly believe ALL should have access to, and I’m excited to put it forth for anyone hoping to learn how to become an instructional designer, eLearning developer, or LXD.

I truly hope you enjoy. <3

Quick Access: Lesson Menu

This Learning Nugget sampler is very much focused on the second “D” of ADDIE: Development. Not only is this stage my bread and butter, but it’s also where I find that new and transitioning instructional designers tend to need the most help.

Select a thumbnail below to jump to that lesson!

Pro Tip #1: Use the Right File Type

Learn the key differences between JPEGs and PNGs—and when and why to use both. This is may be 101-level stuff, but the fun animated explainer videos help solidify the knowledge!

Pro Tip #2: Remove Backgrounds Using PowerPoint

Stuck with a JPEG when you really need a PNG? Learn how to use PowerPoint to remove the background from photos and illustrated graphics. Practice your newfound skills with a downloadable PowerPoint workbook

Pro Tip #3: Avoid Low-Quality Graphics

Nothing says “ugh” faster than a pixelated photo in a presentation. Zooming in or expanding a low-res photo found on Google is a surefire way to make your audience cringe. I’m not judging! But I AM advising on ways to avoid this, including pointing you toward a few of my favorite resources for finding graphics! 😉 

Learning Objectives

After making your way through this blog series, you should be able to: 

  • Recall the difference between PNG and JPEGs
  • Remove backgrounds from images using PowerPoint
  • Avoid using low-quality graphics and use high-quality images instead 

My hope is that you’ll feel pretty confident getting up and running with some new projects, no matter where you are on your eLearning journey!

Meet Your Instructor

Hello! I’m Kathy Borysiak, and I’ve created these lessons!

I’ve spent the last decade as an LXD + instructional designer creating learning content for many household names across tech, retail, and more. While I do still love designing, my heart truly lies with passing along the info I’ve collected with those who can use it most.

Which Storyboard Format is Better: Docs or Slides?

Word vs. PowerPoint Storyboards

In the ID community, there will always be some debate over which program is best suited for storyboarding.

One camp insists that text-forward Word or Google Doc storyboards reign supreme, while the other opts to tell a slide-based story using tools like PowerPoint or Google Slides.

So the question remains:

Is one type of storyboard actually better than the other?

Let’s explore.

Word Docs for the Win

Text-based storyboards are often favored by IDs whose primary focus is content development.

That’s because a storyboard written in Microsoft Word or Google Docs is easy to write and easy to read—and it’s easy to hit “share” and collect comments from reviewers.

Features like headings and styles make organizing easy by establishing clear-cut hierarchy within the document (and allowing for easy navigation with the left-hand menu).

And with the vertical scrolling feature of a text-forward storyboard, and the _FINAL storyboard version is just a Ctrl+V away from dropping into a tool like Articulate Rise or EasyGenerator for rapid development.

Voila!

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

While the familiarity of Word and Google Docs makes these storyboards easy to write and review, they do tend to fall short when it comes to painting a picture of the potential end-product.

Stakeholders and developers may struggle to visualize the final course based off copy alone, even when the design/development direction is written alongside the story.

It’s important to keep in mind who will need to review the storyboard, and consider adding additional visual direction (or even screenshots) to aid in the storytelling.

PowerPoint is Nearly Perfect

Slide-based storyboards offer something special: visualization.

The 16:9 slide canvas makes it easy to see how much text should actually go on screen, making it easy to chunk out content into digestible bites.

Not only can designers easily lay out text using a program like Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint for their storyboards, but they can also bring in visuals and begin to comp out a course to communicate big-picture ideas to stakeholders and developers.

Because a good number of companies are still using Storyline to develop online courses, using a PowerPoint storyboard can help plot out where to place items on the screen: how much text should be used? How large should graphics be?

Easy-peasy.

Google Slides Storyboard Slowdowns

But even a design-forward storyboard created in PowerPoint or Google Slides is not without hiccups.

Slide-based storyboards tend to present challenges in the review and editing stage. Some stakeholders may be unfamiliar with how to leave comments, as it’s not always intuitive to know where to click or highlight to leave a note.

Plus, any changes made to the course copy itself can be tricky to track. If you grant “editing” permissions to a group of reviewers on a Slide, they may go in and move elements and text around (or possibly delete it!) without an easy way to retrieve it.

Finally, overly-designed storyboards may leave developers feeling creatively restricted.

So, which type of storyboard is best?

It truly depends.

Some companies require their instuctional designers and LXDs to to use specific storyboard templates, which can take some guesswork out of the equation.

However, if you have creative autonomy to suss out your own storyboarding style, the best way to find out what suits you best is to play around, practice, and determine what makes the most sense for your eLearning course development workflow.

My advice, FWIW!

Consider your stakeholders. These folks (and any other reviewers) truly are your audience for the storyboard, so considering how they’ll interact with the document is key.

What’s the best way to collaborate with them to have them review your storyboard, provide insightful comments, and ultimately sign off on your vision before moving forward into development?

Also, consider your collaborators. What other members of your creative team are you working with? What are their skillsets? Wht are their roles in the overall development process?

What’s their personal preference for how they’d like to receive and co-create content? Do more junior-level instructional designers little extra help in the content development stage–meaning you’ll need to significantly edit their copy?

If so, perhaps a text-forward storyboard makes more sense.

Are you working with strong writers and a full-fledged multimedia team, complete with highly skilled UI or visual designers who may struggle to translate your vision if just handed a large document with text?

Perhaps a Google Slides storyboard with a few wireframes or visual notes makes the most sense.

Inspired to storyboard?

Grab your free Google Slides storyboard template today!

Just answer a couple quick questions, and you’ll be redirected to a super awesome storyboard template that I’ve custom-crafted to start designing your own eLearning courses. Enjoy!