10 Tools to be Productive as a Graphic Design Student

10 Tools to be Productive as a Graphic Design Student

As a graphic design student, you’ll constantly be pressured to deliver competently made projects such as brand guidelines, posters, essays, and case studies. This can all get overwhelming no matter how much you love graphic design.

It’s why using useful tools, platforms, and resources can make your life as a graphic design student more manageable and easier for your mental health. Here’s how you can make your student life enjoyable and productive to become a full-fledged, graduated graphic designer sooner rather than later.

Perks of Optimising your Productivity as a Graphic Design Student

Try Working In A Cafe To Improve Your Productivity

Let’s talk about being a graphic design student and how you can be productive while tackling a dozen different courses simultaneously. Whether you’re studying to become a web designer, an illustrator, or a fine art professional, the graphic design industry is in constant flux. 

New trends, innovative technologies, and shifts are happening almost daily. It’s challenging to stay in touch with everything by only focusing on your college curriculum for information. By combining what you learn at school with online tools and resources, you can become more knowledgeable and familiar with what clients and audiences want. 

This will help your motivation and productivity as you work your way through design courses you love and theoretical courses, which you may love a little less. 

Here’s how you benefit from working on your productivity as a graphic design student: 

1 – Productivity and Time Management Tools

Free Time Tracker Apps

It would help if you realised that being a graphic design student isn’t unlike studying software development, engineering, or other fields. 

Your curriculum is focused on graphic design subjects, tackling art history, design principles, and the basics of fine art. Like any other college student out there, you can use productivity tools to help you manage your time and workload. 

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Using these apps in your day-to-day activities makes it easier to organise your obligations and hand in your projects before their respective deadlines. 

Moreover, you’ll feel like you’re utilising digital, modern tools more than usual since you’ll have your smartphone or tablet handy while working on design projects. Here are a few tools you should download and start using today:

2 – Helpful Graphic Design Literature

The progress in every industry or niche is built on the backs of those who came before – and graphic design is no different. 

Hundreds and thousands of professional graphic designers have established today’s design methodologies and art styles. As a student, you can learn about doing your job well by picking up some helpful design literature. 

These books can make you more productive and help you write more thoughtful and informative essays, papers, and studies. 

You can use free essay writing websites if you’re overwhelmed with design projects and want someone to help you write or edit essays in the meantime. Here are a few useful graphic design publications to keep in mind the next time you shop for books:

Interaction of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Albers, Josef (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 06/28/2013 (Publication Date) - Yale University Press (Publisher)
100 Ideas that Changed Design
  • Fiell, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 216 Pages - 01/22/2019 (Publication Date) - Laurence King Publishing (Publisher)
Signs and Symbols: Their Design and Meaning
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Frutiger, Adrian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages - 09/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Watson-Guptill (Publisher)
Designing Design
  • Hara, Kenya (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 472 Pages - 03/20/2018 (Publication Date) - Lars Muller (Publisher)
Non-Designer's Design Book, The
  • Williams, Robin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 11/19/2014 (Publication Date) - Peachpit Press (Publisher)

3 – Quality Drawing Tablet

Wacom Bamboo Sketch App For Ipad Iphone

Developing your art style is one of the most important undertakings you’ll tackle during college. It would help if you had a good drawing tablet you could rely on for several years. Drawing tablets can often be pricey if you want to go for professional tools and equipment. 

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However, as a student, you can make do with a lower-end tablet and still enjoy working on your projects with significant levels of success. 

Go for screenless options for now and learn how to draw while looking straight forward at your screen. Even if you predominantly lean toward vector art and don’t intend to work as an illustrator, you should still use your formal education years to experiment. 

