Starting out as a freelancer can be daunting, with many people falling into the trap of spending way too much time and money on promotion rather than the business itself.
In this Premium Tutorial, you will first learn how to make a quick and easy logo with basic illustrator tools, you will then use multiple artboards to make a collection of designs for self promotion.
Finally you will learn the details of each item you've designed, what file formats work best, and how to use them as the basis of your marketing. Let's get started!
We will be using a simple logo as the basis of our designs, the promo kit will be made up of the following
These 6 items are probably the most important to begin with, as your business expands you may want to make fancy media packs or custom websites, but for now we want to save some money and find some clients.
Part 1: Creating the Logo
For this tutorial I created a fictional illustration business called "V+" (or V4 if you look at it too much), in the following steps I will outline the process of making a very simple logo treatment and how to define a custom swatch set. If you're using pre-existing artwork then you can skip to the next part. You can see the result in the images below.
After drawing a few ideas on paper I moved onto Illustrator. Because my idea is fairly simple I won't be tracing my sketch, I'll be building the logo from basic shapes instead. If you're stuck for ideas, Creattica has a great gallery of Logos to get the ideas flowing.
When creating an identity, the first thing I like to do is to make a swatch set. Kuler is great for this as you will find many color combinations that you may not have thought of. You can also find colors based on search terms or sort them by popularity. I've chosen to use a set I've made previously called "80's Zombie", you can download it here.
Once you download the swatch set, navigate to the swatches pallet in Illustrator, click on the fly-out menu > Open Swatch Library > Other Library, then load your saved swatch file. The swatch set will load into a panel of its own, to save space you can drag the color group into the main swatches panel.
As mentioned previously I will be building my logo using basic shapes and the Pathfinder options. The first thing you will need to do is make a New Document (Command + N), I've made mine a tiny 60 x 60px (this is part of the trick). Next, turn on the grid lines, (View > Show Grid) these will help when drawing the shapes. Go to Illustrator > Preferences > Guides & Grid and set the Grid to Grid lines every 10px and Subdivisions to 10, you will now have a 1px grid. The last thing you have to do is enable Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Now when you draw the shapes they will all line up with the grid, don't worry about the size of the artboard, you can enlarge the logo when you finish drawing.
Using the grid and some basic shapes I've drawn a really simple pencil. You can see in the image below that it's made by relying on the grid for proportions. Remember that you can change the layer order of the shapes with Command + Left Square Bracket to send a shape backwards and Command + Right Square Bracket to bring a shape forwards.
A fast way to make the centerpiece is to use a Pattern Brush. Draw a circle that's roughly the size you would like the "petals" to be, then drag the shape into the brushes palette and select New Pattern Brush, click OK. Once you have the pattern brush made, take the circle and enlarge it to the size you need for the logo and apply the newly created brush. Make some final adjustments to the size and rotation and you're done.
Duplicate the pencil and assign a color combination from the "Zombie" swatches, group the shapes of each pencil (Command + G) and moved the centerpiece to the top (Command + Right Square Bracket). Select each group and align them Horizontally though the center, move the centerpiece slightly closer to the top of the pencils ( this is better for the composition). Select the top pencil and rotate it 63° (Object > Transform > Rotate), then do the same for the second pencil, rotating it -63°. If your shapes don't align horizontally after this step (which can sometimes happen when working with a grid) realign them. You will now have the body of the logo.
To make the "V+" for the logo, create a Rounded Rectangle (the corner radius is set to12px) and rotate it 18°, then make a Reflected Copy. To do this, select the shape, press "O" to bring up the Reflect Tool then Option + Click the middle-base of the shape (where you want it to reflect) then select Vertical and press Copy. This makes the V shape, to make the '+' draw a Rounded Rectangle that's the same height as the 'V' and make a rotated copy to form a "Plus".
With the logo finished it's time to use the Pathfinder, in this step we will be "flattening" the logo so that it's easier to use as a part of complex designs. I would recommend making a copy of the logo for this step, once it's finished you won't be able to change the layout.
