Essential Tools & Resources for Designers

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Over the years, I’ve found myself bookmarking A LOT of resourceful websites for designers.

Some are great for finding design goods while others help take your skills to the next level. And some, I use every single day!

Today, I’m sharing my all time favorites- from where I find inspiration to what I use for bookkeeping. Let’s get started!


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Design Programs

Adobe Products
The quintessential designer programs. Depending on what field you're in, you'll probably find yourself using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign at any given time! Make sure you check out the Adobe apps too, there's fun ones like creating a color palette out of your pics or vectorizing images.

Affinity Designer
Affinity is a great alternative option to Adobe Products. I did a quick review of it here (there's lots of helpful tips in the comment section if you're just getting started). Definitely an option to check out, especially if you're on a budget.

Sketch
Another awesome design program marketing itself as the "program for the modern designer". Check out this helpful walkthrough by Charli Marie.

Style Tiles
Beyond creating a moodboard, Style Tiles is a visual web design process and helps with client communication. 

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Design Goods

Creative Market
I love this site, because you can find unique design goods that are created by your fellow designers! Definitely one of my go-to sites.

Pixeden
Another great one for mockups & design resources. They also have a nice freebies section.

Graphic Burger
A great site for design freebies, I especially check this out if I'm in need of some handy mock-ups!

Pixel Buddha
Has a similar look to graphic burger, another site for finding resources for your project.

Icon Finder
I usually check this site out, if I'm in need of a one-off icon design for a client project.

Font Awesome
Great free resource for web design & adding vector icons to your site.

Doodle Icons Set
Recent discovery, adorable free icon set! Great for projects that have a "hand crafted" vibe.

UI Space
In need of some design elements for your UI project? Great site for various icons, mockups & fonts.

Subtle Patterns
Wonderful collection of free patterns and textures for your design projects.

Design Cuts
I kind of think of this site as the Costco of design goods. You probably don't need everything on there, but it's good to check out every once in a while. Can get some good deals on various design goods!

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Fonts & Type Tools

MyFonts.com
This is usually my go-to spot for purchasing fonts. There's a wide collection and I like to learn about the different designers and the stories they share behind the design.

Font Squirrel
Where you can download free fonts- make sure to check the licensing as most of these are for personal use only! Sometimes if I can't decide between fonts to purchase, I'll see if they're for free on here and test them out in my project before purchasing.

Typecast
An awesome tool for testing out different fonts and seeing how they pair together for your website.

Typekit
Subscription font service from Adobe, a great tool if you want a unique quality font for your website as opposed to a service like Google Fonts (also recommend!)

Typewolf
This is one of the best sites out there about Typography. I didn't include too many blog style sites on this list - maybe next time:) - but had to share this one because it is full of beaut type pairings to inspire your next project!

What the Font
Are you ever on a website and get all googly eyes at a font? Install this chrome extension and you'll be able to easily figure out what it is!

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Color Tools

Color Lovers
I found this site back in college and still use it regularly today! It's a great site for browsing different color palettes, getting inspiration and seeing what different colors pair well with each other.

Adobe Color CC
Nearly ALWAYS use this during my brand identity process. You can create a color palette from a photo, so what I like to do is take a couple photos from the mood board I create with my client & see what palettes come up from the photos. It's a great way to get color inspiration that you know will match your client's brand theme.

Brand Colors
If I'm having trouble putting a palette together, I'll check out brand colors. It's another pretty straightforward one, sharing the different companies of the world & their brand's colors!

Flat UI Colors
This is another great one for color palette inspiration!

Colorzilla
Okay remember the chrome extension to figure out website fonts listed above? This one's just like it. Any website you're on, if you see a color you love - use this color picker to easily grab the hex!

What Color Is It
Okay, so this isn't exactly a tool, but I had to share! This website takes the time and converts it into a hex color, I set it as my browser homepage and it's so fun to see what color corresponds to the different times of day!

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Stock photos

Unsplash
This is my favorite stock site. Probably because of the clean layout of the website, ha! But really, everything is easy to find and I like to go through the various collections users create. Nearly all of the stock I use is from here!

