What Exactly is Adobe Spark and Should You Be Using It?
It’s no secret that social media has taken over the world. Love it or hate it, daily communication occurs more often in pins, likes, tweets, and comments than print media or face-to-face interactions, so creators have a constant need for easy-to-use platforms that produce pro-quality images, websites, and videos. Adobe has sought to fill this need with their (free!) new mobile app and web platform, Adobe Spark.
The concept is simple: with Spark, you can create “visual stories” on any device, for any device, even without previous design/video/web development experience. It’s a one-stop shop for Adobe professionals and beginners alike.
We tested out the programs features using royalty-free photos from Storyblocks to see if Spark delivers on its promises. Here’s what we learned, and the final products of our creative experimenting.
First off, the Adobe Spark suite actually consists of three programs: Spark Post, Spark Page, and Spark Video. All of these programs were previously available in some form or another as Adobe Post, Slate, and Voice, but Adobe has given them a makeover, added some cool new features, and housed them under one roof on the web with no download required. Alternatively, you can download the free app on your mobile device.
You don’t need a paid Creative Cloud subscription, although Spark does tie in with other Adobe products such as Lightroom. If you have an existing Adobe ID, it will work to sign in to the Spark homepage.
Spark Post is the simplest to use. When you go to “Projects” and select “Add Post,” the interface will ask you what you want to say; that is, what you want your text to read. It will then take you to a series of designer pins featuring backgrounds covered by your text.
You can use these preset backgrounds or tab over to “Photo” to add your own image (we used this almost-too-good-to-eat macaron photo). You can upload photos from your computer or use images stored in Lighroom, Dropbox, Google Photos, or Creative Cloud.
The automatic preset shape is an Instagram-perfect square, but under the “resize” tab, you can select from a wide variety of dimensions, several of which fit the major social media platforms, as well as some standard shapes and webpage-optimized dimensions.
Adobe also selects some suggested themes, which will create the template for how and where your text is laid out. You can select your preference under the “theme” tab, and edit the individual elements further under the “text” tab. We decided to go with a more minimalist theme than the original example Spark Post gave us.
The “palette” and “text” tabs allow you more control to customize your design by adjusting the colors, opacity, shapes, fonts, and alignment of your post, as well as several other features. Everything is laid out in a beginner-friendly format to encourage experimentation.
There are a few hidden features, including a tool in the “text” tab. This is a circular dial which, if turned, pops up more suggested text box formats.
Once you are all set, go to “share” at the top center of the page. From there, you can create a link to your pin, title and share it for future use, and download it. This example above only took about 3 minutes in Adobe Post!
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See the full completed page completed page here.
If you want to quickly build a web page without needing technical knowledge like HTML, you might find Spark Page useful. Like with Post, the first page will ask you for a title and subtitle. At this point, you can also use the “themes” drop down in the top right to select from a range of designer themes.
The (+) button on the bottom center of the page allows you to select a background image for your cover page. For the example above, we used this image.
Next, you have the choice to add either a photo, text, a button, a video, a photo grid, or a “glideshow.” We chose to open with text, followed by a static photo grid.
The photo grid can seem a little tricky, but is quite easy once you get the hang of things. Basically, when you open your first photo it looks as if that photo is filling up the entire grid space. What you need to do is click upload and pull in the rest of your images, which will then auto-populate into a grid.
When you hover over an image, you will see icons appear. These icons allow you to edit the size and position of each individual image within your grid.
The “glideshow” option—probably the most visually interesting element that the Spark Page offers—is also one of its easiest tools. You simply select images you want to upload, use the icons that pop up to arrange the order, and click save. Once saved, Spark gives you options to add text, quotes, or images.
When we reached the end of the glideshow, we finished the post with a (non-operational) “Book Now” button—designed with small businesses in mind. Currently, there are few edits you can apply to the button, but hopefully a future version of Spark Page will allow for more customization.
When you finish up, click the “Share” button and Spark Page will generate a link.
Don’t forget, you can download the images used in this sample webpage.
Make sure you turn your sound on to get the full effect!
Last but certainly not least is Spark Video, a program which allows you to create a video slideshow—complete with sound and narration. In short, this program takes the technical aspects out visual storytelling.
Of course, Spark Video cannot help with composition or narrative, so you’ll want to make sure you have high-quality photos and a storyline in mind. Furthermore, while Video is possibly the most advanced product in the Spark lineup, it is also the most limited for user customization.
If you have your ideas and plenty of awesome images , then Spark Video will bring your story to life.
Like with Page, Video initially asks you for your title, and then presents you with a series of templates, each with a designated “outcome.” For instance, do you want to inspire your audience? Do you want to share a memory?
Once you select the template, you are brought to the main interface, where you can choose a different theme from the right-hand scroll bar (we chose “satin”), add media, and arrange your panels.
Each frame allows you to add photo or text, much like in Page. If you choose the “Layout” tab on the top right, you can select new formats for each slide, such as one photo, photo with caption, full-screen photo, etc.
There is also a music tab to allow you to add sound to your video. In addition to several pre-set selection divided up into categories such as “Uplifting” and “Happy,” you also have the option to add your own audio tracks. It’s literally as easy as downloading your mp3 file and clicking the “Add my music” button.
As you add your images, click on the photo to open up more options, such as text, icons, and zoom. Word to the wise: make sure your photos are formatted and oriented the way you want before uploading them into the program, as there are few options for later adjustments.
You can adjust the length of time one slide stays on the screen by clicking the small round button at the bottom right of each image in the play bar.
The final major tool to mention is the record button, which is located at the bottom center of each frame. This button allows you to easily record your own narration, which plays over your selected audio tracks.
The only major downside of the current platform is that you cannot embed videos. We were able to take advantage of stunning wedding video clips by using stills taken from footage in our library as well as photographs.
So What Did We Think?
Pros: Adobe Spark allows literally anyone—regardless of budget or experience—to create beautiful visual media that looks like it came from the hand of a designer. Its tools are simple, easy to learn, and most of all lighting-quick.
Cons: Some creatives will find Adobe Spark too confining. You are limited by the program’s built in presets and templates, which is part of why Spark works so efficiently. Another con is Spark Video’s inability to support video files within it’s animated sequences.
Want to give Spark a try? Storyblocks has over 300,000 royalty-free graphics that you can download and create with forever.