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Thursday Theory: 6 Ways to Make Your Work More Original

Thursday Theory: 6 Ways to Make Your Work More Original

Originality is something to be cherished when it comes to graphic design, and truly original work can really stand out in the industry. Far too many designers are following trends rather than setting them. I’ve touched on the merits of originality in previous Thursday Theory posts, but today I’ll be discussing some practical ways to make your own work more original.

1: Take Your Own Photography (Or Use Premium Stock Images)

Within the Photoshop community I see a lot of the same stock images being used over and over, and there’s nothing that can turn off your audience quicker than thinking ‘I’ve seen that photo before!’. If you’re trying to set yourself apart and impress your viewers then it isn’t a great idea to base your work on a really overused photograph.

One great solution is to take your own photos and integrate them into your work. This has several benefits:

  • The obvious benefit is that your photo will be totally unique, making your work more original.
  • You can construct your photo-shoot to be perfect for your composition. The fact that you can control the subject, lighting etc… means that you can hopefully achieve a photo much more specific for your needs than any stock website.

There are some limitations with taking your own photographs of course. You won’t always be able to find the correct subject (for example a hot climate if you live in a cold one..), and you may not have the skills or equipment to achieve usable results.

If this is the case, then I would recommend using a premium stock website. The reason that many photos are overused is because there aren’t all that many high-quality free images out there. This means that if there’s a great free shot of say, a woman jumping up in the air, then this will naturally be snapped up by all the Photoshop gurus out there. By using a premium stock website you generally receive a better quality of image, but also a less-used one. Many designers aren’t willing to pay even a little for great shots, so you can stand out from the crowd by integrating some premium-quality shots into your work, for just a few dollars!

2: Create Your Own Textures, Rather Than Using Stock Photography

Textures are a huge part of graphic design, and are clearly very useful. However, just like photography, the same textures can be seen being used over and over in various designs. A great solution is to try and create your own custom made textures when possible. There are lots of great tutorials to help you achieve your own textures, and this adds a really personal touch to your work!

40 Tutorials to Create Your Own Photoshop Textures

This great post lists a terrific range of Photoshop tutorials to create your own custom textures. These range from grass, to stone, to paper and wood, everything you need!

3: Draw Inspiration From Personal Experiences

Personal experiences in your life are by definition personal. This makes them very often unique, and specific to you! Personal experiences have inspired thousands of rock songs, so why not let them inspire your next graphic design project? If you’ve suffered a break up, recently got a promotion, been hurt, laughed all night with friends… all these things can help inspire your Photoshop designs. Try to translate the moods and experiences from your life into a visual medium, and the personal connection should help you inject more passion and personality into your compositions.

Another personal inspiration can be memories and nostalgia. Don’t just use your daily routine to inspire you, try and think back to your most defining moments and important events in your life.

4: Hone Your Own Style

As your continue down your path as a designer you’ll notice a personal style developing in your work. It’s important to embrace this, and try and create cohesion throughout all your works. Of course you should be trying new techniques and styles all the time. However, with the best designers you can often tell who designed their work, even without seeing a name. The little quirks, and idiosyncrasies within your work is what makes it so special and personal to you, so try to recognize these traits and encourage them in your future works!

5: Design For Yourself

When designing it can be all too easy to start designing for your audience, rather than yourself. You should never be designing to achieve popularity or peer approval. Just because a certain lighting effect is trending right now, this isn’t a good reason to integrate it into your work. Designing (unless for a client) should be an insular activity, where you are designing to impress YOU! It’s the classic example of being a trend setter rather than a trend follower.

If you’re happy with your own work that’s fantastic, and if others appreciate it too that’s a great bonus.

6: Think Outside of the Box

Your work should never be predictable or dull. By thinking outside of the box, or pushing your boundaries you can often come up with much more original, insightful work. Try thinking outside of the box in terms of composition, subject matter, message etc… Don’t be afraid to shock. You may upset a few people along the way, but it’s a great learning curve to go beyond what feels comfortable for you. Experiment with various mediums and styles, and constantly look to further your skills.

Have Your Say!

This whole point of these Thursday Theory posts is to encourage discussion and let you have your say on pressing design issues.

Please leave a comment below and join the discussion:

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. john says:

    great tips thanks.

  2. Terry-Anne says:

    Thank you. This post gave me a little “oomph” to push on with creativity!

  3. Eric Vasquez says:

    Great article Tom! I think this is a really great time to speak about ways to stay creative and original. It seems like every so often towards the end of some design trends you get so much artwork that looks the same.

    A lot of it is very beautiful and it’s always nice to see different artists execute the same styles in their own unique ways, but ultimately there really should be more original work out there because we are all different.

    Personally, I have been trying to find models and take my own photos, I create a lot of my own vectors for designs, but the points about creating your own textures and hand drawings are also important.

    At the end of the day, if we as artists always stay inside of our comfort zones then we are impeding our own personal growth and evolution.

    • Tom says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Eric! To be honest I’m as guilty as a lot of people as taking the easy route out sometimes with finding overused stock images etc… However, hopefully this articles will help inspire people to think outside the box. I feel like we’re in need of some new trends right now anyway, I’ve been seeing a lot of overdone styles.

  4. Ben says:

    Is it at all ironic that the ads surrounding this article are for Web page templates and cheap stock photos? Doesn’t matter – the appeal of these suggestions is that they live in the real world. I greatly appreciate the recognition of the struggles designers have to be unique, yet relevant. I will continue to look towards very balanced articles such as this one to fight the good fight! Thanks for the very practical, yet creative suggestions.

  5. Holger says:

    Hi Tom,
    just a few days ago i “jumped into the cold water” and began my career as a free graphics designer. So the encouragement i took from your article is very helpful and helped me to get rid of some feelings of being afraid.
    So thank you very much!

    With kind regards

  6. Uziel says:

    Great tips, thanks.

  7. Adrian says:

    Thank you very much for this tips. Useful for me.

  8. TheKoolDots says:

    Very inspirational and most timely Post.


  9. adam says:

    Nice post, some useful and interesting information.

  10. Zhu says:

    I’m just a blogger, not a designer, but I always use my own pictures and I find it really set a blog apart. I’m also a photographer so I guess it’s easier for me but I can’t stress it enough: pay attention to the pictures on your website, whether you are using or own or buying them. Users do notice.

    And don’t forget to respect photographers’ copyright :-)

  11. Joann Sondy says:

    I LOVE THIS POST! The major message = look inside your self to find originality.

  12. Couldn’t agree more I think these tips are right on the mark to keep original ideas within ones work. Originality is very important in a world of cookie cutter template graphic design and there is a lot out there for sure. Good design is about an individuals interpretation and presentation of a piece of work not follow a piece that worked for someone else.

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