What a month for new graphic design tools. Following a delay in release, Microsoft’s stunning Surface Studio is finally out in the US. Taking on the iMac, it promises a lot for creatives.
HP, too, has exciting news for designers and illustrators with its newly upgraded ZBook line of mobile workstations. And it’s all in same month that Adobe announced Creative Cloud updates (opens in new tab) to Illustrator (hooray for the new Image Crop tool (opens in new tab)), InDesign and Project Felix.
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We also have a cracking selection of new design books, Photoshop brushes, actions, fonts and more to boost your creative resources. Read on for our selection of the 10 best graphic design tools for April…
01. Microsoft Surface Studio (opens in new tab)
It’s the screen that catches your eye: the super-thin 28-inch PixelSense Display on Microsoft’s new Surface Studio all-in-one PC offers a huge canvas for creatives. Place it vertically and you have a stunning desktop that’s controlled by keyboard and mouse or touchscreen; place it almost-flat and you can draw, paint and sketch directly onto it, as you would an iPad or Wacom Cintiq.
Dubbed by WIRED as a “love letter to creative types”, the Surface Studio also boasts a $100 Surface Dial accessory that lets you change brush sizes, choose colours or tweak settings without taking your pen off the screen.
It isn’t out on the UK yet, but it’s on sale now in the US and available for pre-order in Australia. The Surface Studio is pricey, mind. It’ll set you back between $3,000-$4,199 in the States (UK pricing is still to be announced).
Read our sister site TechRadar’s review of the Microsoft Surface Studio (opens in new tab).
02. #10MinSkills (opens in new tab)
If you’re looking to upgrade your Illustrator skills but don’t have hours of free time to spare, try Astute Graphic’s new series of two-minute tutorials.
Covering everything from a faster way to vectorise hand-letting (opens in new tab) with the Pen tool to how to quickly add texture (opens in new tab) to a vintage logo without leaving Illustrator, creating complex shapes (opens in new tab) with the Shape Builder tool and more, the idea is that by running through each technique for just 10 minutes every day, you’ll quickly pick up new skills that will help you work more efficiently and more creatively.
03. Boords (opens in new tab)
Top London-based animation studio Animade has released a breakthrough web-based tool that makes storyboarding simple. With Boords, you can easy add, remove, reorder and replace content to make the perfect storyboard quickly and easily. When you're ready to share your storyboard, you can export it as a tailored PDF, or via a private link.
Additional features include an in-app drawing tool and the ability to collaborate with teammates using the new Team plan.
04. The Extensive Hand-Crafted Design Bundle (opens in new tab)
One of the best value design-tool bundles we’ve seen this month is The Extensive Hand-Crafted Design Bundle. Available on Design Cuts until 8 May, you get thousands of illustrations, fonts, brushes, effects packs, graphics, textures, vectors and actions for $29, instead of $1,651. That’s 98 per cent off.
05. HP ZBook G4 upgrade (opens in new tab)
If you’re in the market for a new laptop and want an alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro, take a look at HP’s newly upgraded ZBook line of mobile workstations.
With Nvidia Quadro and AMD Radeon Pro graphics chips, plus the option of Xeon processors, the new fourth-gen ZBook G4 laptops are powerful, fast and look good.
Of note are the HP ZBook Studio G4, which is built for creatives, and the HP ZBook 17 G4 model, which supports VR. US pricing starts at $1,399, with UK availability yet to be announced.
06. Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles (opens in new tab)
A new version of this beautifully designed 720-page typeface reference book is due in June and available to pre-order now. Offering a comprehensive overview of typeface design from 1628 to the mid-20th century, it traces the evolution of the printed letter via roman, italic, bold, semibold, narrow, and broad font specimens.
Type designers featured include William Caslon, Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke, Peter Behrens, Rudolf Koch, Eric Gill, Jan van Krimpen, Paul Renner, Jan Tschichold, A. M. Cassandre, Aldo Novarese, and Adrian Frutiger.
07. LayerMagic-PS Plugin (opens in new tab)
Kyle Jones – aka Haäfe & Haph (opens in new tab) – waited over 15 years for these features to be built into Photoshop, before deciding to build them himself. LayerMagic is a PhotoShop plugin that brings Illustrator-like clipboard functionality to Photoshop.
It lets you cut, copy and paste Photoshop layers (not just their content) above, below or inside any other layer in any open document - like you can in Illustrator. It also lets you solo and unsolo multiple layers like you can in After Effects, enabling you to hide the visibility of other layers so you can focus on just a few layers at a time.
08. Photoshop Glitch bundle (opens in new tab)
Dig deep into the online subculture of glitching with this new collection of over 70 high-res Smart PSDs, overlays and brushes for creating retro-style glitch effects in Photoshop. All you have to do is drop photographs and illustrations into the Smart PSDs, and you’ll instantly get customisable glitch effects that be tweaked as much as you like.
09. Fritz Kahn: Infographics Pioneer (opens in new tab)
Taschen celebrates the creative genius of German doctor, educator and information graphics pioneer Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) in this 526-page collection (opens in new tab) of illustration and scientific visualisations.
Chased out of Germany by the Nazis, who banned and burned his books, Kahn deployed vivid visual metaphors to demystify science. With a foreword form Steven Heller, this new book shows how Kahn’s concepts influenced generations of scientific illustrators, visual communications specialists and infographic artists.
It's due out in June, and available for pre-order now.
10. Giant bundle: 56 fonts (opens in new tab)
The Giant Bundle is a diverse collection of 12 best-selling products by Jeremy Vessey, giving you over 50 fonts for $29. It includes The Whiskey Font Collection, Yorkshire, The Restless Youth Trio, Oatmeal Stout, Gibson Script, The Cast Iron Family, Hustle Script, Pathways, Hochstadt, Greenstone + Summer Hearts, The Great Outdoors & Arbour.
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