Tools I use for Designing and Blogging

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digitaltablet Recently, I have had several readers ask me what tools I use for my design work and blog work. Today, I thought I would share those tools with my readers. As a designer and blogger, I use a wide variety of tools. Some of those are expensive and some are free.

First, I want to explain a little about what I do offline. When I am not on one of the many social networks I am part of of, I am generally working on a project or I am at school working on a project.  Currently, I mostly do design work and contract work in the telecom industry. But I have worked in the video production industry doing doing camera work, production assistant and video editing for weddings and school events. I am currently going to school for a degree in new media. I was originally taking courses for web design and development. But, I found I like video, motion graphics and shooting video more interesting and will move more into that direction.

So today, I will talk about mostly my design tools and blogging tools, but I will mention some programs that I use when I am working with video and motion graphics.

Hardware – Mac or PC?

Actually, I prefer Linux, but I mostly use PC. But, when its time for an upgrade I will be switching over to Mac. Linux is a great OS for tech stuff, I mostly use it for data stuff and self hosted web server stuff. I deal mostly with web hosts that run on some form of Linux and it comes in handy knowing basic command line commands. But I like it for design work mostly because you find a lot of great open source software programs. Most of them of are powerful and they can do as good or better than paid programs in the same categories.

As mentioned before, I mostly use PC and that is what I most comfortable with. After all, if you are uncomfortable with your tools, you will not have the success you are looking for. I hear almost daily the Mac Vs PC debate and why either is superior. For me, I think Mac might be the best way to go, if you have the budget for a high end Mac machine. If not, you can always build a high end machine at almost half the price. That is what I ended up doing when it was time to upgrade my production desktop.

As for the actual tools I use I have an HP Pavilion Elite e9270t series desktop fully loaded and was built last year. I run dual Asus 23.6 inch 1080P LCD monitors. I will have office pics posted soon. I have an Epson profession scanner and wireless HP all in one printer / scanner / fax machine. When I am mobile, I have 17in Toshiba Satellite that’s about 2 years old. Its not the best, but it gets the job done and plan to use it until dies or I break it.

As for my cell phone, I am on it a lot, and Smartphones just don’t have the life I need. I use it for personal and business, So on a busy I could be on it for several hours. I carry a basic phone and a PDA when needed. In the next few months, I will be upgrading to Android phone (have a charger in my bag), but I am waiting to see what releases over the next few months.

I also find that having a good Point-in-Shoot camera on you at all times is a good thing. I found out the hard way that cell phone cameras aren’t that good or not having one could be disappointed when you come across a once in a lifetime shot.

If a camera can make / receive calls or play music, then its not a camera but a phone with an decent camera. Right now, camera phones are not advanced enough to replace digital cameras all together.

As a designer, having your own stock photos can come in handy and save you time and money, and if you need something original. As blogger this is also helpful, in that you do not have to worry about copyright issues or crediting someone, when use their work. Currently I am using a PowerShot SD960 IS Sliver and have no plans of upgrading anytime soon.

For the final piece of hardware that I use is a digital tablet. I find these a lot easier to use for close up design work or when I am working on a part of a design when a pen works better than a mouse. This is not necessarily a must have, but it comes in handy removing backgrounds.

Design Tools

Almost everyday, I have some sort of multimedia design tool up and working on something. Even on my days off, I am still messing around in Photoshop or Dreamweaver.  My top design tools are;

Adobe Master Suite CS4 and CS5, in this package I use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator. Adobe makes some great tools for designers and they are the industry standard. With them being the most popular and the most powerful, you end up paying for that.

Using Photoshop CS4 and GIMP

The above graphic is from a design project I had to do for one of my design courses. The projected was to test my knowledge of design tools such as using selections, removing backgrounds, color selection and repeating of colors. I ended up using Photoshop CS3, CS4 and GIMP to complete this project. To see more of my portfolio check out my account on on DeviantArt and myphoto stream on Flickr.

When I am not using Adobe Suites, I use GIMP and Paint.NET for photo and image editing. I mostly use these on public machines or at work, when I do not have access to Adobe. I love GIMP, its a great program, and I used it before I got my hands on Photoshop. Both GIMP and Paint.Net are free programs.

Rusty Old Car Using Paint.Net to Play with Curves

For the picture above, I found a place north of Huntsville TX, that had a bunch of old and rusty cars left in field that, were being used for parts or just junked out. This type of photography is my favorite, and I love to stop at places like this, and fill up my SD cards. For this picture, I use Paint.Net to test how well Curves work. Of course this image’s light and darks are intensified for an effect. Paint.NET works as well as Photoshop for this method.

When I need to code something up, to make quick changes to a client site or one of the sites I own I prefer Adobe Dreamweaver, but when I do not have access to Dreamweaver, I will use KompoZer and Notebook ++. Both are free and work great for coding and web design.