Make a copy of your logo and place it on a new layer, lock the first layer. Select the copied logo and open the Pathfinder pallet, click Divide (1 in the image below). The logo will now be grouped together and cut into pieces, un-group the selection and open the Magic Wand settings (double click on the wand icon). In the Magic Wand dialogue set the tolerance to 0 (2 in the image below), this means the wand will only select the exact color it's sampling. With the magic wand click on one of the colors, you will notice that all shapes with that color will be selected, click on the Unite button (3 in the image below) then Expand. Continue to Unite the remainder of the colors
What you will end up with is a logo that's not only nice and clean for your designs, but it's also great for sharing as it's harder to tamper with. You will always have the original artwork, but now you don't have to share it.
Part 2: Setting the Artboards
Now that you have the logo it's time to set the artboards. Before you begin you will need to know the dimensions of the images you want to create. You may notice in the example below that the artboards don't reflect the print size of each object, this has to do with the resolution. Because the Illustrator document I'm using is 72dpi I'm going to enter the items for Screen as Pixels and the items for Print as Millimeters, the resolution for the print materials will be changed on export. At the end of this tutorial I will provide a detailed run-down on the size, output and use of each item.
This is where CS4 comes in handy. One of the best features it has is the ability to work with multiple artboards. I find that working on the designs all at the same time is really handy for re-using elements and planning the designs.
To make a new artboard select the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) and draw your artboards like you would draw a rectangle. Once you have the approximate shape and size of the artboards you can enter the exact dimensions. Select an artboard with the Artboard Tool and at the top of the program window you should see a "W:" and "H:" setting, this is the width and the height of the selected artboard. Enter the dimensions you need, this can be in mm, cm, in, px or pt, Illustrator will convert the dimensions to the unit you have set for the workspace. If the artboard overlaps another artboard you can move it with the Artboard Tool. Below is how I've set my artboards.
You will notice that the Business cards and Postcards are set against each other, this is to accommodate a wrap-around design. Later in the tut, you may also notice I chose not to use a wrap-around for the business card (it didn't look that great so I abandoned the idea). For items with two sides, I like to set the artboards like this, it allows me to play with the design elements and saves a bit of shuffling later.
I'm using elements of the logo as the basis for my design, you can do the same or if you're feeling ambitious you can design a complete identity. Once you've decided on the design, make a new layer and place the elements onto the artboards. A nice feature of multiple artboards is, if you need to move them the work on top moves along with it, simply select the Artboard Tool and by default the contents will follow. To turn this setting off, click the icon at the top of the artboard (it will appear when you select the Artboard Tool)
Here's the basic layout of my designs. By re-positioning elements from the logo and using the "Zombie" color group, I've managed to make a few different layouts that will serve as a basic promotion pack. It may look a bit dull at the moment, don't worry, the design isn't finished yet.
In the previous image, you may have noticed that some of the elements poke out from the artboard and overlap others. There's a simple remedy for this, cover the artboard area with a solid shape (in this case a rectangle or square), select all the objects on the artboard and press Command + 7 to make a Clipping Mask. You don't have to follow this step unless you have overlaps, later on when you export, you can choose to crop the image to the artboard.
This is where we finish off the designs. Because the central theme is pencils and illustration, I thought I would expand on the metaphor and use the blob brush to make some drawings. I really love the Blob Brush, it's the drawing tool I adored in Macromedia Flash made for Adobe Illustrator CS4. If you haven't given this tool a try, you should do so now! Select the Blob Brush (Shift + B) and double click on the icon to bring up the preferences. I'm using a graphics tablet to take full advantage of the pressure settings, you can still achieve a nice looking line without one. I've set the brush size to 3pt, the fidelity to 5 pixels and the smoothness to 24%, this should give me a nice flowing line that's not too thick to work with. Because I've applied a clipping masks on the artboards, I've clicked into the clipping mask "group" to draw my elements. Repeat this for each design you want to use the Blob Brush on.
Here's the finished designs.
Part 3: Exporting the Images
The designs are for different outputs, the Postcard and Business card need to be print resolution, the Twitter and Blog banners need to be basic web images and the Icon and Web Signature need transparency. Luckily Illustrator lets you export in a few different ways and has the option to output multiple images at once.
To open the export dialogue go to File > Export and chose the file format you want to use. You will notice at the bottom of the Export dialogue there's an option to use artboards, click the checkbox to Use Artboards and then click Range. If you want to Export a range of images use a hyphen, for example Images 1-8, if you want to export a series of images use a comma, for example Images 1,4,6 and if you want to export all the images, click the All button. Next, I will explain each design and the specifications in greater detail.
