There is no creative work without inspiration, and sometimes inspiration fails us. Every graphic designer has a way of getting inspired, but in case you need a little push, here’s our nifty list of useful graphic design resources.
Everyone knows the saying “content is king”, and it is clear that content dominates the digital industry. However, no matter how interesting my written content is, it is lifeless and dull without the support of a strong visual image.
Content writers and graphic designers are two inseparable links that create engaging content (both written and visual) that has an enormous impact on the mind of consumers. Together they develop an interactive campaign pairing an exciting plethora of content with the relevant visual graphics.
Valuable graphic design resources and tools you should know about
As Fred R. Barnard said, “one picture is worth a thousand words,” and that can’t be more accurate. But to have the skill to convey an entire story in just one image, you need adequate education in the graphic design field, experience, resources, and tools.
I get that you want to dive into this project on your own, since editing an image, creating a logo, or applying the correct font might not sound like such hard work, but my advice is to reconsider. You might end up spending more time and money in the long run (especially when you need to hire a pro to fix your mistakes).
However, if you are adventurous enough, you can tackle some of the basic graphic design tasks yourself, as long as you are prepared to invest a lot of time, effort, and money into this escapade.
What tools does a graphic designer need?
Following the logic, you need quality hardware and even better software. Reliable equipment like a laptop, hard drive, iPad, tablet, and studio camera is a must, but you’ll also need creative software to create art.
Let’s put this simply, Carlos Santana is a great guitarist, and we all know how he can create magical sounds on any classical guitar due to his mere talent. Still, when you pair Santana with some of his signature guitars along with amplifiers, only then will he create his distinctive guitar tone that we all love.
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The same goes for graphic designers and their preferred graphic design resources. Some will work better with Adobe Photoshop, while others will master GIMP or Xara Designer Pro X better - it is all about the preferences.
So, to recap, what tool does a graphic designer need? Every graphic designer needs a well-organized library of already available, paid, or free tools for graphic design that includes:
- Creative software (Procreate)
- Cloud storage
- Editing program (Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, for instance)
- Mockup tools
- Screenshot tools
- Pantone swatch book
Now that you know which tools you should implement in your work routine, the next question arises - how to pick the best graphic design resources? We will discuss this topic in-depth a bit later.
But, for now, here comes a carefully curated list of awesome graphic design resources that can help you step your game up a notch.
Image and video resources - captivating design just one image away
Nothing grabs attention in digital design like a great visual, from stock images to vector arts. Visually appealing images bring texture and energy to the written word and bring it to life. Here are some of the most popular websites to find graphic design resources for low prices (or even free of charge).
Pexels is among the best free stock images and video websites you can find. With a large community of photographers and videographers who provide their work for free, you can download a wide range of high-quality images and videos according to your needs. You can modify these gorgeous visuals to fit your vision.
My favorite stand-out marketplace for high-resolution images is Unsplash, a website rich with stock photos you can download free of charge. It is very easy to use since it’s divided into clear categories like Architecture, Fashion, 3D Renders, Wallpapers, Films, nature, etc.
What differentiates this website from others is its diversity. First of all, it provides you with a wide range of necessary graphic design elements like icons, photos, illustrations, and music. The other thing is that it allows you to create your own unique image by combining different stock photos.
Use a simple drag-and-drop tool to combine objects, people, backgrounds and add filters to create an image that no one else has.
You can use their services for free or subscribe to their paid plans for premium features.
As you can see, finding a gorgeous image is not a problem at all; however, the tricky part is when you need to modify it according to your brand’s image.
Illustration resources - a long story shortened to basics
Need something a little more hand-drawn to enhance or inspire your work? High-quality vector graphics are a much-needed element in any graphic design since they are trendy and draw more attention than regular images.
On the following websites, you can find illustrations that are suitable for digital design and print projects.
You can find everything you need on this excellent page, from minimalistic design illustrations to complex masterpieces. The website features a rich library full of customizable designs from all categories, mainly focusing on t-shirts, book covers, and PPT presentations.
Pricing is low, starting from $21.99 per month for those just starting up.
Drawkit offers you many paid and free illustrations to download that you can customize according to your design vision. They come in two styles, and they are best to be used for infographics or explainer videos. To edit them, use Photoshop.
You can even vote and request what illustrations you’d like created next. Drawkit is free for basic illustration packs and offers paid premium illustrations that start from $29.
Freepik is an excellent source for premium, high-quality graphics at a low cost. They provide a comprehensive collection of work that includes some extraordinary free illustrations. If you need an infographic, a visiting card, a banner, or illustrations, you can find all of that here and modify them according to your needs.
Partner up with Freepik to create a lasting impression for your customers.
Icon resources - creating a visual language for everyone
Icons are undoubtedly one of the crucial elements of every digital design, especially when web design becomes more compact, responsive, and mobile. Also, since data visualization is a huge trend now, you can use icons to simplify the content and create powerpoints that convey your message with ease.
