Easy Shortcuts into Making Digital Design Resources

Early in my design career, I hoarded design tools and assets by the truckload. Before I was competent enough to make beautiful bézier curves in Illustrator, I would tap this personal archive of resources for what I needed. I’d edit these paid and free assets for the project at hand, and if I didn’t already have what I needed, I would source images from Google search and trace over them. In a sense, that’s how I got started in the field of digital resource design. It was a rough start.

Since then, I’ve found that there are easy shortcuts into the world of creating custom digital design assets. If you’ve got the time, you can make tons of assets for sale over the course of just a few weeks or months. If your products are good and you’re able to find customers, you’ll enjoy watching the sales roll in like cash growing on a tree in your backyard.

No matter what your design skill level is, there’s a path forward into digital resource design if you’re interested. First, I’ll share five speedy methods for production and three important dynamics to consider. Then, we’ll look at what it means to jump into creating products by category type to sell them on Creative Market.


Five Methods of Speed

If speed is the name of your game, then these quick entry points will help you start making simple resource products today.

1. Resurrect Killed Designs
We’ve all been there. You poured your heart and soul into a design comp, and the client went in a completely different direction. If the comp isn’t too specific to the brand, then it might be time to raise it from your project graveyard and rework it into a resource product.

2. Expand Custom Elements into a Set
If you’ve ever made unique vector or raster elements for a client project, then you might be sitting on a pot of gold. You can quickly transform and expand these custom elements into a small pack of assets to sell.

3. Leaping Off Visual Inspiration
Looking at beautiful designs and images might give you the fuel you need to quickly build assets, but coming up with the original concept is up to you. To ensure that you aren’t directly copying someone else’s work, it’s helpful to try to combine pieces from three or more sources of inspiration.

4. The Natural Path
For many types of assets, starting the creation process with images, objects and surfaces found in nature is a good idea. Whether you’re taking photos or scanning them in, you can quickly craft assets — compliments of Mother Nature. It’s easy to build raster files directly off these visuals, or illustrate vectors based off them, too.

5. Starting from Scratch
Traditionally, beginning with a blank page isn’t a speedy method of production. However, taking an online course (such as one from Skillshare) can empower you to learn a new skill and build a product at the same time.


Three Dynamics To Consider

Fast methods of production are great, but there are three dynamics that you need to take into account before starting.

1. Product Value vs. Time to Build
Using shortcuts to build resources will likely limit the complexity of your products, which may put a cap on how high you can price your goods. However, the more variations, file formats, sizes, features and flexibility that you include in your resource product, the more value that you offer potential customers. When you increase your product’s value, you can also increase the price point. There’s a direct correlation there. Deepening your product’s flexibility means spending more time producing it instead of moving quickly. You’ll also have a bigger job communicating the features in the marketing screenshots and write-up, too. So, if you’re going for speed, it’s up to you to decide how far you want to take each resource. The trade off for moving really quickly is lessening the potential value to your customers and selling at a lower price point.

2. Pick A Central Subject & Style
The best resource products use a central idea or subject matter to create a cohesive theme. They limit the visual styling, but expound within it so that customers benefit from a deep palette of elements in a single system. If you’re using existing work, then make sure it isn’t brand or project specific. Once you figure out your theme and style, then it’s up to you to decide how much to expand your concept inside your framework. The greater you expand on your subject matter, the better potential that customers will find what they need in your product. The sacrifice? Building quickly.

3. Example Usage
When building resources, it’s important to think about how customers will edit and apply these assets to their own projects. It might help to write down a short list of potential uses. Then, you’ll have fodder to create your marketing screenshots quickly. It’s always a good idea to display use cases so that customers have an idea of what they can do with the resource. If you’ve got an archive of past design work, you can retrofit that work to build your marketing screenshots quickly.


Choose Your Resource Adventure

Many types of resources are easy to build, while others inherently are more complex (such as Themes and Fonts). Graphics is the most diverse category, which makes it the ideal starting point for anyone looking to jump into building lean digital resources without much experience. Let’s explore a few of my favorite product types that are ripe for fast building.


Icons

If you love drawing in vector or have experience making custom icons in the past, then this resource type is for you. Get ready to glyph out.


Illustrations

Illustrations are a digital resource type that spans fine art and design. Designers use both fine art mediums and digital techniques to produce asset packs of various subject matter and styles. What you choose to make (and how you make it) is totally up to you. It’s wide open!


Patterns

By using a pattern, designers can instantly paint a surface or shape with a beautiful visual. And, they’re fairly easy to create, too!


Mockups

Mockups are all about visualizing your design on physical objects, tactile surfaces and environments. The Product Mockups category on Creative Market is home to many creative visualizations of this resource type.

  • The easiest entry into mockups would be taking photographs of objects, devices, swag, and print collateral.
  • The next step is to clip out the object onto a transparent background, so that customers can place it on a white or other background surface. If you take photos of objects on white, you can clip out the natural shadow separately with a bit of a feather effect, so that you can paste it as a separate layer and set it to the multiply layer effect.
  • Go for the highest resolution of photography that you can. If you’re starting point is HDR images taken with your iPhone 6S, then reflect that in the product description and price.
  • Adding more objects and perspectives to your mockup pack increases value and price, but takes longer to build.
  • Spend more time learning how to use lighting in your photography and performing good touch-up work in Photoshop.
  • If you enjoy (and are fast with) masks and smart objects in Photoshop, then this resource type is for you.
  • Think about using your own mockups to present design work to a client to get an idea about the needs of your potential customers. Build mockups for your own client projects and then expound them into a resource pack to sell with little conflict of interest.
  • Check out these mockup types to get the ideas flowing: Scene Generators, Stationery Grids, Logo Applications, Digital Devices, Shirt Mockups, and more.
  • Explore these tutorials & tips: How to Make a Realistic Macbook Mockup, 4 Professional Mockup Alternatives, How to Create Photo Realistic Branded Product Mockups, Creating Packaging Mockups using Photoshop, 7 Best Practices for Creating Mockups, 10 Awesome Photoshop Mock-Up Design Tutorials.

Textures

Textures are the quickest resource type to build in the Graphics category. Whether you go for raster, vector, or both, textures typically start with natural surfaces that are digitized via photography or scanning.


Print Templates

Print templates make up most of the Templates category on Creative Market. They’re pretty easy to design, and can be produced as Illustrator, Photoshop or In-Design files.


Photos

If you’re familiar with professional photography, then grabbing extra shots during a client shoot or a vacation is an easy way to create photos for sale! If you’re an amateur photographer or iPhone enthusiast, then grabbing nice shots in HDR on your iPhone 6S could be a fun way to dip your toes into resource design.


Brushes

Last but not least, Photoshop brushes are a fairly quick resource to make. You can also make Illustrator brushes, but those take a little bit more time and thought in order to create valuable assets for customers.


By now, I’m sure that you can see how making one set of artwork can help you build multiple types of resource products. The opportunity that you have with making and selling digital design resources is quick, long-lasting, and exponential.

I hope that you’ve found this article insightful, and that you’re encouraged to try your hand at creating digital design resources. Get to it!

Cheers,
Gerren