Are you a graphic designer
The guide to graphics (even if you're not a graphic designer)
Great graphics are no longer reserved for graphic design professionals. While Photoshop is still the best choice for professional design work, you can now define your own style using a variety of web-based graphic design tools.
In this guide you will not only learn which tools are best suited for the most popular graphic work (such as social media cover photos, infographics or great header images), but you will also learn what makes a picture stand out and what makes it easy to share.
Let's be honest: a picture is worth a thousand words. But your self-made picture?
Compelling images create a connection between you and your audience and help you to build on that relationship. They encourage discussion and content sharing.
In short: convert images.
Do you want evidence?
Keep that in mind, according to a study by Socialbakers, Photos, with an engagement rate of 87%, was by far the most common content shared on Facebook.
According to DemandGen, 39% of B2B buyers admit that they regularly use infographics on social networks.
When Social Media Examiner asked marketers what content they would like to learn more about this year, the top answer was creating graphical content.
You know you need to create stylish, professional-looking designs - butHow you do that?
Fortunately, there is no shortage of companies that can rise to the challenge and provide a wide range of graphic tools at the touch of a button, many of them free or at very low cost.
Best of all, you don't need any graphic design experience to create stunning, shareable images. With many of these tools, you can drag and drop the elements you want and achieve surprisingly good results.
And, when you're done, you can tweak the finished graphic to load faster and look great on any device - no designer required!
Here are some of my personal favorites, along with the types of images you can create with them.
Create your own graphics
Canva – A complete graphic design program integrated into an easy-to-use drag-and-drop platform. It runs in the browser, so you don't have to download a software package or untangle complicated license terms.
Canva lets you create a bunch of graphics with sizes and dimensions already preset. You can create anything from flyers to business cards, social media graphics and infographics. Use your own photos or search the library of over a million stock photos, where you can purchase the rights to use the images for as little as $ 1
Just choose a template as a starting point (or create your own if you dare). Then adjust your colors, symbols and fonts to create your perfect graphic masterpiece.
Choose your graphic type (infographic, social networks, etc.) as a starting point.
In addition to photos, Canva also has a complete database of graphic elements and shapes that provide the perfect background for any image. You just search and design your way to an image that you can be proud of later.
There are a variety of images and styles available - from social media graphics to collages and everything in between.
And if you're looking for pricing information - you won't find any. Canva is free except for the photo license. So you can create as many graphics as you want without any limitations. You can even log in with your Google or Facebook account - this saves you another password.
Helpful graphics programs
Sometimes you just want to optimize the images you already have and don't need a full graphics program. Slow pages can clutter your website and use up your bandwidth.
More importantly, every second your visitors wait for your page to load means a lost conversion or a missed purchase.
Every second that a page is waited for, a potential purchase or conversion is lost.
Fortunately, these tools will help you manage bulky images without a graphic designer. You can even resize or resize a large number of images at once.
Optimizilla- Drag & drop up to 20 images and optimize them on the fly. You can click through the images and use the slider to adjust quality and compare both files:
Optimizilla works with both JPG (photos) and PNG (logos and images with transparent areas) formats, as both of these formats tend to be very large. All images that are uploaded will be deleted after an hour and you can download the optimized versions individually or together.
Optimizilla is perfect if you have a limited number of images that need resizing and you want to adjust their quality.
EWWW Image Optimizer- A WordPress plug-in that lets you optimize graphics on the fly. The end result shows you how much memory you are saving and the percentage of reduction.
EWWW Image Optimizer lets you reduce the file size of your images, which leads to faster loading times for your pages.
It also works with other popular WordPress image plugins, such as the NextGen Image Gallery. If you don't like the way a reduced image looks, you can either re-optimize it with other settings or restore the original.
The plugin works by bundling several different optimization tools in one package. Because each image format uses different ways to save file size, each format has its own special tool to save images without any visible loss of quality.
Even as a trainee graphic designer, you can still get inspiration from unique websites and designs. However, saving these directly from the web browser can be a download nightmare.
You then save a lot of extra scripts, content and other stuff that gradually fills up the hard drive.
Page2Images - A page that takes a screenshot of any website or converts multiple URLs into images.
