Watercolor Autumn Leaves Collection

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Subtle lighting techniques and a long shadow

How to Create Legible White on White Text with Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you how to create a long shadow and use subtle lighting techniques in Photoshop to make white on white text that is not only visible but also legible (at a decent enough size of course).

Step 1

Begin by creating a new document in Photoshop that is 1600 x 900 pixels, 72 PPI and RGB Color with White background contents.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 2

Use the Type tool to create a new text layer with the word White and align it to the center of the artboard. I am using the free font Montserrat at 340 px. If you don’t have this available and don’t want to download it, it is okay to use a close alternative.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 3

Right click the text layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 4

Double click the Smart Object layer to bring up the Layer Styles and apply a white (#FFFFFF) Color Overlay.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 5

As you can see this makes the text invisible.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop
Obviously this is no good, so we need to do some lighting. Start by making the background just slightly darker by adding a new Color Fill Layer with #F7F7F7.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 6

Duplicate the Smart Object layer and place it inside a new group called ‘Long Shadow’ below the original Smart Object.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 7

On the Smart Object inside the Long Shadow group, add a black #000000 Color Overlay layer style.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 8

On the same layer, apply a Motion blur effect which can be found in the Filter > Blur menu. Set the Angle to 45 and the Distance to 20 Pixels.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 9

Set the Opacity of the blurred Smart Object to 2% so that it is barely visible.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 10

To create the long shadow effect, we need to duplicate and move the blurred layer multiple times. This can be done quickly by using keyboard shortcuts. First zoom to 50%* then hold down the ALT key and press the Down Arrow once to duplicate the layer and nudge it down. Then press the Left Arrow key to nudge it left.

*the arrow keys usually nudge by 1 pixel, however if you zoom the document to 50% then it will move 2 pixels which is more suited to our needs and will result in needing half as many duplicates.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 11

Repeat the process by holding down the ALT key and pressing the Down Arrow, then the Left Arrow another 14 times.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 12

We can add some more subtle lighting techniques to make the shadow effect look better. Create a new Gradient Fill layer below the Long Shadow group.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 13

Use the default Black to White gradient, and set the Angle to 45°.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 14

Set the Opacity of the Gradient Fill layer to 3%. This will give the subtle appearance of a light source emanating from the top right corner of the artboard.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 15

Finally, we can add a very subtle highlight to the original text layer, double click the top layer.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Step 16

And apply a white #FFFFFF Drop Shadow, Normal Blend Mode, 80% Opacity, -135° Angle, Distance 3 px, Spread 0, and Size 6px.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

It is very subtle but if you look closely, you can see that this gives the effect of light reflecting off the edges of the text.
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop

Result

And here is the final result:
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop
By creating a long shadow and using some subtle lighting techniques we can make white on white text a perfectly viable color combination for headlines and other graphics. We can also edit the contents of the Smart Object at any point to change the text, add shapes or even drop in your company logo:
create white on white text with a long shadow in photoshop


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Save time by using Scatter brushes

How to Create Confetti Shapes Quickly and Easily in Illustrator

In this tutorial we will create a scattered confetti effect. This effect could potentially be very time consuming to draw, resize, rotate and rearrange each shape manually, so we will use Scatter Brushes to simplify the whole process and make it much more fun!

Step 1

Get started by creating a new document in Illustrator, 800 x 600 pixels.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 2

The first thing to do is draw some simple shapes to scatter. Hold down the shift key and use the Ellipse tool to draw a circle.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 3

Next draw a triangle, the easiest way to do this is with the Polygon tool, click on the canvas and enter ‘3’ sides.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 4

Now, a simple horizontal line. Make it roughly 20 pixels long and give it a 5 pt stroke with round end caps.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 5

Draw another line or duplicate the last one and make it a little longer, around 34 pixels.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 6

Apply the Zig Zag filter from the Effect > Distort & Transform menu. Enter 2 px for the size, choose Absolute, 2 Ridges and Smooth points.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 7

Finally, lets draw a simple spiral shape. Use the spiral tool and click on the canvas, enter 18 px for the Radius, 80% for Decay and 6 Segments. Use the second style option. Give the spiral the same stroke options as the line and wavy line.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 8

Highlight the 3 shapes with strokes and go to the Object > Path menus and choose Outline Stroke.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 9

With our shapes ready to use, now we just need to turn them into Scatter Brushes. Select the circle first and create a new Scatter Brush.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 10

