Recently, I posted a tweet linking to an article on freelancefolder.com. 27 Indispensible Resources for Graphic Designers. The article had a lot of really great icons, photoshop and illustrator brushes, textures, and more. Shortly after this tweet a friend of mine who is not a designer, but a fisherman commented telling me how awesome the brushes were. This got me thinking. Is using free brushes cheating when it comes to design?
In some cases, designers may enjoy making free brushes available to the public just as a way to be a giving person. Yet, the majority of designers create brushes and make them available to the public as a way of showcasing their work and to hopefully come across a piece of artwork on the internet that they spot their brush used in. I have seen a lot of creative and inspiring brushes on the web, and I think they are a great way to add to any design depending on the project. Personally, if I see a brush on the web that I think is really neat I use it as inspiration for my own. By the time I am done making my new brush it looks nothing like the free one I found on the web. There is a sense of accomplishment when you create your own assets and elements. It feels good to know that you can use them as many times as you want and however you want to use them.
The problem I have with free brushes and any designer-created content available (even vector art you purchase on stock photo sites), is when people use them as points of actual design in their work opposed to just unnoticed elements of design that make the piece more balanced. So, when my friend the fisherman told me how awesome the free brushes were and how he was going to load them into his ‘free’ copy of photoshop it almost upset me in a way. I knew instantaneously that he would be using the brushes to create an actual design instead of elements in his own design. It bothers me to know that there is published work out there with design assets in them that are not 100% original. The thought that anyone can download free or paid for artwork from the web and throw some text over it and call it their own doesn’t sit well with me.
So, I ask you: Is this cheating? Is this evolution of downloadable and useable content from the web changing our world of original and creative design? Are we as designers adding to the problem by offering thousands of new free design assets on the web daily? As a designer, how do you hope your brushes are being used by others? And if you are a design who uses brushes from the web, how do you use them?