Vector Line Icons (Emoji Add-on)

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Say no to long shadows

3 Simple Techniques to Create a Diffuse Shadow in Photoshop

Diffuse shadows are a type of box shadow which give the illusion of more depth than a regular drop shadow. This effect is achieved by making the shadow smaller than the source object and offsetting it in the direction of a light source. This tutorial will cover 3 different methods for creating diffuse shadows in Photsohop depending on the situation.

Technique 1: Feather

This technique is the quickest and easiest, it doesn’t offer as many options as the other methods and it only works on vector layers, but it does give you complete manual control over the size, amount of blur and offset.

Step 1

Select the layer that you want to cast the shadow, with this technique it must be a vector shape layer.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 2

Duplicate the layer and select the version that is lower down in the layers panel. Rename this layer to ‘Shadow’.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 3

Enter Transform Mode (CTRL+T or CMD+T), set the anchor point to the bottom center and enter 80% into the W and H fields.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 4

Nudge the ‘Shadow’ layer down 20 pixels. (This is for a simple 90° shadow as shown in the example below, you can get creative with the direction and distance if desired)
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 5

Open the Properties window and enter the amount of blur you want in the Feather field.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 6

Set the opacity of the ‘Shadow’ layer.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 7 (Optional)

Link the original shape and ‘Shadow’ layers together so that when you move one, the other follows.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Result

how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Technique 2: Drop Shadow

This technique is great for those who feel more comfortable using the Layer Styles interface, and like the options that it offers including Global Light, Spread, Contour and Noise.

Step 1

Select the layer that you want to cast the shadow, with this technique it can be a bitmap, vector or any other kind of layer.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 2

Duplicate the layer and select the version that is lower down in the layers panel. Rename this layer to ‘Shadow’.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 3

Enter Transform Mode (CTRL+T or CMD+T), set the anchor point to the bottom center and enter 80% into the W and H fields.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 4

Add a Drop Shadow Layer Style to the ‘Shadow’ layer with 90° angle, 20px Distance and 50px Size. (This is for a simple 90° shadow, you can get creative with the angle, distance and size if desired)
how to create a diffuse shadow effect
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 5 (Optional)

Link the original shape and ‘Shadow’ layers together so that when you move one, the other follows.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Result

how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Technique 3: Smart Object

This technique is most suited to more complex shapes including bitmap images and groups of multiple layers. It requires creating a Smart Object, which may be overkill for simple shapes but will save you time in the long run with objects that change size and/or shape regularly.

Step 1

Select the layer or layers that you want to cast the shadow, with this technique it can be a group or multiple bitmap and vector layers.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 2

Convert the group or layer(s) into a Smart Object.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 3

Duplicate the Smart Object and select the version that is lower down in the layers panel. Rename this layer to ‘Shadow’.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 4

Add a Color Overlay Layer Style to the ‘Shadow’ layer with color #000000 and Opacity 100%.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 5

Enter Transform Mode (CTRL+T or CMD+T), set the anchor point to the bottom center and enter 80% into the W and H fields.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 6

Nudge the ‘Shadow’ layer down 20 pixels. (This is for a simple 90° shadow as shown in the example below, you can get creative with the direction and distance if desired).
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 7

Apply a Guassian Blur filter to the ‘Shadow’ Smart Object with 25px Radius.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 8

Set the opacity of the ‘Shadow’ layer.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Step 9 (Optional)

Link the original Smart Object and ‘Shadow’ Smart Object layers together so that when you move one, the other follows.
how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Result

how to create a diffuse shadow effect

Conclusion

There are lots of different ways to achieve this same diffuse shadow effect in Photoshop, with these 3 techniques in your arsenal you should be able to quickly and easily deploy the most appropriate method and add cool shadows to your designs. Using Sketch? Techniques 1 and 2 can be translated with some minor tweaks.


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Mockup your Tee designs in real world settings

How to Mockup a T Shirt Design on a Model with Photoshop

This tutorial demonstrates how to take t-shirt artwork and mock it up on a real world model photo. This technique can be applied to any appropriate photo of a model wearing a plain shirt or vest etc. Smart Objects, Layer Masks and Displacement Maps are the main focus of this tutorial.

Step 1

First we need a photo of a model wearing a plain shirt, and also the artwork for the shirt. The model photo I am using is this photo from Pexels. And this logo from the Vintage Logos & Emblems resource on Medialoot.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 2

Open the model photo in Photoshop, and paste the logo in from Illustrator. Select the Pixels option when pasting (because pasted Vector Smart Objects cannot be freely distorted the same way as pixels or Smart Objects created within Photoshop).
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 3

Before placing the artwork, increase the size of the logo considerably by entering 1000% for the width and height values.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 4

Place the artwork and convert it to a Smart Object.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 5

Enter Transform mode (CTRL+T or CMD+T) and line the artwork up with the angle the model is standing at. (Tip: Hold down the CTRL or CMD key and drag the individual corners). It is okay if some of the artwork overlaps the model’s hair or goes off the body slightly.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 6

Duplicate the background layer and move it to the top (CTRL+SHIT+] or CMD+SHIFT+]). Then desaturate the layer (CTRL+SHIFT+U or CMD+SHIFT+U).
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 7

Bring up the Levels adjust (CTRL+L or CMD+L) and tweak the shadows and highlights to bring out as much contrast as possible without losing detail.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 8

Copy and paste this layer into a new Photoshop document and save it as ‘displacement-map.psd’ somewhere easy to find.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 9

Go back to the original document and create a Clipping Mask using the Background Copy and Artwork layers. Set the Blending Mode of the Background Copy layer to Screen and Opacity to 25%.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 10

