Tools You Wouldn't Expect to Make You A Better Designer

Big design software such as Photoshop and Illustrator shouldn't be the only tools you use as a graphic designer. Expanding your horizons to include other tools just a little bit can help your designs immensely. Here are a few more tools to add to your toolbox to help you get your designs to be the best they can be. So think outside the Photoshop and Illustrator box you're currently in, and let's get started! The bezier game splash page

The Bézier Game

The pen tool is probably the absolute most frustrating digital tool available to a graphic designer. It can be difficult to understand why it bends crazily all over the place and why and how the handles work. Luckily, there's a website to help you master the pen tool, or at least get yourself on your way to being a pen tool master. The Bézier Game is a beautifully-made free online game where you follow step-by-step instructions to create shapes by tracing an outline and placing points. The game also forces you to think about how many points you're using, since you're only allotted a certain amount per page. Understanding corners and handles is important as well, since you can't go back and readjust your points after you've created them. The Bézier Game is part of a series of games created by Method of Action to help you learn design. They also have a few other design games that can help you level up your design tools - a kerning game, a letter shaping game, and a color matching game.   Cat Ipsum    

Meet the Ipsums

Sometimes you have to use dummy text in your designs, either because the copy isn't finished yet, or you're just presenting an idea. Lorem Ipsum is usually what's used to convey text and act as a place holder for text. Do yourself a favor by staying away from boring Lorem Ipsum and start using Meet the Ipsums. Meet the Ipsums is a compilation of different Ipsums found around the web focused on specific topics. The reason these Ipsums are superior to Lorem Ipsum is that they use real English words instead of Latin. Even though some of the the Ipsums on Meet the Ipsums use a mixture of English and Latin, they're still much more effective. So, if you're creating a design for a cupcake shop, why not use the Cupcake ipsum? Walking Dead fan poster? Check out Zombie Ipsum.   iDisplay homepage


I've you've ever worked with two monitors, you know that it's nearly impossible to go back to working on just one. This can be frustrating especially if you're used to using two monitors at work and then you only have one available to you at home. An option, of course, is to just purchase another monitor to use at home. But if you work mostly on a laptop, and like to take your work with you wherever you go, it could be a little silly for you to lug another monitor with you to Starbucks. iDisplay is here to save the day! If you've got a tablet, iDisplay makes it possible for you to use your tablet as a second monitor. And, even though it's name suggests it would be Mac only, it's available for Windows as well as Mac. It's $4.99 on the Google Play store and $9.99 in the App Store for the iPad version and $0.99 for the iPhone version.   Screenshot of Adobe Color CC image color match feature

Adobe Color CC

Formerly known as Adobe Kuler, Adobe Color CC is a great tool to help you find like colors.  Or it can help you narrow down your color choices and create a color scheme that's based off of something cool you've seen somewhere else. You can upload a picture and it'll give you a "color mood" with colors pulled directly from the photo. Adobe Color CC also has a section where you can browse color "themes" created by other users. Browsing color themes created by others can help you find some inspiration for your next project, or even help you find like colors.   Type connection homepage

Type Connection

Choosing two typefaces that look great together can often feel like a chore. Type Connection gives you an opportunity to take two different typefaces on a "date", which is a lot more fun than just staring at your monitor trying to decide if your chosen fonts look great together. As you go through the site you'll first pick a typeface to start matching with another. Once you've chosen one of the five available typefaces, you'll choose a strategy for finding a match. Some of the strategies are "rely on family" and "seek the familiar." After choosing the strategy, you'll be presented with three typeface options that match your strategy. Choose an option and then you can see the two typefaces superimposed over each other. If you think they'd make a good match you can choose "Send them on a Date" to see if your fonts are compatible. What's wonderful about this site is that while you can easily see typefaces that go together (there's a cheat sheet available in the main navigation), Type Connection takes the time to explain to you why the two typefaces work together or why they don't.  

Finding A Font

You may have seen the perfect font on a flyer at the supermarket for your next project, but you don't know what it is or even where to get it from. WhatTheFont by MyFonts can help you figure out what the font that you've seen is. You upload an image or enter the URL of an image that you're trying to figure out and then it will offer some suggestions for you. If that doesn't find your font, they offer a forum where you can ask "font enthusiasts" to help you find it. screenshot of identifont homepage Identifont makes is possible for you to search for a font by name, by similarity, by designer, or by appearance. The appearance feature is useful for you to identify specific aspects of the font, but it might not be the best option if you only have a few characters to look at. It'll ask you questions like, "Is the lower-case 'g' single-storey or double-story?" and "Is the '4' open or closed?" to try and figure out the font for you.  


Using tools like these can help you take your designs to the next level. We're aware that there are a lot of different tools that do similar things to the stuff listed here, but you can use these tools as a starting point to help you find which ones work for you. Doing something as simple as using an Ipsum text that's different than Lorem Ipsum could help your design stand out from other similar ones. Using a second monitor can make it much easier to work on your designs. What's your favorite unconventional design tool? Let us know in the comments below!