how to become a graphic designer (2024 Guide)

What Tools Do Graphic Designers Use?

BrainStation’s Graphic Designer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a career in graphic design. Read on for an overview of the top graphic design tools and software.

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Graphic Designers most commonly use graphic design software. Adobe Creative Suite is the most popular option in the industry, but there are also other powerful design programs available, such as Sketch. In addition to software, Graphic Designers rely on other tools such as computers, tablets, and cameras.

What Is Graphic Design Software?

Graphic design software is used to create, edit, and view graphic art. There are many types of graphic design software available, each with different tools and functions. Depending on the software, users can create illustrations, develop multimedia, stylize or edit images, and format layouts.

Graphic Design Software

Graphic Designers rely on software to bring their ideas to life. Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects are among the best software for graphic design.


Photoshop is a graphic editor that is best used for image editing. It is the industry standard for manipulating photos and computer art. Photoshop offers 2D and 3D image manipulation, compositing, video editing, and image analysis.


Sketch is a vector-based tool available on Mac and focuses on web, app, and interface design. This is a great program for designing icons, ad banners, social media images, and presentation materials. It also has many UI and UX-related usages, such as icon design, prototyping, and creating user flows.


With Illustrator, you can create everything from vector illustrations and logos to graphics and fonts. While Illustrator shares many similar tools and functions with Photoshop, it is centered around vector design, which means that you can resize and rescale designs without losing image clarity.


InDesign is a page layout program and an essential tool for Designers working in publishing. This software can be used for laying out magazines and newspapers, or putting together reports and brochures. With InDesign, Designers can effectively organize text, create layout formats, insert image placeholders, and save files in a print-ready format.

After Effects

After Effects is a motion graphics and visual effects software that is ideal for Graphic Designers who incorporate motion into their work. With After Effects, designers can create animations, movie titles, transitions, or even design in a 3D space.

What Other Tools do Graphic Designers Use?

Along with design software, Graphic Designers also rely on a few other tools, including pen and paper, computers, stylus and graphics tablets, storage devices, and cameras.

Pen and paper

A pen and paper is the fastest and easiest way to bring ideas into the world. Graphic Designers use pen and paper to sketch design ideas and take notes.

A computer

This is an obvious but essential tool for Graphic Designers. Because Graphic Designers primarily use design software to complete their work, they need a computer that can adequately run a range of software. A large, high-definition monitor can also be particularly useful for Designers.

Stylus and graphics tablet

A tablet and stylus is a good alternative to the traditional paper and pen, and is particularly useful for Designers who want to work or sketch wherever they go. It imitates the feeling of drawing by hand, but provides added capabilities like instant colors, filters, editing, and more.

Storage devices

Graphic Designers work with large files and applications, which can quickly take up a lot of computer storage. To ensure adequate storage for their designs, Graphic Designers use cloud or physical storage devices. Graphic Designers will generally want at least a terabyte of storage.


For Graphic Designers who incorporate original photos and videos into their work, a high-quality digital camera is essential. While smartphone cameras can work in a pinch, Graphic Designers should invest in a DSLR camera if they will be regularly taking photos.