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Whether you are just getting into graphic design or you are an expert with years of experience, there are certain tools that you just can’t live without as a professional.

This list covers the most essential hardware, software and equipment that every graphic designer should have on hand.

Top Essential Tools for Graphic Designers

  1. Laptop: Apple Macbook $2299+ or Desktop: iMac $1,299
  2. High-Res Monitor: BenQ PD3200U $699
  3. Monitor Calibrator: X-Rite i1 Display PRO $260
  4. Reliable Hard Drive: LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) $140
  5. Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 13″ Pen Display $280
  6. Sketch Pen: Inkling $119
  7. Brainstorm Board: Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint $140
  8. Smart Notebook: Evernote Smart Notebook $15
  9. Color Swatches: Pantone Swatch Book $255
  10. Ergonomic Chair: Herman Miller Aeron $1275
  11. Studio Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV $3549
  12. Noise-Cancelling Earphones: Bose SoundSport Free $199
  13. Wide-Format Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 
  14. High-End Smart Phone: iPhone $999+
  15. Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s $79
  16. Pens: Sakura Fine Liner Set $23
  17. Creative Software: Adobe CC from $9.99


Laptop and/or Desktop Computer:

Laptop: Apple Macbook Pro

Apple Macbook Pro

If you are a creative you need to appear as such. Right? Personal brand image and operating system are the two main reasons why graphic designers choose Apple products. But the Apple MacBook Pro is also a powerful machine with its Intel i7 Quad Core processor and 16GB of RAM. However, this laptop is not for everyone. If you’re an avid Windows user, it will take some time for you to get used to the new system.

This laptop also doesn’t have any USB ports, which creatives might find uncomfortable. But for the outstanding design experience that Apple offers, and the courage to push its user base towards innovation and technology, the Apple MacBook Pro certainly deserves an ovation. Graphic designers will find AMD Radeon Pro Graphics and the high-resolution screen a pleasure to work with. The only drawback of this laptop is it’s a hefty price.

See here for a complete list of the best laptops for graphic designers.

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($2299+)

Desktop Computer: Apple iMac with 4K Retina display

Apple iMac

For many graphic designers, there is no other choice when it comes to the best brand for a graphic design computer than an Apple. It’s not hard to see why that is with the quality and design that the manufacturer has been putting into their products for years now, their biggest supporters have been with them since Day 1.

The Apple iMac is an all-in-one desktop computer that sports the same futuristic look that many previous iterations of the computer have already. Where it stands out from the crowd is in the improvements that Apple has brought to an already impressive setup. The CPU contained within the computer is provided by Intel and uses their Intel Core i5 processor. This CPU runs at 3Ghz but if you need a boost, can clock up to 3.5Ghz. 8GB of RAM provides you with enough power to take on just about any task.

The GPU, a dedicated AMD GPU is a Radeon Pro 500 comes with 2GB of dedicated video memory, making it twice as fast as the previous model. While it doesn’t come with a SSD, the fusion drive does come with 1TB of room for all of your projects. 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 or crisper. 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.

See here for a complete list of the best computers for graphic designers.

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($1,299+)

Monitor: BenQ PD3200U

benq top graphic design monitor

Featuring a widescreen display, the PD3200U from BenQ makes working with images in 4K and in 3D much easier than it would be on other monitors. The 32-inch display has a PS screen equipped with a contrast ratio of 1,000:1 and has full, 100% support for sRGB color space.

See Jacob’s review of the PD3200U here.

With a resolution of 3840×2160, the PD3200U 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.

Fully adjustable, giving you the option to tilt and swivel the monitor into your preferred position, the monitor also rotates 90 degrees into portrait mode, giving you more flexibility for your projects. On the right-hand side, BenQ provides you with two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort 1.2, as well as a mini DisplayPort, SD card slot, and two USB 3.0 ports so you can connect any peripheral to the monitor that you need to.

With features that can make it a perfect option to be the only monitor you need, the cost of the PD3200U from BenQ is modestly priced when compared to other monitors on the market today.

See here for a list of the best monitors for graphic designers.

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($699)

Monitor calibrator: X-Rite i1 Display PRO

X-Rite i1Screen Pro

Don’t waste precious time perfecting images or video with a display that does not accurately represent your digital files. A calibrated and profiled display is a critical element in an efficient digital workflow.

The X-Rite i1Display Pro is the ultimate choice for discerning photographers, filmmakers, designers and imaging professionals looking for the highest level of on-screen color accuracy for displays, laptops, mobile devices and projectors. Two user modes (Basic and Advanced) provide serious Color Perfectionists with the perfect combination of unrivaled color precision, speed, options and controls to fit any workflow.

