Having worked in design for over ten years, I have quite the collection of design tools! I am a stationery addict, which certainly helps, but I love trying out new things so that they might spark my creativity and push my style further. Today I’m sharing my top 10 design tools that are always part of my main toolkit, whatever the project.
1. Flying Tiger Bamboo Sketch Pad (Tegne Blok)
When is comes to cheap and cheerful sketching, laying the first formation of an idea out and just having a creative brain dump at the beginning of a new project, my Tegne Blok is indispensable. It costs the mighty sum of £3 a pad and the bamboo paper is better for the environment and great quality. The pages tear out easily without ripping and both pencil and fineliners sit on the slightly textured paper like a dream (no ink bleed!).
2. Field Notes Number 2 pencils
I’m not very fussy when it comes to pencils, to be honest, but I love the Field Notes range for their ethical properties (recyclable, non-toxic, degradable) and the little eraser on the end is a great bonus because it rubs stuff out without smudging it. Sounds silly, but I have ruined countless pieces of work with bad pencil erasers before! Also, Field Notes = Designer cool points haha!
3. UNI Pin fineliner pens
I tried SO many fineliners and for years I used Faber Castell PITT pens which were great. However, when I found myself needing the thinnest of the thin, UNI Pin was there with its 0.05mm nib and Faber Castell wasn’t! To be honest, I think both brands do a good fineliner, but UNI Pin pips it to the post for range.
4. Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen, white
Opaque, smooth, consistent, doesn’t clog up / leak / run. This pen is the ultimate white detailer! It’s great for my dark space-y doodles and getting perfect stripes.
5. TomBow brush tip pens
I don’t often colour with ink, but when I do, I use TomBow pens. I love the brush tips as they’re really flexible and the colour range is great, especially on the brighter end of the colour spectrum.
6. Banana pencil case
I love a novelty pencil case – it’s always a great conversation starter and of course, bright and cheerful! Also, you need somewhere safe to store all those lovely pens I’ve just recommended. A banana is slimline and easy to see in your bag, if you need a “real” reason 😉
7. Tracing paper / baking paper
SO MANY USES! Recently I’ve started making patterns and tracing paper is great for lining up overlapping design parts, testing tessellation and general repeating elements. However, have you ever tried using ink markers on tracing paper? Give it a go – you can get some great effects as the inks sit on top of the paper and start merging. You can also use it as a blender, or even a palette and then “paint” the inks onto other work with a brush. You can even stamp with it, if you want!
8. Know Your Onions / Graphic Design by Drew de Soto
This book is great if you design for print, work in branding or are just starting out in your graphic design career. Drew de Soto covers the foundations of good graphic design in a quick and informative way. It’s a book I refer back to time and time again because while it’s fun to experiment, getting the basics right is so important.
9. iPad Pro and Apple Pencil
OK, so this is a bit of a luxury one, but since I bought the iPad Pro my artwork has found so many new ways to exist! I used a small Wacom for a while, but being able to actually draw onto an image on the screen makes such a difference. The Apple Pencil is amazing – the sensitivity and responsiveness is great – and it’s making me think about offering hand-typography prints in the future. I just love the versatility and options the iPad Pro offers. It has also sped up the “vectorisation” process for some of my more detailed ideas.
10. Hello Kitty pen
Sometimes, you just need things that make you happy – if they have seven colour options and make note-taking a colour-coded dream, even better!
What are your favourite tools?
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