If you’re the kind of Photoshop user who primarily opens the software to resize and crop images, you might never touch the Brush tool. However, if you’re in Photoshop day-in and day-out, Brushes are likely to be your best friend. Having as many options as possible will undoubtedly make your life a little better. And if those options are free, then maybe it will be a lot better.
While many brushes emulate real-world artists’ tools, not every single one does so. Dispersion is a free Photoshop brush that gives you the unique effect of shattering (or dispersing) parts of your work. Doing an effect like this by hand would be incredibly time-consuming. But with Dispersion, a few clicks and strokes…and you’re good to go. This particular set comes with 20 high-resolution brushes for pretty much anything that you could want to do with it.
It may have been given a bad rap in pop culture lately because of its overuse in some movies, but lens flare is an effectthat can really take a design to the next level. Using it sparingly and effectively in your designs can give a feeling of peace and calm or even of adventure and excitement just by placing a single flare in a work. Don’t overdo it with this set of 20 high-res brushes, and your work will undoubtedly impress your clients.
Superheroes are everywhere these days, and at some point, a client is going to want a comic- or superhero-themed design. You might as well prepare yourself for that by downloading this 15-brush set, aptly called Comic. There is no way that having this set of brushes won’t save you time and effort.
The creative nerds over at Creative Nerds have put together some delightfully pretty spray paint-themed free Photoshop brushes for you to download. This one does cost you an email address to unlock the freeness, but it’s worth it. While PS does come with some spray brushes, they can be pretty limited. The nerds have done a great job of letting your brush strokes more realistically splatter the digital canvas with the speckles that give real spray paint its allure.
If spray painting isn’t your style, but you really like that abstract look, maybe the Watercolor Splatters 32-brush set will work for you. Even in more specific and detailed work, you can use a splatter brush for accent and distressing.
Stone 4 is actually full of 15 free Photoshop brushes. Instead of having to deal with masks and layers to achieve a stone-like finish, wouldn’t you just prefer to press B and pick a brush to do it for you? We certainly would. In terms of a time-saving brush that will certainly improve your quality-of-life, Stone 4 doesn’t disappoint. While some brushes and styles go in and out of trend, having a solid, stone brush that you can turn to never goes out of style. Clients will always need this kind of look to emphasize professional power and authority, so grab these 15 and help empower them. There is also a Stone 1-3, too. Stone 3 is extra pretty, too.
Much like Dispersion at the top of the list, Shattered gives you a fantastic effect that can improve your quality of life and give clients a unique design in much less time than hand-creating every shard. While we generally see this kind of effect in logos and advertising, there are a lot of uses for it in web design that can create some unique page transitions and effects. And at least with this broken glass, you don’t have to worry about cutting your fingers.
Smoke is one of those elements that you can use in pretty much any design for any reason, and it would fit. So grabbing Smoke Brushes is a no-brainer, we think. Whether you’re enhancing the mystique of an evening’s photoshoot, giving website users a tour of mystery, or adding wispy whimsy to lettering or illustration, this set of free Photoshop brushes will be right at home in any designer’s toolbox.
Retro technology is everywhere right now. What is old is new again, and what is new again at this moment is ’80s-style technology. And while for its day, the tech was amazing, we’ve come to associate the occasional fuzzy screen and flicker or glitch with the time period as well. Because it’s so trendy and popular, keeping a few brushes to emulate the glitches of decades past would not be a bad idea. In fact, it would be a good one. Additionally, this isn’t the only set of Glitch brushes available. As you scroll down the page for this particular set, you will find over a dozen variants in the series to create whatever kind of computer problems or corruption your clients might need.
In life, glitter can be a pain. While it’s gorgeous and adds sparkle to literally anything, that sparkle is sometimes hardimpossible to get rid of. Not true in the digital realm, where you can add as much glitter to your designs as you or your clients want. This is the one time that it’s okay to glitterbomb someone or something. There’s no clean up required, and there won’t be any tiny pieces stuck to places you don’t want. With these fabulous free Photoshop brushes, any design you create will shine as bright as you can imagine.
