Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

February 18 2014

11:47

February 14 2014

09:00

Get Prepared: 40+ Top Free Vectors for Spring Holidays


  

Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving (in the US) are such big holidays in the winter that it can be easy to forget the smaller holiday that occur at the end of winter and into spring. Valentine’s Day is today, so we are little late for that, but we still have St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and even Memorial Day at the end of spring.

February 07 2014

16:11

Smashing Book #4: Behind The Scenes


  

If you’re a graphic designer, you will often have to work with off-the-shelf material created by others — for instance, combining ready-to-use fonts with images from a photographer or stock website. Also, you’ll often have to follow the branding already developed by someone else. It’s OK; it’s a part of the job, and you shouldn’t be bothered by it.

But the part of a project that almost every graphic designer likes and is proud of the most is something that you can do from scratch, something that you have control over and can sign off on confidently: illustration. It’s why I love illustration projects so much. You can show your individuality in every detail and create every stroke of the artwork, trusting your vision and fully exercising your skills.

Given this love of mine, it’s no surprise that I took on illustration duties for the Smashing Book #4 without hesitation, despite it being quite a large and lengthy project (20 illustrations). I pulled myself together and started working, promising to myself that no matter how hard it turned out to be, I would find the time and internal resources to complete the project.

I’m very keen on the traditional way of drawing — by hand, using paper, pencil, watercolors and so on. Of course, I’m not against using computers when necessary — especially nowadays, when we have drawing tablets and pens and all of that other digital stuff that mimics hand-drawn work. But it seems to me that there is still no substitute for the charm of a well thought out and elaborate handmade drawing.

My process for transforming illustrations into vector files is a little complicated and sometimes long, but it’s the only way to capture my drawings down to the smallest details. Retracing every line of the illustration as a curve using the Pen tool (in Adobe Illustrator, in my case), I am able to really feel every line and make the drawing as close to perfect as possible.

I began each of the 20 illustrations with many ugly sketches, trying to grab hold of an idea. I’m not able to think first and draw after. The two processes are one for me: I draw while thinking. I’ll waste piles of paper and use any surface at hand to capture an idea that suddenly comes to me. Reviewing the sketches now, I’m intrigued by the evolution of the ideas and the birth of the characters.


Looking for ideas. (View large version)


(View large version)


The evolution of a character from start to finish. (View large version)

Then, I made detailed drawings in pencil, which became the prototypes of the vector images. The more developed the drawing, the easier it was to create a vector image. When the pencil drawings were ready, I scanned or photographed them, and then painted with the usual brushes in Photoshop. These were the prototypes that I submitted for approval.

To color the sketches, I’ll choose one of the basic brushes with a sharp edge and just paint over the scanned image on a new layer. “Multiply” mode is on for this layer to make the texture of the drawing visible. Then, I’ll create one more layer for shadows (with “Multiply” mode enabled again).


Adding color to the sketch. (View large version)

This is a fast and easy way to estimate the color spectrum of the final illustrations (I’ll sometimes do several color sketches). I sent the colored sketches to the Smashing team for approval of the direction and concept of the illustrations.

The colored sketches retain a kind of watercolor effect. I love that this quality can be achieved so easily.


The colored sketches. (View large version)

Once the sketches are approved, I start the most important part of the work. I paste each scanned pencil drawing into an Illustrator file and trace it. I’ll put the pencilled prototype on the bottom layer and lock it. Then, I’ll look at my illustration carefully and divide it in my mind into several areas, creating a separate layer for each area. Working with layers is very convenient if the image is complicated and has many small details.


(View large version)

You can lock or hide layers that you are not working on to focus on the areas that you are. From the screenshot below, it is obvious that every kite will have layers and that the background will have several layers. I also separated each animal into different layers; for example, one layer for the body, one for the head (usually including the eyes and nose) and one for the limbs (legs, wings and so on).


Creating separate layers. (View large version)

There is no trick to tracing an image by hand. Just take the Pen tool and trace the contours of the sketch. I usually choose a bright color to mark off the contours well. The process is boring, but once you’re skilled at it, it doesn’t take much time. It can almost be meditative, sitting and calmly tracing element after element as your thoughts drift away.


The outlining process. (View large version)

I’ll usually use the Live Paint Bucket tool to divide a shape into several color areas. I draw lines that will be the borders between colors, and then select the group of shapes and enable the Live Paint Bucket tool . By clicking on each shape with the tool, I can assign a unique color to it. By the way, if you use colors from the swatches, you can find the appropriate tool by clicking the left and right arrows.


Using the Live Paint Bucket tool. (View large version)

If an element of the illustration doesn’t have a defined shape and needs a bit of improvisation, then I’ll use the Blob brush . Working with this brush on a drawing tablet is a real pleasure.

You can configure the settings of the Blob brush by double-clicking in the Tools panel. I’ll usually set it to the biggest brush to make the pressure of the pen as sensitive as possible. With several assured brush strokes, I’ll draw the background and the bushes, using random colors according to my feeling and then choosing more appropriate colors later. I’ll also draw the branches of the bushes with the Blob brush. If I need to correct the shape, I’ll usually use the Erase tool.


Using the Blob Brush tool. (View large version)

Here’s a tip if you ever have to transform a regular line into a ribbon flapping in the wind. I’ll use the Width tool to make the stroke weight variable. Using this tool, select the dot on the line where the stroke weight is to be changed, and drag the auxiliary lines until the ribbon looks the way you want.


Creating a ribbon from a line with the Width tool. (View large version)

Now, the image is ready for coloring. Yes, it looks weird without colors. But you need just a few minutes to fill in the shapes and get the image close to being complete. To complete the kite image, I added some small flowers on the bushes with petals flying up into the wind (using the Blob brush). I also added shadows using Multiply mode.


The outlined and finished illustrations. (View large version)

The technical work was not the hardest part for me. I’ll often spend much more time on sketching and developing the ideas. Now that the Smashing Book #4 is complete, I can say that the most difficult part was devising a “plot” for each chapter title. When I got the plan for the book and read the titles, I was at a loss.

Some of the titles are quite conceptual, suggesting obvious metaphors. But others are concrete and related to code, and those were hard to illustrate (especially with cute animals). When my imagination gave up, the guys from the Smashing team were ready to pitch in some inspiring ideas. So, this creative project was genuinely collaborate, and I think we were on the same wavelength.


Smashing Book #4, a new book for front-end designers and developers.

I believe both parties have taken only positive emotions from the project. Holding this hefty book now in my hands, I would have done some things differently — I’m never completely satisfied with my own work. Overall, though, I’m happy with the result.

So, enjoy the Smashing Book #4. It contains so much useful stuff. (Believe me, I know.)

(al, il, ea)


© Anna Shuvalova for Smashing Magazine, 2014.

January 31 2014

15:20

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: February 2014


  

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. And as designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one—desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd. This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we are very thankful to all designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month.

This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for February 2014. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Febrewery

“I live in Madison, WI USA, which is famous for its breweries. Wisconsin even named their baseball team “The Brewers.” If you like beer, brats, and lots of cheese, it’s the place for you!” — Designed by Danny Gugger from United States.

Febrewery

Prints Charming

“I’ve been drawing these fingerprint characters for a while. They make people smile.” — Designed by Phil Scroggs from United States.

Love Of My Life

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgium.

Love of my life

Do Things With Passion

“I’m a big believer in putting your best effort into any and all of your work. Whether you love the project or hate the project, always do it right–do things with passion, or not at all.” — Designed by Nicole DeMetrick from United States.

Do Things With Passion

Trainee Cupid

Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Brazil.

Trainee Cupid

Love Is Timeless

“Love is “strange” to find that the differences between people do not exist. Love is timeless.” — Designed by Verónica Valenzuela from Spain.

Love is timeless

I Dream Of Painting

“I was inspired by a quote from Van Gogh on painting” — Designed by Marina Eyl from Pennsylvania, USA.

I Dream of Painting

Love & Happiness

“We flourish together with love and happiness.” — Designed by Amalia Van Bloom from United States.

Love and Happiness

Love Is In The Air

“February is one of the coldest months of the year, and I think that love is the only thing that can warm it.” — Designed by Raluca Dragos from Romania.

Love is in the air

Happy Valentine!

“I’ve been designing wallpapers since two years with the picture of my Manka dolls. My inspiration for February was Valentine’s Day.” — Designed by Monika Horvath from Hungary.

Happy Valentine!

How Space Really Looks Like

Designed by Nina Geometrieva from Macedonia.

How Space Really Looks Like

Sochi 2014

“We’ve come up with a dashing wallpaper to celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. It might be a bit cold this time of the year but adrenaline of the competition will surely get us active!” — Designed by Printsome from United Kingdom.

Sochi 2014

Let the Games Begin!

“February 2014 Calendar – 2014 Winter Olympics” — Designed by Marcus White from Omaha, Nebraska.

Let the Games Begin!

Don’t Miss Out On Winter Fun

“Only a month of winter left! It’s time to get up from our computers and enjoy the snow while it’s still there!” — Designed by Dmitriy Kubyshkin from Russia.

don't miss out on winter fun

Company For The Cold

“The last dregs of winter can be tough to get through. So I made this little guy to keep me company when its cold out!” — Designed by Sydney Jane Barnes from Canada.

Company for the Cold

“Principles Of Good Design” by Dieter Rams

“The simplicity seen in the work of Dieter Rams which has ensured his designs from the 50s and 60s still hold a strong appeal.” — Designed by Vinu Chaitanya from India.

Principles of Good Design- Dieter Rams

Pink Rose

Designed by MyPhotoshopBrushes from Poland.

Pink Rose

Valentine Kitties

“Valentine’s day is coming, even kitties can be passionate. This romantic day is a perfect time to express your love!” — Designed by William Ricardi Setyono from Indonesia.

Valentine Kitties

Spread Light, Spread Love

“A young office clerk and a rockabilly girl? Well, we didn’t see that coming. Good job, Cupid! Don’t forget your flameless candles and Starlightz for this Valentine’s Day. Spread light, spread love!” — Designed by Lights.com Team from United States.

Spread light, spread love

I Got You Babe

Designed by Chris Macholz at Fuzz from New York, NY.

I Got You Babe

Wrap Yourself With Love

“This was an exploration with handmade type. I am not an illustrator so this was way out of my comfort zone. The original design of the type and heart was all created by hand then scanned in.” — Designed by Travis Bellinghausen from United States.

Wrap Yourself With Love

Let Love Overcome

“February is Black History Month and in honor & celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. we were inspired to create this wallpaper.” — Designed by HIREAWIZ from Phoenix, Arizona.

Let Love Overcome

Month Of Love

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” — Designed by Matt Noa from United States.

Month of Love

Wooden Horse

“Just want to greet our Chinese friends, Kong Hei Fat Choi! Welcome Year of the Wooden Horse.” — Designed by Pat Buenaobra from Philippines.

