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Burning color with Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a designer, blogger, author, and teacher based in Louisville. He is also the founder of Colorburned - a website with brushes, patterns, vectors, tutorials and more!. His blog shares some amazing design related stuff and is growing every day.

I had the chance to "burn some color" (having a chat conversation) with Grant. You can read the full conversation here, sharing some personal and useful stuff with the rest of us.

Burning color with Grant Friedman

Now, lets sit down, take a drink and chat with this creative man behind the scenes of Colorburned.

Burning color with Grant Friedman

Hi Grant! First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to "burn some color" with me. Most of the readers will already know you from Colorburned, but for those that don't, could you please introduce yourself? Where do you live, what do you do and what do you love to eat?

Hi! No problem, thank you for taking the time to interview me. My name is Grant Friedman. I am a graphic designer, author, and blogger from Louisville, KY, USA. I am the editor of, a graphic design blog that specializes in designing free design resources such as Photoshop/Illustrator brushes, vector pattern swatches, textures, and vectors but we also write tutorials and design-related articles as well. In addition, lately we have also been doing quite a few giveaways on the site. We've given away everything from free vectors to high quality plug-ins for Photoshop and Illustrator.

My favorite foods are chicken fingers, pizza, and cheeseburgers; in that order, but I also love Peanut butter M&Ms and ice cream.

Haha, chicken fingers, pizza, and cheeseburgers, who doesn't like that. Delicious food!

How did you roll into the graphic design field? You do share some serious high quality stuff (freebies and articles) on your website, so you must have much experience in the field.

Thanks a lot! I really appreciate that. I've been designing for about 10 years. When I was in college I volunteered to distribute a newsletter via email for an organization that I was involved with. At the time, email was still sort of new to everyone so no one really knew how to do it. As I began sending out more and more emails I started to learn how to make them look better. First I learned a bit of html, and then I started to pick up graphic design. I've been hooked ever since.

Grant has sent you the following item:


HTML - isn't that where everybody starts. Good old times.

Talking about HTML - I think CSS is really close to that one too. Do you think converting a PSD webdesign to HTML and CSS is the job of a programmer, or something designers should do?

With amazing JavaScript frameworks (jQuery, MooTools etc.) you can also achieve very fancy effects that actually a designer should make. What is your perspective on this?

A website's CSS can often make or break a site's design. In my time as a designer I've seen quite a few beautiful PSD files been completely ruined by people who have no idea how to code. That's why I always recommend outsourcing the markup to some one you know and trust to ensure that the design you create looks the same in a browser as it does in Photoshop.

I'm a big fan of anything that improves the user experience. If you can use jQuery or MooTools to improve your site's functionality then go for it, but don't use them simply for the fact that they're "fancy."

Very interesting thoughts there. I personally really like websites using jQuery (or any other JavaScript framework) that just do some "fancy" or "useless yet fun" stuff, that aren't practical at all. Guess that varies from every opinion.

Anyway, back to the burning color. Why and when did you decide to start up your blog and how did you come up with the name "ColorBurned"?

I started Colorburned in May of 2008 after I left my job working for the Governor of Kentucky. I originally launched my site as and had planned to design the site in Flash. As fate would have it, the Flash idea fell through and I ended up throwing together a Moveable Type blog on my own. It didn't take long for me to realize how crumby of a job I did coding the site by myself so I decided to contact Lisa Sabin-Wilson of to help with the implementation. It was about the same time that I came up with the Colorburned idea. While I liked the idea of having I just felt that Colorburned was much more marketable. I actually spent quite a while trying to think up the name. I actually just went through all the menus in Photoshop looking for cool names. As it happened was available so I jumped at it.

My main reason for starting Colorburned however was to promote my work. After leaving my job in government I decided to pursue a career in design. This was about a year and a half ago. Ironically, I still haven't found a full-time job but my site is doing really well which is great.

Grant has sent you the following item:

Flying Bars

Always fun to see how the original idea of a website or blog started.

If you don't have a current job, do you plan on making a living out of freelancing / blogging? There are a couple of people that succeeded using this recipe (Chris Spooner for example), but many have failed. What do you think?

I've been freelancing and blogging full-time since I left my position with the State. I will admit it's been tough, especially after leaving a job that wasn't your ordinary design position. As tough as it's been however, I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in the last year. I started completely from scratch and within a year I've written a design book, grown my site into a popular destination for designers, and have managed to grow as a designer and artist in the process. Will I be able to earn a living from blogging and freelancing? I think that remains to be seen but as Chris Spooner said when he started freelancing full-time; and I'm paraphrasing, "at least I have my blog as a safety net".

Yup, you're totally right. Having a blog as "safety net" is a very good option. An additional advantage is that it can create some extra income, even when you can live from designing alone.

You said you already wrote a book. As I recall, this book isn't available for purchase yet. What's the story behind the book? Why and how did you start, what topics will be discussed and when will it be released to the public?

My book is called Retro Style Graphics. It is a resource style guide for retro design. It has sections on vector graphics, fonts, colors, patterns, textures, and brushes; all of which are included on a CD attached to the book. The book is published by Angela Patchell Books, a publishing company out of the UK. The book is my first so I'm very excited to see it. I completed work on it several weeks ago and it is scheduled to be in stores some time this Fall. It is available for preorder on

Grant has sent you the following item:

Glass Flower

Cool - can't wait until it's available! Are you planning to place a small part of the book online, just to draw attention?