I also carry a flash drive around with me that has a program called Portable Apps. When you plug in your USB drive, Portable Apps will ask if you want to load it. Say yes and it loads up a small menu option in the toolbar that gives you a bunch of desktop applications that have been converted to portable versions. With this tool you can load up your predefined browser specs for FireFox, Thunderbird, and programs like GIMP. There are so many programs available on their website, you should be able find something of use on there. Now that I have, I do not know I would live without it.

I also consider FireFox and Google Chrome valuable tools for design. I use a variety of Design, SEO and Blogging plugins to help me throughout the day.

Blogging Tools

As for my blogging tools, I do not use very many. I use WordPress as my blog of choice. To write my blog entries, I will use Windows Live Writer, and the Insights Plugin for WordPress to complete the articles I write. For SEO related stuff, I use Google Webmaster tools and Market Samurai to help do keyword research.

To keep track of all the blogs I follow and comment on, I use Google Reader. Its fast and easy to skim through all the RSS feeds. When I find an article that I want to comment on, I open it up and comment it on it. I love how you can set it up so it will put all your feeds in order and you can read them from newest oldest or filter them by categories or by web address.

To market my articles, client sites, and managed sites, I use a bunch of tools. My main one is, Hootsuite Twitter Client. Hootsuite is a powerful Twitter tool and can be used to post to other social networks as well.

To get backlinks, I use sites such as Blog Engage, MMO Social Network, DeisgnGizer, the web blend, BloggerLuv Commnunity, and DoFollowLuv. This type of marketing is also called social bookmarking.

Another great way to market you blog is by building up your network and influence on social communities other than Facebook or LinkedIn. I use BlogglerLuv, MyChatBox, Amplify, ZooTool, Tumblr, and Posterous to share my articles, and network.

Motion Graphic and Video Editing Tools

When working on motion graphics and video editing projects, I just use Adobe After Effects, Adobe Flash, and Final Cut Studio mostly. Usually, I have to use the school’s Mac lab when editing video. But once I get the Final Cut work done, I will do the special effects on a PC using After Effects.

Animated a series of pictures kind of like Scooby Doo

I created this little cartoon (above) early on in my Adobe After Effects class. The project was to show how to use keyframes and how to import a design project from Photoshop with multiple images to create an animation. This style of cartoon might be familiar to you. This style of animation can be found on Scooby Doo. What I did was took 10 or 20 images imported them into After Effects, got a background and imported it in. I then set keyframes up to tell After Effects that I want to move the background from left right while the dog walks in place. This way, our brains tell us that the dog is moving and not the background. If you want to see more of my video work, you can check out my youtube account. I will be uploading more projects over the next few weeks/months.

Final Project in Adobe After Effects CS4

This last video was a final project for the After Effects class. It was supposed to be a feature up at the school’s media lab, but I was not able to completed it early enough to have it added. Maybe next year, I will make some changes and then apply next year… The scope of the project was based on a fictional client wanting a PSA or short video that explains their green / earth friendly cause.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the tools I use for new media design work. I plan to do more articles about some of the tools I use. This just a really long preview of the tools I use.  What tools are you using?

Image Source: Flickr – BAMBOOFun16

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About James

James spends most of his free time using social media and loves to teach others about design, web development, CSS, SEO, and social media. He is addicted to Wordpress, social media, and technology. You can reach him on his, personal website, Do not forget to follow him on Twitter @element321


  1. I also like linux,but there are very less designing tools in linux
    Nipon Bharali recently posted..Monitor Google PageRank from WordPress dashboardMy Profile

  2. lots of good info in here, liked the blogging tools section as i have just started my luv addiction
    greg urbano recently posted..St Pete Photo WalkMy Profile

  3. Thanks for sharing your complete blogging and designing guide. IT was well worth reading. Thanks a lot
    Isabel Rodrigues – Pro Blogger Journey recently posted..5 Useful Tips to Increase Page Views of Your BlogMy Profile

  4. We have very similar set of tools, James. I use PS CS4 for images only. Found GIMP is hard to use. I hear about Paint.NET but never try it. I will give it a try after this post, though. For developing, I use Netbeans and Aptana. Netbeans is such an awesome IDE. I also found Expression Web is also a fast way to build up HTML when you are lazy to type in code. For blogging, we have same set of tools. How sweet is that 🙂
    Mike recently posted..How You Can Have 1000 Visitors In A Day With StumbleUpon Or A Guide To StumbleUpon TrafficMy Profile

  5. I like the part about backlinks, I’m going to try Blog Engage. Thanks for sharing.
    Hunter recently posted..Top 3 Useful CSS3 Code GeneratorsMy Profile

  6. I really want to get into design. I reckon that after I learn all the coding I would be ok with the physical designs. I used to do dreamweaver in school and most I can still remember. I do believe that making a first impression with your blog’s layout is very important.

  7. Hey, I really want to get into design. I reckon that after I learn all the coding I would be ok with the physical designs. I used to do dreamweaver in school and most I can still remember. I do believe that making a first impression with your blog’s layout is very important.
    Craig recently posted..Do You Love to Play BingoMy Profile

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