The past few years have definitely seen a lot of creatives tightening the purse strings. Whilst there is definitely some areas where spending is essential, graphic design tools don’t have to be one of them. There’s loads of websites, apps and platforms out there that allow you to design, edit and even animate without spending a penny. Though how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Well, we at Shillington have done just that and scoured the web and quizzed our teachers to bring a one stop shop of the best free graphic design resources.
As far as free stock photo sites go, we think Pexels is one of the best. With a community of photographers and videographers generously donating their work for everyone to download and use, royalty-free, it’s also the first to respond to current affairs, providing the images we might need to illustrate our timely projects.
As creators, it’s our duty to ensure our work is diverse and inclusive, representing the whole of society. Nappy is a relative newcomer to the free stock photo sites out there, bringing “beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people, for free”.
Known for its high-quality offering of free stock imagery, StockSnap has a whole host of different categories you can browse through, so you’ll never struggle to find what you need. No credit is required but always welcome.
Unsplash is a stock photo site powered by a friendly community of photographers, all uploading free stock pics for you to download and use. A must for any discerning designer.
Want a photo for your site that no one else has? Photo Creator from Icons8 allows you to combine different stock photos to create your own unique image. Combine objects, people, backgrounds and even images of your own using a browser-based drag-and-drop interface that’s very quick and easy to use. We especially love the way you can add filters to your search.
In Humaaans, Pablo Stanley has created something quite special: modular, vector illustrations of humans that you can mix, match, rotate and position to create your own designs. Whatever you make is free for both commercial and personal use.
Describing itself as “open-source illustration for any idea you can imagine and create”, unDraw is a constantly updated design project by Katerina Limpitsouni featuring beautiful SVG images that you can use completely free and without attribution. We particularly love the ability to quickly add your own hex code to tailor the illustrations to your own projects.
Need something a little more hand-drawn? Open Peeps is the illustration library for you. Created by Pablo Stanley, the open-source flat SVG and PNG assets are available for Sketch, Figma, Studio and XD. You can even make a donation if you’re able to support Pablo. A little goes a long way.
Storytale is a subscription-based stock illustration site. But if you don’t want to pay, you can find a number of free illustrations here too, gathered together under the ‘Freebies’ tab. We particularly like their selection of vector illustrations for use on a 404 error page.
Co-founded by Sofya Polyakov, Edward Boatman and Scott Thomas, The Noun Project brings together over two million curated icons, created by a global community and available for use by designers for free.
Ionicons are premium icons for use by designers in web, iOS, Android and desktop apps. Built by the Ionic Framework team, they’re all free and open source.
Started by Dan Leech, Simple Icons makes free SVG icons for popular brands available to download for free.
This fabulous resource courtesy of icons8.com gives you a whole library of free icons in PNG and SVG. They’re on the ball, too, as they’ve just released a “coronavirus related searches” section for those of you requiring something very current.
Animaticons is a set of high-resolution animated GIFs that you can customise. They are small in file size, compatible with all major browsers, emails and smartphones and don’t require any special plugins or libraries.
An intuitive and robust directory of open source web fonts for designers to use how they wish. All created to the high standards you’d expect from a web giant like Google.
Velvetyne is a French type foundry founded in 2010 by designer Frank Adebiaye—and they’ve been designing and distributing free open source typefaces ever since. Now a team of 10 type designers, Velvetyne have a typeface to sort every mood and every project.
Fontfabric is a digital type foundry that creates retail fonts and custom typography for various brands. Rather generously, they also provide a selection of free fonts for anyone to download and use. We love Nexa and Intro, but there are lots more to browse and sample on its nicely designed website.
Managed by Riley Cran, Lost Type is the first of its kind, a Pay-What-You-Want type foundry. Since 2011 it has been a source for unique typefaces, with a collection of over 50 different faces from contributors all over the world. 100% of the funds from sales of these fonts go directly to their respective designers. Pay what you can afford, that’s all we’re saying.
A personal selection of “classy, punk, professional, incomplete, and weird typefaces”, Use & Modify provides open-source fonts that are free to use and…you guessed it, modify.
Calling itself the first, open-source font foundry, The League of Moveable Type was launched in 2009 to help raise the design standards of the web. All of their fonts are free to use, however and wherever you need.
Coverr is a source of beautifully shot stock videos that are free to download for commercial and non-commercial use, no attribution required.
Brought to you by Envato, Mixkit is a curated gallery of high-quality videos and animation, made by some of the world’s most talented creators, with all content licensed for free.
Life of Vids offers free videos for web designers, filmmakers, advertisers, agencies, or anyone else who can make use of them. You can create infinite loops with most of them, and they’re all available to download for both personal and commercial use.
Videvo offers a ton of free stock videos which can be used free of charge, in both personal and commercial productions. Video clips that carry the Creative Commons 3.0 license must be attributed to the original author.
