My Graphic Design Essentials

Every designer has a set of tools they like to use; that they're comfortable with, that help them with their creative process. My set of tools are pretty straightforward. There really is no 'right' or 'wrong' tool to use. These are merely what I like to use based on my experience and trial and error.




I have used the WACOM INTUOS on several projects, and it really is an amazing tablet. The quality is great, the features are great, and it is one of the best graphics tablets on the market. I love just about everything about this tablet, and you really can't go wrong with Wacom. With that being said, not everyone can afford a $400 graphics tablet, especially new designers who are testing the waters with their first tablet.

An alternative, which I also use, is the HUION H610 PRO. For less than $80, you can get this tablet which is very similar to the Intuos in terms of size and functionality. Of course the quality isn't as great, sensitivity is different, and you will notice several differences between the two tablets. However, it is still a great entry level tablet (especially for the size), and you can get very similar results. You can get it on Amazon here.


Apple iMac |  BUY ON AMAZON

Apple iMac | BUY ON AMAZON

For a long time I had a 13" MacBook Pro with retina display. I loved it because it was zippy and had a solid state drive. It was also great because of portability and design. I used it mostly when I wasn't freelancing full-time, and it worked out great. As I began to transition into working full-time as a freelance designer, it became clear that I needed a larger screen and ultimately led me to sell my MacBook (I wish I could have kept it, but you gotta do what you gotta do) and purchase an iMac. I don't regret it. It makes more sense to have a larger screen as a designer. With that being said, you could alternatively buy an external monitor, which would also be a smart choice.




This is probably a given for most designers. Adobe makes some the best software for graphic designers. I use Adobe CC, which has great options and keeps me up to date with the latest software. Adobe CC is subscription based and allows you to pay monthly for the software you need. You also get free updates, and there are even discounts for students.


When it comes to notebooks and pens, there are a ton of options. Instead of showing you pictures of everything I use, I'm just going to make a simple list of some of my favorites.

  • MUJI A5 Notebooks - These are cheap notebooks I carry around with me to jot down ideas or sketch concepts. I also love the simplicity of these particular notebooks and they are available in different sizes and with grids etc.
  • MUJI Gel Pens - These are simple pens I use for simple sketches or for writing down notes. Again, I like them because they are simple and inexpensive.
  • Sakura Pigma Micron Pens - These are my go-to art pens. Whether I'm tracing something, designing typography, or making sketches permanent, these are the pens I grab first. They come in various weights and are excellent quality.
  • Zebra Brush Pen - This is a secret weapon and by far my favorite brush pen to use, especially when working on hand lettering. The tip of this pen is incredibly easy to control, and gives you the ability to make great strokes. You will love this pen!
  • Tombow Brush Pens - These are also great brush pens and include dual tips, which make them versatile and handy when working on hand lettering. On one end, you have a nice flexible tip which allows nice variation for thicks and thins, and on the other end, you have a fine tip marker for smaller details.

So now you know some of my favorite tools that I like to use when it comes to my design process. This is by no means a comprehensive list or a guide to what you should use, but simply some of my favorite tools I have a come across and use on a daily basis in my workflow.

Any alternatives that you like to use? Comment and let me know! I always love hearing about new tools and trying them out.

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David Zoppi