My Favorite DIY Design Tools + Resources
I know it might sound a little odd for me (a professional and formally trained graphic designer) to encourage my audience to DIY their design work but to be completely truthful, I don’t actually believe that outsourcing your design work is the best choice for every business.
Here are a couple of examples of instances where I wholeheartedly believe that DIY-ing is the way to go:
Your business is brand spankin’ new (or not even started yet)
You need something done ASAP
You actually enjoy design work and want to get better at it
Now, that being said, I understand that a lot of business owners feel the need to hire a professional designer (like yours truly) because they don’t have the skills or training necessary to create a solid design, and that’s totally a valid reason! It’s also exactly why I have poured so much of my time and energy into helping those ambitious DIY-ers by creating resources and trainings specifically for them.
One of the things I teach in the DIY Your Logo Workshop is where to find design assets and what tools to use in order to help you design like a pro, without having to break the bank on fancy software or a design degree. The “Design Tools and Resources” module of the workshop was originally meant to just be a little added bonus, but it’s quickly become one of the most useful parts of the workshop for many of my students so I thought I’d share a little bit with you today!
The following is a list of my most favorite DIY design tools and resources, most of which are free or very inexpensive and super easy for a non-designer to use and navigate. (This post does contain affiliate links)
Adobe Creative Cloud ($50 per month | 30 Day Free Trial | Student Rates Available)
Adobe Creative Cloud is a collection of design apps ranging from image compositing and photo editing to website design, digital painting, 3D, and augmented reality. If you truly want to design like a pro, this is the software you’ll need as it’s the industry standard for creative professionals across the globe. My most-used apps include Photoshop (for photo editing and web graphics), Illustrator (for logo design and vector art) and InDesign (for print and layout design).
Canva (FREE or $12.95 per month for “Canva For Work” version)
Canva is a web-based graphic design program that can be used to create both print and web graphics, and is a great alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud. In my opinion, Canva is quite a bit more limited in design capability than Adobe CC, but what it lacks in bells and whistles it more than makes up for in affordability and ease-of-use. The free version includes access to a huge library of templates and design assets, and if you upgrade to the Canva For Work version you’ll get even more special features like brand kits, file sharing, magic-resize, and more!
Shutterstock (Prices vary depending on plan, but range from $0.50 to $15 per image)
Shutterstock is one of the industry leaders in stock photography and video footage. If there’s a particular type of image you’re looking for, I can all but guarantee you’ll find it on Shutterstock. In addition to their high-quality imagery, Shutterstock also boasts an in-app photo editor and subscription plans to meet nearly any budget and business size.
Adobe Stock (10 Images per month for $29.99 | 30 Day Free Trial)
Adobe launched their stock photography service in 2015 and they’ve quickly become one of the frontrunners for stock photography in the creative industry. Not only does Adobe Stock work seamlessly with your other Adobe Creative Cloud apps, but they also offer design template, vector artwork, illustrations, music, video footage, and more - all curated by Adobes world class creative professionals around the globe.
Unsplash is my favorite go-to for completely free, no-strings-attached stock photography. Unsplash offers over 850,000 free (do-whatever-you-want) high-resolution photos brought to you by the world’s most generous community of over 100,000 uber-talented photographers. The photos on Unsplash are free, but in the interest of supporting our wonderful creative community, I highly encourage you to give credit to the photographer whenever possible.
Pexels is a free stock photography service similar to Unsplash. They have hundreds of thousands free stock photos with new high-resolution photos being added daily. All photos are hand-picked from photos uploaded by Pexels users or sourced from free image websites. Pexels makes sure all published pictures are high-quality and licensed under the Pexels license.
Design Assets (brushes, vector artwork, textures, etc.)
Creative Market (Prices Vary)
Creative Market is an online marketplace for community-sourced design assets. On Creative Market you can find over 250,000 different graphics, WordPress themes, stock photos, fonts, and other digital goodies to use in your next design project. Plus you’ll get bonus points for buying from an independent artist on the other side of the screen!
Vectorstock ($1 per credit, each image costs about 1-3 credits)
Vectorstock is one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries of stock vector artwork I’ve been able to find in my design career so far. They boast over 12 million different vector graphics to choose from, with both free and paid options available. Whether you’re looking for a logo template, illustration, or texture you’ll certainly find it on Vectorstock. *Note that vector artowork must be edited using a vector based graphics software like Adobe Illustrator
Vecteezy is similar to Vectorstock, but has a sightly more limited library which it makes up for by being completely F-R-E-E! Be sure to carefully read any licensing instructions when using free vector artwork, and keep in mind that to edit it, you’ll need a vector based graphics software like Adobe Illustrator.
