12 essential cheat sheets for every designer

Being a designer in 2021 means there's an awful lot of technical stuff you need to hold in your head at any time. Whether you're working in Photoshop, designing for the web or creating apps, if you want to work well and efficiently then there's all manner of rules, guidelines and jargon to keep in mind, as well as speed-enhancing shortcuts for all the software you'll be using.

It never hurts to have some helpful aides-memoire to hand; that's why we've put together this selection of cheat sheets that'll help you learn the things you need to know, jog your memory when you're up against it and refine your workflow. Most of them are downloadable, but some are online cheat sheets to bookmark. And don't forget to visit our Adobe Creative Cloud discount page if you're ready to get designing.

01. Interactive typography cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Interactive typography cheat sheet

Do you know your bowls from your loops? (Image credit: Martin Silvertant)

Typography is a design discipline with a lot of very specific jargon attached to it, and if you're serious about type then you need to be familiar with it. And here's a great way to learn all the weird names for different bits of letterforms. Based on an original design by Martin Silvertant, this interactive typography cheat sheet enables you to click on the highlighted areas to bring up the correct terminology, so you'll never confuse a shoulder with a terminal again.

02. Manual photography cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Manual photography cheat sheet

Don't fear your camera's manual settings! (Image credit: London School of Photography)

Having a good quality DSLR can instantly improve your photography, but if you want to take things further then you need to get out of the automatic modes and tackle those scary manual modes. Apertures, shutter speeds, ISO and exposure can feel a little daunting, but this manual photography cheat sheet from the London School of Photography explains them all, as well as providing some essential general tips for better photos.

03. HTML cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: HTML cheat sheet

All the HTML elements you need to know about (Image credit: Digital)

HTML is the backbone of web design, and while it was pretty easy to pick up in 1991 when it was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, it's come a long way since then and there's a lot more to learn. If you're still getting to grips with modern HTML5 elements, this HTML cheat sheet is a must to keep bookmarked; it features a full list of all HTML elements, with descriptions, code examples and live previews.

04. AR design cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: AR design cheat sheet

Get AR right with this useful guide (Image credit: Wiarframe)

Augmented reality is an exciting new frontier of digital design, and easy to do badly if you go into it without a clear idea of what you want to achieve. If you fancy dipping a toe into the AR world, this AR design cheat sheet from Wiarframe will help you cut through the jargon and get things straight. Be sure to look at this accompanying blog post, too, which doesn't look as good but goes into more detail.

05. Mobile app design – a cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Mobile app design – a cheat sheet

How to create mobile apps that aren't full of fail (Image credit: Maxim Grozny)

If you're building a mobile app there are plenty of things that you need to consider if you want to make a good impression. To make sure you're ticking all the boxes, keep this mobile app design cheat sheet by Maxim Grozny to hand. It'll take you through the four main stages of designing a mobile app – UX research, mockups, visual concept and interface design – to help you create something that people will want to use.

06. Google Material Design – a cheat sheet for professionals

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Google Material Design – a cheat sheet for professionals

Polish your Material Design skills (Image credit: Tech Republic)

Google's Material Design, first announced five years ago, is a mobile-focused visual language that's informed the look of all Google's recent products. Inspired by paper and ink, it uses shadows and edges to create a minimal aesthetic that looks good on everything from phones to 4K displays; this Material Design cheat sheet for professionals will keep you up to speed with everything you need to know about it.

07. The iOS design guidelines

12 cheat sheets for every designer: The iOS design guidelines

Designing for iOS? This cheat sheet's for you (Image credit: Ivo Mynttinen)

Material Design is all well and good, but if you're designing for iOS then you need to be aware of a whole other set of visual rules. This regularly-updated page of unofficial iOS design guidelines will help any designer build apps for iOS that adhere to Apple's Human Interface Guidelines and look good too.

08. Colour combinations cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Colour combinations cheat sheet

Everything you need to know about colour but were afraid to ask (Image credit: Oberlo)

Colour theory is one of those areas of design that can feel a little daunting, but once you have a handle on it then you can break out of your usual set of preferred palettes and start creating with imaginative and unexpected colour schemes that hold together perfectly. And this colour combinations cheat sheet will set you well on the way to improving your colour confidence.

09. Photoshop shortcuts cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Photoshop shortcuts cheat sheet

Speed through those Photoshop tasks with these shortcuts (Image credit: Future)

Photoshop CC is an essential design tool, but it can be a complex and time-consuming app to learn, especially if you need to use its more advanced features. If you want to speed things up, knowing the keyboard shortcuts rather than relying on menus and toolboxes is a must; that's why we've put together this fantastic Photoshop shortcuts cheat sheet detailing 69 of the most useful ways to turbo-charge your design process.

10. Illustrator cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Illustrator cheat sheet

Here's a helpful guide to Illustrator's ways (Image credit: Creative Market)

Another essential but complex design must-have is Adobe Illustrator. While it's relatively easy to come to Photoshop cold and pick up the basics, Illustrator's vector ways can be a lot more challenging to master, so head over to Creative Market and grab its free Illustrator cheat sheet, which will guide you around the Illustrator workspace and explain its most useful tools and features.

11. InDesign keyboard shortcuts

12 cheat sheets for every designer: InDesign keyboard shortcuts

InDesign shortcuts? Here you go! (Image credit: Adobe)

While we're on an Adobe tip, let's move on to InDesign, which in many ways is the most complex Adobe app that designers are likely to have to deal with. Creating and preparing pages for print can be a demanding job, especially when you're up against an immutable print deadline, and knowing those keyboard shortcuts can help speed the process. So make sure you have this comprehensive guide to Indesign keyboard shortcuts from Adobe standing by.

12. Complete CSS3 cheat sheet

12 cheat sheets for every designer: Complete CSS3 cheat sheet

29 pages of everything CSS3 (Image credit: Nick Schäferhoff)

CSS is just as essential to web design as HTML, and just like HTML it's been developing for a long time, with loads of terminology that you need understand. This complete CSS3 cheat sheet by Nick Schäferhoff is one you'll want to keep handy; over 29 pages it covers all the CSS elements that you need to know about, including all the new CSS3 tags and divs.

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.