Wooden Horse

Chinese New Year of the Horse

“Chinese New Year is the most celebrated festival for Chinese all over the world. It falls on 31st Jan this year and we continue to celebrate it for 15 days. My design is based on the traditional Chinese character of the Horse in a shape of a galloping horse with my Evacomics characters riding on it. Red was chosen as the background colour to symbolise prosperity and good luck based on Chinese customs. Wishing everyone a great Horse year!” — Designed by Evacomics from Singapore.

Chinese New Year of the Horse

The Collection Of Birds

“The collection of birds are my travels. At each destination I buy a wood, bronze, stone bird, anything the local bazaars sell. I have all gathered at a modest vitrine in my house. I have so much loved my collection, that, after taking pictures of them I then designed each one, then created a wallpaper and overdressed a wall of my living room. Now my thought is making them as a desktop wallpaper and give them to you as a gift.” — Designed by Natasha Kamou from Hellas.

The Collection of Birds

Funny Space

Designed by BBoy Juss from Uzbekistan.

Funny Space

Happy Valentine’s Day

Designed by Zanetine Web Design from India.

Happy Valentine's Day

It Smells Like Love Sauce

“Love.” — Designed by Reed Tereski at Fuzz from United States.

It smells like love sauce.

Love Is All You Need

“February is the month of love so we designed a lovely wallpaper to remind everyone that love is the most important thing in life.” — Designed by WebOlution from Greece.

Love is in the air

LOVE

“February is all about love so I created a wallpaper that shows “love” as a foundation of life and celebrates nature, happiness and cheerful times with loved ones.” — Designed by Martina Komiti from Cyprus.

LOVE

Sharp Wallpaper

“I was sick recently and squinting through my blinds made a neat effect with shapes and colors.” — Designed by Dylan Baumann from Omaha, NE.

Sharp

Sweetness

“February is the month of love. It is also a great month for those who love to get crafty making Valentine cards, or making something cute with all the leftover candy hearts. Add a little sweetness to your desktop this month and share the love!” — Designed by Anna from USA.

Sweetness

Let The Love Out

“February, let the love out to the air!” — Designed by Elie Cheong from Malaysia.

Love is the air

Be Mine

“With Valentine’s Day being in February, I decided to use that as my theme. What I created was a very stereotypical rendition of the day with pink, red and hearts. All tied together with the words “Be mine”.” — Designed by Tina Eriksson from Sweden.

Be mine

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comment section below.

(il)


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2014.

11:00

Not Up For Creative Cloud? 10 Professional Alternatives to Photoshop CC


  

Photoshop CC is no longer for sale. You can only rent it and pay a monthly fee to be allowed to use it. This does not appeal to everybody and I personally know more former Photoshop users who reject that licensing model than those who embrace it. As I was a regular updater anyway, the new mode of operation saves me money. But I can understand all those who only updated every three or four versions and would now have to shell out a lot more money than before. All of these will be eager to find a valid alternative to Photoshop CC. We took a look at ten of the best competitors…

January 16 2014

02:18

Urban interactions: StreetPong

The StreetPong project is a social design idea for urban pedestrians, imagined by two students at HAWK Hildesheim for their urban interactions class.

StreetPong data collection

The idea is that while pedestrians wait for the “walk” signal at traffic lights they can play a quick game against another person waiting to cross from the other side of the street.

StreetPong digitisation

Adobe After Effects was used to apply visuals to a green screen, resulting in the demonstration video embedded below.

StreetPong green screen

StreetPong. Via Autoblog.

10/10 for creativity.

Tags: Graphics

December 31 2013

12:27

Desktop Wallpaper Calendar: January 2014


  

Thank you, dear Smashing readers, for your support — it means the world to us. On behalf of the entire Smashing Magazine team, we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014. Let it be the best year of your life. — Ed.

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. And as designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one—desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd. This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we are very thankful to all designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month.

This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for January 2014. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Smashing New Year

“2014 is here! Wish you all amazing new year.” — Designed by Matej Pindroch from Slovakia.

Smashing new year

Have A Smashing New Year 2014

Designed by Bryan Verlinden from Belgium.

Have Smashing NEW YEAR

Keep Warm & Snuggle Up

“January is one of the coldest months of the year so designed a calendar that might inspire you to keep warm and snuggle up with a nice cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea… you choose!” — Designed by Jorden Campbell from New Hampshire, USA.

Keep Warm & Snuggle Up

New Year’s Resolution

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgium.

New Year's Resolution

The Twelfth Night

“January always reminds me of my childhood, dressing up as a king with some friend and going door to door to sing a song !” — Designed by Kevin Mornie from Belgium.

The Twelfth Night

Don’t Forget Your Vitamins

“Discover the seasonal fruits and vegetables. In January: apple and banana enjoying with the snow!” — Designed by Vitaminas Design from Spain.

Vitamins!!! Seasonal fruits and vegetables

Smashing Snowball

“Winter snowball fun!” — Designed by Bram De Nyn from Belgium.

Smashing Snowball

Be Awesome Today

“A little daily motivation to keep your cool during the month of January.” — Designed by Amalia Van Bloom from United States.

be awesome today

SmashingConf In New York

“A new Smashing Conference. 17–18th of June 2014. Two days, one track, 18 brilliant speakers. 350 seats.” — Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Brazil.

The SmashingConf Is Coming To New York!

Happy Coding This Year!

Designed by Jasper De Smet from Belgium.

Love coding!

Cool Winter

“Wanted to abstractly sum up January. Showcase the cool, crisp colors and give an overall feeling of winter.” — Designed by Matt Noa from United States.

Cool Winter

Abstract Winter

“January is a cold and dark month up here in the north. A month to cuddle up in the warmth inside, light some candles and hang out with family while avoiding the bitter cold and snow outside. This is my attempt at an abstract interpretation of this chilly time of year.” — Designed by Terese Brännström from Sweden.

Abstract winter

A Cold January

Designed by Stijn Van Doorslaer from Belgium.

A Cold January

Taking Back Winter

“I live in Canada, where the winters are long and can be bleak if you don’t get active. These are things that represent my childhood.” — Designed by Stephanie Bell from Canada.

Taking Back Winter

Happy New Year!

“A wallpaper to welcome the new year 2014!” — Designed by WebOlution from Greece.

Happy New Year!

After Holidays

“I often use wallpapers for my desktop from your web site and really wanted to participate. My muse was the future Christmas holidays and what left after them. Hope to like my wallpaper and use it with smile :)” — Designed by Militsa Mokanova from Bulgaria.

After Holidays

Japanese New Year

Designed by Evacomics from Singapore.

Japanese New Year

Lights In Concert

“It’s 2014! Let’s go see a show, all the Lights are going to be there. “De’light’ed”, “These lights rock” said the critics.” — Designed by Lights.com from United States.

Lights in Concert

Month Of The Wolf

“It is not only the start of a new year, it is also the month of the wolf. I think it is a beautiful combination. New year, new moon, wolf.” — Designed by Joni Fory from Belgium.

Month of the wolf

New Year It Is!

“This is the time to take a step forward, which will lead you to new adventures, new roads to explore and new success to reach. Its the time to forget the bad, remember the good, to not repeat the mistakes, to not hurt anyone. Let everyone’s life keep lighting up like fireworks, be away from darkness and take them higher. Happy New Year to all.” — Designed by Smita Dessai from Goa,India.

New Year It Is!

New Year With Nature

“Wishing you a very Happy New Year.” — Designed by Zanetine Web Design from India.

New Year with Nature

New Years 2014 Celebration Of LIfe

“New Year new opportunities! Let’s celebrate and enjoy the launch of a new year and adventures 2014 will bring!” — Designed by Clifford Almeida from United States.

New Years 2014 Celebration Of LIfe

Remember 2014

“Everyone sometimes forget about the new year and still writes down the old one. So a wallpaper with a reminder can do no harm.” — Designed by Lisa Smets from Belgium.

Remember 2014

Wake Me Up When Spring Arrives

“Last year was the sad time for me. I lost my grandfather and I lost a long time to forget a wonderfull boy who I love. So In the new year I wish I’ll stronger as a flower sleep throughout the winter, wait spring to bloom.” — Designed by Nguyet Tran Thi Anh from Việt Nam.

Wake me up when Spring comes.

Warli Art

“The Warlis are an indigenous tribe or Adivasis, living in Mountainous as well as coastal areas of Maharashtra-Gujarat border and surrounding areas.They have their own animistic beliefs,life,customs and traditions,as a result of acculturation they have adopted many Hindu beliefs.” — Designed by Sacchidanand Chavan from India.

Warli Art

Warming Up

Designed by Sofie Keirsmaekers from Belgium.

Warming up!

Let’s Welcome The New Year

Designed by Paarva Creations from India.

Welcome 2014

Welcome to Brasil: Fifa WC 2014

Designed by Biju Louis from India.

Welcome to Brasil: Fifa WC 2014

Happy New Year! Cheers!

“Each year is another opportunity for us to start it with a BANG and a fresh opportunity at our dreams and New Year’s resolution. Our team used this as our theme for designing this wallpaper. Enjoy!” — Designed by Cliff Almeida from Phoenix, Arizona.

Cheers - Happy New Year 2014

A Winter Walk

“I remember times being very windy in January. Not only because of the backlash of Christmas food and New Years eve’s casserole, but also due to big drafts waiting at the train station.” — Designed by Tom Moore from Belgium.

A Winter Walk

Sledding Snowman

“I stumbled upon some Calvin and Hobbes cartoons about winter, and they inspired me for this wallpaper. We aren’t the only ones having fun during winter! Snowmen are entitled to winter fun too! I wonder where he’ll land…?” — Designed by Pieter Van der Elst from Belgium.

Sledding Snowman

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Stay creative and have a truly smashing, happy new year 2014!


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

December 23 2013

07:30

Mouth-watering: 50 Stunning Commercial-free Photos for Food Industry Designs


  

Professional photos of food and food-related scenes can be hard to come by when you have to stick to a thrifty budget. Yet, sometimes you have a startup business client who needs to keep costs low, which means that cheap – or even free – photos are necessary. Or maybe you need stock photos to make your theme demo look too incredible to pass up. Food photos are also an excellent idea for unique textures for your design project.

December 06 2013

10:00

Breaking Design Principles on Purpose

screenshot

Rules. They keep our designs clean, consistent, aligned, and focused. The core principles upon which good design is built are absolutely essential to the education of any designer.

The great thing about design rules though is that they can and should be broken, granted that you know what you’re doing. Read on to see some examples of effectively breaking design principles in order to improve a project.

Know the Rules Before You Break Them

Like many other professions and industries, the world of web professionals subscribe to a set of fundamental requirements that all members of the community should have a solid grasp on. We tend to refer to these fundamentals as the principles of design and any design worth its salt will display a certain level of aptitude in these principles.