Formally known as Adobe Spark, Adobe Express is a free, condensed version of Adobe’s full Creative Cloud offering. With a series of handy templates and quick actions, which allow you to do exactly what you need at the click of a button, Adobe Express is a great tool for experienced designers and beginners alike.
It’s easy to stick to the same old typeface combinations, time after time. But if your design work is starting to look stale as a result, here’s a great way to change things up. Fontjoy draws on deep learning to generate new and original font pairings for you. The text is editable, so you can try replacing it with your client’s name, or any other copy, to see how it works in practice.
Blender is a free, open source 3D creation suite. The amazing platform supports all your 3D needs—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation—so is the perfect tool for a designer looking to make their first foray into the three dimensional world.
Gravit Designer is a full-featured vector graphic design app that works on all platforms. The free version comes with 500MB of cloud storage.
Web-based design platform Piktochart is a free tool that is primarily for creating infographics. Through the use of templates, users are able to create quick, professional infographics, to help turn their data into something beautiful. It can also be used to create presentations and videos.
Created by a non-profit organisation, Inkscape is a professional quality vector graphics software that runs on Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. It’s open-source and free to download.
The fastest way to create a colour palette! Coolors is a free colour palette generator that can create a colour palette from your chosen colour in a matter of seconds. It’s available as an app on both iOS and Android and as a Figma plugin and Chrome extension—so you’ll never have an excuse not to have the perfect palettes.
Brandpad is a free tool that helps designers to create strong, conceptual and functional brand guidelines. This cloud-based platform enables you to do everything from asset creation to sharing and usage in one place. And we love how the site’s own branding is totally neutral, so it doesn’t get in the way of your own visual work.
Your one stop shop for anything you need for social media, VistaCreate is a free, online graphic design platform that makes creating exactly what you need for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and more super easy. Templates, audio, assets library, easy animation—they’ve got everything you need.
Screely enables you to instantly turn a screenshot into a mockup, without the need for Sketch or Photoshop templates. Just upload your image and the app will do the rest.
LovelyMockups.com was founded in 2016 by two designers and start-up enthusiasts from Slovenia, and provides you with ready to use premium mockup templates, made with high-res photos, absolutely free. These templates are perfect for website banners, online portfolio, ppt presentations, social media, catalogs and billboards.
Shotsnapp is a super easy way to create professional mockups for anything digital—apps, websites, the lot. With its extensive library of all the latest tech, you can create up-to-date mockups for free in minutes.
Want to show clients how your designs will look on a real-life device? Shooting your own photography is a lot of work, so MockDrop saves the bother by providing you with free stock photos of people holding devices with blank screens. Upload your screenshot, and it automatically gets added to the photo, ready for you to download. Genius!
Copy and paste a URL into Screenpeek and it will generate an attractive mockup in just 10 seconds. Created by Hans Pagel and Philipp Kuhn, this app is free for iPhone mockups only.
Founded by Shillington’s Global Managing Director Anthony Wood, House of Mockups strives to provide the highest quality, realistic mockups and resources for Graphic Designers. The collection is just getting started, but bookmark this one for the place to go for free and premium mockups with outstanding art direction.
Need to remove the background from a photo? This free tool can do it surprisingly quickly, and it just takes one click.
Created by Peter Assentorp, Social Sizes provides designers with the best sizes to use for image and video content on social media. Templates for Sketch, Adobe XD and Photoshop, are all included, and downloadable for free.
fotor isn’t just a “design maker”, it’s a photo editor where you can crop, rotate, fine-tune, colour, resize or add effects to any image – all within your browser window. You can also create photo collages.
Pixlr (formally Pixel Editor) has a long track record as a basic but reliable photo editor that’s free to use within the browser. There’s two versions—Pixlr E and Pixlr X, the former being for quick and easy design whilst the latter is for more in depth photo editing.
This free Mac app makes it easy to capture parts of your screen and export them as Gifs or MP4 files. Capture GIFs up to 30 seconds long with just a couple of clicks.
This web and desktop application enables you to quickly grab screenshots and share the URLs with colleagues, as well as live, multi-person drawing and sketching.
If you need to take a screenshot of an entire web page, here’s a free app for that. This browser extension allows you to screengrab everything on the page, including both the part on your screen and the part below it, in a single click. Created by independent software developer Peter Coles, it’s currently available for Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.
A beautifully designed website that shares some of the best creativity out there. It’s a veritable curated feast of branding projects, packaging designs, and editorial features, offering support to those they feature and inspiration to the rest of the creative community.
Httpster is an inspiration resource showcasing website designs from all over the world. The emphasis is not on flashy features but a “less is more” approach to design.
When you see a typeface on a font foundry’s website, it’s often tricky to imagine how it will work in practice. So head to Fonts in Use, a public archive of typography indexed by typeface, format, industry, and period. Search for the font in question, and you’ll be served up a selection of examples of how it’s been used in practice, from graphic design to film and TV.
Good luck using these free resources on your future graphic design projects!
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