Building Websites With Tilda (Full Review)

Building Websites With Tilda (Full Review)

Building Websites With Tilda (Full Review)

Nick Babich

(This is a sponsored article.) The modern web is very unified. Designers use the same patterns, and, as a result, websites created by different people look like clones. The only way to stand out from the crowd is via content. Content is what brings people to your website in the first place.

Tilda is a website builder that can be used to create websites, landing pages, online stores and special projects. Tilda’s creators practice a “content-first” philosophy: Content precedes design. Being big fans of storytelling, they came up with block mechanics for creating websites, so that users not just create web pages, but also tell stories about their products or services. And it helps to turn visitors to customers more effectively.


preview of Tilda website builder
(Large preview)

This article is a story of how Tilda differs from other website builders and how it helps you focus on what you know and love, without having to think about technical stuff — because you often don’t have time to learn technical things. Below are a few key benefits of using Tilda to create websites.

Blocks Mechanics

When designers make websites, they often have to implement the same objects over and over again. This not only makes the design process tedious, but also takes up valuable time.

To solve this problem, the Tilda team created blocks, which are commonly used modules. This modular editing mechanism is at the core of the platform. When you create a website, you don’t need to use a hardcoded template; all you need to do is choose predesigned blocks that satisfy your requirements.

You have access to a library of 450 blocks. This library is updated constantly. To facilitate navigation between blocks, Tilda organizes them into categories. Each block in a collection is categorized either by function (for example, cover) or by meaning (for example, product reviews, “our team”, etc.).

A collection of 450+ blocks to suit almost any kind of content.
A collection of 450+ blocks to suit almost any kind of content. (Large preview)

All blocks have been created by professional designers, so you don’t need to worry about the core design properties. Also, all blocks work harmoniously together, so you don’t need to worry about how to adjust one block to another.


Tilda block library
Tilda block library (Large preview)

You might be thinking, “Does this mean that all websites created using blocks will look like clones?” No. Think of a block as a skeleton: It gives you something to modify according to your own needs. Tilda gives you a lot of control over the details. Almost everything in a block is adjustable.

Tilda allows you to customize blocks using the content and settings areas. Click on the “Content” button to edit all of the information that a block contains. The “Settings” button allows you to adjust different parameters, such as the visual appearance of a block. If you want to change the text, click on it and change it directly on the screen. To replace a picture, simply drag it from the folder on your computer.

(Large preview)

The following are the biggest advantages of using blocks:

  • Readability
    Tilda puts a strong focus on typography. Tilda’s team take care of all typographic elements such as line length, spacing and font sizes to harmonious proportions. Every block is perfectly balanced to make the reading an enjoyable experience.
  • Responsiveness
    There’s no need to spend any time optimizing pages for tablets and smartphones.
  • Visual appearance
    The appearance of the blocks can be changed dramatically: the sizes of text and images, buttons — you can do everything on your own on the tab ‘Settings.’
  • Solving complex problems
    Using blocks, you can solve pretty complex tasks such as collecting applications or selling goods and services.

Zero Block

No matter how rich a default collection of blocks is, some users will always want to create something truly unique. Precisely for this case, Tilda provides a Zero Block editor: a built-in editor for creating your own blocks. Think of it as a graphic editor for your website that lets you explore your creativity: add text, shape, button, image, video, tooltip, form, even insert HTML code; move, transform and hide every element on the canvas. You can start from scratch and create new unique blocks!


Zero Block
(Large preview)

All you need to do to start using the editor is to click the “Zero” button on a newly created page. Zero Block allows you to manage every detail of your design. You can change the style options for objects, change their position, change their size and more.

Here is how this process looks:

Using Zero Block it’s possible to turn a promising idea into reality by designing a bespoke block.
Using Zero Block it’s possible to turn a promising idea into reality by designing a bespoke block. (Large preview)

Just like regular Blocks, Zero Blocks are adaptive. Tilda provides five modes for adapting content to different screen sizes. You can preview a design in the following screen modes:

  • mobile (portrait mode),
  • mobile (landscape mode),
  • tablet (portrait),
  • tablet (landscape mode),
  • desktop.

Zero Block can be used together with existing blocks. It’s possible to convert an existing block into a Zero Block and modify it however you like.

Animated Effects

Animation brings a sense of interactivity to the user experience. Properly incorporated, animation make a website’s elements come alive. There a lot of different ways in which adding motion can benefit users. For example, you can use animation to focus the user’s attention on a particular object (such as by assigning a specific animated effect to a call-to-action button to direct the user’s attention to that element) or for purely aesthetic purposes (such as to create a sense of craftsmanship).

Tilda allows you to create stunning interactive pages without any code. Tilda provides three types of animation, which we’ll go over now.

1. Basic Animation

In all standard blocks, you can adjust the appearance of any element to make the website more alive and interesting. For example, you can add an animated effect for a cover title.

Opacity animated effect
Opacity animated effect (Large preview)

Animations work in all blocks, except for the slider. All you need to do to add an animated effect is simply select the desired effect in the block settings.

2. Extended Animation In Zero Block

With Tilda, you can also create a step-by-step animation where any element of the page can be a part of motion sequence. Tilda allows you to set the trajectory of elements. You can implement complex behaviors for elements on the page and add maximum interactivity.

An example of step-by-step animation
An example of step-by-step animation (Large preview)

In addition to the appearance effects, you can adjust parallax and fixing. Parallax enables objects to move at different speeds when users scroll a page. Fixing allows you to fix an object on the screen during the scroll. You can play with following parameters: speed, duration, delay, event triggers for starting the animation.

Make elements come alive with animation!
Make elements come alive with animation!

Here is a quick video that demonstrates how to create a complex animated effect.

3. Specially Designed Blocks

Those blocks are designed to add animation effects. You can also create animation using special blocks, such as:

  • a typewriter effect,
  • a galaxy effect for covers,
  • an animated slideshow for covers

Templates

While templates and blocks sound pretty similar to each other, they are different. Templates are for common use cases (such as landing pages for businesses, event pages, blogs, etc.); they can be used as a base and later changed according to your own style. Choose a template that’s most relevant to your project, and customize it according to your preferences. Unlike many other website builders, Tilda doesn’t force users to select a template from a list. It’s entirely up to you whether to use a template or start with a blank slate.


Tilda provides ready-made templates for landing pages, online stores, etc. Save time by using predesigned store templates.
Tilda provides ready-made templates for landing pages, online stores, etc. Save time by using predesigned store templates. (Large preview)

It’s also possible to design your own template. All you need to do is design your own page and save it as a template. You can share the template with others.

SEO Optimization

The web has over 1 billion websites and is continually growing. All of those websites are competing for visitors. In today’s competitive market, search engine optimization (SEO) &mdash improving a website’s rankings in search results — is more important than ever, and it’s become a critical task of web designers.

The great news about Tilda is that it’s a search-engine-friendly platform; websites created with Tilda are automatically indexed by search engines. A robots.txt file (which contains special instructions for search engine robots) and a sitemap.xml file (which lists the URLs of the website) are generated automatically.

Users can improve search results using special settings:

  • You can manage title and description settings and set meta tags for HTML objects (for example, alt tags for images).
  • Add h1, h2 and h3 tags. The h1 heading carries the most weight for search engines.
  • Set https or http, www or non-www, and 301 redirects (a 301 redirect improves SEO when you change a URL).

Users have access to Tilda’s “Webmaster Dashboard”. This tool tests a website against basic recommendations from search engines and identifies errors that would affect indexing. The tool is available in “Site Settings” → “Analytics and SEO” → “Tilda Webmaster Dashboard”. Users can click “Check Pages” in “Critical Errors and Recommendations” to see which pages need work.


Tilda Webmaster Dashboard, a tool for SEO.
Tilda Webmaster Dashboard, a tool for SEO. (Large preview)

If you want specific recommendations on SEO optimization, consider reading the guide to SEO by Tilda.

Fonts

95% of the information on the web is written language. As Oliver Reichenstein states in his article “Web Design Is 95% Typography”: Optimizing typography is optimizing readability, accessibility, usability(!), overall graphic balance.


Geometria font, designed by Gayaneh Bagdasaryan and Vyacheslav Kirilenko, courtesy of Rentafont. Free to Tilda users.
Geometria font, designed by Gayaneh Bagdasaryan and Vyacheslav Kirilenko, courtesy of Rentafont. Free to Tilda users. (Large preview)

I’ve already mentioned that Tilda has a strong focus on typography, but it is worth saying a few words about the font collection. Fonts have a direct impact on a website’s aesthetics. Tilda users have access to a rich font collection. Tilda integrates with Google Fonts and Typekit. Users can use distinctive fonts such as Futura, Formular, Geometria, Circe, Kazimir and others provided by Rentafont.

Data Collection Forms

The primary goal of the business is creating and keeping customers. And one of the main tools that allow business to work with it customers is forms. Forms allow customers to send applications and feedback, or subscribe to mailing list. Using Tilda, you can create vertical, horizontal, pop-up, and step-by-step forms. The library has a separate category with ready-made design options.


example of using forms from Tilda block library
(Large preview)

In vertical forms, you can add an unlimited number of fields. For each field you can choose its type: drop-down list, checkbox, phone number, file attachment, etc. Tida provides a few special form fields such as ‘Split’ and ‘Calculator.’ The ‘Split’ field allows you to divide the form into a few steps. The ‘Calculator’ field allows you to calculate the cost using a specific formula and shows the cost to the visitor before sending. This can be extremely useful for e-commerce websites (during product purchase).

Tilda integrates with various data-receiving services. It helps you solve common problems with data collection, such as:

  • Connecting emails, Telegram or Slack messengers, Trello or Google Table to quickly proceed new applications.
  • Running email campaigns and collecting email subscribers
    Set up a form on Tilda and connect it to mailing lists in MailChimp, UniSender, SendGrid or GetResponse.
  • Collecting data about online orders into a CRM system
    Trello, Pipedrive and AmoCRM are CRM systems that all have native integration with Tilda. All you need to do to start receiving the data is to link up your account.

logos
(Large preview)

Email Campaign Builder

Tilda has a built-in constructor for emails which allows you to create a nice looking email from blocks in no time. You can connect MailChimp, UniSender, SendGrid services and send mail directly from the Tilda interface. If you use other email services, email builder still can be useful for you — you can download HTML code of a template created in Tilda and use it in your service.

Built-In Analytics

Tilda has built-in analytics that show basic measurements of a website’s effectiveness: page views, page conversions, visitor engagement, etc. These key performance indicators satisfy the basic needs of users. It’s possible to view high-level details (general performance) and page-specific data.


