a digital footprint

17 Solid Graphic Design Resources

Category : Resources · by Feb 10th, 2012

So, in the interest of posting some content, I wanted to take the chance to share some of the resources that I’ve found incredibly helpful over the past several years in my design work. A simple google search for a phrase such as “photoshop brushes” or “desktop wallpapers” will yield thousands of results. Among these you can find hundreds of design and graphics-related sites available to designers, if you’re willing to cull through pages of results. For the purposes of this post, I’m trying to focus on those resources that I have used the most over the years and found to be consistently reliable, packed with solid content, and refreshingly inspiring.

One-Stop Shops and Inspiration

Smashing Magazine contains a veritable wealth of design resources. This independent and tech-heavy blog offers advice, materials, and best practices in coding, design, graphics, and WordPress. It also has quite a robust community section which facilitates wonderful exchanges of ideas and design philosophies. To top it off, it sports a full-fledged job board complete with both freelance and full-time positions across the country. The blog’s wonderfully simple layout and newly designed interface, paired with its endless content, make it a resource you can easily lose an entire afternoon exploring (much like the black hole that is Lifehacker, except for the web design community). If you’re a designer and don’t know of this site, you have my pity. Please check it out and bask in its wonder.

Abduzeedo sports a narrower, though no less helpful, focus of resources. It has a robust tutorial section, mostly focused on Photoshop and Illustrator walkthroughs. These are great because they frequently come with a downloadable version (such as a PSD file) so you can see the breakdown of the layers and effects. Other sections include Inspiration (which features the design and photographic work of a variety of artists), Wallpapers (from the design community), and a job board.

Logopond is a collection of logos focusing on identity inspiration. With wildly diverse and beautifully simple content, it offers pages and pages of stimulating branding ideas. Users can upload their own work to be viewed, shared, commented on, and critiqued by the community. Below are a few that I find particularly inspiring and entertaining.

Caveman Entertainment by brandclay

Grooveshark by helvetic brands

Horror Films by Siah-Design

Shocked by Fogra

Wiesinger Music by NEXQUNYX

gonorth by crislabno

Sport War and Heavy Movie by shtef sokolovich

(and my personal favorite) Killed Productions by Sean Seisler

Images, Tutorials, and Freebies:

Wallbase is a massive depository with a myriad of beautiful and distinctive wallpapers. What sets Wallbase apart from other wallpaper sites (apart from perhaps the nature of some of its content) is its powerful searching and filtering functionality. You can sort by popularity, resolution, and even purity (Safe, Sketchy, NSFW). The pages just keep on scrolling and there’s something for everyone. Most likely more than one something. And if you’re into having female nudity on your desktop, you’ll find far too many somethings.

Interfacelift is another wallpaper site, which focuses more on breathtaking photography and graphics manipulation. The content is beyond beautiful. Gorgeous landscapes, incredible macro shots, and stunning colors cover the pages of Interfacelift. Though it does have search capabilities, they are rather limited in scope. It is a smaller collection than Wallbase (and with much more narrow content parameters), but it still features some of the most visually pleasing images your desktop could ask for.

Stock.xchng is advertised as the leading free stock photo site in the world. While I can neither confirm or deny this claim, I can say that it doesn’t fail to deliver quality content. You do have to sign up in order to make the most of this resource.

Psdtuts+ does one thing, and it does it extremely well. Photoshop tutorials. There are many many tutorial sites available out there, but Psdtuts+ reigns supreme. These are how I self-taught myself the ins and outs of Photoshop in high school. It features categorized tutorial walkthroughs, videos, and general tips. If you love it enough, consider shelling out $20/month for tons of extra content (more tutorials plus lots of source files). Even if you don’t decide it’s worth your money, there are still dozens of great tutorials available in the free section of the site.

Vectortuts+ is just like Psdtuts+, except for Illustrator. Enough said.

Brusheezy is a sweet spot to find Photoshop brushes of all kinds. It also features an array of textures and patterns free to download and use in whatever way seems best to you.

Smashing Magazine (here and here) and Abduzeedo (here) get an encore shout-out in this section as well, since their content includes tutorials of various natures as well as scrumptious amounts of freebies (brushes, texture packs, etc.).

If you’re looking for a tutorial for how to accomplish something very specific, I would advise taking the the shotgun Google-search approach and see what you can find.

Font and Type Resources:

Dafont is perhaps the most well-known places to find gobs of free fonts. However, there is a reason it is so popular. It isn’t the most professional site as far as content goes, but it does feature typfaces across a vast array of categories and sub-topics. A word of caution: the sheer size and scope of the resource (more than 14,000 fonts!) means that finding high-caliber fonts here may take some digging. There is definitely quality content to be had, but there are also a lot of silly and downright poor fonts as well. But all fonts have their place. However, for some of these, that place is definitely not in professional design work. Use your best artistic discretion and choose wisely.

The League of Moveable Type is starkly different from the atmosphere of Dafont. It is sophisticated. It is polished. It is elegant. It preaches a message of hope for free and beautiful type (check out their manifesto). Unlike many typefaces found at Dafont, every font you find here is of the highest quality. Though the catalog is small, the mission is admirable.

Font Squirrel packs serious content, despite its playful and unassuming name and logo. All the fonts are free for commercial use and can be sorted by format and by style. The typefaces offered here are solid and consistently beautiful.

I Love Typography sets itself apart from the other typographical resources above because it doesn’t host much free content itself. The majority of what is to be found here inspiration and education with regards to the ins and outs of typography. It does provide links to download some of the fonts it references, but the only freebees on the site itself are a handful of typographically-themed wallpapers. Spend some time and expand your knowledge of and appreciation for beautiful typography.

Most design blogs (including some of the ones listed in this post in some of the other categories) regularly feature new and inspiring typefaces. Do some poking around and you can find many collections of quality fonts.

In a Category All Their Own (Miscellaneous):

Kuler is a site by Adobe that focuses on color. It’s elegant and refined, yet functional and beautiful. Browse dozens of pre-made color schemes from the community or roll up your sleeves and create your own from scratch. Kuler provides a variety of color tools that can help you find the right combination of colors. You can also use an image as your starting point if you’re looking to match a certain look. All themes are editable, so you can always find you one you like and tweak it to meet your needs.

Creative Repository – 30 Handy Blank Templates for Designers is just a post with a very handy collection of templates for Photoshop and Illustrator projects. They’re a super-helpful starting point for branding and marketing projects.

The Photoshop Etiquette Manifesto for Web Designers is pretty self-explanatory. This is one that I only recently discovered. However, I’m quickly realizing that it is pure gold with regards to organization and efficiency while working in Photoshop. All the components are gathered on one page and grouped by category with easy links to each section. The efficiency, cleanliness, and simplicity of the site itself echoes perfectly the practices it is preaching. I would strongly advocate taking some time to review these principles in the interest of keeping design neat, organized, and functional.

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum isn’t so much essential or useful as it is simply entertaining. Tired of regular boring latin dummy text? Give GLI a try. It still brings a smile to my face when I use it, and sometimes it’s little things like this that help to break up the monotony of the design process.

You can find some other compilations of design resources and inspiration over at Studio 7 DesignsJust Creative DesignsMashable, and Think Design.

Got any sweet design resources that you use? Share it in the comments and spread the joy.


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