Essential equipment for a freelance graphic designer

essential equipment for a freelance graphic designer by melissa carne

Essential equipment for a freelance graphic designer

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog. I thought for todays post I would go over all the essential equipment for a freelance graphic designer. This is tools and equipment I use on a daily basis. I did this post as I saw that you enjoyed my What it’s like being a freelance graphic designer which was last weeks blog post. This post includes affiliate links*.

1. Macbook

It probably won’t come to a shock for a lot of you but a MacBook* is essential. I can’t do my job without one or actually anything. Now I would highly recommend getting a MacBook over any other laptop because A.) Apple is industry standard, if you go into a studio you will be expected to be able to use apple products. B.) They are so much more intuitive for the Adobe programmes and C.) They will actually be able to cope with the Adobe software.

I know they are a lot of money and boy do I feel your pain however, it is an investment for your business. I struggled for 2 years at University with my Toshiba laptop before investing in a Mac and god do I wish that I had done it sooner. I probably would have gotten my work done hell of a lot quicker.

To save yourself a bit of money you can opt for a MacBook with less storage and get an external hard drive which I will get onto in a bit.

2. Adobe CC

Adobe Creative Cloud* is another essential for any graphic designer. These are the programmes that I use every single day to create my work. 

My most used programmes are Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects and Premier Pro. But there is a lot of others!

There are many different packages you can buy depending on what you need. They have photography packages or the full suite. They also do student discount which I would definitely take advantage of. If you are also buying it around Black Friday they have great deals then too.

These programmes can take a while to learn and get use to. I still don’t know everything there is to know and I have been using them for well over 5 years. But it’s a process and I cannot do my job without them.

*The adverts are affiliate links to Adobe. If you purchase through these links I will receive a commission but it will cost you no extra. Alternatively you can click the link below.

3. External hard drive

As mentioned above if you have chosen a mac with less storage you may want to invest in an external hard drive. To be honest I think you should buy an external hard drive even if you do have a lot of storage on your mac. This is because A.) You want to make sure your back up your files somewhere safe and B.) Client work quite quickly get out of control and start to over run your computer.

I have personally got a Seagate 2TB* and I find that perfect for backing up my files. I use it on a mostly daily basis as I store a lot of my imagery and bigger projects on there. The only thing I would suggest that if you are on the go a lot, this may not be the right solution for you. You could try things like Google drive or drop box instead.

4. Pantone swatch guide

Another graphic design essential if you work with print is a Pantone swatch guide. This allows you to get the exact colours you and your client wants when it goes off to print. What you see on screen is not what you may get when it prints.

The best Pantone starter guide would be the formula guide* which come with the coated and uncoated swatch book. I don’t think you will need to bother with foils and neon guides unless your client wanted that, which I think is more of a rarity. 

printer equipment as a freelance graphic designer

6. Printer

You will also need a good printer to help with your freelance graphic design business. I always print everything out as this helps me to gage a better perception of size, colour and design. Like mentioned things do look different from screen to a printed physical object so, it is always a good idea to check.

I currently have a HP Photosmart 5220 which is a few years old and I don’t think they sell them anymore. The newest model looks to be the HP Envy 5030 all-in-one printer*. My printer is okay apart from when printing a multiple file document and then it seems to muck up. I think that may be to do with a fault with my individual printer though. It also prints double sided, has a built in scanner and copier and connects to the internet.

I would recommend doing your own research on what printer to get as this is not an area in my expertise. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know!

6. Layout pads

Layout pads* will become your best friend. I was introduced to them while at university and I haven’t looked back. I always use to use sketch books but, with these they are kind of limiting as you can’t tear out the pages and view all of your work collectively. It also is essential for me to be able to quickly sketch out my ideas before I forget them. Or to give clients a quick overview of the ideas that are going on inside my brain.

7. Stationary

With the art of sketching ideas comes a need for good stationary. Again at university I was introduced to mechanical pencils, a complete revelation, I know… Haha. No in all honesty I use to hate sharpening pencils and now I never have to. I personally have the Staedtler Mars Micro in 0.7mm* but I think any mechanical pencil will do.

Another good investment would be some fine liners. I personally like the uni pin* brand and I have a variety of sizes.

Finally you might need a scalpel*, ruler*cutting matt* and bone folder* if you are doing a lot of physical design work.

8. Design extras

I would say a few extras that may be worth investing in are: a drawing tablet, I use the Wacom* brand. Or alternatively an iPad Pro* which I tested out in an Apple store and it was amazing. It is definitely on my bucket list. 

You may also want to invest in a decent camera in order to take pictures of your work or images for clients depending on what you do. I currently borrow a Nikon* but one day would love to own my own Canon 6D*.
It also goes without saying that you will need a decent mobile phone. I will always recommend an iPhone* just for it’s ease.
graphic designer drawing typography on a light box
macbook and camera on desk in office


So that rounds up this post on what I think is the essential equipment for a freelance graphic designer. If you have any suggestions for what you think I am missing from my kit please do message me over on my instagram, I would love to hear from you.


If you have a need for a freelance graphic designer then please get in contact with me by emailing You can also check out my portfolio site here.

Other posts

If you found this post helpful please share it with someone else you think may also benefit from it. I also have other posts on: What it’s like being a freelance graphic designer, resources graphic designer use. This post goes more in depth about how to generate ideas. Finally my first freelance graphic design experience with the client Not.Corn.

Lots of love, Melissa x

*This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read more about it.


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