Tilda has an embedded webmaster panel that allows for analysis of a website without third-party tools.
Tilda has an embedded webmaster panel that allows for analysis of a website without third-party tools. (Large preview)

Tilda users can view source, medium and campaign tags in the UTM table. If you click the tag itself, you will be taken to a page where you can see statistics linked to this parameter, such as visitors, sessions, leads and a detailed view by day.

While Tilda analytics will cover you in 90% of cases, sometimes you need more data. At such times, you might need to switch to Google Analytics. Tilda allows you to connect Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to monitor your website’s traffic. You don’t need to code in order to add Google counters to your pages; simply add your account to the page settings when setting up Analytics tracking.

Online Store Functions

Building online stores is one of the most common tasks of web designers. Unlike with other types of websites, web designers need to not only create a great design but also integrate with payment gateways. The great news is that Tilda has built-in e-commerce tools that enable you to build a small online stores in minutes, not hours or days.

Shopping Cart

Tilda’s users can add a shopping cart to their website. The cart widget is universal, and you can use it to sell both goods and services. The cart is integrated with the order form, which you can customize as you want. Simply add the fields you need, and you’ll get the information you need.

The order form is very user-friendly. Visitors will be able to add a number of products and change the quantity of a product. You can modify checkout form wherever you like — for example, you can add a few different delivery options and/or a special field for promo codes. The final sum is calculated automatically. After successful payment, the customer will receive an email with order details (this feature is configured in the payment systems settings).

Activate the shopping cart block from the “Store” category.

Accept Payments On Your Website

Receiving payment online might seem like a problem. But with Tilda, you don’t need to worry. Setting up payment gateways is very easy. All you need to do is choose your preferred way of taking payments: credit card, PayPal or Stripe. The order details will come to your email, Google Drive or CRM — you can connect any data reception service.


Assign a payment system in the “Payment systems” tab in “Site settings”.
Assign a payment system in the “Payment systems” tab in “Site settings”. (Large preview)

Features For Web Developers

Tilda provides a few excellent features for web developers:

  • Tilda API for website integration
  • Bespoke code
    You can always add advanced functionality to your website with code. It’s easy to add bespoke HTML code, JavaScript or CSS to your Tilda website. You can add HTML code using the “Insert HTML” block or embed any type of code, including script and style tags.
  • Data exporting
    What if you don’t want to depend on Tilda and want to host your website on your servers? No problem. Everything you make on Tilda can be easily exported in an archive. To export your code, go to “Project Settings” → “Export”. The archive will include static HTML code and all files, such as images, CSS and JavaScript. The exported code is ready to use; all you need to do to run the website is unpack the archive and copy the files to your server.

Publication Platform

Tilda isn’t just a website builder. It’s also a powerful cloud-based platform for publication. Websites created using Tilda can be published on Tilda’s servers or exported to yours. Below are a few benefits of using Tilda’s publication platform.

Hosting Not Needed

With Tilda, you don’t need to pay for hosting. Tilda guarantees a high loading speed and DDoS protection.

Optimized Page Speed Out Of The Box

The high loading speed is provided by the content delivery network (CDN), which is used to store images. All websites created on Tilda have lazy-loading enabled by default. This allows content to be downloaded very quickly, even on mobile devices.

Connect Your Domain Name

Assigning a unique address to your website is easy. Just go to “Project Settings” → “Domain”, and put your domain name in the “Custom Domain” field.

Configure HTTPS

Tilda provides free HTTPS for its users. Installing an SSL certificate is relatively easy. Go to “Settings” → “Analytics and SEO” → “Tilda Webmaster Panel” → “HTTPS Settings”, and generate your free certificate.

Who Tilda Is For

Now that you know what Tilda is and what features it has, it’s time to discuss how web designers can use this tool. According to Tilda’s team, the tool is used for a few purposes:

  • Creating websites for business
    It could be a company website or a small online store.
  • Creating landing pages
    A landing page that gathers people to a conference, presents a new product or describes a special project.
  • Create a corporate blog or online magazine
    It’s possible to create an outstanding visual presentation for an article or a case study using Tilda.
  • Validating a hypothesis
    Create a website that serves as a proof of concept. For example, create a landing page and verify whether people are interested in the product or service.
  • Learning web skills
    Tilda educates designers by providing examples of how to create things right.

Examples Of Websites Created Using Tilda

Tilda’s team also collects the best examples of websites built using the tool on its inspiration page. Below are a few inspiring websites that were designed with Tilda.

You can also read what people say about Tilda on the Capterra and Product Hunt (Tilda became Product of the day in 2016)

Trend Reports

Tilda helps you to display high-quality images, videos and text in a fully customizable gallery. “Visual Trends 2018” by Deposit Photos is an excellent example of how to present visual information interestingly and engagingly.


(Large preview)

Events

When it comes to creating web pages for events, it’s essential to present a lot of information in a logical and easy-to-scan way. Check out UX Sofia 2018, a website for a UX conference. It combines different information, such as the main talks and workshops, information about speakers, and the location, in easy-to-scan chunks.


UX Sofia 2018 front page
(Large preview)

Landing Pages

The purpose of a landing page is to convert visitors into customers. A lot of factors can affect conversions, but it’s clear that better-designed landing pages outperform competitors. Check Metric.ai’s landing page, which has a tool that estimates a project’s profitability.


(Large preview)

Company Website

In the modern world, the first interaction between a customer and business happens online. People visit a website and decide whether they want to do business with that company. Design plays a vital role in the decision. When a website looks fresh and modern, there’s a better chance that people will work with the company. Quantum Attorneys uses a lot of popular visual effects (vibrant colors, duotones, attention-grabbing typography) to create a truly unique feel for visitors.


(Large preview)

Artwork

People often come to a website for inspiration. Inspiration can come in many forms. But sometimes, a relatively simple design can arouse a lot of emotions. White space is one of the most significant aspects of design. Check out Buro247’s project called Silent Rebellion Fashion. The black and white aesthetic paired with the white space create a unique feel.


(Large preview)

How Much Does Tilda Cost?

Tilda has both free and paid plans:

Tilda has both free and paid plans:

  • The free plan allows you to create one website using a collection of 50 fundamental blocks. This plan has a few limitations: You can’t connect your own domain, and a UI element saying “Made on Tilda” will be placed on all pages by default.
  • The personal plan is $10 per month. This plan allows you to create one website and provides access to the full blocks collection. It also allows you to configure a custom domain. There are no extra charges when you create an e-commerce website.
  • The business plan is $20 per month. It includes everything in the personal plan but also allows you create up to five websites and to export source code.

Conclusion

Whatever website you want to create, whether it be a landing page, an online store or a personal blog, your goal is to make the content and design work together harmoniously and play off each other. With Tilda, it’s become much easier to achieve that harmonious balance.

Register in the platform today and try all the features yourself.

Smashing Editorial(ms, ra, al, yk, il)

#Bowsette heralds the fan art apocalypse

Is your Twitter feed is filling up with unexpected web comics portraying Bowser from Nintendo’s Super Mario games as a princess? Are you at a loss as to why? Let us explain.

Sometimes the internet can delight us, sometimes it can terrify us, and on occasion it can do both at the same time. This trend definitely ticks the third box. Recently, Nintendo revealed that in the upcoming version of New Super Mario Bros. U for the Nintendo Switch, Toadette would have a special super crown that would transform her into Peachette, a Princess Peach lookalike.

Fair enough. But of course this is the internet, and it didn’t take long for people to ask, well, would the super crown work on other characters?

Like, would it work on Bowser?

And so the latest runaway meme storm kicked off. Over the past few days, it seems that everyone has been imagining and drawing their own versions of Bowsette, an unexpectedly sexy princess version of Mario’s chelonian arch-enemy. Some might say it’s getting out of hand (you can always browse the Twitter hashtag for the full spectrum of artwork on offer).

Ignoring the overly pneumatic and lewd examples, though, there’s been a lot of cracking fan art on show.

Mind you, it’s not all over-the-top cleavage shots. Well, okay, it mostly is, but there have been some other fun takes on the concept.

Of course, why should Bowsette get all the fun? It was only a matter of time until eager artists started wondering what would happen if other Nintendo characters tried on the mushroom crown.

But let’s not take this too far, yeah?

Related articles:

Weight Watchers rebrand scores low with designers

Yesterday the leading name in the weight loss industry, Weight Watchers, revealed a slimmed down rebrand and new logo design that sees its name change to WW. But with the new initials not standing for Weight Watchers or the rebrand’s slogan ‘Wellness the Works’, the revamp has left members and designers confused.

The decision to trim back the identity to just WW comes as part of a shifting focus for the company. Instead of concentrating on weight, WW wants to expand its focus to include health and wellness.

The company’s chief executive Mindy Grossman explained that its new logo, which sees two letter ‘W’s stacked in a purple circle, is emblematic of this gear change. “That marque represents our heritage and history and what we are going forward.”

But what is that exactly? 

So far 2018 has been a good year for the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, with big name backers like Oprah seeing its share price surge. However the recent rebrand has left a bad taste with members and designers.

Critics have also been keen to point out that the decision to drop the word ‘weight’ could be to do with a backlash surrounding the word that was sparked by the controversial #wakeupweightwatchers campaign that targeted teenagers.

On top of this, the name WW is not only awkward to pronounce, it’s also confusingly close to WWF and WWE, two companies that already had to battle it out over who could lay claim to their preferred initialism. We also found that when said out loud, WW taps into the tongue’s muscle memory, resulting in the urge to add ‘W dot’ at the end, or maybe that’s just us.

Related articles:

52 best free tattoo fonts

In recent years, tattoo typography has become a big influence on all areas of design. As a result, there are now hundreds of tattoo fonts available online for use in your projects, and many won’t cost you a penny.

But how do you find free fonts in a tattoo style you love – the diamonds among the rough? We’ve scoured the web to find you the top free tattoo fonts for designers. And if it’s tattoos you’re interested in, take a look at our posts on the best tattoo designs and some more out-there tattoo art.

01. Ginga

Tattoo fonts: Ginga

Ginga has an inky feel to it

  • Format: TTF

Ginga is an inky tattoo font from arch-script typographer Billy Argel. It is on the grungier end of the spectrum, with its destroyed aesthetic – and don’t forget to use the > and < symbols to create the tails. Ginga is free for personal use, but you can buy it for commercial purposes from $39.

02. Tuamotu

Tattoo fonts: Tuamotu

Tuamotu’s tribal flourishes are a real eye-catcher

  • Format: TTF

This South Pacific-inspired tattoo font by Imagex Fonts is really brought to life by its tribal designs within the letterforms. It’s free for personal use; contact Imagex if you want to use it commercially.

