Visual information dominates our world and any form of communication, whether it manifests itself in digital or physical form. While many businesses worldwide utilize science to produce products and services that make our lives easier or more entertaining, every single business invests in art and emotion to maximize its reach and audience.
Image and video content are prevalent in the advertising and marketing industries. For instance, if you consider Fiverr's freelance service platform, around 50% of the most profitable gigs are related to graphic design, video creation, and editing.
You witness visual content in digital media, including web design options, social media posts, and email templates. Many of the resources you need to succeed in this competitive world come from the same source. All it takes is the best graphic design software.
Is there a one-size-fits-all answer in Graphic Design software?
The right graphic design software is essential for any marketer or designer who wants to stand out from the crowd. As much as I like promoting innovation and startups, or even companies with a unique success story, like Canva, I believe the graphic design industry is one where there is an undisputed king.
Adobe introduced Illustrator in 1987 and Photoshop in 1989, while Corel also introduced CorelDraw in 1989.
The former company no distributes its software under the Creative Cloud umbrella. Based on what I've witnessed as an aspiring photographer, someone that has been around creative professionals for most of my life, and being around an ex that was a highly-talented architecture student, I have come to the following conclusion:
If it's possible, Photoshop or Illustrator can do it. In most cases, professional artists or designers should look towards Adobe's Creative Cloud for the best graphic design software.
The Necessity for Diversity in Graphic Design Tools
Despite the above claim, there are cases where powerful software like Photoshop and Illustrator can be overkill and slow things down.
One of the best examples I have to showcase this challenge stems from my own blogging career. When I started this blog, and as a small business owner, there was no time to create striking illustrations and feature images using Photoshop and Illustrator and go through their steep learning curves.
That's when Canva came into my life with its premade templates and saved me a ton of time while sacrificing a bit of creativity. There is always a market for high-quality software and services.
These are the top graphic design software programs you can use for free or for a fee to get this article back on track.
The Best Paid Graphic Design Software
Let's begin by looking at the software most likely to appeal to professional creators and designers. Premium software can harm your bank balance, but it also offers professionals a broader range of specifically designed features.
The following paid software might be the best for you if you create content for a website.
1. Adobe Photoshop
Best for professional photographers, architects, editors, and retouchers
Perhaps the most well-known graphic design software tool, Adobe Photoshop, is the preferred tool for 90% of creative professionals.
Photoshop is the best solution for graphic design. It offers everything you need, from photo editing and retouching to unique brushes and textures. Adobe gives you the tools to express your creativity at a scale that suits you.
- Advanced photo editing: Photoshop comes with powerful editing tools and intelligent features. Such features include retrofitting, replacing, and remixing your photos.
- One-click transformation: Images and illustrations can be transformed with unlimited layers and simple masking.
- You can create any design or texture you want with thousands of customizable brushes.
- Preset sync: You can set your preferences on any device so that you can use your tablet, laptop, or desktop to work on your projects.
- Collaboration: You can collaborate with other Photoshop designers using a handy “sharing” tab.
- You can learn the basics of Photoshop with tons of videos and tutorials.
- Creative Cloud: Get everything you need, including content-aware crop, artboards, and face-aware liquidity. Design space views, synched libraries, and more are all available on the creative cloud.
- Photoshop continually updates to offer a more immersive experience. You can use several workspace layouts for photography, painting, and graphic design.
- Adobe's Creative Cloud provides immense capabilities. Designers can edit even animation and video layers.
- You can adapt to your needs by adjusting the canvas size, making custom brushes, accessing content 3D, or isolating elements within layers.
- Transfer files quickly between programs, access them from different devices, and share them with your friends.
- It is pretty expensive considering the total cost of creative cloud
- Taking up Photoshop as a novice comes with a steep learning curve.
- Vector graphics are not well-supported. For SVG support on the Adobe ecosystem, you should look at Adobe Illustrator.
You can subscribe to one app for $20.99 per month or the entire creative cloud for greater functionality.
2. Adobe InDesign
An enterprise solution ideal for digital publications
Adobe InDesign is another part of the Photoshop Creative Cloud library. You can purchase this product as a standalone or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud library.