When designing for the web, you have to keep one thing in mind at all times: readability. It doesn’t matter how great the design is, how gorgeous your layout is, or how genius your use of color. If people can’t read the words on the screen (and this is assuming there are words on the screen, of course), the website cannot serve its function. Three of the most important elements of readability for text are kerning, tracking, and leading, though many people either get them confused or simply don’t understand how to use them effectively. We intend to fix that today.
Kerning, Tracking, and Leading
If you boil these three down to the absolute fundamentals, you’re looking at the spacing between characters on both the X and Y axes. Digging in, you’ll see there’s more to it than that, but in essence, you’re looking at the relationship between text characters. It’s important to understand the relationship between these three attributes because good design and readability depend on your using them to the best of your ability.
And that comes with time and practice. But once you start paying attention to them, you’ll notice how kerning, tracking, and leading are used both effectively and poorly on everything you read and see on a daily basis. Let’s dig in.
Adjusting Kerning, Leading, and Tracking (and More!)
Actually, before we dig in, let’s go over how you change and adjust these settings. While most word processing programs have options for adjusting them, most people won’t ever need to when writing copy or typical text. It’s when you’re designing text that it becomes more of an issue, so programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. will have the options you need most.
In the Adobe products, you just have to open up the Text Layer Character Panel, and you have everything you need. The V/A is kerning, the VA in a box is tracking, and the underlined, vertical A’s are Leading. You can also adjust strikethrough, weight, size, super/subscript, and so much more in this panel. It’s worth getting used to keeping this open.
Just place your cursor where you need to adjust the spacing and go.
What is Kerning?
Let’s begin with kerning. Kerning is the simplest of the three, really. It’s the space between two side-by-side characters. In a word, you can have variable kerning because the space between the first two letters may be different than between the last two (and so on).
In monospaced fonts, each character takes up exactly the same amount of horizontal space with no overlap. The A is the same width as the B as the J as the K. Adjusting the kerning between these letters tends to be easier than variable spaced fonts, where the letters might overlap as well as print at different widths.
In the example above, we have three lines that were copy and pasted using the monospace font Courier New. The top row’s kerning is set at 0, which is the default and uses whatever spacing the font designer chose. The second row is set equally between letters (and spaces) at 200. As you can see, the spaces are uniform between characters across the line. Finally, the third line was kerned at random with both positive and negative spacing within each individual word. As you can see, each character can have different kerning on each side.
What is Tracking?
Tracking is similar to kerning, but it’s not kerning. Where kerning is the space between two individual characters, tracking is the uniform space between each individual word or line. Instead of worrying about how things are put together on a letter-by-letter basis as with kerning, you make sure the entire line is uniformly spaced. Looking back at the earlier example image, the second line could have been done in a much easier way.
What I did for the kerning was to place my cursor between each individual character and adjust to 200. I essentially tracked the whole line. Which is what you should do. Simply highlight what you need to track and adjust it in the Character Panel.
Be aware, however, that some fonts and scripts may become unreadable as the tracking is adjusted.
Handwriting fonts and cursive typefaces are set with specific kerning, and if you adjust the tracking, you will get gaps in an otherwise unbroken line. Or going the other direction to compress the lines, you might simply make the script unreadable.
What is Leading?
With Leading, you’re no longer dealing with spacing between characters. Leading is the space between lines.
Effectively making use of leading lets you effectively make use of whitespace in your designs. Cramped lines — even with correct and well-done kerning/tracking — can make a miserable experience for readers.
In some places, you might see leading called line height, but they’re roughly the same thing. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that you leave at least a little space above and below your characters. As you can see in the top example, a 40px font has a 48px line height. That means that no matter what, there will be spacing between the letters. If you set that at or lower than the font size, you will get character overlap.
Additionally, this is the height of the line that the characters sit on. This is not the height of the character. Just as kerning and tracking don’t make the characters fatter or thinner, tracking doesn’t make them shorter or taller. It is simply the space around them.