Some designers acquire their grasp on design principles through formal training or education while others achieve the same level of competency through practice and general understanding. Neither method is right or wrong but if you are a high level designer in any function, you exercise solid principles of design, whether you know it or not.

There are a lot of aspects to web design and having control over these fundamentals isn’t the only requirement to finding success in the field. However, without them we are certainly taking the hard road to success. But, like any good set of rules, the principles of web design are on occasion better off when bent or broken entirely.

What are Good Design Principles?

So just what are the principles of design? Well, this is a topic that has been covered quite a bit and any amount of research (google searching) will reveal that there is no single correct answer.

Different agencies, companies and professionals may all construct lists of their personal design principles. While a lot of these individual sets of principles may contain variations, there is a significant and noticeable overlap. Jeremy Keith has done us the favor of putting together a great collection of design principles to browse through.

A quick look through these resources will reveal quite a bit of consistency between different perspectives. Any reasonable set of these principles will include points about proper spacing or use of white space, focusing on the users, enforcing consistency, keeping your design as simple as possible, making it useful, and avoiding redundancy, among others. All of these are good things. They have been defined as crucial to the design process because they are effective tools for building a successful product or service online.

If a solid set of design principles is so crucial to our designer toolbox, then why would I suggest that breaking them might be a good idea? Well, for a few reasons really.

First off, exploring outside the boundaries of good design is a great exercise in exploring the boundaries of right and wrong, leading to a better understanding of what makes one choice better than another. But the reason we are really interested in is that there are use cases for breaking the rules that improve the experience for the user.

Breaking the Rules for Benefit

I think it’s important to state that I have never found a case where creating a site against all principles of good design has turned out to be a remotely good idea. The purpose of this article, and the examples contained within it, is to demonstrate how flipping the switch on one or two standard principles can result in a benefit to your users. Understanding just where you want to step over the line and how will depend on the project at hand but I am hopeful that a few examples will get the ball rolling and help you think about ways this can be helpful to you.

Double-check Popups

Let’s start this party off with a little design faux pas that we should all be pretty familiar with. I’m talking about the eye-roll inducing “Are you sure…” popup message. We see this pattern in all kinds of contexts, from web sites, to games and all kinds of software interfaces. We run into this so often I’m starting to expect my front door to ask me if I’m sure I really want to close it.

Double Check Popup

I’m tossing you a softball here. We know this design pattern exists to keep us from accidently closing that file that we forgot we made changes to or perhaps didn’t save. Even if we click “no” 99% of the time that 1% could be a reminder to save a file you spent hours working on or avoid making a decision that was initiated on accident. We’ve grown quite used to this behavior so it might be hard to consider it an exercise in breaking the principles of design but if we stop and think about it, it becomes quite clear that this is an example of breaking the rules for the benefit of users.  

Having a message popup on the screen after a user takes an action is a redundant system that generates extra clicks and prevents the user from accomplishing a task in the quickest and most simple way. Indeed, all of these things are in direct violation of good principles of design, yet the pattern remains and remains effective. Until the humans that use our designs prove to be flawless, breaking the rules in this way will remain a good idea.

Not So Simple

How about something less clear cut and common than the first example? Let’s dig into simplicity. No shortage of design documents point out simplicity as a core component of a good design and a primary task for a designer. Indeed, we spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to take complex behaviors and design them in a way that visitors can consume them in a simple manner. There are plenty of examples of simplicity in action but finding effective examples of the simplicity rule reversed doesn’t prove to be much of a challenge either.

Pinterest
HootSuite

You don’t have to look past some of your favorite apps or websites to see a high level of complexity put into play as a design strategy. What makes complexity the preference for a particular design? Well our two examples have some commonalities and some differences.

First, both designs strive to present the user with as much information as possible. Second, in both instances the experience is designed to lack a pre-determined focus. Instead of delivering primary or secondary content to the user everything is presented on an even scale and the user can scan the information and key in on the content that naturally draws the most interest.

This actually works quite well for sites like Pinterest or Twitter feed applications because it removes manual interactions. Instead of clicking buttons to filter the information in a finite number of ways the user can rely on their own brain to pick out the information most important to them at the time. This allows the experience to be infinitely personal and self-driven.

If the Shoe Fitts’

Well what about something like Fitt’s Law? Certainly breaking a law will always lead to a negative outcome! Fitt’s law argues that reducing space between actions as a part of our design improves usability. But is it so hard to imagine a scenario where two different actions, both an equally probable choice for our user, would lead to two completely different behaviors?

Take, for example, the experience of checking out on your favorite online store. Often times, when we add an item to our shopping cart or hit a checkout button we are taken to a screen that reviews the items we would like to purchase and gives us several options, allowing us to choose how to proceed from here. Some popular options include proceeding with the purchase, continuing the shopping spree, or clearing out or editing your choices. All of these actions relate to the behavior of you shopping so it makes sense they would populate a common area.

Dolce and Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana’s checkout process follows Fitt’s Law. Our users might want to go back to shopping or go proceed with their order, placing the options together as they have assures that either decision can be made equally quickly. The problem with this pattern is similar to our first example. If the user clicks the wrong button one time out of a hundred you’ve cost more time and caused more frustration than you did with the 99 quick correct clicks.

Godiva

On the Godiva checkout screen, we can see the buttons more clearly defined. It’s going to take you a little bit longer to get to one depending on where your mouse (or finger) is but that’s just the point. There are times when we want to break our users out of that “Don’t make me think” mindset that we work so hard to establish. On occasion we need them to think about their decision, and the process of finding and getting to the button that you want to click will force the user to recognize just what that button is going to do.

Moderation is Key

Perhaps closing with a website devoted to chocolate was more than coincidence. The key to operating effectively outside the lines of good design principles is to use moderation. While it might make sense to separate some buttons it likely won’t make sense to hide one of them citing a need to make your users think a little bit. Along the same lines you’ll most certainly find that this approach of breaking the rules is incorrect in most situations.

It is only in our pursuit of a deep understanding of design that we seek out these scenarios that live in the minority. If you are comfortable with your level of expertise with the principles of design this is a great exercise. On the other hand if you are on the beginning end of being a designer this game of devil’s advocate can be a wonderful learning tool.

Either way, it’s in our best interest to understand design principles as rules rather than dogmas. When the content drives the design and the user comes first we shouldn’t let rules get in the way of delivering the best design. Have you had the opportunity to break some design principles for the betterment of a project? If so what were the results?

Tags: Graphics

November 30 2013

22:42

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: December 2013 (Christmas Edition)


  

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. As designers, we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one: desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd.

This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we’re very thankful to all the designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month. This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for December 2013. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your desktop wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Christmas All Around The Globe

“Christmas is celebrated all around the globe — in the winter as well as the summer. From north to south, east to west: Merry Christmas everyone! :-)” — Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Brazil.

Christmas Around The Globe

Christmas Time!

Designed by Sofie Keirsmaekers from Belgium.

Christmas time!

Ninja Santa

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgium.

Ninja Santa

Get Ready To Explore!

“It’s getting colder, but let’s stay positive with a beautiful landscape!” — Designed by Matthias O. from Belgium.

Get ready to explore!

The Deer In My Garden

“Every year at the onset of winter, a deer appears in my garden looking for food. I usually catch it early in the morning and we’ll be exchanging glances through the patio doors.” — Designed by Andrea Ludszeweit from Germany.

The deer in my garden

A “Designer” Sweater

“My wallpaper combines two of my favorite things: sweater weather and designing!” — Designed by Monica Barron from New Jersey, USA.

A

The Twelve Days Of Christmas

“This wallpaper celebrates the classic carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Each day is represented with a cheerful illustration representing gifts. The days are actually counted from the day after Christmas, so the calendar stretches into early January. Since this wallpaper relies on details, it’s not appropriate for small smartphone screens.” — Designed by Daphne Firos from Cleveland.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Modern Santa

“Santa should modernize, reindeers should not suffer!” — Designed by Arne Overstijns from Belgium.

Modern Santa

Snowman

Designed by Evacomics from Singapore.

Snowman

The Mood Of Christmas

Designed by RootPickle Studios from India.

The mood of Christmas

Polka Dots

“I’ve wanted to participate in this wallpaper series for awhile but could not figure out what to design for it. I got the inspiration for a polka dot pattern and thought it would be an interesting way to include the calendar.” — Designed by Janna Barrett from the United States.

Polka Dots

Christmas In Pastel

Designed by Lénárt Lívia from Hungary.

Christmas in pastel

Snow Angel

“Winter makes me think of all the fun times we had as kids playing in the snow!” — Designed by Rob Rijken from Belgium.

Snow Angel

Frozen Mustache

“A cold day, I was in a park and I watch as a man was covered up to his ears and only protruded a big mustache. I was amused and decided that would be the theme for my new wallpaper.” — Designed by Verónica Valenzuela from Spain.

Frozen mustache

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

“Lots of people are so busy and work far from their native homes. All of us try to be near our dear people during the holidays — even through difficulties and long distances. So I thought about this and decided to encourage those, who are rushing home for Christmas.” — Designed by Aleksandra Kucher from Ukraine.

I’ll be home for Christmas

Xmas Roller Coaster

“Poor Santa! Christmas can be a roller coaster. Luckily he has string lights and lamps to guide his path, since Rudolph seems to be lost this time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Lights.com team.” — Designed by Carla Genovesio from the United States.

Xmas Roller Coaster

Happy Holidays

Designed by Bogdan Negrescu from the United States.

Happy Holidays

Wild December

Designed by Christina Hewitt from Edmonton, Canada.

Wild December

The Smashing Christmas

“Christmas is not a date. It is a state of mind…” — Designed by Marielle Perikly Kokosidou from Greece.

The Smashing Christmas

Christmas Crafting

“We like to do some creative crafting in preparation for Christmas. Some years ago we discovered the so called ‘Fröbel stars’, named after Friedrich Fröbel a famous german educationalist. This little somethings are easy to fold and can be perfectly used to pimp the wrap of your christmas presents.” — Designed by Christoph Pfeiffer and Florian Greiner from Germany.

Christmas crafting

It’s In The Little Things

Designed by Thaïs Lenglez from Belgium.

It's in the little things

Simple As A Tree!

“I just love to work with 3D and I totally love snow and gifts (who doesn’t like gifts?! :D)” — Designed by Ilse walschaerts from Belgium.

Simple as a tree!

Triangle Christmas Tree

Designed by Zsolt Szilvai from Hungary.

Triangle Christmas Tree

The Year Of The Horse

“An ‘oriental’ calendar.” — Designed by Kimberly Poison from Russia.

The year of the horse

Handcrafted By Santa

“Santa has made a special handmade wallet for Smashing Magazine in his secret workshop and now he is off to deliver it!” — Designed by Atelier PALL from Romania.

Handcrafted by Santa

Dream Flight

Designed by Pietje Precies from the Netherlands.