A Blog is a really important tool for self promotion and acts as a bridge between you and your potential clients. A blog also lets you keep in contact with people in a way that twitter or facebook can't and sets you apart from the "white noise" of social networking. If you publish interesting content people will look forward to your updates and (hopefully) remember you when they have some work. It's also an informal place for people to contact you, believe it or not, email is too formal for some people and they feel uncomfortable using it for introductions.
You can either use a self hosted Blog, like Wordpress or join a Blog Community, such as Blogger, Posterous or Tumblr. Remember that a blog is something that needs constant maintenance, this is where it's important to choose a format that suits you best. If you have time to run a decent blog and enjoy writing then a self hosted blog is the way to go, if you don't have much time and just need a place for people to see what you're upto, a blog such as Posterous is ideal. Don't fall into the trap of over committing yourself to your blog, be realistic and set a plan to regularly publish content. Content doesn't have to be all about your business, you can also publish your inspiration, experimental designs or sketches.
Some people recommend hosting your blog and your folio in the same place, but I truly believe that if you don't have the time to blog then it's better to keep things simple. A folio site with a blog that hasn't been updated in a few months looks like the owner is "away" or moved onto another business or job. It's more important to look like you're always available and working hard. The funny thing about blogs is that, if you're too busy to publish content it looks like you're not working at all.
The key to having a successfully blog is to be genuine. Nobody wants to visit a blog more than once if it looks like an ad. Try not to over-sell your services, keep things relaxed and interesting and constrain the blatant promotion to the "About" page.
Blog Banner Format: RGB 72dpi Jpg (dimensions vary)
The size of a blog banner is dependant on the "theme" and each kind of blog service will have its own specifications. I've exported my Blog Banner for the "Structure" theme from Wordpress.com, it's a 960px by 120px 72dpi RGB Jpg. I have used Jpg because transparent PNGs have some rendering issues in Internet Explorer and will show the transparent parts to be grey.
- WordPress - Self Hosted Blog
- Blogger - Free Blog by Google
- Posterous - Use Your Email to Blog
- Tumblr - Blog from your Browser, Phone, Desktop or Email
- Theme Forest - HTML, Email, WordPress, Joomla and Magento Themes
Yes the pen is also my work, I'm obsessed with pens and pencils.
A twitter background promotes your image and is an immediate way to show off your skills as a designer or illustrator. A well designed twitter background will motivate people to follow you and hopefully catch the eye of a potential client or two.
Love it or hate it, Twitter is fast becoming a "Must Have" networking tool for freelancers. You can use Twitter to publish updates from your Blog, Facebook, Behance, and just about every other web service known. Remember to Tweet useful links, witty banter and helpful advice, if you only publish for promotion followers will soon lose interest in what you have to say. On the subject of what you have to say, I recommend separate personal and business accounts, as what you write on twitter (even if you delete it from your feed later) can be found via a simple google search. If you're not careful, having a well deserved rant about a company or person may come back to bite you. Be sure to remain professional and keep the rants private.
Twitter Background Format: RGB 72dpi Jpg (250px by 1180px)
After much trial and error I found that the best formats for twitter backgrounds are either, a repeating pattern or a left hand image. For branding purposes I've chooses the left hand image. Because the body of the page floats above the background it's difficult to judge what can and can't be seen on the background. I've chosen to use a 250px by 1180px 72dpi RGB Jpg with a solid background color I've then set my twitter page to have a background in the same color as the image, this creates the illusion of one continuous background and saves loading time. I've kept the width small to accommodate all screen resolutions and the height large enough to avoid repeating.
- Vectortuts+ @ Twitter - Keep upto date with Vectortuts+
- Twitpic - Share Photos on Twitter
- TweetDeck - Manage your Contacts and Content
- Hootsuite - Manage more than one Twitter account, collect statistics and schedule "Tweets"
- Rockable Mini-Book - How to market your
business on Twitter
Most people know what a Gravatar is, but you would be surprised how many people don't. A Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar, which means, it's an avatar that will show up for most blogs and forums. If you look at the comments and Authors on Vectortuts+ you will see Gravatars in action. To create a Gravatar you need to sign up to gravatar.com and upload an image, it will then use your email address to determine which image to show. If you're using a Gravatar to promote yourself while commenting on various blogs and forums, it's always best to write a considered reply, comments such as "great" "awesome" or "LOL" look a bit like spam and can hurt your reputation.
