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Ten Essential Apps for Graphic Designers

by Emily Potts
art & design, featured

With so many apps available to anyone at any time, we’ve culled what we think are the top apps for busy creatives. Most are free or cost very little, and they range from creativity, type, and writing, to tools to help you be more productive at work and in life. All are meant to make our lives a little more joyful and a lot less hectic.

But don’t just take my word for it: I asked a few of my uber-talented friends including Jessica Hische, Tan Le, and Jason Tselentis for their recommendations, so I’d have a solid cross-section of road-tested apps from the pros.

Paper tutorial by Michael Rose.


Paper by 53

This useful little app, lets users make lists, create sketches and diagrams, and draw on photos. It’s designed to be an easy way for users to get things down quickly, without a lot of bells and whistles. According to Tan Le, group creative director at TPN Retail, “Paper allows me to import images, comps, and deck pages and make notes and quick art direction overlays. It’s an easy interface, if not a little over complicated.”

ProCreate (used with Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro)

Create beautiful sketches and paintings, seamlessly! “I use this almost every day,” says lettering artist Jessica Hische. “It’s an incredible app—very well designed and intuitive—and the addition of the Apple pencil has made it feel like a very natural sketching environment.”


What the Font

This is a no-brainer for anyone interested in type. It’s like Shazam for type nerds. You see a great font on a menu, but you’re not sure what it is. Simply snap a photo of it and What the Font will identify it and relieve you of hours of contemplation.

Screen Shot 2017-01-05 at 7.30.28 AM

The Font Game

Here’s one for fun. Brought to you by I Love Typography, this is a rapid-fire typeface-identifying game that tests your typography knowledge. You’re shown a word and you must identify the typeface quickly to move to the next challenge. If you’re really good, you secure a spot on the Hall of Fame.

Writing/Note taking

iA Writer

For those who write a lot, this is a great little app to have when you’re away from your desktop. “When it comes to content collection and long-form writing, I love iA Writer’s clean and simple interface. It has everything I need without all of the fuss most word processors offer,” says Jason Tselentis, educator, writer, designer, and associate professor of design at Winthrop University. “And, because you can sync it across devices, you always have your content.”

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Penultimate by Evernote

If you’re prone to note-taking—especially in meetings and on-the-go—this app is for you. Le says, “Penultimate allows me to use my iPad like a Moleskine journal. It’s very easy and intuitive, allowing me to capture my fleeting ideas, sketches, and thoughts.” You can choose from a range of lined, dotted, or graph sheets.



Scanning documents is a whole lot easier and more convenient with this handy app. Hische notes, “When I do pencil sketches, I use this app to “scan” them, and I get better, faster results than when I use an actual scanner most of the time. It’s very easy to use, well-designed, and is great for both documents and sketches.”

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© Jessica Hische

Layout (by Instagram)

“Listing Instagram itself as a creative app seems a little too obvious, but I really like this app that they created to help people easily put together mosaics of photos,” says Hische. “I like it for when I want to post multiple images from the same project at once—it’s easy, fast, and is of course seamlessly integrated with Instagram.”


We’re all familiar with this app for our computer, but it’s also available for your iPhone. According to Tselentis, “It’s the perfect presentation design app, and it runs as efficiently on an iPhone as it does on an iMac,” adding, “it has a good instant alpha feature for removing backgrounds.”


Do you like to make to-do lists and check them off daily? If so, this app, designed by SwissMiss, is perfect for you. Planning your week or month has never been so easy or portable. You can set your schedule, and easily move things around or cross things off your list as you finish them. You can also create recurring to-dos, so you never forget to pick up the kids from school again.

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Emily Potts

Emily J. Potts has been a writer and editor in the design industry for more than 20 years. Currently she is an independent writer working for a variety of clients in the design industry.