When to Design from Scratch and When to Use Templates or Design Resources

By Orana Velarde 7 months ago

With the rise of graphic design resource websites and online design tools, creating visual content is easier than ever. But even though designing is easier and faster, it doesn’t mean that it should stop you from also designing from scratch.

Graphic designers are definitely allowed to use previously created illustrations or templates to make their job easier. That is each designer’s prerogative. If these resources weren’t loved by designers and non-designers alike, they wouldn’t exist.

So when is it the right time to use these resources and when is it best to design from scratch? It all depends on your clients, how much time you are given, and the size of your client’s budget.

First, let’s look at the options available to you as designers.

Design Resources

Even before the end of online design, graphic designers used resources to help them be more productive. Scratchable typography is one of the most common, along with textures and stock photography. Nowadays, the resources available are much more extensive. From illustrations, icons, backgrounds, to pretty much anything really.

When you, as a designer sit down to start a project, you have a few choices:

  1. Use bits and pieces sourced from sites like Freepik and Creative Market. Use these resources to build the design like a college. If using professional and high-quality sources, then the finished design will look great if you have a good creative eye. If using resources with commercial licenses, then the finished design is legally yours to send your clients and charge for it.
  2. Create the design from scratch inside a tool like Photoshop or Illustrator, designing all sections of the design from beginning to end. This might or might not take longer than using sourced designs. It really depends on how much time you spend creating or searching.
  3. The third option is to use a mix of both. This is what usually happens these days.

Collection of 6 brouchres with four pages design template.

Online Tools

Online design tools like Visme and Canva have revolutionized the graphic design industry. With these cloud-based apps available on desktop and mobile, everyone can create visual content. Non-designers have it easier than ever to be able to create their own designs without hiring a designer at all.

But do designers use these tools as well? Truth is, they do! Canva has given designers a great platform for offering social media templates to clients that don’t want to design anything themselves. With Canva for work, a designer can create a whole set of templates using brand assets for their client.

Also, these tools are a lifesaver when a client needs a graphic quickly and their budget is low.

There are those that call themselves designers but only know how to use Canva.
This is a discussion for another day.


Product and packaging mockups are a great tool for designers. They help visualize the designs are 3D pieces and clients love them. Digital mockups like laptops and mobile screens are wonderful tools for web and digital designers.

When to use resources and templates and when to design from scratch

To know what direction to take for your new project, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the client’s budget?
  • How unique is the client’s visual message?
  • What is your time frame?
  • Do you feel like you have the technical capacity?

If the client’s budget is low, then you can just use templates from Visme to design their graphics fast and easy.  Both Canva and Visme have plenty of icons and graphics inside the editor for easy use.

If the client’s visual message is not extremely unique, then you can source graphics from Freepik and other sites to create the finished designs.  Either way, sourced resources should be customized to fit each client’s brand, especially in terms of colour.

If a client needs designs done fast, you can use previous designs for these clients and repurpose. It might be just fine to use Visme to create their visuals quickly.

Do you think you can handle what they need technically? If the client wants illustrations and you don’t do that, using illustrations from Freepik might be just what you and your client need.



How to convince your clients that they need a unique visual strategy

For a business to have a successful marketing strategy, it needs to have a unique visual style. If only using stock photography and sourced graphics, these will not make them stand out from the competition.

A designer must always know how to customize sourced photography and graphics to make the visuals more unique. Everything can be tweaked; with filters, shapes, colours and textures. If you get a new client that needs graphics but they don’t have a branding strategy, it’s a great opportunity to offer that to them.

No matter if you design with sourced graphics and templates, or completely from scratch, you should always talk to your clients about their visual strategy and how being unique is always better.

Over to you

Do you design mostly from scratch or with the help of third-party resources like the ones we offer on Freepik? All combinations are valid by the way. As long as you give your clients a legal finished product that you feel proud of and they love.


By Orana Velarde