Dream Flight

Lights Of Hope

“This time enlightens our hopes and best wishes of happiness for all.” — Designed by Marcos Genolet from Uruguay.

Lights of hope

Christmas Love

“December is known as a Christmas month and its inspired me alot to design this wallpaper.” — Designed by Prince Pal from India.

Christmas Love

Rusty Autumn

Designed by Balkees Begum Abdul Samad from New York.

Rusty Autumn

Minimalist Christmas

“Christmas has always been my favourite holiday of the year – full of colourful icons. This year, I would love to share these minimalist Christmas icons with everyone. Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!” — Designed by Fiona Yap from Malaysia.

Minimalist Christmas

Sailing Away

“When Christmas comes around, I like to think warm. I had this picture I took on a sailboat and wanted to inspire warm thoughts during the coming winter.” — Designed by Jonathan Shears from Fuzz Productions from Northampton, MA.

Sailing Away

Starry Bethlehem

“I wanted to create an image that brought to life the thought of light bursting from stars onto the sleepy hills of Bethlehem. There is always wonderment when looking up at the stars at night.” — Designed by Rachel Litzinger from Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Starry Bethlehem

Cherish The Present

“Cherish the present you are living, cherish the presents you are giving, hooray, december bells are ringing.” — Designed by Myriam El Khoury from Lebanon.

Cherish The Present

Merry Christmas

“Imaginary Santa Illustration. Merry Christmas to all :)” — Designed by Zanetine Web Design from India.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Decorations

“December is the month of Christmas markets all around Austria. Glühwein and various decorations are all around us. This photo was taken at one of those markets, and this is just a glimpse of all those gorgeous decorations..” — Designed by Sasho Ikonomovski from Macedonia.

Christmas Decorations

The Collection Of Birds

“The collection of birds are my travels. At each destination I buy a wood, bronze, stone bird, anything the local bazaars sell. I have all gathered at a modest vitrine in my house. I have so much loved my collection, that, after taking pictures of them I then designed each one, then created a wallpaper and overdressed a wall of my living room. Now my thought is making them as a desktop wallpaper and give them to you as a gift.” — Designed by Natasha Kamou from Hellas.

The Collection of Birds

Geometric Series: Stefanie Sun

“The Geometric Series is a series of graphite-on-paper artworks that celebrates and commemorates some of the world’s most popular – and controversial – celebrities. Each artwork is completed using nothing but geometric shapes (mostly triangles), resulting in an interesting pseudo-3D portrait. This artwork is the third in the series, featuring my favourite Mando pop artist, Stefanie Sun (she’s from Singapore too!). Hope you guys like it!” — Designed by Teo Yu Sheng from Singapore.

Geometric Series: Stefanie Sun

Abstract Penguins

“December is cold. Penguins love the cold! They are cute, like to snuggle and love winter. A perfect match!” — Designed by Pieter Van der Elst from Belgium.

Abstract penguins

Freshly Baked Cookies

“I designed a wallpaper using skeuomorphism to show that it still can be used in design! Though it is not popular it still has a purpose.” — Designed by Debbie Burkhoff from the United States.

Freshly Baked Cookies

Gifts Month

“I love December, because Christmas is my favourite holiday. I love to make gifts and like to receive some as well.” — Designed by WallpaperFX from Romania.

Gifts Month

Winter Time

Designed by Billie Peeters from Belguim.

Winter time

Winter Peace

“December is a month of peace due to the holiday but because of all the presents and decorations people forget the tranquility that this holiday brings. That’s why I desided to create a very simple wallpaper that shows the ‘winter peace’.” — Designed by Sebastian Navas from Belgium.

Winter peace

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

“December is all about Christmas.” — Designed by Shofiyaa Abdul Samad from New York.

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!

Funny Owl Waiting For Holidays

Designed by Anna from Russia.

Funny owl waiting for Holidays

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all the designers for their participation. We encourage you to participate and join in next month!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comments section below.


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

November 29 2013

10:19

Freebie: Smallicons Icon Set (54 Icons, SVG, PNG, PSD)


  

Today we are pleased to feature Smallicons, a set of 54 flat icons. If you are looking for a way to make your design fresh and expressive, then this freebie is the answer. The set was created and designed by Nick Frost and Greg Lapin of Smallicons.

The freebie includes 36 icons drawn from a full commercial set available on Smallicons, plus 18 icons designed exclusively for Smashing Magazine.

release-image-500-opt

Description And Features

The icons were made using Photoshop vector shapes and are available in different formats, giving you maximum convenience and saving you time for more creative tasks. The PNG files come in two dimensions (32 × 32 and 64 × 64 pixels). The set also includes swatch files, so that you can select colors in Photoshop using the color swatches palette. Smallicons is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence, freely available for personal and commercial projects.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • PSD file with 32- and 64-pixel versions;
  • Ready-to-use PNG files in 32- and 64-pixel versions (@2x sizes are also included with both versions, for making Retina-ready apps and interfaces);
  • SVG vector source files;
  • Photoshop swatches files.

schoolbag-3-sizes-500-opt
Smallicons is a fully scalable set.

swatch-color-palette-500-opt
Nothing’s easier than customizing Smallicons with the embedded color swatches!

preview-500-opt
This preview shows all of the icons in the set. (Large view)

Download the Icon Set for Free

Behind the Design

As usual, a word from the designers themselves:

When you start to design in a flat style, it can be hard to stop — harder than you think! That is exactly what happened to us when we designed the icons for Smallicons. It turned into a big project, which we hope will help designers and other professionals whose work is based on graphics one way or another.

Thank you, dear Nick and Greg, for creating this beautiful set! We appreciate your work and efforts!

(al, ea, il)


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

November 22 2013

06:00

Learn by Example: 6 Lessons for Designing Restaurant & Food Websites

screenshot

Today’s topic is a delicious one: restaurant and food websites. Small businesses pay the bills for freelance designers and local restaurants can serve as a major source of revenue. If you’re embarking on your first restaurant site design though, there are a few things that you should know.

In this article, we’ll learn by example as we take a look at lots of mouthwatering food and restaurant websites. By examining what these designers got right, you’ll help ensure your own success in this area.

Photography is Everything

screenshot

Site: The Claw Bar

I realize that this sounds like a blanket statement or perhaps even hyperbole, but I’m quite serious. With restaurant sites, the “garbage in, garbage out” aphorism is quite appropriate. If you’re working with ugly food shots, you’re doomed from the outset.

As a visitor to a restaurant website, my primary interest is very likely going to be food. You have to sell me on the product, and photography is the way to do it. The trick is, food photography is very difficult, so you can’t take the cheap way out here. Poor food photography can do more harm than good.

screenshot

Source: left photo and right photo

Your job as the designer is to convince the client to really invest in some great photos if they don’t have some already. If you’re also a photographer, this could even earn you a few extra bucks.

Just about every site in this article takes this advice, but here are a few that did particularly well:

Findus Norge

screenshot

Cappellos

screenshot

Culinaria

screenshot

Show Me Atmosphere

screenshot

Site: Au Petit Panisse

When you think about the visuals for the site, you might be tempted to think purely of food. However, the secondary draw for a restaurant, heck for many people the primary draw for a restaurant, is the atmosphere. I can get a great burger anywhere, but I want to eat a burger in a place that’s awesome!

There’s so much uncertainty involved with trying a new place to eat. If I can really get a feel for the place on the website, then I’ll feel more confident in my decision to eat there. From a practical standpoint, it’s often the case that one photo of the atmosphere and decor gives me a good idea for the general dress code of the place. As an example, would you dress up for the restaurant shown above? How about this one?

screenshot

Site: Roux at Parliament Square

Leverage Texture & Color Heavily

screenshot

Site: Gilt Taste

A powerful tool that you have at your disposal when designing any food-related site is texture. Top designers in this niche use tons of realistic textures throughout their sites. Gilt Taste, the site above, is a prime example. The home page is full of different textures, both in standalone photos and as backgrounds for type.

As another example, here’s a small, cropped portion of a restaurant theme from ThemeForest. Notice how many textures you can find in this one small area!

screenshot

Site: Victoria Restaurant Theme

The choice of colors is extremely important for food websites. Color helps set the mood and enhances the enticement. Don’t be afraid to use bright colors and always pull right from the food when possible to tie everything together nicely.

screenshot

Site: Goosebumps

Break it Down

screenshot

Site: Food Sense

Another solid tip for working with food photography: people are fascinated by the process. The art of taking raw ingredients and turning them into delicious dishes is something that draws all of us in.

Further, merely showing fresh ingredients makes the food feel healthier and more appetizing. No one likes to think that the restaurant shipped that lasagna in on a truck. They want to see tomatoes!

screenshot

Site: Delicioso

screenshot

Site: Goosebumps

Build Custom Menus for The Web

You know what my biggest peeve is with restaurant websites? The menus. More often than not, this portion of the site offers a horrible user experience. I cringe every time I order from Paradise Bakery online:

screenshot

Site: Paradise Bakery

Instead of going through the trouble of actually building a menu on their website, they just uploaded a million scans of their physical menu that I then have to sift through one freaking page at a time. If you click the option to download the PDF, you literally get the flat PDF artwork that they send to the printer to create their foldable menus. I’m not making this up folks:

screenshot

This thing is so big that you have to zoom in on little portions and then pan around until you find what you want. It’s an astoundingly bad way to present a menu to website users.

If you’re thinking about tossing up a PDF of the print menu and calling it a day, stop what you’re doing and give yourself a hard smack in the face. Stop being so lazy and do your job. If you’re looking for a solid example, check out the Kuleto’s menu below:

screenshot

Site: Kuleto’s

This menu uses an awesome and easy to use three column system to narrow down your choices. First, you choose your meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.), then a category and you’re presented with the options within that category. At any time, it’s easy to refine your selection or change things up.

If you want a simpler route, check out The Claw Bar. Their web menu uses the metaphor of a print menu, but it still uses live text and is formatted for the web.

screenshot

Site: The Claw Bar

Don’t Forget the Basics

It’s pretty easy to get so caught up with all of the advice above that you forget the most basic elements of any web design. Remember that, with any site design, you should always carefully consider the goals of the average user.

For a restaurant, you can pretty much guarantee that the visitors will want a few specific pieces of information:

  • What do they serve? (menu and graphics)
  • How much does it cost? (menu)
  • What is the place like? (graphics and video)
  • Where is it?
  • Can I order or make a reservation online?
  • What’s the phone number?

As you can see, we’ve addressed most of the main goals already in the tips above. However, the basic contact and ordering information is a primary concern that we haven’t touched on. I’m a firm believer that contact and location information is an extremely high priority for a restaurant’s site, so this information should be on the homepage in a prominent location.