03. Always Beside You

Tattoo fonts: Always Beside You

Always Beside You is a script font with just a hint of scratchiness

  • Format: OTF

Jonathan Harris is a veritable font monster, with over 433 fonts on FontSpace and more than 11 million downloads to his credit. For a taste of his skills, check out Always Beside You, a slightly scratchy script font that’s perfect for tattoo designs and free for personal use.

04. Lemon Jelly

Tattoo fonts: Lemon Jelly

No, not that one

  • Format: TTF

This one caught our eye because it shares its name with Fred Deakin’s old band; free for personal use, it’s a big and friendly-looking script font created by Billy Argel.

05. Serval

Tattoo fonts: Serval

This feline font has some lovely strokes, but it might scratch

  • Format: TTF

This calligraphic font from Maelle.K and Thomas Boucherie is gloriously scratchy and perfect for taking the edge off a too-serious script tattoo. It’s free to use, but contact the designers if you have any commercial plans for it.

06. Tattoo Vieja Escuela 1

Tattoo fonts: Vieja Escuela

If Beavis and Butt-Head got tattoos, it would be one of these

  • Format: TTF

Swish, painstakingly-designed tattoo fonts are all well and good, but sometimes you want a tattoo that looks like it was done in prison with a contraband blade and a ballpoint pen. If so, step up this awesome set of old-school ink from Woodcutter.

07. Tribal Tattoo

Tattoo fonts: Tribal Tattoo

One of these would go nicely with a Global Hypercolour T-shirt

  • Format: TTF

Want a bit of retro class? Get your ’90s on with this collection of eye-catching tribal designs, featuring plenty of Celtic knots, stylised dragons, spirit insects and spiky abstract designs.

08. Sailor Scrawl

Tattoo fonts: Sailor Scrawl

Celebrate a life on the ocean wave with this nautical font
  • Format: TTF

Get that nautical look with this salty hand-drawn font from the Out of Step Font Company. Each letterform features a little diamond, and it’s free for personal use. 

09. Man Down

Tattoo fonts: Man Down

This Maori-inspired tattoo font is a joy to look upon
  • Format: OTF

We love the bold strokes of this new decorative font from British studio Chequered Ink. Inspired by Maori tattoos, this fantastic tribal font is free for personal use, you can purchase a licence to use it commercially.

10. MOM 

Tattoo fonts: MOM

MOM is inspired by old-school tattoo lettering
  • Format: TTF

Inspired by old-school lettering, designer Rafa Miguel created tattoo font MOM. “I’m a big fan of American traditional tattoos, this is a just a tribute to the great artists that use this style,” he comments on Behance. MOM is available for free for both personal and commercial use.

11. Reditum 

Tattoo fonts: Reditum

Add a touch of class with Reditum
  • Format: OTF & TTF

The first of a number of stunning scripts in this list designed by talented fontsmith Måns Grebäck, Reditum is a calligraphic font that’s guaranteed to add a touch of style to your designs. Free for personal use, it comes complete with a number of glyphs and standard ligatures.

12. Lina Script 

Tattoo fonts: Lina Script

Designers Vicky Mardian and Måns Grebäck collaborated on Lina Script
  • Format: OTF & TTF

This slick tattoo-style script font has a cheeky touch of graffiti to it. Designed by Vicky Mardian and Måns Grebäck, a full commercial licence will set you back $59 but you can download a free demo for personal use.

13. Angel Tears 

Tattoo fonts: Angel Tears

Packed with character, Angel Tears has a beautiful handmade feel
  • Format: OTF

Angel Tears, by Billy Angel, boasts a gorgeous hand-drawn feel. With 128 characters – including upper case, lower case and punctuation – it’ll add a distressed look to your designs.

14. Tribal Dragon 

Tattoo fonts: Tribal Dragon

You get a basic Latin character map with Tribal Dragon

  • Format: TTF

A playful upper-case tattoo font, Tribal Dragon was created by prolific font designer Jonathan Harris and is free for personal use.

15. Blackletter 

Tattoo fonts: Blackletter

You can use this tattoo font for both personal and commercial projects
  • Format: TTF

Created by Dieter Steffmann, this tattoo font is licensed as freeware, which means that – unlike most on this list – it’s available for both commercial and personal projects; no questions asked.

16. Crux 

Tattoo fonts: Crux

Download these brilliant designs for free
  • Format: TTF

Crosses are a staple of tattoo design, and this dingbat font by Spanish designer Woodcutter brings together a range of brilliant designs that you can download for free.

17. Precious 

Tattoo fonts: Precious

BoltCutterDesign has created a number of free fonts

  • Format: TTF

Designed by BoltCutterDesign, Precious Regular is a traditional, calligraphy inspired tattoo font that you can download today. The graphic design company has also created a wide range of free fonts, so be sure to check out its site.

18. Pentagon 

Tattoo fonts: Pentagon

Go for a different tattoo font with Pentagon
  • Format: TTF

Pentagon is a less traditional free tattoo font offering but by no means is it dull. You can download Pentagon for free if it’s for personal use – we think plenty of you’ll have fun experimenting with this design.

19. Little Lord Fontleroy 

Tattoo fonts: Little Lord

Enjoy another free font from designer Nick Curtis
  • Format: OTF & TTF

Designer Nick Curtis has produced over eleven hundred fonts – almost five hundred of them freeware fonts, which have been downloaded and enjoyed by over three million people worldwide.

20. Spring 

Tattoo fonts: Spring

Spring showcases the illustrative elements of tattoos
  • Format: TTF

This free tattoo font entitled Spring, combines the illustrative elements of tattoo designs with the traditional, calligraphy style typography that is often etched with ink.

21. Rose Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Rose Tattoo

Rose Tattoo font is free for any personal work

  • Format: TTF

Going with the more handwriting font style, Rose is free for any personal design work. Featuring only capital letters, this is one of those tattoo fonts that’s perfect for headlines and eye-catching straps.

22. VTKS Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Viks

You can have these tattoo fonts filled or outlined
  • Format: TTF

Consisting of both lower case and capital letters, VTKS Tattoo font is a mix of old and new style tattoo typography. As is often the case with downloads of no-cost tattoo fonts, the creators would appreciate donations and so if you do end up using it, we’d encourage you to be generous.

23. Cute Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Cute Tattoo

Go down the cute route with this tattoo font

  • Format: TTF

This cute font comes in capital letters that makes for a brilliant headline font. The subtle additions to each letter make this one of the more fun and playful tattoo fonts we’ve seen, and will provide plenty of typography experimentation.

24. Extra Ornamental No. 2 

Tattoo fonts: Extra Ornamental

A fancy approach to tattoo fonts 

  • Format: TTF

Extra Ornamental No. 2 is a fancier approach to tattoo fonts, with its extra attention to detail, swoops and shading. As a ‘busier’ font design, it may only work in bigger scales.

25. True Love 

Tattoo fonts: True Love

Davide Cariani’s True Love design was inspired by old-school tattoo typography

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Davide Cariani is a UX designer and web developer with a passion for typography. True Love was created in his spare time and is his first type experiment. It was inspired by old school tattoo typography; glyphs available include letters, numbers, dash and dot.

Next page: 27 more tattoo fonts for your projects…

26. Blessed Day 

Tattoo fonts: Blessed Day

Blessed Day is free for personal use, with commercial licenses available to purchase

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Designer Billy Argel has some of the most popular tattoo-style fonts available to download online, Blessed Angel is another one of them. The design is free for personal use only. The commercial version is revised, with additional glyphs, and can be purchased on Argel’s website.

27. Original Gangsta 

Tattoo fonts: Original Gangsta

Original Gangsta is available as free download for personal projects only
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Since we have quite a few elegant, soft script fonts in this list, we thought we’d add one that’s a little more meaty. Original Gangsta is a design by Gilang Purnama Jaya of GP Typefoundry and is available free for personal, non-commercial use only.

28. Scriptina 

Tattoo fonts: Scriptina

Scriptina is by Apostrophic Labs

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This elegant script font is one of Apostrophic Labs’ most popular designs, with a whopping 5.7milllion downloads to date. Free for personal use, the typeface includes a full set of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and a selection of special characters.

29. Champignon 

Tattoo fonts: Champignon

Incorporate Champignon into your tattoo for an elegant design
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Are you looking to get a verse of a song or some words of wisdom into your tattoo? Then maybe this Champignon font would work in your design? Created by designer Claude Pelletier, the typeface is free for personal use, with donations to the author gratefully received.

30. Angilla Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Angilla

Måns Grebäck has created these edgy script tattoo fonts – free for personal use

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Designed by Måns Grebäck, this script-based addition to our tattoo fonts list includes 357 characters, and is freely available – though only for personal use. You can also buy the font for commercial use for $59 here. And don’t forget to use the numbers for swashes (e.g. A1ngilla4 Tattoo8).

31. Los Angeles

Tattoo fonts: Los Angeles

This font by Vicky Mardian is all up in your face Grand Theft Auto. We approve
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As far as tattoo fonts go, they don’t get much better than this. Designed by Vicky Mardian, this font evokes fond memories of LA drive-bys and botched drug runs. On the Xbox, of course. The above version is for personal use, with a commercial version available here for $20.

32. True Man Tattoos

Tattoo fonts: True Man

This dingbat font is free for personal use, and features old school tats
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If you’re looking for a font-based collection of dingbat tattoo fonts, which can be used in personal projects, then True Man Tattoos is for you. Daggers through a skull? Sorted. Anchor? You bet. Horseshoe, shamrock, two dice and the number 13? You betcha!

33. Brother Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Brother tattoo

Another creation from talented typeface designer Mans Greback

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Another typeface from Måns Grebäck, Brother Tattoo is perfectly suited to quotes and sayings. This free demo version is available for personal use only and comes with a selection of glyphs, including letters, numbers and characters.

34. CM Tattoo Dragon 

Tattoo fonts: CM Tattoo Dragon

Christopher Means clearly enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
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This movie-inspired font by Christopher Means is free for personal use, and was inspired by the poster for the US remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

35. Tattoo Ink 

Tattoo fonts: Ink

Type designer Ryan Splint created this Tattoo Ink font, which features scratch and angle fill effects
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This Art Deco-style font was created by typography designer Ryan Splint. This particular font features lettering containing both a scratch fill and angle fill effect. And with nearly a million downloads on dafont.com, it’s clearly a popular choice. As with most of the tattoo fonts listed here, it’s free for personal use only.