However, creating an icon from scratch can be a daunting task, so why not simplify the process and check out these sources for free icon designs and use them instead?
Animaticons is a noteworthy source for anyone who needs high-resolution animated GIF icons that can be customized according to their preferences. These icons are high-quality, small in size, and compatible with all major platforms, browsers, emails, smartphones, etc.
We love this source because you don’t need any plugins or libraries; as soon as you download the GIF icon, you can put it to use immediately. Animated icons contribute more to the overall visual appeal of your brand than a simple image.
This resource will improve your workflow significantly by reducing the time you spend creating and help you save your creative energy for other projects. A collection with over 2 million curated icons is available to download for free! The interface is simple and well organized, so you won’t have a hard time finding just what you need.
Pricing is free for basic icon downloads or a modest $39,99 per year for an unlimited individual subscription. Talk about affordability!
Flaticon features a beginner-friendly interface where you can find graphics, logos, and a wide variety of icon styles available in SVG, EPS, and PNG formats. If none of the available styles (flat, line, black, or color) suit your projects, Flaticon has a built-in editor where you can choose a shape, size, and color and save up time on adjustments later.
Flaticon is available for free if you download icons in PNG format, and for all other formats, you will need to acquire the premium version.
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Typography resources - your Netflix for fonts
Text is the primary source of information on your web page, so you should pay a lot of attention to the font that you will use. When creating an overall look for your product, you should balance the graphics and texts.
Here are some of the websites where you can find amazing free fonts to download and customize, but some sources will charge you a small fee for their services. Let’s take a quick look at your options:
This website is a marketplace where you can buy and sell your digital design, but this is not why it’s earned its place on this list. Creative Fabrica lets you download a bunch of fonts for a small monthly fee. Talk about cost reduction!
Are you searching for awesome-looking fonts? We’ve got the right resource for you (5 seconds happy dance frenzy)! Not only does their web page look nice, but they also have an extensive collection of free fonts for commercial use. Here you can search fonts by classification, tags, family size, recently added, most popular, language, etc.
You can also use their Webfont generator to create or modify existing fonts to improve the rendering size of the file.
If you are up for browsing through a tremendous selection of fonts, you are at the right place. Their fonts are for free, and the navigation is super easy; fonts are categorized by alphabetical listing, style, author, and popularity.
Color palette resources - let’s get this party started
What about colors? Some of my recent articles explained the psychological effect of colors on your customers and how you should choose the right color for your product to convey a specific message or emotion.
Find the inspiration among these gorgeous color schemes and grab your viewer’s attention at first glance.
This website started as a small personal project by Gal Shir. However, it quickly became a handy source of free color palettes for graphic designers worldwide. All you have to do is browse through the existing catalogs and find the color palette that will perfectly fit your brand’s image.
The color gradient is a trend that is very versatile, bold, and here to stay. You can use gradients to add depth to a flat design, create an interesting texture to a dull background, or improve the overall mood of your image by adding some colors.
You can find an extensive and free collection of 180 linear color gradients that you can use for any project. This website also features special packs for Sketch and Photoshop editing software.
If you have a specific taste for colors and you prefer to use a color scheme that you’ve seen on a masterpiece created by some of the world’s most famous artists, this tool is your go-to resource. This tool gathers all the colors from that particular piece in one place so that you can download it for free.
Mockup and screenshot tool resources - time to show off your hard work
This is where it gets trippy and tricky. These tools won’t mean much if you are not acquainted with the creative process. However, for clarity, I will explain the purpose of these tools.
A mockup tool is a specially designed tool or application used to produce a design model that can be used for promotion, teaching, and evaluating an idea that is still in the creation process. This should be enough for you to understand why we mortals can’t handle that task on our own.
That is why every reputable graphic designer has an online portfolio that will convince potential clients why they should pick them among all others. Here is the list of free mockup tools that they use to present their work in the best light:
Promote your hard work by using free tools from Shotsnapp, and create your own device mockups in no time. The process is relatively simple: choose the desired device, add your design or screenshot, make a few changes if needed, and download your mockup image. Easy-peasy!
Pricing is free for basic functions, and for pro features, you will need to spend $36 per year.
Instantly turn a screenshot into a mockup without using any Photoshop templates by using the mockup generator. Mockup World is packed with free, fully layered, photorealistic mockups that are ready to use in your presentations.
Create instant mockups for books, t-shirts, mugs, hats, social media, devices, packaging, or anything else you have in mind for free.
Pixeden is your one-stop shop if you are looking for an extensive collection of high-quality mockup templates. You can choose between a free and premium account. Enhance your brand ideas with the fonts, backgrounds, textures, and objects provided here.
Graphic design inspiration resources - get your daily dose of inspiration
You might be shocked now, but graphic designers are mortals too! They also have the right to experience creative blockages. When those days come and they get stuck, they need a little push to spark their creativity.
