Graphic design has evolved significantly over the years, with digital platforms taking center stage. As a freelance graphic artist, the right tools at your disposal are ideal for producing your best work.
While a pen and piece of paper are all anything an artist needs to bring their vision to life, you also need to find the best ways of transferring this vision into the digital space. Hopefully, the following tools will help.
The best PC setup for a freelance graphic designer includes the Apple iMac (27-inch, 2021) for its 5K retina display, providing sharp and color-accurate visuals, alongside its powerful 10-core Intel i9 processor and Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics for smooth performance. Its sleek design reduces desk clutter while providing excellent functionality. Additionally, a Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 graphics tablet is invaluable for precise design work. The Adobe Creative Cloud Suite is the go-to software, featuring tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Lastly, investing in ergonomic peripherals such as a quality chair, keyboard, and mouse optimizes comfort for long work hours.
Having a reliable, high-performance personal computer is the first and most crucial tool for any graphic artist. Both desktops and laptops can work, depending on your work style and mobility needs.
Sometimes, a PC is too bulky when setting up a new graphic design business. You may feel it more necessary to work on the go or in a less restrictive way. As such, you should consider using a graphic tablet instead.
A graphic tablet, such as the Wacom Intuos Pro, can provide a natural, hands-on approach to digital design, making it an essential tool for any freelance graphic artist. These devices allow designers to draw directly onto a digital canvas, offering a level of precision and control that can be difficult to achieve with a mouse.
A monitor calibrator is a device that measures and adjusts the color output of your monitor to match a defined standard. This process ensures accurate, consistent colors and tones, vital in fields such as graphic design and photography.
A monitor calibrator ensures that the colors on your screen are as accurate as possible, which is crucial in graphic design. The X-Rite i1Display Pro is a great option for this.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Now you have picked out your hardware, you also need to think about the software packages that are most relevant to you. While you probably have a few ideas in mind already. You can’t go wrong with the Adobe Creative Cloud.
The Adobe Creative Cloud suite is a cornerstone in the world of graphic design. Adobe Photoshop is excellent for photo editing and compositing, while Adobe Illustrator provides robust tools for vector graphics. Adobe InDesign excels at layout design for print and digital publishing. Furthermore, Adobe XD is a must for interface design and prototyping.
Many graphic designers swear by Adobe Creative Cloud. Although, you may want to start taking your own approach now that you are working in a freelance capacity.
While Adobe software is a mainstay, Sketch has become a go-to tool for UI/UX design. Its intuitive interface and powerful plugins make it a great choice for designing mobile apps and web interfaces. Having Sketch on hand as well allows you to expand your work into these markets.
CorelDRAW is another powerful vector graphic design software that offers tools for layout design, photo editing, and typography. Some graphic artists prefer it over Adobe Illustrator for its ease of use and efficient workflow.
With your software in place, it is time to think about asset and document management. The best place to go for document management is your PDF tools. Freelance graphic designers can greatly benefit from using PDF tools. They can use Adobe Acrobat DC to create, edit, and secure their work, ensuring that designs maintain their integrity when shared. Features like commenting, highlighting, and adding notes facilitate collaborative review processes with clients.
Designers can also convert PDFs back to Illustrator or Photoshop files for further tweaking. Additionally, the ‘Export to’ feature allows designers to convert PDFs to other formats like JPEG, PNG, or even Word documents. This is especially useful when clients need the design in a different format, ensuring versatility in the delivery of their work.
Almost every PC comes with Dropbox capabilities already installed. What’s more, you will have most likely used this service before if you worked for a large company before stepping into a freelance capacity.
Dropbox is a highly effective tool for storing, sharing, and collaborating on files. It provides ample storage space and makes it easy to share large files with clients.
There is not much difference between Google Drive and Dropbox. As such, your allegiance to the service you pick will most likely rely on what is already available on your PC.
Similar to Dropbox, Google Drive offers cloud storage and collaboration capabilities. It also integrates well with Google Workspace apps like Google Docs and Google Sheets.
Now that you are working on your own, you will need to find a reliable way of managing all of your projects so that you meet your deadlines and send the right documents to the right customer.
Asana is a project management platform that offers more advanced features. It enables you to plan and structure work in a way that’s best for you, set priorities and deadlines, and share details with clients or team members.
On the other hand, you may also want to use Trello for your project management instead. Freelance graphic artists often juggle multiple projects simultaneously. Trello is a project management tool that helps keep track of various tasks, deadlines, and workflows.
If you are successful as a freelance graphic designer, you may find that you have to bring in some extra hands to help with your project load. This means finding a way to communicate with other members of your team at all times. The best way to do this is with the right communication tools.
Slack offers robust features for team communication, which can be crucial when working with clients or other freelancers. It allows for real-time communication and file sharing.
If you wanted a more personal way to communicate, you will need video-conferencing tools. For this, Zoom has become the standard. It allows you to schedule and join meetings with ease, making client communication more personal and interactive. Other video-conferencing tools include:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Meet
- Cisco WebEX
Freelancers need to keep their skills up-to-date. That is why you should consider using a service like Skillshare or LinkedIn Learning to help you keep up with all the changes occurring in your industry.
Skillshare is a platform offering creative courses taught by industry experts. It’s a great resource for learning new techniques and expanding your skill set.
In conclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all toolkit for freelance graphic artists – each designer has their preferences and workflows. However, this guide provides a good starting point for freelancers to build their toolkit. Remember, the key is not only to have these tools at your disposal but also to understand how to use them effectively to deliver quality work.