I am taking my baby steps into the world of graphic design nowadays, and I came across this quote from David Carson in an interview:
“Good design comes from the most basic decisions – cropping, font choice, the overall design. If you haven’t got the eye, no program will give it to you.”David Carson
Yeah, sure, we all agree with it.
But, how about choosing between the thousands of software programs? It is essential for executing my ideas, but which one serves for what?
For example, can I realize complex design ideas with each and every graphic design software and depend solely on my EYES while doing it?
Well, I don’t think so.
I took a walk around to discover some of them and created this well-rounded list for graphic designers.
Before We Start
Before I go into the details of them, though, here are the seven distinct areas where graphic design can be of use:
- Product Design
- Branding Design
- Website Design
- Print Design
- Publishing Design
- Environmental Design
- Animation Design
If you are busy with one of these areas or you are interested in one of them, you can decide which one of these tools is a good fit for you.
Also, it would be helpful to know these two key terms while reading this article:
Raster Graphics (a.k.a. Bitmaps)
Raster graphics are images made up of tiny little squares colored by an infinite range of hues. These tiny squares are pixels, and together they compose raster graphics. The quality of these types of images depends on the number of pixels in an inch.
Vector graphics are images made of vectors, as the name indicates. These vectors are like carts filled with information about shape, color, and border. They are mathematical formulas, just like you learned in geometry class in high school.
If these terms are clear, let’s start looking at graphic design software programs…
16 Best Graphic Design Software
1- Adobe Illustrator
It is the best and probably the most well-known product for graphic design if you are working with vector images. You can create logos for industry purposes or beautiful pieces of art for aesthetic aims.
Adobe Illustrator Top Features
- You can work in infinite scales, be it small or big
- Customizable, freedom to move each element and layout across the page
- Panels are editable to increase efficiency
- Compatible with other software
- User-friendly interface
Adobe Illustrator Pricing
Adobe Illustrator Pros & Cons
|✅ AI features to help you||❌ A bit expensive|
|✅ Vector and type tools are the best||❌ Not for beginners|
|✅ Work with mathematical equations||❌ Takes up so much space in your device|
|✅ Easily share files thanks to their small size||❌ Subscription plan|
|✅ Access to AdobeStock|
|✅ Benefit from Adobe font integration|
2- Adobe Photoshop
Another well-set product by Adobe is this. It is best used for photo editing as opposed to Adobe Illustrator. It is designed for pixel-based graphics (raster images) instead of vectors.
Adobe Photoshop Top Features
- A large number of design tools
- Adobe Creative Cloud libraries and assets such as royalty-free designs
- Successful user interface
Adobe Photoshop Pricing
Adobe Photoshop Pros and Cons
|✅ Industry standard||❌ Recurring payment|
|✅ 3D design feature||❌ Not for newbies|
|✅ A comprehensive set of tools for photo editing||❌ Premium features are expensive|
|✅ Work on animation and video layers|
3- Adobe InDesign
Adobe describes this product as “layout and page design software for print and digital media.” It is a handy tool if you are designing for printed or digital publishing, such as flyers, posters, or business cards.
Adobe InDesign Top Features
- AI-powered Sensei technology to make changes to images
- Export your design in HTML format
- Puppet Warp feature enables you to change a definite portion of the image
Adobe InDesign Pricing
Adobe InDesign Pros and Cons
|✅ The industry standard for desktop publishing||❌ For business owners only|
|✅ The easiest one among other Adobe products||❌ A bit expensive|
4- CorelDraw Graphics Suite
It is one of the most famous and used design software, especially for marketing purposes. If you are working with vectors, it is a good choice.
CorelDraw Graphics Suite Top Features
- A highly customizable user interface
- A huge database of digital images and templates available
- Various payment plans
- Compatible with other graphic design tools and formats
CorelDraw Graphics Suite Pricing
Annual plan: €26.17/mo
One-time purchase: €659.00
CorelDraw Graphics Suite Pros and Cons
|✅ GPU acceleration option instead of CPU for large and complex designs||❌ Not the industry-standard anymore|
|✅ Easy transition from desktop to mobile devices||❌ Hard to use for beginners|
|✅ Keeping up with the supportive user community|
5- Affinity Designer
Affinity design is the best alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It offers almost the same features for a lower price. You can conduct vector-based design projects without feeling overwhelmed.