36. Delinquente 

Tattoo fonts: Delinquente

Personalise your tattoo designs with this gorgeous script font Delinquente by Måns Grebäck

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Delinquente by type designer Måns Grebäck is a beautiful script font, perfectly suited to designs featuring quotes and sayings. Available free-of-charge for personal use only, the full font and commercial license can be purchased on Grebäck’s website Mawns.

37. Shit Happens 

Tattoo fonts: Shit Happens

Incorporate this gorgeous typeface by Billy Argel into your tattoo designs
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Another one from font designer Billy Argel, who has developed a number of typefaces that would be suitable for text tattoos. But this ‘Shit Happens’ design, with over half a million downloads, is by far his most popular on Fontspace. It’s free for personal use, with commercial licenses available at Argel’s website.

38. Canterbury 

Tattoo fonts: Canterbury

Dieter Steffman’s Canterbury typeface is free for both commercial and non-commercial purposes
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This old English-style font is one of many designs by Dieter Steffman. Created in 2003, the set includes both upper and lower case letters, special characters and numbers 0-9. This typeface is also free to use for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

39. Tribal 

Tattoo fonts: Tribal

Personalise your tribal tattoo designs with this typeface by Apostrophic Lab
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Tribal tattoos are still extremely popular, so if that’s the design you’re going for, check out this version of tribal type by Apostrophic Lab. The free font includes a full set of upper and lower case letters, numbers and a selection of special characters. It is also free for use in both commercial and non-commercial projects.

40. Tattoo Lettering 

Tattoo fonts: Tattoo Lettering

Choose between an open design (shown above) or black fill when incorporating this typeface into your designs
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If it’s a cartoon-feel you’re after in your tattoo design then this typeface by Gaut Fonts is a great starting point. The download includes two sets, one open (as shown above) and the other with a black fill, both of which include uppercase letters, numbers and special characters. Free for non-commercial use only.

41. Drunk tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Drunk Tattoo

We wonder what the inspiration for this typeface was…?
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This casual, handwritten typeface was designed by Xerographer fonts. We wonder if they created it after a heavy night out? The font set features a full set of upper and lower case letters, but no numbers. The download is free for non-commercial purposes.

42. VTC Nue Tattoo Script

Tattoo fonts: VTC Nue Tattoo Script

Incorporate this delicate script font by Larry E. Yerkes into your tattoo design
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This delicate script-style font was designed by Larry E. Yerkes of the Vigilante Typeface Corporation. Yerkes has created a number of typefaces and now has quite a collection in his dafont library, this VTC Nue Tattoo script font being one of his most popular designs. Free for non-commercial use only.

43. Lupus Blight 

Tattoo fonts: Lupus Bright

Lupus Blight typeface offers a more delicate approach to tribal tattoo designs
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We know this is the second tribal-inspired font on the list but this typeface offers a somewhat delicate take on what is normally quite a bold and heavy design. The lettering was created by Graham Meade, who has a number of other tattoo-inspired font designs online. The typeface is available for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

44. Ink In The Meat 

Tattoo fonts: Ink In The Meat

Design a gorgeous text tattoo with script-style font Ink in the Meat by Billy Argel

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Another from type designer Billy Argel, Ink in the Meat is one of his most popular downloads. The free version of this font is partial and doesn’t contain any numbers. Ink in the Meat is free for personal use, with commercial licenses available at Argel’s website.

45. Hustlers 

Tattoo fonts: Hustlers

Go for a retro-style design with Hustlers
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This retro-style design was created by Gilang Purnama Jaya of the Decade Type Foundry. This free demo version includes both clean and rough styles, with more than 300+ glyphs, including various special characters.

46. Mardian 

Tattoo fonts: Mardian

Mardian is a great tattoo font for various styles
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This gorgeous tattoo-style script font was created by designer Vicky Mardian. This download is free for personal use only, with the full font and commercial license available to purchase from font foundry and reseller Aring Typeface.

47. Antlers 

Tattoo fonts: Antlers

Antlers is a striking tattoo font with an obvious influence

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Created by Måns Grebäck, this striking font, titled Antlers, will certainly make your tattoo design stand out. Available for personal use only, this typeface includes a full set of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and various special characters.

48. Head Case 

Tattoo fonts: Head Case

Try something a little different with Head Case
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For a tattoo with a difference, check out designer Jonathan S. Harris’s Head Case design. This playful font is available for personal use only, with commercial licenses available to purchase from Tattoowoo.

49. Echinos Park Script 

Tattoo fonts: Echinos Park Script

Ramp up the style with Echinos Park Script
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A stylised cursive font from Måns Grebäck, Echinos Park Script has a touch of calligraphy to it and stacks of character. It’s free for personal use and perfect if you’re looking for a handwritten feel.

50. High on Fire 

Tattoo fonts: High on Fire

Create big, bold tattoo designs with High on Fire
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If it’s big and bold that you’re after, then look no further than typeface High on Fire by Billy Argel. The free version of this design is partial and only available for personal use. The full font and commercial licenses can be purchased directly from the designer.

51. Prison Tattoo 

Tattoo fonts: Prison Tattoo

New York designer Socialh does a great line in tattoo fonts
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New York-based designer Socialh regularly experiments with an array of typography styles. We love this fun, playful tattoo font, which is available to download free for any personal use.

52. Unzialish

Tattoo fonts: Unzialish

Unzialish is the perfect choice for any Celtic-style tattoo design

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This exotic, slightly elvish-looking tattoo font was created by designer Manfred Klein and is the perfect choice for any Celtic-style tattoo design. 

Related articles:

14 best-practice rules for striking editorial design

So you want to create better editorial designs? From grids and layout to font pairings, contrast, pace, visual hierarchy and more, the decisions you make as a designer dictate the way information is presented, shared and understood – whether you’re laying out a book, magazine, newspaper or digital publication.

If there’s one thing we know from editorial design icons such as David Carson, it’s that rules are made to be broken. But you have to know the rules first…

Here, I’ll walk you through some best-practice tips for improving your editorial designs. I tend to ignore whatever ‘rules’ exist, but I’ve developed the following opinions through nine years of mag-making alongside full-time agency roles. 

I’m a big believer in the importance of attitude alongside ability, so my ‘rules’ are a mixture of both…

01. Bring enthusiasm every time

spread from The Recorder

In the relaunch issue of The Recorder I commissioned one of my all time faves Neasden Control Centre to bring to life a tricky future-focused feature

Nothing creates better work than passion for the subject. Of course not every project will speak to you personally, but I know my best work is done when I’m engaged with the subject.

Find some enthusiasm for whatever story you’re working on, and the design will be better for it. If the subject isn’t your cup of tea, find something in it that speaks to you and let that develop in you an appreciation for the content.

02. Let the grid guide you

I find a blank page as intimidating as the next person, so having a flexible and well considered grid in place means there’s always a ‘way in’ to begin the design. Think of it as a structure for aligning elements against, as and when you want.

Grids enable you to stay organised, keep you consistent across issues, and can help to enhance the legibility and readability of body copy. The human eye is finely attuned to spotting discrepancies in patterns, so when you chance a design and misalign an element or two, even if it isn’t immediately obvious, it’ll likely feel a little ‘off’.

A great grid will help you maintain cohesion throughout your layouts, helping multi-page articles hang together. Lastly, grids are also generally a gateway to good editorial design practice – gutters, margins, columns, baseline grids and so on are key.

Also read: Mastering grids in InDesign CC

03. Consider types of type

spread from Boat Magazine

For the London issue of Boat Magazine we used Seb Lester’s Soho family, which he – via Monotype – kindly gifted us

Magazines are a marriage of pictures and words. If fonts are the clothes that words wear, it stands to reason you’ll want your text suitably attired.

The right fonts can make or break a magazine, and pairing type is an art in itself. It’s ultra-rare to commission bespoke type (like the 29 styles and weights Henrik Kubel developed for the 2015 New York Times Magazine redesign) so for the vast majority of us, it’s a case of figuring out how many fonts you require to do what you need.

If in doubt, three is a great starting point. Fonts have distinct personalities: serious, casual, playful, elegant. Match the mood of your type to the purpose of your design. Create intentional visual hierarchy by pairing a display face for headlines with a more legible family, or two for body copy (perhaps a sans and a serif).

Don’t forget to check when investing in new fonts whether extra features such as italics, extended or condensed versions are included or available (not to mention full punctuation and glyphs) to give your typographic voice maximum range.

Also read: How to choose the right typeface for a brand

04. Collaborate wisely

Few magazines are created in isolation – they’re usually a product of teamwork – even if it’s just a partnership between an art director and editor. To be able to care deeply about a publication while allowing others to input into it means walking a tightrope of tensions.

Be generous with each other, patient and encouraging, prepared to compromise – but stand your ground when required. Always try to see the bigger picture, and decide which battles to fight. Keep communicating or the work will suffer.

05. Indulge in strong covers and mastheads

The Recorder

The Recorder’s unique cover collaboration with Penguin cover designer David Pearson, finished with a spot UV varnish

The main event, the signature, the first and last thing people will remember: the cover. Covers have always been important but I’d argue they play an increasingly important role now. Much like the album cover can represent a body of work, so too can the mag cover.

Steven Gregor, aka GymClassMag, wrote brilliantly about how a carefully orchestrated cover can propel an issue to new levels of notoriety.

If you have the opportunity to design a magazine cover from scratch then the masthead – or logotype – is the cornerstone to which everything else relates. With the ever decreasing importance of the physical newsstand and the ever increasing role of the digital thumbnail or jpeg, scale and legibility of your magazine’s title is paramount.

This shift also frees up new possibilities for positioning – no longer fighting to peep over the top of other titles on shelf, you can stick it practically anywhere.

Also read: 10 ways to make your magazine cover stand out

06. Compromise carefully

It can sometimes be seen as a dirty word, but most editorial projects are real ‘client’ work – not self-funded vanity projects. This means there are client concerns to accommodate, and often important commercial aspects to consider – so compromise is vital.

Maybe that spread needs to be replaced with an ad? Or perhaps your branded content isn’t branded enough? Whatever the compromise, make sure you’re always answering the brief.

The happier the client, the stronger the relationship you’ll make and the more permission you’ll have to do progressive things down the line.

07. Harness contrast

Gemma O Brien interview spread

As powerful as contrast is, sometimes complementary works just as well – like this Masqualero typeface mimicking the hand-drawn type of profiled superstar Gemma O’Brien

This is another obvious one, but it’s something so easy to overlook: visual contrast is one of the designer’s most powerful tools and easiest to deploy (although not always easy to get right).

Take a look at titles like YouCanNow and Port to see what I mean – contrasts in scale, colour and tone can result in powerful covers and dramatic spreads.

