It’s hard knowing what tools to use to make a professional product, so here is a list that I use for my own graphic design business. With this list, you’ll be up and running in no time.
GRAPHIC DESIGN PROGRAMS
Being a professional designer, I mostly use the Adobe Creative Suite for my projects. Here are my favs:
- Adobe Illustrator – For all vector based illustrations and logos.
- Adobe InDesign – For all brochures, posters, signs, and postcards. If it has copy on it, I make it with this.
- Adobe Photoshop – For bitmap based photo editing.
- Adobe Bridge – Because looking at and organizing images in Preview doesn’t quite cut it.
- Adobe Lightroom – Batch editing of photos.
- Nik Collection – For photo punch-ups. Think Instagram filters that actually make your photos better. UPDATE: This is actually free, but Google recently announced that they won’t be updating it anymore. 🙁
- Suitcase Fusion – If you deal with thousands of fonts but would like your computer to actually run with any speed, this is the font management solution for you. It allows you to organize fonts easily and turn them on/off when you need to use them. It also connects directly to Typekit and Google Fonts to easily search and use any of the fonts in their databases without having to go directly to their sites and download/install each one.
STOCK IMAGES AND TEMPLATES
There are a ton of free and paid resources for getting stock images and templates all over the internet… but some are, frankly, just terrible. Beware free resources because many contain viruses and other baddies to infect your computer. Here are my top go-to resources.
- Creative Market – Think Etsy but for stock items and that basically is Creative Market. Each person has their own store and can upload curated digital items for sale. Fonts, stock photos, brochure templates, actions, illustrations, and much more are on offer. They also offer free goods weekly.
- Unsplash – The best source for free stock photos on the internet. Want stock photos that look like they were taken by actual people and aren’t shot in a studio somewhere? This is the place.
- iStock – There are lots of paid stock photo services out there, but I feel like iStock gives you the best bang for your buck. They aren’t as expensive as Getty Images (their now parent company) and you can find almost anything you would want here. They lean a little more staged, but they are definitely expanding into more realistic images. They also have the best diversity of models (race, gender, age, etc) out there so your photos can reflect the actual population.
Now, there are millions of fonts out there and many are free. The problem is that they aren’t good (both from a technical and design POV) but they also have a tendency of containing viruses. Please don’t go to a site that claims to have thousands of free fonts and just start downloading everything. Stick to these sources and you should be good.
- FontSquirrel – Replace your “We have 10k free fonts” site with this one. All are free and the great majority of them are awesome fonts. They definitely don’t maintain this site like they used to, so it’s not updated as much as it used to be, but it’s still the best collection of free fonts out there.
- Google Fonts – Also free but these fonts are designed and made for digital use… which means they are designed to look best on computer monitors (pixels) and not print (ink). They are passable for print, but some of their licenses don’t extend to print products, so be careful. They also don’t contain a full set of glyphs, so just be aware.
- Creative Market – Many font designers now sell on this service. If you want a trendy-styled font, this is the best place to get it without paying an arm and a leg. In the beginning, many of their typefaces didn’t contain a complete set of glyphs, but they’ve definitely cracked down on that now. Many of the fonts are only in English. They also have one free font released a week, so you can build up your collection for free if you check in every week.
- MyFonts – This is my personal favorite professional fonts-only site. They have a full array of professional-grade fonts complete with ligatures, alternatives, ornaments, and languages.
TUTORIALS AND EDUCATION
- Lynda.com – The best online tutorials for intense graphic programs. If you need to learn a program well, this is the place.
- Skillshare – Although the tutorials aren’t as detailed or as complete as Lynda, Skillshare makes their tutorials less formal and more approachable. Basically, it’s Etsy for only design, art, and business video tutorials.
- YouTube – Yes, I know it seems lame to list this but there are honestly thousands of wonderful free tutorials out there.
- Dribbble – Although it’s pretty pretentious and the search filters are basically non-existent, it’s still a great source of inspiration.
- Pinterest – You have to fight with craft projects, but there are really great inspirational boards on here. Every time I see something that I like, I add it to a board so I can reference it later when I’m going through a creative block. You can see how I use my Pinterest account here.
- Wordmark.it – If you don’t have a font management program like Suitcase Fusion, this is a free online resource where you can type any phrase and it will show you that phrase listed in every active font you have on your computer.