How to Create Unique Paint Effects With Watercolour and Gouache

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

I love the unpredictability of watercolour and gouache, and in this tutorial I will introduce you to the materials I use while painting and the effect they have on the paints I use.

Why Use Paint Effects?

is fun. Part of that fun is experimenting, and part of that experimentation
is not knowing what is going to happen with a painting as you work on it. I find
all of this very exciting.

Texture adds a great deal of interest to a painting,
and watching someone walk up close to one of my pieces because they want to see what I have done more
clearly is thrilling.

What You Will Need

imagination. Anything goes—you just need your usual paper and paint and patience to see if your ideas work. 

Here are just some of the things I’ve been known to use in my paintings:

  • silicone
  • alcohol
  • salt
  • bleach
  • thread
  • clingfilm
  • gesso

An example of some of the items I use in my paintings

Water-Based Effects

Like every artist, I use plain water with my watercolour and gouache, but you don’t have to do that all the time. I like to add a few things to it, resulting in different appearances. Below is a mix of watercolour and gouache with just plain tap water.

Plain water

All the examples below are of a water mix put down
on clean paper and then adding the paint in after.

1. Water Plus Salt

If I sprinkle a good helping of salt in my water, swirling it until it has dissolved, the paint spreads more and becomes granular.

Water plus salt

2. Water Plus Bleach

I love this effect. The colours are so soft, and they feather at the edges. Experiment with how much bleach you mix into your water—it’s up to you, of course.

Water plus bleach

3. Water Plus Alcohol

I use either vodka (I’m a non-drinker, so I don’t have any qualms about using it to paint with) or rubbing alcohol (bought online) for this. The alcohol puts a stop to the spreading of my paint. 

Water plus alcohol


Depending on where you are from, you may call this stuff something different—cellophane, cling wrap, or saran wrap are all different names
for what I know as clingfilm. But it all does the same thing with watercolour
and gouache.

Lay down your paint first, and while it is wet,
place a strip of clingfilm on top. I move it around to get the patterns and
shapes I want, and to get the direction I want them to be moving in.


When the paint is dry, lift the clingfilm and you will be left with this…

Clingfilm - the result

I leave the dried paint and clingfilm and feed a new, more watery colour down inside
while moving my paper at different angles, forcing the paint to spread about as
it desires. I then wait until this is dry before lifting the clingfilm.


Gesso is wonderful. It can be watered down to any consistency you prefer. I like painting it onto my paper and leaving the brush strokes in it. When it’s dry, it is easy to paint over and scrape into (using a knife, nail, or pin), and it dries quickly.


You can also build it up into shapes you want (below), and if you make a huge mistake with something you are working on, you can use gesso to paint over it and start again.

Gesso snodrops


A lot of watercolour artists swear by this, but I have to admit I find it a bit hit or miss (it just means I get to do more experimenting). The effects can be spectacular, but I find that although I do get a 2D texture, it isn’t enough for me. I thought I should include it, though, because you may have more luck. I may have to look at the type of paper I use—I prefer to use rough, but smooth may work better. However, I have found that the type of salt does make a difference. I sprinkle the salt onto wet watercolour, and it does its magic as it dries.

This is what dried paint looks like without salt…

Paint without salt

1. Table Salt

This tends to be the least successful as I find the grains are too fine.

Wait until the paint is dry before brushing off the salt. Some is likely to remain stuck to your paper, though.

Table salt

You will end up with a slightly granulated effect and an uneven spread of colour, but that’s what I tend to be looking for when I use salt.

Table salt dried

2. Flaked Salt

Flaked salt

This works better than table salt, and is easier to remove when it dries.

Flaked salt dried

3. Rock Salt

My favourite. It soaks up the colour, leaving little star effects in the dried paint, and it’s easily removed.

Rock salt

Just be patient when letting it dry as shaking it off your painting too early could leave you with wet paint trails where the salt has moved.

Rock salt dried


I use this as pure bleach or watered down. I sprinkle it or paint it into my work. I use it on wet paint or dry. Something always happens, and the higher the concentration of the bleach, the more colour you lose. It’s smelly but exciting stuff. Just be careful not to splash it on your clothes.

Below is bleach dropped onto dry paint. I have used pure bleach here, without watering it down. 

Bleach dropped onto dry paint

Below is bleach dropped onto wet paint—there is more of a spread into the colour.

Bleach dropped onto wet paint


It’s not all about what you can add to your paint. Sometimes, just blowing and manipulating the directions you blow your paint in makes all the difference. You can also change the angle of your board, tilting it as you work to move the paint around your paper.

Blowing your paint around your paper works too

Crackle Glaze

I rather like this one. It dries clear, so it can be painted on top of what you have already done and can also be painted over.

Crackle glaze painted over

Or you can rub into it, leaving a different colour in the cracks (below), and wiping off the excess on top, which allows the colour underneath to shine through.

Crackle glaze with paint rubbed into the cracks

PVA Glue

You can use this in a couple of ways. There’s the obvious use as, well, glue, sticking papers and whatever else you wish to your work. I tend to thin it a bit with water when I do this as I use tissue or handmade paper that I can manipulate into the shapes that I want, like trees. It is then easy to paint on top of.

Tissue paper trees

And then there is the option of mixing the glue directly into the paint. It gives it a soft sheen when it’s dry…

PVA mixed with watercolour

… but it is not easy to paint on top of. I like the effect, though.

Painting on top of PVA

You can also mix sand into the glue for added texture—I’ve circled the effect below. In this example, I then did a thin coat of gesso on top, which allowed me to add paint without any problems. You could add sand to the gesso too.

PVA mixed with sand


You can either just drop the thread directly onto your paper or lay down a layer of paint first. The thread can be dipped in paint before placing it on paper or dabbed with paint after putting it on your paper. Or both.


Wait until the paint is dry and then lift the thread off. You can also use straw or hair for this.

Thread effect


There are so many ways you can do this. Use a small brush, a large one, or a toothbrush. Splash onto dry paint, splash onto wet paint, or onto just water (or water with bleach, salt, or alcohol in it). Bang on the side of your brush’s handle, or flick the loaded brush bristles themselves. Hold your brush high or very low, near to the paper. Whatever you do, the result always looks good.



I’ve only just started to experiment with this, so who knows what I’ll discover over the next while. Just make sure you wash your brush thoroughly with soap and water after use.

Here, the image above is split into two. I put down a layer of silicone, and on the left, I painted into it while it was still wet. The right was painted when the silicone dried.

Granulation Medium

I use granulation medium straight from the bottle instead of water. I mix it into my watercolour (it doesn’t work with gouache) as I paint and angle my board, moving the paint around my paper. It breaks the pigment into tiny granules, giving added texture. It’s wonderful layered on top of contrasting colours.

Granulation medium


As I write this, I am coming up with all sorts of ideas I haven’t yet tried or noting down ideas for future experimentation. What if I watered down silicone and used that as a water mix? Or what if I try mixing colour directly into the silicone? I need to try painting with pure alcohol and not mixing it with any water.

Your ideas may not always work, but the ones that do will be a wonderful surprise and make experimenting more than worthwhile. You are only limited by your own imagination.

20 Creative Free Christmas Labels to Download

This holidays you can create postcards, flyers, invitations, and gift tags yourself. Just use these fantastic Christmas labels we have collected for you. This way you can add a personal handmade touch to your gifts and cards. Besides, it will help you to save money.