If you want to make an image loom even larger, reduce the title size. If you want to really shout about something, blow up the text until it falls off the page.

08. Set the pace

From grand masters such as Carson and Brody through to (slightly more) modern day marvels such as Leo Jung and Matt Willey, there are countless examples of pace-makers controlling how we feel by clever control of visual pace.

Slow a reader down by injecting a double page spread of imagery, speed things up by type-setting narrower columns, change the mood by inverting type or chill things out with generous leading… ‘Editorial design 101’ ideas they may be, but they genuinely work.

09. Nail the illustration

Zoe Barker illustration

I’ve commissioned illustrator Zoe Barker for three titles: she nails it every time

Illustration can bring to life an article when photography is impossible or inconvenient, and can go places a camera cannot – to new worlds, micro or macro, anywhere the imagination can take you. 

But if you bumble a brief, fail to provide any insight or direction, or rush a deadline, you run the risk of losing not only goodwill but also quality of output.

Be prepared to learn new levels of diplomacy to get the best out of your contributors, and to spend copious amounts of time writing emails when you’d rather be designing.

10. Remember, a picture is worth…

If you have the luxury of a photo editor helping you then your task is probably to maximise their talent. But presuming you don’t, your job is probably to learn to think like one. That means either art directing shoots personally or commissioning them – and then handling, editing and placing imagery to maximum effect.

This role requires conceptual skills to understand what sort of photography will move an audience. It also requires craft skills as you need the ability and confidence to style, crop and lay out photographs to maximum effect.

Everyone knows a picture can be worth a thousand words, so treat photography with the care and attention it deserves.

11. Pay attention to details

clean layouts in The Recorder

These clean layouts for a profile of poster designer Jessica Svendsen in The Recorder featured ‘throw-out’ pages and a zingy spot colour neon green ink

If you’re in the rare and privileged position to be producing a magazine about a personal passion, this applies less, but when working on an editorial project, that’s rarely the case. The better you can understand your content, the more sensitive and nuanced your design can be. The more you know about your audience, the smarter you can be with your delivery.

The deeper your knowledge of great editorial design, the quicker you can call on inspiration when trying out ideas – or know which clichés or tropes to avoid. Spend time with the content and you’ll be able to put together the work much more intuitively.

12. Design for the content

This one might be up for debate, but I’m all about letting the content help shape the look of an article. WIRED UK is a superb example of this. Andrew Diprose and team bring to life the content of a story and investigation through a masterful interplay of dramatic type, images and layout.

It’s hardly a new approach, but many of the big sellers of recent years have taken a more stripped back or formulaic approach.

When there’s an idea behind the work, it’s much easier to know when it’s done. Being aware of visual trends is helpful, but work with meaning has greater integrity and will hold up better as time passes.

13. Design for the reader

spread from The Recorder

Another highlight from Issue 5 of the Recorder is this colourful illustration work by hot talent Bráulio Amado

Perhaps it shouldn’t need saying, but designers can forget that they’re not the totality of the demographic buying their work. Magazine audiences can be very broad – socially, geographically, age-wise – and as such some might not appreciate adventurous layouts or challenging typesetting.

Adapting your style and producing legible and accessible work is vital to engaging your audience; the same goes for decisions around paper stock, page size and count, and so on. Every design decision should be made intentionally with the end user in mind – not design award judges or your designer mates on Twitter.

14. Design for yourself

Lastly, but vitally, do what you feel is right and what you’d love to put your name to. Editorial can be one of those rare ‘pure’ design experiences where you can really shape a piece of communication and therefore totally affect the audience. 

When you produce something you’re proud of (presuming your taste is good) it means you’ve probably nailed it. Learn to trust your instincts and be brave enough to push your design to an exciting new place – and of course, enjoy it. 

You could be digging holes in the rain for a living, but you’re not. You’re designing freaking magazines.

Finally, don’t forget to make the most of every editorial opportunity you get. Design should be fun, even if the content isn’t.

Related articles:

The best software for digital artists

The software options for digital artists are many and varied. There are plenty of tools on the market aimed at helping you to create unique pieces of digital art or mimic traditional effects. In this post, we’ve rounded up and reviewed the best digital art and illustration programs around, to help you pick the right ones for you. For art on the go, take a look at our pick of the best drawing apps for iPad.

There’s software for Windows and macOS, and we’ve even included a few Linux tools too. There are also free and paid options, depending on your budget. So grab your stylus and let’s get this show on the road.

Photoshop

Photoshop is the de facto standard when it comes to digital art and graphic design. Because it’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, you can easily share your data and access all of your assets – including brushes, images, colours and styles – across all of your devices. There’s also an impressive library of Photoshop plugins available to add extra functionality to the programme. 

Find out more in our Photoshop CC 2018 review.

Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer has everything you need to create custom designs and illustrations. With Affinity Designer, you have precise control over curves, brush stabilisation options, advanced blend modes, and best of all: one million+ per cent zoom. No, really… it’s true! In fact, this might just be our favourite feature.

Also check out our review of Affinity Designer for iPad.

Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint is quickly becoming the go-to tool for manga art and comic creation. If you’re looking for a natural and traditional feel that’s wrapped up in a digital drawing and painting app, this is it. Clip Studio Paint uses advanced pen pressure detection for natural, realistic-looking pen strokes. This tool comes in Pro and Ex versions – the latter offers more advanced features.

Graphiter is an intuitive sketching app, with a beautiful design, that has one goal: to reproduce a real-life sketching experience. With simple tools like a blend tool, an eraser, and graphite pencils, I couldn’t help but feel like I was using traditional tools to create my digital sketches.

Artweaver 6 is a full-featured digital art tool available in two flavours: Artweaver Free and Artweaver Plus. Take a look at the comparison chart to help you decide which is right for you. Loaded with a large selection of preconfigured brushes, Artweaver will have you creating your masterpiece in no time. You can either use the brushes as-is, or customise and save them to your liking. Its easy-to-use interface is also highly customisable, although out of the box, it’s set up quite nicely.

ArtRage

ArtRage has always been a favourite among digital painters and illustrators. It offers a level of realism for traditional paint texture and colour that not only looks incredible but is also a lot of fun to play with. Although ArtRage is primarily focused on natural media and painting, it’s flexible enough that digital artists who are used to Photoshop will find it useful too. With the latest edition, you can do everything you’d expect from a digital art tool: custom brushes, layers, fills, filters, and more.

Krita

Krita seems to be one of the most underrated free and open source painting apps on the market, despite it being in development for over 10 years. Krita has an intuitive and customisable interface, where the dockers and panels can be set up to maximise your workflow. 

The tool offers nine unique brush engines, including a Color Smudge engine, Shape engine and Particle engine. You can also import brushes and texture packs or create and share your own. As an added bonus, you can use a brush stabiliser to help get those perfectly smooth lines every time.

TwistedBrush

Speaking of brushes, TwistedBrush comes packed with more than 9,000 brushes. Yes, you read that correctly – 9,000 brushes. But don’t worry, you can still create your own brushes too. Like other digital art tools, TwistedBrush has everything you’d expect: layers, transparency, masks, extensive options for import and export, image filters, and more. It also has drawing tablet support with high precision sampling and pressure sensitivity.

Mediband Paint Pro

If you’re looking for a great, free alternative to Clip Studio Paint, have a look at Medibang Paint Pro. Medibang Paint Pro is a lightweight digital drawing tool with a strong focus on creating manga art and comic books. It comes loaded with 800 free pre-made tones and backgrounds that you can use. It also has more than 50 brushes, and a huge selection of free fonts you can use within your projects.

Painter 2019

Corel’s Painter has been around for a long time, but it’s just had a nice upgrade. The 2018 version includes a host of improvements and new tools including thick paint, cloning capabilities, texture synthesis, 2.5D texture brushes and natural-media brushes (review all of the new and enhanced features here).

Like ArtRage, Painter 2019 gives your work that natural look and feel. The way the paint interacts with the digital canvas is amazing, so go ahead and pile on the paint, push it around, scrape it off, and blend it to create a stunning, realistic digital work of art.

Black Ink

It’s all about realistic brushes, right? Not always! Black Ink has a different approach when it comes to brushes. Instead of trying to mimic traditional tools, Black Ink uses a Controller system that opens a whole new world of possibilities in brush creation and customisation. Using a simple node-based language, you’ll be able to create any type of brush imaginable, which you can then save and share with the community.

Photo Donut

A slightly different app than the rest, PhotoDonut lets you transform existing photos into stunning artistic creations, using everything from pencil, ink and watercolour effects to magna and light leaks. With PhotoDonut Style Categories, you can tweak the settings until you reach the desired effect. You can even use the Freehand painting tool to give your photos that painterly feel.

Speedy Painter

Another free and open digital art tool is SpeedyPainter. This one, however, strips away the non-essentials and gives you the bare minimum you need to create. But don’t confuse bare minimum with a lack of features. SpeedyPainter supports Wacom digitisers to vary size and opacity of brush strokes according to pen pressure, and it includes tools like mirroring and perspective grids. It also has a neat record and export feature that you can use to capture and share your creation process.

Paintstorm Studio is another easy-to-use digital art tool that has a permanent spot on my dock. One of the major features with Paintstorm Studio is its brush selection and customisation options (these include spacing jitter, texture, angle, and more). It also supports stroke post correction, which is a handy feature when you’re doing line work.

As far as the interface goes, it’s easy to navigate and laid out exactly how you’d expect (and the default colour scheme is fantastic). However, if you’re not a fan, it’s completely customisable.

Read more:

53 top typography tutorials

The web is brimming with typography tutorials, but many are low quality and others are very out of date. So we’ve trawled the internet to uncover the diamonds in the rough, in the form of 53 top-quality typography tutorials, to bring your knowledge and skills up to speed.

Perhaps you’re looking for a good introduction to the fundamentals of typography? Or perhaps you want to develop and push your type abilities further? Either way, you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for on this list, which includes typography lessons in the form of traditional text-and-image tutorials, animations and video, and even games.

We’ll be adding to this list as time moves on, so make sure you bookmark this page, and come back from time to time to see what’s new in the world of typography tutorials.

We’ll start by looking at tutorials to help you with mastering the fundamentals of typography – skip through to another page if you’re after something more advanced.

01. Typography basics explained

Not sure exactly what typography terms mean? This video gives you a short and snappy overview of the six most important terms, namely typography, body copy, display type, hierarchy, kerning and leading. 

Six further terms (tracking, widows and orphans, serif fonts, sans-serif fonts and script & cursive fonts) are explained in part two, which you can watch here.