Duplicate the Background Copy layer and set the Blending Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 50%.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 11

Select the original Background layer and go to Filter > Distort > Displace… enter 5 for the Horizontal and Vertical scale then click OK and choose the ‘displacement-map.psd’ file that you saved in step 8.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 12

Select the Artwork layer and create a new Layer Mask (Reveal All).
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 13

Set the foreground color to black and with Paint Brush tool carefully paint over any areas of the Artwork which overlap the model’s hair or are off her body.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Step 14

Finally, to make the result look more realistic we can emulate the shallow depth of field in the photo by applying a subtle Tilt-Shift blur to the Artwork layer. Note: This requires the Blur Gallery feature introduced in Photoshop CS6, alternatively you can rasterize the layer and manually blur the edges using the blur tool.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo

Result & Conclusion

And that is how you place t-shirt artwork onto a photograph of a model using Photoshop. This same method can be used on any appropriate model photo, but to make your own life easier, I recommend either taking professional photos or looking for stock photos which clearly display a large section of a plain item of clothing.
photoshop a t shirt design onto a model photo


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Smooth, textured backdrop for product mockups

Create a Curved Wood Presentation Background in Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you how to take a flat seamless wood texture and sculpt it into a curved presentation backdrop ideal for product mockups. The effect is achieved by using Gradients, Shape Layers, Blending Modes and the Warp Transform tool.

Step 1

Launch Photoshop and create a new document 3000 x 2000 pixels.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 2

Double click on the Background layer to unlock it and rename it ‘Texture’.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 3

Add a Pattern Overlay layer style to the Texture layer using this free sample from the Seamless Wood Textures - Vol 1 pack.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 4

Enter Transform mode by pressing CMD+T (Mac) or CTRL+T (Windows) and increase the width and height to 200%. Press Enter to confirm changes.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 5

Right click the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 6

Enter Transform mode again and this time reduce the width and height to 50%.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 7

Drag two new horizontal guides onto the canvas at 1400 and 1700 pixels.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 8

Go to Edit > Transform > Warp. This next part can be a little tricky, you will need to grab the points shown in the image below and drag them down in a straight line. However, as you move one point the others will be affected, so expect to do a lot of tweaking. The goal is to get the two horizontal lines to match the guides and keep the vertical lines as straight at possible.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

The result should look something like this:
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 9

Drag two vertical guides onto the canvas at 1500 px and 4500 pixels.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 10

Enter Warp Transform mode again, and this time drag the bottom left and bottom right points out to meet the vertical guides. Try to keep the edges as straight as possible. If needed, resize the whole layer afterwards to hide any gaps and fill the entire canvas.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 11

Next we need to add some lighting, gradient layers can be used to produce shadows. Create a new Gradient Fill layer (Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient…), set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 50%.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 12

Start with the default Black to White Linear gradient and edit it so that it goes from white to black(Location: 25%) then back to white. Also check the Dither option.
create a curved wood background in photoshop
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 13

Set the foreground colour to black and create another new Gradient Fill Layer and set the Blending Mode to Soft Light.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 14

Choose the default foreground colour to transparent gradient preset, change the Style to Radial, Scale to 250% then check the Reverse and Dither options.
create a curved wood background in photoshop
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 15

Shadows done, we can now add some highlights using shape layers. Draw a white ellipse near the bottom of the canvas.

  • W: 2400 px
  • H: 350 px
  • X: 300 px
  • Y: 1585 px

create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 16

In the Properties panel select the Masks option at the top, and change the Feather settings to 90 px to blur the edges of the ellipse.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 17

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light.
create a curved wood background in photoshop
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 18

Draw another ellipse, partially off canvas at the top.

  • W: 1800 px
  • H: 2038 px
  • X: 600 px
  • Y: -689 px

create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 19

Change the Feather settings to 90 px again.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Step 20

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 25% for a more subtle result as if the light is being reflected from the ‘floor’ onto the ‘wall’.
create a curved wood background in photoshop

Result & Conclusion

Here is the result, as you can see the texture now appears to be smooth and curved. This technique can be used on almost any texture that is either high enough resolution or seamless. Warp Transform in Photoshop is a very powerful tool that allows you to freely manipulate bitmap and vector layers, and this is a prime example of what can be achieved with it.
create a curved wood background in photoshop


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Give photos a vintage peeling paint effect

How to Distress a Photo Using a Grunge Texture and Displacement Map

This tutorial will teach you how to distress a photograph by merging it with a grunge texture, using layer masks and displacement filters in Photoshop for a realistic result. Merge the photo and texture seamlessly to create the effect of the photo actually being painted on the wood background

Step 1

Launch Photoshop and create a new document 3000 pixels wide and 2000 pixels tall.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 2

Place the photo that you want to work with into the document as a Smart Object layer. I am using this excellent photo from Unsplash
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 3

Next place the texture that you want to use into the document as another Smart Object above the photo layer. I am using this texture from the free Old Weathered Wood Textures Pack on WeGraphics.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 4

Duplicate the texture Smart Object and move it below the photo layer.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 5

Select the top texture layer and Rasterize it, then desaturate it by clicking the ‘Image > Adjustments > Desaturate’ menu item or by pressing CMD+SHIFT+U on Mac or CTRL+SHIFT+U on PC.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 6

Bring up the Levels adjustment window by going to ‘Image > Adjustment > Levels…’ or by pressing CMD+L or CTRL+L. Adjust the shadow and highlight levels to increase the contrast between white and black and remove some of the grey mid tones.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 7

