Creative engineers, operators of imagination, simple yet unique inventors. They’re an inspiration for many who aspire to these seemingly impossible goals. To be effective visual problem solvers, graphic designers rely on certain tools of the trade. Traditional visual arts materials, modern software and multi-platform knowledge are just a few things necessary in order to get the job done. Interested in becoming a graphic designer? Here are some of the things you should have in your toolkit.

The Right Software

Industry standard software is a must. Adobe® Creative Suite is, and has been, that standard for all graphic designers. As a rule of thumb, photos should be edited in Adobe® Photoshop, illustrations and logos should be created as vectors in Adobe® Illustrator, and page layouts (including multiple page layouts such as brochures and magazines) should be created in Adobe® InDesign.

If you haven’t used this software before, give it a test drive before purchase from the Adobe site. Here you can also read up on other offerings such as Creative Cloud, tips by professionals, and support forum posts.

You can download free 30-day trials directly via the links below:

Additional Design Resources

If you’re just starting out, you may prefer to use open source software or free web-based applications, which is completely understandable; these function well for those getting acquainted to the field or those taking a few intro courses. If you want to go this route, we would suggest using some of the below which have proven effective for basic design as well as social media marketing and stock photography elements to use in final work.

You can also find other download links for resources on our resource links page.

Backup Your Work

Make sure you have the methods and means to save everything you do, and ensure you can access it when you need to. USB Flashdrives, external hard drives, and even CD-Rs should be used whenever possible because sometimes technology fails. If something happens to your computer, and your hard drive can no longer be accessed, making sure you have a backup of your work is imperative. Need to bring projects with you to class or a client meeting? Take your flash drive with you, or store what you need in the Cloud. You can also use services like DropBox.

Materials & Supplies

Being able to measure in units and increments with the above software is crucial, but so is the ability to measure tangible materials. Understanding how the artwork you create will actually be seen in print is necessary, so make sure to have a ruler and tape measure on hand. Typically you’ll use a ruler for smaller prints such as magazines, business cards, brochures, and flyers – and a tape measure for anything spanning width or length-wise past 12″ like signs, posters, vehicle lettering and wraps, and other large-format graphics and prints.

A sketchbook and drawing paper may not be seen as necessary, but looks can be deceiving. Many of our most important design concepts can come at times when we least expect them – like when we’re unable to access our computers – so don’t be caught off guard. Ensure that you’re able to create rough sketches and thumbnails of your ideas and make notes for later.

Pens and ink are important, and work in conjunction with your sketchbook. With the trend of graphics and logos being a combination of traditional and digital art – a reflection of the whimsy and nostalgia that are seen as a nod to previous eras – pens and ink not only allow you to create sketches and thumbnails to be recreated later via digital methods, but also can be scanned and worked into your creations either as full bitmaps or auto-traces to be cleaned up into full vectors. Colored pencils, markers, and watercolors are not irrelevant. Keep them on hand to work out color schemes and create interesting concepts that work in conjunction with your sketches. You may even use some of them in final pieces.

Album Cover

Album Inside (left)

Album Inside (right)

Album Back

Accidents happen, even when we pay close attention and aim to be as careful as possible. Smudges, spills, and errant lines come with the territory when creating work by hand for use in our designs, so be prepared. Tracing paper and standard office supplies like white-out can be exceptionally useful when bringing traditional artwork in to our software for editing, and can make adjustments much easier and less time-consuming in the long run. Creating a clean scan by tracing your artwork and using white-out to remove smudges and stray lines can save lots of time when you’re ready to digitally edit your work.

Our Favorite Materials

You don’t need the most expensive items out there to get the job done. From extremely inexpensive to mid-range, here is a list of cost-effective supplies and materials that are favorites among designers.


Full Name
1. Photos should be edited in…
2. Page layouts should be created in…
3. Illustrations & logos should be created in…
4. An open-source alternative to Photoshop is…

5. You should always ____ your work.
6. Designers should draw out their concepts in a...
7. Vector drawings can be created in...
8. You don't need the most ____ materials.

9. ____________ work with your sketchbook.

10. You can create a clean scan with...