The Tools You Need to Be Great at Graphic Design

The Tools You Need to Be Great at Graphic Design

Graphic design is an exciting and creative field that requires some key tools to help you succeed. With the right graphic design tools, you’ll be able to bring your creative visions to life and produce stunning designs for your clients.

Here are some of the essential tools you need in your toolkit to become a great graphic designer.  

Digital Drawing Tablets

One of the most important tools for any graphic designer today is a digital drawing tablet. Drawing tablets allow you to sketch, draw, and illustrate your designs by hand using a digital pen on the tablet’s surface.

This gives you the tactile feel of traditional drawing while letting you work natively in digital formats. Popular options like the Wacom Intuos Pro or iPad Pro with Apple Pencil are excellent choices for graphic designers. With a drawing tablet, you can sketch rough concepts, draw illustrations, or do precision design work, all on a digital canvas. It’s an indispensable tool for digital creation.

Advanced Image Editing Software

You’ll need professional-grade image editing software as the core of your graphic design toolkit. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo give you advanced editing capabilities to work with raster graphics and digital photographs.

You can edit images down to the pixel with masking, filters, adjustment layers, and more. Image editing apps let you touch up photos, create composite images, work with text layouts, build ads, and craft designs with pixel-level precision. This extremely versatile software is used across many design disciplines.

Vector Graphics Software

While Photoshop shines for bitmap editing, you’ll want vector graphics software like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer for illustration and logo work. Vector software uses mathematically defined lines and curves that remain crisp and smooth at any size.

This makes vector graphics perfect for flexible logos, diagrams, charts, typography, and print projects. Vector tools help you illustrate custom artwork, build layouts with shapes, and design icons, logos, and branding assets that can scale up or down infinitely.

PDF Software

An important tool for graphic designers is quality PDF software. Programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro and SmallPDF make working with PDF documents easy. Using Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can easily create a document of your designs to send to potential clients as a portfolio.

The software can also be used prior to handing over your final files – show clients what you’ve created and have them sign off on them before finalising everything. Small PDF’s tool enables you to compress PDF files with ease.  You can easily reduce file sizes by as much as 99% before emailing or uploading for quick sharing. Both are must-have tools for those who want to go pro.

Layout Software

Dedicated layout software is critical for assembling designs for print and digital media. Adobe InDesign is the industry standard used to build book layouts, posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, and more. You can use master pages, multi-page documents, typographic controls, interactive PDFs, and digital/print publishing capabilities.

Affinity Publisher is a cheaper alternative with robust features. Layout programs help you arrange text, graphics, and elements precisely for polished results. You’ll rely on these tools constantly when designing for physical or digital formats.

Colour Management Tools

Carefully managing colour is vital in graphic design work. Having properly calibrated monitors ensures what you see on-screen matches real printed output. Hardware calibrators like the X-Rite i1Display Pro calibrate your monitors to colour standards like sRGB and Adobe RGB. This way designs look identical on any calibrated device.

You’ll also need printer profiles for each printer you use to translate between what you see on-screen and the printer’s results. Colour management hardware and software lead to accurate colour reproduction so your designs have a professional, consistent colour.

Stock Photo Resources

Quality stock photos are a designer’s best friend for sourcing great imagery without hiring photographers. Stock libraries like Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, iStock, Deposit Photos, and Getty Images offer millions of high-resolution stock photos covering every topic imaginable.

You can find the perfect photo to complement your design work and avoid settling for subpar imagery. Many plans offer unlimited access so you can use stock photos freely in client projects. Stock agencies regularly add new content, too. With stock photo access, you’ll always have stunning supporting visuals for your designs.

Subscription Suites

Subscription suites that bundle multiple apps offer an affordable way to equip your design toolkit. The full Adobe Creative Cloud suite includes all Adobe’s design apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Affinity also offers a suite of their alternatives to Adobe apps.

With a subscription suite, you get access to all the vital software across different specialities. This route makes outfitting your graphic design toolkit simple and cost-effective. Evaluate subscription options to find a plan that suits your budget and needs.

Mockup Templates

Mockups allow you to showcase your designs in realistic contexts. Collections like Mockup World offer thousands of high-quality mockup templates for graphic design projects. Easily drop your designs into mockup scenes to preview them as app interfaces, billboards, packaging, shirts, websites, and more. Mockups help sell your designs and concepts by showing clients how they’ll look in the real world.

Collaboration Platforms

Modern collaboration platforms improve teamwork and client deliverables. Tools like Slack, Miro, and Figma enable real-time communication and feedback cycles. Designers can get instant input from stakeholders, share works-in-progress securely, and iterate more efficiently. Streamlined collaboration ultimately leads to better outcomes. Remote tools make working with clients and colleagues seamless regardless of location.

Prototyping Apps

Apps like Adobe XD and Figma go beyond static designs to interactive prototyping. You can build clickable prototypes that look and work like real websites or apps. Prototypes let you test concepts and preview user experiences early in the process. Clients can offer feedback by actually interacting with prototypes instead of viewing static mockups. This takes design collaboration to the next level and could really help you stand out as a designer, especially in a crowded marketplace.

Presentation Tools

Effective presentation tools are must-haves for showing off your best design work. Programs like PowerPoint, Keynote, and Canva simplify building sleek presentations.

You can also use presentation software to create project pitch decks, portfolios, reports, and more. Impress clients with professionally crafted presentations that showcase your designs in the best light. Use built-in themes, graphics, and layouts to keep presentations focused on the work itself.

Task Management Apps

Staying organised is key for designers involved in multiple projects and deadlines. Task management apps like Asana, Trello, and Notion provide project overviews so you can plan and prioritize efficiently. Track project schedules, assign tasks, set reminders, collaborate with teams, and more.

With task management systems, you can juggle multiple design jobs while maintaining organisation. Don’t let important details slip through the cracks.

Today’s graphic designers are fortunate to have such powerful digital tools available. Drawing tablets, image editors, vector software, PDF tools, layout programs, colour management gear, stock photos, and subscription suites offer everything needed to excel as a designer.

Fill your toolkit with these essential items so you can fully realise your creative visions and deliver stunning work to clients. Mastering these graphic design tools is the path to being a skilled, successful designer.


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