Select all pixels and copy to the clipboard, then create a new Photoshop document.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 8

Paste the texture into the new blank document and save it as a Photoshop Document in the same location you are working in with the name ‘Displacement Map.psd’.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 9

Go back to the original document and select the photo Smart Object layer. Then go to the Layer > Layer Mask menu and choose Reveal All.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 10

Open the Channels window (Windows > Channel) and click the eye icon next to the photo channel to make it visible.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 11

Paste the texture from step 7 into the channel (it should still be on your clipboard). The red overlay shows pixel data on the channel.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 12

Click the eye icon again to hide the channel and the red overlay.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 13

Open the Layers panel again and select the photo Smart Object layer (not the channel). Then go the ‘Filter > Distort’ menu and choose ‘Displace..’. Enter 25 for both the Horizontal and Vertical scale then hit OK.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 14

Locate the Displacement Map.psd file that you saved in step 8 and click Open.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 15

The effect of the displacement may appear subtle, but if we zoom in to actual size you can see that the edges of the photo have been distorted using the black and white data in the displacement map texture file.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Step 16

Finally, create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and tweak the shadow and highlight levels to restore the photo’s original contrast.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop

Result & Conclusion

Here is the result, the photo and the texture have been merged seamlessly to create the effect of the photo actually being painted on the wood background. Hopefully you have enjoyed following this tutorial and can now effectively use layer masks and displacement maps together to manipulate images.
distress a photo with displacement maps in photoshop


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A modern take on the classic four leaf clover quatrefoil design element

Create a Seamless Vector Quatrefoil Pattern in Illustrator

Quatrefoil is an ornamental design with four lobes that resemble a flower or clover leaf, it is most commonly seen in Gothic architecture but can also make a cool, minimal pattern for modern web and graphic design. This quick tutorial will show you how to create a seamless, vector quatrefoil pattern with Adobe Illustrator CS6 or newer.

Information

Please note that this tutorial requires that you have at least version CS6 of Adobe Illustrator due to using the Pattern tool. Also, if you’d rather skip the tutorial and download our 20 pre-made quatrefoil patterns for free you can do so here

Step 1

Begin by launching Illustrator and creating a new document, 800 x 600 pixels is a good size to begin with (it can easily be changed later).
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 2

Fill the artboard with a white rectangle to use as the background color.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 3

Draw a new circle 44 x 44 pixels, and give it a thick 10 pixel teal (#00D2AF) stroke.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 4

Duplicate the circle and move it down 56 pixels.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 5

Select both circles and duplicate them in place.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 6

Rotate the duplicated circles 90 degrees around a center reference point.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 7

Select all 4 circles and combine them with the Union Pathfinder operation.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 8

Highlight the 8 vector points in the middle of the shape and delete them.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 9

Highlight the shape again and go to Object > Pattern > Make to make a new pattern preset. Click OK if a dialog box pops up. In the Pattern Options panel change the width and height to 100 pixels, the shapes should now overlap each other nicely.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 10

Exit out of the Pattern editor mode and delete the original shape we created (it is still safe in the Pattern swatch)
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 11

Duplicate the white background layer and fill it with the Pattern Swatch you created.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 12

To invert the colours, first duplicate the swatch.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 13

Then edit the duplicated pattern and change the stroke fill to white (#FFFFFF).
how to create a quatrefoil pattern
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 14

Then exit back to the main Artboard and change the background rectangle fill to teal (#00D22AF).
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Step 15

And on the top rectangle change the pattern swatch to the white one instead.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Results

Here are both of the patterns, they are not only perfectly seamless but also completely vector! If you want to use them on the web as a bitmap then export the whole artboard to JPG 72DPI and crop the result to a 100 x 100 pixel square in Photoshop or any similar tool.
how to create a quatrefoil pattern

Download Seamless Vector Quatrefoil Patterns

seamless quatrefoil patterns
This pack includes 20 perfectly seamless vector quatrefoil patterns for Illustrator featuring various ornamental designs with four cloves. They are scalable and can be edited in Illustrator CS6+, also included are 20 high resolution JPG files ready for production use, measuring 600 x 600 mm at 300DPI.

Download Free


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How do you make a texture appear reflective using Photoshop?

Create Gold and Silver Reflective Foil Textures with Photoshop

Foil textures can be very tricky to create. Unlike most materials, they aren't easily photographed because of unwanted reflections, and worse still they don't create any reflections at all when scanned with a flatbed scanner. So it would seem that the best option is to artificially create them from scratch with image manipulation, but then how do you make a texture appear reflective in Photoshop?

If you’d rather skip the tutorial and download 30 high quality pre made gold and silver foil textures you can download the pack here.

Step 1

Launch Photoshop and create a new document. Make the dimensions square and quite large, I suggest 3000 x 3000 pixels.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 2

The first step is to place our base texture for the foil effect. This can be any type of prexisting texture, such as paper, card or generic grunge. I found that the Grunge Paper Textures on Medialoot work very well. You can download the texture used in this tutorial for free here.