These incredible free Christmas labels can be downloaded, print and used for your postcard or gift tags. Here you’ll see Christmas labels with various decorations, snowflakes, trees, stickers, bells, and flowers. Just scroll down and choose which one you like.

1. Beautiful Christmas Label Set


2. Free Christmas Vector Labels


3. Typographic Christmas Label Set


4. Pack of elegant christmas stickers


5. Christmas logo collection


6. Cute Hand Drawn Christmas Labels


7. Merry Christmas Background


8. Hand Drawn Marker Pen Style Christmas Labels


9. Merry Christmas Greeting Labels


10. Creative christmas tree design made with dots background


11. Free Vintage Hand Drawn Christmas Ball With Lettering


12. Free Vintage Hand Drawn Christmas Card Background


13. Christmas Chalkboard Labels


14. Ornamental Merry Christmas Template


15. Christmas Vector Badges And Labels


16. Free Vector Christmas Floral Background


17. Free Vector Christmas Tree


18. Free Vector Christmas Bell


19. Retro Merry Christmas Illustration


20. Free Christmas Deer Vector


Art History: Expressionism and Modern Pop Art

The Scream by Edward Munch
The Scream by Edvard Munch

In this final edition of our Art History series, we bring you the origin of modern art. Discover the artists behind today’s great design.

Expressionism and Modern Pop Art

There is closure in expression. Laughter in expression. Love and misery in expression. And we need it all.

We have collected colorful reflections of people’s thoughts throughout time, all the while learning to do better—well, at least sometimes. Art shows us that we still can.

The industrial world rapidly grew, and so did the cities of Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A modernist movement, as it was called, swept through with varying styles that rebelled against the romanticism of earlier art.

In turn, artists used simplified shapes and created new mediums to express their innermost reflections. These expressions would become some of the greatest contributions to our modern design world today.

Let’s take a look at a few of the influential artists from this period.

Edvard Munch

Walking through the streets with his friends one night, Edvard Munch panicked as he saw the sky turn red. His accounts of that night, later noted as possibly the eruption of Krakatoa, inspired one of the most famous works of modern expressionism.

But perhaps The Scream was just about love.

Anxiety by Edvard Munch
Anxiety by Edvard Munch

Edvard said,

“You know my picture, ‘The Scream?’ I was stretched to the limit—nature
was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope of ever being able
to love again.”

What we call modern art was a brother expressing sorrow after the death of his sister. Like many artists, Edvard used his creativity as a cathartic way to deal with some of the harsh realities of life. Edvard would continue to mourn his loss with The Sick Child and other work.

The Sick Child by Edvard Munich
The Sick Child by Edvard Munch

Always incredibly personal, his style used simple lines and textural brush strokes to translate the emotions of that moment.

“I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of Man’s urge to open his heart.”

Edvard explored many more topics throughout his work, including anxiety and the different stages of life. He continued to open his heart in his later years, as he painted while living in solitude in Norway.

Munch Museum Oslo
Munch Museum, Oslo

Piet Mondrian

One of the pioneers of abstract art, Piet Mondrian changed the direction of traditional art. While most artists still specialized in figurative painting, Mondrian’s taste for bold shapes and simplified lines set him apart from others.

When describing his work, he said:

“I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness.”

Composition II in Red Blue and Yellow 1930 by Piet Mondrian
Composition II in Red Blue and Yellow 1930 by Piet Mondrian

Piet loved shape and form so much so that he became incredibly influenced by other art movements like Impressionism, Cubism, and Fauvism. These styles showed him that he could isolate certain
moments in nature and represent them with abstracted colors.

And after relocating to Paris during the early 20th century, Piet just did that. His paintings grew to large compositions of intersecting lines and colors.

Composition 10 by PIet Mondrian
Composition 10 by PIet Mondrian

Piet worked diligently on his colorful creations, often until his hands bled or until he cried from exhaustion. During the later years of his work, he explored depth of perception by layering blocks of color on top of one another.

A change from his usual black linear style, these lively paintings allowed Piet to express his love of music. His work would go on to inspire artists in all mediums, from fashion to graphic design.

Victory Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian
Victory Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian

Eduardo Paolozzi

Eduardo Paolozzi was one of the first artists to write the word “pop” in his work. Now it’s a favored description for many modern designers.

He made his innovative work pop with abstract sculptures and unique compositions of collages and more. Inspired by his love of Surrealism, Eduardo wanted to explore the many ways that humans have been affected by uncontrollable forces.

Head of Invention by Eduardo Paolozzi
Head of Invention by Eduardo Paolozzi

Paolozzi’s fascination for the way things work, particularly the human body and machinery, crossed over into his art. In an effort to learn as much as he possibly could about the world, he filled his workshop with objects of all kinds, including toys and mosaic pieces.

“I like to make use of everything. Sometimes I feel like a wizard in Toytown, transforming a bunch of carrots into pomegranates.”

Mosaic by Eduardo Paolozzi
Mosaic by Eduardo Paolozzi

He continued his work with a drive for exploring new mediums and modes of expression. Among some of his most famous pieces is a statue of Isaac Newton, which explores how important mathematics have become to modern life.

Statue of Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi
Statue of Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

Andy Warhol

When you think of pop art, you think of Andy Warhol. An American artist, director and producer, Warhol’s work became a cultural phenomenon during the 1960s for his incredible commercial and advertisement pieces.

Though he worked with many styles and media, some of his most famous pieces include the iconic silkscreen paintings of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhold
Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol

The Marilyn Diptych, as it was called, contains 50 images of Marilyn’s face. Twenty-five images on the left side are brightly colored, while the other 25 remain in black and white.

All of the images of the iconic actress were based on a single publicity photo from the movie Niagara. This piece alone would not only inspire many but also become a point of reference for many artists for years to come.

Campbell Soup Cans by Andy Warhol
Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol

Also among his famous pieces are Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. This collection of 32 canvases consists of all the flavor varieties available at that time.

Warhol openly embraced consumerism. Some of his work
included a collection of paintings dedicated to iconic American objects. From Coca Cola bottles to dollar bills, Warhol unleashed his creativity despite the criticism of naysayers.

Campbell Soup Cans by Andy Warhol
Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol

Warhol continued to develop various techniques for creating and manipulating art. He later transitioned into film-making as a director of films like Sleep and more.


Are you ready to help us change the next 100 years of art and design? These modern times show us that it is possible to create change, especially when creativity is our best asset. And I hope you continue to learn more about these
amazing timelines on your own.

For more stories about Expressionism and Modern Pop Art, dive into the links below for further reading.

All of the images used are for educational purposes. The following sources were also included in this article:

Art for All: Celebrate Diversity in Design—Volume 4

Welcome back to our Diversity in Design series on Envato Tuts+. Discover four talented artists with inspiring styles you’ll love.

4 Artists You Should Know: Diversity in Design

Celebrate the work of these extraordinary artists. Each with their own unique
background, they draw inspiration from their culture and surroundings to create phenomenal illustrations.

Ndumiso Nyoni

Ndumiso is a motion graphic designer from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Film and design are his passion, and Ndumiso’s work features Afrocentric illustrations with brilliant colors and geometry. See more in his portfolio, or follow him on Instagram @ndumiso_nyoni

X-Men: Storm

I’m a Johannesburg based Illustrator and Motion Designer and I make contemporary African art. My art is a combination of vector
illustration, bold line work with vibrant colors and a touch of light
and shadow effects.

