Tools & Resources

A collection of my favorite  resources for creatives, designers, and freelancers—from the software that manages my clients and contracts that protect my business to my trusted education programs.

for creatives and designers

explore tools and resources

hello, friend!

I'm glad you're here! Ready to explore some of those resources? Right this way!

As my business has grown, so has my desire to help emerging designers, artists, and creative entrepreneurs. I'm passionate about creativity: the thing that got us into this industry, but somehow gets overlooked in the day-to-day flow of running a business.

I believe in equipping creatives like you with the tools that will help us find more time for the things that stir our hearts: work that inspires us and nurtures our creative souls.



I'm Sarah: a brand designer with a heart for helping entrepreneurs cultivate creativity.

I've got plenty of free resources to help you get started (or move to the next level!) with your goals as a creative designer. Keep reading this page to learn more about business tips, creative resources, and my own creative journey so far. I'm glad you're here!

free resources

How can I help you?

Whether you're a creative or a designer, I'm happy to share my experience with you. We'll start with a questionnaire to learn more about your challenges, and then we'll schedule a 45-minute video call to cover questions about business processes, design feedback, or brand strategy. Investment: $125

1:1 consultation

Looking for hand-illustrated graphics to incorporate into your own designs? The Sarah Ann Design Illustration Shop was created with you in mind! Hop on over to my Creative Market shop to purchase illustrations and calligraphy vectors to use in your own projects.

the illustration shop

visit the Shop

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Best of the Blog

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Read this post for 3 easy ways you can connect with your ideal client. This simple checklist will help you establish that connection and create conversion!

3 Ways to Connect with Your Ideal Client

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As a graphic designer or freelancer, a professional contract is the best way to set expectations for both yourself and your clients. Read more:

How to Legally Protect Your Business

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As a designer, one way to elevate your offerings is to showcase a specialized skillset. What can you offer as a unique value to your clients?

What is Your Specialized Skillset?

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Tips for Creatives

Resources for Designers

Resources for Designers

I am a big proponent of continued education in your chosen field—especially by reading! This essential reading list is a peek into my bookshelf.

Books Every Creative Should Read

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When you start a new business, presentation matters. Take a look at the top 5 essentials you need in order to look like a true professional.

What to Put on Your About Page

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Planning a photo shoot to capture brand images and headshots for your website? Read these tips from a professional web designer first!

Brand Photography Tips

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Tips for Creatives

Tips for Creatives

Tips for Creatives

How do you cultivate creativity in your daily workflow? Are you finding time to nurture your creative spirit? Visit this list for ideas!

How to Stay Creatively Inspired

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When you start a new business, presentation matters. Take a look at the top 5 essentials you need in order to look like a true professional.

5 Things You Need to Look Professional

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If you want a site that feels clean and polished, avoid these five common mistakes that can make your website look cluttered.

Are You Cluttering Your Website?

read the post

Resources for Designers

Resources for Designers

Tips for Creatives

Portfolio Critique
Together we'll take a look at your portfolio and identify its strengths and opportunities for growth or clarity. I know the thought of a critique can be a bit intimidating, but I promise to offer constructive comments with kindness!

You don't have to go it alone. If you find yourself running into a lot of questions about your work, your design process, or your business... a Design Mentor Session can help bring clarity to your creative journey. Mentor sessions are an opportunity for me to share expertise and tailored insights with you in a one-on-one setting.

We'll start with a questionnaire to learn more about your challenges, and then we'll schedule a 45-minute video call to cover questions about business workflows, design feedback, creative processes, or brand strategy. 

Bring Clarity to Your Design Business

Elevation Strategy
During our session, we'll discuss personalized strategies to elevate your brand. These insights will help you present a polished and elevated brand, empowering you to attract high-end clients and increase your income.

Design mentor sessions include:

Accountability
After our session, I'll follow up with a detailed list of action-items to keep you on track toward an elevated brand. We'll make sure you have all the resources you need to move forward with confidence and clarity.

Access to my Resource Library
Every mentoring client receives access to my carefully curated resource library, including my typography handbook, favorite font pairings, over 100 approved color palettes, and my tried-and-true email templates.

book your session

Investment / $125

Ready to get started? I'd be so honored to walk alongside you in this season of your business. Let's elevate your offerings with confidence and clarity!

submit

Schedule a Design Mentor Session

How did you find me?
How can I help you?
Phone
Email
Business Name
Name

until then...
feel free to explore my resources and tips for creatives below!

I'll be in touch soon to schedule your call.
I look forward to chatting with you soon!

Thank you so much!

Design Mentor Sessions

Build Your Brand Workbook

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free resource

Join the mailing list for my best tips and resources—starting with a free five-page workbook to help you build a strategic brand from the roots up.

On My Desk

These are my must-have creative resources—the ones that never leave my desk, because they're the tools that keep my business up and running!

iMac

iPad

Dubsado

The powerhouse behind every design. I spend more hours than I'd like to admit pushing pixels around in my Adobe programs! On any given day, you'll probably find me sitting on the other side of this screen bringing projects to life.

