12 Must Have Tools For Graphic Designers

July 22, 2019

Tools that every designer should have

So today, I wanted to give my insight on the most optimal tools that designers should be using in 2019. Whether you are just starting out as a designer or a veteran in the field, these are definitely a must have for our industry.

List of tools:

  1. Laptop: Apple Macbook $2299+ or Desktop: iMac $1,299
  2. High-Res Monitor: BenQ PD3200U $699
  3. Reliable Hard Drive: LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) $140
  4. Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 13″ Pen Display $280
  5. Smart Notebook: Evernote Smart Notebook $15
  6. Color Swatches: Pantone Swatch Book $255
  7. Ergonomic Chair: Herman Miller Aeron $1275
  8. Studio Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV $3549
  9. Wide-Format Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000
  10. Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s $79
  11. Pens: Sakura Fine Liner Set $23
  12. Creative Software: Adobe CC from $9.99

Apple Macbook/iMac

Speaking from experience, this is by far the go to computer to use for graphic design. A bit of history about the apple family product of computers is that they were originally designed for artists and designers in mind. With that being said, today's technologies have only advanced this. The Apple MacBook Pro is a powerful machine with an Intel i7 Quad Core processor and 16GB of RAM. Thats enough ram to run 4 or more adobe programs simultaneously, which is excellent for work productivity. If you’re an avid Windows user however, there may be a learning curve before you actually begin to utilize the full potential of the computer, as it's operating system is much different from Windows. Another thing to be aware of is that this computer's newer model does not have USB ports, which some people may find uncomfortable. Aside from these minor caveats, Apple offers an outstanding design experience with their Macbook Pro series, and consistently delivers products centered around innovation and technology. Designers of all kinds will certainly enjoy the AMD Radeon Pro Graphics and high resolution screen associated with the Macbook Pro. The price is a bit much, but for all the things the Macbook Pro has to offer, I would say it's worth it.

If that wasn't enough, check out what the iMac has to offer! Provided by Intel, the CPU contained within the computer uses their Intel Core i5 processor. It runs at 3Ghz but if you need something a little stronger, it can clock up to 3.5Ghz. My advice is to buy one that is 8GB of RAM, as this will provide you with enough power to take on just about any task. The GPU, inside the iMac is a Radeon Pro 500 that comes with 2GB of dedicated video memory, making it twice as fast as the previous model. Even though it doesn’t come with a SSD, the fusion drive does come with 1TB of space, which is enough to hold any project imaginable. The 21.5in monitor with Retina display shines brighter than ever. Able to produce up to one billion colors and a brightness of 500 nits, images have never looked better and sharper. On the back of the monitor, you will find 2 USB-C ports, 4 USB ports, and an SDXC card slot which will make it easy to plug in any peripherals you may have.

High-Res Monitor: BenQ PD3200U

This monitor features widescreen and makes working with images in 4K and in 3D a lot easier than it would be on other monitors. The display is 32-inches and has a PS screen equipped with a contrast ratio of 1,000:1. The monitor has full, 100% support for sRGB color space. BenQ PD3200U has a resolution of 3840×2160, and is a 4K monitor which features 100% support for Rec 709, which also includes a darkroom, dedicated animation, and CAD/CAM modes. Sporting a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse( switch, the PD3200U allows you to plug in a second PC to the monitor and switch between the two while using one screen, keyboard, and mouse. This can be a great option and space saver, especially if you use separate computers and have a smaller workspace.

The monitor is also fully adjustable, swiveling from landscape to portrait has never been easier. This offers greater flexibility while working on certain projects. allowing a more productive workflow. On the right of the monitor are two HDMI ports.

Reliable Hard Drive: LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB)

This is without a doubt one of the most important things to have when working as a designer and when owning any type of computer. The right external hard drive will save you a lot of heart ache if things out of your control may occur, such as a corrupted internal hard drive, where you can lose much of your completed work. The LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) is superbly crafted and has outstanding performance, including 5GB/s speed. It comes with both USB-C and USB 3.0 connectivity allowing it longer legs than your regular hard drive, not to mention that it has a stylish, advanced lightweight aluminum finish that complements Mac computers. Now that's pretty awesome if you ask me!

Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 13″ Pen Display

The Wacom DTH1320AK0 Cintiq Pro 13″ Creative Pen Display allows creative specialists who are more used to working traditionally with pen and paper transition over to creating digital works by hand. This is achieved by using Wacom’s patented, professional Pen technology on the surface of its LCD screen. It's accuracy is world-class, it has precise control, and comfort for editing digital images. The functionality and reactive pen-on-screen performance carefully mimics the feel of traditional brushes and markers and ensures a smooth electronic workflow. What's better is that the Wacom screen includes a scratch-resistant surface, which is totally flat from border to border, allowing the hands to glide easily over the complete surface.

With added pressure, tilting, and control over the cursor in every application, the Wacom pen gives impressive results in assisting applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Autodesk SketchBook Pro, and a huge selection of other applications. It works on both Mac and PC.