X-Men Storm by Ndumiso Nyoni
X-Men: Storm

After Midnight

Almost all my work is inspired by Africa and its beautiful people.
It is a continent that is filled with rich textures, bold colors,
carefully crafted shapes and diverse cultures. My goal is to celebrate
Africa with each artwork and portray it as the positive, fertile and
vibrant continent we know and live in.

After Midnight by Ndumiso Nyoni
After Midnight

Nomaqhawe (Mother of Heroes)

Nomaqhawe Mother of Heroes by Ndumiso Nyoni
Nomaqhawe (Mother of Heroes)

I Am Not My Hair

I’m a huge fan of traditional Ndebele patterns, so naturally Esther
Mahlangu’s work has inspired a lot of my art. I learnt about Bauhaus at
university and that has also influenced how I conceptualize my art. Some of my favourite artists include Esther Mahlangu, Malika Farve and
Gerard Sekoto.

I Am Not My Hair by Ndumiso Nyoni
I Am Not My Hair

Joanne Nam

Joanne is a fine artist and painter living in LA.

Her paintings are dreamy and ethereal, featuring scenes that pull you in with incredible little moments. See more in her portfolio, and support her work on Pateron @joannenam.


I was born in Korea and moved to America in my teens. I’m currently based in Los Angeles, and I love to paint based on
my experiences and emotions.

Floe by Joanne Nam


My inspiration comes from my
childhood. I used to live in a forest so it was an interesting subject
to daydream from time to time.

Current life experiences and relationships
between people and myself change the mood of my art. Even a cup of tea
changes my mood and it affects my art.

Buttery by Joanne Nam


Fate by Joanne Nam

The Dream

As I grow as an artist, I’ve
learned how to control my emotions and energy. I sometimes do certain
things to change my mood when I paint.

For example, I go to the gym to put confident bold brush strokes in my paintings. Then I listen to
delicate music to dig into the details.

The Dream by Joanne Nam
The Dream

Alex Herrerías

Our next artist is Alex, a children’s book illustrator living in Mexico.

He tells inspiring stories of triumph and tradition, and his work features lovely illustrations with mythological themes and more. See more in his portfolio, or follow him on Instagram @alexherreriasilustrador

El Aprendizaje – The learning

I am a professor at the School of Arts
and Design of Unam and I have become a father for the first time this year. My work is currently published in different parts of the world.

El aprendizaje by Alex Herreras
El aprendizaje – The learning

El Hombre Que Nunca Reía

I am working on my own graphic novel and I enjoy every project I do. I try to create a very comfortable work environment, with music, coffee and lots of sunlight.

El Hombre Que Nunca Rea by Alex Herreras
El Hombre Que Nunca Reía

Tú Eliges

Tu Eliges by Alex Herreras
Tú Eliges

The Surfing Luchador

Drawing in my notebook is of the utmost importance, I try to be very dynamic and honest with each idea.

For my process, I read books, see references and listen to music concerning it. Each illustrated project brings me a lot of personal learning.
Then I
draw the first ideas in my notebook and a larger final sketch before I send it to the client. The tools I use are usually: a pencil, notebooks, a Wacom Intuos and Adobe Photoshop.

The Surfing Luchador
The Surfing Luchador

Yifan Wu

Yifan is an editorial illustrator living in Baltimore, Maryland.

Her work is unique and profound, with beautiful subjects that will make you think. See more in her portfolio, and follow her on Instagram @icyfeetpie.

Let the Moonlight Soothe Your Soul

I am a visual artist and storyteller. I enjoy nature, funk, indie rock, dancing, reading and intellectual conversations.

Let the Moonlight Soothe Your Soul by Yifan Wu
Let the Moonlight Soothe Your Soul

Watercolor – What Is Reading to Me

A lot of my work is inspired by nature, life and fantasy stories.
There are also other pieces that express my quirky sense of humor and

Conceptually, I
get inspired from Kafka’s novels, 60s Polish animations, and illustrators
who do brilliant conceptual work like Saul Steinberg and Roland Tapor.

Watercolor - What Is Reading to Me by Yifan Wu
Watercolor – What Is Reading to Me


Boating by Yifan Wu

Respect Pussy

Making art is my way to escape from nihilism and connect to the world by raising questions for my audience to think. I believe that artists
should take on the responsibility of providing a clearer and deeper
insight into the world.

Respect Pussy by Yifan Wu
Respect Pussy

Celebrate Diversity! Send Us Your Favorite Artists!

Help us find more incredible artists from different backgrounds to share with our audience! Tweet me your recommendations at MelloNieves or use the hashtags #artforall and #tutsplusdesign on Twitter and Instagram. You never know, we may just feature you in our next article!

I’d like to extend a warm thank you to all the artists who participated in
this feature. Feel free to see more of their work in the links below:

Photoshop in 60 Seconds: RGB vs. CMYK

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Learn essential design terms in under a minute! Check out the quick video below.

Photoshop in 60 Seconds: RGB vs. CMYK

Learning color modes is essential for understanding design. In this video, I’ll discuss the main differences between RGB and CMYK, what they stand for, and how to change the color mode in Adobe Photoshop.

How to Change the Color Mode in Photoshop

RGB and CMYK are both acronyms to describe color. These colors are what we see on our screens and on printed work.


CMYK, or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, comes from the days of the early printing presses where colors were applied in single, consecutive layers that were then left to dry until the print was complete. Today, it’s considered a standard design mode since it’s still used by professional printers.

CMYK RGB comparison
Comparing how RGB (1) and CMYK (2) modes affect the colors in your work.


RGB stands for red, green, and blue. RGB refers to the colored light on our computer monitors that displays everything we see. With millions of colors available, you can achieve way more artistically.

To change the Color Mode in Photoshop from RGB to CMYK:

First, Merge all the layers.

Then go to Image > Mode and select CMYK. Save your file in a high-resolution format or talk with your printer for more help.

CMYK Color Mode

Learn More With Our Tutorials!

Inspired to learn more design essentials? Start with one of our
tutorials! Continue to grow your skills over time while developing
amazing patience.

Get Amazing Design Resources

Want to create videos like this? Download the resources used in this video:

Check out these tutorials to learn more from our experts:

How to Create an Illustration With the Pantone Color of the Year 2018

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Every year, Pantone sets out on a mission to find a color worthy of carrying the title of “Color of the Year”. For 2018, the color is Ultra Violet, which is a beautiful blue-based purple that we’re going to be using ourselves to create this minimalist illustration.

As always, we’re going to be using some basic geometric shapes combined with some of Adobe Illustrator’s most basic tools.

You can always expand the project by heading over to GraphicRiver, where you’ll find a great selection of paint-themed assets.

 So assuming you’ve grabbed a fresh cup of that hot cocoa, let’s get started!

1. What Are Pantone Colors?

If you’ve been dabbling in the world of design for some time, this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard the term, but have you ever taken a moment and wondered what it actually means? Well, according to Pantone LLC, the term is defined as a “standardized color matching system” used by graphic designers in order to ease the process of identifying and cross-matching colors within different printing systems.