As you can see, however, the options under the kerning/tracking in the Photoshop Character Panel adjust the width/height of characters independently of kerning, tracking, and leading.
Photoshop/Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts
The only downfall of the Character Panel is that it gets to be pretty annoying when you’re needing fine adjustment. Thankfully, there are keyboard shortcuts that make kerning, tracking, and leading an absolute breeze to use.
These shortcuts are for the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so they might be different in Gimp or Paint.NET or another program.
Kerning – With the cursor between two characters, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the left/right arrows to adjust the kerning
Tracking – With the word/line highlighted, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the right/left arrows to adjust the tracking of the highlighted text
Leading – Highlight the lines you want to adjust, hold ALT (or Option on Mac) and use the up/down arrows to adjust the space between lines
While you can place your cursor or highlight the text and type values into the Character Panel, the keyboard shortcuts make the whole process much less tedious and time-consuming. Plus, you get more granular control, so you can make better designs that way, too.
(As an aside, if you aren’t using Photoshop/Illustrator/Premier, etc. keyboard shortcuts regularly, we highly recommend learning, as it makes your workflow much smoother, more enjoyable, and more productive, too.)
Kerning, tracking, and leading are fundamentals of readable text in web design (and design in general). Learning the difference and how to use each of them effectively will make you a much better designer. It may seem a little odd that something as simple as the spacing between letters and lines could have such a large impact, but once you deal with it for even just a little while, you will never look at websites, advertisements, logos, or billboards the same way again.
A podcast is a mix of traditional radio format and 2.0 recording technology, all of which is animated by strong values from the Internet and the free-culture movement. Not only are they great alternatives to video if you’re not looking to become a YouTube star, but they are also a great way to engage with your audience. The idea of starting a podcast, a (mostly) audio-only online broadcast, may seem like a novel idea but that might not be the case. While it was in 2004 that the Internet (or the world?) saw the release of the first podcast, since then, they’ve seen a bit of a resurgence. Today, they are a great alternative to a blog if you’d rather vocalize your opinion, well, vocally instead of attempting to become the next Hemingway in a series of blog entries. While they take a bit more work than writing a post, they’re easier for the audience to digest, as they can passively engage by listening to a podcast just about anywhere.
Before you press the record button and publish your podcast to iTunes or your own website, there are a few things to take into account. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to start a podcast:
01. Define your goals
Before you jump into your (makeshift) recording studio, you should be 100% aware of what you’re getting yourself into. The first thing you need to do? Define the goal behind your podcast and go from there. This can be as simple as “I want to entertain” or “I want to inform”. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re passionate about the topic. Take the plunge and do it. Once your ultimate aim is established, you can always go back to it when questioning something along the way: “Does this action help build towards my goal?”
This is also the time to make important strategic decisions, including the primary topics you’ll be covering on your podcast so that your audience knows roughly what to expect when tuning in, as well as the frequency, schedule, and structure of your episodes. If you have a partner or co-host for your podcast, define your roles early as to what will be expected from each of you. For example, one of you is in charge of editing the audio for the podcast and posting it, and the other is responsible for any and all graphic work needed for the episodes. And both of you pitch in to the management of your social media accounts. The earlier you set these goals, the better.
02. Accept hard truths
Creating your own podcast is going to be a lot of fun, especially if you have a passion for the subject you’re covering. That said, you will need to face certain facts that are unavoidable. These hard truths are just something you’ll need to live with in order to move forward, but should in no way discourage you. Here are a couple of examples of what to expect:
Sorry, but there’s more than likely multiple podcasts like yours and you will likely be covering the exact same thing in many cases in certain episodes. Still, the podcast world doesn’t have your personal opinion and/or spin on it, so be sure to give it your best!
Do it for fun, not for fame. You will end up being disappointed if you’re constantly looking to get a “big break” from one of your episodes. As long as you continue to love creating your podcast, you’ve already won.
