By: On: January 13, 2015 In: Graphic Design Comments: 2


Designer Tools

What tools should you have in your arsenal as a Graphic Designer? You have a computer and some programs, what else do you really need? Well, we are creatives after all and our process does take more than just some electricity and and a big monitor…those things do help though…

Scribble. Snap. Swipe. Read. Sweat.


You think I need what, Old Man? Yes, a pencil and paper should be in every designer’s bag or pocket. But why? I have an iPad, you say. Well, one reason is that all the great designers started on paper and pencil. Take the Nike Swoosh for instance, or any logo for that matter. It started as a drawing on a piece of paper. Now it’s worth millions of dollars.

The excellent vector artist Von Glitchka always starts on paper. In fact, he tends to trace over drawings and doodles multiple times before he brings them into Illustrator. Drawing out designs, layouts, and logo ideas allows your mind to access creative thoughts, and endless possibilities, before you jump into a program without any direction.

I’ve heard a few designers say that they actually go right into a program and design without traditional methods. Just try it. Your next layout, logo, cd cover…draw it out…with paper and pencil…what’s the worse that could happen?


In my opinion, every designer should own a DSLR camera. What’s a DSLR, you say? It’s a digital camera. They come as cheaply as $300. Yes, you will need to learn some new skills to operate it, but it’s a great skill for any designer to have under their belt.

Photography is a great creative outlet. When you look through the viewfinder of a camera, your mind focuses on what’s before you. No cellphones, no monitor, just you and the possibility of that great shot. Photography can be therapeutic as well as exhilarating!

I work at a health club of over 2,000 members and one of my responsibilities includes taking photos for social media, print collateral, etc. It is so rewarding when you catch  a gymnast mid-air, or the emotion of a small group training workout when everyone is pushing themselves to reach fitness goals, sweating running down their face, breathing in heavily to get in that final rep.


Now, I know I said every designer should start with paper and pencil, but once you jump onto the computer a graphics tablet is a very handle tool.

A graphics tablet is a flat, pressure sensitive pad that can used to draw on with a special stylus. With the invention of the capable iPad, many designers and artist are using them the same way you would use a graphics tablet. Most are a pad in which you use a stylus with and see your results on a monitor. Wacom is one of the leaders in these nifty tools, and they also make graphics tablets that have a screen, much like an iPad, in which you can draw right on the screen.

The application of a graphics tablet are many. Designers use them to edit photo in Photoshop, illustrators use them to draw vector illustrations and logos in Illustrator, and digital arts use them to paint in programs such as Photoshop and GIMP. When retouching photos, that pressure sensitive stylus or pen, can be used to paint in highlights, remove blemishes, or add special effects. In Illustrator, you can use the tablet and stylus like pen and paper to draw shapes, object, and illustrations.


Owning books on the principles and different disciplines of graphic designer are a must!

If you went to college for design, I’m sure you have some books already in your collection. Books equal knowledge. As a designer, we never stop learning and we don’t want to stop learning. Books on design can give you insight into another designers creative process, open your mind to new ideas, and give you reassurance that you really love what you do when your newest client say they will send over their logo in a Word document…

Design books are instrumental on so many levels. Whether it’s the history of graphic design, designer then and now, typography, how spot printing or screen printing works, how to use your programs more effectively…the list goes on for days. Never stop learning and advancing your craft. For each day your aren’t learning and getting better at design, there is someone else out there who is. Read. Learn. Share.


I believe that exercise is very important, not only for living a healthy life style, but it will also help you to be a better designer. I know this isn’t a tangible object, but it’s important none-the-less.

How does exercise help you create amazing thins on a computer? Many ways, my friends. It’s a fact that exercise releases endorphins. You know, those things that make you feel happy? It also relieves stress, which is something we all deal with no matter what profession we’re in. It also takes you away from the computer and allows you step away from projects, design problems, and eye strain.

I workout on a regular basis. I can tell you, as a professional graphic designer and photographer, it helps immensely. Not only does it help relieve stress and get me away from the desk, but it’s also a chance for social interaction. You talk with people, experience challenges together if you have a workout buddy or group, and when you realize the benefits of having a workout routine, it’s great! It can be empowering, a great confidence booster, and it just plain helps you feel more healthy.

I’m, not saying you have to be a body builder. Just sweat a little. Stretch your legs. Go for a walk. It’s good for you!


I know, as a designer, you aren’t always rolling in the dough. For some of us, it’s far from that. But if you want to invest some money into becoming better at your craft as a designer research some of the things in this post. It may help just to know what they are and what they do, or how others use them in graphic design.

I hope you this post brought to light something useful. Follow me on Instagram to see how use some of these things in my day to day life as a designer. Thanks for stopping by.


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  • Jason Noel
    November 07, 2016

    Excellent post! I have tried to get away from pencil and paper for soooo long… But there is something so freeing about having all that empty creative space to fill up how ever your heart desires! <3
    Note: now I need a new note pad 😉

      November 09, 2016

      Get a new notepad and go to town! Thanks for the comment, Jason. I, too, feel creatively free when I have a blank page before me. :]


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