Designer Toolbox - Tools I Use to Create (UPDATED)

February 23, 2015

With an internship and a major centered around design, it's no wonder why I feel like I'm constantly designing. I wrote the first version of the post awhile ago, but I thought it was high time for an update. As time has passed I've equipped my toolbox with a ton of new resources (yay) and thought I'd share them with you. I know I love finding new resources, so hopefully you will too.

I tried to include only resources I've tried personally or have heard really great things about from trusted sources. I also tried to include mostly free resources and mention any student discounts/benefits. Design CAN be affordable if you're resourceful!

So, without further ado, here's what's in my 'designer toolbox.'

Adobe Creative Cloud - I pay monthly to have every program I need at my finger tips! All the programs are the most up-to-date versions and are continuously updated as needed. Also, the student pricing makes life easier for those people like me who are on a budget.

Blank Notebook - Sketching out ideas is always a great place to sort out what's working and not working. Plus, it's a great place to cull the craziest of ideas that may not seem possible on the computer.

Behance - A perfect place to showcase your work and discover amazing artists/photographers/creators and their work. It's also a great place to find the occasional freebie (I've found some awesome font freebies here!)
Dribbble - Looking at other people's work is always great inspiration! Looking to fellow artists and past artists in history is also a great way to wrap your mind around new ideas and ways to execute them.

Pinterest - these boards are my go-to's for some quick inspo (one|two|three|four)
The Die Line - Another great resource for seeing other people's awesome work.

Design Inspiration - Exactly what the name entails!

Free Fonts
Lost Type
Fonts of Chaos
Free Typography

Fontshop - not free, but still a great compilation of fonts.

Stock Photos
Unsplash - 10 new high quality stock photos uploaded every 10 days. Totally free. Random assortment, but always something useful.

Death to Stock Photography - Sign up for a free monthly pack of high quality stock images. There's also a premium option if you'd like an extra pack per month. Also, you get a free pack just for signing up!
Little Visuals - 7 new high quality stock photos uploaded every 7 days. Totally free. Has a very similar vibe to Unsplash. Usually all of the new images revolve around the same theme (ex: landscape). 
Flickr Creative Commons - Utilize a whole library of images/textures/etc for personal use and with attribution

Subtle Patterns - I used this when constructing my current blog design. Has tons of seamless and subtle pattern options.
The Noun Project - grab vector icons of almost anything you can imagine. Use most icons for free with attribution. If you choose a paid account, you don't have to attribute. I use this one tons!
Free Vector Maps - an unexpected, but surprisingly useful resource.

Other Resources
Creative Market - great place to gather tons of web goods. There's everything from fonts to textures to icons to whatever else you can think of!

Pixden - linking you to free stuff (tons of mockups and other graphic resources)
Graphic Burger - again, linking you to the freebies (mockups, icons, photos, etc).
Designer Toolbox - great for finding out standard sizes for things like business cards and envelopes. It even has a Lorem Ipsum generator.
Mood Boards - These from Betty Red Designs are wonderful!

Mockups - affordable, professional looking, and awesome for a cohesive looking project presentation for your portfolio.
Guide Guide - Photoshop extension that helps easily create grids. - Create instagram galleries for mockups or to add to your blog/site.
ColourLovers - Compile/create awesome and cohesive color palettes for all you needs
Color CC - The perfect online color wheel 

Website Building
Virb - Intuitive to use, nice themes, highly customizable, and free to student for an entire year with a valid .edu email address ($10 a month normally)! Perfect for soon to be grads looking create the perfect portfolio site and land that job!
Squarespace - Intuitive building platform with a bevy of gorgeous themes make this a great option for just about anyone to build a professional looking website.
Wordpress - Timeless and highly customizable. So many of my favorite websites, blogs, and portfolio sites are built on Wordpress. 

Productivity/Time Keeping

Teux Deux
Tomato Timer

Learn Something
A Beautiful Mess E-Courses

Do you have any specific websites/tools/apps you use to do your best work (no matter what your field of interest)? Please share!

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  1. MaffJones2/23/2015

    Great list of design resources! I am a massive fan of Creative Market, and I love how they offer a new selection of freebies every week! Some of the things you have listed I have never heard of so I will be sure to take a look!


  2. Thanks for sharing a great list of resources! I use some of theses already but there are a few in there I have not tried but will have to check email out. :)


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