Used in 75 million websites (more than 28 percent of the entire Web), WordPress is the world’s most popular open-source Content Management System — and for good reason. After all, it’s free, and it offers thousands of plugins, both free and paid, to enhance usability and design.
Even in its basic form, WordPress is incredibly simple to master — a good quality since most WordPress users are neither programmers nor web designers by trade.
So how can you use WordPress to enhance your visual content? Here are a few hints to help you out:
Use WordPress Dashboard to Edit Images
Chances are you’ve already used some sort of external software or app to edit your images. But whether you’ve already designed your visual content, you paid someone to create it for you or you’re using an image in its original form, WordPress offers a built-in image editor that’s not only convenient, but easy to master.
Plus, the WordPress image editor is incredibly effective for basic image-editing tasks, such as cropping, rotating and resizing — so there’s really no reason to exit the WordPress dashboard.
To access WordPress’ image editor, just access the dashboard’s Media Library section, where you can either upload your image or open one previously stored. After you’ve opened your image, just select the “edit image” button found in the lower left.
Once you’ve opened the image editor, you can choose to flip the image vertically or horizontally, rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise, scale it or crop it. If you don’t like your changes, the editor will also allow you to restore it to its original version.
36 WordPress Plugins for Visual Effects
Because visual content is so important to effective web design, you likely will want to further enhance your images. Fortunately, WordPress offers thousands of plugins with countless applications, including many that enhance images, add visual effects and allow the novice web designer to complete actions that would otherwise require additional technical knowledge.
Thousands of plugins? How, you might ask, can a novice designer know where to begin? We’ve listed 36 of our favorites below:
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Image Editing Plugins
The DigiWidgets plugin allows WordPress users to edit images with transform options, a layer system, filters, zoom, a cropping tool and even text boxes. The editor lets designers add borders to their images and build templates to conveniently build consistent visual content.
Vectr Embedded Graphics Editor
This free and user-friendly embedded-graphics editor lets users create powerful vector graphics from the WordPress edit screen.
The Vectr plugin features editing options including annotated images, watermarks, banners, collages, infographics and logotypes. Graphics and images can be designed and edited in WordPress and embedded directly onto the page with a single click.
Web Design Plugins
Rated 5 stars and downloaded more than 500,000 times, TablePress lets designers easily create and manage beautiful tables. Tables can be embedded into posts, pages and text widgets. Table data can be edited in a spreadsheet-like interface, so no coding is necessary. Tables can even contain any type of data, including formulas to be evaluated.
The No. 1 WordPress page-builder plugin, downloaded by more than 200,000 users, the Visual Composer page builder plugin for WordPress lets users take full control over their sites. The plugin allows designers to build any imaginable layout with an intuitive drag-and-drop builder — no programming knowledge is required.
The Beaver Builder widget is a flexible, drag-and-drop page builder that works on the front end of a WordPress website. Beginners and professionals alike can stop writing HTML and struggling with confusing shortcodes. Building beautiful, professional WordPress pages is as easy as dragging and dropping with this popular plugin.
This popular mobile plugin automatically adds a mobile theme for mobile visitors to a WordPress website. Recommended by Google, WPTouch Mobile instantly creates a mobile-friendly version of your website that not only passes the Google Mobile test, but ensures SEO rankings aren’t sacrificed for lack of a mobile-friendly website.
WP Retina 2x
The plugin is unique in that only it offers full-size retina images. WP Retina 2x creates and displays the image files required by the High-DPI devices. Websites appear completely clear and crisp on any device. Retina images are generated automatically or manually, and served to the retina devices.
Elementor Page Builder
The plugin delivers high-end page designs and advanced capabilities. With instant drag-and-drop, instant live edit and instant page load, Elementor’s speed is unmatched by other page builders. Elementor features live editing that is truly live, with no need to press update or go to preview mode.
Users can create pages that have “the designer touch,” thanks to unique features such as box shadows, background overlays, hover and entrance animations, advanced buttons, addons and more.
Photo Gallery by WD
The responsive photo gallery for WordPress, downloaded more than 300,00 times, offers a comprehensive selection of tools and options for creating and managing images and galleries. The Photo Gallery by WD plugin lets users create a custom, fully-responsive and free WordPress photo gallery in just minutes.
Photo Gallery also offers audio and video support to allow for the easy creation of YouTube and Vimeo galleries. The plugin even offers add-ons that let users create e-commerce content, display Facebook content and transfer galleries, albums and other data between WordPress sites.