When you have your texture place it into your document as a Smart Object, and resize to fill the entire canvas (don’t worry about quality loss).
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 3

Apply a small 5 Pixel Gaussian Blur effect to smooth out the details of the texture.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 4

Select Filter Gallery from the Filter menu and find apply an Ocean Ripple effect (under Distort). If you are using the grunge texture supplied then a Ripple Size of 6 and Magnitude of 20 should create the desired effect. If not, you may need to experiment with the settings.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
The Filter Gallery effect should be above the Gaussian Blur in the Layers Panel:
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 5

Create a new Gradient Fill layer via the Layer > New Fill Layer menu.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 6

Select the default Black to White gradient and set the Angle to -105°. This is to even out the lighting and bring out the shadows in the lower left corner of the texture.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 7

Set the Blending Mode of the gradient layer to Soft Light and the Opacity to 70%.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 8

Create another new Gradient Fill layer via the Layer > New Fill Layer menu.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 9

Create a subtle gold gradient from #DBA76C to #EDCBA1 as shown below and set the Style to Reflected, then the Angle to 120° and tick the Reverse checkbox.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 10

Set the Blending Mode of the gradient layer to Color and the Opacity to 75%. This will change the color of the texture to gold.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 11

Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer and tweak the curve slightly at the top and bottom.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 12

Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and enter 80 for the Shadows Level and 230 for the Highlights Level.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 13

Then create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and reduce the Opacity by -20.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
The Layers panel so far should look like this:
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 14

You should now have a very nice reflective gold foil texture.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 15

To make a silver foil texture, we can simply modify the gold texture. First create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and enter +153 for Hue, -94 for Saturation and +24 for Lightness. We don’t want the silver texture to be completely greyscale, it should have a slight blue-ish tint.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 16

To give the silver foil a more reflective effect, create a new Layers Adjustment Panel and set the Shadows Level to 37 and Highlights Level to 225.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
You can group these adjustments together in order to easily toggle between gold and silver by hiding and showing the ‘Silver’ group.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 17

In real life, silver foil has a higher tendency to catch reflections than gold. In order to make the silver foil effect more realistic we can emulate some reflections. Start by grabbing a random image from a free photo source such as Unsplash. I chose to use this photo of a bear.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 18

Convert the photo to a Smart Object and apply a Gaussian Blur with 150 Pixel Radius.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Step 19

Set the Blending Mode of the photo layer to Color and adjust the Opacity until the reflections are barely visible.
how to create a foil texture in photoshop
how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Result & Conclusion

Gold

how to create a foil texture in photoshop

Silver

how to create a foil texture in photoshop
As you can see, this technique creates a rather convincing reflective foil effect by only using one base texture, gradients and adjustment layers. This effect can be recreated with almost any base texture for different results, however you may want to stick with subtle grunge and paper or card textures for the best results.

Download Gold & Silver Foil Textures

gold and silver foil textures
This pack features 30 gold and silver foil textures with a glossy, reflective finish. They make beautiful backgrounds and can also be used to mockup hot foil stamping (tip: apply them to text with a clipping mask). The pack includes 15 gold and 15 silver high resolution images.

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Shoreditch Sans Serif Font


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Chase Landing Page Template (PSD)


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Gold & Silver Foil Textures


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For OCD designers who like to keep their documents organised

Quick Tip: How to Rename an Existing Smart Object in Photoshop CC

Anybody who works with Photoshop regularly will have encountered Smart Objects, they are a great way to create dynamic elements which automatically apply changes to all instances of the same object, and allow you to apply transformations and filters non-destructively to bitmap images. However once created, Photoshop does not offer any straightforward way to change the Smart Object filename. This has always bugged me, and judging from a quick internet search I'm not alone.

The Problem

Although a filename doesn’t affect the functionality of a Smart Object, it can get very frustrating when working with documents that have multiple Smart Objects and you want to give them relevant, contextual names such as ‘red box.psb’ (what happens if that box isn’t red anymore?). Or if you create Photoshop documents with Smart Objects to share with others as I do, you want filenames to be clear and understandable.

Also, pasted Smart Objects from Illustrator are always given the default name ‘Vector Smart Object’ which is very generic and doesn’t say anything about the contents of the Smart Object.

Most annoying though is the way Photoshop adds numbers to filenames. When you edit a Smart Object a temporary file is created with the extension .psb, for example ‘mysmartobject.psb’. Photoshop then deletes this temporary file when the master document is closed. But, if you edit a Smart Object with the same name as a temporary file that already exists you end up with a number appended to the file name, for example ‘mysmartobject1.psb’. And once you hit save, that new filename is permanently changed!

Whats worse is that if you do this again and again, you actually sometimes end up with ‘mysmartobject11.psb’ and ‘mysmartobject111.psb’ etc. Call it OCD if you want, but this bugs the hell out of me!

The Solution

Luckily, since Photoshop CC 14.2 there is now a way you can change the name of an existing Embedded Smart Object without recreating it from scratch, and it’s actually surprisingly simple..

Step 1

First, open your file with an existing Smart Object, or create a new one and select the Smart Object layer.
rename a smart object in photoshop

Step 2

Show the Properties panel by going to Window > Properties and click ‘Convert to Linked…’
rename a smart object in photoshop

Step 3

In the dialog that pops up, enter the new filename of your Smart Object and save it somewhere easy to find (eg. Desktop).
rename a smart object in photoshop

Step 4

Click ‘Embed’. Your Smart Object now has a new name!
rename a smart object in photoshop

Step 5

Delete the .psb file that you saved in Step 3.
rename a smart object in photoshop

Limitations

This only works with Photoshop CC version 14.2 and newer which support Linked Smart Objects. If you have multiple instances of the same Smart Object, you will need to recreate the other instances manually using the new Smart Object.


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Draw a complex looking city skyline using basic vector shapes

Create a Vector Cityscape Scene in Adobe Illustrator

This detailed tutorial will walk you through the process of creating a vector cityscape in Illustrator step by step, using only basic shapes such as rectangles, circles and lines.

