Many of us… millennials… were raised in traditional at a young, young age, but then the world turned to digital so quickly. Probably why my eye-sight is so bad. I had one of those colorful Macs in my elementary classes back when they called them Macintosh’s. A wild time to be alive while figuring out the internet with everyone else, but at a super young age.
Fast forward like nearly 30 years, applications are now apps and they are a gift from technology. The minds that are able to create these beauteous wonders are wonders themselves. I was strictly a pencil, pen, and ink illustrator in my early years – like middle school and the beginning of high school. But once I was introduced into the digital design world in my freshman year in high school, the wheels were-a-turnin’.
Fast forward again through all my trials and errors to now. I have plenty of go-to apps that I use across my digital screens – Desktop [iMac], Tablet [iPad], and Phone [iPhone]. There are a ton more out there, especially in the design world. Apps like Sketch, Figma, Affinity, and many others. While those may not make my list now, they make it in the future. Whatever tool or app works best for you, and that you’re most comfortable with is key [but don’t fear getting uncomfortable and trying new things].
The OG – well one of the OGs like Quark and Publisher – but the OG that I used and still to this day. While I’m not old-old, I did have my first Photoshop on disc, miss those days, butttttt having up-to-date CC is great, too.
My go-to apps are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. While I do animate, I normally do that all in Photoshop [or/and Procreate] vs. After Effects… for now. I do use Lightroom, but I’m used to the Camera Raw Filter/Editing in Photoshop – depends on what I’m editing.
Procreate! Such a lovely app. So just fantastic. Before Procreate, I used my old-Wacom Tablet + Photoshop from back in ~2008 until maybe 2019. I got a lot of use out of it for sure and it helped me figure out the whole Digital Illustration thing. But this isn’t about Wacom right now, it’s about Procreate. Procreate is especially great because it only costs $9.99… once. Not per month or annually. It’s a one’n’done situation. Love it.
All of my current illustrations are now done in Procreate. Many of them still start off as quick hand-sketches outside the app, although I also have a lot of fantastic pencil-like brushes that skip that step, too. – I’ll totally do a post on brushes, but in the meantime, definitely check out Max Ulichney’s brushes. I use a bunch of those.
It takes a while to get used to it – drawing in a smaller screen vs larger, plus the fact that you’re drawing on a screen vs. paper [there are paper-like, like Paperlike, screen protectors out there, I haven’t bought one yet, but it is an option!]
The only downside is that it’s on the iPad and by that, I mean that it hinders the amount of performance you can normally have on a larger computer. I use layers excessively and when I work on larger canvases, you’re more limited on how many layers you can use. But, there are ways to work around that and still work smart!
Twitter introduced me to so much… a lot I don’t want to know… but a looooot of great creative resources. Procreate came from a Twitter post(s), This app, Handy, as well as Magic Poser, and several others below, too. If not Twitter, Instagram. So many helpful creatives out there.
But back to this app. Do you struggle with drawing hands? Heck, even feet, and now they have heads, skulls, props, and more. Handy is a great app that is mostly all free? I believe there are some rigs that require an additional purchase, but so much comes with the app, you may not need it! They have pre-posed hands/feet/etc. that you are able to rotate, change lighting, skin tone, positions of the toes, etc. It’s incredibly… well… Handy.
This one is a huge, huge time saver. Like Handy, in Magic Poser are able to adjust rigs, but this time, full bodies! [except for facial expressions, race, or weight/height 😩]. It’s always a pain to try to find references in the exact position that your brain thinks of. You can find one, but maybe it needs to be bent a bit more, or they need to turn a little more to the left. Well, this is a gigantic help in figuring that out! I’m more of a portrait illustrator than a full-body one, but I’ve had a lot of new projects over the last couple of years that needed full bodies, and this is one of my go-to’s!
There are more posing apps out there, but so far this one is the one I use the most. I’m hoping in the future you’ll be able to customize it a bit more, or maybe another app will take care of that part, but in the meantime, it’s magic!
May this be a PSA for you to backup your work. Whether you use Dropbox or not, do it now. I have Dropbox + three rotating hard drives that I use to keep all my files backed up. I’ve had heartaches in the past and lost tons of work. I would never rely on one or the other – as-in ‘Just Dropbox’ or ‘Just Hard Drives’ – both. Both are good. There are a bunch of different file sharing and saving apps out there – Google Drive works great, too. I’ve found that I like Dropbox a touch better for my personal and work backups. Easy to navigate, share, file requests, and more.
WeTransfer is another great file-sharing app – great for sending things without having to worry about signing up for an account [for most file sizes]. Forgot your Dropbox login? Or don’t have room in your Google Drive to send it? Maybe you don’t want to sign up for anything! WeTransfer is definitely for you. Plus, you get the added benefit of having an email when the receiver downloads your files – making sure you get it to them in time and without worries. Be careful though, the free version only keeps links active for users for about 2 weeks. After that, it’s gone and you’ll have to send it again.