I couldn't live without my iPad + Apple Pencil. This is the one tool that has streamlined my workflow above all others! This is where most projects begin: digital sketches and ideations until I land on a worthy concept.

Dubsado helps me keep track of all my projects, schedule meetings, and manage invoices— all with easy automated templates. Click here for 20% off (or read this post to find out if Honeybook is a better fit for you).

Paper / Printing Suppliers
Visit my friend Simply Jessica Marie to download a comprehensive guide to print production.

Legalities / Contracts
A solid contract is irreplaceable for any small business. I trust Paige Hulse for contracts drafted specifically for creatives, reviewed by her professional legal team. Use my code for 10% off: SARAHANNDESIGN10

Client Management
The most important tool in my business is my client management system: a cohesive place to send contracts, create invoices, store questionnaires, and track project progress. Click here for 50% off your first year of Honeybook!

Email Marketing
I love to deliver my best content to my email list; Flodesk makes it easy to create workflows with beautifully designed templates. The seamless design and ease of use actually make email marketing fun! Get 50% off here.

Business & Graphic Design Resources

Tools & Resources

Education Resources

recommended

I believe wholeheartedly that investing in education is one of the best ways to propel your business forward. These are the education programs I can personally vouch for!

for Educators
The Creative Educator Academy sets the foundation for anyone who is interested in becoming an educator in their industry; it covers everything from curriculum design to mentoring programs to on-stage speaking.

for Designers
If you are a designer seeking to up-level your business, I highly recommend The Brand Strategy School! Bonnie Bakhtiari will teach you how to elevate your offerings by implementing brand strategy in your design process.

for Artists
Learn how to profit from licensing your work through Bonnie Christine's incredible Immersion Course! This comprehensive program covers surface pattern design, Adobe Illustrator, and the business of art licensing in depth.

Questions? Please feel free to reach out. I'd be happy to talk with you about my learning experiences through each of these educational resources.

Common Questions

Did you go to school for Graphic Design? Can I succeed as a self-taught designer?
Yes, I did study Graphic Design in college. A formal education in my chosen field was an ideal fit for me, but that certainly doesn't mean it's the only route to success. There are tons of resources available to a self-taught designer!

How can I get involved in the creative community?
I'm so glad you asked! This industry has such a supportive and inspiring community, and I wouldn't be where I am without its insight and encouragement. I would invite you to start by joining Rising Tide Society, and (if you're in Dallas) I'd love to see you in person at our local chapter meetings: TuesdaysTogether.

How did you learn calligraphy?
Three words: practice, practice, practice! I didn't ever take any formal classes in calligraphy, but I've been writing and doodling different scripts for as long as I can remember! Start practicing regularly and you'll be amazed how quickly you can improve.

Where do you outsource your printing?
There are plenty of capable wholesale printers out there, but each print job depends on the project. For a complete guide to printing, paper, and product sourcing, I recommend Simply Jessica Marie's Print Production Guide.

What programs do you use?
The Adobe Creative Suite is the standard for our industry (inDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop). You must be familiar with these programs to succeed in our field. I work most often in inDesign and Illustrator, but Photoshop definitely comes in handy too!

What is your advice for beginners?
Be a sponge. Soak up inspiration everywhere. When you're a beginner, it's all about exposing yourself to interesting design so that you can develop taste. Create constantly. Explore different styles, media, and ideas. Give yourself the time and freedom to create just for own creative enjoyment. Keep making things. The rest will follow.

The Detailed Supply List

Click a category to explore a detailed curated list of all my favorite supplies:

for creatives

Calligraphy

styling

Dubsado

Dubsado helps me keep track of all my projects and manage invoices. I couldn't live without it! Click here for 20% off.

Software Tools

Honeybook

I highly recommend Honeybook for event-based businesses! (Lookin' at you, photographers and planners) 50% off HERE.

Toggl

Call me crazy, but I actually love time-tracking. It's so essential for us creative entrepreneurs to know where our time goes!

ShowIt

I build all my website designs with ShowIt (including my own). It's so easy to use, and I'm proud to be a Showiteer!

My Planner

The best planner! Seriously, I can't imagine a better design or layout. This planner keeps my whole life organized. And the Catholic elements are so thoughtful!

on my desk

Mia's Favorite Toy

I'm lucky to spend my work day with a puppy in the studio. This is the only toy that will keep her occupied while I work!

Glasses

People ask me nearly every day where I got my glasses... These are the "Dialogue" from EyeBuy Direct! Convenient & inexpensive. (my eyesight isn't even that bad, but I love all the styles)

Starbucks Iced Coffee

I've always had a penchant for coffee and tea, but this smooth iced coffee was a game-changing discovery!