Smart Notebook: Evernote Smart Notebook

The Evernote Smart Notebook is one of the best notebooks to use for jotting down notes, sketching or writing during meetings or just about anything as it helps you sync your analogue and digital work. It comes with ruled pages, designed to digitally capture your written work. It also has “Smart Sticker icons” that are searchable, keeping your ideas organized.

Color Swatches: Pantone Swatch Book

If you work in any type of print shop or just design and deal with print in general, you’re going to definitely a Pantone swatch book, for color consistency and accuracy.

These are one of the most functional color tools for graphic designers, period. It gives you a side-by-side aesthetic evaluation of Pantone spot colors versus their closest CMYK process color, producing a match on uncoated and coated paper. In addition, it gives RBG and HEX values ensuring the colors are reproduced on screen in their best light. This product is definitely worth the buy when you begin your career and will help you in the long run.

Ergonomic Chair: Herman Miller Aeron

Seat height: 14.75-20.5in | Seat width: 25.75-28.25in | Max load: 350lbs | Lumbar support: yes | Height adjustable: yes | Tilt lock: yes (Height and width dimensions determined by model purchased)

I would say that this is a really good chair to work in. It is highly comfortable, allowing you to sit for hours to focus on any task. It is available in three different sizes to accommodate just about any person imaginable, and is by far one of the best ergonomically-designed chairs ever made. It also looks fantastic in a home office or a board room. Being able to work comfortably is almost a necessity, so I highly recommend this for any designer.

Studio Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

As a designer, there will be many times where you will have to take pictures, why not take them at the highest possible quality? The EOS 5D Mark IV is an extremely high quality camera, it has been known to be one of the number-one seller of cameras with interchangeable lenses. I mean, a camera with high-quality 30.4 megapixel stills and a Dual Pixel autofocus when recording video almost guarantees that your images will always look amazing. It also has a high ISO capability, 7 frames per second for continuous shooting, and a 61-point autofocus system. Something to be aware of, however, is that there is no tilt screen, and the HDMI-out is limited to 1080p. Other than that, the EOS 5D Mark IV is an outstanding camera, and highly recommended.

Wide-Format Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

This Epson printer brings high quality photography and is a design workhorse. Made to deliver consistent results, it features six individual dye ink tanks for ultra-realistic image print results. The XP-15000 can print paper as large as 13” x 19” and can handle most every standard paper weight and finish. This model is compatible with high-yield ink cartridges that can print upwards of 800 pages per color.

Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s

As a designer, there's no way that you shouldn't be using the proper mouse. This one can handle the precision required of the type of work you do. The MX Master 2s is a cordless mouse, designed to fit comfortably in your hand without causing strain over long periods of use. This mouse comes with a 4,000 dpi Darkfield sensor, which allows it to work on any surface, When coming back to work, the mouse awakens from sleep mode providing you with indication of the battery's charge with the three green LEDs on the left side of the mouse. The battery life of the mouse can last up to 70 days from a full charge though in a pinch, you can use the micro-USB on the front of the mouse to charge it while you’re working.

The MX Master 2s includes buttons located on the side of the mouse that allows you change between windows without using your keyboard and is also easily programmable. A scroll wheel on the side of the mouse lets you scroll through web pages or documents quickly and easy. All in all, this mouse is perfect mouse to use when you need to get work done.

Pens: Sakura Fine Liner Set

These pens are fantastic for any artists, writer, or illustrator when they need a quality pen set to show their personality, style, or ability. These Pigma Micron pens are acid-free and archival, making them ideal for design, paper crafts, journals, illustration, crafts, or any application requiring precision and permanence. They're water-based ink pens, which means no smears, feathers, or bleed-through on most papers, and they are ideal for drawing & sketching.

Creative Software: Adobe CC

As a designer you’re definitely  going to need the proper software to produce your designs. Adobe is the industry's leader when it comes to creative software; every agency and professional design team has this software in their arsenal. The Adobe Creative Cloud has all the tools you may need, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD and more. If you’re a student, you can get 60% off a Creative Cloud subscription.

Similar alternatives include Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo or Corel Painter. I suggest giving each a try and see what works best for you, although my personal favorite is the Adobe products.

Graphic Designer's tools summary:

  1. Laptop: Apple Macbook $2299+ or Desktop: iMac $1,299
  2. High-Res Monitor: BenQ PD3200U $699
  3. Reliable Hard Drive: LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) $140
  4. Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 13″ Pen Display $280
  5. Smart Notebook: Evernote Smart Notebook $15
  6. Color Swatches: Pantone Swatch Book $255
  7. Ergonomic Chair: Herman Miller Aeron $1275
  8. Studio Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV $3549
  9. Wide-Format Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000
  10. Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s $79
  11. Pens: Sakura Fine Liner Set $23
  12. Creative Software: Adobe CC from $9.99


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