Once you’ve graduated, you can draw the line and decide whether you want to pursue tablet-based design philosophy or settle into using a mouse and keyboard moving forward. Until then, here are a few great tablets you can check out:

Bestseller No. 1
XPPen Artist24 Pro Drawing Tablet with Screen Drawing Monitor 2K Resolution Graphics Tablet Supports a USB-C to USB-C Connection(20 Customizable Shortcut Keys and Tilt Function)
  • Drawing Tablet-❤Enough Room for Creation❤Featuring stunning 2K resolution (2560 x 1440) and a large 23.8-inch display, the Artist 24 Pro delivers remarkably realistic and vivid colors and allows you to craft with astonishing nuance and amazing detail.
  • Drawing Tablet with Screen-❤Ideal Connections❤ Artist 24 Pro supports a USB-C to USB-C connection, allowing you to connect your iMac, Mac Book Pro or Windows computer without using an adapter.
  • Graphics Tablets-❤High Color Gamut❤ XPPen Artist Display 24 Pro support 90% Adobe RGB color gamut, fuel your creativity with brilliant color and blazing graphics as you draw, design and create on this strikingly large, immersive display
  • Drawing Monitor-❤Improve your Workflow❤ The XPPen Artist 24 Pro features two easy-to-control red dial wheels and 20 customizable shortcut keys on both sides of the product. Friendly for both left and right-handed users. With adjustable stand, you can change the product’s angle to suit your needs, allowing you to create with ease.
  • Drawing Display-❤Versatility and Compatibility❤ The XPPen Artist 24 Pro supports Windows 10/8/7 and Mac OS X 10.10 (and higher). The product is also compatible with popular digital art software. Contact XPPen to apply for an ArtRage 5, openCanvas and Cartoon Animator 4 Pipeline drawing program
SaleBestseller No. 2
Standalone Drawing Tablet, 10 Inch Drawing Tablet with Screen No Computer Needed, Android 12 Pen Display 4GB/64GB
  • Drawing Tablet with Pen Stylus, the Rubens T11 drawing tablet comes with HD Display for digital drawing with pre-installed drawing app, works right out of box. Our products are certified quality, certified by GMS, FCC and CE standards, giving you peace of mind in terms of safety and quality, we also offer a 1 year warranty, as well as technical support staff that can provide the best customer service to make your purchase worry free. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
  • FHD Display, HD Resolution display with IPS HD screen, offers clear display for digital drawing. The colorful display shows the vibriant true color and tone,resolution is 1920*1200P,the palm rejection allows you to drawing on scree without any distraction.
  • Android 12 Drawing Tablet with Pen Display, Standalone Drawing Tablet with Screen No Computer Needed installed with the latest Android 12, powered by MTK quadcore cpu chips, comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB Storage, supports TF card reading up to 128GB, enough storage for Apps and digital drawing.
  • The Android Pen display works without any other computer and you can install even more drawing application from Play Store. You can also install even more App with the tablet to share your digital artwork with social media or with your friends and family.
  • Ultra Long Battery Life, Standalone Drawing Tablet with Screen No Computer Needed comes with 5800mAh battery that supports 5 hours working time. Package Content Include Adjustable Stand Case with 10 adjustable levels for better drawing angle as well as protections for the drawing tablet.
Bestseller No. 3
Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 Creative Pen and Touch Display – 4K graphic drawing monitor with 8192 pen pressure and 99% Adobe RGB (DTH2420K0), Black
  • Stunning 23.6" touchscreen display with 4K resolution so you can see every detail of your creation in pinpoint accuracy
  • True-to-life color with 99% Adobe RGB & 97% sRGB color performance and 1.07 billion colors (10 bits color)
  • Includes a Wacom Pro Pen 2 with tilt recognition & 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity. Optical bonding eliminates parallax, mimicking the precision & feel of pen and paper
  • Multi-touch gestures, an on-screen keypad, radial menus and the included ExpressKey Remote for one-touch shortcuts
  • Register your Cintiq Pro & receive a 90-day trial to Toonboom Harmony & Storyboard, 3-month trial to MASV, 3-Month trial to Bluescape, 3-month trial to Shapr3D, and a 6-month trial to CSP EX. Offer available for customers located in the Americas.
SaleBestseller No. 4
Wacom One HD Creative Pen Display, Drawing Tablet With Screen, 13.3" Graphics Monitor; includes Training & Software, works with Mac, PC & Chromebook, photo/video editing, drawing, design, & education
  • Wacom One Creative Pen Display: High definition creative pen display designed for creative hobbyists, visual thinkers, and anyone needing a second screen or bigger digital canvas for work or play
  • Natural Pen Experience: The included ergonomic 4096 pressure sensitive battery-free pen is responsive and easy to control, giving you the familiar pen-on-paper feel that you are used to with precision
  • Digital Freedom: See your imagination come to life in full color on a 13.3" HD screen. You can draw, edit photos and videos, or take notes just like you would with a pen and paper
  • Includes Creative Software: Register your device to get Bamboo Paper Pro, Magma Studio, Bluescape, Affinity Photo, Affinity Publisher, Affinity Designer, & Skillshare for 3 months. Get Clip Studio Paint Pro (6-mos license Mac/PC, 3-mos license for Chromebook)
  • Register your device to get education software: Kami App (12-Mos), Foxit PDF Editor for Education (12-Mos), and 3-mos of Explain Everything, Pear Deck, & Limnu.
Bestseller No. 5
Wacom Cintiq 16 Drawing Tablet with Full HD 15.4-Inch Display Screen, 8192 Pressure Sensitive Pro Pen 2 Tilt Recognition, Compatible with Mac OS Windows and All Pens
  • New Class of Creative Pen Display: Optimized feature set for creative starters provides HD clarity and ergonomic design that allows you to take your creative ideas and illustrations to the next level
  • Super Responsive: Wacom Pro Pen 2 features 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt response and virtually lag-free tracking. Two customizable switches allow for easy access to shortcuts
  • Industry-leading Color Displays: Our Cintiq displays have LCD display with HD resolution and showcase uniform brightness, high resolution and true to life color quality
  • Control at Your Fingertips: The relaxed parralax gives you full control and combined with the super responsive Wacom Pro Pen 2, makes creating feel as natural as drawing on paper
  • Wacom is the Global Leader in Drawing Tablet and Displays: For over 40 years in pen display and tablet market, you can trust that Wacom to help you bring your vision, ideas and creativity to life

