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The best graphic design tools for June 2018

This month’s round up of the best new graphic design tools introduces a new keyboard for creatives that aims to dramatically speed up your workflow. 

We’ve also picked our favourite new free fonts, Illustrator brushes, Procreate brushes, iPhone apps and graphic design books. And there’s a new laptop for graphic designers on the block, too, which squares up to the MacBook Pro.

Read on for the best tools for graphic designers in June…

01. Delux Designer keyboard

A custom mechanical keyboard aimed squarely at designers.

Keys: 28, fully customisable
Dial: Multifunctional
Material: Aluminium
Compatibility: Wacom and other graphic tablets
Software: Works with Ai, Ps, 3D, CAD, Id, Maya, Rh, Ae, and Pr
Reasons to buy
+Over 50 customisable keycaps+Increases productivity+Shipping July
Reasons to avoid
-Productivity stats not backed up

Designed to make your shortcuts even shorter, the Delux Designer keyboard claims to increase productivity by a whopping (and perhaps wild) 80 per cent.  While we can’t vouch for the figures, the mechanical keyboard itself – which you can now preorder – does look promising. 

You can program complex multi-step command sequences into a single keycap, or use the multi-functional dial to take precise control of your artwork. It’s compatible with Wacom and other graphics tablets, as well as most major creative software. And at half the size of a normal keyboard, it sits a lot more comfortably on your desk with your drawing tablet.

02. Dell Precision 5530 (2018)

XPS on steroids: the 5530 gives creatives workstation-class power.

Processor: Intel Core i9-8950HK - i5-8300H
Ram: Up to 32GB
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro P1000/P2000 with 4GB GDDR5 memory
Display: 15.6-inch 4K UHD or Full HD
OS: Windows 10
Reasons to buy
+MacBook Pro rival+Powerful+Aimed at designers
Reasons to avoid
-Higher specs aren't cheap

While we're on the subject of new hardware for designers and artists, Dell released the Precision 5530 at the end of May – a MacBook Pro rival aimed at professional creatives who need power, portability and reliability. Replacing the Precision 5520, it's Dell’s thinnest, lightest and smallest 15-inch mobile workstation, and it's more powerful than ever with the top-line model boasting an Intel Core i9 processor and 32GB RAM. 

Available in platinum silver or brushed Onyx, the pro laptop comes with either a 4K, 100 per cent Adobe RGB  touchscreen, or a Full HD display, with Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics. 

If you’re looking for a new graphic design laptop that balances power and portability, the Precision 5530 is worth a look. That said, we’re still holding out for Dell’s backflipping – but less powerful – new Precision 5530 2-in-1, due out in August... 

03. Procreate Pocket 2 digital painting app

Powerful professional painting software on your iPhone.

Developer: Savage
Version: 2.0
Graphics engine: Silica-M
Colour: 64-bit
Compatibility: iPhone, iOS 11 or later
Reasons to buy
+Cinema-quality effects+Intuitive gestures+Cheap
Reasons to avoid
-iPhone only

The Procreate Pocket iPhone app has received a major update, taking it to version 2.0 – and adding almost every Procreate feature from the iPad app, including 3D Touch, 136 brushes, more time-lapse options, a revamped interface and more. Powered by Silica-M – the same graphics engine that powers Procreate for iPad –  Procreate Pocket v2 makes it easier than ever to create detailed art on an iPhone. If you already own the app you’ll get the update for free; otherwise it’ll cost you $4.99 new.

04. Grain Shader Brushes For Illustrator

High-res brushes to add depth to your vector artwork.

Designer: True Grit Texture Supply
Compatibility: Illustrator CS6+
Brushes: 25
High-res: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great for adding gritty effects+Created from authentic source material+Free if you don't like them+Includes bonus textures

Add depth, grain and gritty accents to your vector artwork with the Grain Shader Brsuhes for Illustrator – 25 texture Illustrator brushes created by True Grit Texture Supply. This high-res brush set comes with bonus grainy overlay textures, is compatible with Illustrator CS6 and above, and will set you back $19.

There’s also a Grain Shader Brush set for Photoshop, and one for Procreate too.

05. The Curiosities Font Collection

A high-quality font collection for a great price.

Designer: Jeremy Vessey
Fonts: Over 40 inspired by early 20th century design
Good for: Logos, branding, posters, beer labels and more
Reasons to buy
+Stunning fonts+Wide variety of styles+Great value+3 bonus fonts

The Curiosities bundle of 40 early 20th century-inspired fonts is bursting with stunning scripts, sans-serifs, serifs, hand-drawn fonts and more, designed by Hustle Supply Co’s Jeremy Vessey. Perfect for adding a timeless feel to logos, beer labels, posters and more, this pack has a font for everything – plus three bonus free fonts from RetroSupply Co, including popular Palm Canyon Drive script, Authority, and modular type system SOLID70. That’s over 40 quality fonts for $49.

06. On Color

A sparking meditation on colour – and a great read for any designer.

Reasons to buy
+Fascinating insight+Beautifully designed+A joy to read

In On Color, authors David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing investigate colour from numerous perspectives – literary, historical, cultural, anthropological, philosophical, art historical, political and scientific – in this fascinating mediation on colour.

Sometimes provocative, sometimes playful, each of the 10 chapters is a devoted to a different colour, with the authors looking at the various ways each has – and continues to – shape our social and moral imaginations. This is a lively, intelligent and well-written book that anyone with an interest in colour will enjoy.

07. Procreate Character Design Brushes

Draw better characters in Procreate with these brushes.

Designer: Rodrigo Lopes
Compatibility: Procreate for iPad Pro
Brushes: 22
Reasons to buy
+Great for character design+Different styles of brush+Easy to use+Helpful instructions

2D artist Rodd Lopes created the Procreate Character Design Brush Set. Inside this pack of 22 Procreate brushes you'll find everything you need to draw and paint characters, from soft and hard brushes to textured, line-art, oils, blend brushes and more. There’s a wide variety of different effects here – all you need is an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to get started.

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Julia Sagar
Julia Sagar is currently e-commerce editor for Creative Bloq and Digital Camera World. Prior to this, she was acting editor of Creative Bloq, having previously spent many years as deputy editor of design title Computer Arts magazine. She was also part of the team that launched consumer technology website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for nearly 15 years.