Okay, so this one is so cool. Another great internet find from one of the many UI/UX accounts I follow on Instagram. Hoverify is an awesome extension that you can add to your browsers [different ones are available, I use it for Google Chrome]. You can inspect a site way better than if you use Chrome’s ‘right-click inspect’ feature. You can see fonts, colors, even the grids of a website, plus edit the LIVE site! [granted, it won’t be like for anyone else but you of course, haha]. And many other great tools that are wonderful for web designers.
This one is fighting with me. I want to use Asana so bad. I do. But I’m so used to ‘analog’ and writing down my daily/weekly lists, or honestly even using TextEdit on Mac, which I’m using right now to type this blog post out on, that I’m having a hard time transferring over to this. BUT, it does look great and it’s wonderful to see your work, especially by client or calendar, etc. So, if you’re into it, definitely check it out. But I won’t judge if you’re like me…
While I don’t personally use it for work, I am part of a Slack group from Ladies Get Paid. It’s awesome to be connected to so many amazing Ladies and be able to ask questions that you normally don’t get to ask – like finance, advice, legal, vendors, and more. There is a paid membership, but the FREE community membership on LGP’s site does give you access to the Slack Group and a bunch more. [Yes, there will totally be a group blog post soon, too, and LGP will be on it]. There are definitely other ways to use Slack, too, worth checking out!
This one beats out Asana, and sometimes my TextEdit files, too. Google Sheets is a great way to organize project lists that’s super simple, but still easy to understand. There’s so much you can do via Sheets that doesn’t have to be pretty, but that is easy work from. It’s an easier excel that you can access anywhere with a bunch of different people, too. Great to use between clients that they can update or pass along, too.
Forms! Although it seems to be tucked down deep in Google’s own Apps, Forms are another great tool to use. I don’t use them often enough, but when I do they have great and insightful results. From building forms/questionnaires to help better a board I’m part of, or to research for a mobile app. Underutilized by me for sure. Though many others would probably use sites like SurveyMonkey or TypeForm, the only reason I go to Google Forms is that it’s already part of the Google Apps in my Gmail – whichever you choose to use, I’d recommend thinking of ways you can survey to help yourself and others.
This funky monkey has been around for a while! I’m decent with my own personal newsletter – and by decent, I mean, I’m not and should probably use it more. But MailChimp is fairly user-friendly and they’ve amped up their sight in the last few years. Adding landing pages, new automations, and a ton more integrations are very helpful. There are many other email clients out there like Constant Contact, HubSpot – whatever you like best and works best for your workflow!
OTHER & SOCIAL APPS
Fishbowl is a great app that has a ton of different ‘bowls’ in it like Advertisers, Designers, Creatives, #OverheardAtWork, and many more. It’s tied to your LinkedIn, but you can post/like/etc. anonymously, too. It’s like social media but for creatives – depending on which bowls you follow. Bowls are like Hashtags+Groups combined. Found this one on Instagram, too – which I also follow their page [great to follow to get a taste of the app]
I’ve learned so much just from the notifications that I get from the bowls I’m part of. From pricing to new trends, to hilarious memes, and more. And, I’ve posted a few times to get insight or research into projects. Recently posted on there for what to price for a freelance project, and big-name brands will comment on them, too. People from huge brands and agencies are on there as well as little ol’ people like me, too!
I’m not a fan of the current FB, but, one thing that I still use it for are Groups. One group in particular – Freelancing Females – is an awesome resource for creatives. I’ve posted on there for calls for artists for events I’ve helped with, asked questions on what tools to use, and also give feedback and my own advice. I have a few other great creative groups that are very helpful – so if you’re going to delete FB, maybe just delete it, but then sign up for a plain account and then join groups. 🤷🏻♀️
Oh, Pinterest. Pint-o. Pint-o-rama-rest. It’s great. I’ve used it to figure out my new apartment’s decor, or what recipes to make. All that good stuff. And, also research into art and design. Normally when I research, I gather a ton of references so I don’t get too stuck on one look. But it is great to share boards between clients instead of email chains of references, too.
Last, but not least, Grammarly! I have the extension on my google chrome [free version, too], and it’s very helpful to get real-time text edits and grammar help. There’s even more help with their paid version, but you can get by if you’re not a copywriter, and mainly are sending emails [or posting basic blogs ]. Might save you from some embarrassing gaffes. [And, yes, I totally took this into Grammarly before I posted.]
What Apps Do You Use the Most?
Do you have any creative-esque apps that help with your workflow? That are great to have for research or references, and you’d like ‘em added to this list? Or a Part 2 of this? I’d be more than happy to share them!
Curious what fonts I used? If it’s not my own handwriting or illustration, it’ll be in my very first blog post!
This post is not sponsored or an advertisement. these are just genuine recommendations, or/and thoughts.