With its mobile emulator, Page2Images lets you see how a website is displayed on mobile devices:
If you've always wondered how you can get the trendy “My Page on the Smartphone” look - that's how it works. It's also a quick and easy way to see if your site really works on mobile devices.
But, if you are looking for more than what is shown on your computer and mobile phone screen, try this out:
PlaceIt -PlaceIt lets you move your site between different cell phones, monitors, tablets and other devices. Don't have a screenshot? No problem. You can choose an image and enter your url and PlaceIt will take a screenshot of your page.
PlaceIt brings your site to the fore with a selection of images and videos.
Do you want to show a group of people interacting with your app? Done.
Would you like to show your latest smartwatch range? Easy.
From billboards to bus stops, PlaceIt lets you display your site everywhere.
If you need a little more humanity, PlaceIt also has portraits of people of all ages and an assortment of different situations. You can even narrow your search to a specific gender, location, occupation and much more.
And no matter how many graphic design ideas you have, there are times when you need to turn raw data into something visually appealing.
The problem with most chart and list programs is that they have a steep learning curve and are difficult to use.
Fortunately, these programs produce very beautiful designs and include all of the most common types of diagrams:
Data visualization tools
Good data has a greater effect when it is presented in an understandable manner. When people see numbers in a tangible, interactive way, your mission and goals change from abstract concepts to meaningful information.
With these tools you can choose a list type, enter numbers and get an impressive result.
Chart blocks- A full featured tool to create detailed, colorful diagrams. Data can be imported from spreadsheets, databases, or even live feeds, and every aspect can be customized.
Furthermore, the finished graphic can be saved as a vector graphic, which means that width and height can be scaled as required without any loss of quality or detail.
A free basic version is available that lets you create up to 30 diagrams as PNG files with a transparent background. The free version includes up to 5,000 monthly views and your diagrams are publicly visible.
Paid variants include more monthly views and the option to withhold diagrams from the public. In the free basic version and the cheapest paid version, diagrams are provided with a Chartblocks logo.
timeline- Timeline is a simple tool for creating an interactive timeline of events, or pretty much anything. Timeline can pull media from websites like Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps and Wikipedia, as well as from video sites like YouTube, Vine, Dailymotion and Vimeo.
It can also retrieve audio files from Soundcloud, which allows a multimedia presentation that is both interactive and informative.
Here is an example of an interactive timeline from Nelson Mandela's life.
With a Google Spreadsheet, you enter the data in a ready-made table template, including main and secondary events, the date and the associated media. Timeline then builds the finished product for you.
As soon as it is finished, you will receive a URL that you can embed into your website. Complete with a timeline and associated media gallery, in a similar format to the example above.
Despite all of these innovations in creating, manipulating, scaling, and displaying data, sometimes all you want is the ability to create a nice-looking, shareable graphic for social media.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of tools to successfully tackle this.
Social media graphic tools
Whether you want to create great photos for Instagram or timeline and profile pictures for Facebook, there is a suitable tool for you.
Here are a few of my personal favorites:
ReciteThis- ReciteThis allows you to combine your favorite quotes or sayings with a variety of backgrounds. From dusty chalkboards to rainy cities, you can easily create memorable, funny or inspiring phrases with this web-based program.
Social Image Resizer- This web-based tool includes the quick and easy function of taking your existing pictures and adapting them for use in all possible social networks. You can convert images into icons (even browser favicons), as well as Google+, Facebook and Twitter images.
But what if you need more pictures for social networks beyond Twitter, Facebook or Google+?
Social Media Image Maker- A tool that helps you create pictures for a variety of social networks. In addition to Twitter and Facebook (both covers and profile pictures), you can customize pictures for use on YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, Pinterest, Skype and many others.
With these tools, you will never lack professional design options for your page in social networks.
Of course, the question now arises - where can you find graphics?
There are plenty of stock photo websites out there, but for those who are just starting out with graphic design, there are also tons of free images and photos that you can use (even for commercial use).
Where to find pictures
One of the biggest challenges you face when creating your own graphics is finding pre-made images to use as a starting point. Fortunately, these websites make finding images and icons for your projects (even commercial projects) as easy as "Search and Download".