The best way to achieve that is by browsing the web and letting others work to pump up the creative juices. You can browse online magazines, blogs, and social media, and what is most recommended is to take a long scroll through some of the web pages dedicated to promoting graphic designers and their work.
Owning an account on some of the following platforms is a must in the digital design world:
Behance is a part of the Adobe network. For a creative boost of all kinds, visit this online platform and spend some quality time scrolling through the latest design projects provided by design professionals from across the world.
You can narrow your research by color, location, or creative field and get exactly what you’ve been looking for. This platform is free to use, so don’t waste any more time and sign up immediately.
This online self-promotion community allows you to showcase your work and browse through competitor’s work to get inspired. It serves as a design portfolio platform and a job hunting and recruiting site. Gain inspiration, feedback, advice, and a community by creating an account now.
How to pick the best graphic design resources?
It is hard to pick out the best one with such a wide range of free graphic design tools, softwares, and websites available to you now. You should remember that some things that might work for someone else won’t necessarily work that well for you.
To make a choice, narrow your options down on the graphic design resources that meet the needs of your design style and techniques. The safest way to start your research is by selecting those that offer free trials, so you don’t waste your money in vain if you don’t find the tool interesting or helpful enough.
You should invest in premium versions only when you find your “match made in heaven” tool.
As a business owner, we believe that you strive to provide high-quality products and services to your customers, and that is our goal as well. Premium products and services guarantee you the ultimate quality and the best user experience. However, high-quality services don’t always have to be so pricey that you need to rethink them at least twice. Graphic design subscription companies such as ManyPixels have a different policy.
Subscription-based companies offer high-quality services at affordable rates. Graphic design services are a vital part of your business, and paying a reasonably priced monthly subscription is less painful than buying an expensive software licence that you don’t know how to use!
Now that I have spilled the tea and shared some vital information and resources with you, it is time to share some valuable advice as well. Graphic design is not only about aesthetics; you should instead see it as a powerful marketing tool that will enhance your brand awareness by:
- Attracting your targeted audience.
- Following image requirements on specific platforms.
- Differentiating you from the competition.
Most people look at the graphic design from the wrong perspective. The point of graphic design is not to make the brand look pretty according to our own subjective opinions (remember, your pretty, and my pretty isn’t the same thing).
If I’m about to launch a new marketing campaign for my hot sauce brand, I won’t use blue and green colors and an image of a starry night (even though I prefer those colors, and who doesn’t love a starry night sky?!). I will use red and orange colors, paired with a picture of hot pepper. Get it?
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If you want to make the most out of your marketing budget and valuable time, a professional graphic designer should tackle the design part, not you. Nothing can break your marketing campaign from the start as poorly designed visuals.
There are many reasons why DIY graphic design is a no-go if you are serious about your business. Below we share the top five.
5 valid reasons why you shouldn’t DIY graphic design
- Graphic design has marketing value! You need to reach out to your target audience and grab their attention. To do that, you need to use proper colors and fonts to make the content visually appealing. All that requires experience and skills that we, non-designers, simply do not have.
- DIY graphic design doesn’t look professional. It looks more like a creative mess that needs to be tidied up. Most of us are led by the saying: “the more, the merrier”, but this equals catastrophe in graphic design!
- You need proper creative software to meet the industry standards, and these bad boys are pricey! Also, some programs aren’t compatible with modern pre-flighting systems, so your design won’t be printable in most cases. In these cases, the only solution is costly REDESIGN.
- Like I mentioned above, DIY designs are rarely printable. I’ll give you a couple of terms now, and I want you to think about them for a second: 300DPI, CMYK, Crop marks, Bleed, Embedded fonts. Are you familiar with these? If not, please hire a professional designer!
- The most significant benefit of having a professional designer do the work instead of you is that their designs can be used for different applications. What do I mean by that? I mean that they can repurpose existing graphics. It is quicker than creating a new design from scratch, and it’s also cost-effective (you pay them for editing an existing design and not for creating a whole new artwork). For instance, if you need to tweak an old logo, they designed, to fit a new business card image. Long story short, if you have a great designer, he/she will create evergreen content that you can easily alter and reuse. That being said, I hope you are aware that your DIY graphics won’t meet the required standards, considering your limited skills.
The budget for a graphic designer should be seen as an investment, and never like a cost you can easily live without. Hiring a professional will save you time and money in the long run!
Don’t try becoming a self-educated designer, hire the best!
Phew! That was a long list of affordable and free tools for graphic design. We created this article to help you find the golden nugget that will serve as an introduction to the world of graphic design and give you a glimpse into how exhausting and complicated this work can be when you are a complete newbie.
If you’re still not sure what we mean, refer back to the 5 reasons why you shouldn’t take on this tremendous task on your own.
To avoid mistakes and further complications, I recommend you think about hiring a team of experts whose business is taking care of your business. Let us know when you are ready for collaboration!