Five essential design sites

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When it comes to working on creative projects, even professional designers need a little help now and then. There's no shortage of Web sites they can turn to for visual inspiration and advice. And, for the most part, civilians like me can take advantage of those very same resources. Whether I need specific technical instruction or just some good ideas, these five sites are where I turn to first.

Planet Photoshop

If I'm looking to spiff up some ordinary-looking photographs, I mouse over to Planet Photoshop. This site features an abundance of tutorials that'll help you fix problem shots or make your photos more vibrant. While Planet Photoshop is sponsored by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, you don’t have to be a member to take advantage of all the cool stuff on this site. Expertly designed, this site is chock full of news, reviews, how-tos, and links to related resources.

Digital Photography Review

If you want to know everything about nearly any digital camera in existence, go here. Its vast database of current and historical cameras is amazing. The site is not limited to the high-end, either; it includes nearly every vendor, and covers point-and-shoots, compacts, DSLRs, and lenses. DPR supplies manufacturers' press release, complete data specifications, prices, detailed photos, and independent reviews. The site is well-designed and written in a conversational style. Despite its rich depth of information, it usually takes no more than a couple of clicks to find just about anything. The site features forums, how-tos, a glossary, sample images taken with cameras reviewed on the site, and more.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is the ultimate Web designer’s companion. If you are an experienced designer or developer or just researching a specific topic, this site has more than enough information and variety to keep you engaged. The site mixes inspiration with technical information covering all aspects of Web design, program-based tips and tricks, coding tutorials, professional advice, plus all the icons, graphics, wallpapers, themes, photos, and fonts you could ever want.

Lynda. com

I’ve been a fangrrl of (and the author Lynda Weinman) since I used her first book, Designing Web Graphics, to help build my first Web site. Today, is the go-to place for online tutorials on a vast number of creative and technical applications, from 3ds Max to WordPress. Lynda. com packages all that withing a smartly organized front-end that’s easy to use and search: Four main pull-down menus let you search the online training video library by subject, software, vendor, or author. Learning packages are available at a variety of price-points, and there are plenty of free videos and other resources are available as well.

i love typography

What would a designer be without fonts? Whenever I need help with type, I head to i love typography, an inviting blog that covers all aspects of the subject. How-tos include making fonts and choosing fonts; there’s coverage of the Arial vs. Helvetica controversy. The site’s links are deep and complete, with connections to plenty of font-centric resources and sites where you can download and buy fonts. The fresh, clean layout and well-rounded perspective keep it continually interesting and accessible.

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