Enter the options shown in the screenshot below. We want the size to vary slightly but not too much, the spacing to be quite wide, the scatter to also be quite wide and the rotation to be full. Make sure you also select the Hue Shift colorization method which will allow us to use different colors for the shapes.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 11

Enter the same options for the triangle shape:
create confetti in illustrations

Step 12

Enter the same options for the line shape:
create confetti in illustrations

Step 13

Enter the same options for the wavy line shape:
create confetti in illustrations

Step 14

Enter the same options for the spiral shape:
create confetti in illustrations

Step 15

All the prep work is done now, time to have some fun with the brushes. Choose the Brush tool, set the foreground color to #AF7EED and paint in a random zig zag line with the circle scatter brush.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 16

Switch the brush preset to the triangle, and foreground color to #F49EB8 and paint another random zig zag line.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 17

Switch the brush preset to the line, and foreground color to #F2ED9E and paint another random zig zag line.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 18

Switch the brush preset to the wavy line, and foreground color to #65E6A3 and paint another random zig zag line.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 19

Switch the brush preset to the spiral, and foreground color to #62E3ED and paint another random zig zag line.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 20

Go to the Object menu and select Expand Appearance. This will convert the scatter brushes into individual shapes.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 21

Select all shapes and ungroup them, then manually click and drag each shape around to rearrange them. Aim for even spacing between each shape.
create confetti in illustrations

Step 22

If you want, we can also add some text to the arrangement. Simply move the confetti shapes around to make some space in the middle.
create confetti in illustrations

Result & Conclusion

Here is the final result:
create confetti in illustrations
This effect is great for celebrations such birthday party invitations and sale adverts etc. For a more sophisticated effect, limit the confetti to only one or two different shapes. Hopefully you have enjoyed following along with this tutorial and if you were new to Scatter Brushes now feel much more comfortable with them.


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Enhance your portraits with natural looking results

How to Smooth Skin and Make Eyes Pop with Photoshop

This tutorial will teach you a simple technique for subtly enhancing portrait photos with Photoshop. We will gently smooth the skin to improve the overall tone and help reduce unwanted blemishes, then draw focus to the eyes by increasing their contrast and saturation.

Step 1

Begin by opening your image in Photoshop. I am using this excellent free stock photo from Pixabay.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 2

Double click on the Background layer to unlock it, you will be prompted to give the layer a new name.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 3

Right click on the image layer and choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’. This will allow us to apply non-destructive Smart Filters.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 4

Duplicate the Smart Object layer twice so that you have 3 copies in total. Place the top two layers in a group called ‘Skin’. Hide the visibility of the top one for now by clicking the eye icon and select the other visible layer.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 5

With the visible layer selected, go to the Filter > Blur menu and choose Surface Blur. Enter 55 for the Radius and 30 for the Threshold, this will apply a smoothing effect to the entire image.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 6

Select the previously hidden layer, and make it visible. Set the Blending Mode to Linear Light and Opacity to 65%.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 7

Go to the Filter > Other menu and choose High Pass. Use 1.8 for the Radius. This will add back some of the details lost by applying the Surface Blur effect.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 8

Select the Group layer then go to the Layer > Layer Mask menu and choose Hide All. This will mask the smoothing effect and allow us to draw it back on with the Brush tool.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 9

Select the Brush tool and choose a medium sized soft brush. If the foreground color is not currently white, reset it to default by pressing D and then X once to flip foreground and background colors over.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 10

With the Mask still selected in the Layers panel, you can start carefully painting over the skin with the Brush tool. This can be done by eye, but if you want to ensure good coverage, I recommend going to the Channels window and clicking show visibility on the Skin Mask layer to enable a red overlay.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 11

As you carefully paint over the skin area, be sure to avoid the eyes, nostrils, lips and hair. If you make a mistake, switch the foreground color to black and paint over it, then try again.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 12

When you are finished, click the eye icon next to the Skin Mask channel to hide the red overlay and check the results.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 13

If you want to reduce the intensity of the effect, change the Opacity of the Skin group layer to your desired amount.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 14

Create a new empty Group layer and name it Eyes, then go to the Layer > Layer Mask menu and choose Hide All.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 15

Select the Brush tool and choose a small hard brush.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 16

