Mastering Graphic Overlays to Make Better Designs

Depending on the design project you're working on, graphic overlays can be workhorse building blocks that create focal points and order information; illustrative elements that help articulate an idea; bits of flourish to add balance and visual interest; or all of the above. Whatever your goals, PicMonkey's graphics and graphics tools are a supreme design resource, and we're gonna show you all the tips and tricks for unlocking their powers.  

What makes PicMonkey's graphics superior?

Check out the credentials of these design superfriends:

  • They're on-trend, encompassing a broad array of styles and looks.

  • They're vector-based, which means they can shrink down or stretch o-u-t without getting jagged edges.

  • You can customize them with blend modes, color changes, partially erasure, and applying photo effects to them.

  • You can use them as a mask, and make photos and textures peek through the outline of their shape.

Those last two points are PicMonkey's secret sauce—no other design or photo editing toolset gives you this level of power and control. But let's not get ahead ourselves. We'll start with the basics.

How to add a PicMonkey graphic to an image

  1. Click Create new on the homepage to start with a blank canvas, or open an image you've already started.

  2. Click the Graphics tab (shapes icon) in the blue column on the far left.

  3. Click the name of a group, and scroll through the sets that appear in the left panel. Or type what you're looking for into the search box. 

  4. Click the graphic you want to add to your design.

  5. Drag the graphic into place and use the corner handles to change its size and the top handle to rotate it. Click apply when

How to add your own graphic to an image

If you've got a logo or a graphic you've downloaded from an external graphics resource (there are lots of free ones!), it's easy to drop it into your design in PicMonkey. In the Graphics tab, at the top of the left panel, click Add your own image and select the place where you've stored the image you want to add, and navigate to your image. Boom!

How to order and select graphics with the layers palette

Click the Layers button in the lower left corner—the stacked squares icon— to open the Layers palette. You can now select the layer that contains the graphic you want to manipulate. This is especially handy if you have a complicated design with overlapping graphics that are sometimes difficult to select. 

  • Click the arrows at the top of the palette to move a graphic to the front, to the back, or in between other layers in your design. Layer order affects which graphics can be seen when they overlap or share the same center.

  • Select two or more layers, then right-click and choose "Group layers." This locks down their placement relative to each other. Right-click to ungroup.

  • Click the name of the layer to rename it. This is useful when you've added your own graphic with an inscrutable name like "graphic 14736."

  • Click the Flatten icon in the lower left corner (squares with a down-arrow) and all the layers/design elements will be merged together. 

Those are the basics. Let's get customizing.

How to change the colors of a graphic

When you click to select a graphic in your design, the Graphic palette will open. At the top, you'll see color dots that represent all the colors in the graphic—click one to open the color picker, and you can 

  • Match another color in your image, using the eyedropper

  • Select a color from a slew of swatches 

  • Choose from a color spectrum 

  • Grab a color from your brand kit

  • Drop in the hex code for a specific color (get those from our Guide to Color)  

 How to add drop shadow, inner shadow, and outline to a graphic

Shadows make your graphic look more three dimensional, sometimes like it's floating over the other elements in your design. In the Graphic palette, click the Effects tab, and you'll see a checklist including Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, and Outline. Choose one and you'll have a ton of customization options to play with.

How to partially erase a graphic

If you want to get rid of part of your graphic, just erase it! Click the Erase tab at the top of the Graphic palette, and adjust the size slider to make the eraser the right size for the job. Begin dragging/rubbing your mouse over the parts you want to erase, and if you make a mistake, click the paintbrush icon and you can paint back what you erased.

How to use blend modes to change the look of a graphic

Blend modes are a somewhat unpredictable but utterly worthwhile control to explore, for changing the colors and sometimes the look of your graphic. Click the "Blend mode" dropdown menu in the Graphic palette, and click through the options. Because they're based on color math that changes hue based on an object's original colors and those of the background, a blend mode may change the transparency, a group of colors, only one color—you just have to try it to see what you'll get.

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As PicMonkey's content director, Cooper says her goal is to make words happen good. She's been spearheading PicMonkey editorial since day one, relying on insights from her years working at Microsoft, other startups, and producing television programs for PBS and NBC.