Say it out loud, I am cheap and I am proud, and busy too. Like Tina Turner, I like it nice and easy. As content creators, remaining consistent is how we stay relevant. Which means being able to push out several pieces of content for myself and my clients on a regular basis.
I am not about to spend more time on any one than I absolutely have to. Unlike people who are graphic designers for a living, my foray into design is strictly to make my content more appealing. In that respect I really don’t need to know the ins and out of design.
But as technical free as I like my workflow to be, that’s not the end result I am going for. I still want to be able to produce high quality graphics and content. In order to do that I pray, to the Gods of Google.
I am a strong believer that all good design start with the Google (yes, I said the Google, reverence). Whether for research, inspiration, resources or that much needed tutorial. To date the Google Gods have not failed me. Over time I have built up quite a repertoire of mostly free (like 99.99%) resources, I use to make my work look and feel professional.
There is no shame in this game game honey, so before you judge me check out this well curated list and get your life.
One of the biggest lessons I learnt building my own website is that page speed is everything. In the technological age a slow computer or a slow loading website is the bane of existence. And, because most people view web pages from their mobile devices, you can’t afford to have huge image files slowing down your site.
I still wanted high quality graphics and images on my site though. The problem with that is, high quality graphics and images take forever to load. After trying several work-arounds and not being satisfied, I had to call in reinforcement. Luckily, my good friend Lee is a dope web developer and he suggested that I (a) don’t hang myself (I threatened) and (b) use squoosh to compress images.
What does it do?
Squoosh is an open-source online image compression app ran by the Google Chrome Labs team on GitHub. The in browser tool allows you to compress large files into smaller more web friendly images without loss of quality. The app has advanced features for the more technical among us (not me). However, it is still very easy to use and allows you to preview your image before download.
- Easy to Use
- Advanced features
- jpeg, png & web file options
- There is very little wrong with this app, except it may be a little technical for people with absolutely zero knowledge of image files. That was me when I just started but then I found this guide which really helped so check it out.
If you’re just wanting to resize an image for personal use and looking for a no brainer online tool, try resizeimage.net.
I came across this handy app when doing research for the NCB Mobile Banking App review I did a couple blogs back. I knew it was going to be a long read so I wanted to pack as much graphics in their as possible to make it a friendlier.
I also wanted to do a mobile phone mockup to show my readers how the app actually worked. The problem was, (a) I didn’t know how to do it (b) I was for damn sure not going to use photoshop and (c) I wanted it ready made. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this problem, except this fairy god app maker did something about it.
What does it do?
“Mock is an app that lets you easily add device frames to your screen recordings to generate beautiful video mockups.” – Lee Martin, Mock App Developer
At the time I found Mock it was in beta, it has since gotten several snazzy upgrades and now has a pro version. It is dead easy to use, it’s like three steps. Just upload your video, pick the phone frame and background color you want and boom, done.
- iPhone mobile & Macbook frames as well as Android phone frames.
- You can change frame colours ( the default black, space grey, silver and gold)
- You can change video background to any Hexadecimal (i.e hex) color you like.
- Mockups can be directly exported to social media, (including Dribbble) or emailed.
- The pro version allows you to change video resolution.
- The pro version has more goodies (as usual)
- The resolution in the free version isn’t so great
- It hangs sometimes when uploading video, though less than it did in beta.
If like me you like freeness but still want all the niceness, try mockupphone.com. It has a lot more frame options for all types of devices.
3. Luna Pic
Here’s a quick tip, if like me you use stock images in your projects, changing the background and filter will give it a whole new look. Unfortunately, removing backgrounds from images isn’t as easy thing to do without software like Photoshop, which I absolutely hate.
Is it just me or is the Adobe Suite unnecessarily cumbersome and difficult to learn? If you don’t have the time, patience for that but still want to juj up your images Lunapic is definitely an option.
What does it do?
Lunapic is photo editing for dummies. No joke, it is a no mess no fuss, simple, easy to use drag and drop tool that really packs a punch. The website may look basic and old fashioned as hell but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in function.
- Easy to navigate interface
- One click image background transparency
- Basic editing functions (crop, scale, rotate)
- More advanced photo editing like adjusting image colours, blur image blemish and red eye remover (and a ton more)
- Sometimes image transparency doesn’t work with busy backgrounds
Sometimes I want something with a little more editing power for busy images so I turn to my old faithful, PowerPoint. This is my go to app for graphic and video design. In fact most of my work is done either in PowerPoint or Canva.
Podcasts aren’t yet a big thing in Jamaica, but we are getting there thanks to pioneers like Heneka Watkis-Porter, who is out here evangelizing and teaching Jamaicans how to voice their passions. Not being a popular medium makes it difficult to build a community around your brand which is all the more reasons why marketing is so important.
Headliner is one of my go to tools when it comes to promoting my podcast. It gives me a fresh new way to introduce to and share these conversations with my social media audience. I can testify to the fact that doing show teasers have definitely boosted listenership.
What does it do?
Headliner is an audiogram app that turns your audio clips into wave form that you can add text and graphics to for your digital platforms.
“Turn your Audio into Video. Headliner is the simplest way to create shareable video clips from your podcast, radio show, or audio book.” – Headliner
- Best way to create teasers for your projects
- You can turn your podcast, audio and article into video you can upload to other platforms like YouTube
- Unlimited audio length
- The pro version gives you plenty of options to customize your videos
- This app clearly wasn’t made with our accent in mind so transcriptions may not be exact
- The app works best on larger screens, so you may encounter problems adding text styles
A nifty alternative to Headliner is another audiogram app, getaudiogram.com. One major downside to this app is that you can only make 2 min clips. However, it is still a pretty cool app and it has more template options.
