Category Archives: Tools of the Trade

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.
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here
.

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.
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here
.

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
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here

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.
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here.

Tools of the Trade #5: My 4 Favorite Photo Editing Apps

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

When it comes to posting photos from my iPhone, nothing ever makes its way onto Instagram these days without a run through some of my favorite apps. My four go-to’s at the moment are:

• Afterlight: Hands-down, the app I consistently use for every single photo I edit on my phone is Afterlight. Each option has a slider bar so you can decrease an effect with ease. The sheer amount of creative effects, from beautiful filters to tons of light leaks and a number of simple frames make this indispensable. Frames consisting of letters, numbers and shapes add a unique touch and even better, you can add on a pack of Polaroid frames for 99 cents.

• VSCO CAM: All of my pro photographer friends religiously use this app and absolutely swear by it and I’m finally giving it a spin. The effects are simple, subtle and proof that when editing, less is often more.

• A Beautiful Mess: This app is more decorative but perfect for adding a fun flourish or two. I especially love the collection of words handwritten by Elsie — “travel” above is an example. The ability to change the doodles to a number of fun, saturated colors makes this even better and there’s a ton of add-on packs available.

• House Industries Photolettering App: I just downloaded this app but already love it so much — it’s the perfect addition for type aficionados. Even though packs of some of the fancier fonts are 99 cents a piece, the uniqueness of the offerings make them totally worth it. I used Quaint to add the white and yellow “Y” above.


What photo editing apps do you swear by? Is there anything else out there I should give a try?

* All photos from nubbytwiglet on Instagram.

Tools of the Trade #4: The Noun Project

Tools of the Trade

Up until The Noun Project came along, finding high quality icons more often than not felt like searching for a needle in a haystack. I know that when I was on the hunt, I’d inevitably find myself on spam-filled sites or in a jumble of low quality stock images.

The Noun Project is an open-source project dedicated to building a global visual language we can all understand regardless of cultural and language barriers. The site welcomes icon contributions from around the world and a large portion of them are available for use under the Creative Commons license.

Search for those random icons that pop into your head. The library is massive and chances are, they have it. Need an alarm clock? A flower? A croissant? How about sunglasses? Yep, they’re covered.

Tools of the Trade


Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here.
Top Photo: Made U Look

Tools of the Trade #3: Subtle Patterns

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade


I’m keeping this short and sweet today: Subtle Patterns is an amazing resource. When I’m designing a website and a solid colored background just won’t do, I head over to their site for something special. I love the sheer variety of simple, tasteful patterns.

The best part is that you can scroll to the footer and in the right corner, there’s a download for a Photoshop .pat file, which is a collection of all the patterns featured on the site, completely free!


If you’re new to using .pat files in Photoshop, here’s how to load and access them (keep in mind that this is one of many ways and there are TONS of tutorials out there):

a. In your Layers palette, click the effects button on the very bottom (second from right) and scroll down to Pattern Overlay.

b. When that dialogue pops up, you’ll see a large square swatch of the default pattern. Click the arrow to the right of that and your full palette of swatches will pop up.

c. Click the arrow on that palette and scroll down to Load Swatches.

That’s it! Have fun with all the awesome patterns!


Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here.