Section 1: Background

Step 1.1

Create a new 1200 x 600 pixel document in Illustrator with RGB color mode.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 1.2

As this is a rather complex illustration, it is wise to plan ahead and split the illustration into distinct sections. Create 5 new layers in addition to the default ‘Layer 1’ and give them appropriate names as shown in the screenshot below:
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 1.3

On the ‘Background’ layer draw a new rectangle that fits the entire artboard with a light blue fill.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 1.4

Draw another rectangle at the bottom of the artboard, with a biege fill.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Section 2: Clouds

Step 2.1

Lock the ‘Background’ layer and move to the ‘Clouds’ layer.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.2

Draw a new rectangle with a white fill.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.3

Duplicate the existing rectangle or draw 2 more as shown.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.4

Select all 3 white rectangles and combine them with the ‘Union’ Shape Mode.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.5

Switch to the Direct Selection tool and increase the corner radius to the maximum (10px)
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.6

Repeat the process to create another cloud.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.7

Repeat the process to create another cloud.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 2.8

Repeat the process to create another cloud.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Section 3: Sun

Step 3.1

Lock the ‘Clouds’ layer and move to the ‘Sun’ layer.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 3.2

Draw a circle shape with a yellow fill using the Ellipse tool whilst holding down the Shift key to constrain proportions.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 3.3

Duplicate the circle, switch the fill color to white with 60% transparency and increase the size. Then Send Backward (CMD+[ or CTRL+[).
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 3.4

Duplicate the circle, change the transparency to 60% and increase the size. Then Send Backward (CMD+[ or CTRL+[).
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Section 4: Buildings (Distant)

Step 4.1

Lock the ‘Sun’ layer and move to the ‘Buildings (Distant)’ layer.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.2

Draw 3 new rectangles with a light blue (just slightly darker than the sky). Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.3

Grab the top right anchor point of the last rectangle and use the arrow keys to nudge it up 10 pixels.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.4

Draw 6 new rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.5

Use the Pen tool to delete the top right anchor point on the last rectangle.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.6

Draw 2 new rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.7

Grab the top left anchor point of the last rectangle and use the arrow keys to nudge it right 20 pixels.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.8

Draw 2 rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.9

Grab the top right anchor point of the last rectangle and use the arrow keys to nudge it down 10 pixels.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.10

Draw 6 new rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.11

Use the Pen tool to delete the top right anchor point and drag the remaining top point to the center whilst down the Shift key.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.12

Draw 2 new rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.13

Grab the top left anchor point with the Direct Selection tool and use the arrow keys to nudge it down 30 pixels.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.14

Draw 10 new rectangles with the same color. Dimensions and positions are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 4.15

Grab the top right anchor point with the Direct Selection tool and use the arrow keys to nudge it down 10 pixels.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Section 5: Buildings (Near)

Step 5.1

Lock the ‘Buildings (Distant)’ layer and move to the ‘Buildings (Near)’ layer.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.2

Draw 3 new dark gray rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.3

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 5 times with 4 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.4

Draw 3 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.5

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 5 times with 2 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.6

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 6 times with 4 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.7

Select the middle 2 rectangles on the bottom row and delete them.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.8

Draw 5 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.9

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 4 times with 6 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.10

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 5 times with 6 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.11

Draw 3 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.12

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency, and rounded top corners. Then duplicate it 3 times with 8 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.13

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 3 times with 10 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.14

Draw 6 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.15

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 3 times with 8 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.16

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 6 times with 6 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.17

Select the middle 2 rectangles on the bottom row and delete them.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.18

Draw 13 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.19

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 4 times with 4 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.20

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 5 times with 4 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.21

Draw 3 new rectangles. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.22

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency, and rounded top corners. Then duplicate it 2 times with 8 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.23

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 3 times with 10 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.24

Draw a new rectangle. Dimensions, positions and other attributes are shown in the screenshots below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.25

Draw a black rectangle with 10% transparency and duplicate it 2 times with 6 pixels horizontal spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 5.26

Select the row of rectangles and duplicate it 4 times with 6 pixels vertical spacing in between each copy.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Section 6: Lamps/Trees

Step 6.1

Lock the ‘Buildings (Near)’ layer and move to the ‘Lamps/Trees’ layer.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.2

Draw a circle shape with a green fill using the Ellipse tool whilst holding down the Shift key to constrain proportions.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.3

Duplicate the circle in place and change the fill to black. Draw a rough rectangle shape that intersects the center of the circle, and use the Subtract Shape Mode to delete the left half of the circle.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.4

Change the transparency to 10% for a shadow effect.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.5

Draw a new Line segment with a dark brown 2 pixel stroke as shown below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.6

Draw a new diagonal Line segment that meets the first line.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.7

Draw a new Ellipse shape with a black fill and 10% transparency, then Send to Back (CMD+SHIFT+[ or CTRL+SHIFT+[) to place it behind the tree.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.8

Group the tree shapes, duplicate the group 5 times and spread them along the cityscape. Also to add some variety use Flip Horizontal and resize a couple of the trees.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.9

Draw a new medium gray rectangle with rounded top corners as show in the screenshot below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.10

Draw a new Line segment with a 2 pixel medium gray stroke as show in the screenshot below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.11

Draw another line segment which meets the first line.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.12

Draw a new rectangle shape with rounded bottom corners and a yellow color fill as shown in the screenshot below.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.13

Draw a new Ellipse shape with a black fill and 10% transparency, then Send to Back (CMD+SHIFT+[ or CTRL+SHIFT+[) to place it behind the lamp post.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Step 6.14

