Designing Digital Assets Part 1

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In addition to my regular job as a textile & graphic designer, I create digital asset packs and sell them online.

Designing digital assets is fun but time consuming. There are a lot of steps in the process, and many hours of work go into making them. In this blog series, I'll go over my process for creating digital assets.

This is part 1 - inspiration & painting.

Digital Assets pt. 1 blog post graphic.jpg

Digital assets are typically packs of JPG and PNG files in coordinating themes. They are used by designers to create stationery, web designs, scrapbook layouts - all kinds of things. Packs can range from small sets with a dozen elements to large sets with 100 or more elements. They typically have a variety of elements in them such as individual motifs, repeating patterns, digital papers, textures, and sometimes text elements.

Here's a set I'm selling on Creative Market as an example  -

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I love just going on Creative Market and looking at all the sets people are making. There are some super talented artists on there! Here's one of my favorites - she makes really dreamy watercolor sets. 

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As you can see, there are individual flower and leaves, textures, wreathes and frames, and different arrangements. It's pretty imperative to spend a lot of time designing lovely display images, as well as the actual assets. They serve to entice a buyer, to demonstrate all the uses for the pack and show off the value. But that comes later!  There's a lot that comes before making the presentation images.

It’s important that an asset pack has a strong theme, including colors. The goal of using an asset pack is to easily make projects that look professional and well designed - such as a logo and matching business card, or a suite of stationery.

People who use asset packs range from professional graphic designers to hobbyists - asset packs are basically plug and play design, so you don’t need to be an artist to make artistic designs. They are used in graphics software such as Photoshop or Canva.

My asset packs usually start with an inspiration found in nature. The one I’m working on right now is inspired by these lovely Ranunculas that I got at the Farmer’s Market last weekend. I love these flowers - they are like a mix of a rose and a peony. The colors are very vibrant and the petals have a full and ruffly look that’s very appealing.

For this asset pack, I decided to use the pink and white ones as inspo. I want this set to have a soft, spring floral vibe - I envision it being used on wedding stationery.

The first step was to paint the watercolor flowers. I like to paint them fairly large - that way, I can fit in a lot of detail. I will scan the paintings at work, where we have a large format scanner.

I like to start with a light pencil sketch before painting. Sometimes I have real flowers to sketch, and sometimes I use images from my phone. I am always snapping pictures of flowers on my walks!

I painted a variety of sizes and positions for the flowers, and made sure to make some extra stems and leaves as well. This way, I can combine them in different ways digitally to make bouquets, wreaths, and garlands.

Painting with watercolors can be tricky, but it’s fun to do. The key is to start with the lightest layers first, and allow them to dry. I like to add a lot of water so that the color pigment makes “blooms” for that distinctive ethereal watercolor look.

Then I add layers of darker and brighter paint to build up the petal shapes - the darkest colors go last. If I get impatient, I dry them with a hair dryer.

Painting the elements is just the first step! These flowers took me 2 days after work to complete.

The next step will be to scan and prepare the files digitally. I’ll go over my process for cleaning up the flowers and cutting them out in Photoshop next week.

Have any questions about creating digital asset packs? Feel free to ask me about it in comments!