Affinity Designer Top Features
- Work in both vector and pixel environments
- Thanks to the grid system, you have total control of your design
- Collaborate with your team via the Zoom feature
Affinity Designer Pricing
$54.99 on PC
$9.99 on iPad
Affinity Designer Pros and Cons
|✅ Boolean operations||❌ No natural perspective grid|
|✅ Available for Windows and IOS operating systems including Ipad||❌ Absence of some features available on Illustrator|
|✅ Cheaper than Adobe products and a one-off payment||❌ Some advanced features are missing|
|✅ Compatible with Adobe Illustrator|
It is one of my faves. Canva is a perfect match for you if you want to edit photos, create social media posts, flyers, or well-designed e-mail content.
Canva Top Features
- Photo editing
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Plan your content calendar
- Store your branding elements in one place
Canva Free — $0 per month
Canva Pro — $12.99/mo or $119.99/year
Canva Enterprise — $30 per user
Canva Pros and Cons
|✅ Intuitive user interface||❌ Cannot fully customize your design, you should depend on ready-made elements|
|✅ Budget-friendly||❌ Low level of integration with other apps and tools|
|✅ A library full of templates and stock images|
If you’re looking to experiment with graphic design but are halfhearted about entering Adobe’s orbit full of advanced features and high costs, Inkscape is for you. It is definitely software for beginners with a low learning curve. Plus, it is free!
Inkscape Top Features
- Create and edit SVG files
- Effortless node movement with Bezier tools
- Boolean operations
Inkscape Pros and Cons
|✅ Free||❌ Not providing a seamless experience on iOS|
|✅ Updated regularly||❌ Not fully compatible with Illustrator|
|✅ High capacity for scaling without errors||❌ Slows down sometimes|
Figma is where design is combined with fretless workflow. It is an easy tool for product design and allows you to test them.
Figma Top Features
- Easy collaboration
- Create and publish prototypes of your product design
- Highly customizable
Figma Starter- Free
Figma Professional- $12/mo (per editor)
Figma Organization- $45/mo (per editor)
Figma Pros and Cons
|✅ Design UI for web or mobile apps||❌ Not for complex designs|
|✅ Simple user interface||❌ Customer service responds late|
|✅ Slideshow feature||❌ Long loading time|
Oh, and before we move on, I think this article would help if you are interested in product design. It’s a compilation of all the necessary tools for a product designer.
You have most probably heard about this one if you are into the web, application, or UI design, as it is mainly the best option for them.
Sketch Top Features
- Easy collaboration and sharing with your design team
- PNG export option
- Autosaving (life-saver for designers)
$9/mo (per editor)
Sketch Pros and Cons
|✅ Vast plug-in library||❌ Not a fully-fledged tool yet|
|✅ Low learning curve||❌ Available only on IOS|
10- Gravit Designer
It is a suitable tool for graphic, product, or web design people.
And a fun fact: some of its developers are CoralDraw’s creators, too. So, you can expect a similar experience from this one.
Gravit Designer Top Features
- Enables mobility between various platforms such as Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS
- A large scale of tools: Bezigon tool, Lasso tools, and Pen tool
- Well-thought and user-friendly dashboard
- Review version history
Gravit Designer Pricing
Basic features are free
Gravit Designer Pro $49.99 yearly
Gravit Designer Pros and Cons
|✅ Unlimited cloud storage for pro users||❌ No live sharing option, hard to collaborate with team members|
|✅ Intuitive interface||❌ Needs internet connection for displaying fonts|
11- Adobe Creative Cloud Express (CC Express)
You might be familiar with Adobe Spark. Creative Cloud Express is its new name with plenty of changes. It is a good option for small business owners, content creators, and beginner-level graphic designers. It is like the Canva of the Adobe family.