02. Beginning graphic design: typography 

This quick cartoon video from Learn.org, complete with a jaunty elevator-music soundtrack, runs through the basics of typography including the different types of fonts and common typography terms. You’ll find the text version of the tutorial here.

03. Everything you need to learn typography basics

This introduction to typography starts from the point of view of a marketing professional, who recognises its importance in strengthening a brand and highlighting the central message of a campaign. 

Author Brittany Leaning went on a typography course at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and here she explains the fundamentals of what she learned, including a detailed look at the anatomy of type.

04. Lecture 110: Introduction to typography

This video provides an academically rigorous overview of typography, including both a definition of terms and a practical guide to how to place text and create character and paragraph styles within Adobe InDesign CC

It’s actually a straight recording of a university lecture (by Grant Adams at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California). So you’re best off skipping the first three minutes, where the remarks are purely focused on the students about to take the course.

05. A crash course in typography: The basics of type

Axy typography explanation

It’s probably wise to get back to basics before you go running off into the typography sunset. Here, Cameron Chapman gives you the lowdown on everything from fonts to displays.

06. Paragraphs and special characters

Typography tutorials - paragraphs and special characters

In this typography tutorial, Cameron Chapman is back to tell you that yes, designing headers and titles may be more artistic, but the set body text is just as important. Discover why with this step-by-step guide.

07. Principles for combining typefaces

Combining typefaces can be dangerous business, especially if you mix two that certainly don’t belong together. Avoid any upset with this typography tutorial that shows you the importance of contrast and mood.

08. Pulling it together

Now you’ve got the basics down and you’ve dabbled in paragraphs and combining typefaces, take a look at how to pull it all together. In this typography tutorial, Cameron Chapman rounds it all up and shows you how to finish in style.

09. Typography terms every designer must know

Typography tutorials - rules and terms

Our article introduces the fundamental concepts and rules of typography, followed by a detailed illustrated glossary of its main terms. Learn about choosing a font, sizing, leading, tracking and kerning, measure, hierarchy and scale, and more.

10. How to work with type in InDesign

Art editor Jo Gulliver on T3 (and formerly on Computer Arts) shows you some of her most valuable typographic tools in Adobe’s publishing software. Focusing mainly on the Character Formatting control panel, she explains how these options can be used on a day-to-day basis to help speed up your workflow in InDesign.

Next page: more advanced typography tutorials

11. 10 rules to help you rule type

This three-and-a-half minute typography tutorial video introduces 10 golden rules to help you improve your type skills and improve your graphic design layouts. Yes, the same text could have just been written as a standard tutorial, but hey, this is just a little more fun.

12. How to format text in InDesign

Part one of this crash course looks at what typography is and how you can format your type using the Controls panel in InDesign. In part two, you can delve further into the world of typography with a look at four special typographic effects that can help your InDesign layouts stand out.

13. Match fonts from an image in Photoshop CC

One of the standout features of Photoshop CC is that it can automatically analyse, identify and match fonts pictured within a photo. It then gives you a list of similar fonts installed on your machine, as well as others to download on Typekit. This quick video shows you how it all works.

14. Best practices of combining typefaces

Combining different typefaces within your design is part art, part science. This Smashing Magazine tutorial by Douglas Bonneville explains some of the most important best practices to follow when mixing two or more fonts, as well as some common mistakes.

15. Typography manual critique 

One of the best ways to improve your typography is to follow an in-depth critique of what other designers have done when it comes to their use of type. This analysis of the Futur Typography Manual with Molly Drill is full of amazing insights about what to do (and not to do) when it comes to print typography.

16. How to kern type

Kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between letters to achieve a visually pleasing result. One of the most important typography skills you need to learn, here Meryem Meg and Brian Hoff offer some pro advice about how to get it right.

17. Typography design & art direction

This video tutorial investigates a little-discussed but very important topic: how to approach art directing another designer when it comes to typography. The critique focuses around the launch of a new newspaper magazine focused on the business of design, and includes some fascinating insights into its layouts.

18. Art direction & typography part 2

The above video continues the lesson in typography and art direction begun previously, in discussion with graphic designer Minhye Cho.

19. Design a typographical poster in InDesign

brand impact awards poster

This tutorial from Future Publishing art editor Jo Gulliver walks you through the process of creating a typographical poster using InDesign. She demonstrates how to apply a document grid, and how to create and edit the typography within it.

20. Photoshop tutorial: Create a text portrait poster

This Photoshop CC tutorial from Blue Lightning TV shows how to design and create a powerful text portrait poster. This 11-minute typography tutorial takes you through each operation simply and clearly.

Next page: web typography tutorials

21. Make interactive 3D typography effects

laptop screen

Here we’ll create a type effect that uses the shapes of letters as a mask to some fast, free-flowing particles trails that will dynamically swirl and move through the letters. Not only will there be this beautiful animation, but as this will be rendered onto the HTML5 canvas element, this will be transformed in 3D to rotate towards the mouse as it moves around the screen. This is perfect for site headers or just when you need to grab the user’s attention for a call to action.

22. Better web typography in 13 simple steps

text

Web typography means getting acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the rules of classic typesetting, but there’s more. With the web being a fluid and malleable medium, designers have to be able to predict the end result across different browsers and end users. This tutorial examines the basic dos and don’ts of typography, specifically applied to the web.

23. How web typography is just typography, sort of

Typography is often taught as a completely separate discipline from web design, but Amy Papaelias feels that’s a mistake. In this talk, part of TypeCooper West’s Letterform Lecture Series, she demystifies web typography and argues it should be seen as an integral to learning web design.

24. Improve web and mobile app typography

The short video lists five essential principles to improve the typographic quality of your web and mobile app. Paulo Stanley offers this practical guide to start you on the road to creating typography for screen design.


25. Improve web type with CSS font-size-adjust

type, the letters 't' and 'b'

Font-size-adjust in CSS lets you specify your font size based on the height of lowercase letters, and its use can make a big different to the legibility of your web text. This tutorial explains the thinking behind this property and how to use it in your projects.

26. The rules of responsive web typography

responsive web typography

Responsive web typography is tricky, but it’s become the cornerstone of good web design, so you need to get it right. This tutorial provides the foundation from which to begin, and covers both the design principles behind responsive typography and practical solutions for it.

27. Master accessible web typography

accessible web typography

The rise of responsive web design has made accessible type selection more important than ever if your web content is to be readability by the maximum number of people. Here, Fontsmith presents the results of its work with Mencap on accessible typefaces, and the new best practices that have emerged from it. 

28. Fluid responsive typography with CSS poly fluid sizing

fluid layouts in type

Fluid layouts are now an established part of web design practice, but fluid typography is still relatively new. This tutorial examines how to use established browser features, Sass and some simple algebra to create scalable, fluid type that works across multiple breakpoints and predefined font sizes.

29. Responsive font size and fluid typography with vh and vw units

type on different screen sizes

Another tutorial on how to create fluid typography, this one is almost exactly one year older than the one above, but it’s still worth a read to help you get your head around this discipline within web typography.

30. Performance and web typography

One of the many things you have to consider when selecting and implementing your web fonts is the effect your choice will have on the performance of your site. This conference talk by Helen Holmes explains the best ways to can optimise your font files for the web.

Next page: How to design your own font, and games to test your type knowledge

31. How to create your own font

type on an ipad

In this tutorial, Yulia Sokolova explains how she created her first font, from drawing the initial design to digitising it and then turning it into a useable font.

32. How to create your own font: 18 top tips

drawing on a lightbox

After many years as a graphic designer and type enthusiast, Jamie Clarke decided to try his hand at designing a typeface. In our tutorial he shares some of the insights and practical methods he learned to help you to make your own font. 

33. Create your own 3D typeface

making the typeface rig shaded

In another of our tutorials, Jamie Clarke talks through how he created 3D type family Rig Shaded; a layered or ‘chromatic’ typeface that allows you to choose your own style and colour combinations. He explains how he went about it, and shares a number of insights to help get you started making your own 3D type.

34. I shot the Serif

typography tutorials: I shot the sheriff

Learn typography through gaming! The aim of this awesome game from To The Point is to shoot only the serif fonts in the available time. Complete all the stages at ‘Director Level’ to beat the game. Good luck.

35. The rather difficult font game

This game takes you through a series of various fonts that you have to name from a choice of four. It may sound easy but it’s not. Play it on the desktop or on your iPhone.

36. Are you a font nerd?

Do you know your Arial from your Helvetica? Test your type knowledge with this challenging game sponsored by MyFonts.com, which will probably show you that you don’t know half as much about typography as you thought you did.

Next page: Text effects

37. How to design isometric typography

london england in type

Isometric art has a very strict set of rules when it comes to what goes where. It’s pretty difficult to sit down and draw yourself, but when it comes to Photoshop, you can create a guide for anything. In this London-inspired image, we’re going to set out a perfect isometric grid before we build a city of letters, using the Pen tool, selections and layers in Photoshop.

38. How to create reflective typography in InDesign

Reflect written in Indesign

Making typography appear as though it’s reflected in the surface it’s sitting on isn’t complicated. It is, however, a little more complex to make it look convincing within the environment that it’s placed in. In this tutorial we’ll run through how to use Adobe InDesign to quickly create an environment for your type to sit in that follows the basic rules of directional light.

39. Create a long shadow text effect in Photoshop

design with a drop shadow

Photoshop CC includes the ability to add multiple instances of the same layer style to a single layer. This is especially helpful when it comes to create text effects. This tutorial shows you a quick way to add long shadows to your text while still retaining the ability to edit it quickly.

40. Create an editable retro text style in Illustrator

A in Illustrator

In this tutorial, Chris Spooner shows you how to create retro typography using the fills and strokes within Illustrator’s Appearance panel. These trendy letters have a faux 3D appearance and are fully editable.

41. Create a quick duotone text effect in Photoshop

due tone

This short, step-based Photoshop tutorial will teach you how to generate duotone text. Using a texture image, a gradient map, some adjustment layers and filters, you’ll learn how to create this trendy effect in five short steps.

42. Create a vintage film title text effect in Photoshop

The Phantom

This tutorial by Chris Spooner explains how to create typography inspired by the film title styles of old black-and-white movies. Using the 3D capabilities of Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC, he adds sophisticated lighting and shading to these retro letterforms.

43. Create gold 3D type in Illustrator

Why don't you, written in gold sparkly type

If you want to bling up your typography, follow this Adobe Illustrator tutorial by illustrator Karol Gadzala. Step by step, she explains how to extrude type in 3D, apply metallic materials to give it a golden sheen, and add gems, sparkles and gleams. 

