4 Design Tools to Spark Inspiration and Break through Creative Blocks

Over 260,000 Americans now work as graphic designers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data. About one in five graphic designers are self-employed. When your livelihood depends on creativity, mental blocks can be expensive. Having a reliable source of creative inspiration is vital. Sometimes having the right tools can help. Here’s a look at four tools you can use to spark creative ideas and overcome designer’s block.

Top view of a young graphic designer working on a desktop computer and using some color swatches

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud is today’s standard toolkit for professional graphic designers. The cloud-based upgrade of Adobe’s Creative Suite, Creative Cloud includes a full range of creative tools, including the Photoshop raster graphics editor, the Lightroom photo processor and image organizer, the Illustrator vector graphics illustrator and editor, the Premiere Pro and After Effects video editors, the Animate vector animation program, the Audition audio editor and the Dreamweaver and Muse web development apps.

The Creative Cloud comes in different packages with varying monthly subscription fees. The full $79.98 a month premium package includes over 20 creative apps, plus limited access to the Adobe Stock image library. Creative Cloud is also available at $49.99 a month minus Adobe Stock image access with premium fonts, a portfolio website and 20 GB of cloud storage space. 20 GB of cloud storage is also included with individual apps for $19.99 a month. Photographers can also sign up for just Photoshop and Lightroom plus a website for an annual fee of $9.99. Business users can sign up for team app access for single apps or all apps with 100 GB of storage plus 24/7 customer support.

Creative Cloud software is downloaded from the cloud and installed on local devices to be used as long as subscriptions remain valid. The Creative Cloud’s web space is hosted on Amazon Web Services. Online updates are included with subscription fees.

Wacom Tablet

If your creative process includes drawing, you’ll find your workflow goes much more smoothly with a Wacom graphics tablet. Wacom’s Bluetooth-enabled Intuos Pro, geared toward professional graphic designers, lets you input digital drawings with a digital pen that allows for 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity and 2,048 pressure levels. The Intuos Pro Paper Edition, designed for artists who prefer to draw on paper first, lets you select between inputting digital drawings or drawing on paper with a 0.4mm Finetip Pen that captures every stroke so it’s ready to edit digitally.

Both versions of Wacom Intuos Pro connect to your PC or Mac device through USB or built-in Bluetooth. Different screen sizes are available. Price points range from about $250 to about $550 depending on screen size and other specs.

XMind Mind Mapping Software

If you like to brainstorm by drawing, the XMind mind mapping software tool can be just the spark your creativity needs. XMind lets you capture and organize your ideas in various forms, including mind maps, tree diagrams, fishbone diagrams, organizational charts and even spreadsheets. You can import files from other mind mapping formats such as FreeMind and MindManager, save to Evernote and export to formats such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF.

XMind comes in a variety of packages, ranging from a freeware open-source version to a Pro version. The latest version of XMind Pro costs $99.

iPhone 7 Plus

If your creative process draws inspiration from photography or videography, you’ll want a top-of-the-line smartphone such as the iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus comes with dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras that support optical zoom at 2x as well as digital zoom up to 10x, with optical image stabilization for perfect focus, Quad-LED True Tone flash for optimal illumination and Live Photos to turn still images into moving images. You can also shoot videos in 4K Ultra HD resolution. Edit your photos and videos with a wide array of built-in editing features or installable apps, or export them to Adobe Creative Cloud for editing. View your work in 5.5-inch Retina HD display. Plus you get the iPhone’s other smartphone features, including Wi-Fi calling, a 7 MP FaceTime HD camera, stereo speakers and Siri.

The iPhone 7 Plus costs $869.99. But you can currently get it from T-Mobile for just $149.99 down plus $30 a month for 24 months.