Sometimes I just don’t want to use a stock image or a flatlay in my projects, they get old after a minute. When I am feeling extra creative or want my work to stand out I use illustrations.
Besides, isometric illustrations are the hottest ‘new’ graphic design trend. So if like me you’re into UI/UX design and prototyping or you use Adobe XD for your mockups then unDdraw is a great app for you.
What does it do?
unDraw is a collection of open source svg illustrations that you can use completely free and without attribution.
- The illustrations are completely free (I had to say that again)
- Images are well designed and high quality
- You can edit the color of the images in app
- Images can be downloaded as png or svg files
- None that I can think of
Another great source for high quality illustrations is drawkit.com. This is not so much an alternative but an additional resource. FYI if you’re looking for custom illustrations for your project and you want to support local talent for the culture, start here.
This one is dedicated to my semi-purists who want to create their designs kinda from scratch. This website is the most amazingly generous online resource out there for designers periodt! This beautiful human Pablo Stanley decided for whatever reason to gift us with this ABSOLUTELY FREE vector library. I must say it is absolutely fantastic.
What does it do?
Humaans is a free downloadable library where you can mix-&-match illustrations of people. It is ideally made to be used with powerful software like InVision and Sketch.
- Highly, highly customizable vector library.
- You can change or add scenes and change positions, clothing, colors, and hairstyles.
- It’s free and awesome
- Definitely not for beginners or for people like myself with an aversion to complicated software.
- You can’t use the library online so if you don’t have InVision, Sketch or Photoshop, you’re out of luck. Or are you?
By now you should’ve picked up that I really don’t like bulky software, mostly because I don’t know how to use them and am in no hurry to learn. That means I have to find work-arounds and here it is. This is a free GitHub hosted humaaans online tool created by this other kick ass human being Ozgur Ozer. You can use the tool to design your character and download your finished look as jpg or png files.
I include icons in my designs where I can because they are, global and space effective. But, choosing the right icon for your project can be a headache.
If like me you rely on free icons, finding matching sets can be a chore. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have found this resource.
What does it do?
Icons8 is a free-ish design resource where you can find over 90,000 free icons as well as vectors, photos and music for your graphic design projects.
The app is used by big tech companies like Apple and design giants like Adobe so you know the standard is high. And, even though it is not completely free, and you do have to attribute, the free stuff does not scrimp on quality.
- Well designed, high quality icons & vectors
- Highly customizable
- There are some really cool free animated icons for commercial use
- There’s a lighweight desktop app
- Not all the icons are free. To be honest though, I can appreciate the level of work that goes into this project so I am not even going to compain about it.
For a completely free tool you can use to find over 300,000 quality vectors and icons, try svgrepo.com.
Here’s another quick tip, I use to use PowerPoint 365 to convert my svg images (that won’t open without third party software on Windows). Now that I no longer have 365 of course I had to find an alternative, this website helps.
A solid high resolution colour background can do more for your design than images. If you’re not a purist like myself, and frankly don’t feel the need to create backgrounds for yourself. Then, I know just the right place you can go to get really high quality backgrounds for your content, graphic and even web designs.
What does it do?
This simple and to the point website does exactly what it says on the box. It’s the place to go for free downloadable colour backgrounds you can use in personal or commercial projects.
- A variety of resolutions for any project
- A sh** ton of colors to choose from, with the hex codes (nice touch)
- Website quality backgrounds
- Extremely easy to use, literally does not require a lot of brain cells or energy
- Not a one
For even more free backgrounds and for a variety of different textures and for abstract backgrounds you can try xmple.com.
9. Design Seeds
I may use muted tones in my brand but truly I love colour. However, one of the biggest things I had to learn about graphic design is how to use colour. I did not know that colour theory was an actual thing but after some real disasters I have edumacated myself.
Of course my edumacation came by way of Google and Pinterest in whom I am well pleased. Researching colour combos online I stumbled across palettes from this blog and was isntantly hooked.
What does it do?
This blogger and colour specialist Jessica Colaluca uses colours found in nature to curate palettes, says she was:
“Fascinated by the emerging online creative community and voice social media offered independent designers.”
Now she creates palettes “inspired by images submitted via Instagram”.
- I love a good website design and this is pretty but functional
- The palettes are broken down into different colours and each is given an hex code
- You can search by colour
- Thousands of beautiful and unusual palettes to draw inspiration from
- You can submit photos to Jessica who may just turn it into a cool palette
- Sometimes the hex code doesn’t come out exactly as it looks on the blog.
Here’s another free resource for you where you cna mix and match colours yourself, coolors.co. It’s a free color scheme generator and the best bit is you can download the palette or upload directly into Adobe Creative Suite apps.
10. Font Joy
Another major learning curve in graphic design is typography. A design isn’t complete without great text and when it comes to design, fonts are everything. Whether it’s for your logo, stationery, poster, or website the right font will polish the look of your work, bringing it together. The wrong font will kill a whole mood quickly, it’s like a wet blanket on your design.
Font pairing though is an artform in and of itself and takes practice. But, take heart even the best designers get it wrong at times. Which is why I went searching for a tool that’ll help me figure it out.
What does it do?
Font joy is simply, snazzy looking font generator that takes the hassle out of font pairing.
“Pairing fonts that are very similar, but just slightly different creates visual conflict. This is actually a core tenet of design – contrast is important not only in font selection but color and position as well.”- Font Joy
- This website actually teaches users the science of typography in design
- The github page really breaks it all down
- Literally endless iterations of font pairings
- Makes finding fonts much easier
- Font pairing can get real technical and this website goes there … all the way there.
- Not for newbs unless you’re really interested in learning typography
A less serious resource is typ.io, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but still is very useful.