This month we’ve seen a whole host of new tools for graphic designers (opens in new tab). Here we've rounded up our favourites – which include an innovative Illustrator plugin, a book on breaking into the creative industries, brilliant new brushes and a 4k BenQ monitor aimed at designers.
Read on for our selection of the best new graphic design tools this April.
Pro colour-control Illustrator plugin Phantasm (opens in new tab) has received its biggest update in 12 years. If you’re not already aware of the highly acclaimed Astute Graphics Illustrator plugin (opens in new tab), Phantasm gives you incredible Photoshop-esque functionality in Illustrator, letting you easily adjust vector artwork, text, effects and embedded images with curves, levels, hue/saturation and other essential controls.
With the version four comes a new Phantasm panel for instant colour control, an improved vector halftone engine, a new vector halftone clipping option and a prepress correct effect with the ability to auto-apply to all layers. This is an invaluable plugin for anyone who works with vectors.
Designer and author Craig Oldham’s new graphic design book (opens in new tab) offers a no-nonsense guide to breaking into the creative industries. Sharing experiences, ideas, advice, criticism and encouragement, Oldham creates a platform for meaningful discussion about how to get started in 'The Industry' and democratises the route to being a designer .
What now? Where do you live? Can you afford to live? How can you make money doing design? How do you get a job? Who do you want to work for and are you good enough? These are the questions Oh Sh*t... What Now? aims to tackle honestly.
"If nothing else it tries to make a meaningful and genuine attempt to help young creatives rather than perpetuate the same vacuous platitudes proffered by the industry," explains Oldham (opens in new tab) on Twitter.
With sections spanning education, portfolios, jobs, freelancing, working process and personal development, Oh Sh*t... What Now? makes for a comprehensive, insightful rescue for any new graduate or final year student.
- Buy Oh Sh*t... What Now? on Amazon for $16.99 (opens in new tab)
- Buy Oh Sh*t... What Now? on Amazon for £12.23 (opens in new tab)
BenQ’s huge 32-inch Ultra HD display isn’t new: the PD3200U (opens in new tab) was added to the company’s Designer Monitor range in 2016. But thanks to its impressive performance, accurate colour reproduction, professional-focused features and reasonable price, it’s one of the best monitors you can buy today if you’re a designer or creative.
The IPS panel has a native contrast of 1000:1 and offers good viewing angles, with a 100% sRGB color gamut, plus Rec. 709 for video production. It also comes with a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch, which lets you plug in a second computer for graphic design (opens in new tab) and switch between the two while using a single monitor, keyboard and mouse.
If you’re looking for a 4k monitor (opens in new tab) that will improve your productivity thanks to its sheer size – let alone handy pro features – the BenQ PD3200U is worth a look – just make sure you have space on your desk.
Design assets company RetroSupply has bundled together four of its most recent, best-selling packs of Illustrator brushes to create the Hand Drawn Illustrator Vector Brush Bundle (opens in new tab).
In it, you get 321 high-res brushes –including vector engraving brushes, fine liner pen brushes, stippling brushes, and vector halftone brushes and swatches – and the usual example files of artwork from RetroSupply to demonstrate how the brushes might be applied.
The best part? These would normally cost $116 if you bought the packs separately – but you can get the bundle for $49. That’s a 42 per cent discount.
Create chalkboard lettering and artwork from the dust-free environment of your iPad Pro with Ian Barnard’s Chalk Dust lettering kit for Procreate (opens in new tab). (There’s a Photoshop version of the Chalk Lettering Kit (opens in new tab) too).
Created from real chalk textures, these realistic Procreate brushes (opens in new tab) include two bonus script brushes from hand letterer Stefan Kunz and six blackboards. The pack also comes with a tips and tricks guide sheet, as well, showing you how to create shadows, shading and drawing elements like banners and floral elements.
- Buy the Chalk Dust Lettering Kit for Procreate for $19 (opens in new tab)
- Read our review: Procreate 4 (opens in new tab)
Last month Wacom announced an upgraded version of its entry-level Intuos pen drawing tablet (opens in new tab). Available in small and medium sizes – and a choice of three different colours – the new Intuos models boast improved accuracy, a built-in pen tray, four express keys and, if you choose one of the Bluetooth models, a whopping 60 per cent boost in battery life.
The new tablets also comes bundled with up to $160 worth of creative software for drawing, painting and image editing. This includes Corel Painter Essentials 6 for design and illustration, CELSYS CLIP STUDIO PAINT PRO for comic and Magna creation, and Corel AfterShot 3 for photo editing. Ideal.
You can pick up the Intuos S for $80 / £69.99, the Intuos S with Bluetooth for $100 / £89.99, and the Intuos M for $200.
Typerium (opens in new tab) is an ambitious new decentralised content-creation platform promising a marketplace, social media network and new creative design software to boot. It hasn't launched yet, but when it does it'll be the latest creative venture to capitalise on the blockchain economy in the name of tackling piracy for content creators.
At the heart of Typerium is a decentralised marketplace that's designed to protect the intellectual property rights of content creators. It promises an 85 per cent commission on all sales, and dramatically faster payment times thanks to its blockchain economy.
And aside from its marketplace and integrated blockchain ecosystem, the platform spans two additional areas. It's developing its own integrated design software to “allow creators to produce high-quality visual content for any platform” and publish content with a single click. And a new social media network is also being developed – which claims it will reward users “so you don’t have to rely on just your sales”.
"Creators earn tokens by creating content," says the website, "and when consumers license that content, everyone earns a share of the value through our unique reward system. We’re building a community that’s driven by user contribution, so you don’t simply have to rely on sales, you’ll also be rewarded overtime a transaction takes place.”