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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. 

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 Müller Publishers (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. 

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
Simbans PicassoTab X Drawing Tablet No Computer Needed [4 Bonus Items] Drawing Apps, Stylus Pen, Portable, Standalone, 10 Inch Screen, Best Gift for Beginner Digital Graphic Artist -PCX
  • DRAW or TAKE NOTES: The most affordable Art tablet that comes with a pen and a pre-installed Drawing and Animation apps for those who want to draw, make animations or take notes in the classroom.
  • 4 FREE BONUS ITEMS inside the box: a high-quality tablet case, Drawing Glove, universal power adaptor and pre-installed screen protector; a total value of $50 inside the box along with 10-inch tablet and an active Pen.
  • CLEAR SCREEN, LARGE DISK and a SUPERIOR CPU: The High power MediaTek Quad-core processor boosts the multitasking abilities of the tablet. The IPS HD screen resolution makes crystal clear pictures and the 64GB disk allows you to download thousands of free apps from the play store.
  • CONNECTIVITY: Connect your tablet to your home WIFI network and you can take this tablet wherever you are; your entertainment always goes with you. Link your tablet to the TV via the micro HDMI port and view your movies on the large screen. One of the best tablets for watching movies on Netflix, playing games and browsing the internet. GPS and the USB type-c port provides all the connectivity options you want.
  • CERTIFIED QUALITY and WORRY-FREE PURCHASE: Certification by GMS, FCC and CE standards provides you the peace of mind for safety as well as quality. Comes with 1-year warranty, along with best customer service our support staff can provide. You can contact us for any questions that you may have.
Bestseller No. 2
XPPen Drawing Tablet with Screen Full-Laminated Graphics Drawing Monitor Artist13.3 Pro Graphics Tablet with Adjustable Stand and 8 Shortcut Keys (8192 Levels Pen Pressure, 123% sRGB)
  • Drawing Tablet-❤Fully-laminated Screen❤ The Artist 13.3 Pro seamlessly combines the glass and screen, to create a distraction-free working environment, virtually no parallax.
  • Drawing Tablet with Screen-❤Tilt Function❤ XPPen Artist 13.3 Pro supports up to 60 degrees of tilt function, so now you don't need to adjust the brush direction in the software again and again. Simply tilt to add shading to your creation and enjoy smoother and more natural transitions between lines and strokes
  • Graphics Tablets-❤High Color Gamut❤ The 13.3 inch fully-laminated FHD Display pairs a superb color accuracy of 88% NTSC (Adobe RGB≧91%,sRGB≧123%) with a 178-degree viewing angle and delivers rich colors, vivid images, and dazzling details in a wider view. Your creative world is now as powerful as it is colorful.
  • Drawing Pad-❤Improve your Workflow❤ A sleek Red Dial interface to make your workflow as smooth as possible. 8 fully customizable shortcut keys let you capture and express your ideas faster and more easily.
  • Drawing Display-❤Versatility and Compatibility❤ Supports Windows 10/8/7(32/64bit), Mac OS X 10.10 and higher. Compatible with Photoshop, Illustrator, SAI, CDR, GIMP, Krita, Medibang, Fire Alpaca, Blender 3D and more. Or register your XPPen Artist13.3 Pro drawing tablet on XPPen web to apply for an ArtRage 5, openCanvas and Cartoon Animator 4 Pipeline drawing program
SaleBestseller No. 3
Graphics Drawing Tablet, UGEE M708 10 x 6 inch Large Drawing Tablet with 8 Hot Keys, Passive Stylus of 8192 Levels Pressure, UGEE M708 Graphics Tablet for Paint, Design, Art Creation Sketch Black
  • 【Large Active Drawing Space】: UGEE M708 V3 graphic drawing tablet, features 10 x 6 inch large active drawing space with papery texture surface, provides enormous and smooth drawing for your digital artwork creation, offers no-lag sketch, painting experience;
  • 【8192 Passive Stylus Technology】: A more affordable passive stylus technology offers 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity allows you to draw accurate lines of any weight and opacity according to the pressure you apply to the pen, sharper line with light pressure and thick line with hard pressure, perfect for artistry design or unique brush effect for photo retouching;
  • 【Compatible with Multiple System&Softwares】: Powerful compatibility, tablet for drawing computer, perform well with Windows 11/10 / 8 / 7 and Mac OS X 10.10 or above; Driver program works with creative software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Macromedia Flash, Comic Studio, SAI, Infinite Stratos, 3D MAX, Autodesk MAYA, Pixologic ZBrush and more;
  • 【Ergonomically Designed Shortcuts】: 8 customizable express keys on the side for short cuts like eraser, zoom in and out, scrolling and undo, provide a lot more for convenience and helps to improve the productivity and efficiency when creating with the drawing tablet;
  • ❤Easy to Set Up& Best Customer Service❤: Suits for both right and left hand user with the pen holder and extra pen tips, ideal for professional artist, newbie designer and amateur hobbyist of all kind, provides 12-month hussle free warranty service and clock customer service;
SaleBestseller No. 4
