What is the best Mac for graphic design and layout? It's a question many of our readers ask. Apple Mac OS X computers are especially useful for designers, and many creative professionals need to invest in the latest Mac hardware.
But choosing the right Mac for design work can be a challenge. Apple creates a whole range of Mac OS X laptops (MacBooks) and desktop computers. Although all Apple Macs are great, some are better suited to design than others.
With this in mind we've created this guide to buying the right Mac for graphic design. In this article we take a look at what a computer requires to be truly great for working with professional design software, and the features you pay more for. We then look closely at the range of Mac computers available, and the custom built to order options available that make sense for designers.
We also look at some of the accessories, software and services available that make sense for keen graphic design professionals.
Graphic design on a Mac
Most graphic designers automatically veer towards the Mac OS X platform as a matter of course. Partly this is a result of Apple's graphic design heritage (Apple pretty much created the Desktop Publishing Market back in the 1985 with the original Apple Macintosh computer, combined with PageMaker and the first LaserWriter printer).
But these days most designers work in a purely digital format, and will be using very different software to that created back in the 1980s. However, Apple is still the choice for designers thanks to its more comfortable Mac OS operating system, wide software support and lots of industry love.
Apple's Mac range for graphic designers
Graphic design is a varied subject, ranging from Photoshop image editing through to illustration, interactive design, user interface development, animation, 3D design, video and up to full-blown 3D animation. Many graphic designers do a bit of video and audio editing on the side. There's a lot of variety in what is done using graphic design for, and these different subjects have different computing skills.
Because it's a visual medium, a graphic designer is likely to want a big canvas (or display) to work on. The better and more detailed the display, the better the work is. So this naturally leads us towards the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, or the 27-inch iMac. Design work can also be processor and memory intensive, especially for 3D work, and file sizes for graphical work can be quite large. So the faster innards and larger storage in Apple's professional range will come in handy.
However, there is a downside to both of these machines in the form of the 'glossy' display that all Apple computers now come with. These displays are best for video, and digital graphic design work (because it's the type of display your content will be eventually viewed on). But 'glossy' displays do not offer as print colour reproduction to the same accuracy as 'matt' displays, so print designers often hate them. If your work is likely to be turned into a physical medium at some point: say if you work in magazine or flyer creation, physical photography or product packaging development then you may prefer a good Matt monitor. If that's the case then we would have advised a Mac Pro, but it's not on sale at the moment in the UK so we would suggest a second monitor for an iMac, or you attach a really good matt monitor to a high end Mac mini.
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