Downloaded more than 10 million times, NextGen Gallery offers a lot more than its name suggests. Sure, the popular plugin allows users to easily upload and manage image galleries. But it also features a variety of editing options options to help budding designers change the size, style, transitions, lightbox effects and more. Users can even use the plugin to add text to their visual content and watermarks to their photos.
The easy-to-use plugin allows users to create stunning gallery layouts that are responsive, retina-ready and lightning fast. The FooGallery plugin was built to be highly configurable and extensible for developers or freelancers alike. Its premium extension even allows for the creation of video and mixed-media galleries.
Gallery by Envira
Envira Gallery lets users create beautiful, responsive photo and video galleries for WordPress sites in just minutes. Not only will every image in the gallery always look great on every device — be it mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop. It’s also highly optimized for web and server performance, creating the is the fastest WordPress gallery plugin on the market.
The most popular WordPress slider plugin, the fast and easy-to-use Meta Slider lets users select images from their WordPress Media Libraries, drag and drop them into place, then set slide captions, links and SEO fields all from one page. Choose from four slideshow types — Flex Slider, Nivo Slider, Responsive Slides and Coin Slider — and use the provided shortcode or template to easily embed slideshows in a blog.
Huge-IT Responsive Slider
Add images from a computer, and upload an assortment of new images from Media Library all at once with Huge-IT’s Responsive Slider plugin. The slideshows easily can be arranged according to taste with the plugin’s drag-and-drop function.
Users can add videos and images, as well as add a slider to the posts, pages and template files. The slider allows for an unlimited amount of images and videos with titles and descriptions. The slider also uses autogenerated shortcodes, making it easier to add it to a custom location.
The plugin provides an easy way to integrate a slideshow for any WordPress installation. Any image can be loaded into the slideshow just by picking it from the WordPress media page, even images previously uploaded. Slideshow lets users create and use as many slideshows as they like, each with different images, settings and styles.
Smart Slider 3
The intuitive WordPress plugin allows users to create sliders with every feature they can expect from a free slider plugin. Smart Slider provides the tools to create YouTube and Vimeo slides and create slides from WordPress posts.
The Instagram Feed plugin displays Instagram photos from any non-private Instagram account, either in a single or multiple feeds. The plugin is completely responsive and mobile ready — the layout works for any screen size and in any container width, and it’s completely customizable.
The plugin displays social media and contact information with simple, easy-to-use widgets. Contact Widgets lets you display your contact information — including email address, phone number, fax and physical address (including a map), as well as social media profiles — in an attractive and intuitive way.
WP User Avatar
While WordPress currently only allows custom avatars uploaded through Gravatar, WP User Avatar lets designers use any photo uploaded into their media libraries as an avatar.
Custom Facebook Feed
Users can display a completely customizable, responsive and search-engine crawlable version of their Facebook feeds right on a WordPress website with the Custom Facebook Feed plugin. The plugin allows for a complete match to the look and feel of a site with plenty of customization options.
WP Instagram Widget
The WP Instagram Widget offers a no-fuss WordPress plugin that showcases users’ latest Instagram pics. It doesn’t require login details or sign in through oAuth. WP Instagram Widget uses a simple markup, allows users to style the widget to meet their own themes and tastes, and filters are provided to adjust cache timings.
The popular Facebook plugin provides a simple and attractive way to display Facebook page likes into a WordPress sidebar. Just activate the plugin and drag the widget. To add an application id from a created Facebook application, just add it into the widget and Facebook URL. The plugin is customizable with even more options, including show faces, show Data Stream and Headers.
Social Media Feather
The plugin supports the adding of social buttons for sharing or following, which easily and automatically can be added to all posts and pages. Featuring full support for the Retina and high-resolution displays used in the latest smartphones, tablets and other devices. Social Media Feather offers all major social-sharing buttons, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, Linkedin and even e-mail.
The social-media plugin lets users add icons for RSS, Email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and “Share,” which covers more than 200 other social media platforms. With Ultimate Sharing, users can even upload their own custom icons.
Feed Them Social
The popular social plugin lets users create engaging social feeds of favorite celebrities, family, friends, businesses or their own. The feeds are attractive on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. The easy-to-install Feed Them Social plugin displays photos and videos from Facebook albums and pages, in as many social feeds as desired.
A website might feature the most amazing images on the entire Web, but if they take too long to load, nobody’s going to stick around and see them. And the more effects added to visual content, the longer it can take to load on a page.
