Time to Pack your pencil case.

Summer is finally here and that means it's is about that time to start thinking about what you'll be doing to fill up free time now that school is out. Of course spending time at the beach is a non-negotiable, but but perhaps you can squeeze in some practice time to work on your design skills as well. 

Just as a carpenter, doctor, or seamstress has their tools of the trade- as does the graphic designer. Now everyone has their favorite gadgets and what may work for one persons budget may not work for another, but luckily we live in a time where frugal options of nearly everything exists. 

It may take you a while to get your arsenal of graphic design supplies complete, and with trends constantly changing it may never be fully finished, but there are a few essentials you will need to get started.  

5 Starter Supplies for Graphic Designers:
These are the bare bones of what you'll need to begin in graphic design. 

Access to a Computer

You may feel more comfortable working on a laptop vs. a desktop if you find yourself to be on the go often. The portability of laptops is great for taking with you to school or your favorite co-working space, but remember that what you're gaining in portability you are loosing in screen real estate and sheer power. No matter which you prefer, or which operating system you choose to work with (Mac vs. PC) be sure to do your research to see what best works for your needs.

You want to have plenty of RAM as design software tends to be resource intensive (I would suggest going no lower than 4GB, but the more the better). Unless you're planning on doing motion graphics (or you're a gamer) I wouldn't worry too much about the video card, but again- different strokes for different folks. Opt for an i5 or higher processor, and trust me when I say you won't regret having a larger screen (whether you go for a desktop or a laptop, extra screen size is very helpful in design), IPS monitors offer great image quality and can be found at various price ranges.

The Toshiba Satellite Fusion 15 is a 15.6" touchscreen laptop/tablet hybrid that comes in under $1,000. At fifteen inches it offers you a large screen, 3 USB ports, HDMI with 4k output, as well as a memory card reader. The tablet and presentation modes of the laptop make it convenient when wanting to show others your new designs or portfolio.

A Sketchbook

Yes, graphic design does focus on digital media but there is no substitution for honing in your mechanical drawing skills. A good sketch book will help you flesh out ideas before putting them to your computer. It also never hurts to go back and look at or expand on previous projects if you're ever feeling creatively stuck. 

I personally prefer grid paper when sketching because it helps me keep things straight, but you may prefer blank pages. A sketchbook can really show your personality, so look around and see what stands out to you.

Pencils & Pens

My favorite part of anything in life, really, is office supplies. I am the Leslie Knope of office supplies. Luckily, with graphic design you'll never be out of use for a pen, pencil, or post it notes.

 While for most things I do prefer a mechanical pencil, it's good to have a few pencils with various lead hardness. Staedtler offers break-resistant graphite pencils that are perfect for sketching.


Micron Pens are, in my opinion, the pens of choice for anyone wanting to do line work. They have archival ink so you don't have to worry about smudging the way you would with ball-point pens. They also come in many different thicknesses and are fairly easy on the wallet.


After you get your workhorse (your computer) you'll need software. While the industry standard in graphic design is Adobe software, it does tend to be a bit on the expensive end. So, as with all things in this beautiful world, there are alternatives. While I do highly suggest forking over the money for a Creative Cloud subscription ($20/month with a student discount) when you are able to, I will list some of the less expensive options, or open source.

Gimp- A Photoshop alternative that is available for free. Gimp works on Windows and Mac OSX and has nearly all of the same tools you'll find in Photoshop which will make the transition between the two easier.

Affinity- Graphic design software for Mac (but will soon be launching a Windows version. -you can sign up for the Windows beta trial here-) is an award winning design software that is giving Adobe a run for it's money. Affinity has Photo as well as Designer (their version of Illustrator) that is available without a subscription for $49.99 each. They also have a free trial period so you can try it out before purchase. 

Blender- Free & opensourced 3D creation software that allows you to model, texture, animate, render and composite your 3D creations. It is available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

Misc. Hardware

You should be in the habit of backing up your files. Perhaps you use the cloud, but I also like to have a tangible version. Consider investing in an external hard drive. They can be found at relatively low prices if you shop around, but it'll be worth it in the long run. In the same vein don't forget to pick up a USB flash drive so you can take your files around with you without the extra bulk.

These are the bare bones essentials you will need to begin your journey in graphic design. Anything here missing that you feel is essential to your graphic design arsenal? Leave a comment below and let me know what it is you started with.