The way this is done is by creating Pantone color swatches, which are individually defined by a unique naming system that uses a numeric indicator (the number of the color—Pantone Red 032), followed by a suffix indicative of the type of paper stock on which it is meant to be printed (C for coated, U for uncoated, M for matte).

This way, designers can easily identify and reproduce exactly the same color, ensuring that the design maintains its original values from start to finish.

In the case of Ultra Violet, you might notice that we have a different suffix, “TCX”, which stands for Textile Paper Edition.

2. The Queen of 2018: Pantone 18-3838 TCX

Every time the calendar grows older, the people at Pantone take the time and energy to give a new color the title of “Color of the Year”, explaining not only the reasons behind their choice but also the values and message carried by it.

2017: Greenery

In 2017, that position was filled by Pantone 15-0343 (Greenery), which was a fresh yellow-green shade evocative of the first days of spring.

greenery example

2016: Rose Quartz & Serenity

In 2016, for the first time we had not one but two shades to carry the title, Pantone 13-1520 (Rose Quartz) and Pantone 15-3919 (Serenity), meant to “psychologically fulfill our yearning of reassurance and security”.

rose quartz and serenity example

2015: Marsala

2015 was the year of Pantone 18-1438 (Marsala), which was described as a seductive red-brown shade, meant to draw us into its embracing warmth.

marsala example

2018: Ultra Violet

For 2018, the color is Pantone 18-3838 TCX, or Ultra Violet, which is a beautiful, provocative value meant to suggest “the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now”.

ultra violet example

As Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, puts it:

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level”.

And I do have to agree—the color does present itself as a symbol for experimentation and non-conformity, historically having been worn by unconventional artists such as Prince, David Bowie, and the brilliant Jimi Hendrix.

That being the case, I thought it would be a great idea to put our creativity to work by doing this minimalist project, where we’re going to play with this beautiful color.

3. How to Set Up a New Project File

Assuming you already have Illustrator up
and running in the background, bring it up and let’s set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N)
for our project using the following settings:

  • Number
    of Artboards:
  • Width:
  • Height:
  • Units:

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color
  • Raster
    Screen (72ppi)
  • Preview Mode: Default
setting up a new document

Quick tip: Now, as I pointed out a few moments ago, the Pantone Color system is mainly used for print, which of course uses a CMYK color space, so you might be wondering why we set our Color Mode to RGB. Well, usually when you attempt to use a CMYK-created color within an RGB document, you’ll notice obvious shifts between the two. Normally you would have to approximate the color using an intricate guide, but luckily for us, Pantone has put together an online color finder that gives you the RGB and Hex values for all of its colors, including Ultra Violet

4. How to Set Up a Custom Grid

Even though today’s project is not an icon-based one, we’ll still want to create the illustration using a pixel-perfect
workflow, so let’s set up a nice little grid so that we can have full control
over our shapes.

Step 1

Go to the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and adjust
the following settings:

  • Gridline
    1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1
setting up a custom grid

Quick tip: you can learn more
about grids by reading this in-depth piece on How Illustrator’s Grid System Works.

Step 2

Once we’ve set up our custom grid, all we
need to do in order to make sure our shapes look crisp is enable the Snap to Grid option found under the View menu (that’s if you’re using an
older version of Illustrator).

Now, if you’re new to
the whole “pixel-perfect workflow”, I strongly recommend you go through my How
to Create Pixel-Perfect Artwork
tutorial, which will help you widen your
technical skills in no time.

5. How to Create the Paint Stroke

We’re going to kick things off by creating
the paint stroke created by the roller, so assuming you’ve already set up the custom grid, let’s get started!

Step 1

Create a 96 x 240 px rectangle
which we will color using ultra violet (#5F4B8B) and then center align to the
underlying Artboard, making sure to
position it at a distance of 196 px from
its left edge.

creating the main shape for the paint stroke

Step 2

Start working on the paint drips by creating a 4 x 12 px rectangle (#5F4B8B), which we will position at a distance
of 64 px from the larger shape’s
bottom-right corner.

creating the smaller section of the first paint drip

Step 3

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by setting the Radius of its bottom corners to 2 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties.

adjusting the smaller section of the first paint drip

Step 4

Add the taller drip using a 4 x
28 px
rectangle (#5F4B8B) with a 2
bottom corner Radius, which
we will position on the right side of the previously adjusted shape, at a
distance of just 4 px.

adding the taller section to the first paint drip

Step 5

Create the center section using a 4 x 8 px rectangle (#5F4B8B), which we
will position as seen in the reference image.

adding the middle section to the first paint drip

Step 6

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by removing a 4
x 4 px
circle (highlighted with red) from its bottom edge using Pathfinder’s Minus Front Shape Mode.

adjusting the middle section of the first paint drip

Step 7

Add the side sections using two 4
x 4 px
squares (#5F4B8B), from the bottom of which we will remove a 4 x 4 px circle, positioning the
resulting shapes as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and
group all five shapes together using the Control-G
keyboard shortcut.

adding the side sections to the first paint drip

Step 8

Add the second paint drip using a 4
x 16 px
rectangle (#5F4B8B) with a 2
bottom corner Radius as your
starting point. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all three shapes together before moving on to the next

adding the second paint drip

Step 9

Create the paint stroke’s darker section using a 4 x 96 px rectangle, which we will color using #332B4B and then
position on the right side of the larger shape. Once you’re done, select and
group (Control-G) all of the current
section’s composing shapes before moving on to the next one.

adding the darker section to the paint stroke

6. How to Create the Paint Roller

As soon as we’ve finished working on
the paint stroke, we can start working on the roller, which as you’ll see is
really easy to create.

Step 1

Create the sponge using a 32 x
112 px
rectangle, which we will color using a complementary orange (#F7CB7F),
and then position on the right side of the paint stroke as seen in the
reference image.

creating the main shape for the sponge

Step 2

Add the paint using a 32 x 96 px rectangle (#5F4B8B), which we will center align to the previously created shape,
selecting and grouping the two together afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the paint to the sponge

Step 3

Start working on the roller’s handle by
creating its guard using an 8 x 24 px rectangle
(#F7CB7F), which we will position at a distance of 64 px from the sponge’s right edge.

creating the guard for the handle

Step 4

Add the actual handle using a 52 x 16 px rectangle (#F7CB7F), which we
will position on the right side of the previously created shape.

adding the main shape for the handle

Step 5

Create the rear end section using a smaller 8 x 8 px square, which we will color
using ultra violet (#332B4B) and then position as seen in the reference image.

adding the rear end to the handle

Step 6

Separate the guard from the handle using a hard shadow, which we will
create using an 8 x 16 px rectangle
(#332B4B), which we will adjust by selecting its top-right anchor point using
the Direct Selection Tool (A), and
then pushing it to the left side by 4 px using the Move tool
(right click > Transform > Move
> Horizontal > -4 px

adding the hard shadow to the handle

Step 7

Add the vertical grip lines using three 4 x 16 px rectangles (#332B4B), which
we will horizontally distribute 4 px from
one another, grouping (Control-G)
and then positioning them 4
from the shadow that we’ve just created.

adding the vertical grip lines to the handle

Step 8

Finish off the handle by adding the little
insertion point using a 4 x 4 px circle
(#332B4B), which we will position at a distance of 4 px from the center of its right edge. Once you’re done, select
and group (Control-G) all its
composing shapes before moving on to the next step.

adding the circular insertion to the handle

Step 9

Start working on the roller’s arm by creating
the main shape for its lower section using an 8 x 8 px square, which we will color using #5F4B8B and then
position on the left side of the guard.

creating the lower section of the arm

Step 10

Select the Pen
Tool (P)
and, using an 8 px thick
Stroke (#332B4B) with a Round Join, draw the arm’s main body, following the reference image
as your main guide. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next

drawing the arm

Step 11

Finish off the arm, and with it the project
itself, by adding the left segment using an 8 x 8 px square (#332B4B), which we will position on the opposite
side of the sponge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the paint roller’s composing sections, doing the
same for the entire illustration afterwards.

finishing off the illustration

Awesome Work! You’re Done!