In the template below, there’s a large, eye-catching map right in the footer (probably the first place you would think to look). Right next to the map is all the contact information that you need: email, phone number, social links, etc.

screenshot

Site: The Restaurant Theme

The lesson here: never make your users hunt for basic information because you’re worried about it messing up your pretty design. Your job is to highlight and present important information in an attractable and usable way, not to make a site that looks good at the expense of its purpose.

Show Us Your Favorites!

Now that you’ve seen our examples of the best food and restaurant sites that we could find, chip in and show us your favorites. Or, even better, show us the restaurants that really miss the mark and toss out ideas for improvement.

Tags: Graphics

November 19 2013

08:00

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

When designing a website, one of the most common challenges is to develop an effective color scheme. In many cases the sites color scheme will be determined, or at least influenced, by the existing branding of the company. However, when you’re facing decisions on color there are plenty of options. While it is always an important part of the design, color can be used to make a website stand out and attract attention.

Here you’ll find 25 examples of web designs that use a lot of color.

Clique

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

MintTwist

Cyclemon

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

svkariburnu

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

PandoraBox

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Toasted Digital

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

White Rhino

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Actualizala

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Inova-Ria Games

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Edwin Eddie Diaz

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Activate Media

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Milkable

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Diplomatic-Cover

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Draftfcb

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

RVLT

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Greyp Bikes

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Polecat

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Brand Village

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Studio MPLS

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Macaw

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Made by Joyce

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Taasky

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

Fostr

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

ProcessWire

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

TriplAgent

25 Beautifully Colorful Websites

For more design inspiration please see:

November 15 2013

15:05

Blueprints For Web And Print: Specctr, A Free Adobe Illustrator Plugin


  

Have you ever submitted design files to a development team for production and a few weeks later gotten something back that looks nothing like your original work? Many designers and design teams make the mistake of thinking that their work is done once they’ve completed the visual design stage.

A design is more than a simple drawing on a canvas in Illustrator, Fireworks or Photoshop; it is a representation of function. “Form follows function” is a well-known principle, first coined in 1896 by the architect Louis Sullivan. How will the website work? How will that section fold? What happens when you hover over this button? How does that menu function?

Designers also know that the details will make or break a product’s usability. But designers are also responsible for not letting those details fall through the cracks in production. Yes, those 5 pixels do matter! The development or production team also needs to understand how the product will work and what it will look like in every scenario and variation of the product’s use. Annotating all of these scenarios can be a nightmare, but this is where Specctr can help.

Specctr is a plugin for Adobe applications. (Currently, versions are available for Fireworks, Illustrator and Photoshop, the first of which you can read about in “Blueprints for the Web: Specctr Adobe Fireworks Plugin”.) Specctr transitions a visual design to production by enabling you to specify form (spacing, width and height, colors, fonts, etc.) and function (hover states, transitions, user flows, etc.). It automatically generates a specification and creates a blueprint for the design, which saves time.

Specctr logo

Note: The Specctr plugin for Adobe Illustrator has two versions, Lite and Pro. The Lite version is free for everyone but has some limitations. The Pro version is more powerful, is paid and has an “Expand Canvas” feature, and you can change the font in which the specification is displayed. Specctr Pro has other advanced settings that can be configured in the “Spec Options” tab in the panel, including options for the colors in the three types of specifications, the color mode (RGB, CMYK, HSL, HSB), etc.

Overview Of Specctr For Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a favorite tool of many designers because of its flexibility and versatility. Whether you use Illustrator for Web, print, identity or packaging design, Specctr may be useful to you, and in this article we’ll show you how. This plugin includes:

  • the width and height of elements;
  • text specifications (font family, font size, font color).


The main tab of the panel, the “Select Details” panel tab and the “Spec Options” panel tab in the Specctr Lite version. (see larger preview)

The width and height of elements as well as the text-specification abilities are most common to a designer’s workflow, which is why we included them in the free version. These two features alone should save you a lot of time. Additionally, the free version has the “Expand Canvas” feature and the option to change a specification’s font.

Requirements and Installation

Specctr Lite can be downloaded for free from our website (search for “Try Specctr Lite”). To use Specctr for Illustrator, you will need:

  • a Mac or Windows machine;
  • a copy of Adobe Illustrator CS5, CS5.1, CS6 or CC (Creative Cloud version).

The installation process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Download the Specctr installer.
  2. Double-click the downloaded ZXP file. The Adobe Extension Manager will open. Click on “Install.”
  3. Restart Illustrator.
  4. In Illustrator, go to Window → Extensions → Specctr in the menu to open the Specctr panel.

Note: If you are using Windows Vista+, you might need to launch the Adobe Extension Manager as an administrator, or else the extension could fail to install (this is a known limitation of the Adobe Extension Manager).

A Quick How-To Guide

After you install Specctr, you can spec a document in a few easy steps:

  1. Adjust your settings in the “Spec Options” tab.
  2. Select the options you want to display.
  3. Make room for your specifications (optional).
  4. Spec away!

The process of working with Specctr Lite and Pro is quite similar. The only difference is in functionality (Lite has fewer features).

1. Adjust Settings in “Spec Options” Tab

First, it’s a good idea to customize how the specifications will look. You can do this in the “Spec Options” tab in the Specctr panel. There, you can do the following:

  • Control how your specifications will look by adjusting font, color, size and line weight.
  • Set the color mode in which you want to spec: RGB (both rgb() and HEX modes are available), CMYK, HSL or HSB.
  • Assign different colors based on the type of specification: type object, shape object, and spacing and dimensions.

2. Select the Options to Display

In the “Select Details” tab in the panel, you can define (using simple checkboxes) which properties of objects to spec.

For example (as mentioned earlier), for shape objects, the following properties (or specification) can be generated by Specctr: fill color, fill style, stroke color, stroke size, opacity. And for text objects, the following properties (or specification) can be generated: font family, font size, font color, font style, text align, line height, letter spacing, opacity.

3. Make Room for Your Specifications

Optionally, you can expand the size of the artboard (or canvas) to make more room for the generated specifications. Use the numeric field next to the “Expand” button to increase the size (in pixels).

4. Spec Away!

Simply select any object(s) on the artboard, and then use one of the specification buttons: “Shape / Text,” “Width & Height” or “Spacing.” Specifications will be generated automatically for the elements selected on the artboard.

You can select two objects (by holding down the Shift key) to spec the space in between them. If only one object is selected and you press the “Spacing” button, then the distance from the object to the artboard’s edges will be displayed.

Here’s a brief screencast of this workflow:

Other Features

For maximum time-saving, you can spec multiple text and shape objects with one click. Simply select multiple (or all) objects and hit the spec button.

For better readability, line endings in Specctr will change depending on what you are spec’ing: a filled dot for text, an outlined circle for shape, and brackets for distance.

Spec line ends
Line endings automatically adjust based on shape, text and distance.

Your specifications are automatically organized and grouped into layers so that you can quickly turn their visibility off or delete them.

Specs in layers panel
Specifications organized into layers.

If many objects are close to each other, then there is a chance that specifications might overlap. To fix this issue, simply move and spread the specifications out. The arm that connects them to their object will always remain connected to the object, no matter where you move them on the artboard.

Please note that if you update an object after you’ve spec’d it, then the specification won’t update automatically; you must spec the object again. You don’t have to delete the old specification, though, because it will update with the new properties and remain in its current position.

A Note About Units

Specctr will use distance-based units based on the user’s settings in Illustrator (Edit → Preferences → Units). For Web documents, Specctr will always use pixels.

Illustrator preferences.
Illustrator’s “Preferences” dialog: Units.

Different Specification Scenarios

Web Design

There are plenty of reasons to use Illustrator for Web design. (Read Vincent Le Moign’s article “Productive Web Design With… Adobe Illustrator?” to hear some of the arguments.) Illustrator is fast, reliable, reusable and especially useful for designers who create both wireframes and final designs.

Specctr was created with Web designers in mind because of the myriad of screens flows that have to be created and spec’d. Although spec’ing is usually a process that only large design teams do, I’ve found the plugin to be helpful on small teams as well. With technology advancing and our capability to create more complex graphics, transitions and animations growing, there is an increasing demand for designers to spec their work. Interactions, responsive design and hover states should become clearer with a few notes and annotations attached.

Here follows an example of a one-page Web design made in Illustrator and spec’ed using the Specctr plugin. The first screenshot shows the large-screen version, and the second shows the mobile-screen version.

Example of a web site design spec'ed with Specctr
Example of a Web page spec’d with Specctr. The artboard contains the large-screen version; below it are shown three states of the same button (normal, :hover and :focus, and pressed). (View larger version)

responsive design spec'd example.
Example of a Web page spec’d with Specctr. The artboard contains the small-screen (i.e. mobile) version. (View larger version)

Note: In Illustrator, you can use multiple artboards to create variants of the same Web page for different screen types; for example, desktop, tablet, mobile, etc.

Make sure to set up your document correctly for Web design work. Create Web documents with the “Align new objects to the pixel grid” option activated; always use whole pixel sizes for all objects; and select the RGB color mode. The “Align new objects to the pixel grid” option is especially important.

Web settings
My recommended settings for Web documents in Illustrator. (View larger version)

Print and Packaging Specification

Unique print pieces (die cuts, special folds, etc.) require detailed instructions. Here is an example of a custom folder that was spec’d using Specctr for Illustrator.

Packaging spec example
A print design example. (View larger version)

Setting up your document correctly for print design is important, too. Here are the settings that I often use:

Print settings
My recommended settings for print documents in Illustrator (View larger version)

Branding Guideline Book

A brand is the public face of the company. It conveys the mood and tone of the company and covers every detail of its communication with the public. A branding book is a vital step in a branding project because it establishes the rules and teaches collaborators how to use the new visual language; a rebranding campaign is only successful if it is used consistently and widely.

A brand book usually includes the logo, fonts, colors, textures and patterns, photographic and image styles, language and tone. The guidelines can get quite detailed and long.

Here is an example of a very brief brand book that uses Specctr for the nitty-gritty details:

Brand Guidlines
Specctr for Illustrator can help you create a brand book.

Here are a few brand guidelines:

To learn more about branding, I recommend Kat Neville’s article “Designing Style Guidelines for Brands and Websites.”

Conclusion

Being a successful designer takes not only creativity and design skills but the follow-through to see a project come alive just as you imagined it. A designer may create a well-crafted website or a beautiful logo or an elegantly packaged product, but chances are they won’t be the one bringing it to life.

Communicating and explaining your design both verbally and visually is a requirement for precise and successful results. This is especially true for large teams spread out over the globe. We hope the Specctr plugin for Illustrator helps you with this important task.

Plans for the Future?

Here’s what the Specctr team is working on next:

  • CSS exporting (the objects you spec will be the ones that are added to your CSS export);
  • Relative (i.e. percentage-based) spacing, to help you with responsive design tasks;
  • More options for iOS and Android design specs.

Please let us know which features you would like to see added to the next version of Specctr’s panels! You can also leave a comment here. We’d appreciate your feedback.

