The 20 best graphic design tools recommended by top digital artists

64 Ways Small Digital Publishers & Blogs Can Make Money
27/03/2020
7+ Best Event Website Design Examples for Inspiration
03/04/2020
Show all

The 20 best graphic design tools recommended by top digital artists

Harry Potter unarmed is a great wizard. But armed with his phoenix feathered holly wood wand, he’s the G.O.A.T! You too may be a very talented graphic designer or digital artist, but by using the right tools the force of your talent can be multiplied exponentially.

Here is a list of the best software and hardware tools in the field today, coming highly recommended by top-notch graphic designers who know their stuff. These tools are tried and tested and can help you dazzle clients by casting your greatest graphic design spells. Buckle up and get ready to make digital art at the speed of thought!

Software

1. Procreate

This illustration app made solely for the iPad is a brilliant tool because it simplifies a graphic designer’s steps when illustrating anything. It’s super intuitive and has an awesome selection of brushes.

Procreate:

  • Allows designers to use the Apple Pencil to draw directly on the screen to get amazing results
  • Saves work as .psd or .pdf which completely integrates with Adobe
  • Records the entire drawing process
  • Allows designers to draw on different layers making it easier to edit the work after

Get your Apple Pencil ready and then check out this YouTube tutorial:

Find Procreate at the iPad app store.

Since it costs $9.99, with no subscriptions needed, Procreate is affordable for graphic designers and digital artists of all levels.

2. Myfonts.com

Not only is Myfonts.com a website with fonts galore, its “WhatTheFont” feature solves a crucial problem for graphic artists.

Myfont.com can:

  • Supply your archive with a very large collection of fonts (many are free, some can be purchased)
  • Track the origin of a particular font by uploading it to the WhatTheFont tool

Visit myfonts.com and follow their navigation or download the free WhatTheFont app on your smartphone. Pick from their selection of free fonts, web fonts or become a subscriber.

Select the WhatTheFont button in the navigation, then upload a screenshot of the text to identify the font. Or simply take a picture or upload one from your phone, tap the font you want to identify and boom—you’re all set. (Tip: use as clean a screenshot as possible so the program can read it. Preferably black text on a white background).

With free fonts or exclusive subscription fonts, this program is great for graphic designers and digital artists of all levels.

3. Clip Studio Paint

Digital artists dig Clip Studio Paint’s simple collection of illustration apps because of its simplicity, mirror feature and affordability.

Clip Studio is:

  • A cheaper alternative to Adobe suite—great for graphic designers on a budget
  • Available for Mac or PC
  • Available on iPad with a free 6 month trial

Visit clip studio.net to buy or get a free trial or buy from amazon.com.

If you have an iPad and have been wondering how to use it for designing, this is your hookup.

4. Ron’s Brushes

A superb digital effects collection for digital paintings and illustrations, Ron’s Brushes continues to be a necessary part of advanced graphic design toolboxes.

Ron’s Brushes can:

  • Create high quality effects for digital art
  • Offer a large selection of digital environments and atmospheres

Whether it’s flying digital energy, light fusion, wisps, particles or some other look you may never even have considered, graphic designers and digital artists doing nuanced atmospheres will get swept up by Ron’s Brushes. Don’t believe us? Ask friends in the design community or on graphic design and digital art support groups. Lots of great artists swear by Ron’s Brushes. Check them out and, like GFX said, “just drag, drop and go.”

Find Ron’s Brushes at daz3d.com.

Adobe Creative Cloud tools

This graphic design, video editing and web development software has become a standard in the graphic design industry. No list of design tools would be complete without mentioning Adobe Creative Cloud. It’s much easier for designers who use Adobe to share files with other creative professionals.

Among others, the Adobe Ceative Cloud offers three famous design tools:

  • Photoshop (raster graphic editor)
  • Illustrator (vector graphic editor)
  • InDesign (page layout program)

Visit adobe.com to purchase Adobe or experience a free trial or buy from amazon.com. Take some time to mess around with it and check out the Adobe Creative cloud page.

It behooves graphic designers looking to use industry standard applications to join the Adobe universe.

5. Adobe Photoshop

There are raster graphics editing programs, then there’s Photoshop. It’s the industry standard for manipulating digital photos and photorealistic computer art. It’s even entered the modern day lexicon of non graphic designers, “No way that picture’s real! It’s totally Photoshopped.”

Photoshop offers:

  • 2D image manipulation
  • 3D image manipulation
  • Compositing
  • Video editing
  • Image analysis

Visit adobe.com to to buy Photoshop or start a free trial—or buy it from amazon.com.

Photoshop is a part of the graphic design zeitgeist. Digital artists who don’t know Photoshop but want to create pixel based art should plan to learn it or get left behind.