Death to Stock
If you sign up for their email list, you get a free monthly pack of beaut, high quality photos. Also offer a subscription service. They also have a cool logo!

Pexels
This tends to be my backup if I'm having trouble finding anything on Unsplash. Still offers good stuff, but for some reason tends to feel less "indie".

Adobe Stock
These guys are everywhere ;) I started using Adobe Stock after they bought out Dollar Photo Club. Can usually find great stuff for corporate clients here!

Haute Chocolate
This is for those bloggers & creative entrepreneurs that want #girlboss shots for their site or blog posts.

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BUSINESS & FREELANCING

Board booster
This is the BEST marketing tool to date. It's helped me get more traffic, and email subscribers by utilizing Pinterest.

Basecamp
This is my all time favorite project management tool. It's a great way to organize your projects and communicate with clients. It's how I share work with clients and even how I organize my blog. I like to break projects into "phases" and then schedule them in the calendar, assigning to-do lists. It's a great way to hit your deadlines!

Asana
I used this for a bit before switching to Basecamp. It's a great free alternative to Basecamp and for team collaboration.

Trello
My favorite to-do list app! I like to plan out my week "at a glance" style. You could also use this as a project management solution.

Freelancers Union
Having trouble finding contracts? This site is a great bunch of resources, with tax tips and I believe they've even started offering health insurance plans!

GoDaddy Bookkeeping
When I first started using this, it was run by a different company, can't recall what! I was a little nervous when GoDaddy bought it, but it's remained the same. Great platform for invoicing (you can get an alert when your client has taken a look at the invoice). It also helps for staying organized for tax season!

Skillshare
Awesome site for picking up new skills and learn from your fellow designers! My favorites are the various lettering and calligraphy classes!

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learning materials

Creative Inc
One of the first things I did when I started getting my freelance business together, was order this book. It was such a helpful template to follow in those early stages, writing invoices, contracts and other important steps to take as a freelancer.

Burn Your Portfolio
This is one of those books that came at a really good time for me! I discovered it shortly after taking the leap "full time" and it's filled with great advice for young designers learning about agency lifestyle. I applied many of these principles to how I run my freelance biz & communicating with clients.

Steal Like an Artist
Read this one fairly recently! It's a great read for a dose of motivation and staying inspired. Check out the full book review I did on this one here!

Know Your Onions
A great "graphic design handbook". One of YOU guys recc'd this one and definitely believe it's one of those must-have for your bookshelf. Did a review on this one too!

Offscreen Magazine
I'm sharing this one because I really love following along with the founder-Kai's journey of leaving his freelance web design biz to start an indie magazine. It's a great one to read and learn from digital creatives.

Design Life Podcast
There are a lot of design podcasts out there, but I love this one because I can really relate to it! It's one of the only design podcasts run by young women!

Design Resource Vault
Shameless plug for my free collection of learning materials for designers!

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INSPIRATION & CONNECT

Dribbble
My favorite site to go for design inspiration & keep up with design trends. Especially like to check out icon designers on here- people are so creative!

Behance
Another great site for inspiration and connecting with other designers. Also a good portfolio option if you're a student, or just getting started.

Land Book
Great site for some awesome web design inspiration!

One Page Love
Pretty straightforward :) A site dedicated to sharing one page websites. It's also a good one to get ideas for homepage & landing page design.

UI Parade
This site is a more recent discovery. Very cool UI design stuff going on over here.

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DESK tools

Wacom Tablet
Back when I was in school, we had a professor who despised wacom tablets- and so I learned how to navigate my design programs without it. However, when I started to get into lettering, I decided to pick one up again. It's definitely fun to illustrate + letter with! If you're looking for a recc - here's the one I use.

Light Pad
Another great tool, especially for lettering. You can easily retrace your sketches - improve & iterate.

Moo
High quality printing & a range of options! I've used Moo for my business cards, postcards, stickers... It also comes in cute packaging, which is always fun!

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