It will become a job of it’s own and you won’t want to do it sometimes, but you’ll have to. It’s like going to the gym: You don’t have to, but you know you should.
03. Get equipped
Just like most ventures, you more than likely don’t have everything you need to start your own podcast, and even if you think you do, you probably don’t. Yes, it’s true that all you technically need is something to talk about and a recording device, but if you want to take your podcast seriously you’re going to need to invest in some basic equipment. Namely, a microphone and a way to record, mix and edit audio.
Check check, one two: The type of microphone you purchase will largely depend on how you actually capture your audio but USB microphones are abundant in both availability and price ranges. Note: Go slightly above your budget when buying a microphone. Increasing your allocation by $50 or even $25 can get you a surprisingly nicer microphone, especially if it’s your first one.
Recording: Once you’ve settled on a microphone, you will, as mentioned above, need to figure out how you will be recording your audio. There are various ways to achieve this, but one of the easiest is to record directly to your computer using recording software. There are many free options available and most computers ship with (super basic) audio recording programs.
Editing time: After you’ve recorded your audio tracks, you’ll need to find software to edit it to make it sound good. This includes adding multiple tracks together if you have more than one person talking, taking out pauses, silence, adding sound effects and adding background music. There are plenty of softwares you can choose from, but if you’re looking for a robust and free editing software to get you where you need to go, give Audacity a try. When it comes to adding music and sound effects, don’t think you can just throw whatever you want into the tracks. Well, actually, you can, but don’t be surprised if you get hit with a copyright infringement claim. Like stock images, you want to make sure that you either have the appropriate license to use the audio or you’re using royalty free tracks. One of the best resources to find free music is YouTube. Its Sound Library hosts a ton of music for its creators to add to their videos, but it’s also royalty free music, so it can be used anywhere. In addition to this, there are several artists that post their own music to be used for free as long as you credit their work.
Find a podcast host: After you’ve recorded and edited your podcast, you’ll need to upload it somewhere and yes, after a handful of episodes, you’ll probably need to pay. There’s no short supply of options to choose from, but do your research before you settle on one.
04. Stick to your schedule – and plan for your laziness
This sounds like an easy one, but it can be hard. Even if your podcast is simply a hobby, there will still be times you don’t want to do it. A last minute invite to a friend’s pool or to check out that new museum exhibit will pop up at the exact time you were planning to record your next episode. Don’t worry, though. There are ways around it, but you’ll need to plan ahead:
Let’s say you release your podcast every Tuesday morning, try not to record on Monday night unless you like that type of stress impressed upon you. Allowing yourself some breathing room between recording and editing can give you a different perspective on how it went and that “thing” you wanted to cut out may be worth keeping after all. Like an artist struggling with a painting, sometimes you need to come back with “fresh ears.”
When recording, you want to try to keep your episodes in the same time range. The sweet spot is usually 40 minutes to an hour. No matter how long you decide to make your episodes, keeping them the time length can helps build expectations for your listeners, so don’t have a one hour episode one week and follow it up with a 20 minute episode the following week.
In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to have an outline of what you will be discussing on the episode you’re recording. This is essential to stay on topic and away from tangents. However, we’d advise against fully scripting each episode. No one wants to hear you read to them, unless that indeed is the subject of your podcast.
It may take a while, but there will come a time where you “literally just can’t even” with your podcast because you’re too lazy. That’s okay! But have a plan for days like this by pre-recording evergreen episodes. While organizing a second recording session sounds like a pain, especially if you have co-hosts, it’s worth the extra effort. I promise you, you will thank yourself later.
05. Push your podcast on social networks like crazy
You may not have realized it, but you may spend more time on social media than recording your podcast, and for good reason. If you have a weekly podcast, you have one day a week that your listeners will dedicate their attention to you because it’s technically all you’re allowing. By sharing your own original content and relevant content from others on your social channels, you can stay in the game all of the other days that you don’t have a new episode to launch. Obviously, social media is a great platform to push your brand but also to find your audience and interact with fans. Do not skimp on this part. This is where you’ll be when you’re not recording, editing, or uploading your latest episode.
