Last month, hardware scored high in April's roundup (opens in new tab) of the best new graphic design tools, with the ultra portable 9.7-inch iPad Pro (opens in new tab) making it easier than ever to create on the move.
This month, we're focusing more on software. We've searched high and low to bring you the best new brushes, plugins, actions, layer styles and more to make your workflow faster and more efficient, freeing you up for the fun part: creating.
Here are our 10 best graphic design tools for May...
01. AD Impastoshop plugin (opens in new tab)
Billed a "real-time thick painting machine", this plugin from Argentina-based illustrator Alex Dukal brings instant gesso, canvas, wet, varnish and carvable surfaces to your Photoshop brush strokes.
Featuring a set of more than 30 special layer styles, 15 background textures and more than 70 pressure-sensitive brushes, this plugin will set you back $19.
02. Authentic chalkboard bundle (opens in new tab)
Studio Denmark's multi-platform chalkboard design bundle contains backgrounds, styles, vectors and more – handy for any artwork that needs a rustic feel.
For $20, you'll get over 300 hand-chalked vectors provided in eight Illustrator vector files, eight Photoshop vector shape layers, and individual original chalk scanned high res PNG files for each element.
03. Extensis Suitcase Fusion 7 (opens in new tab)
On 7 May, font management firm Extensis released Suitcase Fusion 7 – enabling designers to synchronise their font collection on any machine via TypeSync, a secure cloud-based font repository.
Suitcase Fusion 7 also brings font management functionality to motion graphics artists with the industry's first font plugin for After Effects, meaning you'll spend significantly less time chasing missing fonts.
It's available for download at the link above – the full product is $119.95, while upgrades can be had for $59.95 – or you can try a free 30-day trial (opens in new tab).
04. VectorPress action (opens in new tab)
Add letterpress effects to your designs in seconds with VectorPress, a hybrid of graphic styles and actions for Illustrator that lets you quickly and easily add texture effects without slowing your processing power.
Created by hand-letterer Ian Barnard, who works under the name Vintage Design Co, it costs $19 and will work in all versions of Illustrator from CS3 upwards.
05. Sticky Lollipop typeface (opens in new tab)
Another recent product from Ian Barnard is Sticky Lollipop, a hand-written typeface created using a vintage chinagraph pencil.
On sale for $16 through his Vintage Design Co online shop, it includes alternative characters accessed by the Glyphs panel in your "favourite editing programme".
06. Illustrator Spray Paint brushes (opens in new tab)
If you love street art but don't fancy risking a criminal record, this new collection of 27 vector spray paint brushes from Artifex Forge, aka Jeremy Child, will lend a street edge to your artwork from the safety of your studio.
Released this month, the set comes complete with splatters and pools, and boasts pressure sensitivity functionality for tablet users. It'll set you back $10.
07. Alan Kitching collector's edition: A Life in Letterpress
It isn't cheap – but the lavish collector's edition of Alan Kitching's A Life in Letterpress is a thing of beauty indeed. Documenting the work of the world-renowned typographer, designer and letterpress practitioner, the weighty tome spans over 50 years.
There are some 350 colour illustrations inside the 408 pages of this long-awaited monograph. But beware: it's been printed in a limited edition of 200 copies only. If you can't buy one on Amazon.com, try the Laurence King shop (opens in new tab).
08. 1980s retro fashion patterns vol 2 (opens in new tab)
The 80s are back. A brand new collection of seamless, retro-inspired patterns for Photoshop and Illustrator, this pack from freelance illustrator and graphic designer Christopher King includes 20 designer patterns and an additional 20 bonus patterns.
According to Creative Market (opens in new tab), inspiration came from "the pastel coloured seafronts of Miami, the fitness crazed inhabitants of your typical 80s gym, and the power-dressing business executives of Wall Street". You can download two patterns (opens in new tab) from the new collection for free, while the set will cost you $30.
09. Metal stamping Photoshop styles (opens in new tab)
Add a realistic metallic edge to your designs with this set of 14 metal styles from Graphic Spirit. For sale on Creative Market for $10, the set perfect for badges, or any design requiring a metalic touch.
10. Woodland Wonderland brush and tutorial Pack (opens in new tab)
Inspired by the Golden Book era, the Woodland Wonderland brush and tutorial pack ($29) includes 31 unique brushes including gouache, pens, pencils and conte – plus some unconventional brushes like Wax Rollers and texture brushes.
With the premium package, you'll also get four tutorials from Brad Woodard of Austin-based studio Brave the Woods and a 60-minute live webinar with Woodard and illustrator Dustin Lee. Also available is a Deluxe option ($47) and a basic option ($19).