6. Adobe Illustrator

From drawings to logos to actual photos, Illustrator generates all kinds of images. Digital artists love the ease in adjusting the layers and art boards in this vector graphic editing program.

Adobe Illustrator can create:

  • Graphics
  • Logos
  • Cartoons
  • Fonts

Experience a free trial or purchase Illustrator from amazon.com. Spend a while tinkering with it, then watch this YouTube tutorial.

Illustrator is a cornerstone for graphic designers and digital artists creating vector based art. Those willing to endure the learning curve will find it well worth their while.

7. Astute Phantasm for Adobe Illustrator

Astute Phantasm for Adobe Illustrator is a plugin tool with built in pattern maker. Want to taper and add gradient to your halftones? This is your program.

With Astute Phantasm Adobe Illustrator:

  • Effects can be saved and loaded
  • Effects are fully editable later through the “Appearance” panel

Shop astutegraphics.com, give it a test run and watch an Adobe YouTube channel tutorial.

Any graphic designers or digital artists creating three dimensional effects and challenging color adjustments will be in seventh heaven with this tool.

Hardware

8. Macbook Pro with touch bar and touch ID

Your portable office has arrived! Tuck this high quality laptop into your backpack and take it with you. It’s as much an elegant piece of art as it is a functional tool.

Features of the Macbook Pro 13″:

  • 3.1GHz processor
  • 256GB storage
  • Minimal environmental damage

The bigger more powerful sibling of the Macbook pro 13” is the 15″, featuring a touch bar and touch ID plus a larger display. And the lightning fast SSD system boots within seconds so those ephemeral snowflakes of inspiration can be captured before they melt.

Features of the MacBook Pro 15″:

  • 3.9GHz Processor
  • 512GB Storage
  • Minimal environmental damage

Visit apple.com, amazon.com, or google for the best deal on a refurbished model. Spend a few hours exploring its features. Mac tends to be pretty intuitive, but you can watch a YouTube tutorial about the Touch Bar to learn more.

This is a serious investment for graphic designers and digital artists looking to up their game.

9. iPad Pro + Apple Pencil

Being another Apple product, this iPad Pro in combination with the Apple Pencil is not the cheapest, but the larger display on this stylus and tablet combo is a game-changer. You can adjust the display color tones, there are more colors than the non-pro models, the scrolling is smoother and for detailed art strokes the stylus is extremely precise due to a tighter connection between the display and glass.

The 12.9 iPad Pro offers:

  • Stereo sound and quad speakers that are notably superior to non pro iPads
  • 3.9GHz Processor
  • 512GB storage capacity
  • A couple hours more battery life
  • Upgraded from entry level iPad, cameras that shoot 4K video
  • A Smart Connector which lets you connect to Apple’s Smart Keyboard Cover, no Bluetooth required!

Visit apple.com, but check out Costco, Best Buy, or amazon.com, for better deals. Or google “12.9 inch Ipad Pro + Apple Pencil” for previously owned models. Devote some time toward experimenting with it and watch this YouTube tutorial:

Graphic designers who want something so thin they’ll barely feel it in their bag will also love the higher speed refresh rate further enhancing the Apple Pencil performance.

Wacom tools

Wacom is the word for magic on the lips and hearts of digital artists in the know. It’s a company that specializes in producing industry standard graphic tablets and styluses.

10. Wacom Bamboo Tip Stylus

Imagine one stylus that draws on computers, tablets or smartphones. It’s real. No apps or Bluetooth necessary, so it works on virtually all devices. It’s basically a magic wand folks.

This stylus:

  • Transforms your phone, tablet or touch screen computer into a digital canvas
  • Draws on your screen like you’re drawing on a piece of paper
  • Is easily rechargeable

Shop wacom.com, but check out Costco, Best Buy or amazon.com, for better deals. Test it out, then watch this YouTube tutorial:

Anyone transferring fine point line work (writing or art) to a computer, tablet, or smartphone will be impressed with the versatility and pressure sensitivity of this stylus.

11. Wacom Bamboo Slate

The Wacom Bamboo is a slate which can be fixed under a real piece of paper. The strokes on the paper show up on the designer’s computer screen. It’s basically a magic slate.

The Bamboo Slate:

  • Saves time retyping notes
  • Instantly adds notes to a cloud or shares them

Shop bamboo.wacom.com, but check out Costco, Best Buy or amazon.com, for better deals. Take time to fool around on it then watch this YouTube tutorial:

Anyone who loves the tactile sensation of real pen to real paper, but wishes to cut out the middleman of recopying notes and illustrations should try this elegant solution.

12. Wacom Cintiq

Enter a screen tablet you can illustrate directly on with a stylus. Its pen is light, there’s no battery needed and the screen texture is ideal. Finally, you won’t get in trouble for drawing on the TV!

