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February 10, 2021

7 Tools Every Graphic Designer Should Have

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Graphic design has been around since the dawn of time. Did you know that the drawings of cave dwellers were a form of graphic design? 

We live in an age in which graphic design is more relevant than ever. People understand information better if it’s visually appealing. That’s why graphic design is here to stay. 

It’s also an insanely well paying job! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for graphic designers was $52,110 in 2019.

So, now that you’re excited to hone your graphic design skills, where do you start? 

It’s good to always start with the tools you’ll be needing to practice your craft. Here are seven tools that you should have as a graphic designer:

Image from pexels.com

1. Computer

Graphic design can be an expensive skill to develop.

Granted, artists don’t need expensive gear to make good art. A lot of legendary artists started with cheap tools. But if you’re in this game for the long run, you’re going to have to invest in the right tools.

What’s important when choosing the right computer is the specifications. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when picking out the right computer for you:

  1. Can the specs handle the software you’ll use in designing? 
  2. Is it able to render your artwork in HD? 
  3. Can it multi-task as much as you do?
  4. Is it in the size that fits my needs?
  5. Will the parts still be good after a few years?

Asking yourself these questions first before making your decision is essential. You’ll be able to identify what computer you should get based on your needs. 

If you’re someone who enjoys the solitude of your own space, then maybe a desktop is a good option for you. It’s stationary and offers powerful parts that you can easily customize. Upgrading is less of a hassle for desktop users.

If you’re someone who is always on the go, then looking into laptops for graphic designers is the way to go. These small but highly capable computers could be perfect for you. They’re small enough for you to just grab and go, and they can still handle the software you’ll need. 

2. Graphics Tablet

If you’re an artist who draws or paints, this is a must-have for you. 

A graphics tablet acts as your paper. You’ll be able to digitalize your artwork as you create. Gone are the days when we had to scan our physical artwork to get a digital copy of it for reprinting. 

Graphics tablets can be a small tablet or an entire screen that you draw on. If you’re not sure if a drawing tablet is for you, you can start with tablets that are relatively cheap but bring you the same results. 

Wacom offers a wide range of tablets that you place in front of you and draw on while you look at your screen to see your artwork. These are great for beginners because they don’t cost that much. It takes a little getting used to, though. At first, it can be disorienting to draw on one surface but look at another to see what you’re creating. 

If you’re ready to invest in a bigger and much more expensive drawing tablet, then consider Wacom’s pen computer. With this device, you can draw right on the screen; it will feel just like you’re drawing on paper. 

3. Monitor Calibrator

Color is one of the very foundations of art. It communicates meaning and emotion that other elements of art may not do. But what happens if the colors you see are not the colors that your client sees?

This is where a monitor calibrator comes in. It’s so underrated but it’s a big must-have for any graphic designer.

A monitor can easily ruin how we see a work of art. Your work is instantly compromised when a monitor does not show accurate, true to life colors.

A lot of beginners struggle with this problem. They create the artwork, but when it’s shown to the clients, the colors are a tad bit off. 

A monitor calibrator helps ensure your screen shows accurate colors. Calibrating with the naked eye can be a real challenge. You may have biases since your eyes are not perfect. A monitor calibrator adjusts the colors to match a standard and provides consistent results. 

Image from pexels.com

4. Hard Drive

As a graphic artist, you’ll be saving tons and tons of files. You’ll have different versions of the same artwork, just to have a copy of an older version in case you need it. 

These files can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re working on HD artwork. Sure, your computer can probably store all of them. It’s a computer for a graphic artist in the first place, right?

But what if your computer gets infected by a virus?

Having a backup hard drive is a good idea. A lot of artists struggle with this. They don’t have a habit of backing up all their work. It only occurs to them once a problem arises. 

Invest in a quality, durable, and large enough hard drive. You’ll have a backup of all your works and can take it around with you if your computer is not available.

5. Cloud Storage

We have just touched on the importance of an external hard drive. It’s also worth mentioning that you should have online cloud storage.

The only difference between cloud storage and a hard drive is that cloud storage stores files online. A hard drive offers a more physical, tangible form of storage. 

What is exceptional about cloud storage is that as long as you have access to an internet connection, you can get the files you need. It’s quick, easy, and you don’t have to carry anything around.

It can be a bit of a bummer though because some cloud storage doesn’t have high-quality security that safeguards your files. That’s why it’s also important that you have a trusted service provider.

6. Adobe Photoshop

Every graphic designer knows that Adobe Photoshop is an indispensable tool in their arsenal. This is what beginners and professionals use to ensure the highest quality of the artwork.

What’s nice about Adobe Photoshop is the flexibility of the program. If you’re knowledgeable enough, you can do tons of amazing things with it.

The features enable you to do both simple and complicated tasks. Need to do simple color grading on a photo? Sure. Need to draw artwork for a client? No problem. A client asked for a 3D rendered mockup? Sure thing.

It may be a little intimidating at first because there are tons of buttons and features. But don’t worry. These features are there to help you, not make things difficult. 

A word of advice though, Photoshop works with pixels. Zooming in on artwork made with pixels will have poor quality. You’ll be able to see all the individual pixels and find that it’s not suitable for artwork like logos that need to be resized from time to time.

7. Adobe Illustrator

As just mentioned, Photoshop works with pixels. In comparison, Adobe Illustrator works with Vectors. 

Vector images are created with math formulas. Don’t get overwhelmed by the term “math formulas.” All you have to know is that when zoomed in, vectors do not pixelate. This means you can zoom in as much as you want and still maintain the image quality.  

Adobe Illustrator is important for graphic artists who work with artworks that require it to be made with vectors. These forms of artwork include logos and other design elements.

Key Takeaway

Graphic design is an exciting skill to work on and an even more exciting career to pursue. There are so many possibilities in store for you!

Whether you’re pursuing it as a hobby or preparing to enter the industry, these are the tools you’ll need to get started. It may seem intimidating at first, especially since some of them can be expensive, but know that these are worthwhile investments.


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Dan Martin has been building teams and coaching others to foster innovation and solve real-time problems. Dan also enjoys photography and traveling.

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