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The 10 best graphic design tools for May

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: AD Impastoshop plugin

The AD Impastoshop plugin lets you add thick paint to a layer and then carve over the surface, adding depth and texture to your artwork

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: chalkboard bunde

The chalkboard bundle includes over 300 hand-chalked vectors, 30 chalk styles, 13 chalkboard styles, 54 chalkboard backgrounds and a user guide

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: Extensis Suitcase Fusion 7

Suitcase Fusion 7 is fully compatible with all Mac OS X and Windows systems including Mac OS X El Capitan and Windows 10

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: Vectorpress

VectorPress offers a quick way to add texture effects to your designs

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: Sticky Lollipop

For an injection of vintage pop, Ian Barnard's Sticky Lollipop typeface is all you need

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: Spray Paint brushes

Try this selection of spray paint brushes to add a street edge to your artwork

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

Best graphic design tools for May: A Life in Letterpress

Only 200 copies of the collector's editon of Alan Kitching's A Life in Letterpress have been printed

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: 1980s Retro Fashion patterns

The second volume of Christopher King's 1980s Retro Fashion patterns includes 20 designer patterns - plus 20 bonus patterns

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: metal stamping styles

Take your artwork back to the Bronze age with this set of metal stamping styles for Photoshop

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)

Best graphic design tools for May: Woodland Wonderland pack

There are three pricing tiers to choose from for the Woodland Wonderland brush and tutorial pack

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).

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Julia Sagar
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.