Category Archives: Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade #12: Visual Inspiration Resources

Tools of the Trade

Searching the depths of the internet for design inspiration is one of my favorite pastimes. And over the last few years, I’ve definitely honed in on a handful of places to mine when I need a quick fix. Today, I’m sharing my top five sources for creative imagery:

1. Designspiration: This site is great because as the name implies, it specifically drills down to just design-related inspiration. While there are occasionally some interiors and lifestyle shots in the mix, for the most part, you’ll find beautifully curated examples of identities, posters, typography and websites. Unlike FFFFOUND!, it’s nudity-free which is especially helpful if you’re researching while at work.

2. FFFFOUND!: A bit more random, FFFFOUND is an oddly enticing brew of design, morbid humor and scantily clad women. It’s definitely NSFW but if you’re burnt out on the same old shiny, perfectly curated Pinterest boards and looking for images that are a bit off the beaten path, you’ll love it here.

3. Dribbble: Brimming with screenshots of projects-in-progress from some of the most talented designers in the industry, Dribbble allows you to peek into the creative processes of icon artists, typographers, illustrators and more. It’s a fantastic resource for discovering new talent while also keeping a pulse on what’s currently happening in the design community.

4. Pinterest: These days, when it comes to pulling together design inspiration, I spend most of my time on Pinterest. I pin all of my favorite design finds here and love the ease of being able to gather it quickly in one place.

Some of my favorite Pinterest design boards to follow are Jeremy Pruitt, Sarah Tolzmann | Note to Self, Kate | Wit & Delight, Star St. Germain, Logan Ledford | Design Twig and Thea | Design Quixotic.

5. Behance: When it comes to showcasing design projects, Behance does it best. Get ready to scroll forever because part of the appeal of this site is that creatives often share not only the final outcome but their processes and even alternate options. This is where a project’s story is really allowed to come to life in a beautifully curated environment. Beyond discovering awe-inspiring work, you’re bound to learn a thing or two about presentation when it comes to sharing yours.

What are your go-to sources for design inspiration? Please let us know in the comments so we can gather and share resources!


Image sources: Bruce Nauman and M/M Paris.

Tools of the Trade #11: My Favorite WordPress Theme Sources

Tools of the Trade

Ever since I began blogging on my own domain in 2007, I’ve used WordPress. Like many of you, I love the variety of plugins and the ease of customization the platform offers.

With WordPress, getting the look you want often begins with finding the right theme to fit your needs. In the very beginning of my blog, my design was built off of a free theme. It wasn’t until 2010 that I had the budget to start from scratch and hired my developer to code the design from the ground up.

After searching through hundreds of themes over the years, I know how hard it can be to find a quality theme that fits your needs, whether it’s free or paid. So today, I’m sharing my favorite theme resources. And if you have any that I haven’t covered here, please share them in the comments!


Paid Themes

Theme Forest: This is the most comprehensive site of paid themes I’ve come across. I have purchased themes from here and the transactions are a piece of cake. If you’re looking for variety, this is your place.

Theme Trust: With a focus on primarily portfolio style themes, these are nice, solid designs at a good value (they offer a buy one, get one free deal so if you can pair up with a friend, you’re all set!) I’ve also purchased themes from here and they’re great at emailing you when there’s updates for a particular theme you’ve purchased.

Creative Market: A one stop shop for creatives, whether your on the lookout for typefaces, brushes or just a little something to spruce up your digital presence, they also have a killer selection of WordPress themes. And, if you have some themes of your own you’re interested in selling, setting up a shop of your own is super simple.

Theme Jug: I just discovered these guys and I’m loving the simplicity and slickness of their designs. These are some of the best portfolio style themes I’ve seen and would be perfect for creatives looking for a fresh way to showcase their work.


Free Themes

WordPress.org: An offering of themes across all styles can be found here and I love that there’s a rating system in place. With close to 2,000 free themes in their directory, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.