Go into the Channels window and click the icon next to the Eyes Mask to show the red overlay again. Similar to last time, set the foreground color to white and carefully paint over the pupils. I recommend zooming in and getting as close to the edge of the pupils as possible.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 17

When you’re done, go the Layer > New Adjustment Layer menu and choose Brightness/Contrast then click OK.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 18

In the Properties window set the Brightness to 45 and Contrast to 95.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 19

Go to the Layer > New Adjustment Layer menu again and this time choose Hue/Saturation.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 20

Increase the Saturation to 20.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Step 21

If you want to reduce the intensity of the effect, change the Opacity of the Eyes group layer to your desired amount.
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial

Result & conclusion

Here is the before and after comparison:
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial
skin smoothing photoshop tutorial
As you can see the skin is much smoother on the right, and the eyes are definitely more vivid than before. However the effect doesn’t look overly airbrushed or unnatural. This is a great way to subtly enhance a portrait, and because we have used Smart Filters and Adjustment Layers it is completely editable, you can tweak the intensity of any of the effects or even revert to the original image if you want.

Download Portrait Enhancing Actions

drawing tools vector art brushes
This action for Photoshop makes the process of enhancing your portraits simple and easy. Smoothing out skin, drawing focus to the eyes or lips and removing red tints from skin can traditionally be a very complex to achieve. With this action the only work you’ll have to do is tell Photoshop where to apply the enhancements.

Download


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Bend and manipulate graphics around paths

How to Create Text Made out of Pencils in Illustrator

This fun effect is great for 'back to school' type graphics and also a good learning experience for using Art Brushes in Illustrator to manipulate and bend vector graphics around shapes such as text.

If you’d rather skip drawing the pencil you can download our premade Drawing Tools Vector Art Brushes.

Step 1

Start by launching Illustrator CS6 or newer and creating a new document. This tutorial uses the corner radius feature which was introduced in version CS6, if you have an older version you may need to round the corners manually.
create text made out of pencils

Step 2

The first thing to do is draw a pencil, this can be done by using a series of simple rectangle shapes. Start with a tall yellow rectangle 220 x 18 pixels, and then duplicate or draw another rectangle above it, delete one point and move the other to the center to create a triangle. Then finally duplicate the triangle and cut out a section for the tip.
create text made out of pencils

Step 3

Add some more details to the pencil by using 6px wide rectangles for depth, and round the the bottom left and right corners 2 pixels. I have intentionally kept this part of the tutorial brief as the pencil is completely up to you providing it is roughly 16 pixels wide. Important: make sure the triangle layers are at the top of the layers list.
create text made out of pencils

IMPORTANT UPDATE - Please read carefully

The rest of the tutorial instructs you to create 3 different size pencils. I have since discovered that this is not necessary. Please ignore these instructions and simply use the medium sized pencil and the Stretch Between Guides feature when creating the brush instead as shown below.
create text made out of pencils
Apologies for any confusion this causes, but I felt it was important to update this tutorial with the more efficient method which also produces better results.

Step 4

Some of the paths we are going to use this pencil on will be longer than others so we need a few different sizes to use. The original pencil should be roughly 240 pixels tall, but also create a small version 140 pixels tall and a large version 340 pixels tall.
create text made out of pencils

Step 5

Select the small pencil and create a new Art Brush.
create text made out of pencils

Step 6

Name the brush ‘Pencil (Small)’ and use the default settings.
create text made out of pencils

Step 7

Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other two pencils, name them ‘Pencil (Medium’) and ‘Pencil (Large)’.
create text made out of pencils

Step 8

Draw two new horizontal guides at Y: 200 px and 320 px.
create text made out of pencils

Step 9

Now it’s time to start drawing out letters. Start with the ‘P’ for ‘Pencils’ by drawing a rectangle shape with the ‘Pencil (Large)’ Art Brush and no fill. Visually align it to the top guide.

