Update: We now have a one-hour crash course on reskinning graphics for apps. You can purchase the app graphics tutorial for only $19 here! The tutorial shows how we reskin  our Bingo source code backgrounds, level banners, and icon.

We get a lot of questions about how to build an app, and most are about the re-skinning process. One that we hear over and over concerns how to make graphics for apps and app UI design. With our tutorials making the programming part 100x easier, graphics still remain a big question mark. Should you hire a designer and pay $500+ for custom graphics? Should you make the graphics yourself and try for free graphic design? Should you try to find stock images? How do you do it yourself? These are great questions, and with over 30 apps under our belt, we’ve finally come to a specific process.

First, you need to consider your goal for this app. We have some apps that were built from scratch and were intended to be revolutionary. For example, our first app, Pixtant, was a large project and a fairly new idea for the App Store. It’s similar to Instagram, except users vote between two pictures instead of liking one picture. Because this was a custom-built app with a big vision and a significant budget, it made sense for us to have custom-created graphics and buttons. We wanted to be unique and cared about the brand.

On the other hand, we have purchased source codes with a sole purpose of creating a large amount of apps that monetize quickly with low investment costs. In this case, brand is not important, as we expect some apps to fail, some to make a couple hundred dollars, and some to make a few thousand. Almost all will slow down after a couple of months and never go viral. In this case, mediocre graphics are acceptable. This was our strategy for most of our apps, including “Halloween Casino.” You can see how much money it made (and how many downloads it got). While you never want to have bad graphics, average graphics can easily be good enough–like with Halloween Casino–and if that means saving $500, it makes sense. If you reskin 30 apps and use this method, you could have saved $15,000 or more. That alone can take your app business from the red to the black.

If you’re just starting out, doing it yourself is a great method for a few reasons: you’ll be more involved in the creation of your app, you will learn a ton in the process and know if you’re being ripped off for graphics, you’ll save a good amount of money, and you don’t need to wait for a graphic designer to do the work. Cons are that it will take more of your own personal time and graphics won’t be as great as they could be, unless you’re a graphic designer. But again, this time isn’t completely lost as you’ll have a better feel for your business in the end and will learn a lot along the way.

If you decide that custom graphics could take your app to the next level and you will make that investment back, go for it. But if you’re looking to do it yourself, here are some tips we’ve learned along the way.

Do It Yourself App Graphics

You may be tempted to make graphics from scratch by yourself. Seems easy enough, right? Not really. It takes a ton of time and effort to think up the design and make it look great. The better solution is to find graphics that have already been made, or pay someone to find graphics and resize them for you.

Our favorite source for app graphic design has been GraphicRiver. You can get a set of 8 graphics for only $2-$10. Search a keyword for your theme like “Halloween” and choose to search for vector graphics. Vector graphics allow you to easily resize images without ruining the quality. Once you’ve found a set you like, take a look at what other graphics that author offers. Often, you’ll find that they have a bunch of different graphics in one set theme, and this can keep your graphics looking consistent. Instead of buying a bunch of different graphics from different authors, you can have a cohesive look by sticking to one author.

Make sure you have all the graphics you would need and make the purchase! From there, we generally resize the vector images in Adobe Illustrator and save them… simple as that.

This process should take less than a day, which is more reason this is a great method. With our app reskinning tutorials, you could do the graphics and development yourself in one day’s time. It doesn’t get much faster than that.

Have a different method that works for you or still have questions? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list on the right side of the page for special deals and announcements.

Here’s to a profitable and educational new year!


10 thoughts on “How to Make Graphics for Apps and UI Design: Hire a Graphic Designer or DIY

  1. Very nice write up. I have a guy I use on fiverr.com that makes really good icons for me for $5-$10. I also like to use a free web photo editor pixlr.com. It is just like photoshop but you don’t have to pay for it and it is web based.

  2. Are licenses on graphicriver to sell it it with apps, or do you need a extended license for this kind? Bought in the past pics from istockphoto, then I realized for selling sell it, I need an extended license… costs muuuch more 😀

  3. I was looking on the site provided and it looks to me like a lot of the pictures have different backgrounds. Did you have to cut out the pictures and put them on your own background? If you did, what did you use? If not, what am I supposed to do? Also, if you don’t mind, could you provide the links to the source of the pictures for your Halloween casino. I’m still not exactly sure what to search for in order to find cheap packages of photos that I can straight up use with little editing.

    1. We did cut the pictures and put them on a solid background, using Adobe Illustrator. If you purchase vector files online, it’s very easy to resize in Illustrator and place over a solid background. You can do any keyword search on GraphicRiver and select “Vector Graphics” to find some good ones.

      1. Hi there, can you do this on photoshop also?

        Is illustrator easy to learn if you have no knowledge of it. I am a photographer so use photoshop.

        1. Hi Carley,
          My understanding is that Photoshop doesn’t handle vector images as well as Illustrator. So if you try to make a vector image larger in Photoshop, you lose the quality, whereas with Illustrator, it stays the same. However, I’m definitely not an expert, so you might be able to get the same results with Photoshop. You’d have to try it out.

    1. Hi Rafael,

      If you’re only using the graphics once, a single-use license should work, but if you plan to reuse the graphics in different apps, then you should get an unlimited license.


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