Design Basics Part 1: How to design

Design. How do you design something that apeals to the person looking at it and achieves the goal you are trying to achieve?

Well, lets look at the goal of a good design, the main goal would be to communicate to the viewer the idea you want to communicate. This may be indirect, very direct, or even hidden.

Take the Google home page for example, what are they trying to communicate with the design? Well each person who saw it might tell you what they get, but what I get is “simplicity” the design communicates that to me and I myself like a search engine that is simple so I use Google like so many others.

Google Search (Entire page):

Google search home
Yahoo Search (Entire page):


If you wanted to communicate that your website has many different services and show that on your homepage, you might get a design like Yahoo where the home page is so loaded that to me it overwhelms me. Someone else who might like lots of links might really enjoy the design. Thats the point, you want to communicate your message with the design.

For your design to be a success, you would want to communicate the message that will pull peoples interest (People that you are selling to) and then deliver your product. As an illustration: You want to design something that sells computers. You design something that looks old fashioned, the only people you will be selling to is people who like old fashioned things – not computers. Doing this, you will lose sales and the design is a bomb (Not the Bomb, like it should be).

To be successful to sell computers you would have to do a design that communicated what a person buying a computer likes about a computer, to find this out you need to survey those kind of people and find out what they like. But surveying is a whole additional subject. Once you have surveyed and found out what the people who would like computers like about computers that makes them interested in buying computers you can do the design correctly. You then do your design in a way that communicates what would make the person buy.

Knowing the data mentioned, you can do a successful design, providing you know the basic rules and techniques of the area you are working in. The basic rules and technical skill in the area you are working in are necessary to do a good design.

Here are some examples of the technical skills necessary for some areas of design:

Book cover design:
Basic design rules
Photoshop or Indesign (Or any of the programs for designing images)

Internet design:
Basic HTML (So you know what can be done)
Photoshop or ImageReady
Flash (for designing Animations)

Interior Book Design
Indesign or Quark
Basics of Typesetting and Typography

The better you know your technique, the better you can execute your ideas for the medium being designed for.

9 Simply fancy JQuery plugins

I just stumbled on this great website which has very useful and simple jquery ajax applications. I will review each here in a simple way so you can see all of the useful information. This website shows a video tutorial, a text tutorial and a demo for each of the ajax applications.

Please keep in mind that you should use these design elements sparingly and tastefully. Using too many effects in your webdesign can be tacky and detract from the overall design.

To begin, here is the website:

Ajax image carousel

This creates an endless carousel with an html list. It also displays a very smooth scrolling effect. This is very simple to set up and uses jquery. Here is an image showing the carousel. View the code and tutorial here.

Jquery Ajax Infinite Carousel

Ajax smooth slidedown

This shows you how to make a smooth div slidedown effect without the initial jump. This can be used for many cool ajax effects. View the code and tutorial here.
Ajax smooth slidedown

Ajax smooth data changer

This creates a panel that automatically switches out a list of divs. A very nice effect for blog or website sidebars that want to show rotating pieces of information in an attractive way. View the code and tutorial here.
Smooth data changer

Ajax Smooth Image Fade

I myself have always wondered how to do the smooth image crossover fade and this tells you how to do it. The effect is very nice on buttons, menus and even images on display. View the code and tutorial here.
Ajax Image Fade Effect on a menu

Ajax Sliding Tab Effect

This is a great effect for teb boxes. I see it cropping up all over the web now days. Use it for tabbed browing of information or even arrow based browsing (arrows on the left and right). View the code and tutorial here.
Ajax Tabbed Slider

Very Sleek Tooltip Bubble

Very nice use of the JQuery puff effect. This shows an informational popup over the area you want when the user mouses over the area specified. Good for tooltips, information divs and any other popup application. View the code and tutorial here.
Sleek Ajax Coda Tooltip Jquery

Loading a Large Image with Ajax

You have seen progress indicating gifs show up while a large image is being loaded. Ever wonder how to do this? This tutorial tells you how to do this and have complete control over how the image loads. I do not have a picture of this as this tells you how to load any image with ajax. View the code and tutorial here.