Tip: the direction of the brush will probably change as you edit the shape, to flip it again click on the end point of the path with the Pen tool.
create text made out of pencils

Step 10

Full round the top right and bottom right corners of the rectangle.
create text made out of pencils

Step 11

Create a new vector point on the bottom path and delete a section to break the shape apart as shown below.
create text made out of pencils

Step 12

Move the bottom left point down to meet the bottom guide.
create text made out of pencils

Step 13

Move the point that we created in step 11 left to overlap the vertical line slightly.
create text made out of pencils

Step 14

Highlight the top left point and increase the radius to 12 px.
create text made out of pencils

Step 15

Draw another rectangle for the base of the ‘E’. Use the ‘Pencil (Medium)’ brush, and align it to the bottom guide.
create text made out of pencils

Step 16

Delete the right line segment to break the shape apart.
create text made out of pencils

Step 17

Duplicate the path and align it with the top guide.
create text made out of pencils

Step 18

Delete the bottom right point on the duplicated shape, and switch the brush to ‘Pencil (Small)’. Also move the bottom left point down slightly to overlap the other shape more.
create text made out of pencils

Step 19

On the lower path, move the top right point left slightly.
create text made out of pencils

Step 20

Select the top and bottom corner points shown below, and increase the radius to 12 px.
create text made out of pencils

Step 21

Use the Pen tool to draw an ‘N’ shape, use the ‘Pencil (Large)’ brush and align the start and end points to the guides, but overshoot slightly on the diagonal line corners as they will get smaller when we round them in the next step.
create text made out of pencils

Step 22

Increase the radius to of the diagonal line corners to 6 px. You may need to undo and tweak the position of the points so that they align to the guides when rounded.
create text made out of pencils

Step 23

Draw another rectangle for the ‘C’. Use the ‘Pencil (Medium)’ brush and align it to the guides.
create text made out of pencils

Step 24

Fully round the corners on the rectangle.
create text made out of pencils

Step 25

Delete the line segment shown below to break the shape apart.
create text made out of pencils
create text made out of pencils

Step 26

This one is nice and easy, draw a line segment for the ‘I’ and use the ‘Pencil (Small)’ brush.
create text made out of pencils

Step 27

Use the Pen tool to draw an ‘L’ shape. Use the ‘Pencil (Medium)’ brush and align it to the guides.
create text made out of pencils

Step 28

Select the corner of the ‘L’ shape and increase the radius to 12 px.
create text made out of pencils

Step 29

The ‘S’ is the trickiest letter to draw so far, it cannot be easily done with basic shapes so instead I recommend using a standard sans serif font to type an ‘S’ then use the Pen tool to trace it (along the center). Use the ‘Pencil (Large)’ brush and align it to the guides.
create text made out of pencils

Step 30

The text should now look like this
create text made out of pencils
Select all paths (ungrouped) and apply a Drop Shadow effect Opacity: 15%, X Offset: 2px, Y Offset: 4px, Blur: 0.
create text made out of pencils

Result & Conclusion

For a finishing touch, add a dark grey background (#343638). And here is the result:
create text made out of pencils
This a fun effect to create and can be useful for projects such as ‘back to school’ promotional graphics, but is also a great way to learn about using Art Brushes in Illustrator. Hopefully you have enjoyed following along with this tutorial. If you’re looking to take it even further, this effect should also work well with other objects such as pens, paint brushes and crayons etc.

Download Drawing Tools Vector Art Brushes

drawing tools vector art brushes
This pack features 8 vector drawing tools from pens and pencils to paint brushes. They are supplied as regular vectors and Illustrator Art Brushes which allows you to wrap them around paths for creative effects.

Download


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Don't try to do this with the Pen Tool!

How to Create an Infinite Loop Symbol with Illustrator

This tutorial will teach you how to take a basic circle shape and use Illustrator to manipulate, duplicate and layer it step by step to build a perfect infinite loop and also create the illusion of depth.

Step 1

Launch Illustrator and create a new RGB document (800 x 520 px).
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 2

Draw a large rectangle that fills the artboard to use as a background layer. Set the fill to #2D2629 and the stroke to none.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 3

Use the Ellipse tool to draw a 125 x 125 px circle in the center of the canvas with a 50pt #D73562 stroke and no fill.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 4

Use the Convert Anchor Point tool and click once on the right-most point of the circle.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 5

Highlight the same point with the Direct Selection Tool and use the arrow keys to nudge it 20 pixels to the right.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 6

Add a new vertical guide as shown below at X:450 px.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 7

Select the top anchor point and drag the right handle to meet the vertical guide.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 8

Repeat for the bottom anchor point, they should both snap to the guide if you have Smart Guides (CMD+U) enabled.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 9

Set the reference point for the shape to the right and use Flip Horizontal from the Transform Panel
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 10

Select both shapes and re-align them to the center of the artboard.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 11