There you have it, fellow Pantone lovers, a nice and easy tutorial on how to
create a cute illustration using the hottest color of 2018.

As always, I hope you’ve had fun working on the project and most
importantly managed to learn something new and useful along the way.

That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing
your final results, and if you have any questions, please post them within the comments
area and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

End Result

If you’re looking for more Pantone and color resources here on Envato Tuts+, why not check out the following awesome tutorials:

How to Create a Polar Bear Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Once upon a time in the frozen Arctic lived a polar bear. He was standing alone on a glacier, waiting for fish…

Today, you are going to learn how to create this animal in Adobe Illustrator. If you want more inspiration, then check out GraphicRiver. You will see tons of amazing images of polar bears

Some images there might look complicated, but here, I will show you how to create a polar bear using basic shapes. We will also use Warp effects and the Pen Tool. To use the Pen Tool and not have to worry, we’ll use the Smart Guides, which will help us.

Let’s get started!

1. How to Create the Scenery

Step 1

After opening a new document (850 x 850 px Width and Height), we will start by creating the background. Let’s create a blue square: hit the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard. Enter Height and Width 850 px, and press OK. Set its fill color as shown in the image below.

creating the background

Step 2

Next, we will add a darker blue rectangle on the bottom part of the image. Select the background and create a copy in front: press Control-C and then Control-F. Then, using the Selection Tool (V), narrow it down. Change the fill color. This will be the ice-cold ocean!

creating the ocean

Step 3

Now we will create an image of mountains. To start our mountain, we will use the Pen Tool (P). Select the Pen Tool (P) and set any stroke color you want and no fill color. We will change the color later on, so go ahead and choose any stroke color to start with.

Now, simply start to click on your artboard. You will see that the points will be connected by a line.

drawing the mountains

Once you reach the beginning of this shape (the first anchor point), you will see that there is a small circle there, near the Pen Tool (L). Now click on the first anchor point, while you still see this circle, to close up your shape. If you have never used this tool before, then I would recommend messing around with it first just to see how it works.

finishing drawing the mountains

As soon as you close up the shape, you can change its color to a darker blue and remove the stroke color.

changing the color of the mountains

Step 4

In this step, we will continue working on the mountain image. But first, in order to the draw the lines with more precision, we need to enable the Smart Guides. So let’s go to View > Smart Guides (Control-U). Select the Pen Tool (P) and make the lighter part of the mountain.

creating the light part of the mountains

Do the same thing with all the other mountains. Try to end up with a result similar to the one below.

continue creating the light parts of the mountains

Step 5

Using a similar technique, create another set of darker blue shapes. Make sure you have this order: light blue part, middle blue part, and then the darker blue part for each mountain.

These will be our mountains!

creating the dark parts of the mountains

Step 6

Finally, using the Pen Tool (P), create a glacier on the bottom of the image, where our bear will be standing. The Smart Guides will help you not to go beyond the boundaries of the background.

creating the glacier

Step 7

Now we will create some clouds! To do so, create a bunch of rectangles, and then place them close together. Now simply create some more clouds to finish it off.

creating the clouds

Step 8

To smooth the shape of clouds, select one and unite all of the rectangles making up the cloud by pressing the Unite button on the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). To smooth the clouds, select all of them and go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners… In a new dialogue window, enter Radius 10 px.

We just created a place for our polar bear to live!

smoothen the clouds

2. How to Create the Polar Bear

Step 1

To create the bear, we will start by forming the shape of the body. Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool, create a white rounded rectangle. To get a rounded rectangle with very rounded corners, create a small rounded rectangle first and then stretch it. Or you can go to View > Show Corner Widget and modify the corners by dragging them inside.

creating the body of the polar bear

Step 2

Now, create a smaller white rounded rectangle and attach it to the larger one on the upper left side. This is the head. To create an eye, add a dark grey or black ellipse, using the Ellipse Tool (L).

creating the head of the polar bear

Step 3

For the neck, add a white rectangle and place it between the head and the body. Next, using the Direct Selection Tool (A), move its anchor points to connect the head and body.

creating the neck of the polar bear

Step 4

Now we will add the ears. Create three ellipses—two larger and one smaller ellipse—and place them as shown below. Change the fill color of the left and middle ovals to make them a little darker. Be sure the left ear stays behind the head (Control-X, Control-B).

creating the ears of the polar bear

Step 5

For the muzzle, create another white rounded rectangle and attach it to the left side of the head.

creating the muzzle of the polar bear

Then we will deform this shape by applying the Warp Effect: go to Effect > Warp > Arc and adjust the necessary options. Expand this shape: select it and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

warping the muzzle of the polar bear

Step 6

We will create a nose from an ellipse. Create a black ellipse and, using the Direct Selection Tool (A), move the left and right anchor points up.

creating the nose of the polar bear

Attach the nose to the muzzle of our bear.

placing the nose of the polar bear

Step 7

For the tail, create another small oval. Attach it to the upper right side of the body and rotate it to the left as in the image below.

creating the tail of the polar bear

Step 8

Let’s create the bear’s legs. First, create a white rounded rectangle. Then transform it: go to Effect > Warp > Arch, and enter the options shown below. Expand this shape (Object > Expand Appearance).

creating the leg of the polar bear

Attach this leg to the body.

placing the leg of the polar bear

Step 9

For the paw, create a small white ellipse. Now we will cut away the bottom part of the ellipse. For the cutter, create a rectangle with any fill color you want. Make sure that the rectangle overlaps the bottom part of the ellipse. While keeping these two shapes selected, press the Minus Front button on the Pathfinder panel. We will end up with the top part of the ellipse.

creating the paw of the polar bear

Attach this part to the bottom of the leg as a paw. The back leg is ready!

placing the paw of the polar bear

Step 10

Make another copy of the leg and attach it to the right side of the body as a front leg.

creating another leg of the polar bear

Step 11

Now create a copy of the front and back legs behind (Control-C, Control-B). Make them darker (use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to take the same color as the darker ear) and slightly shift the legs to the left.

Make sure the new darker legs are behind the whole body.

Our bear is ready!

creating other legs of the polar bear


And you are done! Great job. I hope you get used to this tricky Pen Tool and now will use it a lot. Or maybe you know already how to use it and just had some good practice. Anyway, I’m happy that you were with me through the whole tutorial!

See you next time!

final image

30 Stunning App Icon Designs You Need to See

Creating a good app icons design is challenging. The icon is a key visual element and it’s the first thing the users interact with. It should be beautiful, memorable, detailed, and the most important, it should reflect your design style. App icons is not a logo, but it has branding purposes. App icons should be placed into a square-canvas with specific size and context.