Slideout Side Menu Effect

If you have been to the Apple website recently you might have seen this in action. This gives you an interactive side menu. When a user hovers over one of the menu dividers — that menu shows up. Very nice effect (play around with the demo). View the code and tutorial here.
Apple style Ajax Slide out Sidebar Effect

Ajax for Instant & Server Side Form Validation

Most of the new “Web 2.0” websites have very fluid forms. This is because of the fact that you can lose user’s interest in registering or even buying if it is too hard to fill out the form. I myself have left websites because I found it very hard to get the form to validate. This tutorial shows you how to make a form that validates on the fly, including doing server side calls for user names and such. Quite useful for streamlined user registration. View the code and tutorial here.
Ajax form validation jquery
There more tutorials and demos on this site regarding Ajax and JQuery. The ones selected here were selected because I thought they could be very easy and useful for web designers who want to have a design edge without haveing to spend too much time coding ajax effects.

Create Vector and Bitmap Graphics online for free

 Have you ever wanted to create vector or bitmap graphics but did’t have all of the expensive programs to work in? Well I got wind of this website/project called Aviary which allows you to do just that. 

Create graphics online for free

Aviary has created applications mimicking all of the popular graphics programs out there today. I will list the different programs, what they do and some examples of work created by people. I find it quite amazing what you can do with these programs — and they are all free.  Aviary uses names of bird species for each of their programs.

Image Editor (Similar to Photoshop, Paint Shop, Gimp, etc.) which is called Pheonix and is depicted by a very nice Peonix icon. Pheonix has all of the basic things you need to edit an image which include: clone tool, magic wand, filters, selection tools, smudge, layers and image resizing.

To Give Pheonix (image editor) a try click here.

Here are some of the popular images that I really like. These were created in Pheonix by regular users:


Apple Created with the Pheonix Editor
Apple Created with the Pheonix Editor


Flower graphic created with Pheonix
Flower graphic created with Pheonix


Very cool. Also created in Pheonix



Vector Editor (similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, Signlab, etc) which is called Raven and is depicted by a Black Raven icon. Raven has some of the basic things you need to edit an image. Raven is new, so more features will be coming out. Some of the existing features include: pen tool, pencil tool, brush tool, basic vector object tool, gradient editor, layers and smart selection. They also have a simple bitmap to vector tool.

To give Raven (vector editor) a try click here.

Here are some of the popular vector drawings that I really like. These were created in Raven by regular users:

Great vector illustration created with Raven
Great vector illustration created with Raven


Beautiful tree with a river and coy fish created in Raven
Beautiful tree with a river and coy fish created in Raven


Visual laboratory (not much like it on the market) which is called Peacock and is depicted by the Peacock bird. Peacock enables you to create amazing images with the use of filters, images and other mathematical effects. This application can be daunting at first, so be sure to watch the video on how to use it first.

To give Peacock (color chooser) a try click here.

Here are some stunning images created using Peacock:

Effect created using Peacock
Effect created using Peacock










Created in Peacock
Created in Peacock


Color chooser and mixer (not much like it on the market) which is called Toucan and is depicted by the colorful Toucan bird. Toucan enables you to create correct color compositions and includes and complimentary, split, etc, color mixer/chooser. You really have to mess around with it to get what it does. It is important for any kind of graphic design when having to choose a number of colors and make them harmonic.

To give Toucan (color chooser) a try click here.

Many more. In addition to the above 4 applications they are supposed to be coming out with many more useful ones. This is a list of the ones I think are quite useful:

       Desktop Publishing (InDesign, Quark Express, etc) called Owl.

       Painting Simulator (Corel Paint, Photoshop, etc) called Pigeon — haha.

       Smart Image resizer (Genuine Fractals) called Woodpecker.

       3D Modeler (3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Sketchup) called Hummingbird.

       Font Creator (TypeTool, FontForge) called Ibis. (This one is particularly exciting to me).

There are more, see them all here.

Cloning Basics

Photoshop Cloning

This tutorial will give you an idea of how to productively clone an object out of an image.

Some people might wonder why it is called cloning. This is because you are creating a part of the image
that was not there from other parts of the image. In this tutorial I will tell you some of the basics. Please bear with me, it is difficult to show you in detail every step without overbloating the post with images.

Level: Intermediate (can be useful for advanced Photoshop users)

Photoshop Version: CS4 (Can apply to Earlier versions up to Photoshop 6)


In this image is a bug that we are going to remove. We are going to clone it out by placing pieces of the image over it until it is gone. Each person using Photoshop will have their own way of doing this — so take note: this is my way of doing this particular action.

The first thing we want to do is to clone out the major part of the image by using a piece of the image, here we select a square part of the petal.

