Adobe Spark is a service that merges three Adobe properties: Adobe Post, Adobe Slate and Adobe Voice, which are now known as Adobe Spark Post, Adobe Spark Page, and Adobe Spark Video respectively.
The whole suite can be accessed via a web browser, or if you’re using a mobile phone through a series of three apps, one for each service.
Although this is part of Adobe, you don’t actually need a Creative Cloud account and therefore don’t need to fork out a monthly subscription in order to use this service - well there’s a proviso to this (more on that later).
Once you’ve created a free account, you’re invited to start creating some Graphics, a Web Page or a Video, and you’re offered a vast series of templates to choose from.
The whole concept is to make content creation as easy and as quick as possible for those who need to advertise and promote their work but don’t have the time nor the skill to do this.
We’ll look at each in turn.
- Want to try Adobe Spark? Check out the website here
The options you’re given are based on where your work is destined for: Facebook/Twitter, Instagram, Print, or Ads. Each has a vast series of templates to choose from, broken down in categories.
This is where you may encounter a bit of a pickle: not all templates are available for free. Any with a little yellow tag top right of the thumbnail can only be accessed if you have a Creative Cloud subscription.
What’s annoying is that this yellow tag isn’t immediately obvious when scrolling through brightly coloured templates, and they’re sprinkled throughout the list - they’re not sorted between free, and paid for.
However, there are still a good number of free templates to work with should you wish to remain in the free section. You also have the option of “starting from scratch” with a blank canvas.
Once you’ve made your selection, this is where the fun begins.
The template is fully customisable. You can obviously select any text box and alter the wording - that’s a given - but you also have access to dozens of fonts, alter the line and character spacing, and have resize and rotate options.
There’s a slider to change the order of items, meaning that you can place objects in front of others, and as there’s also an Opacity slider, you have the ability to make selected objects semi-transparent.
Other features include adding shapes behind text boxes - to help make them stand out.
Perhaps the most imaginative - but also quite frustrating - feature is the style wheel. It allows you to spin through a huge number of different styles for your text box, changing font, colour, shape, you name it, as long as you keep turning that wheel, Spark will keep offering you new options.
Although this is fun to start with, you can’t really turn the wheel back to reverse the selection - doing so just gives you more random options. Thankfully there’s a multiple undo feature which you access through your computer’s usual keyboard shortcut. However, it would’ve been good to perhaps have a way to tag styles you like as you see them, or at the very least go back to your original selection without hitting Undo until you eventually get back to it manually.
A nice feature is Spark’s colour palette. Depending on what is selected, it can offer a selection of two colours that complement each other, or a group of individual selections that would work well together.
Of course you’re not limited to such suggestions, and can fully customise all colours exactly as you wish, but having the service present you with a choice of coordinated shades is a great way to work through your design quickly and efficiently.
If you need to add photos, you have access to Unsplash or Pixabay photo libraries (some images might be subject to copyright). Of course if those don’t suit your needs, you can upload your own. The inclusion of image enhancing tools and filters is most welcome.
One potentially great things about the Graphics section is the the Resize section. From there Spark can automatically resize your design for you so it works better in the social media environment you’ll be sharing it in (like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc). Once the new size is selected, you can move the objects around if the automatic reordering wasn’t to your liking.
There is a downside to this though: going back to the ‘Original Image’ will not put the image’s elements back into their original positions - you’ll have to drag them back to where they were yourself, which is frustrating.
Just like Graphics, you’re offered templates to choose from (some of which are again only available through a Creative Cloud subscription). Be aware though that some of the templates lead you to create a page in a similar way that the Graphics do, while others allow you full access to the webpage design.
This is very puzzling and there’s no obvious way to discern between the two. But once you’re in the web creation section, you’ll recognise the difference instantly.
Your page is divided into sections, and you can add photos, text boxes, create a photo grid or a slideshow, even add a video, or make a section with a split layout.
You’re offered a choice of themes which include specific fonts and filters to give your page a consistent look. You have no control over those presets however, but at least you can switch themes at any time until to find the one that works best for you.
You can create links to other pages or other websites via the use of buttons - the shape and style of them is again determined by the theme you chose.
Although your options are limited, the end result does look crisp and fresh, giving you a nice-looking web presence in minutes.
Selecting a template to make a video has the same issue as for the webpage: some templates don’t lead you to a video editor but back to the Graphics option - even though those templates are in the video section. But at least you can tell which templates let you work with video: they have a small ‘play’ icon (a triangle pointing to the right), lower left of the thumbnail.
The concept is a very simplified video editor that works with slides. Each slide is an edit, and each slide is represented by a rectangular thumbnail, irrespective of the length of the video contained within it.
Adobe Spark doesn’t provide you with a video library to select clips from; you have to provide your own.
You’re offered trimming tools to select just the section you need, and you can choose from four different types of slides - one offering your clip full screen, another splitting the screen between your video on the left and text on the right, one with an animated caption over the screen, and lastly, a static title with an animated subtitle over the screen.
As with Webpages, your creative options are much more limited than for Graphics: you can’t select your font, and you don’t even have access to a full colour palette - just the five different choices offered by whichever Theme you’ve chosen.
You can’t colour correct your videos, and the most you can do aside from trimming them, is zooming into them. Barely worth writing home about.
You can also add photos and the import process is the same as for the Graphics or Web Page sections above, but as with videos, you have no image enhancing options, and although you can zoom in or out, you can’t set it to pan and zoom across your photo. During playback we noticed some images were zooming in very slowly, while others remained static. We didn’t appear to have any control over that.
By default, a musical score is added to your project, which you can change in the Music section - you have about three dozen options, but if none of these appeal, it’s possible for you to upload your own soundtrack.
Should you choose to, you can add a voice over to your project, although your narration is confined within a slide. It’s good that the slide’s duration will automatically lengthen should you overrun on its originally set length, but you have no editing control over your recording. You can’t trim it, or cut out portions you didn’t need. It’s got to be a perfect take, or nothing. At least you can overwrite that recording with another.
Videos come with a Spark watermark you can’t remove. Interestingly, you’re allowed to do this for Graphics (each time you do, Adobe Spark annoyingly encourages you to get a subscription), but here, you have no such luxury: the only way to can remove it is by buying into Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
We also encountered glitches, such as coming back to a video project and being unable to see the video clips we’d added. Everything else was there, the style, the text, etc, just no video. We were forced to re-upload them. This happened regularly.
Invite and share
A welcome addition is the ability to invite others to your projects. Not only can they see your work in progress, they also have full editing control.
People you invite can only see the project you’ve granted them access to, and you can rescind that invitation at any time.
Once your work is complete, you can share it in one of two ways. The first is by uploading it to Adobe Spark's webpage - you’re given a unique URL for your creation. Alternatively, you can download your work and be free to share it anywhere you choose.
Wepages can’t be downloaded, and are solely hosted by Spark.
Even though Spark merges three services into one, they are clearly still three separate services. But despite the glitches we encountered, there’s a lot to like here, and the features will help you create a graphic, a webpage or a video very quickly. For a free service, it’s definitely worth checking out.
- Also check out our complete list of the best graphic design software