Group the lamp post shapes, duplicate the group 3 times and spread them along the cityscape. Also to add some variety use Flip Horizontal on a couple of the lamp posts.
create a vector cityscape in illustrator

Result & Conclusion

Phew! If you made it this far, congratulations! I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with this tutorial and creating your own vector cityscape. It’s definitely one my most detailed tutorials to date and I had a lot of fun putting this together. Thanks for reading, and lastly here is the final result:
create a vector cityscape in illustrator
(click to view full size)


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Vector Landscapes Vol 3


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Valentine’s Day Vector Icons


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Vector Landscapes Vol 2


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Paint Stained Concrete Brushes & Textures


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Free Vector City Map Layout


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Create a more interesting piece

How to Place Lettering in and Around Objects in a Photo

A common way of display a lettering piece is to place it over a photo. To make the composition more interesting it’s also common to hide portions of the lettering behind objects in the photo. In this easy tutorial I’ll show you a method for achieving that effect.

Your Lettering Piece and a Good Photo

First up, your lettering doesn’t have to be script, but it makes things a little easier as there are elements to mask between letters leaving the word more readable. Your photo should contain some items that would naturally overlap the word. Things like trees or mountains are common.

For this example, I wrote the word “Explore” and I chose this forest photo from Unsplash.

Creating a Mask

Now I’ll add the lettering on a new layer above the photo in Photoshop.

At this point, it’s time to decide what portions I want to mask in and around the type. Make sure to scale the word so that it overlaps all of the items that you plan to use. I’ll use these four trees in my photo.

To create the selection I need, I scaled the opacity of the lettering layer back to around 30% and switched to Quick Mask Mode (Q). From there I used a hard paint brush and painted the areas that I need in the selection.

Switching back out of Quick Mask Mode will create the selection I need. I also adjusted the lettering opacity back to 100%.

With the lettering layer selected, I created a layer mask by pressing the layer mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel. Now portions of the word are hidden behind the trees.

Right now the entire word appears behind the trees. I want some elements of the word to appear in front and some to appear behind. In order to do this, I’ll take a white brush and draw on the lettering’s layer mask on portions of the word I want to reveal.

The key here is to pay attention to what might be in front of the trees and what might fall behind them. Use a white brush to reveal portions and a black brush to hide.

Adding Shadows to the Lettering

To make things look a bit more 3D I’ll add some shadows. To do that I’ll create a drop shadow layer effect on the lettering layer.

I created another selection from the lettering layer’s layer mask by holding the Cmd key and clicking the layer mask. Then I added a new layer for my shadows above the lettering layer.

Use this new layer to paint some shadows on the type with a soft black brush set to 30% opacity. Keep in mind where the light source is and where the shadows might realistically fall. The selection will prevent you from painting over the trees.

After I painted the shadows, I deleted any brush strokes that fell outside the lettering by deselecting (Cmd+D) the current selection from the mask, and creating a new one from the lettering layer. Simply Cmd+Click the lettering layer’s thumbnail. Now invert that selection (Cmd+Shift+I), select the shadow layer as the active layer and press the delete key.

Conclusion

That’s it! I hope this tutorial inspires you to do something new and creative when displaying your next lettering project. I’d love to see your results. Feel free to share them in the comments below.


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Vector Landscapes Vol 1


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Landing Page Vector Graphics (Updated)


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Create a vector hand from scratch using basic shapes and the Pathfinder

How to Draw a Multi-Touch Tap Gesture Vector Icon

Gesture icons can be very useful in the user on-boarding process for touch based mobile applications, and in this tutorial I will show you how to draw a vector hand from scratch in Illustrator using basic shapes and the Pathfinder tool.

Step 1

Begin by launching Adobe Illustrator (version CS6 or newer) and creating a new document. For this tutorial I have chosen to use a width of 900px and height of 600px.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 2

Draw a small rectangle to use as the palm of the hand.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

  • Width: 64px
  • Height: 40px
  • X Position: 462px*
  • Y Position: 305px*
  • Fill: None
  • Stroke: #4D4D4D
  • Stroke Width: 8px
  • Stroke Options: round corners, round end caps, and aligned to the center

*All X and Y positions use a center reference point

Step 3

draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 3.1

Draw another rectangle to use as the base of the wrist.

  • Width: 46px
  • Height: 40px
  • X Position: 459px*
  • Y Position: 345px*

Step 3.2

Draw another rectangle to use as the index finger.

  • Width: 16px
  • Height: 70px
  • X Position: 438px*
  • Y Position: 276px*

Step 3.3

Duplicate the last rectangle to use as the middle finger.

  • Width: 16px
  • Height: 76px
  • X Position: 454px*
  • Y Position: 273px*

Step 3.4

Duplicate the last rectangle to use as the ring finger.

  • Width: 16px
  • Height: 70px
  • X Position: 470px*
  • Y Position: 276px*

Step 3.5

Duplicate the last rectangle to use as the pinky finger.

  • Width: 16px
  • Height: 56px
  • X Position: 486px*
  • Y Position: 283px*

Step 4

The thumb is a little bit trickier, duplicate the middle finger, then rotate it 30 degrees and place it near the base of the wrist.

  • Width: 16px
  • Height: 76px
  • Rotate: 30°
  • X Position: 429px*
  • Y Position: 328px*

draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 5

Select all of the shapes and Unite them with the Pathfinder.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 6

draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 6.1

Select the anchor point highlighted and remove it using the Delete Anchor Point (-) tool.

Step 6.2

Use the Direct Selection tool to select the bottom segment of the shape and hit the delete key to remove it.