Use the Direct Selection tool and hold down the Shift key to select the two line segments show in the image below (just the segments not the anchor points).
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 12

Copy and paste the two segments to duplicate them.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 13

Group the segments and double click them to enter Isolate Mode. Then highlight the middle points and Join (CTRL+J or CMD+J) them to create a complete line.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 14

Exit Isolation Mode and duplicate the right hand side shape in place (you can change the stroke color to black to differentiate it from the original).
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 15

Enter Isolation Mode again for the duplicated shape and delete the two points shown.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator
You should be left with just this segment:
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 16

Select the black segment and also the middle segment, convert their strokes to outlines then make a copy of the middle segment (because we’ll need to reuse it for the other side) and subtract one of the middle segments from the black segment using Pathfinder.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator
This should be the result:
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 17

Repeat this process for the other side, start by duplicating the left-most shape and changing it’s fill to black.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 18

Then enter Isolation Mode and delete the two points shown.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 19

Use the remaining copy of the middle segment to subtract from the black segment.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator
You should be left with this:
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 20

Apply a gradient fill to the right-most black shape. Both stops are the same color as the background, but one stop is 100% opacity and the other is 0% opacity. The angle should be around 35° but you can also use your eye.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Step 21

Apply the same gradient to other side and flip the direction.
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator

Result & Conclusion

Here is the result:
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator
I also loaded the image into Photoshop and applied some very subtle grunge effects for a finishing touch:
how to create an infinite loop symbol in illustrator
There are lots of different ways to manipulate shapes in Illustrator, and sometimes seemingly complex shapes can be simpler than they seem. To draw this shape manually with the Pen tool would be extremely frustrating, but by starting with a basic circle we can manipulate and build the infinite loop with perfect dimensions.


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The Pros and Cons of Card-Based Design

What is Card-Based Design and Should you be Using it?

It may seem like every website you visit lately is migrating to card-based layouts over their traditional layouts. Taking cues from social media platforms, this trend has become hugely popular across all types of websites. The question is why, and should you be doing the same?

What is Card-Based Design?

Card-based layouts have been around in web design for longer than you may think are more popular right now than ever. The growing trend of using cards can be seen across some of the biggest websites in the world including Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Card-based layouts were pioneered by sites such as Pinterest which used a Masonry style grid of cards and Microsoft also implemented it into their operating systems with the Metro design language in 2006.

Examples of Card-Based Design

Pinterest

pinterest

Google+

google+

Silk Tricky

silktricky

Herman Miller

herman miller

Fire Box

fire box

Fibb

made by fibb

How to Design with Cards

Designing a website with cards requires a modified approach to traditional layouts. Cards are nearly always displayed in a grid or list of some sort, your job as a designer is to first figure out what portion of your design will feature cards and where other elements such as branding and navigation will appear.

pinterest

And then to decide how to create hierarchy within your cards, traditional methods such as placing more important content nearer the top of the page may work in some cases, but the very nature of cards is that they are scannable rather than an ordered list. Content that you want to stand out needs to do just that. This can be achieved by either by making it larger than other cards, using an eye-catching image of some sort or darker colours than other cards etc.

Pros of Card-Based Design:

Adaptive

Having your content contained within individual cards makes them easy to re-arrange and re-order. This is particularly important when it comes to responsive design for various devices and screen sizes. For this reason, cards make perfect sense to designers.

Scan-ability

Card-based layouts present your visitors with lots of short bursts of information, that are easy to scan and find what they need. Where as traditional layouts may dedicate their entire homepage to saying “hello” and telling you about a company, cards can show snippets of content from all across the site, meaning that visitors are more likely to find what they are looking for on the very first page they land at.

Bite-Sized Chunks of Information

Cards are good for communicating quick stories, things which don’t necessarily require a whole paragraph of text, let alone their own dedicated page, but are important nonetheless. Much like on Social Media, these shorter straight to the point snippets of information are easier to digest and more likely to actually be read by your visitors/followers.

And you can always provide a ‘Read More’ link if you do have more information to provide for those who are particularly interested.

Social Media Integration

As briefly mentioned in the last point, cards have a lot in common with social media. Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos etc. all fit the criteria of cards. So they are ideal for integrating into your website.

Cons of Card-Based Design:

Less Consistency

Unless all of your widgets visually look the same (which would be a bad practice in itself), a card-based design may require you to use a larger range of colours, images, fonts or other variables to distinguish between cards. Less consistency in this fashion can make your layout look disorganised.

