How to Create and Work With Inspiration Boards [+A freebie]


Updated: With a new and improved freebie!

Inspiration boards are pretty much my favorite thing. I think they are vital to the creative process, highly beneficial when working with clients, and the perfect way to organize your brain. I use them when starting any new project. A photo shoot, a new product line, a branding project, a logo design... anything! But I didn't always use them before starting a big project. And I wish I had! Think of all the time wasted without a clear vision of where I was headed with a particular project!

This post is meant to help you love inspiration boards like I do. They are fabulous, time saving, sanity savers. And they aren't just for designers. 

WHY do i need an inspiration board?:

Because they are pretty. Moving on...

Just kidding. Mostly. They are pretty and FUN. Curating photos and textures and colors and making them fit together starts the creative flow. You look at beautiful things and think about how they can evolve into other beautiful things. This not only helps you get excited but helps you sharpen and refine your ideas. In school you always started papers with an outline so you could organize your thoughts on the subject. This is like that. It's an outline for art!

You wouldn't start a novel without an outline. You shouldn't start and art project without one either! 

It is so easy to think of a million things you love, but putting them down on 'paper' makes it real or official or something. And once you have gotten to that stage, it is so much easier to move on to the actual creating. Your thoughts and ideas are organized. You have a very specific outline. You go girlfriend.  

HOW do I make an inspiration board?:

Start in your favorite place to get inspired. (My favorites are Pinterest and Tumblr). 

This is a section of a Pinterest board of mine where I was focusing on food photography, specifically flatlays. 

I love Pinterest because it is all organized and pretty. It is not only a great place to find inspiring images but a great place to save them all in one place. I start with a secret board where I add everything I am loving. If you are working on a project for a client, you can have them create a board and send you things they love that way. Pinterest also lets you write the caption for each pin, which is a great tool to either, get specifics about why a client loves a particular photo, or remind yourself why you pinned that photo. (You don't have that problem? ... Yeah. Me neither).

Add everything you like at this point. You are going to edit next.  

Once everything is added, you are probably going to notice some patterns, an overall theme. This is what I call 'brand feel'.

But there might also be things that are specific to the design, fonts you love, or even an obvious color pallet. You can use all that too.

Next is when you start deleting anything that doesn't fit your brand feel.  Remember: Just because you (or the client) like something, doesn't mean it fits. Stay true to the feel of the board. 

Here is an example of a piece from a board I worked on with a client. Our theme was making Valentine's crafts. With a specific feel of semi-messy crafting space. The colors are the typical V-day reds and pinks. You can see on a couple of them we made specific notes in the captions like the one on the far left where I say, "I could make that!" 

If I remember correctly, we ended up doing something like the one on the far right but with a different background. One that fit their brand better. 

If you scroll back up to my first example, the theme emerging there is food flat-lays with white backgrounds with watercolor/ ink elements. Now that I have identified the theme there I should delete a handful of the pins that no longer fit. The two with the dark background especially. If deleting makes you too sad, move them to a different board and call on them for future projects.

Next, I save my curated images to my computer and start designing my board in photoshop. There really are no rules here so now it's time for you to start experimenting.

Last, I like to add more than just photos. Each of my inspiration boards has a small paragraph about the brand, collection, or whatever it is you are getting inspired for. Plus, a list of words, icons, or phrases that narrow that feel down.

I write about the feel as well as curating photos for the feel. 

I do this for two reasons:

1. because, I find, that writing things down helps me pull it all together. Putting to paper (or computer screen) gets it all out of my brain - makes it real and cohesive. 


2. because you might not be the only one who sees and/or uses the inspiration board. It might be for a client, a designer, a photographer, or one of your employees to use. And those people aren't in your head so explaining your 'why' is crucial. 

And that's it! The next step is to create! 

Pro Tip: Don't get stuck on this step. Designing inspiration boards is super fun but sometimes it can be hard to know when the time to be inspired is over and the time to create has begun. 

I have a freebie for you! Get a free inspiration board template you can open in Photoshop and fill right in! 


Good Luck! Have Fun! 

Love, Redd