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10 best graphic design tools for July

Studios across the country might be down to skeleton staff as the summer holidays kick in, but we’ve got a slew of handy new graphic design tools to boost your creativity this month. 

From Astute Graphic’s game-changing Illustrator plugin DynamicSketch v2 to the new hardback release of Elliot Jay Stocks’ stunning typography magazine, 8 Faces, there’s plenty to get stuck into this July. So if the boss is away, we give you permission to play…

01. DynamicSketch v2 (opens in new tab)

Astute Graphics has updated its popular Illustrator plugin, DynamicSketch – and it’s packed with innovative new features to dramatically speed up your sketching workflow. These include Preview Stroke Widths, which lets you see the width of the sketch path while you’re drawing, and a Pulled Cursor feature, which simulates the tip of the brush, letting you create smoother curves and reducing stylus error.

Imagine the very best elements of the Pencil tool, Shaper tool, Join tool, Paintbrush tool, Width tool and Blob Brush tool, all in one intuitive drawing toolbox: that’s DynamicSketch. If you’re a regular Illustrator user, we can’t recommend it enough. It's priced at £39/$50.40.

02. The Designer’s Vintage Treasure Chest (opens in new tab)

Vintage fonts, textures, brushes and more!

Vintage fonts, textures, brushes and more!

Design Cuts' latest bundle brings you one of its biggest-ever vintage collections of design goods. It includes 42 vintage fonts, rare vintage letterforms, textures, old papers, decorative elements, vintage brushes, old illustrations and some handy vintage actions, too. The team reckons it would cost you $2,663 to buy each asset individually, so at $29 it’s a steal. 

03. 8 Faces: Collected (opens in new tab)

8 Faces features new and archive content

8 Faces features new and archive content

Last year, Elliot Jay Stocks launched a Kickstarter (opens in new tab) to redesign and re-edit all eight issues of slick, sold-out typography magazine 8 Faces, adding brand new content to make a huge, hardcover book.

Some 64 graphic designers, web designers, illustrators and artists were interviewed over the series, which boasted beautiful type specimens, plus forewords and essays from thought-leaders across the design industry. This new, 500-page edition features new interviews and a reference of every typeface chosen by interviewees – and it’s available to pre-order, now, for £29 (around $37.50). 

04. Matchbook Print Machine (opens in new tab)

Matchbook Print Machine replicates the textures and inks of matchbook print effect of the 1950s

Matchbook Print Machine replicates the textures and inks of matchbook print effect of the 1950s

Create retro matchbook print effects with a few clicks with this high-res Smart PSD. Priced at $19, it’s easy to use, letting you adjust textures, halftone patterns and registration errors for an authentic look – plus it comes with a video guide and bonus brushes.

05. Making and Breaking the Grid, Second Edition (opens in new tab)

Learn about different types of grids in this book by Timothy Samara

Learn about different types of grids in this book by Timothy Samara

Timothy Samara’s comprehensive layout design workshop explains the rules of grid-based design, covering the basics from composing typographic space and format determination, to sequencing and systemisation. 

Various types of grids – manuscript, column, modular, hierarchical – are also covered, as is a summary of the development of both grid-based and non-grid-based layout concepts in modern design. The paperback edition is priced at £19.99 (opens in new tab)/$29.99 (opens in new tab).

06. Chunky Markers – Illustrator Brushes (opens in new tab)

Brushes mimic messy markers, thin markers, slanted markers and standard markers

Brushes mimic messy markers, thin markers, slanted markers and standard markers

Create convincing marker pen-mimicking artwork in Illustrator with this set of 34 vector brushes from The Artifex Forge (aka Jeremy Child). He created over 300 brushstrokes before selecting the best for this pack, which also comes with a bonus marker pattern and example files for $15.

07. Design Thinking for Visual Communication (opens in new tab)

Get the popular book on Kindle for ease

Get the popular book on Kindle for ease

How do you start a design project? How can you generate ideas and concepts in response to a design brief? How do other designers do it? 

Bloomsbury has released a new Kindle edition of Gavin Ambrose’s popular book Design Thinking for Visual Communication, which addresses these questions by walking through different methods and thought processes used by designers. Costing £15.59 (opens in new tab)/$25.75 (opens in new tab), each stage is illustrated with case studies, providing an in-depth exploration of design thinking.

08. Corel Painter 2018 (opens in new tab)

Painter 2018 blurs the line between traditional and digital art

Painter 2018 blurs the line between traditional and digital art

As we reported earlier (opens in new tab), Corel Painter has dropped the latest release of its digital painting software, with a number of new tools added to its arsenal. 

Of particular note are its new Thick Paint brushes, which replicate real-world tools when used with thickly layered paint, enabling you to pull, push and scrape paint around your canvas.

You can grab the full package for £359.99 (opens in new tab)/$429 (opens in new tab), or upgrade for £179.99 (opens in new tab)/$229 (opens in new tab).

09. Glossy Rave Styles for Photoshop (opens in new tab)

The layer styles come in different resolutions ready for print or digital projects

The layer styles come in different resolutions ready for print or digital projects

Everyone needs a bit of old-school neon styling sometimes. This pack of 10 handmade Photoshop layer styles will add a rave vibe to your work in seconds. According to maker One-Click Slick (aka Tara Garmon), they work best at large sizes, and are perfect for posters, flyers and more. They cost $15 for a pack of high res 300dpi and lower res versions.

10. House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration (opens in new tab)

Type foundry and design studio House explores where it finds inspiration

Type foundry and design studio House explores where it finds inspiration

We showed you the preview to this back in February (opens in new tab), but House Industries' highly anticipated title, The Process is the Inspiration, is now available in hardback on Amazon.

Providing an illustrated journey through the renowned design studio’s creative process, the 400-page book features deluxe materials as well as hundreds of photographs of early work, work in progress and finished projects. Plus it offers helpful lessons, stories and case studies showing how to transform obsessive curiosity into personally satisfying and successful work. It's available to buy now for £35 (opens in new tab)/$50 (opens in new tab).

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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.