Google and other search engines even give high preference to web pages that are highly optimized for speed. The Smush plugin, champion of Torque’s 2017 Plugin Madness, is a favorite for image resizing, compression and optimization. The free WordPress image smusher uses its own servers to do the compression to eliminate unnecessary data slowing down a user’s website. The result is optimized images that load quickly without sacrificing their original quality.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Automatically optimize your images as you upload them to your blog with EWWW Image Optimizer. The plugin can optimize already-uploaded images, convert images automatically to the file format that will produce the smallest image size, and optionally apply lossy compression to for optimum optimization for PNG and JPG images.
The plugin automatically resizes huge image uploads to a size more reasonable for displaying in a browser, but still large enough for typical website use. Imsanity is configurable with a max width, height and quality, so when a contributor uploads an image that is larger than the configured size, the plugin will automatically scale it down to the configured size and replace the original image.
Imsanity also provides a bulk-resize feature to selectively resize previously uploaded images and free up disk space.
Compress JPEG & PNG Images
The plugin from TinyPNG speeds up website loading times by optimizing JPEG and PNG images. This plugin automatically optimizes images by integrating them with the popular image-compression services, TinyJPG and TinyPNG. On average JPEG images are compressed by 40 to 60 percent and PNG images by 50 to 80 percent without visible loss in quality.
Easy Google Fonts
The Easy Google Fonts plugin helps designers easily use Google’s free service to add high-quality fonts to their WordPress sites. Not only does the plugin add the necessary Google codes, but it also offers the ability to assign the Google fonts to specific CSS website elements from within the WordPress admin.
Use Any Font
Use Any Font offers WordPress designers the freedom to use custom fonts in their websites without the need for sophisticated coding. This plugin integrates with the WordPress Customizer so users can preview Google fonts on their sites in real time. Compatible with any theme, the plugin also allows the creation of theme-specific font controls to control particular css selectors.
Customize your WordPress YouTube embed, YouTube gallery and even YouTube live stream with the YouTube WordPress plugin. The popular plugin features YouTube gallery capability, and it can generate a grid-based responsive playlist or channel gallery.
Visitors can browse through pages of video thumbnails and choose from videos that are pulled from an entire YouTube channel or playlist. Users can also set their YouTube galleries to automatic continuous play by embedding a playlist or channel gallery and allowing it to play one video after the next without requiring viewers to click a thumbnail.
ARVE Advanced Responsive Video Embedder
The ARVE plugin does more than make videos responsive. The popular video embedder is SEO friendly, and allows users to specify title, description and upload date to provide search engines with the schema data necessary for better indexing.
ARVE also offers SYSIWYG support and magically makes URL-embedded videos responsive. There’s no “lock in” for those who don’t use shortcodes, and it supports almost every video host that utilizes iframe and embed codes. Embedding videos is as simple as pasting the URL in its own line, just like with WordPress.
Visual Effects Plugins
Code Canyon Before and After Slider
The popular visual-effects plugin from Code Canyon offers so much more than a mere slider. The premium addition to WordPress demonstrates the difference between an original and new images. Touch and swipe enabled with no short codes to memorize, the plugin features a beautifully-crafted admin panel that offers plenty of options to control every aspect of a slider.
Responsive Lightbox by dFactory
Rated 5 stars, the Responsive Lightbox plugin allows users to view larger versions of images and galleries in a lightbox (overlay) effect optimized for mobile devices.
Simple Lightbox is a very simple and customizable lightbox that is easy to add to your WordPress website. The plugin automatically activates links with no manual coding, and it automatically resizes lightboxes to fit into windows. Users can also customize their lightboxes with themes.
The Simple Lightbox plugin offers mobile-optimized themes, customizable lightbox animations and is infinitely customizable with additional add-ons. It even supports WordPress image attachment links and links in widgets.
Visual HTML Basics to Fine Tune Your Design
It’s true that with all the WordPress plugins now offered, designers don’t necessarily even need to know anything about coding to build websites with attractive and engaging visual content. Coding just isn’t something on most designers’ repertoire.
Still, a basic knowledge of how to edit a website’s code isn’t a bad idea. By understanding HTML basics, designers can fine tune their content if the preview doesn’t look exactly like they envisioned. Or maybe the format is different than what was on the WordPress visual screen, and the spacing is all off.
Understanding basic HTML codes can help WordPress users adjust the format and appearance of their content. It can also help them tweak designs to keep up with the latest web-design trends.
WordPress and its various plugins are constantly evolving with updates and new features. New WordPress versions are regularly released, and developers are constantly launching new and improved plugins to make designers lives easier and more interesting. Monitoring various WordPress forums, as well as the organization’s website, will provide plenty of information on updates, new features and overall WordPress knowledge.
How have you used WordPress to enhance your visual content? Tell us in the comments below!