Essential tools for graphic designers are just as crucial as a scalpel in a surgeon’s hands. Without them, yourchallengingme very difficult.
You might substitute some of them for other possible options, such as the traditional sketch pad for some simple sheets of paper, but try to imagine how it would feel like to go to your client with a ton of paper sheets in your hand that you may lose or damage on the way. You try to find where you sketched your ideas and remember: I forgot my sketches at home.
1. Desktop or Laptop Computer: Necessity for Every Graphic Designer
You might say: thanks, I didn’t know I needed a computer to create my art. But I must say this is an essential graphic designer tool.
Nothing is more frustrating than designing on a computer that is not powerful enough to run graphic design programs. If you think that Google Chrome likes to eat your RAM away, let me tell you, Adobe Photoshop is a true glutton when it comes to stuffing its mouth with RAM.
Choosing between a desktop or laptop, you should pay attention to how much mobility you need and your budget.
A laptop comes in handy if you are flexible with your location: if you have to design something on the go, travel a lot, or have presentations to show – everywhere that you can’t take your desktop computer with you.
The cost of a laptop is – from my point of view – thAde. If you want a good la for your art, it will cost you at least 1.5 times more than a similar desktop computer.
Regarding the brand you choose for your computer, it doesn’t matter if you’re designing on an Apple or other brand PC, and you can create your fantastic design on desktop and laptop computers.
But there are crucial specifications of your design machine that you should consider: memory – RAM, hard disk speed, and process speed.
Your perfect graphic design computer should have:
- Bear a minimum of 8 GB of RAM. The more RAM you have, the easier it will be for your computer to process multiple tasks simultaneously. If you bump up your modern abacus 16 GB or even to 32 GB of RAM, youions will really fly by.
- Hard Disk Drive (HDD) spinning at 7200 rpm. If you want your computer to become a rocket, I encourage you to invest in Sold State Drive (SSD). The performance of an SSD will not only show when you open 30 tabs in Photoshop but your computer will boot faster, and your overall programs will start faster. Your hard drive should have at least 500 GB of storage space, but that might fill quickly, so try to invest in a hard drive with 1 TB of saving space. You can create a hybrid between SSD drive and HDD. In that case, you can buy an SSD with at least 265 GB of storage space and have your graphic design programs installed on an HDD for your storage.
- Choose a processor with at least four cores, it should run on at least 2.0 GHz, but higher clock speed is not the number one indicator for processor performance. It would be best to consider how many actions per clock cycle the processor can do. I don’t want to go too technical here, but you will be fine if you purchase a processor with at least four cores.
2. Quality Display an Essential Graphic Design Tool
I can’t stress enough how vital a good computer display is when dealing with graphic design.
You can say that your laptop screen is just enough for making your designs, but if you are designing for more than 2 hours a day, a computer screen is just as essential in graphic design as a good desktop or laptop PC.
Don’t hesitate to spend more on a computer screen, because a good display will last longer than the actual computer.
When buying your graphic design computer screen, you should look for one that reproduces colors like end prints.
Those screens have IPS panel technology. Accurate color reproduction is even more critical if you design a project involving printing, such as stationary prints or packaging. Besides that, IPS panel technology enables you wide viewing angles – colors won’t change no matter the angle you look at the screen.
Besides IPS, your screen should have 100 coverage of sRGB color space. If you’re a designer who primarily works with printing labs, you should consider Adobe RGB, which has a better representation of colors, especially in cyan-green hues.
I would say that a 24″ screen does the job, but you should consider even 27″ or 32″. It would be best to look for a resolution of at least 2,560-by-1,440 pixels.
If you don’t want to spend half an hour choosing which books you should put under your computer screen to raise it high enough, then you should look for the adjustability in height and depth feature, which will make your workspace more ergonomic.
Your screen should involve multiple connections, such as an HDMI port, DVI port, and DisplayPort 1.2.
3. Software a Crucial Design Tool
Besides hardware, graphic design software is crucial for creating your art.
When choosing the right software, you should consider Adobe Creative Cloud, the most widely used among designers.
Many programs are developed by Adobe, from creating vector graphics to video editing. In the beginning, Adobe had one-off payments for all their programs, but today they are subscription based.
You don’t need to own all the programs created by Adobe to create your artwork, but the essential few depend on your design field.
Designers from digital design and photographers use Photoshop, and designers who work in the printing process use InDesign. If you create logotypes, you will use Illustrator, and for designers who make animations, the tool to go in After Effects.
For UI/UX designers, Adobe XD comes in handy, where you can create prototypes of your websites and mobile apps.
Overall you don’t need to be dependent on one program alone.
In Adobe Illustrator, you can create logotypes and printing material as well, or you can even create a webpage.
Adobe InDesign is another program where you’re not limited to printing design, but I’ve also seen people designing web pages.
A subscription-based business model is inconvenient if you’re starting your design career.
In that case, you can check out products from Serif. Serif offers two products: Affinity Designer for creating vector graphics and illustrations and Affinity Photo for editing photographs.
Both programs come in one-off payment with free updates.
