Make a “Free PDF Giveaway” Image in 30 Minutes Without Photoshop

Make a “Free PDF Giveaway” Image in 30 Minutes Without Photoshop

A couple of months ago we were in the process of updating A Bar Above’s opt-ins, and I created a new giveaway – a quick one-page cheat sheet called “The Three Cocktails that You Should Know Cold.”  I made it myself. 🙂

I needed an image of the Cheat Sheet that makes it seem more like a “product” and to encourage people to sign up. I’m thinking something that looks like a Report or book.


There are just two problems:

  • All of the “free” tutorials online require Photoshop
  • I don’t have Photoshop

I managed to bootstrap this image using just one of my favorite free tools: Picmonkey. And since I can’t possibly be the first one to have this problem, I thought I’d write out the process so you can follow along!


Let’s do this!

You’ll want to start with a “Letter Page” proportioned canvas. I made a couple templates if you’d like them – click here and I’ll email them to you!


Open that canvas up in Picmonkey and get started. Now there are two schools of thought on this:

  • Some folks like to plan out what their cover will look like, on a whiteboard or paper or something like that
  • Others like to just start poking Picmonkey and see what they come up with.
  • And others will find all of their favorite people online, see what they did, and copy – err – take inspiration from them.

I’m #3.


Step 1: Stalk your Friends

Here are some folks whose examples I looked at:



Step 2: Great Big Words

The first thing I notice is the need for LARGE WORDS.  Like, way bigger than seems reasonable.  That’s because this image will probably be really small on the promotional page.  So let’s start with that.

Make a PDF Image Screenshot

Full disclosure: I have the paid version of Picmonkey so you may not have access to this font.

So what do you think of my PDF image?  Boring!



Step 3: Add Background Color(s)

I’d recommend adding a background color so it’s not white.  This is because it’s likely going to go on a white background and we don’t want it to blend in.  (You can skip this if you prefer a white background.) In Picmonkey click the top icon on the far left and then select the “Canvas Color” option.  Choose a color that either:

  • Aligns with your brand’s color palette
  • or Contrasts with your brand’s color palette


I’m going to go “similar”.  So I chose the blue we use throughout our website.  I also made the text white. Then, since I like how has a background behind the words, I’m going to copy them.

  1. Click the “Butterfly” icon and add a “geometric” overlay (top option).
  2. Choose color = white and set “Fade” to 80%
  3. Right-click on the shape and click “Send to Back”
  4. Finally, adjust the size so it looks pretty.


What do you think? Make a PDF Image Screenshot

Not bad!  But it still needs something.


Step 4: Add Visual Interest

Obviously, the first step here is to go take a look at what our friends did.  For visual interest I can see:

  • John used an interesting background image.
  • Pat used fun graphics with lots of fancy gradients
  • Fizzle used icons.


I like our background and don’t have fancy images, so I like the Icons idea! I found an icon that’d work on  Yes, a clipart site!  I like it because their images are completely free and require no attribution. (Bonus!) So I imported the icon into Picmonkey (under “Overlays” select “your Own” and choose the icon you downloaded), then colored it white and made it ever so slightly transparent.  Then I duplicated it a couple times and played with the placement until it looked good enough.


Make a PDF Image Screenshot

I like it!  I think it’s going to work. Save your image and now let’s add the secret sauce!


Step 5: 3-d Effect

OK so this isn’t really a “3d effect” but it adds dimension and interest to the image. Open Picmonkey in another, new tab.


The Easy Way:

Download my templates and you get to skip several steps.  Otherwise, skip past the picture for the detailed instructions.

  1. Click the Butterfly Icon, then “Your Own” and select the image you just made, adding it to the canvas
  2. Resize (if needed) and move it around until it’s centered on top of the other “Pages”
  3. Save (as png) and admire!


Make a PDF Image Screenshot


The Other Way:

  1. Click “design” to start with a large, transparent canvas.
  2. Click the Butterfly Icon, then “Your Own” and select the image you just made
  3. Click the top icon and crop the image down to a size that’s about 30% bigger than the overlay you just added
  4. Click the butterfly icon again and add a rectangular another overlay.  Carefully size it so it’s exactly the same size as the existing image (I did this manually).
  5. Right click on that overlay and click “Duplicate Overlay” (because you want two of them)
  6. Take one of the new overlays and color it the lightest shade of gray: #e7e7e7.  Then right-click on it and click “Send to Back”
  7. Take the other overlay and color it the next lightest shade of gray: #d0d0d0.  Then right-click on it and click “Send to Back”
  8. Rotate each of the gray overlays behind your image so it looks like a stack of papers. (Take a look at the image above)
  9. Now save that puppy (be sure to save as .png) and you’re done!

(Reconsidering those templates?)




While it’s not the fanciest thing in the world, it took less than half an hour and I think it’s pretty darn great!

Final Image


What do you think?

If you use this tutorial I would love to hear in the comments, and send us a link to your giveaway!


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