NOTE: Throughout this article are a few Amazon affiliate links to the tools I am using. I love them and have built my business around them. I am happy to answer any questions you have about them, too. If you happen to buy on Amazon with any of these links, your cost will not be any higher, but I will make a small commission, which can go a long way for someone who is self-employed.
Occasionally, I have the opportunity to tutor students or other professionals in how to do vector illustration, photo-editing, or graphic design and document layout. Everyone always wants to know what I use, what I feel is NEEDED vs. just a personal preference, and more. This post is for me to start delving into some of these tools.
You’re probably a PC guy. Most of America is full of PC guys. But as standard in my industry, I am a Mac guy (or lady, rather). This is definitely the most important tool I use, and having worked with PCs until I was in my very late 20s (I still am, just with a few years experience), I cannot imagine trying to do what I do on a PC. Yes, the software does work on PC. Yes, there are people all over America that do it every day. And, yes, they are very expensive. But, buy nice, or buy twice right?
Really, the reason I stick with Mac over and over is found in its organization, user-friendliness, and the lack of issues with constant computer infections.
I wouldn’t know where to begin with most of my own illustration work if I didn’t have access to a drawing tablet, so I always recommend they start by acquiring one. As a student, I worked for a few years with a cheap VisTablet because that’s all I could afford, but this tool was still a real turning point in my capabilities.
Now, as a professional in the industry, I work with Wacom, the standard in our industry because of the 8,000+ levels of pressure sensitivity, and the ability to set so many buttons to functions of your own choosing. Just this month, I have upgraded from the long-loved Wacom Intuos Pro 3 (8+ years old, seriously) to the one of the newest Wacom Intuos Pros.
I don’t know what my work would be like if it were not for the Adobe software I use. Yes, there are free or cheap versions of all of these and I may write a post about those in the future. But honestly, these are the industry standard for a reason.
My vector illustration work is done in Illustrator, my books are laid out in InDesign, my photos are edited in Photoshop, and my client proofs are reviewed in Acrobat.
I have lost more than my fair share of files in the past: photos form our honeymoon on the old PC laptop my husband once tossed, more photos from vacation stored on a lost jump drive, school project files on a dead external drive, and so much more.
I’ve learned to save in multiple places now, and backup everything regularly, but the key tool in my system is Dropbox. I definitely pay for an upgraded account, as designer files are not small. I also have the app downloaded to both my desktop and phone allowing me to access client contracts and other files easily on the go. Dropbox also has lots of awesome integrations with other apps you may use, like Gmail for quick file-sending.
My last favorite recommendation for now is YouCanBook.Me, which allows me to set up my personal business schedule and also use the Google Calendar integration, add details on lengths of time that can be booked, pricing, requirements, and more. You can also add color choices, calendar styling preferences, and your logo. You are then given a custom access url to provide your clients, which I also have posted in my email signature.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of all of the tools that I use, but a beginning list of my favorites. I will come back to this post to add more as I think of them and test them. Please let me know if you have specific questions or would like to know more about other products I have tried or tools I use in my fine arts practice.