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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 more: MSI PS63 Modern review

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

Over 50 customisable keycaps
Increases productivity
Shipping July
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

MacBook Pro rival
Aimed at designers
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

Cinema-quality effects
Intuitive gestures
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

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

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.

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

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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