(mb, al, il)


© Chen Blume for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

October 31 2013

18:56

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: November 2013


  

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. As designers, we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one: desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd.

This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we’re very thankful to all the designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month. This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for August 2013. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your desktop wallpaper, folks!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Me And the Key Three

“This wallpaper is based on screenshots from my latest browser game (I’m an indie games designer).” — Designed by Bart Bonte from Belgium.

me and the key three

Resolution Measurements

Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Brazil.

Resolution Measurements

It’s November!!!

“The various days that are to be remembered are yet to get noticed.” — Designed by Elvis from India.

Its November!!!

Garden Party

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgique.

Garden Party

Movember Wallpaper

Designed by Will Barron from England.

Movember

The Collection Of Birds

“The collection of birds are my travels. At each destination I buy a wood, bronze, stone bird, anything the local bazaars sell. I have all gathered at a modest vitrine in my house. I have so much loved my collection, that, after taking pictures of them I then designed each one, then created a wallpaper and overdressed a wall of my living room. Now my thought is making them as a desktop wallpaper and give them to you as a gift.” — Designed by Natasha Kamou from Greece.

The Collection of Birds

Red Leaves

Designed by Evacomics from Singapore.

Red Leaves

Acorns Of Autumn

“Autumn is such a beautiful time of year with every color of the rainbow surrounding us in nature. So for those of us who work desk jobs, this piece allows us to enjoy the vibrant colors indoors.” — Designed by Casey Hehner from United States.

Acorns of Autumn

Tapping The Maples

“Every year I set up my Christmas village the day after Thanksgiving, and during the fall months leading into the winter, I tend to enjoy the likes of apple cider and maple syrup. The figure set chosen for the month of November are the maple sugarers gathering sap during a light snowfall.” — Designed by Jonathan Shears from Massachusetts.

Tapping the Maples

The Fruits Of Harvest

“With autumn comes the joy of reaping the harvest. It’s a time when the fruits of our labors are materialized into sustenance–”fruits” that bring a sense of warmth and comfort. To me, fall is a time to slow down and sip a cup of cider as we reflect on this joyful time of year.” — Designed by Casey Hehner from United States.

The Fruits of Harvest

The Little Reader

“Perhaps we don’t realize how important is lighting in a bedroom. Simple decisions like string lights, a cute lamp at the nightstand and a bulb inside a kids tent can make all the difference. A regular bedroom becomes a magic spot for kids to read, play and dream. Let there be lights!” — Designed by Carla Genovesio from United States.

The Little Reader

Movember Like A Londoner

“Movember is a great opportunity to give and wear big and beautiful moustaches! Specially if your’re a londoner! :)” — Designed by Paula Rupolo from England.

Movember like a londoner

Night City

Designed by Anna from Russia.

Night city

November Trees

“I was inspired by the following quote by Ernest Dowson:

AUTUMNAL

Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer: summer’s loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Let misty autumn be our part!
The twilight of the year is sweet:
Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
Eludes a little time’s deceit.

Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night: awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.”



― Ernest Dowson, The Poems and Prose of Ernest Dowson

” — Designed by Eve from Latvia, previously lived in Sweden and now in the UK.

November Trees

A Cold One

“First day of real cool.” — Designed by Michal Wasilewski from Poland.

A cold one.

Autumn Stream

“Fall is in the air, and mother nature has been generous. :)” — Designed by Jenn Garman from Canada.

Autumn Stream

Sun Concrete

“I like old city buildings” — Designed by Tomasz Gawlik from Poland.

Sun concrete

The Best Of November

Designed by Brandi Redd from United States.

The Best of November

Fog In Ca’ Tron

“There’s always fog in the place where I live in and small animals show themselves every now and then. Sometimes it looks a bit creepy so I decided to ‘wallpaper’ how it feels to live there.” — Designed by Renata Biondi from Italy.

Fog in Ca' Tron

Rangoli

“For Diwali each year, Hindus create rangoli on their patios, courtyards, or indoor floors. These are vibrant designs using colored flour, rice, sand, or flower petals. Here’s an e-rangoli to celebrate the Indian new year.” — Designed by dangerbrain from USA.

Rangoli

Clean And Colorful Diwali

“Diwali (festival of lights) is one of the most important festivals of the year in India, and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes.” — Designed by Zanetine Web Design from India.

Clean and Colorful Diwali

Movember!

“Bringing awareness to a good cause is always important, so get your grow on!” — Designed by Marshall Taylor from Canada.

Movember!

Month Of The Man

“Movember is the month of the man. Mustaches and beer have come together as one beautiful design in this image. I pay homage to the Old Familiar Barbershop (OFBS) in Columbus Ohio as they have created the mustache comb bottle opener.” — Designed by Zack Aronson from Akron, OH.

Month of the Man

Slap The Hipster

“We made this awesome game at work and really like how the design turned out.” — Designed by Catalin Ardelean from Romania.

Slap the Hipster

Change

“I was inspired to create this wallpaper by the change that November brings to the landscape around NY. The last of the green fades away and by month’s end we are entering the cold clutches of winter.” — Designed by Chris Macholz from New York, USA.

Change

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all the designers for their participation. We encourage you to participate and join in next month!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comments section below.


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

October 21 2013

06:30

The 500 Dollar Blogger Bundle Giveaway: Noupe is Looking for 3 Winners


  

Dear readers of our lovely Noupe magazine. Today we teamed up with Envato to bring you the opportunity to win The Blogger Bundle. The Blogger Bundle consists of over 500 dollars worth of files. For a limited time, you can buy this bundle over at Codecanyon for just 20 dollars. But we encourage you to first try your luck and participate in our giveaway game. Three readers will be randomly drawn from all correct entries. Read on…

September 30 2013

14:59

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: October 2013


  

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. As designers, we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one: desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd.

This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we’re very thankful to all the designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month. This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for August 2013. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your desktop wallpaper, folks!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Autumn Colors

“I love the autumncolors and making pictures, this is a collage of bits and pieces of various autumn photos from previous seasons. Enjoy!” — Designed by Agnes Swart from the Netherlands.

Autumn colors

Argyle October

“I really enjoy simple designs and thats the way I like to design. I tried to do as much as I could with as little as I can.” — Designed by Josh Smith from the United States.

Aryle October

Happy Halloween

Designed by Zanetine Web Design from India.

Happy Halloween

Sports Day In Japan

“Sports day is held every October in Japan for kids in kindergarten to high school.” — Designed by Evangeline Neo from Japan.

Sports Day in Japan

Beautiful Autumn

Designed by Frank Miller from Prague, CZ.

Beautiful Autumn

Retro October

“When I think of October I think of making homemade applesauce, pumpkin bread, etc. in a warm, inviting kitchen. I added the vintage theme to further push the homemaker feel.” — Designed by Kelly Sheaffer from the United States.

Retro October

October Gifts

“I was inspired by autumn and those gifts that presented to us in the form of beautiful colors, unusual shapes and mysterious weather. So enjoy October! :)” — Designed by Juliagav from Ukraine.

October Gift

Let The Beauty

“A wonderful quote by Jalal ad-Din Rumi and an excellent image by Tan Chuan-Yean.” — Designed by Aydin Demircioglu from Germany.

Let the beauty

Building Singapore: Old Supreme Court

“This wallpaper design is inspired by the Old Supreme Court of Singapore, the last structure in Singapore to be built in the style of classical architecture. It’s currently in the process of being converted into the National Art Gallery of Singapore, slated to be open in 2015!” — Designed by Teo Yu Siang from Singapore

Building Singapore: Old Supreme Court

Trafalgar Day

“To commemorate the victory and death of Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805.” — Designed by Adrian Sandu from Romania (currently living in Ireland).

Trafalgar Day

Adventure

“Go into the imagination of a young boy…going out to be the hero of his own story.” — Designed by Anne O’Konski from the United States.

Adventure

Misty Woods

“October reminds me of cold nights and Halloween. Halloween is a time when going up to creepy houses through misty haunted woods is acceptable, which also inspired me to design a moonlight misty composition.” — Designed by Samantha Magaard from the United States.

Misty Woods

A Very Bright Halloween

“We want to remind everyone to stay safe this Halloween when trick-or-treating, maybe carry a portable lantern or flashlight. We also wanted to share some ideas we had for adding a special bright touch to your costumes this year – battery operated Halloween string lights!” — Designed by Carla Genovesio from the United States.

A Very Bright Halloween

Fall Colors

“I was inspired to create this wallpaper by the natural elements of fall. Comfortable clothes, crisp air, hot chocolate and the vibrant colors of autumn bring a joy to my soul unlike any other season. I took this picture on one of my walks near my house. Embrace the change and absorb the wonderful beauty of this season!” — Designed by Cody Courmier from Denver, CO.

Fall Colors

Geometric Series: Lady Gaga

“The Geometric Series is a series of graphite-on-paper artworks that celebrates and commemorates some of the world’s most popular – and controversial – celebrities. Each artwork is completed using nothing but geometric shapes (mostly triangles), resulting in an interesting pseudo-3D portrait. This artwork is the second in the series, featuring the Queen of Monsters, Lady Gaga. Hope you guys like it!” — Designed by Teo Yu Sheng from Singapore.

Geometric Series - Lady Gaga

A Night To Sparkle!

“October brings Halloween! A fun time of year, where we get to dress up and go Trick or Treating! I have fond memories of me and my family lighting sparklers, attempting to write your name with them, and throwing them into the night sky when theyre almost done! :)” — Designed by Kelly from Ireland.

A Night to Sparkle!

October Fun

“My wallpaper was inspired by my love for the Autumn season. I wanted to capture some of my favorite aspects about this time of the year and put them into a design that anyone can enjoy on their computer screen. I love animals so I decided to put in a classic black cat and her family. I also wanted to emphasize the lovely colors of the season throughout the piece with the changing foliage and the landscape. I also wanted this design to have a family friendly, kid feel. The style is almost like a coloring book page, and has a “cutesy” aspect that kids will enjoy.” — Designed by Lauren McNallen from Pennsylvania, USA.

October Fun

Sheepish Fall Knitters

“When I think of October I think of fall, cold, and sweaters. It just so happens that my mom knits and especially during the fall season she goes overload with all the socks, hats, and sweaters she knits for all us kids. So I decided to put that idea into a comic-like illustration. I felt like a little humor was needed to make the illustration a little more fun.” — Designed by Emily Allard from the United States.

Sheepish Fall Knitters

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all the designers for their participation. We encourage you to participate and join in next month!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comments section below.


© The Smashing Editorial for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

September 20 2013

10:26

Part Two: Optimizing The Design Workflow With Fireworks Extensions


  

In my previous article on Smashing Magazine, I discussed seven excellent extensions that could fundamentally change your Web design workflow in Adobe Fireworks. The extensions expand Fireworks’ capabilities by adding valuable functionality that could make a huge impact on your overall productivity as a designer.