Gravatar Format: RGB 72dpi Jpg or Png (max: 512px by 512px - min: 80px by 80px)
By default a Gravatar is shown at 80px by 80px, but the size they render at is determined by each individual blog, therefore I would recommend uploading a 512px by 512px (maximum size) image as down-scaling looks better than up-scaling. As with the Blog Banner, you can use a transparent PNG, but some browsers will render the transparency as solid grey. I would avoid using transparent Gravatar's until all browsers support them.
Image based signatures are ideal for first introductions, email news and price quotes, for all other emails I would suggest using a text based signature to reduce over-bulking inboxes. An email signature should have your business name, title, web address and possibly a phone number, you can also add other information such as Skype address and Twitter account.
All important information should be added as HTML text and hyperlinks so they can be followed immediately, and seen if the receiver has images blocked in their email client. Programs as Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird have settings that allow you to assign signatures, and Wise Stamp is a Firefox plug-in that allows you to add image based signatures to all webmail services.
Signature Format: RGB 72dpi Jpg or Png (180px wide - recommended)
Image based signatures can be any size you like, but it's best to use one that isn't too overbearing. Anything above 180px wide may be too big. Use your designers intuition and send a few test emails to yourself and friends to determine what composition and size works best.
- Wise Stamp - Firefox extension for Email Signatures (all webmail services)
- Microsoft Outlook - How to create signatures with pictures or logos
Never leave the house without a business card or two in your wallet, I can guarantee you will need one when you least expect it.
Some Important Information you should consider when designing your business card is:
- Business Logo
- Tag line/List of Services
- Your Name and Title
- Web Address
- Email Address
- Phone Number or Skype
If you have room, you can add your Twitter name, Facebook account and Blog address, but they're not completely necessary as links to these items should be easily found on your website.
Before you create the finished artwork for your card you should decide on a printer to use. Some printers will ask for the artwork supplied on their own special templates or saved with a custom color profile. If you're just starting out, I would recommend using a digital service such as Moo for your printing. Moo cards won't break the bank and come in packs as small as 50. As your business grows (and you earn more money) you can produce some fancy (and more expensive) cards, but during the start of a business it's best to save money where you can.
Business Card Format: CMYK 300dpi Tiff (Check with your printer for size, standard dimensions by region can be found here)
I save all images for print as CMYK 300dpi Tiffs, Tiff is a lossless image format so the artwork you send will print without compression artifacts, which can sometimes happen with JPG. Another print format that's widely used is PDF (these can also be exported from Illustrator's Artboards), again, the file format you use is dependant on the individual printer. As I mentioned previously, I like Moo for short runs of business cards. The dimensions for the Moo business cards are 84mm by 55mm with a 2mm bleed. Moo also have print templates available as PSD and JPG downloads if you need additional help.
Business Card Resources:
- Creattica - A great collection of Business card designs, updated regularly.
- Graphic River - Business Card templates if you don't have time for typesetting.
- Moo - Custom printed Business Cards, starting at 50 cards.
Postcards are great for promotion, they can also be used as giveaways and mail outs. A good postcard can go a long way in promoting your business, if your design is clever, unique or part of a set people will be more than happy to keep and collect them. Be sure to include your contact details and web address, but it's best to leave off social networking links and secondary websites as the postcard should be clear of too much promotion.
Postcard Format: CMYK 300dpi Tiff (Check with your printer for size)
Like business cards, each printer will have a different size and specification for printing postcards. More often than not a CMYK 300dpi Tiff will do the trick, but always check before you create your final artwork. If you want to produce a large run of postcards (1,000+) a commercial printer is the way to go, often you can get a discount on your printing if you pool an order with a friend or two, so be sure to enquire about group discounts. If you don't want to commit to a particular design or need to keep to a budget, again, Printing with Moo is a good option and they start with packs of 20. The dimensions for the Moo Postcards are 148mm by 105mm with a 2mm bleed. Moo also have print templates available as PSD and JPG downloads if you need additional help.
- Behance - A showcase of postcards by professional designers.
- Moo - Custom printed Postcards, starting at 20 cards.
The topics outlined in this tut are only the beginning, remember to always evolve and grow your business with your size and needs. Over time, why not invest some money back into your business with a new set of postcards or a custom cut business card? Remember to keep your portfolio upto date, your contact details relevant, your tweets helpful, your identity fresh and your blog comments friendly. Best of luck!