Adobe Creative Cloud Express Top Features
- Smart resizing for each platform such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter
- Excellent templates and layouts
- Simple interface
Adobe Creative Cloud Express Pricing
Premium account for $9.99/mo and $99.99/year
Adobe Creative Cloud Express Pros and Cons
|✅ Access the vast library of images and thousands of templates||❌ Lack of margins|
|✅ Available on mobile devices both Android and iOS||❌ The narrow scale of compatible file formats|
12- GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Mostly used by designers to produce script images and icons it is, as the name indicates, a manipulation program. It doesn’t support vector designs but is a perfect free solution for working with photos.
GIMP Top Features
- Integration with programming languages such as Scheme, Python, and Perl.
- Color management features for digital and printed media.
GIMP Pros and Cons
|✅ Provides tutorials to master it||❌ Takes time to learn how to use fully|
|✅ Lightweight and uses the computing resources optimally||❌ The developer community is not significant with slow updates|
13- Xara Designer Pro X
It is an ideal tool for digital and print designs of illustrations, editing photos, and creating web pages.
Xara Designer Pro X Top Features
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Fast and all-over-the-board performance simultaneously
Xara Designer Pro X Pricing
Xara Designer Pro X Pros and Cons
|✅ High cloud capacity||❌ Steep learning curve|
|✅ Collaboration via Zoom||❌ Available on Windows only|
|✅ Wide range of formats|
I had a chance to discover this software when I got my first design tablet. It is the best free tool if you are interested in design as a hobby. It is a good choice for beginners.
Krita Top Features
- Mirror mode and multi-brush tool make your work easier and more perfect
- Drawing assistant for perspective
- Create custom brushes
Krita Pros and Cons
|✅ Available on Windows, macOS, Linux||❌ Not much support and small community|
|✅ Designed for artists and illustrators||❌ Occasional crashes|
|✅ Good for pattern creation||❌ Totally free|
It is the most popular graphic design software tool in artist circles nowadays. You can think of it as a more developed version of Paint in Windows.
Procreate Top Features
- QuickShape for polishing your manually created shapes
- StreamLine for automatically creating more smooth curves
Procreate Pros and Cons
|✅ Perfect price||❌ Available only for iPads|
|✅ Good performance||❌ Not for business purposes|
It is a good one to edit vector images in your browser, especially for beginners.
Vecteezy Top Features
- Access to bundles made up of free vector graphics
- Image editing
Basic features are free
Vecteezy Yearly Unlimited Subscription $6.00/mo
Vecteezy Monthly Unlimited Subscription $9.25/mo
Vecteezy Pros and Cons
|✅ Easy to use||❌ Account needed to save designs|
|✅ A large number of tools||❌ You can encounter small errors while using|
|✅ Huge library of ready-made vectors||❌ Not good for complex designs like SVG|
To wrap up…
Professional designers defend that powerful eyes and hands create powerful designs.
But I think powerful tools are as much important. Nobody can sew their trouser without a needle, right?
So, ask yourself the following questions before losing yourself among graphic design software options.
- What is the field of your design?
- Which device and operating system do you use while working?
- Which type of graphics are you working with? Is it vector or raster?
- How much design knowledge do you have? Are you a beginner or an expert?
- How much would you pay for a graphic design app or software?
When you answer them, you will navigate within this expansive world of design and find the most suitable one for yourself to enjoy your design process!
Frequently Asked Questions
What software do most graphic designers use?
It’s a tricky question as it depends on your purpose of designing. The main three areas might be like these:
Suppose you are looking for what most product designers use for graphic design. In that case, it is Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or their alternatives such as CorelDraw and Affinity Designer. If you are looking for what publishing designers use mostly, it is Adobe InDesign. But if you are asking with marketing communication, web design, and content creation aims in mind. The answer is Sketch, Gravit Design, or CC Express.
Which software is best for graphic design for beginners?
If you are a beginner like me and don’t want to pay several hundred dollars to create your first pieces of design, you can go for Inkscape. If you have a certain budget dedicated to it, you can prefer Affinity Designer.
What are the two main tools of graphic design?
Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are the two main tools of graphic design. They are the most used by graphic designers and have become the industry standard.