Here we have put together 30 stunning app icon designs which you would love to see. Some of them are simple and witty while other are complex with various design elements. Which one is your favorite?

1. Children’s help center — App icon


2. Bear Icon Design


3. Gallery Doctor app Icon


4. Love and Rockets icon design


5. Balloons design icon


6. Big boys play at night icon


7. Red Hills App Icon


8. Scary stories app icon


9. Teepee App Icon


10. Hatch app icon


11. New fork app icon design


12. Bag app icon design


13. Icon for Music Video


14. Monster Trucks Icon


15. Loose Leaf app icon


16. Electric range app icon


17. Cinnamon Roll App Icon


18. Pastry Icon


19. Pancakes App Icon


20. Electrics Old Fashioned Hot Dogs Icon


21. Egg icon design


22. Fried Egg Icon


23. Pizza app Icon


24. Bacon app icon


25. Krispy Kreme Icon Concept


26. Heineken Icon design


27. Heinz Ketchup Icon Design


28. Jack O’ Lantern icon design


29. Boxing glove app icon design


30. Oreo app icon design


How to Create a Typographic Valentine’s Card in Adobe InDesign

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Looking to impress someone this Valentine’s Day? This quirky letterpress-inspired card has an air of old-fashioned romance which is hard to resist. This is a great tutorial for developing or polishing print design skills, even if you’re a complete beginner.

We’ll be using Adobe InDesign to create the card design, and we’ll also look at how to export the design as a press-quality PDF ready for printing.

Looking for something a little more convenient for Valentine’s Day? You can find a huge range of card templates on Envato Elements and GraphicRiver.

Ready for romance? Let’s go!

What You’ll Need to Design Your Card

As well as access to Adobe InDesign, you’ll also need to download the following images and font files:

Save the images to a folder you can easily locate, and install the font files onto your system. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start designing your Valentine’s card.

1. How to Set Up Your Card in InDesign

Step 1

Open up InDesign and go to File > New > Document

Keep the Intent set to Print and uncheck the Facing Pages box. Set the Width of the page to 5 in and Height to 7 in. 

Set the Top and Bottom Margins to 1.0625 in, and the Left and Right Margins to 0.875 in. Add a Bleed of 0.25 in to all edges of the page, and then click OK

new document
new document

Step 2

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on the Layer 1 title. Rename this layer Background and click OK

Click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the panel and rename this as Type

Create a further two new layers, first Details and finally Overlay


Lock all layers except Background, and click on this to activate it.

locked layers

Step 3

Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches). From here, you can create a complete color palette of CMYK swatches to use on your design. 

Choose New Color Swatch from the panel’s top-right drop-down menu, and create the following CMYK swatches, clicking Add and OK each time:

  • Forest Green: C=77 M=45 Y=100 K=48
  • Peppermint: C=63 M=13 Y=39 K=1
  • Orange: C=0 M=66 Y=67 K=0
  • Mustard: C=21 M=24 Y=81 K=5
  • Pink: C=6 M=42 Y=12 K=0
  • Cream: C=0 M=5 Y=27 K=0
  • Ochre: C=13 M=85 Y=87 K=3
  • Purple: C=43 M=95 Y=25 K=16
  • Off-White: C=0 M=0 Y=13 K=0

Step 4

With the Background layer still active, take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag across the page, extending it up to the edge of the page on the left-hand side, and the edges of the bleed on the top, right, and bottom. 

Go to File > Place, navigate to the paper texture image you downloaded earlier, and click Open. Allow it to fill the whole image frame. 

paper texture

Step 5

Switch to the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag across the page, mimicking the size and position of the image frame below. From the Swatches panel, set the Stroke Color to [None] and Fill Color to Off-White. 


With the rectangle shape selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency and bring the Opacity down to 75%, before clicking OK


2. How to Map Out the Typography on Your Card

Step 1

Lock the Background layer and unlock the layer above, Type

With the rulers visible (View > Show Rulers), drag a guide down from the top ruler to Y position 2.47 in, and a second down to 2.8 in. 

Drag down two more guides, to 4.2 in and 4.53 in, creating a sequence of four guides in total. 


Step 2

Take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the page to create a text frame at the top-right corner marked out by the margin line. 

Type in ‘V’, and from either the Controls panel running along the top of the workspace or the Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character), set the Font to Mr Darcy, Size 142 pt. 

v text

Step 3

Create a second text frame to the right of the first and type in ‘A’, setting the Font to Jacques Francois, Size 137 pt. Rest the baseline of the letters along the top guide line.

a text

Build up more text frames, with letters and fonts as follows:

‘L’ in Lovato Light, Size 167 pt.

l text

Move onto the second line, and set ‘E’ in Lovato Light, Size 162 pt.

e lovato

‘N’ in Mr Darcy, Size 160 pt.

n text

‘T’ in Naive Inline, Size 136 pt.

t text

On the third line, set ‘I’ in Naive Inline, Size 135 pt.

naive inline

‘N’ in Jacques Francois, Size 140 pt.

jacques francois

And finally set ‘E’ in Brixton Regular, Size 145 pt.

brixton font

Step 4

Once you’re happy with the position and arrangement of your letters, drag your mouse across to select all the text frames, and go to Type > Create Outlines. 

create outlines

This will create a vectorised version of your text, which you can scale and add stroke effects to with more ease. 

vector text

Step 5

Apply the Mustard swatch to the Fill and Stroke of the first letter, ‘V’. 

mustard color

Expand the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke), and set the Weight to 1 pt. Choose Right Slant Hash from the Type drop-down menu. This will give a bit of texture to the edge of the letter, giving it a less digital appearance. 


Step 6

Work your way across the letters, applying different colors from the Swatches panel to your design, as well as the same Right Slant Hash stroke settings to each. 

green color
text color

3. How to Add Extra Details to Your Typographic Design

Step 1

You can create arrows which criss-cross some of the letters on your design, creating a romantic and stylish effect. 

Take the Line Tool (\) and, holding Shift, drag from left to right across the ‘A’ and ‘L’ letters in the top row. From the Stroke panel, set the Weight to 3 pt and adjust the Cap to a Round Cap. Choose Pink for the Stroke Color

pink line

Step 2

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a small arrow head on the left side of the line, setting the Fill to Pink

arrow head

Create a small diagonal line using the Pen Tool or Line Tool towards the right end of the arrow. 

pen tool

Copy and Paste the line a few times to create a feather on the end of the arrow. 


Select all the feather lines and Right-Click > Group, before copying and pasting. Right-Click on the pasted group and choose Transform > Flip Vertical. 

flip vertical

Move into a mirrored position along the bottom edge of the arrow. 

flipped feathers

Step 3

Right-Click > Group all the arrow elements together, before heading up to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Multiply


Click on Drop Shadow in the panel’s left-hand menu. Set the Effect Color (by clicking on the colored square) to Pink, and make the shadow subtle and soft by adjusting the options in the window until you’re happy. 

effect color

Click OK to exit the window. 

Step 4

Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the arrow a couple of times, positioning the copies over the second and third rows of letters as shown below. 

Use the Swatches panel to adjust the color of the elements that make up each arrow. 

swatches panel

Step 5

Lock the Type layer and unlock the layer above, Details

Now you can start to add quirky details to each letter, like dots and lines, to create a circus-style effect. 