4 – Useful Graphic Design-Centric Apps

Graphic design students inherently need to work on graphic design projects to pass subjects successfully. This means that you’ll either have to pay the price to get Adobe Creative Cloud software packages or make do with alternatives. 

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There are plenty of open-source and freemium graphic design tools you can use as a student to create high-quality designs without spending a dime. 

It’s also a great idea to keep a graphic design resources repository in your bookmarks for when you need stock assets and templates to work with. 

Combining those with the following tools will help you be far more productive than before and lead you to learn more about design software in general. This resource, in particular, will ensure that you always have the right set of templates, mockups, and resources to work with when tackling new design projects. 

Here are the tools you should check out:

  • Gimp
  • Canva
  • SketchUp
  • Blender
  • Vectr

5 – Trusty Sketchbooks and Notebooks

Best Notebook Graphic Design Student

Going to classes and taking notes is what you’ll be doing for most of the day. It would be best to have a great notebook and a sketchbook in your backpack 24/7. 

A great notebook will ensure that you always have your notes, assignments, and to-do lists neatly organised and accessible. You’ll want to keep your notebook handy and always write down anything you hear during class or your projects. 

This will keep you productive, informed, and on track to finish each project as it comes instead of letting work pile up. As you fill out each notebook, you can get identical ones again or choose different models with various cover graphics, bindings, and prints. 

Sketchbooks are also neat if you predominantly draw instead of writing down your notes. Sketchbooks are great for the pre-planning phase of each design project before you start putting assets together on canvas. 

Here are the notebooks you should consider:

