Graphic Design Tools for Everybody

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We’d like to tell you how to do our jobs.

Graphic design is getting more and more accessible every day, and whether we like it or not, end consumers are being equipped with enough tools to do design like the pros. While the designer’s studio is filled with pricey stuff like Photoshop, and working with old-school printing presses can be a little overwhelming, there are many new tools that make it straightforward and simple to design great products on your own.

If you agree with us that graphic design is lots of fun, then you’ll probably enjoy the tools we’re about to talk about. On top of that, if you’re interested in a career in graphic design, these are some fairly inexpensive ways to get your requisite visual mistakes and graphical blunders out of the way early. Below are five of the best resources that let you design-it-yourself. In this post, we’ll help you answer these questions:

  • How do I make a book?
  • How do I edit photos?
  • How can I make greeting cards and business cards?
  • How I can design my own t-shirt?
  • How do I make my own website?

Blurb: for making books

Blurb is tool that helps you make books. These aren’t just stapled-together pamphlets you print off at work: these are hold-it-in-your-hands, put-it-on-your-coffee table, show-it-to-your-friends, too-legit-to-quit, honest-to-goodness books. First, you download free software called BookSmart: the user-friendly interface lets you choose well-configured layouts to suit your photos and text. Then, with a mere clickity-clack of your mouse, you can create a hard or softcover masterpiece and get it shipped to your door within a week or two. Better yet, if you’d like your friends to buy it, or maybe make some money by selling it to strangers, you can list it publicly in the Blurb Bookstore.

The Gimp, for editing photos

Like Kleenex or Band-Aid, the word “Photoshop” is often used as a genericized trademark. It’s now a verb, an act, and is invoked anytime photo editing in general is being discussed. However, unlike Kleenex, Photoshop can’t be picked up at your local grocery store, and it costs about a billion dollars (or maybe just $800, but close enough). Anybody with a hankering for image manipulation should therefore be thrilled to know that the somebody has taken the time to create a free, open-source version of the program: it’s called The Gimp.

Don’t let the mildly-offensive moniker throw you off: The Gimp is an able-bodied unit that keeps pace with the professionals. It lets you accomplish virtually all of the same tasks as Photoshop, with an easy-to-learn interface and a great deal of options. If you’re interested in diving into the photo editing side of graphic design but can’t spare the cash for the Adobe suite, this is a great place to start.

Moo, for making cards

One of the most satisfying parts of the print designer’s career is getting your freshly-packed box of finished materials back from the printer’s, and holding your well-designed work in your hands. However, if you’d like to skip over the stressful brainstorming sessions, proofing stages and client interactions that have led up to that stage, you’d get along well with MOO. MOO lets you use your own photos and artwork and turn them into postcards, stickers, mini business cards, and greeting cards. The quality paper gives your product a classy finish, and the existing templates pretty much guarantee your product will look professional enough to pass muster.

Spreadshirt, for making shirts

When it comes to custom t-shirts, rarely do the graphics on them progress much further than high-school humour with snarky innuendo. Here’s your chance to bring cleverness and creativity back to wearables. Spreadshirt’s “Designer” tool is a well-made, fun-to-use product that lets you create shirts, bags, mugs, buttons and more without having to download any software or even upload any images. You can let your inner designer play around with text, colours and images to create a final product that makes everybody happy.

Weebly, for making websites

Let’s say you’re in a rush to get yourself a web presence, but you aren’t really keen on messing around with HTML code, using FTP clients or setting up hosting. There are a million do-it-yourself web services out there, but perhaps one of the most unique is called Weebly. Using a super friendly drag-and-drop interface, Weebly lets you whip up a customized web portal in minutes — literally. While writing this post, we set up a sample Elbowroom website just to test out the service’s capabilities. We didn’t give ourselves enough time to add much content, but you’ll quickly see the point: if this is what you can do in less than 20 minutes, imagine what you can build if you give yourself a couple hours.

Would-be web builders can choose from a stylish set of existing templates, sub in custom own graphics, customize any of the pages, add dozens of widgets (like YouTube videos, Flickr plug-ins and Google maps), and go live in less time than it takes to update your Facebook status.


Conclusion

There you have it: five free, simple tools to let you sweet-talk your way into designerdom. You might soon find yourself confined by templates and limitations, but hopefully that will give you the motivation to explore the possibilities even further. We encourage you delve into these tools and see what you can create. If anybody has already used these services to make something great, feel free to post the link below!

What are some of your favourite online design tools? Do you know of any free services that help you execute high-quality design without much trouble? Leave a comment below or send us a note to tell us about them. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • James

    FYI, another good photoshop alternative is picnik.com which can easily sync with one’s flickr.com account. Also, if you think you have good t-shirt ideas, you can submit them to threadless.com and see how the crowd votes.

  • http://www.maremar.com Marina Rivon

    There is another service like Blurb that my son has used thats called Lulu.com I believe it is less expensive than Blurb.

  • http://www.dcglobal.us DC Global

    i have no idea in some designing tools, I am using blurb and I will try the tool recommend by Marina.