I have to admit, though, that at the time, I was able only to scratch the surface of what’s possible with Fireworks, so I’d like to add to the list six more extensions. As functionality, they are a bit more “niche” than the extensions in the previous set, but no less valuable in any sense. These are extensions that I always install whenever I set up Adobe Fireworks for myself or anyone on my team and that have proven to be big time-savers over the period that I’ve been using them.

Again, to help you more easily navigate the article, you can refer to the following list:

  1. Text commands
  2. Modify commands
  3. Path commands
  4. Linked images
  5. Adjustments panel
  6. CSS sprite maker

1. Text Commands

Ever wish you could manipulate text in Fireworks like you can in a text editor? Frankly, I never do because I don’t expect Fireworks to offer powerful text-manipulation abilities. (It’s a graphic design app, after all — the usual workflow is to create and edit your text in another program and then bring it into a Fireworks PNG file.)

Turns out, that’s not (always) the case!

Text Commands by Aaron Beall bring a lot of useful functionality to the manipulation of text objects in Fireworks. Below is a brief overview of what the commands do.

Change Text Case

Do you have a a few paragraphs of text with messed-up formatting and would hate having to retype everything in the correct case? This extension comes with commands to change the case of any text — not just to uppercase or lowercase, but also to sentence case (i.e. the first letter in a sentence), title case (the first letter of every word) and small-caps (regardless of whether your font supports them!).

Change text case with Text Commands
Text Commands enable you to easily change selected text to lowercase, uppercase or title case.

Paste Text Attributes

This command brings one of my favorite features from Microsoft Office — copy formatting — to Fireworks.

Simply copy some text to the clipboard, select another text block, run the “Paste Text Attributes” command, and voilà! All properties of the first copied text object are automatically applied to the second one!

Paste text attributes
Copy formatting for text objects in Fireworks? Possible!

Split and Merge Text Boxes

If you have differently styled blocks of text contained within one text object, and you need to separate them later for ease of composition, the Split Text Boxes command can do that automatically.

Let’s say you have a text object that contains a headline and some paragraph text below it. If you need to split these so that they can be positioned independently, simply select the text object and apply the command. The command will analyze the block of text, check which portions of the text have different properties, and then split them into separate text boxes.

Split text
Split a text box into multiple boxes, based on text properties.

Alternatively, you can also merge multiple text objects into a single object with flowing text. When merging text objects, the command figures out the sequence based on the positioning of the objects relative to each other. You can also choose to include text (such as a non-breaking space) between objects when they are merged.

Merge text boxes
Merge text boxes in Fireworks.

Replace All Text

Sometimes you want to apply a change to multiple text blocks in your design — say, to add a ™ (trademark symbol) to all instances of a brand name, or maybe even to change a bunch of button labels at once.

To do this, simply select all of the text boxes that you want to modify, apply the “Replace All Text” command and specify what the changed text should be.

To retain the existing text and only add to it (say, to wrap quotation marks around a sentence, as in the example below), substitute {T} for the original text.

Replace All Text
Adding quotation marks to multiple text boxes the easy way.

Sometimes you’ll need to change multiple instances of a label or paragraph. Instead of selecting each instance individually and making the change, select all of the text objects, hit the “Replace All Text” command, and enter the new text. Done!

Lorem Ipsum

No more copying and pasting from a text file every time you need some dummy text for a mockup. Simply create a new text box where you want it, hit the Lorem Ipsum command, and a paragraph of random text will be added. If nothing is selected on the canvas, then the command will create a new text object and apply the last used font properties to it.

You can also easily customize the dummy text generated by the extension, by opening the command’s Lorem ipsum.jsf file (located in ../Fireworks/Configuration/Commands/Text/) and replacing the Lorem Ipsum text lines with your own. (JSF is a special JavaScript Fireworks extension file. It can be easily opened and edited with a simple text editor, just like any normal JavaScript file.)

Even better, the Lorem Ipsum command is quite smart. Each time you run it, the first paragraph of the text will not be “Lorem ipsum…,” but a random paragraph selected from all of the paragraphs available in the extension!

Note: Alternatively, you can try John Dunning’s Lorem Ipsum auto shape. It offers more advanced functionality and control over the particular amount of text you need in a text block. I plan to cover this extension in more detail in another article soon.

2. Modify Commands

Fireworks already provides a ton of ways to modify objects, both vector and raster. Getting a certain look is often an exercise in combining these settings for the object, and results will vary drastically according to your expertise with Fireworks and the time you have at hand.

Aaron Beall’s Modify Commands offer a series of modification presets that reduce the number of steps involved in applying multiple settings to objects to a single click! These are not meant for every occasion, but they can be invaluable in certain instances.

Here’s a look at what the extension packs.

Randomize Properties

The title of this collection of extensions says it all. If you need to create a series of objects with random properties such as size, color and opacity, use the Randomize commands in this extension pack.

One use of this command would be to create a bokeh effect for a background. You can randomize the size, color, opacity, blur, position and rotation of the selected objects based on certain criteria. You can also apply random styles to selected objects, from those already set in the document.

Randomize properties
Randomizing the properties of the objects selected on the canvas.

Explode And Scatter

Need to scatter a shape around the canvas to create visual chaos? You can use the Scatter command to automatically spread clones of an object over or around another object, or use the Explode command to create a more dynamic effect.

Both commands come with variables you can set to get the desired effect.

Explode and scatter
The Explode command in action.

Flatten and Smooth

Although vector objects have many advantages, sometimes you’ll need to convert a few vector objects to bitmaps (i.e. rasterize them). The “Flatten Objects to Bitmaps” command lets you do just that. Select the objects to rasterize, and the command will convert each one into a single bitmap oject. Note that this is different from the “Flatten Selection” function in Fireworks (accessed in the menu via Modify → Flatten Selection), which will convert all selected objects into a single bitmap object.

You can also smoothen the edges of objects with the “Smooth and Flatten” command, which scales up the selected objects, flattens them, and then scales them back down.

Paste Selective Attributes

You can paste the attributes of a copied object to any other object in Fireworks (a super-useful feature!), but what if you want to use only the live filters from the copied object and not its color and stroke? The “Paste Selective Attributes” command lets you select which attributes to paste and leaves the rest out.

Paste selective attributes
Paste selective attributes.

With the help of this command, the “Paste Attributes” feature in Fireworks (usually accessed with the shortcuts Control/Command + C and then Control/Command + Alt + Shift + V) becomes even more useful and powerful!

Seamless Tile

This is one of my favorite commands from this extension. If you use a lot of background patterns, then you’ve probably attempted to create seamless patterns at some point. This command automates the process by blending the edges of the pattern to a specified extent.

In a recent article on Smashing Magazine, Ivo Mynttinen mentioned this feature, too:

“Download and try the Modify Commands pack, by Aaron Beall. It includes “Seamless Tile” — a very useful command for seamless textures. It does not work equally well for all types of textures, but for the most types it can help you create a seamless pattern in Fireworks really easy. The command creates seamless textures from selected objects on the canvas, by blending their edges automatically (based on a specified percentage).”

3. Path Commands

Next up from Aaron Beall is the excellent Path Commands extension, which adds superpowers to Fireworks’ handling of vector paths and objects. If you are one of those who miss Adobe Illustrator for the powerful control it gives you over paths, wait till you try these out!

The commands take existing object-manipulation techniques and add a few twists that are extremely helpful if you create a lot of vector artwork in Fireworks — which designers of illustrations and icons certainly do.

To be honest, I don’t use every command in the set, so this is not a comprehensive review, but rather a list of the Path Commands I use most.

Manipulate Objects

With this command, you can arc the bottom of a shape outward or inward as much as you need, apply a fisheye lens effect to any object, or deform a shape based on a selected path. This can be a huge time-saver when you want to make some complex changes to the shape of an object. The image below shows a text object being made wavy.

Deform to path
Deform to Path command.

Deform to Path can be a powerful command on its own. Using it, you can invert a shape relative to the canvas, similar to how “Invert Selection” works in Photoshop.

Deform to Path can be useful in a couple of other situations:

  1. You can distort a narrow ellipse object to a curved path to create a path that tapers at both ends (something like the custom stroke feature in Illustrator), or use an ellipse along a curved path to create a “swoosh” (à la Nike).
  2. You can distort an arrow vector shape along an S-shaped curve to get a curved arrow that zig-zags around other objects on the canvas.

Combine Paths

With this command, you can blend two paths and their properties by adding a specified number of steps between them; distribute clones of an object over each point in another path; or trim multiple paths to create separate objects from overlapping parts of the shape.

Combine paths
Combine Paths command.

Manipulate Individual Paths

These commands allow you to divide paths in multiple ways according to their position and z-index, to open or close any path, and even to measure the total length of a path in pixels.

There’s also a “Convert Stroke to Fill” command that will come in very handy if you do a lot of illustration work in Fireworks and need to treat outlines as filled objects so that they scale properly. “Convert Stroke to Fill” also provides a way to simulate gradients on a stroke (similar to how it is done in Adobe Illustrator). The workflow is simple: select an object with a stroke and run the command; then, on the new object with a solid fill, you can easily add a gradient.

Convert strokes to fills
With the “Convert Stroke to Fill” command, you can select an object with a stroke (left), run the command, and the stroke on the object will be converted to an object with a fill (center). You can then apply a gradient to the resulting object (right).

A Word on Paths

All commands in this set will work only if applied to paths. Shapes drawn with the regular shape tools, such as Rectangle and Ellipse, are not paths by default but special vector objects, so you will need to ungroup them before using these commands. The same goes for Auto Shapes as well — you will need to ungroup them before using these commands on them.

When you need to work with text, simply convert it to regular vector paths (select the text object, then Text → Convert to Paths).

4. Linked Images

A great feature of Illustrator, InDesign and some other design applications is the ability to link external images within a design, so that changes to the external files are reflected in your design without the need to reimport them manually. (Smart objects in Photoshop provide something similar, although it is not exactly an elegant solution.)

Fireworks, on the other hand, does not provide any way to link external images to a design for on-the-fly updates.

John Dunning to the rescue, again! John’s Linked Images extension provides this very ability in Fireworks.

Let’s say you are working on a website design, and the client hasn’t finalized the logo yet. Fire up the Linked Images panel, click the “Insert” button to select the current version of the logo from your hard drive (it can be in Fireworks PNG, Photoshop PSD, Illustrator AI or any other supported image format), and place it in the layout.

Later, when the logo has been updated, simply select the imported image and run the Refresh command to reimport the latest version of the source file.

Or, double-click the linked image’s name in the panel, edit the logo image that opens up, go back to your design and hit “Refresh.” Voilà! The latest version of the logo will appear in your file, without your having to mess with deleting or replacing anything in the design.

