Stencil App Review : The Best Canva Alternative

What is Stencil?

Stencil is an SAAS (software as a service) app for creating professional-looking graphics for web, print, and social media. It was originally for social media purposes and making images that get shared. So much so that the original name of Stencil used to be Share as Image and you can still see remnants of this in Stencil with features such as 100,000 inspirational quotes.

However, the latest version of Stencil excels because of its extensive library of over 2 million royalty-free images, it’s the main reason I use it to be perfectly honest. They also have templates made by professional designers which helps if you are not one yourself to get designs up faster.

As mentioned before they now have a WordPress plugin so technically they are no longer just a SAAS, however, you will need an online account with Stencil for the WordPress plugin to work. They also have extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Stencil is a small but well-run startup co-founded by Adam Rotman and Oliver Nassar. At the time of writing the team comprises four other employees covering areas such as business development, content marketing, community manager and customer support.

Their mission statement (viewable on their about page) is to 

“Help you make images faster than ever,”.

Design quality results in a fraction of the time…

… Hey that’s kinda like a real life stencil

You can see their quirky startup culture just from that short mission statement but don’t let that fool you. I can confidently tell you they achieve their goal not just by my own experiences but also the 170,000 other users that now rely on Stencil for their graphic design needs. The beauty of the app is just how quick and easy it is to use.

This helps you to get your designs up to another level because professional designers created them and then you add your own content and images to make it your own.

Once you have a style, you are happy with you can then save your own template and keep reusing it for future projects to keep your online branding consistent.

As I’m typing this, I realize this is something I should do more of myself as I typically would just launch a blank slate choose a photo and add text as I did in the featured image for this post so I followed my advice and see about improving the featured blog image and what I ended up with was virtually the same thing I originally designed. So a little of constructive criticism to the Stencil team to improve their template library for featured blog post images. They have templates for social media and promotional banners but not so much for blog posts.

This template area is where Canva is beating Stencil.

Stencil Key Features

  • Over 2 million royalty free stock photos
  • 750 templates
  • Over 100,000 inspirational quotes
  • Over 1 million icons and graphics
  • 2,500 Google Fonts
  • Upload your own fonts (Mic drop feature!)
  • 39 custom image size templates for all use cases
  • Browser extensions

Next I would like to compare the free plan of Stencil to their unlimited plan. 

Stencil Free vs Stencil Unlimited

Stencil Free

$0Per Month
  •  Create up to 10 images per month
  •  Limited photos
  •  Limited icons
  •  Keep up to 10 favorites

Stencil Unlimited

$12Per Month
  •  Unlimited images
  •  Over 2 million photos
  •  Over 1 million icons and graphics
  •  2,500 Google Fonts
  •  Font uploads
  •  Logo Watermarks
  •  Keep unlimited favorites
  •  750+ Templates
  •  100 Instagram SMS / month
  •  Premium Support

A few thoughts on the above

It’s a compelling argument to upgrade as you can see – there is another option they call Pro, similar to the Unlimited plan but it only allows for 50 images per month. They price it at $9 per month paid annually.

In terms of guarantees they offer a minimal 7 day money-back guarantee but honestly if you first try the free version and upgrade from there you probably won’t be requesting a refund because you know what you are getting.

You might have also noticed the Instagram SMS option which allows you to get a message on your mobile phone with the image you designed in Stencil that allows you to share to your Instagram account. It’s a workaround that other companies have pioneered because of Instagram’s usage policy for third party apps. So if you love Instagram that is just for you.

Stencil Pros

  • Free version is a great introduction to the app
  • Large library of royalty free high quality photos
  • Inspirational quotes built in (Great for getting images shared)
  • Upload your own custom fonts (premium feature)

Stencil Cons

  • Template library needs to grow
  • WordPress plugin not supporting page builders like Elementor (Has to be used from the basic WordPress editor/Gutenberg)

Are there Stencil Up-sells?

Thankfully, after choosing your desired plan there are no up-sells, they present you with an easy to follow on-boarding process to get you designing images like a pro in no time.

Stencil Alternatives?

Yes, there is a big elephant in the room here and their name is Canva.

Canva is arguably a better platform because it has so many more design options available to you including the ability to create logos, which you don’t get with Stencil.

There are two drawbacks to Canva vs Stencil though.

  1. Stencil is even easier to use than Canva for creating shareable images (which is remarkable)
  2. Canva has an annoying policy of charging you for every little element of their premium designs. They literally charge you for a straight line icon sometimes!

So after heavily using Canva for about a year I now use only Stencil. I fired up Canva for the first time in ages the other day because I needed a logo but that’s it.

Do I recommend Stencil?

100% YES – if you are new to Stencil try their free version and see how easy it is to add graphics, text and icons and share to your website or social media. Once you have played with it their premium plans which start at just $9 per month are a steal especially compared to more complicated software like Adobe Photoshop.

Get a free trial of Stencil


Stencil Coupon or Discount?

This is interesting because no there is not a discount right now but yes there have been some incredible and fairly regular deals in the past where you pay a onetime fee and you get access to the Pro version for life.

And I am confident you will see this deal again because they are still in a growth phase and they have stiff competition from Canva so they need to keep doing things to stand out. So with that in mind I will publish any Stencil coupon codes I find below but also my advice if there are no promotions would be to keep tabs on the good people at AppSumo as they regularly feature deals with Stencil.

But don’t let that stop you from having a free account right now with Stencil (your time is just too valuable).

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