Sometimes trying to find the right tools to create digital images can be daunting. It’s kind of like going into a hardware store looking for a simple hammer, only to find dozens of styles, shapes and sizes to choose from. Which one do you pick? What do you really need? Why does it have to be this complicated?
Whether you’re a professional graphic designer, creative thinker or an entrepreneur looking for ways to create projects and wow your audience, there are amazing tools out there that can help transform your work into amazing … extraordinary … exceptional. But just like hammers, there’s so many different resources to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.
That’s why we’ve created a list of some of my favorites to help get you started. Check it out: the Ultimate Graphic Designer’s Digital Toolbox.
Some vector graphics are free, but the higher the quality, the more you’ll pay. There are situations where you will probably need both.
Free Vector Sites
Sometimes you don’t need the most high-quality vectors to get the look you need. The good news is that they can be pulled apart and digitally enhanced in order to create whatever it is you need or envision, and without paying a dime.
All Free Downloads
Subscription-based Vector Sites
Most quality vector graphics will not be free. I recommend buying a one-month subscription to a paid site, and building up a nice gallery from which to start. It’ll be worth the money in order to provide a higher level of services to your clients or colleagues.
Images by Search
Although free stock photos usually require a little extra Photoshopping, there is a good chance that you can still find what you need. If you are on a budget, it is definitely worth the extra effort to search through these image databases before you resort to buying a $15 stock photo.
Stock Free Images
One of the best gifts you can give yourself as a designer is to build up a stock photo gallery on your computer. Yes, taking the extra time to save quality photos you come across can feel a bit cumbersome, but you will thank yourself later. These sites are the perfect place to start, with galleries of gorgeous photos available for you to download for free.
Death to Stock Photo
New Old Stock
Although your computer comes installed with a library of fonts, most designers look to the internet to find additional fonts that will take designs and projects to the next level. Here are a few of my favorite free font sites.
Have you ever looked at a finished design and thought that something was missing, but you just couldn’t put your finger on it? Many times a simple solution is to add a layer of texture in the form of a subtle pattern as your background. And like magic, you’ll give your design that extra pizazz it was lacking. Just be sure to choose something that compliments the rest of your design (rather than distracting from it).
In a perfect world, clients would send you the vector file of their logo. But that’s not always how it goes, so instead of trying to track one down, first try finding it on the Brands of the World database.
Brands of the World
If it’s not on that site, try doing a Google search of “‘Company Name’ png” – you’ll most likely be able to find the logo you need with a transparent background. Just be sure to choose a logo with large enough dimensions so it won’t look pixelated.
Sooner or later you will need to display a piece of work for a client, vendor or team member. Whether it’s as a poster or phone app, using mockups can be the difference between looking like an amateur graphic designer or a polished professional. This list has every type of mockup you could possibly dream of – be sure to bookmark it.
When you are struggling to come up with a design, simply deciding on the color palette can help get you started. Try drawing inspiration from your surroundings using the Adobe Kuler app, or look to one of these sites that gives great color palette suggestions submitted by other users.
Virtual work teams and workspaces are on the rise, and more and more companies and organizations realize the value of flexibility and collaboration. But creating awesome designs and powerful projects isn’t easy when you’re not in the same room, let alone the same country.
Having the right collaboration software is key if you’re going to share information successfully. Here are a couple of my favorites:
This is the perfect app for gathering input on your designs from clients and coworkers. Simply share a link with with them, and they can leave comments on specific parts of your design. This means less confusion and less time wasted.
One of the best collaboration software platforms out there is Redbooth, which is a robust, all-encompassing tool that accommodates virtual team environments, no matter how big or how small. Check them out here:
This is just a glimpse of my personal favorite graphic design tools, but I know there are so many more out there! If you have some favorite resources that are not on my list, please let me know what they are. Seriously, we’d love to hear about them … and we might even use your suggestions on a new Toolbox blog to come! Leave your comments and appropriate links below.