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$201

 

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

Hard Drive

Back up early and backup often! An external hard drive gives you peace of mind, just in case the unthinkable happens… and it does happen!

Like the majority of things made by Porsche, the LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) is superbly crafted and has incredible performance, including 5GB/s speeds. 

It offers both USB-C and USB 3.0 connectivity as well, giving it longer legs than your regular hard drive.

It includes a stylish, advanced lightweight aluminum finish that complements Mac computers.

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$140

 

Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq Pro 13″ 

Wacom Tablet

The Wacom DTH1320AK0 Cintiq Pro 13″ Creative Pen Display allows creative specialists to work naturally, by using Wacom’s patented, professional Pen technology on the surface of its LCD screen. It has world-class accuracy, control, and comfort for editing digital images.

The amazingly reactive pen-on-screen performance carefully replicates the feel of traditional brushes and markers and ensures a smooth electronic workflow. The Cintiq’s scratch-resistant surface is totally flat from border to border, allowing the hands to glide easily over the complete surface.

The Cintiq Pen handles the cursor in virtually any application and pressure and tilting 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.

See here for a list of the best tablets for graphic designers.

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$799

 

Digital Sketch Pen: Inkling

Inkling

The inkling sketch pen captures a digital likeness of your work while you sketch with its ballpoint tip on standard paper or sketchbooks. If you use sketching to capture your creative ideas and rough concepts, and you want to have your sketches in digital format for emailing, archiving or further refining on your computer, then Inkling is the product for you.

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$130

 

Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint

Idea Paint

Turn any wall or surface into a whiteboard canvas with Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint!

This Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint is the highest quality, best performing, product available on the market, designed to write clearly and erase cleanly every single time, without pesky residue commonly found with chalk boards. 

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$140

 

Smart Notebook: Evernote Moleskine

Smart Evernote NoteBook

This Evernote Smart Notebook is the perfect notebook for writing, sketching or note taking during classes or conferences as it helps you sync your analogue and digital work. It features ruled pages designed to digitally capture your written work and has “Smart Sticker icons” that are searchable, keeping your ideas organized.

It is beloved by travelers, designers and journalists because of  its sleek design and durable cover which ensures its suitability for daily journaling, writing, and sketching.

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$21

 

Pantone Swatch Book

Pantone Swatch Book

If you work in print, you’re going to need to your own Pantone swatch book, for accurate color consistency.

A Pantone color book is the most functional color tool for graphic designers, as 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. It also gives RBG and HEX values ensuring the colors are reproduced on screen in their best light. 

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$214

 

Ergonomic Chair: Aeron by Herman Miller

Aeron Chair

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)

We must admit that we have a bit of a soft spot for this chair. The Aeron by Herman Miller is the chair that Jacob uses every day (and has done for 10+ years) and it’s not hard to see why. Available in three different sizes to accommodate just about every person imaginable, the Aeron is by far, one of the best ergonomically-designed chairs ever made and will look fantastic in a home office or a board room.

See here for a list of the best office chairs.

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$1275

 

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Camera

When it comes to the newest technology in cameras, Canon isn’t particularly known for being the first one out of the gate to show it off. However, they are really good at putting out quality products and the EOS Mark IV continues the trend of being the number-one seller of cameras with interchangeable lenses. With high-quality 30.4 megapixel stills and Dual Pixel autofocus when recording video, your images will always look amazing. A high ISO capability, 7 frames per second for continuous shooting, and a 61-point autofocus system will leave you thinking that the Mark IV has no flaws at all. The only gripes holding this back is that there is no tilt screen, and the HDMI-out is limited to 1080p. All in all, the EOS 5D Mark IV is an amazing piece of hardware.

See here for a list of the best cameras for graphic designers.

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$3549 with 24-70mm lens

 

Earphones: Bose SoundSport Free

Bose in Ear

These are for getting into the zone and for those who prefer the convenience that can come with wireless earphones. Even the best earphones can have connectivity issues, causing people to get frustrated easily and either struggle through the frustration or spend more money on another new pair. With the SoundSport Free from Bose, the innovative design and high-quality tech provide an amazingly reliable connection. With a minimalistic, in-ear design, the SoundSport Free earphones are built for everyday use from hanging around the house to a high-intensity workout. While the SoundSport earphones offer you a great level of sound quality, the minimal design can provide a loose fit when in your ears causing you to adjust them frequently.

