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Tips and Tricks: Graphic Design

Full disclosure, I used to be a full-time graphic designer, but I don’t think you have to have formal training to know how to improve your blog, edit photos, or create graphics. You can basically learn everything you need to know through tutorials online. I still use online tutorials to keep current or learn something new.

First things first, you are going to need the software. There is no getting around this. Professional looking graphics, require professional programs. The good news is you no longer have to spend hundreds of dollars to have these programs. Adobe (the maker of photoshop) has introduced what I believe will be the future of software–The Creative Cloud. It is kind of like time-sharing software! 
Instead of paying an absurd amount for one program, like photoshop (which will be out of date in a couple years), you pay a monthly fee and have access to all of their programs on any computer! Not only can you download the program when you need it (these programs are large and take up a lot of memory) you always have the latest and greatest version. I think this is genius. Plus there is a discounted rate for students and teachers. Best $19.99 a month I have ever spent. If you already have photoshop, great, but do think about switching to the cloud when your version becomes out of date.
With photoshop you can do basically anything–create graphics for your website, edit photos, or create your own printables, business cards, etc.
Photo Editing:
Everybody loves the ability to edit their photos. But you don’t want to end up on Buzzfeed’s photoshop fail list! I love photographer and blogger Alex Beadon. Many of her newsletters and tips are geared towards people starting their own photography business, but she also does great photo editing tutorials and creates photoshop actions (in the first video of this series, she shows you how to photoshop something out of a photo). 
What’s a photoshop action? Basically they do all the work for you. Want an instagram effect or to boost the contrast? A photoshop action does that for you with one click. They are great shortcuts and Alex often gives away free actions! Here is the current action she is giving away with a photo editing video tutorial! You can also find lots of free actions online.
Creating Graphics:
It is actually easier than you think to create your own printables, wallpapers, business cards, or stationary. All of these can be done in photoshop. The key is knowing how to set up your document (size and dpi) and how to save it (for web or print). 
Wallpapers – You can easily google to find out the wallpaper pixel height and width of all computer and mobile devices. There is also this great action. Use these dimensions when you create your file at 300 dpi (now that everything is high resolution, I am creating everything with at least 300 dpi). Just remember that images for the web and mobile devices shouldn’t be too big or they won’t load quickly. I suggest saving wallpapers as jpgs and web images as pngs.
Once you have created your wallpaper template, you can create cute designs with text and images. If you can’t draw your own images, there are so many clip art and vector graphic options available on Etsy (like here, and here)! I got my cute pencil vector from this shop. PS – You can also purchase blog add-ons on Etsy.
This site has amazing templates and resources for everything from business cards to stickers.
The easiest way to incorporate patterns is by downloading a photoshop pattern (.pat), and again there are so many online or for purchase on Etsy. I love this chevron, this greek key, and this ikat! Also you can create your own pattern from any image (but it helps if it is a seamless repeatable image).
At this point you might be asking what is a dpi, png, or photoshop action? Or you may not know how to set up a photoshop file. No worries we all start somewhere. Tutorials are the best way to teach yourself! This is a great set of essential photoshop tutorials, this list has great web/blog resources, and these show you how to create fun text
So this might be information overload, and more of an overview than a specific how-to, but don’t worry, I plan on posting more specific projects soon!
Happy designing!