The Designer’s Toolbox: Becoming Familiar with Adobe

Last week, we kicked off our brand new series, Design for Non-Designers, with an introduction to the fundamentals of good design as well as an overview of how to get started crafting a brand narrative. Today, we are going to take these elements one step further by exploring hands-on tools to help your nonprofit create and share its original designs.


Introducing: Adobe


Anyone working with a computer is by now certainly familiar with Adobe’s ubiquitous red A icon. The company’s products have been a staple of the digital transformation for years and millions of users in the nonprofit ecosystem rely on Adobe software for daily tasks as diverse as creating and circulating PDF documents to designing posters and lots more. Whether for business or for storytelling, the products in Adobe’s extensive catalogue are a great way to connect content and data in dynamic, accessible, and creative ways.

If you are a TechSoup Canada member, your nonprofit organization has access to several of Adobe’s products at a significantly reduced rate. Whether you are looking for tools to meet your graphic design, document, video or other needs, the Adobe products in our catalogue are a great place to start creating!

In addition to its desktop products, Adobe’s s Creative Cloud offering, a collection of 20+ software tools that are available both on desktop and mobile, makes collaboration among team members that much more seamless (a great feature in the era of remote work!)


How to Make the Most of the Adobe Suite

Image Credit: All Free Downloads.


If you have taken a look at our catalogue, you may already be aware that Adobe’s products cover a wide range of needs and purposes. The tools in the Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, can be used for anything from graphic design to video editing, web UX, interactive content and lots more. If you are new to the world of design, the wide array of choices available can be dizzying at first, but fear not! In this section we are going to provide you with a cheat sheet to Adobe’s most popular tools for graphic design and illustration, in order to help you identify which ones might best serve your nonprofit’s immediate needs:



If you are looking to create or edit images, graphics or art for your organization, look no further than Photoshop. This product is a raster-based graphics editor, (i.e., pixel-based/photo-realistic) and it comes in two versions - Photoshop Elements is a powerful but light graphics editor tailored for photographers, entry-level designers and hobbyists, and Photoshop CC is the full-suite, professional graphics editor tailored for experienced designers. Photoshop Elements offers professional photography tools through which you can crop, remove, and retouch objects; combine photos and create composites; add filters; play with colour and effects, and lots more. Photoshop CC is more complex and offers advanced features such as CMYK colouring for professional printing, support for automating Photoshop tasks through scripts, 16-bit support, channel mixer and colour balance for more precise image adjustments, layer folders and much more. If your organization is looking to produce images for website banners, posters, packaging and other collateral, Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements would be great assets to have in your toolbox.


Pro Tip: To learn more about how to make the most of Photoshop Elements, check out this helpful article written by our friends at TechSoup US, Using Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 2019 at Your Nonprofit. For a short introduction to Photoshop CC, the short video below will walk you through the tool’s main features to answer questions and help spark your imagination.


If your organization is looking to publish print or digital materials, this vector-based graphics editor (i.e., illustrations created using geometric formulas) will help you create seamless layouts and page designs that allow you to combine photography from Adobe Stock with typography and other creative elements. This software will be particularly helpful to anyone looking to create books, toolkits, flyers, e-books, digital magazines and similar publications.


Pro Tip: To learn more about InDesign, you can find a round-up of its features on the Adobe page. Or check out the short introduction below for a quick tour!





This software gives you access to vector-based drawing tools that allow you to produce anything from logos to icons, illustrations, campaign materials and more at scale (this means that your artwork can be scaled up or down while always looking crisp and professional). With Illustrator, you can also create freedhand drawings, trace or recolour existing graphics, manage effects and styles, and add many other stylistic touches to your artwork.


Pro Tip: To learn more about what you can do with Illustrator, check out Adobe’s feature list and don’t miss their introductory video below:





We are willing to bet that you are already familiar and quite well-versed in the use of this practical tool! Acrobat is what millions use around the world to create, edit, sign, convert and share documents in a Portable Document Format (PDF), a file format that allows the document to be viewed independent of the users’ operating system, application software or hardware . One important feature for many nonprofits is the ability to add signatures to PDF documents. To learn all you can do with e-signatures and how they can be used among groups, we recommend this insightful article by TechSoup US titled Using Adobe Sign for E-Signatures at Your Nonprofit.


Pro Tip: Did you know that PDF documents can be designed to be interactive? This video by Adobe Creative Cloud walks you through the process of creating a file in InDesign and then exporting it as an interactive PDF. You’ll be impressing your colleagues with your design prowess in no time!


Adobe Spark: 

This is a mobile and online app comprising three elements––Spark Page, Spark Post, and Spark Video. Through them, you can create captivating graphics in a matter of minutes. With Post, you can take a photo, add text and design filters and easily create content for your social media channels. Pages turns your images into magazine-style web stories, while Videos provides you with all the elements you need to easily combine video clips, logos and even your own voice into an easy to share video. Pro Tip: If you are looking to enhance your social media communications, check out this great article by TechSoup US, Social Media 101 for Nonprofits with Adobe Spark. You can also learn how to use Spark to create compelling stories in the video below:


Want to keep learning about the vast world of Adobe products? In just 10 minutes, this YouTube video will give you a practical overview of all 50+ Adobe apps and explain their uses.


Hands-On Tutorials


Once you have identified which software best meets your needs, you may be itching to get started creating your own graphics and videos. To get ready for your own projects, we are taking the elements of a strong brand identity and rounding up hands-on resources that you can consult for practical guidance. You’ll learn simple insider tips that will generate stunning results in no time! Bonus: many of the tricks you’ll learn will be versatile, meaning that you can apply them to the creation of many different outputs as your organization’s design needs evolve over time.


There is so much you can do when it comes to thinking about your nonprofit’s design and communications presence. If you’d like to keep learning, don’t miss the following sites––you will find self-paced e-courses, customized tutorials, live Q&As and lots more!


  • TechSoup US offers affordable online courses on Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud’s YouTube page has resources for many of its product offerings and is a treasure trove of information.
  • Video tutorials by Photoshop Tutorials has over 1 million subscribers and offers short, practical videos that you can browse by category or task.
  • Over 7 million users are currently taking one of Udemy’s Photoshop e-courses, which are available to anyone for a small fee.
  • Adobe Education Exchange is a free learning platform and community for professional development where you can find self-paced courses, teaching resources and lots of case studies.


Happy creating!

{link_name} handles all validations and customer service for TechSoup Canada customers. Visit {link_name}arrow