Step 6.3

Use the Convert Anchor Point tool, hold down the Shift key and drag downwards to add handles to the highlighted anchor point. This will curve the line slightly.

Step 6.4

Use the Direct Selection tool to select the highlighted anchor point and increase the corner radius to the maximum possible (87.69px).

Step 6.5

After increasing the corner radius, the shape should look like number 5 in the image above.

Step 7

The next step is to draw some lines to separate the fingers.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 7.1

Line separating index and middle finger.

  • Width: 0px
  • Height: 42px
  • X Position: 446px*
  • Y Position: 270px*

Step 7.2

Line separating middle and ring finger.

  • Width: 0px
  • Height: 42px
  • X Position: 462px*
  • Y Position: 270px*

Step 7.3

Line separating ring and pinky finger.

  • Width: 0px
  • Height: 34px
  • X Position: 478px*
  • Y Position: 280px*

Step 8

In this step we will had a little contour to the thumb to make it more realistic
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 8.1

Create a new anchor point on the thumb, roughly where it is highlighted in the image above.

Step 8.2

Nudge the new anchor point left 4 pixels using the left arrow key.

Step 8.3

Select the anchor point shown in the image above and increase the corner radius to the maximum (~30px).

Step 8.4

Select the anchor point shown in the image above and increase the corner radius to the maximum (~100px).

Step 9

I recommend making a copy of the hand shape at this stage, as the next step is to ‘close’ some of the fingers.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 9.1

Select the top 3 anchor points of the pinky finger and the top point of the line that separates it from the ring finger. Nudge these points down 28 pixels using the down arrow key.

Step 9.2

Select the top 3 anchor points of the ring finger and the top point of the line that separates it from the middle finger. Nudge these points down 30 pixels using the down arrow key.

Step 9.3

Select the top 3 anchor points of the middle finger and nudge these points down 32 pixels using the down arrow key. The line does not need to be changed this time.

Step 10

A circle can be used to indicate a single ‘tap’ gesture. Grab the Oval tool and hold down the Shift key to draw a circle over the tip of the index finger.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

  • Width: 58px
  • Height: 58px
  • X Position: 438px*
  • Y Position: 249px*

Step 11

A circle can be used to indicate a single ‘tap’ gesture. Grab the Oval tool and hold down the Shift key to draw a circle over the tip of the index finger.
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Step 11.1

Add two new anchor points to the circle as shown in the image above.

Step 11.2

Select the bottom anchor point on the circle with the Direct Selection tool and hit the delete key to remove it.

Result

Here is the finished single finger tap gesture icon:
draw a multi touch gesture icon in illustrator

Almost any icon can be created by using basic shapes (such as rectangles and ovals) and the Pathfinder tool. Hopefully you have enjoyed following along with this tutorial, and now feel confident to take these techniques and apply them to creating other gestures such as double-taps, swipes, holds and more.

But of course, we also have a free set of pre-made multi touch gesture icons that you can download:

Free Download

download free multi-touch gesture icons

*All X and Y positions use a center reference point


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Best of 2015: Medialoot’s Most Downloaded Freebies

We think that free resources help inspire and encourage designers. Medialoot wants to remember how great 2015 was by looking back at the most-downloaded free resources of the year.

Most-downloaded freebies of the year

Grunge Stained Paper Textures

Our most downloaded resources of 2015. This texture pack contains 10 unique vintage stained paper textures. Each texture is beautifully detailed and grungy, they have an abstract feel to them and make perfect backgrounds for typography or other design work.


Open Brochure Mockup

Our list includes 3 mockups, and this brochure is the most popular of them all. This download is an open A4 brochure mockup including front cover design and 2 inside pages. The mockup features strict perspective and is ideal for showcasing brochure or magazine designs.


iPad App Perspective Mockup

This presentation mockup is perfect for showcasing your iOS iPad app design concepts. The template accommodates landscape or portrait orientation screenshots, and showcases them with perspective and depth. Simply paste your screenshots into the Smart Objects and save to update the mockup, you can also freely change the background color.


Landing Page Header Cards

This pack includes 4 landing page header cards, these templates are perfect for combining with other elements to build your own custom landing page designs. They feature headlines, text, buttons sign up forms, screenshot placeholders and hero header style desk items.


T-Shirt Design Mockup

Our 5th and final most-downloaded resource. Mockup your t-shirt designs in style with this free unisex, color tee mockup. Simply place your artwork into the included Smart Object and save to update the template, you can also change the color of the clothing via a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.


Thanks to the Medialoot community for an awesome 2015. We hope you found all of our resources helpful, and we look forward to an even better 2016. As always, we encourage you to submit your requests to us; we love being able to provide resources and tutorials. Comment below with your favorite things from 2015 or with resource suggestions.

Happy New Year!


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Multi-Touch Gesture Icons


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Seamless Vector Patterns


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Speed up your icon and vector graphics workflow

How to Design for Screen more Efficiently with Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a great tool for designing icons and other vector graphics for both print and screen. But as a designer who creates artwork primarily for screen, I have found that some unconventional methods in Illustrator can make it even more efficient. Here are some of my top tips for designers wanting to speed up their workflow.

Always use Round Pixels Values

This is crux of an efficient workflow in Illustrator. We previously had an article on How to Get Pixel-Perfect designs in Adobe Illustrator which covered various techniques for obtaining sharp, pixel perfect designs. But even if pixel perfection is not your aim, it is still far more efficient to always use whole pixel values in any design intended for screen. Round value numbers are simply easier for our brains to understand, and therefor easier to work with.

