I think Picfont is really great for any text needs you may have. Their selection of fonts and options is not bad at all considering it's a free browser based tool. Pixlr i've used for years and it works, but I wish I had something fancier *cough cough* Photoshop. I'm tired of all the ads there as well. When I get a new laptop soonish, i'm going to look into getting a proper program. I did use Photoshop years ago when my dad had it on his computer for work, but it's been like over ten years since i've tried it. It looks like you can't outright buy versions of Photoshop anymore though which sucks. You have to subscribe and it's super expensive... so yeah......... no.
One thing I have been using recently is Sketchbook, which I highly recommend to anyone who has a tablet + stylus, and even just a little bit of creative juice inside that you wanna get flowing. It's fun and very easy to use, although you've got to be thinking outside of the box when using it for banner making. I had only just started using it for the very first time when I last got to host WorldVision. I'm much more happy with the banners I made a couple of editions ago for my Icons NF. The only limit with this Sketchbook program is your imagination and your available time.
I think what you should use depends on if you want something slick and sexy or more arts and crafty. I like a bit of both but I think I falter a bit on the slick and sexy side. Bless forum games though for getting us all into making things