06. Submit your podcast everywhere
When you first start setting up your podcast online with your host, you will receive a podcast feed URL. In order to submit your podcast to different directories like iTunes, Google Play or SoundCloud, for the most part, you’ll just need to fill out a form with your podcast name, website, and feed URL. Some submissions have a little extra work, so if you’re stuck, simply Google “How to submit podcast to X” and you’ll more than likely find your answer you’re looking for. Even if you’ve never heard of the podcast directory or don’t think it’s worth your time, think again. You’re looking for exposure with your podcast, so cast a wide net.
07. Showcase your podcast with a stunning website
While it’s definitely a good feeling to be able to search iTunes and have your very own podcast pop up, nothing really beats a dedicated website showing off what your podcast and the people behind it are all about. Not only can you link your podcast to any and all of the places people can listen, but so much more. Your website is your own and you won’t be bound by the styling of of iTunes or Google Play or wherever it can be found. Your website is also where you can share a little bit about yourself and the other hosts, just in case your fans want to know more about you or your team. It also provides a seamless way for potential business opportunities to get in touch with you by creating a designated contact page. Something you won’t find on your podcast directory listing. Think of your website as an extension of your brand. A place to display your logo and all of your other branding elements.
Promoting your website to reach wider audiences is a multi-tiered process. One of the first steps is to find valuable websites and online platforms that allow you to highlight your site’s URL in one way or another. To save you the leg work, we compiled a list of 36 great places for promoting online content. These links will help you establish your online presence one by one. Some work with a simple URL submission while others require a more strategic approach, but they all share one thing – they are free of charge.
What have you got to lose? Start now!
Online Directories for Businesses
Ranging from the most high-profile platforms to local directories, these websites cover a range of audiences. The flow is pretty much the same – you submit your website’s URL, as well as additional information about your business or organization. These sites, in turn, incorporate your info to their data banks, ensuring that your link is there when users are searching your content categories. In addition to direct display of your content, adding your links to these directories improves your site’s Search Engine Optimization, gradually improving your website’s ranking on search results.
Social media has plenty to offer website owners. You’ve all heard of Facebook, of course, but are you using it correctly to promote your site? Have you considered the advantages of Pinterest, for instance? What about user-generated content like guides and tutorials on sites like WikiHow? The links below can all prove extremely useful for promoting your website. All you need to do is explore the ways in which they do.
While these websites also operate on the basis of link-submission, the emphasis here is on content. You could submit a link to the main page as well as to individual pages, products, posts, images etc. These platforms then circulate your content to their audience base and drive traffic into your site, while also helping to boost your SEO by connecting your links to textual descriptive content.
It seems as though user safety and security has been a white hot subject for aeons. It’s certainly always been a popular topic online, and the latest buzzword to learn is “browser fingerprinting.”
A browser fingerprint works much like a physical one. In short, it enables savvy analytics app users to identify individuals simply by studying the information their browsers leave behind when navigating your website.
This post will look at browser fingerprinting in more detail, and discuss when it’s useful and if there are drawbacks. We’ll also talk about how recent data processing laws impact whether you should use it or not. Let’s get started!
What is browser fingerprinting?
Of course, we’re all identifiable from our fingerprint — a unique pattern in the skin on our fingers. Though, you’ll usually only be identified in this way when a crime has been committed, and the police need to match prints left at the scene with a name.
However, this concept of fingerprinting can also be applied to other areas. Because a fingerprint is essentially a unique identifier distinct from your most recognizable elements (i.e. your facial features), the term can also be used to describe the trail of information you leave online.
For example, consider browsing to a website. Unless you’re using a video chat service, there will be no visual elements linking you to that site. However, there are plenty of unique elements that make up your virtual presence, and all it takes is a sophisticated tracker to piece them together.