GAOMON PD1161 11.6-inch Drawing Tablet with Screen, Digital Art Tablet with Battery-Free Stylus, Tilt Support, 8 Shortcut Keys for Design, Animation, Photo Editing, Work with Mac, Windows PC
  • [11.6-Inches 1080P HD IPS Drawing Monitor]--Enjoy a vivid display with the GAOMON PD1161 drawing tablet's 11.6-inch 1920x1080 HD IPS monitor, featuring a 72% NTSC (100% SRGB) color gamut and a viewing angle of 178°. WORK AREA : 256.32×144.18mm (10*5.7 inch) // Signal Output: Mini HDMI &Type-C.
  • [±60 Degree Tilt Function]--GAOMON PD1161 graphic pen display with Versatile Tilt Functionthe allows you to draw from various angles according to subtle pressure differences, and every detailed modification will be recognized immediately. 【8 Programmable Shortcut Keys】-- You can set shortcut keys on tablet driver based on your preferences, such as erase, zoom in/out, scroll up and down, and so on.
  • [8192 Levels Battery-free Pen AP50 ]--Say goodbye to the hassle of charging your pen . GAOMON PD1161 comes with 8192 levels battery-free pen AP50. The thickness of the lines will change with the pressure you put on the pen, making the lines more natural and smooth. Plus, enjoy two programmable hot-keys on the pen body and eight replacement nibs inside the pen holder【8 Replacement Nibs】.
  • [OS Support& Art Program Compatibility]-- The GAOMON PD1161 drawing tablet is compatible with Windows 7/8/8.1/10/11 or later, Mac OS 10.12 or later, and compatible with wide range of art programs, including Gimp, Firealpaca, Krita, Medibang, Zbrush, Blender, Inkscape, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effect, Sai version 2, Clip Studio Paint, Corel Paintshop Pro, Autodesk Mudbox, Lightroom, Sketchbook Pro, and more.
  • [Widely Applicable]-- Whether you're into drawing, photography, animation, sketching, image editing, 3D sculpture, or architectural design, the GAOMON PD1161 art tablet has got you covered. 【Warm Reminder】-- GAOMON PD1161 drawing tablet with screen is not a standalone product, it must be used with a computer which running windows or mac OS.
SaleBestseller No. 5
Standalone Drawing Tablet, 10 Inch Drawing Tablet with Screen No Computer Needed, Android 12 Pen Display 4GB/64GB
  • 【Multi-functional Drawing Tablet】You can use it for drawing, you can also use it for classroom notes, you can also use it for company meeting notes; you don't need to connect to a computer, as long as you charge it enough, you can use it outdoors for up to about 5-8 hours; of course you can also bring a mobile power supply to replenish the power for your drawing board, so you can use it for a longer time.
  • 【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.
  • 【Long Battery Life】The standalone drawing table with screen without computer is a great gift for the beginning digital graphics artist or designer. Standalone drawing tablet with 5800mAh battery, supporting 5 hours of operation. The package includes an adjustable stand case with 10 adjustable levels to provide a better drawing angle and protection for the board. 
  • 【Independent Drawing Screen】Drawing tablet with screen, no need for a computer, if ever you need internet access, you can connect the tablet to WIFI network; our charging port is USB Type-C, so you can charge faster.
  • 【Quality Certification and Hassle-Free Purchase】Drawing tablet with pen certification to GMS, FCC and CE standards gives you peace of mind when it comes to safety and quality. A 12-month warranty is provided, as well as the best customer service our support staff can offer. If you have any questions, you can always contact us.

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. 

Related:  15 Branding Strategies for eCommerce Development

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, Line Ruled, 240 Pages, Black, Hardcover, 5 x 8.25-Inch
  • Hardcover notebook with line-ruled pages (front and back); ideal for notes, lists, journaling, and more
  • 240 pages
  • Archival quality; acid free
  • Expandable inner pocket for storing loose items
  • Includes bookmark and elastic closure
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 - Notebook Hardcover Medium A5-251 Numbered Pages for Writing and Journaling (Rising Sun, Dotted)
  • 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 page markers / bookmarks and an elastic closure band
  • Includes 251 numbered pages or our signature 80gsm with 8 perforated detachable sheets, a blank table of contents for easy organization and notes, also includes stickers for labeling and archiving
  • Durable hardcover notebook in a lovely color with FSC MIX paper made from responsible sources — measures approximately 5¾ inches by 8¼ inches (145x210 mm)
Rhodia Reverse Standard Notebook - Graph, Orange 8.25" x 8.25"
  • 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. 

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. 

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:

  • InVision
  • ProofHQ
  • Trello
  • Monday
  • Balsamiq Mockups

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 2023-12-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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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 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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