44. Create a Chrome text effect in Illustrator

Chrome written in type

Chrome text effects are the ’80s and ’90s style that time forgot. But these retro looks are now making a comeback. Follow this tutorial to learn how to produce a similar retro style metallic text effect in Adobe Illustrator.

45. Create custom type designs in Illustrator

This Adobe Illustrator tutorial demonstrates how to create a custom typography design. It looks like it’s been lettered by hand, but it’s actually created by customising ready-made fonts with clever OpenType features.

46. Three ways to add textures to type designs

lumberjack trading co logo

Photoshop textures are a great way to mimic the aesthetics of old prints and handmade art and give your digital designs more of a tactile appearance. In this tutorial, Chris Spooner explains three ways you can distress your logos and text, each resulting in a slightly different appearance.

47. Create a blueprint text effect in Illustrator

blue print

Learn how to create a blueprint text effect in Adobe Illustrator. This tutorial shows you how to combine simple strokes, basic blending mode techniques and a variety of Transform effects to create this impressive look to your lettering.

48. Create editable retro text in Illustrator

Many text effect tutorials for Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop require the text to be permanently set, so if the wording needs changing, you have to be start again from scratch. In this tutorial, Chris Spooner reveals some useful tricks for creating a graphic style that works with live text. 

49. Create celebration candle text in Illustrator

First 10 years

This tutorial teaches you how to create a celebration candles text effect in Adobe Illustrator. After setting up a simple grid and creating a subtly patterned background, you will learn how to create the main text shapes using a free font and some basic blending and grouping techniques, warp effects and subtle textures and shading.

50. Create a decorative drop cap in Illustrator

illustrated 's'

This tutorial walks you through the process of creating a decorative letter in Adobe Illustrator with a range of vector embellishments. The techniques you learn here can then be applied to all sorts of illustration projects in the future.

51. Create vector floral typography in Illustrator

into the wild written in a floral design

Here Yulia Sokolova explains to create a floral typography composition in Adobe Illustrator. You’ll discover how to create your own custom vectors brushes and use various drawing tools of Adobe Illustrator to create flowers, leaves, and floral elements. 

52. Create a Suicide Squad-inspired 3D text effect in Photoshop

Harley in type

This tutorial is inspired by the vibrant text effect from the trailer for the movie Suicide Squad. As you’re walked through the creation of a similar effect, you’ll discover how to design 3D typography within Photoshop, and make use various lighting effects to illuminate your design with bright colours.

53. Create a text portrait effect in Photoshop 

text portrait effect

This tutorial demonstrates how to create cool portrait effect using a long passage of text that bends and deforms around the contours of the face. Known as a Calligram, this supercool effect is created using Photoshop’s Displace filter.

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Marmoset Toolbag 3 review

It doesn’t matter how big your pipeline is, how small your toolkit may be, or how experienced you are: chances are that if you’re into 3D art, there’s a copy of the real-time PBR renderer Marmoset Toolbag on your system. Where Toolbag 2.0 was all about showing off the model, 3.0 lets you dive into scene workflows with much greater ease, taking you from baking to animating, with shader, fog, lighting and rendering improvements in-between.

This makes it very easy to achieve anything from good-looking portfolio renders to rapid character or look development output. The standalone viewer and direct upload link to ArtStation don’t hurt, either.

New baker outputs

Starting with the baker, the workflow is easy: simply click the Loaf icon in the menu, set up your high and low-poly mesh, tangent space options and cage settings, then define your output. As of version 3.04, Toolbag has image quality improvements and now supports multiple texture and material groups, enabling you to bake items with different UV layouts, although it doesn’t support UDIM yet. 

The baker output is on par with the likes of Quixel or Substance

If you’re new to Toolbag, note that the materials of an item are ‘hidden’ in the group items in the object list on the left, and they’re not always visible. Also, if there’s a shared material group across groups, you may need to duplicate them in the baker for your bake. This is fine on simple models, but can quickly turn into a drag-and-drop pain on more complex models with lots of groups and materials. 

One solution could have been a search and select function similar to 3ds Max or other applications, and then with the ability to drag the results to the respective bake groups. Bar this, it’s a robust addition to Toolbag and its output is fully on par with that of other applications like Quixel or Substance.

Shader improvements

The native baker complements the new shaders: Toolbag now supports material groups in the UI, meaning your groups and material groups don’t need to have the same name any more, something that could get annoying in 2.0. In addition, Toolbag now comes with some excellent shader improvements, like custom shaders, tiling, material animation, Substance 2018 support and the updated SSS (skin) shader. 

The custom shader enables users to code their own shader setups by letting them override the native Marmoset ones. Based on HLSL and GLSL you can create and load the exact shaders and inputs you need for your projects and renders. 

Marmoset Toolbag 3

The SSS overhaul in Toolbag 3 is a huge improvement over the 2.0 Skin Shader

The SSS shader is equally easy to use, just remember to set up decent lighting to show off your shader and Marmoset’s new advanced translucency options. This is where the baker came in super handy: I’d forgotten to bake a thickness map, and now I did not have to switch apps to bake one out. Together with the ability to load SBSARs from the Extra tab and the fact that you can now animate your textures, the shader overhaul also opens for one of the main features of the 3.0 release: animation.

Animation toolkit

Whereas Toolbag 2 only had turntable options, version 3.0 came with an animation and keyframe editor in 2016. The latest version 3.04 improved on this, and now also makes animation life easier on users by allowing animated meshes to be stored in the TBSCENE file, as well as some serious performance enhancements. 

Keyframes are only applied to the currently selected object

While a toolkit like this won’t ever provide the entire range of animation features like Max, Maya, Houdini, iClone and the like, it will let you animate small to medium scenes, and excels at it, meaning you can do anything from dioramas, interiors, exteriors and single to multiple figure animations. 

It’s pretty intuitive as well – you can import your animation or set one up from scratch, and if you’ve animated in any of the mainstream animation packages, you’ll feel right at home in the editor. It also has a cool little feature that lets you hook up your turntable to the animation you’re working on, in effect allowing for multiple turntables at various speeds in your scene. 

Add to that the fact you can now import TBSCENE formats into Unreal, a glTF exporter, lots of lighting and shadow improvements, not to mention fog, a shadow catcher and a good, standalone 360 WebGL viewer that works with anything from WordPress to ArtStation, and you have a crazy solid PBR rendering package at a fraction of the price of KeyShot or Clarisse. 

Despite its limited functionality compared to other applications, it should be taken into account that whatever Toolbag does, it does it very well. With this attention to detail and user requests, Marmoset Toolbag 3 is a steal. 

Toolbag is a staple in my day-to-day workflow. I’d have given it a 5 rating if it weren’t for some of the clunkiness in the baker UI. But with that speed, ease and long list of features, I’d heartily recommend it to anyone in need of a speedy and intuitive PBR real-time renderer.

Adobe XD plugin makes vector art easier

About a month ago, we learned that plugins were in the pipeline for prototyping tool Adobe XD, and over the weekend, details of the first extensions started to emerge. One of the stand-out plugins comes courtesy of Adobe’s partner of twelve years, Astute Graphics – its slick new tool promises to make the lives of anyone who works with vector art much easier.

Named Smart Point Removal, or SPR for short, this core vector technology reduces the file size of vector assets to help slash download times and increase rendering speeds. This will be music to the ears of artists and designers working to tight deadlines.

At the same time, SPR converts imported artwork into assets that can be edited and manipulated more intuitively. The tool does this by stripping back the number of path nodes on vector assets so users can achieve desired results more easily than ever before.

With just one tolerance slider control, dubbed ‘strength’, SPR is as straightforward as it gets. Having previously created vector tools for Illustrator CC, Astute Graphics was able to carry over plenty of hard-won expertise into this extension. Check out the focused vector prototype tool for Adobe XD in action via the GIF below.

SPR is part of Astui, a brand new subscription service on offer from Astute Graphics. Powered by AG Tech, the Atsui service includes other vector artwork optimisation, editing and manipulation tools such as Outline Strokes, Offset Path, Vector Brushes and Boolean.

Seeing as the core SPR technology is based in servers, the XD plugin will become available as soon as Adobe launches the XD plugin APIs. Other users will also be able to examine and extend the XD plugin codebase upon launch.

Related articles:

15 ways to stay motivated for longer

Art has been a huge gift for me and I’m grateful to my past self for taking the chance to pursue it. I didn’t try to make a career in art until I turned 30, and I didn’t get my foot in the door until I was 33. Because of what I considered were my limitations, I didn’t take this opportunity for granted. I was pretty fearless early on because I felt as though I had nothing to lose. It was a tough road filled with self-doubt. 

I believe that a majority of my growth as an artist came to me not just by practising and learning art techniques, but through analysing my mindset during that process: looking at why being an artist was so appealing; where my motivation and drive were coming from; and how that motivation and drive continues to evolve. 

While some of these tips may seem basic, I still revisit them to understand why they work so well for me when I’m stuck creatively. These tips are the foundation for getting clear about how to motivate yourself to create for longer periods and be excited to do so. I hope they’re helpful to you as much as they were for me.

01. Set goals and challenges

wonderwoman sketches

Mel Milton set himself a challenge to draw different takes on Wonder Woman for a month

You need two things to get where you want to go: a starting point and a destination. Leave out either one and you’ll end up feeling frustrated and believing that your efforts are pointless. Goals are the best way to start setting a destination for improvement. 

For many years I just wanted to get better. The problem was that I didn’t take the time to define what it really meant to ‘get better’ – it’s such a vague concept. Having small-, medium- and long-term art goals helps solidify a sense of purpose to your work. 

One approach that helped me was to limit most goals to about 30 days each. Thirty days of doing a task usually makes it easier to turn it into a habit that stays with you while you tackle other subjects. Make your first few challenges more about having fun. Connect them to something you geek over (I spent a month drawing different takes on Wonder Woman). Eventually, the 30-day habit will feel natural. You can then move on to challenges that are geared towards areas of weakness. For me, that’s handling colours. Carry out small studies and learn one new facet of that subject each day. After 30 days you’ll have a strong understanding in that area.

02. Give yourself a ‘why’

When I was younger, I liked being told I was good at art because I was a failure in pretty much every other aspect of my life. My ‘why’ I drew was easy to see and the results were enough to make me happy with where I was with my art. 

When I met my wife, my ‘why’ changed to ‘I want to take care of my wife and family’. Up until this point I had never tried to become a pro artist. This new ‘why’ took over and I set off to do something I didn’t think I could do but now, in my mind, I actually had to. It helped me identify previously unseen opportunities. It also made me focus less on the obstacles and more on the solutions. The easiest thing to say is, ‘I want to be a good artist’. However, having a meaningful reason for why you want to be a good artist helps you reach that goal much more easily.