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to add polka dots to the top of serifs, as I’ve done here with the ‘V’ letter. 

ellipse tool

Switch to the Pen Tool (P) to add large lines of color to letters with thicker stems, like the ‘A’ in the top row. 

pen tool

Use the Line Tool (\) and Ellipse Tool (L) to create slim dotted lines on some of the skinnier letters, like the ‘L’…

line tool

…‘E’ and ‘T’ on the second row, and ‘I’ on the third row. 


Use the Pen Tool (P) to create a compass-like shape on some of the remaining letters, as in the examples shown below. 

diamond shape
shape details

Step 6

As a final touch, we can add an overlay texture to the page, to soften the look of the typography and give the whole card a more vintage style. 

Lock the Details layer and unlock the top layer, Overlay.

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame across the whole page, extending it to just the page edge on the left-hand side. 

paper overlay

With the image frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Choose Multiply from the Mode menu and pull the Opacity down to 25%. 

text effect

4. How to Expand Your Card Into a Printable Design

You’ve finished the artwork for the front of your card—great job! To convert it into a printable format, we’ll now look at how to expand the design into a foldable card, with outside and interior sides.

Step 1

Preserve a copy of your artwork by going to the Pages panel (Window > Pages) and dragging the Page 1 icon onto the Create New Page button at the bottom of the panel, duplicating the page.

Scroll down to Page 2 to work on the layout here. 

Take the Page Tool (Shift-P) and click onto the page to select it. In the top Controls panel, type in 10 in for the Width (‘W:’), to double the width of the page. 

Unlock all the layers, select all the elements sitting on the page and shift it over to sit on the right side of the page, as shown below. 

page tool

Step 2

Lock the Type and Details layers, and then drag your mouse over the page to select all the elements sitting on the Background and Overlay layers. 

Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, and move the copies over to the left side of the page. 

overlay layer

Step 3

Return to the Pages panel and drag the Page 2 icon down onto the Create New Page button to duplicate it. 

Working on Page 3, select all the elements sitting on the Overlay, Details and Type layers, and delete them. 

You can bring down the Opacity of the colored rectangle sitting on the Background layer (Object > Effects > Transparency) too, to bring through a little more of the papery texture sitting beneath. 

paper texture

Step 4

On the right side of the page, use the Type Tool (T) to create a text frame, and type in your Valentine’s message for the inside of the card. Make sure it’s centered on the right half of the card. 

Use a variety of fonts and colors for a quirky look. 

text inside

You can also Copy and Paste arrows from Page 2 to embellish your message, positioning them above and below your text.

inside of card

Step 5

With your card expanded, you’re now ready to export your artwork ready for printing!

Head up to File > Export, and choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format menu. Give the file a memorable name (e.g. ‘Valentine’s Card_for Print’), and click Save

In the window that opens, choose [Press Quality] from the Preset menu at the top. Under the Pages section, check Range, and set the page range to 2-3. 

press quality

Click on Marks and Bleeds in the left-hand menu. Check All Printer’s Marks and Use Document Bleed Settings, and click Export

marks and bleeds
pdf for print

Conclusion: Your Finished Valentine’s Card

Your card is finished and ready for sending off to print. Congratulations! The recipient is going to be delighted with their specially designed Valentine’s card. 

As well as creating a lovely, vintage-inspired card, we’ve also picked up some valuable print design skills throughout the course of this tutorial. You now know how to create greetings card templates in InDesign, how to format typography to a high standard, and how to prepare your artwork for professional printing.

Want even more Valentine’s Day inspiration? You can find a huge selection of easy-to-edit card templates on Envato Elements and GraphicRiver.

final card design

What is a CDN and why does your website need it

Both as a web designer, and as a user of the internet, you know that a fast website is a good websiteSpeed of a website is something which you don’t notice, until it’s missing that is.

Then it becomes frustrating. A bad user experience. A reason for bouncing off a website never to return.

If you want visitors to enjoy their experience on your website, you don’t need to think only about the design of the website, but how fast the website performs for ALL of your users!

Because good design is only one part of a good user experience.

After website design, the speed of page-loading is one of the most important factors which contribute to the success of a website. Besides that, it’s also a ranking factor.

Why is speed so important?

The necessity of having a fast website is a factor has been studied time and time again.

A negative experience is created in the mind of the user who is perceiving a site as being slow. A site’s conversion rate is also affected very negatively by slow performing websites.

Have a look at the graph below by research firm Soasta

Loading time vs conversion rate

Loading time vs conversion rate study

As can be clearly seen from the graph above, as load time of a page increases, the conversion rate drops drastically. The best conversion rates actually happen when pages take less than 3 seconds to load. Unfortunately, very few websites are actually able to provide such a fast user experience.

Is your website one of these slow-loading sites? Are you killing conversions and are not even aware of it?

But there are solutions which can help boost your website’s speed.

What is a CDN?

The term CDN is an acronym which means content delivery network. That is a fancy way of saying, a network of servers which are optimized to deliver the content (of your website) in the most optimal way.

But how does this content delivery network provide benefits to my website and how does it make the website load faster?

The CDN’s network of servers is an infrastructure which is designed to handle the load of traffic of a website better than that of generic hosting services.

Hosting services, especially the ones aimed at generic websites are geared at creating a stable but generic environment, at a low cost to both the hosting service and the client. These websites typically run on generic environments, such as Apache, PHP, MySQL and other stacks of popular hosting frameworks.

However, the environment has not been specifically optimized and tuned for website speed. Shared hosting services are typically quite slow, particularly in their initial response. The fact that each environment is hosting multiple websites simultaneously means that they suffer from a resource bottleneck problem. Essentially, each website is hosted on the same server as many others, they are “sharing” the same resources. But while the term used is sharing, in reality, they are competing for the same resources. To keep costs low, this sharing creates a situation where each request sent to a website has to wait before it can be served.

Have a look at the below. One of my websites, which is aimed primarily for ecommerce ( is hosted on a shared hosting environment, without a CDN.

Have a look at the following waterfall graph:

Load time without CDN

Load time without CDN

Can you see the waiting time above of 1.26 seconds?

This is the time it is taking for the server to start “working” on the request sent to it. Essentially, at this point, my website is queued up, competing for resources with other sites hosted on the same server as mine.

This is an implicit delay in created by using a shared website hosting service

Bear in mind, that this delay is before the server event starts to send any kind of content back to the user.

With a delay of 1.26 seconds, you can forget having a page-speed load time of less than 3 seconds.

This is a problem. So how do we go about solving this problem?

On the other hand, a CDN’s primary function is to make websites load fast. Their actual infrastructure setup is designed such that they help deliver a lightning fast website.

But how does a CDN actually speed up my site?

How a CDN speeds up your site

There are a few reasons why a website can load slowly:

  1. the shared hosting server has a lot of websites (to keep the price cheap) and is thus overwhelmed. The response times are therefore slow.
  2. Images and other large content of the are not optimized and take a lot of time to download.
  3. The website has installed many different WordPress plugins which are generating many CSS and JS files and other resources
  4. The hosting server is located geographically far away from the actual visitors of your website (think website hosted in the US, with readers mostly in Europe)

There are other reasons, but these are the main ones which generate the largest loading time hits.

You can take mitigating steps to fix each of the above-noted problems individually, but we’ll focus mostly on the last two in this article.

Your shared hosting is overwhelmed and slow

Shared hosting servers are by their definition – slow, especially if they are cheap. It’s just the economics of it.