Blank Themes

If you’re wanting to build your own WordPress theme from scratch or don’t know CSS but would like to learn, BlankSlate is a great place to start. It features the bare essentials of a WordPress theme with no visual CSS styles added so you have the power to create your own masterpiece from the ground up. Another great option is HTML5 Blank.

What is your favorite resource for WordPress themes? Any must visit spots I missed?


Theme: Galao by Theme Jug.
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Tools of the Trade #10: Spice Up Your Placeholder Text With Meet the Ipsums

Tools of the Trade

I’ve been tackling a number of web design projects lately and truth be told, using the Lipsum Generator to fill up my layouts was getting old. I wanted some personality splashed into my placeholder text!

Thankfully, a friend just introduced me to Meet the Ipsums, which is an aggregator that pulls together all the eccentric ipsums from across the internet in a beautiful, easy to navigate interface. Of course, there’s something for everyone — cupcake ipsum, cat ipsum and cheese ipsum just scratch the surface!

There’s nothing like injecting some fun into the mundane and Meet the Ipsums does just that.

What’s your favorite ipsum of bunch?


Images: Meet the Ipsums.
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Tools of the Trade #9: Liven Up Your Projects with CG Textures

Tools of the Trade

In my first year of design school, my instructor introduced me to the best stash of free textures I’d ever seen. To this day, whether I need a snippet of antique wallpaper, a massive expanse of sand or a page out of a weathered book, my first stop is CG Textures.

With over 100,000 assets and counting, the site is a treasure trove for designers and best of all, most of the smaller sizes can be downloaded for free after you’ve registered. CG Textures has made it possible for me to spend less time searching for hard-to-find textures and more time designing. And I hope it will do the same for you, too.


Ink drop image: CG Textures.
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Tools of the Trade #8: Creating Custom Palettes with the Kuler App

Tools of the Trade

I just found out about the Kuler app after reading about it on Tamera’s blog yesterday and had to share. As an extension of the popular Kuler website by Adobe, it allows you to upload or snap photos on your phone and then automatically pulls together a palette. You can tweak the colors by quickly moving the dots.

Tools of the Trade

If you’re a total color nerd, there are tons of additional menu options to further customize your palette. Once you’ve pulled together the perfect combinations, you can synch the app with your Kuler account and upload it for safe keeping. If you’re feeling extra smug about your creations, you can also share them via email and Twitter.

Oh, and did I mention that the app is free? And that you can also import photos from the web and Flickr? I’m sensing a new addiction.


App: Adobe Kuler.
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Tools of the Trade #7: Creative Market

Tools of the Trade

Creative Market is an online marketplace with tons of goodies designed with creatives in mind. The site is overflowing with beautiful, handmade assets including blog themes (organized by platform), icon sets, brushes, fonts, illustrations and much, much more. At over 7,000 products, the selection is deep and the price points are super reasonable.

I’ve purchased a few items so far and have been really impressed with the quality. Even better, when you make a purchase, you’re supporting the creative community since independent sellers get to keep 70% of the earnings. You can get in on the action, too — if you’re interested in opening up a shop of your own, learn more here.

Another great benefit of keeping up with Creative Market is that they offer new freebies every week!


Photo: Made U Look
Brush set: Mindful Pixels on Creative Market
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Tools of the Trade #6: My Go-To Backup for WordPress

Tools of the Trade

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about the importance of backing up your WordPress site and that was in part because I wasn’t happy with any of the plugins I tried (and boy, did I try a lot). That all changed last month when I gave WordPress Backup to Dropbox a spin.

If you’re new to backing up your WordPress site, your image assets are only the half of it — the other, equally important half is your database. This contains all of your posts, comments and site customizations.

I found plenty of plugins that would back up my database but I wanted the peace of mind of having everything, including my image assets saved in one place and WordPress Backup to Dropbox does just that.

The plugin is free, the install is painless and best of all, it sends the backup straight to your Dropbox account. Every week, a complete copy of my site is automatically delivered to me — It doesn’t get easier than that!


Photo: Made U Look.
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