Free & Paid Design Resources

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For most of us, our blogs are our babies. We want to nurture it and make sure they’re the best they can be. Of course, we do! We put a lot of effort into these darn things. Something I’ve noticed since I started blogging is this idea that you have to spend money in order for anything to look good. Well, that’s wrong.

A lot of people ask me how I design my blog and expect me to say “I paid for this and this and this and this”. Believe it or not, most of what you’ve seen on my blog since I started was free. However, there are a few things that I have invested some money into that I thought was totally worth it.

So, today, I want to talk about some areas of your blog where you can save or spend to make it what you want. I’ll be giving you the free option alongside the paid option (if they’re available). Let’s get to it!

Themes – Save or Splurge

It really doesn’t matter, at least not to me. However, it is the foundation of your site design, so you want to make a good choice. You do not have to spend a lot of money, or any at all, to accomplish this. I started my blog with a free theme and had it for a very long time before switching to a paid theme (for no other reason except thinking I had to in order to look professional). While I absolutely love my paid theme, I would have been okay with my free one, especially since I’ve learned a lot more about CSS since then. Here are some options for you. Most free themes can be found by just simply Googling “[platform] free themes”. If you do opt for a free theme, knowing some CSS is a huge help!

FREE PAID
WordPress has tons to choose from Most free choices have paid upgrade options
Gooyaabi Templates or a simple Google search (Blogger) Nosegraze (WordPress)
Etsy (WordPress and Blogger)
ThemeForest
Stay Bookish (she has some great designs & the prices are super reasonable! + It will be 100% original!)

Graphics – DIY, Paid Elements, Graphic Designer

This is another question I get a lot: how I got my graphics. I’ve actually discussed this a few times when I talked about my must-have blog design resources, how to use Canva, and how to use Inspect Element for design. Design is a pretty extensive topic, and here’s my verdict on whether or not you have to pay to have good graphics: Absolutely, positively NOT. I understand some people find it easier to pay someone to design their header and more power to them! However, others don’t have the extra cash lying around in order to do so. OR, maybe you’re like me and change your mind often so you don’t want to feel committed to a design you paid someone to make. Either way, here are some resources for you:

FREE PAID EXTRAS
Canva – This is a great resource for beginning designers (and everyone basically) Canva for Work – This is a monthly subscription that expands on the features of Canva
PicMonkey – Another photo editing/graphic creating program like Canva PicMonkey Royal – Either monthly or yearly (yearly is only $40 USD!) with extra features
Design Elements – Add fun fonts and elements to your design from sites that offer freebies like Creative Market and Design Cuts  Sites like Creative Market also offer many paid elements
Vectors and Icons from sites like FreePik and Font Awesome
Stock photos or taking your own photos

Should you buy this?

There are a few products out there that I’ve seen people contemplate buying in regards to design (and one I will just recommend that has nothing to do with design 😉 ) So, here is my two cents.

Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin by Nosegraze – Only for self-hosted WordPress |$35.00 Buy Here YES. If you spend more time setting up your book reviews than you do writing them, then I highly recommend investing in this one. It automatically fills the fields in, has star-ratings, and is customizable. If you like a lot of customization or are super picky on how the format looks, maybe just stick to what you’re already doing, though.
 Tweak Me v2 Theme by Nose Graze – Only for self-hosted WordPress | $69.00 Buy Here MAYBE. I bought this theme when it was on sale and I just had a hard time customizing it. Maybe I didn’t put in enough time to figuring everything out, but I found the user interface difficult.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer – WordPress Plugin | Monthly between free & $30.00 / One-time payment between $10.00 & $30.00 Buy Here YES. (Ok, not this specific product, but if you need to optimize images, I like this one). Some of you are more responsible and optimize images before uploading, I don’t. So, instead of redoing all of my images, I paid ShortPixel to do it for me. They have monthly & one-time payment plans. I did a one-time payment of 30k images for $20.00 in DECEMBER 2015 and I still have 11k left.
Girls on WordPress Nosegraze eCourses
Make WordPress Your Bitch – FREE
Master Customizer – $97.00
Code Your Own Damn Website – $97.00
Badass Theme Shop Owner – $47.00

Check out courses here.

YES. If you have some extra cash, Ashley’s classes are worth it. I am currently enrolled in her Master Customizer (coding) class and it has helped me a lot in understanding CSS! She explains things in a laid back, easy to understand way, and she’s always easy to get ahold of if you have questions! Also, if you’re thinking about switching to WP, she has a FREE WP beginner course!