You recently meeted with Fabio Sasso from Abduzeedo. How was that, meeting someone that you actually met online through blogging? And if there was anybody from the "blog-o-sphere" that you want to meet, who would it be?

Meeting with Fabio was really cool! He was a great guy. I'd love to meet some more people from the design community. I will be meeting quite a few guys at the Front End Design Conference in July but I would love to meet Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine or some of the other design bloggers who live in other parts of the world.

Grant has sent you the following item:

My Son - Digital Painting

Sadly, the FEDC is on the other side of the world, would love to be there too. Next time you guys might want to come to Europe?

Anyway, enough about that, let's go back to your blog. What article is "the best" article you've written so far? And I don't mean in terms of traffic or anything: Just the article that you consider to be "the best". Why do you think it's especially that one?

My site is kind of unique in that I don't write very many articles. That is in the process of changing but right now a majority of my site's content is dedicated to design resources like Photoshop brushes, Illustrator brushes, patterns, etc. One of my favorite articles however wasn't actually published on my site; it was published on about the value of your work and time. In the article I explain that you should never under-value your worth and you should always charge a price a that is representative of the time you spent on the project.

Ah, I see. I understand that you mainly use Colorburned as a "design resource" than an actual blog website?

You must have learned a lot about blogging and designing the last couple of years. What are the most valueable things that you learned and still use very often, both about blogging and designing?

I wouldn't say that. While I add a lot of free design resources to the site, I also write tutorials, articles, interviews and even giveaways on my site as well. So I don't think it would be accurate to say that my site is not a blog.

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned about blogging in the last couple of years is the importance of social networking. There are a lot of design sites out there so it's important to develop a personal connection with your audience, otherwise they will just go elsewhere for their design news.

Do you have any milestones set for Colorburned, like getting an X number of subscribers before a certain date, or changing the layout anytime soon?

If there aren't any milestones set for Colorburned, do you have them for your own, like learning a programming language (as a designer)?

I certainly have goals for my site but I try not to set timelines. If I keep producing quality content, the traffic will eventually come.

I would love to learn 3d graphics some day.

Grant has sent you the following item:


Learning 3d graphics is very, very cool. Especially when you're so talented that you can realistic CG art. I gave 3d modeling with 3d Studio Max a spin too, but it's really hard. Still was pretty fun to do!

Out of all the work that you created, for clients and for yourself, which one would you call your favorite and why? Also, could you give a brief look into how you created it?

To be honest, I have to say that of all the projects that I've worked on the most gratifying is the work I've done on Colorburned. I get so much gratification from creating things. Whether it's a website, organization, or graphic; for whatever reason it just makes me feel good. I like Colorburned because it gives me the opportunity to help designers in ways that weren't available to me when I started out.

Yup, that's absolutely great about having a blog on your own. It really is satisfiying sharing stuff with the community, as well as it keeps your "drive" in design.

Aside from your design work that you do as a freelancer, you also seem to enjoy writing Photoshop tutorials and creating high quality freebies. Can you share with us your favorite Photoshop trick or technique?

I really do enjoy making high quality freebies. I get a lot of satisfaction from it for whatever reason. One of my favorite Photoshop techniques is changing the blending mode in the Layers palette. It's not necessarily the most advanced feature of Photoshop but it really is one of the most useful. You can really add a lot to a design just by overlaying a texture on your design or by setting some shapes to Hard Light.

Changing the blending mode is a pretty basic technique, but when used correct, it can produce stunning effects. Thanks for sharing!

Photoshop has some amazing features - CS3 introduced smart filter and vanishing point, the new CS4 came with Content Aware Scaling and 3D improvement. As with all software programs, at what points do you think the application could be improved? What do you "miss" in the current version, but would love to see in the next?

I actually haven't upgraded to CS4 yet. I'm running CS3 on my desktop and CS2 on my laptop. I plan to switch from PC to Mac within the next few months so I'm waiting to do that before I upgrade. One feature I've been hoping for is a way to copy and paste an entire Illustration from Illustrator to Photoshop while maintaining the layers. Right now if you copy an entire Illustration from Illustrator it will paste the Illustration as one big vector smart object. I would like to have a bunch of independent vector smart objects so I can add effects, change blending modes, etc.

Grant has sent you the following item:

The Key

I haven't upgraded to CS4 too; Still running CS3 on my Mac. But you're totally right: I do found it strange that you can't (internally) preserve the layers when switching objects from Illustrator to Photoshop. Great thought!

Now something totally different: What in the world couldn't you live without, when talking about your work that isn't obvious? Examples could be: a stress ball, certain kind of music, an inspirational room where you work etc.

At this point I really couldn't do without Twitter. I've only been using Twitter for about a year but ever since it's become a critical tool for networking, inspiration, and discovering new design techniques.

Twitter indeed is amazing - it has grown (and is still growing) to a massive community. It allows people to interact in a fast way with each other.

Grant, I want to thank you for your time. I learned some new stuff from you, and I hope the readers from Marcofolio will too.

For some final words: Do you have any websites that you frequently visit for inspiration? And when people want to find you, where can they start looking?

It was my pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity. My favorite sites are Smashing Magazine, VECTORTUTS, and GoMediaZine but I'm also a big fan of Abduzeedo.

I'm fairly easy to track down. Just visit my website or follow me on Twitter.

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