03. Set aside time for doodling

doodles of faces

Doodling without any constraints or pressures can help your artwork

Practising specific subjects or techniques can be draining after a while. So when I’m stuck and not motivated, I’ll spend 15 minutes just doodling. This is a chance to experiment with shapes, sizes, colours and so on that I don’t normally tackle. There’s no pressure to learn anything from them and I usually go over the results on a day that I’m in the mood to draw, to see if I can take something from them. 

I doodle both traditionally and digitally. Some days I challenge myself to make mistakes on purpose, do as many things that I think don’t have appeal, and then laugh about them. Those kind of days give me the ability to not take things so seriously. They’re reminders that it’s okay to be messy, make mistakes and go a little out there just for kicks and grins. You never know what you’re gonna bring back.

04. Have a day of brainstorming

Come up with a list of things that pique your interest. This can be everything from films, video games, books, animals and foods to favourite holiday locations, sports, and inspiring people and places. With films, books and video games alone, there’s a plethora of genres and characters to pull from. 

I usually do this at the beginning of the week to be consistent throughout that week. Making brainstorming a long- term habit will get your mind looking into areas that you wouldn’t have normally thought of, as well as give you a library of topics to work from when you’re lacking motivation.

05. Explore a topic that excites you

sketch of a woman

Milton focuses on getting the anatomy of the female form correct

I usually paint female portraits (see tip #6), and have been working on just that subject for about 18 years now. It had nothing to do with work or making money. It became more of a long-term challenge. I always felt I wasn’t clever enough to understand anatomy. So I hid that weakness by drawing monsters, where I could make up my own anatomy. 

I then settled on portraits because I thought if I could capture the subtleties of the female face and form, I would have more control over lines and shapes. All my art heroes could draw women well and make them strong in nature, yet retain the feminine appeal. What I learned (and still learn) from just the one subject is that I may have a better understanding after all this time, but I know I’ll never learn everything on that subject. 

It’s helped me to see things I wouldn’t have to known to look for when I first started. I now take those observation skills into other areas of study, which has helped me to be excited to learn things I normally wouldn’t have attempted to tackle.

06. Work from big to small

three images of a woman's head and neck

Milton refines his image over three stages

When I’m motivated, it’s hard not to just jump right into the polishing stage. Yet by holding off as long as I can, I’ll get more done in less time. Observe the three pictures above. 

As in the first image, going large with strokes I usually grab my local colours and apply generous-sized strokes that indicate where the main features are, such as the direction of the lighting, large shadow shapes and warm/cool areas. It was tricky for me to work this way early on because I had a hard time looking past all the ugliness.

In image two, I start to refine facial features. I begin blending colours by softening edges. I also add some slightly smaller shapes and refine others to further refine features like the eyes and nose. This is the stage where you can get caught up in doing the details, but I find it easier to make major changes if necessary during this stage.  

Lastly, I dive into the details. Everything I add now is to encourage the viewer’s eye to travel around the image. I don’t go too crazy and make sure everything supports those elements that are important to the picture. If you have a solid image going into this stage, the details become the icing on the cake.

07. Deconstruct paintings and reference

two images of women

Looking at reference work isn’t ‘cheating’. Eventually you’ll learn to put your own spin on reference images

Copying other people’s work or references was taboo early on in my journey to become an artist, so I tried to steer clear of it. But when I started my first studio job, I noticed that there was a lot of reference usage. My co-workers would gather inspiration pieces, deconstruct them and then come up with something new. I felt betrayed because I thought everything was done without reference! 

Being able to access so many great artists these days can be overwhelming and make you feel as though you’ll never make your mark on the art world. Yet if done properly, using reference and emulating your favourite artist can give you some great insight into the creative process. Especially when you set aside the original artwork and apply the techniques you’ve learned in your own way. You’ll achieve the right results with the knowledge that it’s all your own work.

08. Meet with like-minded artists

people around a table

Meeting with fellow artists can be a great source of inspiration

There were days when I wondered if anyone went through the struggles I experienced. It was tough because I didn’t have a lot of peers who were into art. I always felt that it had to be easier for others. Once I decided to become an artist, I reached out to as many creatives as I could, meeting them for lunch to pick their brains.  

I wasn’t after technique advice – instead, I wanted to know how they handled mental challenges and to see what they were like as people, rather than artists. I’m lucky to have such a huge pool of creatives in my life. I usually do a weekly draw lunch at the local mall’s food court. It’s nice to be able to see a variety of challenges that life can throw at an artist in varying fields and at different stages of careers. It’s a great way to be educated, connect, to nurture and be nurtured.  

09. Remember to dream big

image of woman with hand on her heart

Don’t stop dreaming

I’ve been a dreamer my whole life. I believe it’s the reason why I’ve stuck with art for as long as I have. I would imagine all kinds of grand experiences that being an artist would enable me to have. Yet once I made art my career, I noticed that I didn’t dream as I once did. I lost some of the sparkle that I had as a beginner artist. It became harder to bring the dreamer out. I didn’t want him to get hurt. It’s sometimes easier to just go through the motions and play it safe. 

When my daughter was born it challenged this approach to life. I realised that it’s the dreamer who keeps me at it – even when I don’t like what I’m producing. It’s the dreamer who gives me the ability to move forward with my art in a positive way. It’s the dreamer’s imagination that makes it possible to glimpse at the artist you want to become and feel the joy of it now. Take a chance on nurturing that dreamer.  

10. Keep a journal 

A journal is a great way to see what’s on your mind before you draw. For example: ‘I didn’t sleep well last night and had a lot of things that I needed to get done. Man, I’m irritated today!’ I noticed I would take these types of aggressive moods into my drawing time unintentionally. 

By writing them down before I drew, I learned not be as harsh a critic after I had finished a drawing. It was understandable that when I was irritated, I didn’t produce the same quality compared to when I was in a good mood. I could show myself some compassion, much like  I would with a friend going through a tough time. 

After a while I learned to look for things that could improve my odds of having a better learning experience – to get into the zone. Another benefit comes if you keep a journal for a long time. You’re able to go back and see how different your thought process was and find out what was successful and what negative patterns were showing up that you hadn’t noticed before. Writing down my thoughts before drawing warmed up my hand. But it also helped me make more mindful decisions and gave me a boost in my self-confidence.

11. Set a time limit

sketches

Sometimes when you have less time, you can create more, or create better

When I chose to stay at home and raise my daughter, I limited my art time so I could focus on being a dad. I always felt guilty when I did some art. Quick bursts while she was eating breakfast or napping became the norm. A benefit from doing this was my inner critic went from saying, ‘Your art will never be good enough’ to ‘Come on! Fifteen minutes? You can do more than that! I’ve got exciting ideas you can try if you go just a little longer!’ 

My keenness to fit in my limited drawing time kept growing and became quite cherished. Stopping short also helped me to carry that excitement into subsequent sessions. I noticed that I didn’t suffer art burnout as often and that my mind worked on what I could do the next day more easily. Nowadays, I have a bit more time to dedicate to my art, but most of the time I limit it to short sessions and find myself more inclined to be excited every time I pick up my pencil.

12. Get to know your feelings

sketch of woman

Learning how to express emotions through shapes, colours and composition can help you produce and consume art

Most of my tips revolve around the mental process. Emotions dictate how we make decisions. Not only as artists, but as human beings. Look at how many artist are insecure with their art! I know I’m one of them.  

I thought it would go away once I turned professional… nope! Learning how to express emotions through shapes, colours, composition and so on has helped me see both sides: producing as well as consuming art. When you’re working on the basics, take some time to understand why you feel a certain way. When you’re working for someone, they’re the ones who dictate what they want the end product to represent. It can be overwhelming to create this way because we can’t really feel what the other person is thinking, and we tend to make assumptions based on what they say. So when we build a large library of techniques for expressing ourselves in our minds, we have a better chance at hitting the target for someone else’s vision.

13. Don’t be afraid to tackle the basics (again)

sketches of Spider-Man

Don’t think you’re too advanced for the basics. You’re not

In my rush to become better at art, I skipped the basics. My mind would say, ‘Yeah yeah, I know that.’ Well, I learned that you don’t really know something until you can apply it properly – and more than once. The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know anything. This is a great mindset to have as a creative. Early on, everyone wants to be the master of their craft. It’s mainly where my drive was coming from. The focus becomes this destination we want to arrive at as an artist. 

I’ve come to realise the magic doesn’t come from the achievement, but from all the things it took to get to that place. When you retain the student mindset and stay eager to learn, you can revisit the basics with a degree of excitement. From there, you can flourish in so many different ways and gain the confidence to bend the basics to your will.

14. Be okay with failing

painting of a woman

Bad drawing days are actually good… honest

Bad drawing days are bound to happen. As long as I’ve been at it, I’ve learned that my biggest growth came from those bad days, especially when I looked at them properly. Being an artist, you can be your worst critic, but that’s not really the case. We just make it sound that way. 

When we have those bad days, we tell ourselves how terrible things are, and that we’ll never amount to anything. What’s really being said is that you’re not where you want to be. That voice wants you to become the artist you want to be. If your goal is to become better at what you do, then dissatisfaction is a ruler on which to measure your progress. Take time to look over how the journey is going for you at that moment of frustration. 

I think all my work isn’t where it could be – more so than when I first set out to be an artist. I’m grateful for this feeling. I get excited through my failures because I know each one is a lesson that’s needed for me to grow and improve.

15. Have a hobbyist mindset

picture of a woman with sunglasses on

Thinking of your art as a hobby can help you view your work differently

I know when I decided to make art my profession, I got serious about it… a little too serious, to tell you the truth. I loved toys, Saturday morning cartoons, video games and comics as a kid. When I wasn’t enjoying those things, I drew. 

By starting late with my career, I spent the early years excited to have finally arrived. Soon, however, I started seeing it as just a job. I never imagined I’d think of it that way. Especially because I’d never thought I’d get the opportunity. I was doing enough to get my work done, but was missing the love that pushed me to improve. 

Adopting a hobbyist mindset helped me cherish the time I get to ‘art it up’. Even when I actually take on clients, I try to come from this place. I’ve conditioned myself to get excited at the thought of art. This has made me more productive and excited to learn new things, which could be beneficial to my creative workflow. It’s the foundation of why I ‘keep on keepin’ on!’  

This article was originally published in issue 162 of ImagineFX, the world’s leading digital art magazine. Buy issue 162 or subscribe here.

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