Lack of Traditional Hierarchy

Although there are methods to bring attention to more important cards, the lack of a traditional hierarchy in which more important content is displayed first, can have a negative effect. Especially for visitors to a website who are looking for a specific piece of information, throwing a grid of seemingly unorganised snippets of content at them may leave them confused and not knowing where to look.

Not Suitable for Some Websites

Card-based design may not be suitable for smaller projects or projects that are primarily information based. For a website with the sole purpose of proving detailed information, a card-based design would be a step in the wrong direction. It would be counterintuitive to break a design up into multiple isolated segments, when all your visitor really wants to do is read the information you’re offering.

Likewise, for smaller projects which simply don’t have a lot of content, switching to a card-based design will only confuse your visitors. Smaller websites that have less content tend to be easy to navigate anyway, so why fix what isn’t broken?

Is Card-Based Design More Than Just a Trend?

When we think of web design trends, we think of things that have been and gone. GIFs were a big trend once (not just for memes), Skeumorphism was a huge trend not long ago too, and Flat design is probably the most popular recent trend which is fading slightly.

However some ‘trends’ that have been around from the beginning have proven themselves to be much more than just passing fads. For example common UI elements that we see on a daily basis such as dropdown menus, header images and sidebars were new once. Some trends just make a lot of sense and end up ultimately becoming the norm.

If cards are just a trend, one thing for sure is that it will be sticking around much longer than most. Whether or not you should use them, depends on the project but honestly I think the Pros outweigh the Cons in most cases.


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Unique effect for website headers and app splash screens

Create an Abstract Geometric Gradient Background with Photoshop

This tutorial will show you the process behind creating one of our most popular recent freebies on Medialoot, the Geometric Gradient Backgrounds pack. This technique uses vector shape layers, layer styles and of course gradients to create a stunning abstract background.

Step 1

Launch Photoshop and create a new 3000 x 3000 pixel document. The size of the document can be changed depending on your intended use.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 2

Create a new Gradient Fill layer for the background with three stops, #9e7cd1 at 0%, #ed8dba at 50% and #edad91 at 100%.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 3

Draw a white oval shape using the Ellipse tool from the top of the canvas to the bottom and align it horizontally with the center of the canvas.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 4

Double click the oval shape to bring up the Blending Options, set the Blend Mode to Soft Light, Opacity to 50% and Fill Opacity to 75%. This will allow us to use a white stroke which is slightly more visible than the fill.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
Add a white stroke, set the size to 3 pixels, Position Outside and Blend Mode Soft Light. The effect is subtle but will become more visible as we add more layers to the composition.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 5

Duplicate the oval shape and rotate it 60° around the center.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
And repeat once more.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 6

Group all 3 oval shapes together (CMD+G or CTRL+G) and set the Opacity of the group to 50%
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 7

Duplicate the group and rotate it 30°.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 8

Now duplicate all 6 oval shapes and put them in a new group with 75% Opacity.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 9

Resize the new group whilst holding down the shift key to constrain proportions. Reduce the overall size to approximately 65% or to where the points shown below intersect.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 10

Duplicate the top group.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
Select each of the oval shapes in the new group and change their fill colors to black, then set their Opacity to 10% and Fill to 75%.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 11

For a final touch, lets add a bit of noise. Create a new blank layer and fill it with white.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
Optionally, you can tidy up the layers panel by creating a new group for the noise layer and also grouping the existing layers together.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 12

With the Noise layer selected, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise.. and enter 200% for the Amount, Gaussian for Distribution and check the Monochromatic option.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Step 13

Set the Blend Mode of the Noise layer to Soft Light and the Opacity to 20%. This will make the noise effect more subtle.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Result & Variations

Here is the final result, you can now play around with it and tweak the colors if desired.
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
The feel of the whole image can be changed by simply updating the background gradient layer. Here are a few examples:
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background
how to make an abstract geometric gradient background

Download Geometric Gradient Backgrounds

geometric gradient backgrounds
These free backgrounds combine vivid gradients and abstract geometric overlays for a unique effect. They are great for use in website headers, app splash screens and other backgrounds. Included in the pack are 8 high resolution (3000x3000px) JPG files.