Final Thoughts

You can design a great blog for free or by spending very little. Sometimes it may take a little more work to get to where you want your site to be, but it is possible! When I first started blogging, I spent $0.00 on my blog design (and it worked for me for almost a year). Now, my theme only costs me $40.00 per year and I paid for a huge pack of design elements for $25.00 that have been used in many projects. So, both options were a good deal on my wallet.

Just do some searching, check out the resources I recommend (this isn’t extensive, just resources I like), and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Most people are willing to help you as much as possible, at least I am! So, if you have any questions or want some more advice, feel free to leave a comment or enter your question on my contact page 🙂

Hope this helped!

letsdiscuss

What do you think about paying for design services?
What are some resources you would recommend?
What do you have the most trouble with when figuring out your blog design? (Helps me with future posts!)

Comments are the best! Let's chat!

13 thoughts on “Free & Paid Design Resources

  1. Love this. I’m in love with the UBB plugin. So totes worth the money. I use Canva, PicMonky, and BeFunky. I also stock Designcuts and the hungry jpeg for freebies and chip graphics/fonts. I always enjoy finding out what other services and sites other bloggers use. Can you tell me more about ShortPixel Image Optimizer??

    1. Right? I think UBB is totally worth it. It’s not even expensive. I also use some of the other resources you mentioned. The freebie section of some of those graphic sites are pretty good!

      As for ShortPixel: basically, when you upload a photo to your media library, you want to make sure it’s compressed. In simple terms, it makes the size smaller (without changing the quality), which then makes your site load faster. Some people compress the images BEFORE uploading. But I’m lazy & forget to 100% of the time. I also didn’t realize I should have them compressed until later on when I already had over 700 images on my blog. So basically what ShortPixel does is they take the work of optimizing your images yourself by doing it for you in a WP Plugin. Its been a lifesaver for me. Did that help? Let me know if you need any more info! 🙂

  2. Canva and PicMonkey are lifesavers. I use them for nearly ALL my graphics. I have paid for nothing in designing my blog and still (kinda) happy with my results. Thanks for all the other recommendations though, I’ll have to try UBB plugin, but that’s when I switch to self-hosted!

    1. Canva is my LIFESAVER. I couldn’t do half the stuff I wanted to without it. Well…I could, just in a lot more steps haha. You can always have a free blog that looks good! It takes a little extra tweaking sometimes, but I’ve seen plenty that were 100% free and looked just as good – if not better – than some paid ones out there. So, do you! Whatever works 🙂

  3. I didn’t buy a blog design when I started out, and in a way I’m glad I didn’t. My blog did look quite crappy in the beginning when I was still figuring things out, and it did take me about a year in a half to finally settle upon a blog design that I love completely (I was tweaking it like 24/7 before), but in the end I’ve come out of this experience with a pretty good knowledge of CSS and HTML.

    1. Yeah, I don’t recommend people pay for design off the bat. I mean, do what you want, but just make sure you REEAEAAAAAALLLLYLLYLYLL like it hahahaha. I changed my mind SO much in the beginning it would have been money down the drain. And yes, I know a lot more about CSS and HTML now that I’ve messed around with mine enough 🙂

  4. The only design resource I’ve ever paid for on my blog is the script font that I use. I really wanted to pick out the perfect fonts right off the bat so my graphics would be consistent, and that one was so pretty to me and perfectly embodied the vibe I wanted. And since I use it in all my graphics as well as the logo, the sidebar, and various other places, I feel like I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth. Oh, and I’ve also paid for one plugin, back when I had a different type of blog, but I still use it since it saves me so much time with inserting book cover images. And both things I paid for were one time fees and reasonably priced, so definitely worth it.

    That being said, you definitely don’t NEED to pay for anything for have a great blog. I refuse to pay for most things blog-related because I know I can do it for free at least similarly enough. I think there are plenty of amazing themes out there, even without knowing any CSS. And there are lots of free stock photos as well as free editing programs. And most of the necessary kinda plugins you can get for free. But sometimes you do come across something that’s a huge timesaver or does something you really want but can’t do yourself or is just plain pretty, and so it’s also ok to pay for things if you think they’re worth it!

    1. ahhh, I have too many fonts. I don’t think I’ve even gone through all of them. But I don’t use ANY of them on my blog (ok wait, I use like 1). I’m too lazy xD

      But yeah, you don’t need to pay for anything. I’ve seen plenty of AMAZING blogs that are basically 100% free.

    1. Yes! SEE. Thats why I love putting these type of posts together because they’re always posts that would have been SO HELPFUL to have in the beginning hahah

    1. Thank you! 😀 And yes, there are so many! This post just barely scratches the surface but hopefully it gave people a starting point, you know? 🙂