Usually, these elements fall into two camps:
The former is pretty simple, as they’re part of practically every HTTP request. However, the latter can provide plenty of specific data relating to your browsing patterns. This includes aspects such as your time zone and date, the browser you’re using and the platform it runs on, the system fonts you use, and the browser’s installed plugins.
Individually, these elements might tell you very little. However, when combined, they can make up a fully unique profile of an individual user, known as a device or browser fingerprint.
How is browser fingerprinting used?
In a nutshell, fingerprinting is primarily used for long-term profit-making opportunities — by which we mean ads. Companies that implement this tactic are looking to ascertain who you are, how you browse the web, what you’re interested in, and what you purchase.
By curating user fingerprints, they end up with profiles that can be used to tailor content and ads to each person’s specific tastes. This obviously increases the likelihood that those users will end up spending money.
Browser fingerprinting can also be used in the place of cookies, and is arguably a better option for ad servers. In fact, fingerprinting can effectively reassemble a tracking cookie after it’s been deleted. What’s more, third-parties can track you across the web based on the nature of the data collected.
Of course, for the end user, this sounds like a scary prospect. However, for a business, this presents a potential golden opportunity to earn money.
Is browser fingerprinting a tactic you should use?
As the saying goes: every cloud has a silver lining. However, when it comes to browser fingerprinting, this aphorism is inverted. In other words, the upsides of the tactic are soured by the downsides.
There’s no doubt that browser fingerprinting and its variants are the ultimate in customer profiling tactics. However, it’s slowly becoming a technique that many companies (including Apple) want to see stopped.
End users are also pushing back against browser fingerprinting.
Tactics to strip away any tell-tale information from your browsing history have become popular, leading to so-called “incognito” or private tabs and windows, which includes the slow-and-steady rise of search engines that enable you to search anonymously, such as DuckDuckGo, and sites such as Am I Unique? and Panopticlick, and much more.
Overall, when it comes to whether you should use this tactic, it doesn’t really matter that it’s a useful way to profile your visitors. End users are concerned, which should be enough to stop you in your tracks. Plus, now that some big-name businesses are getting involved by hard-coding ways to stop the practice, there’s little sense in funneling resources away from more traditional approaches.
How does the GDPR impact the use of browser fingerprinting?
You might not be surprised to learn that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has an effect on the use of browser fingerprinting. In fact, we may see the tactic evolve, given that websites now need to be transparent regarding how they handle personal data.
The data you collect through browser fingerprinting methods is classed as personal information, and as such has to be treated like any other data passing through your site.
Rather than seeing a specific mention of browser fingerprinting within the GDPR, therefore, you’ll find the various elements referred to throughout the entire regulation. When handled correctly, you can stay on the right side of the law, but you’re still likely to get pushback from your user base.
Use browser fingerprinting wisely
We’ll admit that these are tricky times when it comes to how we communicate with others, especially when their personal data is involved. However, with the introduction of the GDPR, we at least have some legal clarity on the best approach.
Browser fingerprinting has been a common tactic of user profiling for some time (albeit in varying degrees of application). It’s arguably the best way of finding out how your business is being accessed. However, if you don’t take the correct measures to look after your users’ data, the tactic could do irreparable damage.
Photos are some of the most valuable resources for any business or creative ministry. While I’m a huge fan of using pictures that are actually taken in your business or church, I’ve learned that’s not always possible. That’s where stock photos come in. A great stock photo can provide professionalism, beauty, and quality that you may not have access.
A Google search for these valuable resources will generate an infinite number of websites with stock images ranging from a few bucks per photo to thousands of dollars per photo.
What if I told you that you could get absolutely beautiful stock photos for free? You’re not dreaming, my friend. Below are my favorite resources to download some of the best photos on the web for $0/photo. Check out these Free Stock Photo Resources.
2. Death To The Stock Photo
3. Lightstock’s Free Photo of the Week
6. Freely Photos
7. Life of Pix
8. No More Clip Art
9. Snapwire Snaps
11. Jay Mantri
12. New Old Stock
Do you have any other resources for free stock photos?