Next, go to [Layer->New->Layer via Copy] to copy the selected square to a new layer above the background image.
Next, drag the copied layer over the part of the bug as shown here.
Select the eraser tool and select a brush with a very blurry edge.

Then erase a little bit all the way around the piece of the petal.

Next, while holding down the [Alt] key, drag the image piece to cover up different places of the bug as shown below. (Don’t worry if it goes over the edge of the petal — in the next step we will clean this up.

From the last step you will have made numerous layers when you were copying the piece to cover up the bug, now you will need to merge all of the layers above the background layer as shown here.

Once you have merged all of the layers, select the eraser tool. Select a brush with a slightly blurred edge. go around the edge of the shape with the brush, cleaning up any part where the color blured over the edge.
After that, using the clone tool, clone out the major parts of the bug that can be easilty cloned. Use a sensible brush size with a bit of blur when cloning.

Next, zoom up to the detailed part on the bottom side of the bug. Clone out the leftover parts of the bug with a small brush. You can be kind of sloppy here because we will be doing some cleanup work on this part later.

Then merge both layers as shown below.

Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool.

Select the area around the petal and the leaf.

Feather the selection with a 15 pixel radius.

Creating a realistic Photoshop flare (or Solar Flare)

Photoshop solar flare image completed

Level: Intermediate (useful for advanced users)


This is a tutorial on creating a realistic Photoshop lens flare. I have noticed lens flares being used in many designs especially in the recent years. I have figured out how to do one myself. I am not sure if this is the technique that has been used — but I have found it to work quite well for creating this effect. You can use this tutorial for any kind of flare, solar flare or light explosion.

You can use this tutorial to create many kinds of flares or light effects — all you have to do is start out with a different white object (As gone over later).

Photoshop Version: CS2 (Can apply to Earlier versions up to Photoshop 7 or versions of Photoshop with Radial Blur)


The first step is to create a new Photoshop document with a black background. It should be 5 inches by 5 inches at 300 dpi or a dpi that suits your needs.

The reason I suggest using this large of image size is so that you can reuse the flare as you need it. If your computers resources can not easily handle these steps with an image of the size I specified — reduce the DPI to 150 or even 72. I leave this up to you. (As a note though — you will have to slightly change the settings from what is shown below)

Next, create guides that show the center of the image. For an image that is 5 inches by 5 inches put a horizontal guide at 2.5 inches and then a vertical guide at 2.5 inches.

Blank black canvas

Next, create a new layer and using the eliptical marquee tool create a white circle in the center of the document as shown here.

For different flare effects you can make different shapes at this step.
Create a circle for the solar flare

Lock transparent pixels

Click on the layer with the circle you created and click the “Lock Transparent pixels” button which will allow edits only on the filled part of the layer.

The next step is to go to [Filter->Noise->Add Noise] and set the settings as shown here. (Amount: 400, Distribution: Gaussian, Monochromatic: selected)

Add noise to the circle

Next, click the “Lock transparent pixels” button again to unlock the layers transparent pixels.

Next go to [Filter->Blur->Radial Blur] and enter the settings as shown here. If your computer does not have a lot of RAM or is very slow — choose the “Good” option under “Quality”.

Next apply radial blur 10 more times by pressing [Control/Command + “F”] or by going to [Filter->Blur->Radial Blur] and applying the filter that many times.

You will start to get the looks of a flare here. After this there are still a few steps to get to the finish. Any steps from here can be altered to create your own style or color of flare.

Next, create a new layer and create a small circle of white using the elliptical marquee tool.

Then use [Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur] and use the settings as shown here. This is what creates the bright light in the center of the flare.

Next, select the top layer and then at the bottom of the layers palette there is a button called “Create new fill or adjustment layer”. click this and then click “Hue/Saturation”.

This will add a new adjustment layer which will allow you to adjust the color of the flare without permanently affecting it.

Apply the settings as shown here (Hue: 211, Saturation: 52, Lightness: 0).

You can play with the settings to get a desired flare color or brightness.

The final file will look like this.

For the expert: You can put this flare into other images by deleting the background layer and doing a “Merge Visible Layers” which give give you an object to move to different photos.

I suggest you try different shapes at the beginning or try doing this effect with text.

I hope this tutorial is useful. Comment below if this tutorial has been helpful is or if you need additional help.

  Photoshop Solar Flare Layered File (3.3 MiB, 396 hits)