You can even update the image everywhere it appears in the document — including on multiple pages — with the “Refresh All in Document” command in the Linked Images panel.

Linked images panel
The Linked Images panel.

When inserting a linked image, you can also add it as a Fireworks symbol if you are going to use it in multiple instances.

If you have resized the image in your artwork, there is also an option to retain the size of the object when refreshing so that any changes to the source image don’t mess up your design in any way.

For the many options that Linked Images offers, check the detailed documentation on John’s website.

The Linked Images panel supports all image file formats that Fireworks supports (but see note below), including:

  • Fireworks editable PNG (.fw.png);
  • Photoshop PSD (.psd);
  • Illustrator AI (.ai);
  • EPS (.eps);
  • All standard “flattened” image formats, such as PNG8/24/32, JPEG, GIF, BMP and TIFF.

Note: When importing Fireworks PNG files, Linked Images offers 100% file compatibility. When importing Photoshop and Illustrator files, some limitations will apply; for example, if Fireworks doesn’t support a particular object or feature in a PSD or AI file (such as gradient meshes in Adobe Illustrator files), then those objects will simply be ignored upon being imported. Keep this in mind when working with linked PSD and AI files. For best results, then, work with Fireworks PNG files whenever possible.

5. Adjustments Panel

You will often need variations of a color in a design — perhaps a slightly darker or slightly brighter variant. This is usually pretty easy to do in Fireworks: select an object, go to the Mixer panel, and change the hue, saturation or brightness value.

But when a change is applied to a group of objects with different colors, Fireworks ends up applying the same color value to all objects, irrespective of their original colors — which we don’t want.

Enter the Adjustments Panel by John Dunning. It lets you change the color properties of multiple objects while retaining their individual identities. Here’s how you would go about it:

  • Select all of the objects you need to edit.
  • Open the Adjustments panel, and choose whether to alter their fill color, stroke color or both.
  • Choose what to change — hue, saturation, brightness, opacity, stroke width.
  • Use the number buttons at the top of the panel to reduce or increase the selected property in increments of 1 or 10.

Adjustments panel
The Adjustments panel in action.

The adjustments apply to gradients as well as to flat fill colors, so this is a great time-saver when creating variations of buttons and other UI elements, either for the same design you’re working on or when creating various color options in general.

6. CSS Sprite Maker

Adobe Fireworks CS6 introduced quite a few Web design-friendly features, including automatic CSS sprite creation. CSS sprites have long been favored for enabling Web designers and developers to consolidate a set of images into a single image, with portions being made visible as necessary. The problem has always been that the tediousness of creating these increases with the number of elements and of variations in size.

Note: To learn more about CSS sprites, read the excellent articles “The Mystery of CSS Sprites: Techniques, Tools and Tutorials,” by Sven Lennartz, and “CSS Sprites Revisited,” by Niels Matthijs.

While you can now create CSS sprites directly in Fireworks CS6, not everyone has the latest version. For the rest of us, there’s the CSS Sprite Maker extension, which you can get from Adobe Exchange.

Note: The developer of the extension seems to have gone missing from the Web. His website and blog are offline, and the extension is not being updated anymore. Fortunately, it still works just fine in recent versions of Fireworks, including CS5.1 and CS6.)

This extension is actually made up of two panels, “CSS Sprite Maker” and “Tools.” The former enables you to create sprites, while the latter provides some nifty tools to help with the process. Let’s look at each.

CSS Sprite Maker

The core feature of this panel is to help you create CSS sprites. The process is simple.

  • Create a new document (the canvas’ size doesn’t matter), and pull in all of the images needed for the sprite. The size of the images doesn’t matter, nor does the layout — you can even leave them all in a stack, as they appear after being imported.
  • Next, choose a name for the sprite image, add padding between the objects if needed, define class names, and hit a button.
  • The icons will be automatically laid out and the canvas resized accordingly, and you’ll have an image, a CSS file and an HTML file with all of the details on using the sprite!

CSS Sprites panel
The CSS Sprite Maker panel in action. (The icons in this example are from the free icon set Crystal Project by Everaldo).

There are two options for creating a sprite:

  1. The first, a general CSS sprite, neatly packs the images together based on how much padding you want between them, and fits them into a rectangular shape of the correct size.
  2. A second option, a diagonal CSS sprite, has the advantage of hover and disabled states.
  3. You will first need to rename the elements using the “Utility” section of the Tools panel (see the description below) before creating the diagonal sprite, otherwise you’ll run into an error message. Once you’ve figured out that part, though, being able to create hover and disabled states is quite nifty. The extension will automatically duplicate all elements, group them and apply appropriate styles to each one — creating a slightly higher brightness for the hover state and a grayscale conversion for the disabled state (you can change these settings by editing the filters yourself, if you prefer).

    Note: The extension does not automatically write the CSS code for hover states to the images. Instead, it creates different classes for each state by appending a modifier (that you can specify) to the class name of the normal state.

    The workflow is quite simple. Create (or import) a few icons, place them on the canvas, and name each individual object in the Layers panel. Next, open the CSS Sprite Maker panel, and in the “Diagonal CSS Sprite” section, give the export a name, a prefix and a primary class, and set the padding. Then, click the “Export” button. Done!

    Making diagonal CSS Sprites
    Settings for diagonal CSS sprites. Notice that the “hover” and “disabled” styles are optional (with a little checkbox beside each).

    (You can also watch a screencast, saved from the author’s website before it went down.)

    Tools

    The Tools panel has a few features to help you prepare images for the sprite. If your images are all of different sizes, just select them, set a size, and hit “Create.” The extension will add a transparent box behind each image and group it with the image so that each one has objects of the same size.

    You can also change the objects’ names en masse. Simply define the name and the extension will apply it, along with a numeric sequence for all selected images. Lastly, to arrange the icons in a grid exactly the way you want, just enter the grid values under the Guidelines section and hit the “Create” button to add the horizontal and vertical guides accordingly.

    CSS Sprite tools panel
    CSS Sprite Maker panel: Tools

    So, Which Should I Use?

    Comparing the CSS Sprite Maker panel with the CSS Sprites feature available in Fireworks CS6, I have to admit that I prefer this extension simply because there’s no need to create slices before exporting. Besides, the grouping and naming tools in the extension make preparing the sprite much easier as of now.

    But it’s a matter of preference, of course, and if you’re using Fireworks CS6, you can try both options for CSS sprites and see which one suits you better!

    Wrapping Up

    The Fireworks community has contributed many powerful commands and panels. In my my last article, I reviewed the following extensions: Grids Panel, Guides Panel, Smart Resize Auto Shape, Tables Auto Shape, Placeholder Auto Shape, Orange Commands and QuickFire.

    Today, we’ve looked at another set: Text Commands, Modify Commands, Path Commands, Linked Images, Adjustments Panel and CSS Sprite Maker. All of these extensions I use often and are powerful enough to warrant discussing at length. They should help you work faster and better in Fireworks, just as they’ve helped me.

    I am planning one more article on the subject, so stay tuned!

    Further Reading

    Fireworks Extensions

    (mb) (al) (ea)


    © Ashish Bogawat for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

September 13 2013

06:30

Hotter than August: 26 Fresh Templates, Themes and UI-Kits from Last Month


  

How was the month of August in your area of the globe? Over here in Europe we definitely had (and still have) some hot spots. So, if swimming is what you aim for, come over to the Mediterranean and be happy. If you’d rather refresh some web designs than your worn-out body stay with us and read on. Once again we roamed about the webs, searching for the freshest elements a web designer could be interested in. This is what we came up with.

September 03 2013

10:25

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: September 2013


  

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. And as designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one—desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd.

This creativity mission has been going on for over five years now, and we are very thankful to all the designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month. This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for September 2013. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendar series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

The Books That You Will Love

“We hope you love reading our printed books and eBooks as much as we do!” — Designed by The Smashing Team from Germany.

The Books That You Will Love

The Road To School

“Bring your most playful costume to raise your energy and vitality for the new shoolyear.” — Designed by Ly Gia Phu from Vietnam.

Back to School

It’s Just A Job

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.” — Designed by Davide Vicariotto from Italy.

It's Just A Job

Big Bad Wolf

“Even the worst baddies were children.” — Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek from Belgium.

Big Bad Wolf

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“A simple wallpaper to brighten up your day.” — Designed by Tetyana Kovyrina from Canada.

Be Happy

Miss, My Dragon Burnt My Homework!

“We all know the saying ‘Miss, my dog ate my homework!’ Well, not everyone has a dog, so here’s a wallpaper to inspire your next excuse at school ;)” — Designed by Ricardo Gimenes from Brazil.

My Dragon Burnt My Homework!

Back-To-School Apples

“September always reminds me of going back to school (in my early years) after a long summer break, there would be a few apples in our lunch boxes, not that I was teachers’ pet.” — Designed by Kelly from Ireland.

Back to School

Number 9

“The evolution of the glyph (number 9)” — Designed by Erik Kuipers from The Netherlands.

Number 9

Dream Big!

“It’s time to cool off after the summer, and time to kick those big dreams into gear!” — Designed by Sasha Endoh from Canada.

Dream Big

Colors Of September

“I love September. Its colors and smells” — Designed by Juliagav from Ukraine.

colors of September

When Summer Falls…

“September means the end of the summer and beginning of the fall. This means the summer falls and the fall rises. I used this little pun and stressed it with the colors orange and green in both the tree and the title.” — Designed by Niels Vanhorenbeeck from Belgium.

When Summer falls...

Rain In The City

“Rain in the city. September shares with us the end of summer. Autumn is coming, the entire city is full of orange shades and the rain is coming in town, and all we can do is singing in the rain !” — Designed by Laboratorio Creativo from Romania.

Rain in the city

Meet The Bulbs!

“This summer we have seen lighting come to the forefront of design once again, with the light bulb front and center, no longer being hidden by lampshades or covers. Many different bulbs have been featured by interior designers including vintage bulbs, and oddly shaped energy-saving bulbs. We captured the personality of a variety of different bulbs in this wallpaper featuring the Bulb family.” — Designed by Carla Genovesio from USA.

Meet the Bulbs!

Adventurous Summer Schooling

“This wallpaper was inspired by the many happy kids going back to school. With the help of Illustrator, I created this wallpaper of a boy who is thinking of doing new exciting things in September 2013.” — Designed by Rahul Bhadauria from India.

Adventurous Summer Schooling

Back To The Grind…

“What does your desk look like?” — Designed by Nicola Thomas from Manchester, UK.

Back to the grind...

One September Morning

“A ever wonderful poem by Jalal al-Din Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. And a most minimalistic wallpaper.” — Designed by Aydin Demircioglu from Germany.

One September Morning

Beyond The Clouds

“As the sunny days of summer start to fade, it’s good to remember that, even on the most cloudy day, there’s always sunshine beyond the clouds.” — Designed by Christine Jordan from Canada.

Beyond the clouds