4. Sketch Pad, a Fast and Easy Tool for Sketching Ideas
Before putting your designs in a digital form, you should first sketch them; this is where a sketch pad comes in handy.
Sketchpad is one thing you can substitute for ordinary sheets of paper, but I cannot tell you how many times I have thrown good sketches and viable information made on sheets of paper away.
Besides that, you can show your sketches to your client in a sketchbook, which looks more professional than solely on sheets of paper.
There are many different sketch pads in the market, from different sizes to different inside paper patterns.
I prefer a sketch pad with a dotted paper pattern, which comes in handy for creating wireframes – if you are a web designer or drawing lines from one dot to another when designing logos.
5. Secure Data Storage a Graphic Designer Must Have
Have you ever lost all your data because your computer suddenly decided it shouldn’t work properly anymore?
Then you know how important it is to have an additional backup system.
Secure data storage is not only an essential tool for a graphic designer but for any person who works with digital files, and nowadays, you can choose to have your bytes stored in the cloud or on an external hard drive.
Cloud-stored data comes in handy if you are working from a home, office, or in your favorite coffee shop, so if you want to have access wherever and whenever, choose it.
The downfall of cloud data services is the price, which is usually paid in a yearly fee and is twice as expensive as the exact size of data storage on a hard disk.
Besides that, you need a good internet connection for uploading and downloading your files, and that isn’t easy to find sometimes.
If you don’t have a super-fast internet connection, external disks have faster writing speeds than the internet and are cheaper.
A quick tip: before presenting your work to a client, check twice if you took your external disk with you; otherwise, you are screwed.
External hard disks are running on HDD technology and are prone to damage, so if you drop your disk on the floor, all the data that you have stored can be erased.
6. Big Table For All Designer Things
When I was at the beginning of my design career, I bought a table that was solely nice to look at; I didn’t know how many things I needed to create a successful design: my ever-filling notebooks, laptop, monitor, mouse, keyboard and my table plant named Sophia.
All this stuff suddenly filled my narrow, nice-to-look-at-designer desk, so I needed to change it to a more extensive desk.
When buying a desk, ensure it is at least 55 x 42 in (140 x 120 cm) wide, so you will have enough space.
In case you have a cat, be prepared to have it sit on your desk or keyboard.
7. Ergonomic Chair: The Essential Tool to Reduce Back Pain
There is no way to create quality artwork on your computer other than sitting down.
Ok, you might try to design something differently (by standing up, for instance), but you will most of the time be sitting down.
It is necessary to take a break every hour and stretch your back, but if you’re in the middle of your creative AHA moment, time will fly so fast that you will forget you need your much-important hourly back stretch.
That’s where an ergonomic chair comes in handy by helping reduce stress on your spine.
When you’re looking for the perfect chair you’ll be working in the whole day; you should look for: good lumber support, adjustability of reliability, arm width and height, lumbar support, and depth of sitting.
I would also recommend breathable fabric for your chair, which prevents you from sweating while sitting.
8. Computer Mouse that Fits Hand Perfectly
You can find a way around designing without a keyboard, but never without a mouse. Of course, something you hold in your hands for hours is worth mentioning.
It’s nice to have a mouse that works on every surface, has buttons in suitable spaces, and doesn’t have so many LED lights on it (did a UFO land on your desk?).
I’ve tested almost every brand on the market to find a suitable mouse for my hand, and everyone had some flaws until I tried the Logitech MX Master 2, which was love on the first grip.
Every hand is different, and Logitech MX Master 2 might not fit your hand like a glove, so you might want to test it first.
9. Pantone Matching System: The Ultimate Tool for Graphic Designers
Do you know the feeling when you used the right colors in the logo you were designing, and then you find out the printed colors of your logo on the 500 business cards aren’t even close to what you’ve seen on the screen?
Every designer can avoid this color-mismatch situation by owning a Pantone matching system, and if you’re working in the printing process, this is an essential graphic design tool.
I recommend having Pantone Color Bridge Set: Coated and Uncoated, where you can check the deviation between CMYK and Pantone colors.
10. Screen Calibrator: Ultimate Tool for the Perfect Screen Colors
If you want to print out your or your client’s favorite photos or create work that doesn’t contain a Pantone color scale, you will need to perceive the right colors on your computer screen.
The only way someone can achieve this is through a calibrated computer screen.
Some high-end monitors already have hardware and software calibration tools build-in in, which helps maintain color consistency.
But if you don’t own a monitor like that, the only way to do it is by holding a monitor calibrator tool.
Calibration colors for your monitor are effortless. You place the calibrator tool on your screen, press start, and leave all the rest to the little machine.
Some monitor calibration tools can leave them connected to your computer, and they will always calculate the amount of light around your working environment and adjust the screen brightness accordingly.
I recommend performing a screen calibration every month, but if you work a lot in the printing process, you should calibrate it more often.
Final Thoughts: Essential Tools for Graphic Designers
Those are my recommended essential tools for any graphic designer. You don’t need to buy the most expensive Herman Miller office chair to have a healthy spine or the most expansive mouse just because you’ve read my recommendations. Remember that comfort, reliability, and efficiency are keys to mastering this job.