Part of the joy of working in the creative industries is that every year new tools come along that can speed up your workflow and give you new options and capabilities that you previously wouldn't have dreamed of. Just keeping up with them all can be a struggle, and that's before you get to the business of actually affording them.
That's why we've looked around at this year's new arrivals and narrowed them down to a selection of our favourite creative tools. Whether you're a freelancer or art director (opens in new tab), there's bound to be something here that tickles your fancy; remember, though, that there are bound to be some great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals (opens in new tab) coming up, so don't rush into a purchase if there's a chance of getting a discount soon.
Looking to update your digital art software? Try these Photoshop alternatives.
01. Adobe Fresco
Adobe Fresco (opens in new tab) is a bit of a weird one; it's a fantastic new art app for iPad with a slick and intuitive interface, good drawing and painting tools and the ability to blend vector, live and pixel brushes to create eye-catching and distinctive artwork.
The problem with it is that artists on iPad are already well-served by the likes of Procreate and ArtRage – the latter providing much more impressive oil-painting tools – and both of those are apps that you simply pay for once, rather than subscribing for £10 per month. However if you have a Creative Cloud subscription – which is pretty likely if you're already working as a designer – then its powerful drawing and painting tools (especially the watercolour brushes) make it a no-brainer.
02. iPad mini 5th generation
We've never quite seen the point of the iPad mini until this most recent version (opens in new tab). Now with a serious power upgrade, plus support for the Apple Pencil, the iPad mini has become a perfect little creative platform that you can easily take with you anywhere.
It's ideal for sketching and drawing on the move, and now that Photoshop for iPad is finally out, it's even suitable for more demanding creative applications.
03. Wacom Cintiq 22
Wacom's Cintiq displays are the sort of hardware that many artists and designers dream of, at a price that makes you think that maybe you can get along with your current workflow for a while longer.
The Cintiq 22 (opens in new tab) changes all that, though; it's a full 22-inch HD pen display that gives you plenty of space to create in, at a price that's not exactly cheap, but a lot more palatable than what you'd have to pay for a Pro or HD model.
04. Wacom Intuos Pro Small
Another essential creative tool from Wacom, the Intuos Pro Small (opens in new tab) is a lightweight and durable drawing tablet that manages to pack all the professional features you're likely to need into a compact package.
It comes with a battery-free Pro Pen 2, with 8,192 pressure levels and 60 levels of tilt recognition, plus six customisable ExpressKeys and a touch ring, and at $199.95/£199.95 it hits that sweet combination of price and performance.
05. Corsair One Pro i180
When you get to the bottom of it, it seems that the big appeal of Macs to designers and other creatives is just how lovely they look; you don't mind paying extra for a computer when it's also a stunning piece of desktop eye-candy, and it's hard to find a PC that isn't either a dull box or a garish boy-toy clad in too many LEDs.
Corsair's One Pro i180 (opens in new tab) has us tempted, though; it's packed full of power, squeezed into a compact case that's very easy on the eye with subtle LED lighting, and surprisingly near-silent, even when running the most demanding apps. At a shade under four grand it's far from cheap, but you'll struggle to find a more attractive workstation-grade PC.
06. Procreate 4.3
Adobe Fresco and Photoshop for iPad are all very well, but they're going to have a hard time luring artists away from the established king of iPad drawing apps, Procreate. Version 4.3 (opens in new tab) came out earlier this year, putting it more into Photoshop's league with a much-demanded set of text tools as well as other improvements.
The big excitement now is focused on the upcoming version 5, which promises a faster graphics engine and the potential to combine brushes to make custom Dual Brushes, as well as the ability to import Photoshop brushes.
07. Affinity Publisher
One of the big creative stories of recent years has been Serif challenging Adobe's dominance with a range of reasonably-priced but feature-packed apps that are doing an excellent job of luring designers away from the Creative Cloud. Both Affinity Photo and Designer are the go-to alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator, and now there's an alternative to the mighty InDesign in the form of Affinity Publisher (opens in new tab).
This one's a tough nut to crack; InDesign is baked into just about every publishing workflow you could care to mention, but with all the features that most people need from a publishing app, including Master Pages, facing-page spreads, grids, tables, advanced typography, text flow and full professional print output, Publisher is a serious alternative option.
08. MacBook Pro 16-inch
Squeaking in at the last minute comes this heavyweight addition to Apple's MacBook range. The brand new MacBook Pro 16-inch (opens in new tab) is an absolute beast of a laptop, promising up to double the performance of the 15-inch model and packing a 16-inch Retina display with 500 nits of brightness, a P3 wide colour gamut and a razor-thin bezel. Best of all, it's abandoned Apple's terrible butterfly switches and has a keyboard with more reliable scissor switches.
Of course it's not cheap; the basic 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD model with a 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and Radeon Pro 5300M GPU is going to set you back $2,399 (£2,399), but we doubt that's going to stop it becoming a must-have piece of hardware for many creatives.