Free For Commercial Use- Free images under Creative Commons for commercial use with correct attribution of the author. Some of these images are in the public domain and do not require attribution.
All images are 300dpi or larger, which makes them perfect for use on the web as well as print media.
Flat icon - Flat Icon consists of over 1,000 “packages” with symbols and other graphic elements. These include all common computer-related symbols (mouse pointers, input cursors, and so on), but they also include symbols for a variety of other things such as people, objects, animals, and more.
Many of these symbols are free, provided that the author is correctly attributed.
The Noun Project - An icon-illustrated source of graphics that represent just about anything. Anyone can volunteer, and artists from all over the world have created miniature works of art, from summer camps to tattoos.
The Noun Project invites people from all over the world to create and share symbols of everyday things.
Just because you have all the tools at hand doesn't necessarily mean you can actually create great graphics (although it certainly helps!). That's because none of them teach you how to actually design.
And while the topic of how to create graphics from scratch is more extensive than this guide can cover, there are certainly some basic principles to keep in mind.
If you follow these graphic design basics, you will quickly find that any graphic, no matter how complicated, can be broken down into individual shapes and lines. Understanding and building on this principle is how you become a great graphic designer.
Graphic design basics: principles and elements
There are six basic principles. This applies whether you are creating a logo for a website or a printed brochure. Graphics of all sizes and styles use one or more of these principles so it will help you understand them and apply them to your designs to achieve the results you want to show.
The line - Lines are the basic building blocks of all graphics. They separate and create demarcation. Thin, straight lines give a professional and business-like impression, while hand-drawn lines create an artistic, child-like flair.
Nowadays, websites tend to divide content into large blocks, dividing lines separate them and guide the visitor to scroll further. Not only does this create a visual separation, it also lets you switch from one thought to the next without losing the visitor in a sea of content.
Form - You may not realize this, but shapes influence your life every day. From the octagonal STOP sign to the first aid cross, shapes influence us and the world around us.
Sharp, angular shapes are perceived as hard and haunting, while gentle curved shapes have a feminine appeal. Keep this in mind when considering the audience for your next design.
Texture - Textures create a wide range of design possibilities and are still very popular on websites today.
From natural patterns like wood and leaves to background images like paper or chalkboards, Texture reveals a lot about the page itself, even before you've read a single word.
If you have any plans to make a certain impression on your visitors' minds, consider the textures available that would work well for this type of design.
Colour - Color is one of the most important, but also one of the most overlooked aspects of graphic design. Color is important, not only in logos and web designs, but also in print.
Color and its numerous shades (see more about color values below) have different meanings for visitors around the world. Depending on the language and cultural background, colors can also convey feelings.
For example, many people associate “green” with doing things that are good for the environment. But when someone goes "green" with envy, it can convey envy.
This is why it's important to balance color with other aspects of your site so that you create a positive association in the minds of your visitors.
Even if you've invested a lot in finding the right color scheme, there are still shading, hue, and lightness and darkness of the color that can influence the perception of the user.
Color values - The color value is the intensity of lightness or darkness. For example, orange can be perceived as a color for warmth, friendliness and trust, but when lightened to peach colors it can create a feminine, cozy mood.
The darkness of a color can make it inaccessible or a premonition. Many business pages follow a “dark blue and gray” color scheme that, while “safe”, can also come across as uninspiring to customers, as if the company were cold and unresponsive.
That's a lot of information now, but the basics of how colors affect your users and how your design is perceived and understood can make a drastic difference in how it harmonizes with your chosen audience.
room - Space is the final graphic design principle, but certainly not the least important. You may have heard of the term “white space” - that is, the space on a page without any graphic elements or color.
Enough space on the side gives each individual element “room to breathe”. Too much clearance, however, can make the page look like the elements have been scattered out of context.
As with all of the other graphic design principles in this guide, you need to carefully balance the use of free space to avoid making your graphic look cluttered or too empty.
Think like a graphic designer
Knowing tools and rationale will get you far, but one of the most important ingredients in great design is creativity. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not innate, but learned and practiced.
And what better way to practice and learn than to be inspired by others?
