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The best graphic design tools in October 2018

It’s been an interesting few months for new graphic design tools. Apple hogged the headlines in September with the announcement of its three new iPhones; and this month we’re on the verge of seeing a new iPad. But if you’re not tied into the iOS creative ecosystem, fear not. There are plenty of other new and noteworthy tools for graphic designers this month too. 

From idea-inspiring books to brushes and a new app, here are this month’s most exciting new tools for graphic designers.

iphone xs

01. iPhone XS

Apple steps up its iPhone camera

New features: : A12 bionic chipset, improved Face ID, camera and speakers
Price: : $999/£999
Reasons to buy
+Improved Smart HDR
Reasons to avoid

Apple unveiled three new iPhones in September – iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the cheaper iPhone XR – and our reviews will be on the site soon. A new sensor in the iPhone XS noticeably enhances the images it takes, while a bigger screen, generous storage and a power bump courtesy of the A12 Bionic chip show that Apple’s taking competition from the likes of the Huawei P20 Pro seriously, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with smartphone photography. Of course, if you’ve got more cash to spend, you’ll get an even better phone in the iPhone XS Max; but the most interesting release is the iPhone XR, thanks to its cheaper price point.  

Affinity Publisher

02. Affinity Publisher

InDesign rival is one step closer

Compatible with: : Mac or Windows
Price: : Free
Reasons to buy
+Can trial for free
Reasons to avoid
-Still in Beta

New desktop publishing app Affinity Publisher was released in beta recently – and you can test it for free on either Mac or Windows (an iPad version will follow soon). The much anticipated app from Serif offers advanced typography options, linked text frames, master pages, dynamic photo frames and more. Plus, it’s completely stripped of bloat, and integrates fully with the company’s popular existing creative apps: Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. 

Given that it’s a Beta release, the app will likely have a few bugs at this stage. But overall, this move takes Serif one step closer to providing a powerful, credible non-subscription-based InDesign alternative that – if the final version is as good as Affinity’s other two apps – promises to free designers from Adobe’s CC subscription system. And while it won’t help anyone whose clients and collaborators are invested in a CC workflow right now, Affinity Publisher is potentially great news for anyone who doesn’t have a boss to pay their CC subscription. 

A Few Minutes of Design: 52 Activities to Spark Your Creativity (Card Deck)

03. A Few Minutes of Design: 52 Activities to Spark Your Creativity (Card Deck)

Beat creative block with these fun cards

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Author: Emily Campbell
Pages: 52
ISBN-10: 1616897422
ISBN-13: 978-1616897420
Price: $17.75 / £17.28
Reasons to buy
+Would make a good gift
Reasons to avoid
-A bit pricey for cards

There are 52 exercises and activities to jump-start your creative juices in A Few Minutes of Design, a colourful card deck from author Emily Campbell. Designed to free you from creative block, help start a new project or finish an existing one, it also comes with a glowing recommendation from design legend and Pentagram partner Michael Beirut, who calls it: “A marvellous invitation to anyone with an interest in creativity, invention, and design.”

Each exercise offers insight into the countless small decisions involved in design, such as how to establish a pattern or continue a series; how to say it without words; how to name a project; what fits, and what doesn’t. The deceptively simple and fun exercises are equally beneficial for new or established designers, and take around 15 minutes. 

Grunge Toolbox Procreate Brushes

04. Grunge Toolbox Procreate Brushes

Brilliant brushes for Procreate

Designer: MiksKS
Compatible with: Procreate
Price: $10
Reasons to buy
+Quick way to add depth+Works with Apple Pencil
Reasons to avoid
-Brushes only work with Procreate

Quickly add texture and depth to your illustrations, sketches and photos with these 34 Grunge Toolbox Procreate brushes from creative MiksKS. There are three categories of tool in the set: pressure sensitive brushes, for add detail or shading; texture stamps, to cover large areas at once; and border stamps, for adding a grunge border to your images. 

Rock, Stone and Meteor Photoshop brushes

05. Rock, Stone and Meteor Photoshop brushes

Add depth with these brushes

Designer: Creative Graphics
Compatible with: Photoshop CS2+
Price: $10
Reasons to buy
+Lots of choice
Reasons to avoid
-Only works with Photoshop

Need to quickly add rock or meteor textures to your work? Introducing the Rock, Stone and Meteor Photoshop brush pack – 76 high-res Photoshop brushes from Creative Graphics that, all being well, mean you’ll never lose time searching for the perfect stone texture ever again. Happily, they’re compatible with Photoshop CS2 upwards, and you can own all 76 for $10.

inside apple

06. Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs

The secrets behind Apple's design

Publisher: Macmillan
Author: Ken Kocienda
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 1529011841
ISBN-13: 978-1529011845
Price: $19.86 / £11.55
Reasons to buy
+Honest insight into Apple
Reasons to avoid
-Some parts feel a bit meandering

Several thousand people might work on Apple's campus in Cupertino, California, but only a handful sit at the drawing board. Creative Selection offers a look inside Apple’s creative process through the eyes of highly respected software engineer Ken Kocienda, who worked in the final years of the Steve Jobs era, the Golden Age of Apple.

Kocienda pioneered the iPhone keyboard. For 15 years, he was directly responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing powerful, easy-to-use software for everything from the iPad to Safari. In this book, he reveals the real secret of Steve Jobs's leadership and Apple's magic – pushing people to think for themselves – while recounting moments of struggle and success, crisis and collaboration, and highlighting each with lessons learned during his Apple career. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to work on the cutting-edge of technology at one of the world's most admired companies, Creative Selection is one to read.

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Julia Sagar

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.