1. Graphic design applications
This is the largest and arguably most important part of a digital artist’s tool stack. Whether installed to run from a desktop computer or offered as a cloud-based service, these software applications enable graphic designers to create, edit, store, and manage their creative output: photos, images, videos, presentations, brochures, and other visual formats.
The Adobe Creative Cloud sets the standard for this tool type, providing a full suite of applications for creating and manipulating raster graphics (Photoshop), vector images (Illustrator), videos (After Effects, Premiere Pro), and different desktop publishing formats such as posters, magazines, brochures, and ebooks (InDesign).
Paid alternatives to specific applications in Adobe’s subscription service include Serif’s Affinity Designer (vector) and Affinity Photo (raster), CorelDRAW (vector), and the macOS-exclusive Sketch (vector).
Free tools with similar capabilities include GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) for authoring and manipulating raster images and Inkscape for creating and editing vector graphics.
2. Online graphic design services
With the advance of cloud computing technology, several companies started offering web-based graphic design services that primarily target general consumers (i.e., non-professional/occasional designers).
Foremost among these providers is Canva, a simple drag-and-drop online tool that allows anyone to quickly author, edit, and share images. The website is perfect for non-designers as well as hardcore creatives occasionally looking for a quick way to create images for various purposes (e.g., blog illustrations, social media posts, etc.) and in various formats (e.g., infographics, presentations, header images, etc.). Snappa offers a similar service and interface.
Additionally, you can use Pixlr for simple photo-editing online; Invision for collaborative screen prototyping; and Artboard Studio for quickly creating product mockups.
3. Graphics repositories
Online libraries of images such as Shutterstock and Behance are great places to visit and get design ideas from. Some of these repositories (such as Pixabay, Pixelify, and Unsplash) even provide free downloadable images you can legally use in your projects.
4. Cloud storage
You have your hard drive and portable storage. That’s well and good, but you still need a space in the cloud to store, synchronize, and manage your design assets, projects, and output. Among other things, cloud storage makes it easier to share and collaborate on design documents, besides being accessible anytime and anywhere — which is hardly the case when you forgot to bring your portable physical drive to work.
Creating a profile or an account for some online services can entitle you to limited cloud storage space. This is the case when you have accounts for Google (Google Drive), Microsoft (OneDrive), and Adobe (Document Cloud). Cloud storage providers such as pCloud, Dropbox, and MediaFire also give free storage space. However, free options generally entitle you to only 1GB to 15GB of free space so you might want to check out subscription fees at these services if you need larger storage.