G2 Pilot Pens (Extra Fine)

The only pen I use for all my regular writing! This is my go-to pen for everyday handwriting: in my planner, thank you notes, etc.

Canon Pixma Pro Printer

All stationery designers should invest in a decent at-home printer. This one handles various paper sizes and envelopes perfectly.

Technology

Canon Lide 220 Scanner

High-quality scans and easy-to-use interface. Ideal for both calligraphy scanning and watercolor scanning.

Canon Rebel Camera

I'm thankful for talented photographer friends who capture my work, but this camera helps me get by on my own when needed!

iPad + Apple Pencil

I can't believe I waited so long to add this to my toolkit. It has revolutionized my workflow, and it has so much design capability!

Surface Pro

My Surface Pro is my laptop. It can run multiple full Adobe programs simultaneously, and doubles as a convenient tablet. Couldn't live without it!

In the Company of Women

Flip through this book any time you find yourself in need of a creative boost. It never fails to inspire!

Reading

Profit First

I think this book should be required reading for all creative entrepreneurs! Learn how to manage your money and get paid.

Chasing Slow

If you feel like you're always chasing the next dream with no time to breathe in between... this one's for you.

Elements of Typographic Style

This one is dense and nerdy but every page is filled with information. Think of it as the typographer's bible!

In Progress

A peek inside the sketchbook and genius mind of my lettering & design hero, Jessica Hische.

Flodesk

Design-friendly emails with a major impact on my conversion rate. Try Flodesk for 50% off. I promise you'll love it!

Sumi Ink

Versatile black ink: perfect for calligraphy and illustration, in sketchbook or on tracing paper. Ideal for vectorizing.

calligraphy ink

Walnut Crystals

Mix with water to form ink at desired consistency. Beautiful walnut color variations. Ideal for scanning or vectorizing.

Finetec Metallic Paints

The absolute best opaque metallic ink! Requires manual loading (brushing paint directly onto the nib to apply)

Dr. Ph Martin's Gold

Not quite as opaque as Finetec, but does come in a liquid format for easy dipping on large envelope orders.

Dr. Ph Martin's White

"Bleedproof White." The best opaque white ink! I never use anything else. Add water until desired consistency.

Nikko G Nibs

My favorite everyday nib. Medium-firm. Ideal for beginners.

calligraphy Pens

Speedball Oblique Holders

These plastic holders are simple, inexpensive, and get the job done! I always keep several on-hand.

Ash Bush Pen Holders

I adore my custom holder from Ash Bush! The marble effect is beautiful, and the barrel is a comfortable width for my grip.

Watercolor Brushes

Thin brushes for brush script calligraphy. Use with ink or watercolor paint.

Micron Pens

Archival monoline pens. Ideal for illustrations.

Canon Pixma Pro Printer

All stationery designers should invest in a decent at-home printer. This one handles various paper sizes and envelopes perfectly.

calligraphy tech

Canon Lide 220 Scanner

High-quality scans and easy-to-use interface. Ideal for both calligraphy scanning and watercolor scanning.

Canon Rebel Camera

I'm thankful for talented photographer friends who capture my work, but this camera helps me get by on my own when needed!

iPad + Apple Pencil

I can't believe I waited so long to add this to my toolkit. It has revolutionized my workflow, and it has so much design capability!

Surface Pro

My Surface Pro is my laptop. It can run multiple full Adobe programs simultaneously, and doubles as a convenient tablet. Couldn't live without it!

Plastic Inkpots

I go through several packs of these annually. They're helpful to have on-hand for custom color mixing.

Miscellaneous

Gouache

Mix gouache with water to create custom ink colors. Winsor-Newton is the best brand if you're willing to splurge.

Watercolor Paints

I'm not too picky about my watercolor paints. An inexpensive palette does just fine for me!

Tracing Paper

I use tracing paper for projects that require many iterations of exploration (both calligraphy and illustration)

G2 Pilot Pens (Extra Fine)

The only pen I use for all my regular writing! This is my go-to pen for everyday handwriting: in my planner, thank you notes, etc.

Ring Boxes

Trinkets + Details

Trinkets

Finishing Touches

Textiles

Tricks of the Trade

I've tried my fair share of styling boards, but these linen surfaces from Heirloom Bindery are easily my favorite. They are well-crafted and come in a gorgeous line of neutral colors. Use discount code "sarahann5" for 5% off your next purchase!

Additional Styling Boards

Susanna at Nettle Textiles is my favorite ribbon vendor. Her selection of colors is exquisite, in a variety of widths, rolled on wooden spools. She sells spools in small quantities (1 yard), so you can collect a variety of colors without straying too far over-budget.

Additional Ribbon Vendors

if you don't have a ring box, tie a silk ribbon bow around the ring for display

Styling Tip

Styling Inspiration

*This page contains affiliate links to my favorite products. I wouldn't recommend them if they weren't tried-and-true favorites!

Connect

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. 

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. 

And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

— Ira Glass