Shutterstock (Prices vary depending on plan, but range from $0.50 to $15 per asset)
As I mentioned previously, Shutterstock has held it’s position as one of the industry leaders in stock photography for a long time. Recently though, they’ve expanded their library to include a pretty wide variety of vector artwork which is great news for it’s users! In addition to their high-quality imagery and newly expanded vector image library, Shutterstock also boasts an in-app photo editor and subscription plans to meet nearly any budget and business size.
Inspiration & Brainstorming
This one’s pretty self explanatory. Not only is Pinterest amazing for all things home decor, style inspo, recipes, organization hacks, and more BUT it’s also a great tool for design brainstorming, research, and inspiration! Searching things like “health coach logo”, “green and blue color palette”, “outdoor branding”, etc. will turn up a TON of ideas to spark your creativity - the more specific you get with your search, the better!
Behance is a portfolio and project sharing site owned by Adobe. Both professional and amateur creative people around the world join Behance and build profiles comprised of Projects. A Project is a grouping of images, videos, and other digital content with a particular theme or process. You can browse projects by category, or search using keywords, and if you want to get really “in-the-weeds” you can even create your own profile and start following other artists who inspire you!
Dribbble is an online community for showcasing user-made artwork. It functions as a self-promotion and networking platform for graphic design, web design, illustration, photography, and other creative areas. It works pretty similarly to Behance and is another great place to look for design inspiration.
Adobe Color (FREE)
Adobe Color allows you to choose from several different color rules, and then lets you choose one color you like while suggesting complimentary colors that match your chosen rule. This is great if you know one color you’d like to use, but aren’t sure what accent colors to pair with it.
Paletton works almost exactly like Adobe Color, allowing you to choose from multiple color rules, and then and then generating colors that follow that rule based on one color of your choice.
Coolers is a color palette generator that allows you to see how colors look together. You can either have the generator randomly create a color palette for you, or you can select a few colors you know you like, “lock” them in your color palette, and then randomly generate additional colors until you find something you like.
Adobe Typekit (FREE with Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription)
Adobe Typekit is my #1 go-to when I’m looking for a font to use in my design projects. Typekit an online service which offers a subscription library of high-quality fonts. The fonts may be used directly on websites or synced via Adobe Creative Cloud to applications on your computers. You can see how your specific copy would look in any of their fonts before activating or downloading them, and can even sort fonts by style, thickness, foundry, and weather it’s best suited for headline or body copy.
Google Fonts (FREE)
Google fonts is a free library of 900+ fonts that you can use online or download to your computer. The open source fonts in the Google Fonts catalog are published under libre licenses that allow you to use them on any website, whether it’s commercial or personal. This makes it a great option if you’re not looking to spend money purchasing fonts, and also don’t want a subscription service like Adobe Typekit.
Creative Market (Prices vary depending on asset, most fonts fall into the $15-$50 price range)
Creative Market, as I mentioned previously, is an online marketplace for community-sourced design assets. On Creative Market you can find over 250,000 different graphics, WordPress themes, stock photos, fonts, and other digital goodies to use in your next design project. Plus you’ll get bonus points for buying from an independent artist on the other side of the screen!
FontSpring (Paid and FREE Options Available)
FontSpring is a great resource that is frequently used by many professional designers I know. All of their licenses are commercial, and none of our licenses are sold by subscription, which takes a lot of the headache out of dealing with paid font licenses. FontSpring is one of the most straight-forward and user friendly paid font sites I’ve used, and I would highly recommend it!
Have you ever seen a font you loved, but didn’t know what it was called or where to find it? What The Font is your answer. WhatTheFont uses deep learning to search their collection of over 133,000 font styles and find the best match for the fonts in your photo. It even works with connected scripts and when there's more than one font in an image. I can’t tell you how many hours of searching this handy tool has saved me!
LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com ($29.99 per month | FREE with LinkedIn Premium Subscription | 30 Day Free Trial)
Lynda.com was my first love when it comes to online design (and business) education. Lynda.com, now called LinkedIn Learning is an American massive open online course website offering video courses taught by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills. My personal favorite courses include anything by Von Glitschka as well as their yearly Logo Trend Reports, and Before & After: Graphic Design Best Practices with John McWade.
Skillshare ($99 per year or $15 per month | 30 Day Free Trial)
Skillshare is very similar to Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning. It’s is an online learning community for people who want to learn from educational videos. The majority of courses focus on interaction rather than lecturing, with the primary goal of learning by completing a project. I don’t use Skillshare nearly as much as I’ve used Lynda.com, but the tutorials and courses I have seen on there have been awesome!
Canva Design School (FREE)
As I mentioned previously, Canva is a free web-based graphic design program that can be used to create both print and web graphics, and is a great alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud. In addition to being an awesome tool for design, Canva also offers a collection of video and interactive tutorials ranging from topics like “how to animate your design” to “how to build a brand”