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Using offset layers and dashed strokes for a retro effect

Create a Mouthwatering Donut Icon with Illustrator

This step by step tutorial will teach you how to draw a mouthwatering donut icon in Adobe Illustrator using basic shapes and filters, then offset its layers and use dashed strokes effectively to give the donut a fun retro effect.

Step 1

Launch Illustrator and create a new 800 x 600 pixel RGB document.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 2

Draw a new 380 x 380 pixel circle in the center of the document using the Ellipse tool and set the fill to #EACBA9.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 3

Draw another smaller circle aligned to the center of the first circle. Width and height 125 pixels.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 4

Select both circles and subtract the smaller circle from the large one using the Pathfinder.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 5

Copy and paste the shape in place, remove the fill from the top shape and give it a 10 point stroke with the color #9B7651 instead.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 6

Copy and paste the original donut shape in place again, set the fill to black and the stroke to none.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 7

Duplicate the black shape in place, and use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge the top shape up 40 pixels and right 10 pixels.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 8

Select both black shapes and subtract them.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 9

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 50% using the Transparency window. Then position the black shape between the original donut shape and the stroke layer.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 10

Similar to the last few steps, duplicate the original donut shape again and set the fill to white this time.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 11

Duplicate the white shape in place and use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge it down 12 pixels and left 3 pixels
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 12

Select both white shapes and subtract them. Position the white shape between the original donut shape and the stroke layer.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 13

Draw a new circle shape aligned to the center of the donut, set the fill to pink #F4A8D2.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 14

Select the pink circle and apply Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag.. with the settings shown below.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 15

Select Expand Appearance from the Object menu to flatten the Zig Zag effect.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 16

Draw another small circle, same as last time. Width and height 125 pixels.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 17

Subtract the small circle from the pink shape.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 18

Copy and paste the pink shape in place. Remove the fill from the top shape and give it a 10 point stroke with the color #9B7651 instead.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 19

Copy and paste the original pink shape in place again, set the fill to black and the stroke to none.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 20

Duplicate the black shape in place, and use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge the top shape up 16 pixels and right 4 pixels.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 21

Select both black shapes and subtract them.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 22

Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity to 50% using the Transparency window. Then position the black shape between the pink shape and the its stroke layer.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 23

Copy and paste the original pink shape in place again, set the fill to white and the stroke to none.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 24

Duplicate the white shape in place, and use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge the top shape down 12 pixels and left 3 pixels.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 25

Select both white shapes and subtract them.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 26

Position the white shape between the original pink shape and its stroke layer.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 27

Use the Line Segment tool to draw a short line at an angle, roughly 25 pixels long. Set the stroke to 10 points.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 28

Select Expand from the Object menu, check the Stroke option and click OK.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 29

Set the fill color to green #A1D367 and add a 5 point stroke with #C96DA4 to create the first sprinkle.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 30

Copy and paste the sprinkle, change the position and rotation slightly then switch the fill color to yellow #FFC02E.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 31

Copy and paste the sprinkle, change the position and rotation slightly then switch the fill color to blue #6BB4E7.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 32

Repeat the last 3 steps until the donut is covered with sprinkles, in this example I used 12 sprinkles in total.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 33

Now we can add some finishing touches. Select the main donut stroke layer, select round end caps and enter 190, 20, 20, 20, 1000 pt into the dashed line fields.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 34

Select the pink icing stroke layer, select round end caps and enter 540, 20, 20, 20, 1000 pt into the dashed line fields.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 35

Draw a black oval shape below the donut 180 x 16 pixels for the shadow, and align it horizontally to the center of the donut.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 36

Set the Opacity of the shadow to 10%.
draw a donut in illustrator

Step 37

Finally, we can add a background color to finish things off. Draw a rectangle that fills the artboard, and place it below all other layers. Set the fill to #C7DFEA.
draw a donut in illustrator

Result

Here is the final result. I hope you enjoyed following this tutorial and creating your own mouthwatering donut icon. The main skills to take away from this exercise are how to use multiple offset layers for shadow and highlight effects, as well as how to use the zig zag filter and dashed strokes.
draw a donut in illustrator


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Place a Left Positioned Sidebar Below the Main Content on Mobile

How to Move a Responsive Sidebar’s Position with CSS

Most responsive layouts have multiple columns at full-size, which then collapse on mobile devices to accommodate the smaller display size. Unless you have unusual coding practices, the collapsed columns will always be automatically stacked in the order they appear in the source code. This means that columns on the left side of the screen at full size, will be at the top of the stack on mobile and vice versa.

