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.
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.
- Choose a theme for your set and exhaust ideas within it. Decide on a number of icons that you want the final pack to contain and stick to it.
- Expand on a few icons from a past personal or client project into a larger set. Write down potential glyph ideas, and then start building them. Cross each off the list as you complete them. Grind it out in one or two limited sessions, if you can.
- Include more icons, sizes, and both raster and vector formats to increase the value. It’s easiest to export file formats, but more time consuming to offer color and size variations that customers might find use.
- One-color icons are the most flexible type for digital projects. Two or more color icons are stylish, but may be more complicated for customers to edit.
- Check out these icon types to get the ideas flowing: General, Thanksgiving, Food, Outdoors, Gaming, Commerce.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: Icon Design: Create a Cohesive Icon Set, 7 Principles of Effective Icon Design, Create Simple and Beautiful Flat Mobile App Icons, Best Practices for Line Icons in Website Design, and Icon Design: Creating Pictograms with Purpose.
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!
- You can start with physical art (watercolor, ink drawings, etc.) or jump straight to digital (vector drawing, masking, brush work, etc.).
- Focus on one subject matter and style of execution that you think customers will want to use in their projects. If you were applying an illustration to a design project, what would you need?
- If you’ve ever made custom spot illustrations for a project, those are great starting point for building a resource set. Expand away!
- Do you want to offer refined spot illustrations that are ready to drop in a layout? Or, do you want to offer flexible illustration elements that a customer can edit and combine before dropping into their project?
- Check out these illustration types to get the ideas flowing: watercolor flowers, hand-sketched laurels, fun characters, object etchings, and vector buildings & cities.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: Create Your Own Geometric Animal, Top Secrets from Talented Vector Artists, Digital Illustration: Communicate with Color, Pattern and Texture, 55 Amazing Vector Art Tutorials, Character Illustration: From Concept to Final Artwork, and Vector Illustration: From Pencil Sketch to Bold Digital Style.
By using a pattern, designers can instantly paint a surface or shape with a beautiful visual. And, they’re fairly easy to create, too!
- Seamless patterns are complex and time-consuming to make. If you’re experienced in creating them or want to learn this skill, then go for it.
- For the sake of speed, it’s easy to group together a cluster of illustrations or objects to create the repeat effect in Illustrator. You can draw custom elements by hand or vector, or scan in objects and vectorize them for fast results.
- Group your elements loosely in the shape of a square. For a more seamless look, lessen the large white gaps around the outsides of your square element collage. Or, if you prefer a minimalist pattern, spread out your elements with even amounts of generous white space.
- Be thoughtful with the colors that you use to build your patterns, and make it easy for customers to edit them.
- Keep the artwork in your pattern packs centered around a theme.
- Check out these pattern types to get the ideas flowing: Nature, Food, Geometric, Animals, Plaid.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: Introduction to Surface Design: Creating and Mixing Patterns, 10 Expert Tips for Creating Surface Patterns, Pattern Design: Creating Repeat Patterns From Your Illustrations & Paintings, How to Create Seamless Patterns in AI CS6, Illustrating Patterns: Creating Hand-Drawn Wallpaper, Create Your Own AI Pattern Swatch, Pattern Design: Bring Your Artwork to Life on Products.
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 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.
- Look for tactile surfaces that are similar, and start shaping a theme for your texture pack. Set a total target number of textures you plan on build, and make a checklist.
- Making a seamless texture is time-consuming, but might be more flexible for customers. If you’re going for speed, don’t tackle seamless for now.
- Take photos or scans at the highest resolution possible.
- Think about how customers might apply these textures to various creative projects. Lead by example using your marketing screenshots.
- If you’re thinking of creating vector textures, then increase the contrast of your images in Photoshop first before vectorizing in Illustrator. That will ensure the best outcome in terms of quality.
- If your texture pack turns out well, you can transform them into Photoshop Brushes to sell as a different resource product. You can also bundle Texture Graphics and PS Brushes together, too.
- Check out these texture types to get the ideas flowing: Halftone Screens, Paper Surfaces, Woods, Chalkboards, Painted Swatches.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: Working & Applying Textures in Photoshop, Creating And Applying Textures to A Pennant, Custom Vector Textures in Illustrator, Create Vector textures in PS and AI, Techniques for Creating Custom Textures in PS, Create Seamless Textures in PS.
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.
- Whether making business cards, stationery, brochures or invitations, designing print templates is all about creating structure with the content. Make great typography and content hierarchy choices.
- Select realistic copy for the dummy content that you present in your print template in order to make it more accurate for your customers.
- It’s safer to use free fonts (e.g. Google web fonts) and free stock photos (e.g. UnSplash) so that customers can download the same assets that you used in your design. Link to where you got those free assets. If you use paid photography and typefaces as placeholder content, make sure to direct customers to the sites where they can purchase those assets.
- Make the design visually stimulating but professional. Folks often describe this approach as modern and clean, and it’s highly desired because it’s difficult to achieve quickly in print design.
- Save file formats that are compatible with past versions of publication software so that more customers will be able to use the resource.
- If print templates aren’t your thing, you can recycle past web design work to create website templates for sale.
- Check out these print types to get the ideas flowing: Invitations, Magazines, Resumes, Stationery, Brochures, Business Cards.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: A Simple Guide to Edit a Brochure Template, Let’s Have Some Fun: Creating Hand Lettered Business Cards, Typesetting for Classy Invitations: The Easy Way to Design Your Own Invites!, InDesign in 30 Minutes, Editorial Illustration: Communicating an Idea Visually, How to Customize A Flyer Template.
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.
- Think about shots that folks might actually use in a creative or design project. You don’t want to shoot hundreds of images that nobody will use in their work.
- Learn about the basics of what makes a good photograph and try to apply them as you practice shooting. Focus on composition rules and lighting best practices.
- Take care not to make your shots brand-specific or people-centric (unless you have a proper model release form).
- If using the HDR setting on your iPhone 6S is your starting point, then make sure to communicate that in the product description.
- Start with easier types of photography first, such as landscape and lifestyle imagery.
- It’s preferred not to heavily process your images, but adding minimal effects is still acceptable as long as it serves and enhances the content of the image.
- Check out these photo types to get the ideas flowing: Abstract, Food & Drink, Nature, Architecture, Arts & Entertainment, Technology.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Food, Flavors, Conversation, 6 Tips for Better Stock Photos, Photography Master Class, 5 Little Things that Can Make a Big Difference in Your Photos, Smartphone Photography: Capturing Landscapes, How to Prepare Photos for Sale.
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.
- The easiest type of brushes to make are Photoshop brushes that use objects and surfaces found in nature. Photograph or scan your objects at the highest resolution you can to make them flexible for print and web projects. You can also start by performing mark-making using fine art supplies and tools. That’s fast and fun, too!
- If you create vector illustrations, you can quickly produce Illustrator brushes that let users pattern and scatter them on the canvas.
- Keep your brushes consistent with a central theme, and expound upon as many ideas within that theme as possible to make your set useful.
- Check out these brush types to get the ideas flowing: Watercolors, Pencils, Markers & Ink, Halftones.
- Explore these tutorials & tips: 35 Tutorials for Mastering Photoshop Brushes, Design Your Own Creative Brush Packs in Photoshop & Illustrator, Photoshop for Illustrators II: Using and Creating Brushes, Create an AI Art Brush, Create an AI Pattern Brush, Create an AI Calligraphic Brush, How To Make Your Own Custom Photoshop Brushes.
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!