The Cintiq:

  • Features a 1080p LCD display
  • Works with the stylus directly on the screen
  • Has an integrated display
  • Feels like drawing on real paper
  • Is customizable with four express buttons

Shop wacom.com, but check out Costco, Best Buy, or amazon.com for better deals.

This is a dream unit for professional graphic designers and digital artists looking to be more efficient with their workflow. Sometimes a customizable tool like this pushes you to the next chapter of your talent.

13. Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch

Illustrate on this desk tablet and the results show up on the computer screen. If you’re worried about not having enough drawing surface, just zoom in!

The Intuos Pen & Touch:

  • Paints, draws or edits photos with a stylus
  • Features a stylus that responds to varying degrees of pressure and can feel like a number of writing or drawing implements
  • Can combine Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Helps to make the designing process smooth and organized

Graphic designer Ocelittle loves working with the Intuos tablet because it’s “very responsive, has great pressure sensitivity plus a multi touch feature that gives you the ability to swipe or pinch to zoom, rotate or scroll, along with four additional express keys that can be programmed to perform any function.”

Shop wacom.com, but check out Costco, Best Buy or amazon.com, for better deals. Take a few hours to experiment with it then watch this YouTube tutorial:

The Intuos Pen & Touch is wonderful for graphic designers and digital artists who don’t need to see what they’re rendering on the screen they’re drawing on and who don’t want to splurge on a screen tablet.

14. Wacom Intuos Art

The Wacom Intuos Art has a larger active area than the Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch plus the multi-touch feature lets you use your fingers as well as stylus.

Here’s a YouTube tutorial for the Intuos Art:

Want a larger canvas than the Intuos Pen & Touch Small? Want to use a stylus and your fingers? Prefer not to draw on-screen? Here’s your desk tablet!

Other tools

15. Art supplies

The tools you use to develop your best work don’t have to be expensive or complicated. They can be as simple as pencil, paper and any art supplies that call out to you.

Relying too much on the latest technologies can easily lead to getting stuck in a creative rut. Getting back to basics with the stuff we learned as kids takes us back to our creative roots and original artistic voice. Turn off your screens and break out color collage paper, plasticine and paint for an instant burst of inspiration

Playing with art supplies of any kind has countless benefits:

  • Helps to develop and test out ideas
  • Offers a creative outlet
  • Helps to unclog artist’s block and inspire new work

16. The right environment

This may not be an actual tool, but hear me out. Having a sanctuary to work in soothes the spirit. When the spirit is calm, the outer world follows suit and you are set to create your best work. The “right” environment is slightly different for everyone. Check out what it means for HeyEksa!

A calm environment helps to:

  • Avoid unwanted distractions
  • Maximize productivity
  • Elevate your mood and spirits for optimum creativity

17. A setup with multiple displays

Having two (or more) separate screen displays allows for more efficient multitasking. Of course it’s possible to work on one screen, but it gets a little hairy especially when using a full-screen mode app.

Multiple displays:

  • Help you avoid icon clutter on your high quality screen
  • Maximize screen real estate
  • Help you work faster and more efficient

Professional graphic designers and digital artists who maximize clients and spend long hours on projects will benefit from the organization two screens provides.

19. A comfortable chair

Graphic designers often have to sit at their desks for hours on end, so don’t underestimate the importance of having a good chair. There are tons of great chairs out there, you just have to find the one that fits you best. Designer Andrewzz recommends the ST Racing Gaming Chair, a super comfy high back chair styled to resemble a racing seat.

Do your back a favor and find yourself a good chair.

20. A good keyboard and mouse

A great keyboard and mouse can make work so much more enjoyable. If you’re looking for a high-quality option, designer Andrewzz recommends the Obins Anne Pro, a wireless 60% mechanical keyboard you can place wherever you want. It’s so well engineered that simply looking at it is satisfying, let alone pressing the keys.

When it comes to your mouse, pick one that feels good in your hand and has the right functionalities for you. For instance, take a look at the Mouse MX Master 2S, a human hand’s best friend (and another recommendation by Andrewzz).

If you’re willing to splurge on a mouse and keyboard, they can help you streamline your workflow and prevent long term wear and tear on wrists and hands.

Your magic wand

There you have it, the hottest graphic design tools today, recommended by designers who use them every day! Do you need the most expensive equipment in order to make good artwork? Absolutely not. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can use basic (even refurbished) graphic design tools and still create artwork on a competitive level. Remember, Harry Potter could perform some wand-free spells. But, just like Harry’s magic phoenix feathered holly wood wand allowed him to increase his magical potential, saving up and investing in the right tools will bolster your productivity magic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.