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5" x 8.25") Ruled/Lined, Black, 240 Pages
  • CLASSIC MOLESKINE NOTEBOOK: Moleskine classic notebooks are perfect notebooks for writing journals, a daily diary, or note taking in college classes or meetings. Moleskine notebooks are beloved by travelers & bullet journalists for their slim design.
  • DURABLE COVER & ELASTIC CLOSURE: Hold writing projects & notes in your Moleskine notebook with an elastic closure band & inner storage folders. Leather-like classic Moleskine cover & thick, ivory paper pages are perfect for writing with fountain pens.
  • GIFT QUALITY NOTEBOOKS: Moleskine planners, journals and notebooks come in hardcover or softcover and colors like black, red, blue, green and brown. The binding and cover have a durable finish, designed for daily journaling, writing and sketching.
  • DELUXE QUALITY PAGES: Moleskine's thick, ivory paper pages in a hardcover Moleskine notebook, softcover Moleskine notebook, cahier or volant journal, or Moleskine planner are perfectly textured for writing with a ballpoint pen, fountain pen, or pencil.
  • MOLESKINE QUALITY: We're dedicated to culture, travel, memory, imagination, & personal identity—both physical & digital. We bring this commitment to our notebooks, bags, apps & smart pens & notebooks.
Amazon Basics Classic Notebook, 240 Pages, Hardcover - 5 x 8.25-Inch, Line Ruled Pages
  • Large classic notebook with 240 line-ruled pages (front and back) for notes, lists, journaling, and more
  • Archival-quality pages made from acid-free paper—resists damage from light and air
  • Black, cardboard bound cover with rounded corners; expandable inner pocket for stashing loose items
  • Integrated bookmark; elastic closure helps keep notebook securely closed
  • Notebook measures 5 x 8.25 x .6 inches (WxLxD)
Grid Paper Notebook - Hardcover Classic Notebook with Pen Holder - Thick Premium Paper + Page Dividers Gifts 8.4 x 5.7 In
  • DURABLE HARDCOVER JOURNAL & PEN HOLDER -This grid notebook touched comfortably, cleanable, sturdy hard cover, protects your art for years. The elastic pen loop is always available for your pen and kept well.
  • PERFECT FOR ENGINEERS AND DESIGNERS - Our 5 mm grided graph pages are great for anyone who makes diagrams, mock-ups, or designs, and the grid lines blend in once the page is filled.
  • PREMIUM THICK PAPER - Choose high quality recyclable ivory writing paper. Which is environmental, recyclable, pollution-free and has no fluorescer, can effectively protect your eyesight. The paper 20%-54% thicker and smoother than normal, suit for most pens, but the wettest fountain pen inks. Give you a good writing experience.
  • LAY-FLAT 180°DOT GRID NOTEBOOK - Let you reading more easy and note-taking efficiency. The tight band of journal keeps it securely closed. And firm binding ensures pages don't get peeled away from the cover. Enjoy your writing by hand with no distractions.
  • SPECIAL GIFT - A special gift you can share with your friends and family. Perfect for Christmas gift, New Year gifts or Birthday presents.
LEUCHTTURM1917 Rising Colors Special Edition - Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook (Rising Sun) - 251 Numbered Pages
  • The A5 MEDIUM notebooks are the perfect size with a wide range of colors making them ideal companions for all walks of life — this notebook series is perfect for midnight ramblings, daily entries, thoughtful reflection, careful chronicling and illuminating life stories
  • Thread-bound to open flat which helps make reading the contents easy and adds efficiency to note-taking
  • Features 80g/m² acid-free paper with high ink compatibility to help prevent bleed through, an expandable gusseted pocket on the back cover, 2 ribbon page markers, and an elastic closure band
  • Includes 251 numbered pages of Dotted paper with 8 perforated detachable sheets, a blank table of contents for easy organization and notes, and also includes stickers for labeling and archiving
  • Durable hardcover notebook in a lovely Rising Sun color with FSC certified MIX paper made from responsible sources — measures approximately 5¾ inches by 8¼ inches (145x210 mm)
Rhodia Reverse Standard Notebook - Graph, Orange
  • VERSATILE - Write using spiral on the side or at the top.
  • PREMIUM PAPER - Extra white, ultra smooth French-milled 80g paper. Acid free. pH neutral. Great for fountain pens. Ink won't bleed or feather.
  • DETACHABLE PAGES - Sheets are micro-perforated for easy and clean removal.
  • MADE IN FRANCE - With famous Rhodia paper.

6 – Inspirational Graphic Design Platforms

As you work on various graphic design projects, you’ll notice a pattern – the best design projects are based on sound research. Given that you’re a student, you’ll be free to use plenty of graphic design resources meant to help you learn more about the industry. 

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You should check out a professional portfolio of a design agency or a studio working with real-world clients and projects for inspiration. 

