Where is the best place to download free fonts?
I love dafont.com. I recommend you first check out the fonts at dafont.com before going anywhere else. They have some really nice fonts, and they are all FREE! You have to be careful though because some of them are for personal use only, so if you are planning on selling anything you create, I recommend using a font that isn't for personal use only.
Where is the best place to buy stock images and fonts?
I highly recommend the Creative Market. I could spend hours looking at all the pretty images and fonts for sale on their site. They sell product mockups, stock photos, fonts, Photoshop actions, WordPress templates and much more. It really is a collection of, in my opinion, the best stuff out there for designers to use. I high recommend checking it out!
Where to buy styled stock photography...
The first places I check when looking for styled stock is Show It Better, Kate Maxwell Styled Stock Photography, and SC Stockshop. These photographers are so talented at what they do! I highly recommend subscribing to the SC Stockshop newsletter, Shay puts out so much good content and gives away free images once in a while. This is one of my favorite newsletters I subscribe to.
When having your logo designed... (this is SO important)
Make sure your designer creates your logo as a vector file. A vector file consists of lines and curves, rather than pixels. The nice thing about a vector image is that you can enlarge it as much as you need without losing quality. A vector logo can also be converted to ANY type of logo you will ever need in the future; a JPEG, PNG, PDF, etc. By having a vector logo on hand, all of your printing and web logo needs will be covered for future projects. If there is anything you take away from this post, this should be it.
As far as color goes...
My all-time favorite website for finding awesome color combinations is Adobe Color CC (formerly known as Adobe Kuler). This is my go-to site if I need some inspiration for color. One of my favorite things to do is upload a photo and have it pull colors from the image. You can then take the color combinations you create and upload them as swatches in your Creative Suite software.
What programs do graphic designers use?
Most professional designers use Adobe Creative Suite. The creative suite includes InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. I'll break down how I use each program below...
InDesign - I use this for laying out everything from invitations to business cards. For me, InDesign is the place where everything comes together; the photos, the logos, and the text. You can create everything from inspiration boards to wedding favor tags to blog graphics with this program.
Illustrator - I use this program to design logos, social media icons, stamps, and more. For those of you who are into calligraphy or hand-lettering, you can use Illustrator to digitize your type using the image trace tool and a scanner or your iPhone.
Photoshop - I use Photoshop for all of my photo editing needs. I can adjust the lightness/darkness of a photo as well as its hue and saturation. I can easily turn my images to grayscale, or play around with overlays and actions. The action I used for the photo below can be found here.
Most common types of file formats:
JPEG - (Joint Photographic Experts Group) The most common image type.
PNG - (Portable Network Graphics) A raster file which supports transparent backgrounds.
PSD - (Adobe Photoshop Document) An editable Photoshop file. Always save this original file so you can make changes if needed.
Illustrator EPS - A vector image file which printers will typically ask for when printing your artwork. An EPS can be color separated for the printing press, and can be enlarged to whatever size you need without losing any quality.
My top 5 graphic design tips are...
1) Pair contrasting fonts. A nice script such as Bickham Script Pro for a heading goes nicely with a serif font such as Mrs Eaves Roman for the body of the text. Play around with fonts and see what works and what doesn't. Also, try to keep script and display fonts for headings and captions.
2) Logo design is best when it is simple, memorable, timeless, and versatile. Trendy logos are fun to use, but if you want to start building your brand, stick with something that won't go out of style and is timeless.
3) Make sure all of your images are at a high enough resolution. For printing you want the image to be 300 dpi (at the size the image will print at). For example - if you want the image to be printed at 5x7, you will want to make sure it is saved at 5x7, 300 dpi. If the image is only 2x4, even though it is at 300 dpi your image will not print at a high enough resolution when it is blown up to 5x7.
4) Use consistent elements within your brand. Your ultimate goal is to create visual recognition.
5) Research your audience. Build a brand that resonates with your audience. Figure out who they are, what they like to do, and what makes them happy. Once you figure that out, all of your other decisions will be made with them in mind, and will make the process so much easier.