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Archive for the ‘Free Resources’ Category

Ensuring Design Success

I’ve designed and freelanced for over 10 years now. In that amount of time I’ve worked on everything from biz cards to multi-million dollar fundraising campaigns, and the most important phase of each and every project was at the very beginning, when I asked questions, questions, questions of the client to get their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, etc. That info is the most important step in any good design project. Design doesn’t happen in a vacuum and too many designers make things for themselves (I’m at fault here), not for the client. They design for designers.

Anyway, I saw this interview on allgraphicdesign and loved what Lauren Peone said. Quoted here, linked to the full article.

Before I begin any project I require the client to provide some basic art direction (its right in the contract). Who is their target market? Who is their competition (who will they be on shelf next to)? Do they have a specific look/feel/theme in mind? Colors? Typeface styles? Description of café…tell me a little more about you? ­In the case of large corporations, do they have a style guide I need to follow?

From here I also have the customer send me designs that they like AND dislike along with a detailed description of why. The more details that you obtain from the customer, the easier it will be for you to create a smashing design. Sure, I’ve received push back and comments such as, “you’re the designer so you should have all the creative ideas”, but I’ve found that 9 out of 10 clients are more then willing to provide some basic direction to get the project started on the right foot.

Go read it all.

Photoshop Light Effects (FX) Tutorials

There’s SO much great content over at SmashingMagazine blog. I just re-discovered this listing of tutorials for Photoshop light FX. I’ve cut/pasted here, but there’s more at their site. Check it out!

  • Lines Tutorial
    A super simple tutorial that makes rainbow colored lines. It shows you how to give them an appearance of brightness and depth.

  • Expressive lighting effects
    This tutorial combines both vector and raster based techniques to achieve a glowing floral design. The glows are applied in Photoshop.

  • Vector Polishing Techniques
    This tutorial covers numerous ways to transform your vector illustrations into masterpieces by using Photoshop lighting techniques, glows, and filters.

  • How to Make the “Flare” Effect As Seen On
    [Find this tutorial in the left menu on the "writing page"] In this tutorial, the Lens Flare filter is used on the background. Then the lighting is created with brushes and different blending modes.

  • Sparkling Hot Girl in Photoshop
    Utilize an assortment of techniques to achieve a sparkling design. Masks, blurs, brushes, layers styles and other effects are used in this tutorial.

  • Amazing Photoshop light effect in 10 Steps
    “If you know a bit of Layer Styles and the Brush engine in Photoshop you will be able to create amazing effects. It will depend exclusively on your imagination and playing with the tool. Sometimes just changing some settings and you get a totally different effect.” This tutorial applies lighting effects to a coffee cup icon.

  • Creating A Fantastic Fantasy Night Sky In Photoshop
    Create cartoon style clouds with rainbows, stars, and glowing effects. Based on a Nik Ainley design.

  • Neon lights with Photoshop
    Tutorial on how to make glowing lights effects out of vector shapes and brushes.

  • Electrifying Energy Beams
    In this tutorial you start with the pen tool by drawing a line. Then you transform that line into an energy beam with layer effects. This makes it glow white and purple around a microphone.

  • Add Another Dimension
    Use glows and blending modes to “add another dimension” to your Photoshop artwork

  • Magic lighting effect in Photoshop
    Learn to magically make text wave and glow out of a magician’s hat.

  • Extreme sports branding
    This tutorial first covers creating a logo then it gets into the main snowboard illustration. Vector shapes are applied with layer effects and brushes to make the illustration stand out. This is part one in a series.

  • How to Create Intense Light Streaks in Photoshop
    This tutorial shows you how to create light streaks that appear to flow around an object.

  • Chroma Wallpapers
    This tutorial explains how to create an energetic design with lines. Utilize blurs, warps, and other effects. Add glowing and vibrating colors to give this image a dynamic feeling.

  • Advanced Glow Effects
    This tutorial teaches how to create glow effects using layer styles, the pen tool, and some color blending effects.

  • Lighting Effects – Beam Wave
    Learn to transform a one pixel lines into a glowing beam. Then add radial balls of light to emulate a pulse explosion.

  • Add A Sparkle Trail To A Photo
    Learn how to add a sparkling trail of stars to your photos using brushes, layer styles, and effects.

  • Creating light motion trails & glowing sparks
    This tutorial covers creating light motion trails by using the pen tool with layer styles. It also covers creating sparkling stars in Illustrator and then importing them into the Photoshop design.

  • Blue Glow Layout
    This tutorial reviews the process for creating a simple layout in Photoshop, while revealing techniques for creating an abstract glowing centerpiece design.

  • Fantasy Art Photoshop tutorial
    Learn to create a fantasy image with glowing halos of lights and stars. Notice how you can apply glow directly to a cropped image. The tutorial creates the halos with the Elliptical Marquee tool. It applies a stroke and then a glow to the selection, on its own layer.

  • Photoshop: Light Beam
    This tutorial reviews the basic process of creating a light beam in Photoshop; however, it does refer to other tutorials for some effects. The techniques in this tutorial involve using different brushes to paint the light, and then they are smeared with the Smudge Tool. There are a few filters used as well.

  • Even fairies have to rest – glow and lightning tutorial
    First, the photograph is treated to make it a little darker so that the points of light in the design will stand out. Both a linear wrapping beam and points of radiating light are covered in this tutorial.

  • Beautiful lighting FX effect in Photoshop
    This tutorial will show you how to make a beautiful lighting effect with the scatter brush. This tutorial covers the basics.

  • High-Tech Swirling Aurora
    This tutorial covers how to apply the Wind Filter to a waving light beam to create an aurora effect.

