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The best graphic design tools in March 2019

This month’s round-up of the best new graphic design tools showcases a new flagship smartphone released to huge fanfare alongside a slick, slimline stylus quietly slipped out by Wacom. The two tech launches are widely different in approach, but both products offer designers exciting new creative possibilities.

As usual, we’ve also curated the best new books and brushes for streamlining your creative process: you'll find some brilliant new resources below, for all fields of interest. Read on for this month’s best new tools for graphic designers.

And if you'd like a comprehensive look at the more standard tools every creative should own, then don't miss our ultimate guide to graphic design tools.

Samsung Galaxy S10 product shot

01. Samsung Galaxy S10

This is the best smartphone that Samsung has built - and it’s packed with features for creatives

Weight: 157g
Dimensions: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: QHD+
CPU: Octa-core chipset
Storage: 128/512GB
Battery: 3,400mAh
Rear camera: 16MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
Reasons to buy
+Most colour-accurate phone display ever+Tripple camera+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap

Boasting a vibrant and bright 6.1-inch Infinity Display, faster Wi-Fi 6 and HDR10+, and a triple-lens rear camera that takes ultra-wide photos, Samsung’s latest flagship takes the single hallmark features of other handsets and crams them into one innovative phone. 

The new Samsung Galaxy S10 camera phone might just be a game-changer for creatives. There’s more screen real estate to play with, and it’s been crowned the most colour accurate smartphone display ever by leading display authority DisplayMate – so if you’re working on the go (aided by the all-day battery), your creative apps will thank you. 

Meanwhile, that triple rear camera gives you a 12MP regular lens, 12MP optically zoomed telephoto lens and a brand new 16MP ultra-wide lens (plus a single 10MP camera with dual auto-focuses on the front). As you’d expect, it isn’t cheap. But this is easily Samsung’s best-ever smartphone, and we want one. 

Now You See It book cover

02. Now You See It and Other Essays on Design (Kindle edition)

Influential designer Michael Beirut becomes your mentor

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (12 Mar. 2019)
Author: Michael Beirut
Pages: 240
Price: $34.36 / £18.52
Reasons to buy
+Insightful+Witty+A great resource

A new Kindle version of Pentagram partner Michael Beirut’s 2017 Now You See It has been released this month. The book is a follow-up to his best-selling Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, and offers a collection of over 50 engrossing bite-sized articles written by Beirut over the last decade. Covering everything from design history, practice and process to baseball, pop culture and design hoaxes – as well as celebrating leading design figures like Alan Fletcher, Massimo Vignelli and more – Now You See It is a deep, insightful and often humorous depiction of how design shapes our world. “Like a mentor in a book” is how one reader describes it. If you liked Beirut’s How To, you’ll like this too. 

For more great reads on design, don't miss our graphic design books roundup.

Wacom Pro Pen slim stylus in its holder

03. Wacom Pro Pen Slim stylus

Introducing Wacom’s new Apple Pencil-style pen

Maker: Wacom
Compatibility: Wacom MobileStudio Pro, Wacom Cintiq Pro and Wacom Intuos Pro
Pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
Price: $79.95 / UK unconfirmed
Reasons to buy
+Thinner than the Pro Pen+8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity
Reasons to avoid
-Only on sale in the US for now

Japanese drawing tablet giant Wacom has quietly released a new version of its Pro Pen stylus, with a thinner form factor that’s more akin to the Apple Pencil. Like the Pro Pen, it has 8,192 levels of pressure senility, tilt-response and – says Wacom – it’s virtually lag-free. Right now, it’s only officially available in the US, but we’ll let you know as soon as it’s on sale in the UK too.

iPad showing a chalk lettering composition

04. Procreate Chalk Lettering Bundle

Create realistic chalk effects faster and more easily

Artist: Muffin Elfa Art
Compatibility: Procreate 4 and iPad Pro
Standard license: $15
Reasons to buy
+50 Procreate brushes+Affordable+Lots of variety

The Procreate Chalk Lettering Bundle contains 50 Procreate brushes to help you create realistic-looking chalk effects and lettering. Inside are eight lettering chalk brushes, six half effect brushes, one script brush, five pattern brushes, nine grids and more – everything you need to add authentic chalk effects to your designs. Bear in mind that these are Procreate brushes – they won’t work in Photoshop or other apps.  

The Fundamentals of Typography, 2 edition, book cover

05. The Fundamentals of Typography, 2nd edition

A comprehensive introduction to type – past, present and future

Publisher: Bloomsbury Visual Arts; 2 edition (7 Mar. 2019)
Author: Gavin Ambrose, Paul Harris
Pages: 200
ISBN-10: 1350116947
ISBN-13: 978-1350116948
Reasons to buy
+Great resource+Superb visual reference +Good for anyone starting out

Authors Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris introduce the core principles of typographic theory and practice in the second edition of The Fundamentals of Typography. Packed with new case studies from leading design studios and thought-provoking exercises, the book offers insight into the use of type both past and present, inspiring typographers and designers to push their practice further in print and online – and it speculates on the future too. It’s a useful addition to any new designer’s bookshelf. 

Hand-drawn llama illustrating the different brushes in the Essential Hand Drawn Brush pack

06. Essential Hand Drawn Brushes for Photoshop

Bulk out your library with these great Photoshop brushes

Artist: Pixelbuddha
Compatibility: Photoshop
Standard license: $12
Reasons to buy
+Big variety of brushes+Affordable +Help you be more creative

There are 20 hand-drawn Photoshop brushes in this pack from Pixelbuddha. Including everything from pencil and pastel textures, sponge and splatter marks through to lettering brushes, strict lining and more, this versatile bundle aims to have you covered whether you’re creating illustration work, editorial, commercial images, social media posts or more.

Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus

07. Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus

A richly detailed portrait of one of the twentieth century's most influential and complex creatives

Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 Mar. 2019)
Author: Fiona MacCarthy
Pages: 560
ISBN-10: 0571295134
ISBN-13: 978-0571295135
Price: $25.57 / £19.26
Reasons to buy
+Gripping+An important biography+Full of insight

The charismatic and controversial founder of the Bauhaus – Walter Gropius – was at the centre of European modern art and design from 1910 to 1930, until Hitler made his situation untenable. In this riveting biography, Fiona MacCarthy draws on new research to re-evaluate Gropius's work and life, while exploring his intellectual and emotional life. Moving, vivid and described as a masterpiece by commentators, this long-awaited biography argues that Gropius’ visionary ideas still influence the way we live, work and think today.   

The Liner Brush Pack cover image

08. The Liner Brush Pack for Procreate

Perfect for creating realistic pen and ink lineart

Artist: RetroSupply
Compatibility: Procreate 4 and iPad Pro
Standard license: $15
Reasons to buy
+Great quality+Versatile pack+Affordable

This premium collection of 15 mid century-inspired Procreate brushes has been designed to make creating realistic pen and ink line art a breeze. It includes classic and dribbly inkers, pencils, charcoal, chalk, fillers, washes and more to give your illustrations energy, movement and that magical mid-century hand-drawn feel. A must-have for Procreate artists interested in mid-century illustration.

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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.