Learning about what works and doesn’t work from real case studies is the best way for you to become better at your profession. Beyond that, you can use other websites and aggregates that collect design pieces that are in themselves designed to inspire you. 

Here are a few platforms and resources to visit in your spare time: 

  • Pinterest
  • Behance
  • Dribble
  • Awwwards
  • Collectui

7 – Group Workshops and Seminars

Graphic Design Seminar Conference

Since graphic design can be such a solo profession most of the time, most students don’t realise that group projects are more than a possibility. Many colleges and universities will go out of their way to encourage students to work together on design projects. 

Once you graduate, you’ll likely have to work in a team if you choose to work full-time in a design or a marketing agency. This means that working in groups can help develop your team and communication skills later. 

Moreover, working as a team will boost your productivity and encourage you to work harder to contribute to your group. Applying for extracurricular seminars and workshops as a graphic design student can also help you refocus your efforts and motivate you to work extra hard. 

Ask your professors or around campus for any graphic design events, workshops, and seminars happening at this time. Ask your college friends to join you, and you’ll have a great time, learn something new, and add new points to your resume later.

8 – Online Graphic Design Courses

Going back to keeping up with modern design trends – you can check out online courses to learn more about graphic design. 

Many professional designers started their careers by learning about the industry online. While you have the upper hand as a college student, you should augment your knowledge more through courses. 

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These online learning resources are practical, actionable, and insightful – things that formal learning publications often aren’t. 

Whether you’re interested in logo design, typography, or web design, you can learn far more about the topic if you include online resources in your learning process. 

Here are the platforms you should visit when you have the time to learn something new related to graphic design:

9 – Online File Management Tools

Dropbox Landing Page Design

Whether you live on campus or commute from home to college every day, you’ll always have to worry about your design files and whether they’re safe. By using online cloud storage tools, you’ll be able to keep your files handy and access them via any digital device. 

It would help if you made it a habit to upload your design drafts, PDFs, and other files to the cloud every time you’re done with work. This will ensure that you can go to college every day without thinking about whether you’ve transferred the correct files and packed your flash drives. 

Likewise, sharing files and resources with your colleagues will become a breeze since you’ll only have to send them a link when they need something. 

Here are a few cloud storage tools for you to check out:

10 – Online Collaboration Tools

Figma Design Collaboration Tool

Given how popular online learning has become, you might apply for a college course online and become a remote graphic design student. If that happens, you won’t have to go to college each day and plug into online classes whenever you’re instructed to. 

But, you’ll still have to manage your projects and design workflow the same as if you were on campus. This is why remote collaboration and management tools can be beneficial in improving your productivity. 

These tools can make it easy for you to work with other students, share projects with professors, and otherwise work on your designs in the cloud. 

Using these resources will make it far quicker and easier for you to set up mockups, wireframes, and demos for your projects without setting them up by hand. 

Here are the tools you can try out:

In Summary

Being a graphic design student is about soaking up as much knowledge as possible before graduating. Once you’re done with schooling, you’ll face new challenges in finding clients, applying for full-time work, and building your professional portfolio. 

In some ways, your student days are something of a graphic designer’s trial period. While it can indeed become stressful and anxiety-inducing, your time in college is valuable. 

Look at each new project as an opportunity to try out a new art style or use new mediums to paint or draw your design solutions. With these productivity tools and resources to help you out, you’ll be a more effective and knowledgeable student than you’d be without them. 

Check out different tools until you land on the ones that click with you and stick with them. Some may even help you once you start working full-time after college.

Last update on 2023-05-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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2 thoughts on “10 Tools to be Productive as a Graphic Design Student”

  1. Thank you for sharing this helpful information! In our digital era, it’s really easy to get distracted from work. It’s essential to stay focused and evenly distribute your time to work and other priorities. Moreover, carefully chosen digital tools can be quite a valuable asset for our time management and professional development. You mentioned very nice tools above. I also would like to recommend the daily digital planner app Bordio.com. Its interface is neat and convenient. Everything is placed on one page, and you can work with a group or alone. Keep track of everything and, most importantly – stay focused 😉 I hope you’ll find it helpful!


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