  • Slow shutter text effect – Photoshop
    Layers of blurred elements are used in this tutorial. This blurring technique is worked into glowing linear text and circle shapes.

  • Seriously Cool Photoshop Explosion Effect
    Use layer masks and light effects to creatively break apart an image. Points of bright lights, swirly brushes, and warped lines help bring this design together.

NYPL Digital Online Library

Have I mentioned my ephemera-fascination? Not all things old, just the cool ones.

The New York Public Library just stepped up and delivered an online database of images spanning back thru history. Amazing (especially for designers who like this stuff)! Searching for “cyrillic” gave me this image:

… and searching for 1950 gave me photos of zillions of people I don’t even know!

Check it out next time you need something visually oldschool. Even if it’s way oldschool.


Designer Jobs Aggregator

All Graphic Design (the soon-to-be compendium of all things graphics-related) just posted a designer job aggregator from a number of the larger online freelance job sites. If you need work as a designer, check it out. Do notice you have to follow links from the list back to each job—posting on All Graphic Design won’t help you one bit. It may make you feel better, like you did something productive, but that feeling would lead you astray. Probably into a morass of some kind. Plus, you’d never get work.

See the aggregated list here and a note about it here.

Color Me (freaking) Amazed

You’d think after the movie Pleasantville, the world would have embraced color as the new Jesus. It has (it’s got nothin’ on Jesus, fyi).

Resources like have worked hard to provide support for designers needing to match a specific color palette (even a specific hex color), for advertising and/or branding considerations. Their color space recognition in the advanced search is pretty sophisticated (read more here).

MultiColr Search Lab from Idee Labs has come up with a way to search Flickr based on color. Totally freaking awesome, they’ve compiled Flickr’s database and sorted by color so you can find photos for yourself.

One can only imagine Flickr becoming the new web 2.0 stock photo repository. Tools like this make it that much more usable.

Resources for Freelance Designers

Most of this meat for this comes from and their post of over 200 resources for Freelancers (see the blog here). Some of the specific content comes to you, with love, from CMD+SHIFT blog.

Here’s what I liked best (text is theirs):

Twidda: Online brainstorming whiteboards for free.

Screenflow is a screencasting software for Mac. I’ve never used this, but understand you can use this when giving a client instructions (like making a customized tutorial for them to use their CMS) or with collaborating designers to give feedback on projects.

You can purchase it for $99 or try out the 14 day trial here. This program becomes very useful when you need to talk with visual concepts but are not able to meet with the client/designer in person, and it gives them the power to review the feedback at their own pace and on their own time.

Use Write Maps to make information webs to organize information, brainstorm, etc. Share the map and allow others to edit it, export it to a PDF or just print it straight from the site. Information architecture, project scope, branding.

I’ve never used What the Font? but have tried Identifont a number of times (to varying levels of success). Instead of uploading an image you just answer a series of questions about the typeface whose name escapes you.

Just plug in your URL and XML-Sitemap Maker gives you a XML sitemap.

allows you to send clients contract via email, they can virtually sign then and send them right back—for a paper-free office. For your less tech savvy clients, they can also print it out and fax it to your own personal EchoSign fax number. The contract will show up in your Inbox once the fax goes through, and Echosign keeps a log of all your contracts.

Best (not new) Design Blog: Positive Space

I can’t truly say Positive Space is the best…that would require me to know everything else out there. I only know 99% of it, and don’t want to lie.

I can say, however, it’s the best new addition to my Google Reader since Swissmiss. So good that I’m constantly contemplating (say that 10 times real fast) toying with the idea of cutting/pasting content into my blogs so others can read, as is.

Color Tools for Designers

It’s been years since I used to clip and tear pages from Pottery Barn, Travel + Leisure, and direct mail pieces to use my Pantone Color Cue to determine their values, and save for a future project. I still have like a hundred of these “sets” just gathering dust and fading in their plastic tub in my closet. Ridiculous.

Flash forward 5 years to today, and color is as important as ever. Only now we have tools. Real tools. Cool tools.

Kuler is the first. Create a color palette. Go crazy; save to your profile; share; go crazy.

ColourLovers is the next. Even better, you can link to a photo on the web and it creates a palette for you. Uber amazing, and it’s all digital.

No more plastic tubs filled with paper clippings and outdated palettes. Trees and landfills rejoice.

Amazing Topical News/Blog Aggregator

So, in case you have an unfounded aversion to Google Reader—or you simply can’t read—and you’ve been asking yourself why there isn’t another aggregator of news feeds and topical blogs… (deep breath) …then you’ve come to the right place: meet rocks. It uses a (claimed) sophisticated algorithm (what doesn’t these days) to winnow thru thousands of news/blog feeds to post the best according to industry standards and value. Choose from one of a host of topics to drill down into a category that suits your fancy, like photography (for me) as seen below. It really is amazing…there’s no way to read all this!

Another Web Design Stockpile

There are probably hundreds of sites like this showing off all the best (relative term) of various designers…and I’ll need to (soon) collate my links into another page based on similar content. Until then, you get this—a single portion offering with a 7-course smattering.

CSS Mania

Fast Links for Today

Three super duper fast links for the avid designer (not exactly sure why “avid” makes sense here…).

Data Visualization Compendium
Super well organized page of various data/information visualization methods. More here.
I’ve been reading Lynda’s work for probably 8 years now. She’s warehoused a lot of talent and teaching here. Super-duper cool.

Never heard of these guys ’til today, but that doesn’t mean they’re second-rate. Still, looks like a LOT here.

Free Hi-Res Texture Patterns

Rough is the new trendy look these days, especially in Illustration. These free bitmap textures are pretty sweet. Thanks to Von Glitschka for providing them. Pretty amazing (him and them). Grab them here (BIG file).