When a hosting company rents or buys a server, they need to share that cost with their clients.

Put simply, and for the sake of example, if your server costs $100/month and you want to price your plan at $10/month, you need to host 10 accounts to break even.

If you want to price your plan at $5/month, you need to host 20 accounts to break even.

You get the gist. The cheaper the plan, the more the accounts you’ll need to host on the same server.

If a hosting service is advertising itself as cheap, and you want your website to be fast – run a mile!

So what happens, on shared servers, each time somebody visits your website, the server is (at the same time) handling the websites of all of the other users / accounts on that same server.  

With shared hosting, it can take more than a whole second to even start working on delivering your website’s contents.

You can clearly see that delay on the screenshot above.

VPS vs Shared hosting environment

VPS vs Shared hosting environment

If you want to make a website fast, this delay of one second in response time is creating a serious issue for you.

Here are our first recommendations

  1. If your website is using WordPress as the CMS, choose from the best WordPress hosting companies, the ones with known good service and great reviews. Stay away from cheap hosts.
  2. Going for the highest plan you can afford, a Virtual Private Server is a good balance between a (cheap but slow) shared hosting site and a dedicated server (fast but expensive). With a VPS, your site will have plenty of resources to deal with the load and respond within a few milliseconds, rather than a whole second.

The images of your site are not optimized

Images are one of the primary reasons why websites can be slow to load. 

It’s always great advice to use images in your articles. They help to create a break in large pieces of text. Images are also great for readability.

“An image is worth a thousand words” or so they say.

But images can also create problems.

Primarily, images which are not optimized for speed can have a serious negative effect on the loading time of a website.

It’s actually quite a laborious process to remember to save each file in a speed-friendly format, and compressing them to a size which is small enough but which does not lose any of the quality of the image.

Besides being labor-intensive, some people are simply not aware of the need to optimize images.

So what’s the solution to this problem? We need to find a method which will automatically optimize images.

Here’s where a CDN comes to the rescue. CDNs are designed to address this problem without requiring any manual intervention

This is because image optimization (including lossless compression) is typically a built-in feature of most CDNs

That means you don’t have to worry about the images. While you handle the design and creation of a website with awesome imagery, the Content Delivery Network will automatically compress and optimize the images.

The website is using a lot of scripts

This is another factor which has a bad effect on the speed of a website.

Almost all plugins which are installed on a website have an impact on the loading time of your website – each plugin adds more and more assets to the site, making it slower and slower.

Each plugin which is used to create a specific piece of functionality is also slowing down the site.

Some plugins create more JS files, CSS files, and other assets, so some are worse than others, but all of them have at least a bit of an effect. The fewer plugins you install – the better. This is a golden rule.

Each plugin also adds overhead in the form of requests.

Have a look at the following screenshot from a site which has not been optimized for speed. You can see that the performance scores are very slow, whilst the fully loaded time is horrendous.

Slow loading time due to many requests

Slow loading time due to many requests

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate these problems:

  1. Install as little plugins as possible on any website
  2. Combine the files created by all the plugins into a few files only
  3. Enable HTTPS and then HTTP/2 on your website for better overall loading times

Once again, a CDN can help with the combining the files into fewer files and delivering that content over HTTP2.

The CDN actually performs compression and minification of JS and CSS files; this makes the overall size of your site’s resources smaller and therefore, faster to load.

Setting up of HTTP/2 in also highly recommended. HTTP2 is something which is a whole topic of its own so we’ll recommend a couple of great articles on WebDesignerDepot and on CollectiveRay blog which we’ve already written.

HTTP/2 has been created specifically to make improvements in the loading time of websites. It is designed to address certain shortcomings which older technologies did not deal with.

CDN services typically can enable HTTP/2 on your website, simply through the flick of a switch. HTTP/2 requires that HTTPS has been enabled on your site. Once again, CDNs typically have built-in support to serve content over HTTPS. Thanks to the CDN, you can enable HTTPS without incurring the cost and complication which is associated with secure website certificates. A CDN is also able to improve the overhead associated with the SSL/TLS handshake (which is a heavy operation). This ensures that even with HTTPS enabled – the site incurs no overhead.

There’s still one problem which we haven’t addressed which can slow down the loading speed of your website.

What is it and how can we fix it?

The geographical location of your website server

There is one thing which can negatively your website’s loading speed, even after you’ve performed all sorts of speed optimizations mentioned above.

Have a look at the following diagram.

Hosting server location vs visitor location

Hosting server location vs visitor location

This shows the typical time it takes for web data to travel from the one side of the Atlantic to the other. You can see that loading a website hosted on a different continent that your website is visiting from, is a problem. If your website is hosted in the continental US, any visitor outside of the US will experience this problem.

Of course, this applies all over the world. It can even happen within continents if the visitor is located far away from the hosting server.

The distance your website’s content has to travel has a direct (and negative) effect on how fast your website loads.

If your website has a localized audience, choose a good hosting service which is physically close to your target audience. If you are targeting users in New York, choose to host your website on a good server in New York.

However, what do you do if your website caters to an international audience?

You can’t choose a server which is located close to the visitors of your website.

However, there is a solution. As you might have guessed, the solution involves a CDN, because a CDN service specifically addresses this problem.

Let’s see an updated version of the previous diagram, this time we see how the loading time is affected if we use the services of a CDN such as Incapsula CDN, one of the largest players in the CDN industry.

Without CDN vs with CDN

Without CDN vs with CDN

Just like we discussed at the beginning of this article, a CDN service is designed to shorten the distance that content has to travel to reach the visitors of a website.

A CDN service is set up by creating a network of hundreds of servers in different locations in multiple countries and geographies. These servers, known as caching servers or edge servers, each contain a local copy of the images and files which your website needs serve.

When a user accesses your website, these files are served from the nearest physical to your visitor.

This reduces the problem of distance and makes a website much faster to load compared to if a website was not using a CDN.

Have a look the following diagram, which shows the geographical distribution of caching servers around the world – making it possible to always serve content from a location which is physically close to your visitor.

CDN global server map

CDN global server map

How to set up a CDN for free

The great thing about CDN services is that they operate on a freemium model – typically they offer a free plan. This free plan provides the localized caching functionality we have shown above.

If your website grows beyond the limits of the free plan, you can then move to a higher plan which suits the needs of your website better.

The easiest way to implement a CDN does not even need a plugin, it’s done by what is knows as a reverse proxy.

This only requires you to perform some changes to the DNS settings of your domain. You’ll find exact guidance for most hosts from the CDN you will opt for, or you can ask for support from the CDN’s support staff.

You can see below how your website together will work together with the CDN to send content to visitors. The origin server is your website’s server.

CDN setup using proxy server

CDN setup using proxy server

The CDN server actually receives the hit when a user visits your website. It then sends the request to your site, such that any necessary dynamic content is generated. Once it gets a response, the CDN sends the dynamic content and all static resources to the visitor.

This removes a lot of load from your hosting server – making your website load faster and able to handle much more visitors simultaneously.

Conclusion – are you ready to make your website faster?

As we’ve seen in this article, setting up a CDN can start from the very cheap price of free! Besides not having to spend anything, the loading speed of your website will be much-improved giving your site’s visitors a better user experience for your visitors.

If you’re looking to have a fast website, a CDN is a must.