Best Graphic Design Tools: All You Need as A Graphic Designer
If you want to become a graphic designer, you’ll need to learn how to use the best graphic design tools available. To help you kickstart your journey, we’re going to cover the most essential software and tools you’ll have to get very good at in order to have a successful career as a graphic designer.
Raster vs. Vector Graphics
Before we start talking about tools, let’s briefly discuss the main differences between raster and vector graphics. This is one of the most fundamental principles of graphic design, and it’s important to know what they represent.
Raster graphics are made of a fixed number of individual colored squares (pixels) that make up any image you see on your screen. These pixels help with edges being a bit more seamless and help with blur, so that’s why it’s the most popular choice when working with a lot of effects.
You also can’t resize the rasterized image you made. Think of it this way, if every rasterized image has a fixed number of pixels in it, when you make it bigger, naturally the pixels also get bigger and you end up with a blurry image.
Vector graphics are made out of dots that interconnect with lines, created by the program using different mathematical formulas. So, logically, the formulas change the values to keep quality when moving, manipulating, and resizing the objects. You can already tell the difference between the two types of graphics and why vector graphics are the better choice when scale is important.
Let’s take the simplest example, a logo. Ideally, you should always vectorize logos because if you wish to put them on a small bucket hat, or a giant billboard, you won’t be losing your precious design to those pesky pixels.
Vector graphics has its limitations as well. For example, you can’t create seamless transitions or blurs, and effect choices are slimmer compared to a raster-based program. That’s why it’s important to know how to work with both graphic types – raster and vector, and choose the best tool for the task at hand.
Now that we’ve covered the two most basic differences, we can start to talk about the software you need to know.
Best Graphic Design Tools and Software
You can’t be a graphic designer and not know how to work with Photoshop, but you knew that already.
Adobe Photoshop is a photo and design software used for all things, mainly photo editing, manipulation, creating art, and much more. Remember the two types of graphics we mentioned earlier? Well, here’s where they come into play. Photoshop is a raster-based program, a.k.a as a Photoshop designer, you’ll be working with pixels.
If you’re mainly into photography, adding cool effects, and editing your photos, or you want to go wild on a pen and drawing tablet, Photoshop is going to be your best friend.
Now, time for Photoshop’s lesser-known cousin but still powerful tool, Illustrator. This program is vector-based, and by now, you know that you can use it to create excellent logos, icons, patterns, shapes, big design pieces like posters, and generally anything that you don’t want to lose image quality while scaling.
Photoshop and Illustrator are very similar at first glance, but If you want to reach your full potential, learning their differences and knowing which one to use in a particular area will help you tremendously.
Much like Illustrator, Adobe InDesign is also vector-based. Adobe created InDesign to be suitable for intuitive multi-page view and format. This is very useful for creating magazine spreads, newspapers, flyers, formatting books and e-books, presentations, portfolios, etc.
Figma is a UI/UX vector-based tool. It takes out all the repetitive work about UI design and helps the designer focus more on UX. With Figma, you can create functional, moving prototypes for new apps and websites, and you can even collaborate with other people or teams – fully online and synced!
Essential Equipment for a Graphic Designer
It should go without saying, but you can’t be a graphic designer without a computer of some kind. So, when you’re starting, any PC or Mac should do just fine. But, when you gain momentum and start building your career, you should look into upgrading to a powerful machine that can handle resource-intensive tasks.
Most people don’t think of notebooks as “essentials,” but you need to remember that graphic designers are artists through and through. And what do artists do before they even start thinking about starting a project? That’s right, sketch it out with a pencil. Not only will this save you time, but it’ll make your designs cleaner and your flow much more precise. No clicking and dragging around and figuring out what you want to do.
While you can definitely balance a few projects on your native laptop drive. But if you start working on bigger projects, you’ll find that even if you have one terabyte of storage, it can still cause you headaches. That’s why every designer should invest in a few extra external hard drives with a lot more storage. Not only is it faster and safer, but it also helps to keep things organized. Getting a SSD (Solid State Drive) over the traditional HDD is strongly recommended.
When starting, it’s not a must to go out and throw your money at the most expensive Wacom tablet you can find at Best Buy. But, if you do have a chance of acquiring one for a lower price from a friend or eBay, it’s worth to adjust to a pen and tablet. Sooner or later, you’ll have to start using one if you’re serious about becoming a graphic artist. Mouses and trackpads will not help you out there.