10 Underrated Apps For Graphic Designers

As is, graphic designers use a lot of tools to work on content. We rely on editors, prototypers, and other platforms. Tweaking files with Adobe CC or Sketch made a huge difference in the industry, allowing creators to express themselves on a deeper level.

However, while most designers use photo editing software, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look beyond it and introduce new tools to our creative toolkit. It astonishes me that a lot of creators still handle file organization or publishing manually when so many things could be automated.

This is my take on the tools that can make a creator’s life much easier.

Productivity and organization

1. Pics.io — file organization

In my experience, there are a lot of teamwork-related bottlenecks in design. Most teams write long chains of emails for exchanging files, commenting on edits, and showing drafts to clients.

To make your day-to-day life easier, consider creating an all-in-one cloud-based file library that your entire team can access. This is what Pics.io is about — being able to view drafts, manage teams, and get client feedback in one place. I love it for the plethora of organizational tools it offers creators — metadata editor, automatic and custom keywording, automatic backup, and file security.

Why designers should use it:

  • To keep track of their assets and be able to find needed files in seconds.
  • To collaborate and manage teams effortlessly, with comments and version control.
  • To keep track of license expiration dates and avoid legal trouble.
  • To share your portfolio with clients using branded websites or proofing templates.
  • To have a one-stop-shop for managing Google Drive and Amazon S3 assets.

2. Noisli — to cut off distractions

If you are the type of person who struggles to work from home because your family is too loud or your dog is annoying, putting in some effort to create a productive environment might increase the amount of satisfaction you get from working, as well as the number of things you get done in a day.

To help myself stay focused throughout the workday, I use Noisli — the platform that creates a custom background sound to match my mood.

Why designers should use it:

  • The platform offers dozens of high-quality background noises that are easy on your ears and help you enter the creative zone.
  • Create custom playlists depending on what background motivates you today — a chill one or something hyping and upbeat.
  • Adjust sound oscillation to get the amount of sound that’ll block the sound of your kids playing outside, neighbors fighting, or a running coffee machine.
  • Keep the sound selection random all the time by shuffling the playlist.

3. Workflowy

If you feel overwhelmed with a huge number of tasks per day, it’s helpful to have a tool for organizing your routine and putting things in order. Workflowy is my personal favorite — it makes highly complex projects feel extremely doable. Also, what’s not to love about the minimalist interface of the platform and it’s stripped-down, to-the-point feature range?

Why designers should use it:

  • To create lists of tasks and share them with teammates.
  • Sleek interface — no illogical user workflows or redundancies that would annoy UX designers.
  • Manage your list smoothly using keyboard shortcuts.

Design editing

4. Procreate

Procreate is an awesome app for creating sleek and stylish digital illustrations, so I wish more designers would use it. Although you need an iPad to work with Procreate, things you can do with the platform are breathtaking. Here are some of my favorite Procreate designs.

Why designers should use it:

  • Has an intuitive interface with dozens of tools at your fingertips (e.g. you can see the picture’s entire color palette in one click).
  • Apply awesome filters that make your illustrations stand out (personally, I am a big fan of the “Liquify” filter).
  • Create epic shapes or geometrical patterns.

5. Pocket Palette

This is another handy tool that makes designers’ life a lot simpler. If choosing colors for artwork is a hassle for you, make it easier for yourself by constantly collecting inspiration. I use Color Palette Pocket (it’s an extension for Google Chrome) to see the colors used to design webpages I visit, e-books I download — basically anything I come across online. Since it’s an extension, the app doesn’t require storage space nor eats up the productivity of your device.

Why designers should use it:

  • To get the hexadecimal breakdown for every color you see online.
  • To save favorite or frequently used colors to a curated library.
  • To get design inspiration anywhere, anytime.

6. Design Bold

Making things from scratch is the essence of what being a designer is. So, why I love to build things on my own down to a tee, it’s also true that creators don’t always have time for meticulous work.

That’s why I believe there’s nothing wrong with relying on template-based editors once in a while. Personally, I use Design Bold — a platform that has thousands of flexible templates and a customizable editor.

Why designers should use it:

  • To get design inspiration for your work.
  • To create sleek, good-looking designs in minutes.
  • To check which sizes and styles typically used for popular content types.

7. Banner Snack

Creating banners is not a piece of cake right now — there are so many design requirements Google Ads, Facebook, and other advertising platforms set for creators. It’s hard to keep track of all the guidelines — that’s where BannerSnack comes in handy.

Basically, Banner Snack is an easy-to-use banner editor, with thousands of templates customized for Google Ads, Facebook Ad Manager, and other top advertising spaces. The designs are quite fancy as well — it’ll take even a pro a minute or two to figure out that you didn’t fully create the work yourself.

Why designers should use it:

  • To use design presets that are already customized to major advertising platforms.
  • To get inspiration for custom banner designs.
  • To cut the time needed to create a new design.
  • To create a prototype that’ll lay the groundwork for your original work.

CSS, HTML, and JS editors for publishing

8. Webstorm

Whenever I need to do front-end tweaks in JavaScript, I inevitably end up choosing Webstorm as my go-to IDE. The tool is easy to navigate, supports all top frameworks, and is well-documented. If you ever get stuck when formatting, user guides will offer answers to all questions.

Why designers should use it:

  • To edit front-end both on the web and mobile.
  • To debug and test your code (if you are skilled in JS development).
  • To use Git and GitHub for support and improved working efficiency.

9. Aloha editor

Although it’s not essential for designers to be skilled in HTML5 editing, it’s definitely an important and empowering skill. If you want to learn more about markup and make HTML5 edits on your own, consider using Aloha editor to accompany you through the journey. Personally, I love the editor thanks to its high speed, ease of use, and open-source nature.

Why designers should use it:

  • To quickly make inline text, photo, or animation formatting edits.
  • To A/B test different website layouts.
  • To create designs that are compliant with the HTML5 Specification Draft.

10. Bootstrap

Although Bootstrap is less on the side of underrated tools (most web developers I know love it and use the platform loyally), it’s not as common among designers. Personally, I think that more graphic designers should get the hang of Bootstrap. It’s just that good, with the collection of icons and hundreds of website UI templates, as well as a built-in CDN compiler.

Why designers should use it:

  • To create well-performing UIs and layouts for the web.
  • To customize templated designs.
  • To collaborate with developers and create responsive websites and WPAs.

Conclusion

As designers, we always managed to make technical progress work in our favor, integrating awesome photo editors, prototypers, and other tools in our workflow. However, there’s more to graphic design than Sketch, Adobe CC, or Figma — let’s take more time to explore other amazing platforms that improve the quality of our work and how much we enjoy doing it. Hopefully, these tools will make building designs, focusing on your work, and collaborating with front-end developers a ton easier.


10 Underrated Apps For Graphic Designers was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.