For some, this is a minor complaint and won’t keep them from purchasing the earphones, even though some other wireless earphones may offer better quality at a much cheaper price. These days, privacy and noise reduction while wearing earphones is a major feature that many consumers look for and those who consider the SoundSport Free should consider other options. The design of the earphones allows outside noise in keeping you from enjoying the tremendous sound quality that only a manufacturer such as Bose can provide. If you can look past their shortcomings, the Bose SoundSport Free could be the perfect earphones for you. You could also consider their wired, noise-cancelling version: Bose QuietComfort 20 Headphones ($299).

See for more of the best earphones for music lovers.

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$199

Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless Color Wide-format

Epson 1500

This Epson printer is a high quality photography and design workhorse designed for 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 it can handle most every standard paper weight and finish. This Epson model is compatible with high-yield ink cartridges that can print upwards of 800 pages per color.

See here for a list of the best printers for graphic designers.

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$250

High-End Smart Phone: Google Pixel 3 or Apple iPhone

Google Pixel 3

Google’s Pixel 3 or Apple’s iPhone are arguably the best smart phones on the market at present, especially for creatives who need professional looking photos on-the-go, as well as the plethora of apps that will make your life as a creative, that much easier.

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$799+

Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s

Best mouse for graphic designer - Logitech MX Master 2s

I personally use the Logitech MX Master 2s and have used prior models for over 10+ years now. This mouse is extremely comfortable and has all the precision I need for design tasks. Highly recommended!

Computer peripherals and Logitech are pretty much synonymous in today’s market. They tend to produce some of the best products in terms of quality and responsiveness. This can be a great thing when you need a mouse that can handle the precision required of the type of work you do. A cordless mouse, the MX Master 2s is designed to fit comfortably in your hand without causing strain over long periods of use.

With a 4,000 dpi Darkfield sensor, the 2s works on all surfaces, including clear glass. When you come back to your desk to work, the mouse wakes up instantly, providing you with an indicator 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.

There are buttons located on the side of the mouse that let 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, depending on how fast you flick the wheel.

Although it comes with a hefty price tag, the Logitech MX Master 2s is a high-end mouse that has the features and the ergonomic design that makes it a perfect option for a graphic designer.

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$79

Pen Set: Sakura Fine Liner Pen Set

Sakura Pen Set

Artists, writers, and illustrators need a quality pen set to convey their personality, style, or ability, and to safeguard their work. These Pigma Micron pens are acid-free and archival, making them ideal for design, papercrafts, journals, illustration, crafts, or any application requiring precision and permanence.

Unlike dye-based ink found in most pens and markers, this “Pigma ink” will not feather or bleed, even through the thinnest paper. Pigma ink is derived from a single pigment to ensure color consistency, and is fadeproof against sunlight or UV light. Pigma inks will not clog or dry out like most mechanical pens

This pack comes with sizes: 0.2mm (005), 0.25mm (01), 0.3mm (02), 0.35mm (03), 0.4mm(04), 0.45mm (05), 0.5mm (08), 1.0mm (1), 2.0mm(2), 3.0mm(3), 0.8-2.5mm (BR)

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$23

Creative Software: Adobe CC

Adobe CC

As a designer you’re most likely going to need software to produce your designs. Adobe are the industry leader when it comes to creative software. The Adobe Creative Cloud has all the tools you may need, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD or more. If you’re a student, you can get 60% off a Creative Cloud subscription here.

You could also consider Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo or Corel Painter.

Learn More

From $9.99/month

Graphic Designer Essential Tools Summary

  1. Laptop: Apple Macbook $2299+ or Desktop: iMac $1,299
  2. High-Res Monitor: BenQ PD3200U $699
  3. Monitor Calibrator: X-Rite i1 Display PRO $260
  4. Reliable Hard Drive: LaCie Porsche Design External Hard Drive (4TB) $140
  5. Graphics Tablet: Wacom Cintiq 13″ Pen Display $280
  6. Sketch Pen: Inkling $119
  7. Brainstorm Board: Dry Erase Whiteboard Paint $140
  8. Smart Notebook: Evernote Smart Notebook $15
  9. Color Swatches: Pantone Swatch Book $255
  10. Ergonomic Chair: Herman Miller Aeron $1275
  11. Studio Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV $3549
  12. Noise-Cancelling Earphones: Bose SoundSport Free $199
  13. Wide-Format Printer: Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 
  14. High-End Smart Phone: iPhone $999+
  15. Ergonomic Mouse: Logitech MX Master 2s $79
  16. Pens: Sakura Fine Liner Set $23
  17. Creative Software: Adobe CC from $9.99


What graphic design tools can you not live without?