Give Preference to Even Pixel Values

In addition to using round pixel values, it is also wise to use even numbers whenever possible. For the purpose of scaling graphics in particular, odd numbers can always be doubled and result in round even numbers, but they cannot be halved without resulting in fractions. Even numbers of course can be.

X and Y Values are Important too

Just as important as having round width and height values for objects, the X and Y position values will also determine how pixel-precise a shape looks. For example a 40 x 40 pixel rectangle positioned at X 150.75 and Y 350.25 will not be aligned to the pixel grid and may appear blurry on some screens.
illustrator design tips

Use the Transform Panel to make Large Adjustments

Use the Free Transform tools to roughly find the correct size for a large size adjustment and then highlight any X, Y, H or W fields which are not whole values in the Transform panel, and hit the Up or Down key once to round up or down to the nearest whole value.

Use the Arrow keys to make Small Adjustments

To make small changes to a shape, either Isolate the object and use the Direct Selection tool to highlight one side of the shape and Nudge the vector points left/right or up/down with the arrow keys or use the transform panel and up/down arrow keys to tweak X, Y, H or W values. Both of these methods will retain whole pixel values (if Keyboard Increment is 1 px in the General Preferences).
illustrator design tips

Be Consistent with Strokes

Most artwork created in Illustrator will use outline strokes at some point. Being consistent with stroke values in Illustrator will create a more refined appearance, and speed up your overall workflow. There are a handful of options available for strokes which are:

illustrator design tips

  • Stroke Width
  • End Cap
  • Corner Joint
  • Stroke Alignment
  • Dashed Line
  • Arrowheads
  • Line Profile

When we talk about being consistent with stroke values, we are really only focusing on Stroke Width, End Caps, Corner Joints and Stroke Alignment.

Stroke Width

Depending on the complexity of your artwork, I strongly recommend deciding on 1-5 preset stroke widths to use throughout your artwork in the early stages. For example you may choose 1px for light lines, 3 px for regular lines and 5 px for heavy lines. By sticking to this template, your finished artwork will appear more polished, and consistent. It also reduces time spent deciding on what width to use for which lines if you limit yourself to only 3 options.

End Caps and Corner Joints

End caps and corner joints are styling options for strokes which determine how end and corner points are displayed. These are ultimately personal preference options, depending on which option is most suitable to your style of work. However once chosen, it is best to be consistent with your decision. Especially if you regularly use the Eye Dropper tool, which will duplicate styles including your end cap and corner options from one object to another.

Stroke Alignment

Stroke alignment may seem unimportant, and most will probably select the alignment that looks best on a per-object basis. But like with the end caps and corner joints, if you decide to use the Eye Dropper tool to copy styles from one object to another, you may end up with a misaligned stroke. A better option for when you need to move a stroke in or out, is to make the actual object either slightly smaller or larger instead.

Which alignment should you use? It makes the most sense to always align strokes to the center rather than the inside or outside. The obvious reason being that it is the default value. But it is also the only type of stoke alignment that is currently supported in SVG.

Don’t Scale Strokes & Corners

One of my top tips is to uncheck both ‘Scale Strokes & Effects’ and ‘Scale Corners’ in the preferences when working on artwork to avoid accidental changes.

illustrator design tips
The ability to scale strokes is very useful, but it isn’t always what you want to do. In fact, personally I find that more often than not, it is preferable for strokes not to automatically scale. The same goes for corners.

For example if you have a rectangle that is 100 x 100 pixels with a 1 pixel stroke, then resize the rectangle to 115 x 115 pixels, your stroke width will now be 1.15 pixels, which is not a round value and may appear blurry on some screens. Also being a relatively small change, may go unnoticed until it’s too late. If and when you do need to make precise scale adjustments, simply turn scale corners and strokes back on temporarily.

Use Align Tools

Seriously, these save so much time. There is often no need to drag in countless amounts of guides or have a calculator handy when you want to precisely place an object.

If you aren’t familiar with align tools, they can be used to move any individual object or group of objects to the top, bottom, left, right, vertical center or horizontal center of an Artboard or another object.

But it doesn’t just end there. For example, what if you want to place an object exactly in between two other objects? Simply select the two guide objects and group them them together, and then also select the object you want to move, mark the group as they key object and then align horizontally and vertically center.
illustrator design tips

And if you want to align an object to ‘that sort of empty space area over there’? Simply draw a temporary rectangle and use that for alignment, then delete the rectangle. It’s still quicker than drawing rulers!
illustrator design tips

Non-Destructive Pathfinder Operations (Compound Shapes)

Combining shapes is an essential part of creating icons, and illustration in general. Complex shapes are built by adding, subtracting, and intersecting simpler shapes. In Illustrator this is done with Pathfinder operations, as I’m sure you already knew. But what you may not know is that these Pathfinder operations don’t always have to be permanent.

Think about it, have you ever been in the situation where you combined two shapes together, then realised later that they weren’t quite right? You basically have two options in this situation, either hold down CMD+Z and cry a little as you watch the last of hour of work rewind before your eyes. OR the more popular but still annoying method, redraw the shapes and start again.

Although the default Pathfinder behaviour in Illustrator is to make permanent changes to shapes, it can also be done non-destructively. All you have to do is hold down the Alt key as you click one of the shape modes. The operation is performed but is not made permanent until you click the Expand button. In Illustrator this is called a Compound Shape.
illustrator design tips

Conclusion

Over time, little changes to your workflow which save a few seconds here and there add up to make a more substantial difference. Hopefully by sharing some of my favourite tips and tricks, you can be a little more efficient at designing for screen with Illustrator.


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Free Sketchbook Mockup PSD