Assessing The Problem

Logically, the most important content should be displayed at the top of the stack on mobile and therefor on the left at full size. However sometimes this isn’t the case, what if your full size design has a sidebar on the left, and the more important main content on the right? Or a 3 column layout with the main content in the center of the page and two less important sidebars on the left and right?

Let’s take 3 column layout example and figure this out. Here is what we want the design to look like on mobile and at full size:
how to rarrange sidebar with css
1 is the main content, 2 is the left sidebar and 3 is the right sidebar

The Code

Here is an example of the typical code used for a simple responsive 3 column layout.

HTML:

<div class="wrap">
	<div id="main-content"><p>Main Content</p></div>
	<div id="sidebar-left"><p>Left Sidebar</p></div>
	<div id="sidebar-right"><p>Right Sidebar</p></div>
</div>

CSS:

/*Base Mobile Layout*/
.wrap {
	width: 90%;
	margin: 0 auto;
}

#main-content, #sidebar-left, #sidebar-right {
	width: 100%;
	float: left;
}

/*3 Column Layout*/
@media only screen and (min-width: 1024px) {
	.wrap {
		width: 1024px;
		margin: 0 auto;
	}
	
	#main-content {
		width: 50%;
		float: left;
	}
	
	#sidebar-left {
		width: 25%;
		float: left;
	}
	
	#sidebar-right {
		width: 25%;
		float: left;
	}
}

/*Wide Layout*/
@media only screen and (min-width: 1200px) {
	.wrap {
		width: 1140px;
		margin: 0 auto;
	}
}

Working from mobile up we have put the main content column first, then the left and right sidebars follow. This is how we want the design to display on mobile, and is also the correct hierarchy for search engine and accessibility purposes.

The problem is that, our design dictates that the left sidebar should be on the left at full size, but with this code it will render in the center. And no matter what you do, CSS will always float elements in the order they appear in the HTML. So, we need to move that column above the main content somehow at full size.

Moving The Sidebar

A possible solution is to physically move the left sidebar code above the main content with Javascript, this can be done and does work. However relying on Javascript is not always the best solution, it can cause conflicts with other scripts on the page and may be slow or not supported at all with some browsers.

A better solution is to leave the HTML as-is and use CSS instead. You may be thinking about using breakpoints and display:none to toggle the columns on mobile and at full size. Stop that now, using display:none does not prevent content from loading, it only prevents it from displaying, so data loading times will take a hit and your content will duplicated for search engines and anybody viewing the site without loading CSS.

However, by using position: relative instead of floats, we can rearrange the layout freely:

/*Move Sidebar Position*/
@media only screen and (min-width: 1024px) {
	.wrap, #main-content, #sidebar-left, #sidebar-right {
		position: relative;
	}
	
	#main-content, #sidebar-left, #sidebar-right {
		top: 0;
	}
	
	#sidebar-right {
		right: 0;
	}
	
	#sidebar-left {
		left: -50%; /*Width of #main-content*/
	}
	
	#main-content {
		left: 25%; /*Width of #left-sidebar*/
	}
}

This code applies position: relative to the .wrap element and all 3 columns. The top position for all 3 columns is set to 0, and then we stick the right sidebar to the right, move the left sidebar left -50% (negative the width of #main-content) and move the main content left 25% (the width of #left-sidebar) to rearrange the columns.

(Optional) Add a 2 Column Breakpoint

how to rarrange sidebar with css
We can add an extra breakpoint between 768px and 1024px in which the main content column is full width at the top, and the two sidebars are displayed as columns below.

/*Optional 2 Column Layout*/
@media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 1024px) {
	#sidebar-right {
		width: 50%;
	}
	#sidebar-left {
		width: 50%;
	}
	#main-content {
		position: relative;
		top: 0;
		left: 0;
	}
}

Full Code & Demo

See the Pen Responsive 3 Column Layout by Tony Thomas (@medialoot) on CodePen.



Conclusion

If you want to rearrange columns in a responsive layout, I strongly suggest using this method over javascript. It is extremely flexible and can be adapted to layouts with any number of columns, however you should always try to place the most important content higher up in the HTML hierarchy whenever possible to avoid needing to use this technique at all. Hopefully you have found this useful, thanks for reading!


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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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