10 best graphic design tools for August

It’s back-to-school season, so this month’s round-up is bursting with the best hardware and software for graphic designers, to help you hit the ground running.

As usual, we’ve also got a brilliant collection of new design books, Photoshop brushes, actions and styles to help you work faster, more efficiently and more creatively. 

You'll also find a new Kindle version of cracking design title, Design Genius: The Ways and Workings of Creative Thinkers – which is our book of the month. So read on for our pick of the best graphic design tools for August...

01. Microsoft Surface Book

We’ll open with some hardware... If you’re looking for a new laptop for work, freelance or study, the Surface Book is our pick of the year so far for designers. Aside from being packed with technological innovations, it's an all-round fantastic device

The Surface Book is powerful, boasts a fantastic screen and an excellent keyboard. Best of all, it's extremely flexible thanks to its detachable screen with multi-touch display – which you can use as a digital sketchbook. Read our full Surface Book review for more details.

02. Dell XPS 15

If a Surface Book isn’t your thing, try the Dell XPS 15. A truly stunning laptop, it features a gorgeous, virtually borderless ‘InfiniteEdge’ display at Full HD resolution, has a blazing fast CPU and a decent battery life too. 

And if you spec it up you can get a 4K display with multi-touch, turning it into a portable sketchbook (although you’ll need a Dell stylus as well).

03. The Visual History of Type

The Visual History of Type is a great read for typophiles

$85/£60

Paul McNeil’s comprehensive survey of the major typefaces produced since the advent of printing is a must-read for anyone with a love of type.

Each of the 320-plus typefaces comes with a brief history and description of its key characteristics, making the book a cracking reference – and a welcome addition to any studio shelf.

04. Kyle’s Ultimate Concept Brushes

Bulk up your brush library with these top-class Photoshop brushes

$18

There are 150 Photoshop brushes for hair, fur, rain, smoke, foliage, clouds and textures of all kinds and prices in this huge set of excellent concept brushes from illustrator Kyle Webster.

Suitable for Photoshop CS5, CS6 and Photoshop CC, the brush set will also be updated several times a year with new free tools.

05. Design Genius: The Ways and Workings of Creative Thinkers

Design Genius is our most anticipated book of the month

$44.95/£32.99

Celebrating the creative thought processes of 69 leading artists, designers, creative agencies, animators, illustrators and typographers, Design Genius shines a light on a number of key design techniques from a who’s who collection of creatives – from Ken Garland to Morag Myerscough, Malika Favre, Crispin Finn, Jean Jullien and more.

Structured with chapters that include the business of creativity, thinking in images, form and shape, and more, the book offers in-depth discussions with the creatives featured, while inspiring visuals provoke and engage. Design Genius is a must-read for anyone with an interest in design and problem-solving, at any level.

06. The Complete Mockup Templates Toolbox

If you're looking for a template to mock up your designs, you'll find thousands of options in this bundle

$29

As any good designer knows, presenting your design work to clients is often as important as the design itself. However, creating a mockup can be incredibly time-consuming. So step up Design Cuts’ Complete Mockup Templates Toolbox bundle.

Containing thousands of popular mockup templates and scene creator items, it covers everything from apparel, stationery, packaging, 3D renders, animated mockups, branding, paper, print, tech/screens, rooms, frames, posters, wine bottle – the list goes on... And it’ll set you back just $29.

07. Explosion Photoshop action

Quickly add an explosion effect with this Photoshop action

$6

This bargain Photoshop action gives you the ability to add a powerful explosion effect to your images and designs in just one click. Suitable for use with Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6 and CC+, the results are adjustable. For your fee you’ll get a photoshop action file, brush file and a handy help file.

08. Lettering and Font ProCreate Brushes

These Procreate brushes have been designed for hand-lettering

$12

If you’re into lettering, take a look at these 13 brushes for Procreate. Created especially for hand-lettering – for script fonts in particular – the brushes come with a detailed PDF instruction guide, and you can try one of the brushes free before you buy. You can even use them to create commercial work.

09. Golden Type Photoshop style

Add some liquid gold to your designs

$3

Get some gold in your life with this smooth gold Photoshop style. It’s quick and easy to apply it to your favourite fonts – rounded bold fonts work best, but you can experiment with any weight or style.

10. Less is More: Limited Colour Graphics in Design 

Less is More, edited by Viction Workshop, explores the power of simplicity

$45/£29.95

We’ll end our back-to-school round-up of the month’s best graphic design tools with Less is More, a fascinating exploration of the power of a limited colour palette. 

Overflowing with stunning showcased examples from across the spectrum of design – from book covers to packaging – it’s perfect for those times when you need a little inspiration.

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