You may not have heard of graphic designer Paul Rand, but you have most likely seen one of his work:
Mostly self-paced, Rand’s best advice for aspiring graphic designers is, “You don't have to be original. You just have to be good. " Even if you're not familiar with the logo, Paul insists that you will soon be.
One of his most famous poster designs for a company shows his persistence.
IBM poster designed in 1981
In a case study by Chris Maillard for Eye Magazine, IBM's Brand Identity Project Manager (yes, it really is a thing) Randy Golden explains how companies like IBM work hard to stay relevant through their graphic design.
Many of Rand's logos were originally developed in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, a computer filled the entire room and was basically limited to performing a few basic operations.
How did a company like IBM manage to maintain its brand identity over all these decades?
According to Golden,
The hardest part of managing IBM's design is the size, scale, and integrated nature of our business model. Everything is connected with everything and everything is recognizable.
There are some design efforts that I'm proud of, but our latest work on the Smarter Planet concept and how IBM can help develop it is very gratifying, as it goes deeper than business-to-business benefits.
As an example, here is a recent IBM ad highlighting the strength of “Smarter Planet”:
Let me ask you:
When you look at this picture, do you see a man with binoculars or a car on a street - or both?
This is what makes good graphic design. It makes you think smarter.
Here are a few other examples of everyday objects made into things that stop you and make you think.
Both of these examples come from the illustration company Post Typography. You can check out their case study to see even more examples like WAKE UP Album Packaging and the melting U.S. To see the hourglass and get inspired.
The internet is filled with countless examples of brilliant graphic design portfolios that are setting new standards and catching your attention in new ways. Good graphic designers see the extraordinary in the everyday and use that skill to make a statement.
Even if you aren't going to create these types of images with the do-it-yourself web tools I've presented here, you can still get a good feel for principles like lines, spaces, and shapes to create more than these Being able to offer tools - and create something of your own from scratch.
You should keep this in mind in order to achieve this.
How to improve your graphic design skills
Once you fully understand the basics, you'll want to try new things.
Even if your artistic skills end up with drawing a stick figure (maybe even with shaky lines!), You will be sure to be pleased to hear that when it comes to improving your graphic design skills, observing is more important have to be artistically gifted.
The best place to start looking around: check out sites like Dribbble and Behance, find design portfolios you like, and follow these designers so that you get notifications when they add new stuff.
Create your own little "Stibitz-File" with ideas, concepts and pictures that you like. Remember that even the most complicated designs can be broken down into their basic elements - shapes and lines. If you understand the process behind a design, you can set out to recreate it yourself.
If you like what you see, expand your skills a little more and learn more about layers and filters - basic components of professional graphics programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.
Clearly, I am not advocating that you knowingly violate property rights. Everything in this guide is intended to guide you through the learning process to create your own graphics without any prior knowledge.
Don't be afraid to emulate a style she likes. Over time you will refine it and create your own style.
See also the next steps:
Don't be afraid to ask for opinions - It can be difficult to ask for feedback on your work, especially if you're just starting out.
You are scared. Are unsure. Afraid of criticism.
We've all been through this before. Don't be afraid of feedback. But instead of asking, "What do you think?", Ask, "How can I do this better?"
People don't like to be publicly criticized for their work, so asking for opinions is usually linked to receiving praise - but praise is not what you want - you want to get better.
Some comments are well-intentioned, but if you implemented them in your design, the result would be greyish. But that's OK, as a designer you are free to ignore certain or all of the feedback.
But why was the comment made at all. Something missing? Does it communicate the brand and the message well? Is it something that others want to share and show on their social media pages?
Remember, everyone was a beginner at one point or another. Some have more artistic or creative talent than others, but that's something that can be developed over time.
Taking the time to learn great graphic design will help you understand and admire the work that is in there.
As you can see, creating your own graphics doesn't have to be difficult.
A basic understanding of colors, lines, spaces and other principles is just the beginning. The most sought-after graphic designers have spent years perfecting their skills and building on these basic concepts.
The internet has made it easy for us to create beautiful and interactive designs. Fortunately, you no longer have to be artistically gifted.
And if you want to build on something you learned in this guide, there are tons of fantastic resources, portfolios, and tips out there just waiting for you.
Have you tried any of these graphic design tools? Which is your favorite?
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