Designing Detailed Buttons

Hey guys,

I’m in no rush to get a response, but I was curious. I’d like to start putting a little more effort into drawing up designs for my team’s buttons with programs like Photoshop and SAI. Does anyone have suggestions on how to save designs, how big to make them (pixels), and anything in general I should remember or stay away from? I have very little experience with Photoshop but I’m decent with SAI.

Thanks! C:

I’m not familiar with SAI, but as for Photoshop, you’d probably be better off using Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, or something similar. While Photoshop uses pixels, both Illustrator and InDesign use vectors, meaning that what you make is infinitely scalable - we use the exact same file for our pit banner and buttons. To answer your questions, save them in a vector format (.ai for Illustrator and .indd for InDesign), and you don’t need to worry about how big to save them - with vectors, it doesn’t matter.

PM me if you want to see what our graphics files look like - I’d be happy to send them your way.


Once you learn to work with vector graphics, they also make a lot of things way easier; going back and modifying stuff you did in the past is a lot simpler. If you don’t want to/can’t pay for Illustrator, Inkskape is a pretty good free, open source vector graphics program; I don’t personally have a ton of experience with it, but from what I’ve heard it can do just about everything that you’d probably need from it. Unfortunately as far as I’m aware there isn’t any free software that comes close to being able to replace InDesign, not that InDesign would really be necessary for buttons (InDesign is best for out flyers, pamphlets, books, posters, documents, etc. whereas Illustrator is best for logos and other graphics).

Like Nyle and Jacob said above, it’s best to work with vectors when doing graphic design that involves something that you’ll want to edit/use in a different capacity in the future (e.g. your logo). You can create vectors in Photoshop, if that’s the only software available to you, using the Pen tool. The Pen tool in Photoshop is basically a watered-down version of the one in Illustrator. The big difference between Photoshop and Illustrator is that Illustrator has several functions dedicated to the editing of vectors.

However, if you’re making small buttons that you don’t think you’re going to edit again, you can use the brush tool and other raster tools in Photoshop in order to make the design. For larger designs, it’s preferable to use vector graphics just so you don’t end up with huge files.

Many online button sellers have zip files that you can download which include .ai, .psd, and .jpg templates that guide you through how much space you should leave on the edges, etc. These will also give you a guide on the dimensions of the file.

Optimal export filetype (if you can’t save as a .psd/.ai and send it to the printer/manufacturer in that format): jpeg or pdf
DPI: 300dpi

If you’re doing one-off designs, Photoshop is totally your friend. Make a button template (300 dpi, a circle the diameter of your button), and then put whatever your design is in it. You can then make copies of this for each of your designs.

It’s always a good idea to keep logos and standard design elements as vector files and a variety of standard raster sizes-- this can also help you make new button designs faster and more consistent-looking.

Good luck with your button-making endeavors!

I am planning on a double major and I have been working on my portfolio so along with one of our alumni we worked on completely re-branding the team. (In a aesthetic sense) With a new logo , font , color scheme , and buttons. One thing you wanna make sure you do with button design is to keep it simple. Have a basic 3 or 4 color scheme with a good amount of contrast. 300 dpi will be you best friend. And make sure that if you have text on it , that it is readable. And Photoshop would be a very good program.

Look at the branding page of the Poofs.

Professional and has a purpose.

As you layout your new you… plan, plan, plan.

We have students that want to re-design the and add their flare each year, and we want to encourage that work… But you want to build a brand, that will exist throughout the years.

We encourage creativity in the team spirit wear, that changes each year, but competition t-shirts, need to stick with the team brand framework.

We have not documented this process like the poofs, but I think we would benefit from the exercise if we did.

Thanks for bringing this up, I have never had a chance to see this. I am going to try to see if my team would be able to do something like the poofs branding page. I think that looks really cool. Thanks alot

Also, whichever program you work in, be sure to work in the CMYK colorspace. Because remember, monitors display a mixture of RGB, and those do not perfectly correlate to printer output. If you want true black, 100% K is best. It will show up lighter on your monitor, but will produce better results. Hexadecimal color codes are RGB, so I suggest staying away from those for color selection.

Awesome!! I’ll make sure to remember this thread and all the advice when I start designing. Thank you!!!

+1 on Inkscape. Great package and it’s “FREE”

I am the spirit Captain for my team and for all the buttons we make, we usually just use paint and Microsoft word and it tends to get the job done.

For something like a button you can often get away with using Word or Paint because (a) button designs should be simple, and (b) buttons are so small.

For the longer term, I would try to get away from using Paint and Word for graphic design. Even PowerPoint would work better since PowerPoint is a vector based program. We’ve done some quick-and-dirty desktop publishing using PowerPoint to lay out brochures and signage in place of more suitable tools like InDesign or Illustrator.

As others have said, there are good free tools available. Try to get your team used to working with vector graphics and logos. It will help you a lot when it comes time to print banners and other signage.

I recommend every one getting a creative cloud license for their team. Because you can get an academic discount its very cheap. Once you are familiar with programs like Photoshop/illustrator ect it becomes very easy to work with anything related to graphics.

I am willing to teach anyone hands on through a Skype or google hangouts call. It is definitely something I enjoy.

Enthusiastic students who come up with ideas design the buttons for our team in their own programs (generally knock-off photoshop tools). We’ve been using adobe illustrator to resize them. The actual size of the design depends on your button making tools and the size of the buttons you’re making; what we do is use a tool like illustrator to get it to best scaled size within the circular constraint, and then put it on a google docs template to print 12 buttons/page.