InDesign is the right tool for you to publish online publications, create brochures or create info sheets. Adobe InDesign is an industry-leading program that conforms to all digital and print media creations rules.
Professionals can leverage Adobe InDesign to create Interactive PDFs, posters, and books.
- Access royalty-free stock imagery in an easy way: This package includes access to a variety of royalty-free content that you can use for your magazine, ebook, or any other digital creation.
- Collaboration tools: Give feedback and share content with your team about the designs that you create. It takes seconds to share your projects, and you can add annotations inside each PDF.
- Vast format selection: Choose the one that suits you best. InDesign supports eBooks and online documents that combine text, video, audio, and animation.
- Sensei Technology: Adobe's AI-powered Sensei technology automatically resizes and arranges images.
- Adobe fonts: InDesign will automatically activate all Adobe fonts available in your library, making your written content stand out.
- Adobe InCopy: InCopy allows designers to share text, colors, and graphics.
- Adobe InDesign is more straightforward than Photoshop: You can add many features to your publication, such as tags, anchor text frames and tables, captions, and more.
- Indesign enables users to add keywords, anchor text frames, footnotes, tables of contents, and captions with hyperlinks to indexes.
- Industry-standard: InDesign is the industry standard in publishing. You can find lots of support and help on forums to get you started.
- With its Eyedropper tool, designers can apply position and size instantly to another object within the document.
- Creative Cloud connectivity: You can access InDesign or Photoshop simultaneously and other creative apps through the Creative Cloud.
- HTML support: Adobe provides HTML exporting to make it easy for you and your colleagues to share code during web development. The app also includes functionality that will help you eliminate unnecessary DIV tags.
- Easily resizes multiple objects and changes the width and height simultaneously.
- The interface can be overwhelming for new users.
- This product is for those who are familiar with building publications.
- Quite expensive compared to other similar products.
- Intended for enterprise use only.
- Integration of PDF comments is a bit clunky at times.
InDesign can be purchased as a monthly subscription for $20.99. Monthly subscriptions to the creative cloud cost $52.99.
3. CorelDraw Graphics Suite
Best for digital illustrations
CorelDraw provides a complete graphics suite for Windows users. Corel's graphics suite is a collection of multiple applications that deliver powerful editing features for digital illustrators and video game content creators.
You can add your brand colors to the content with additional features, such as advanced image editing and enhanced color replacement.
- Content exchange: The community experience is one of Corel Draw's most exciting features. Sign up to access the digital library, which allows you to browse thousands of images, templates, and fonts.
- Flexible Pricing Plans: Users choose three payment programs through which they can purchase software and regular software upgrades. There is also an upgrade program for existing users.
- Collaboration: Corl Draw makes it easy to collaborate with your team and save time on complicated projects. It is easy to collaborate on designs and annotate your projects in real-time. You can also add comments and search for information.
- Vector illustration Corel Draw is an essential tool for vectors and illustration. It is easy to create many shapes and lines and use effects such as blend and contour to bring your ideas to life.
- Custom Interface: Recreate the interface that suits your needs. You can adjust the size of your icons and set your window borders to a specific color with the customizable desktop UI. You can switch between single- and multipage views.
- Corel Draw is great for productivity. The collaboration and productivity features aren't just for show. Corel Draw makes it easy to connect and progress on a shared project.
- Flexibility: Corel Draw can be used on any device, from laptops and desktops to smooth drawing surfaces and laptops.
- Many export options are available: Corel Draw can export 48 file types, including JPG, PNG, and CAD.
- Massive community collection: There are many assets. Fonts, frames, templates, vectors, and photos are all available. You can also access a fully organized library system to keep everything in its proper place.
- If you are on the move, there is no app for your phone
- It is necessary to learn a lot about the features.
Corel Draw is available for free for 15-days, after which you can upgrade to the full version for $474. Corel Draw offers a monthly or annual subscription if you don't wish to pay the total price.
4. Adobe Illustrator
Best graphic design software for vector designs
Adobe is a leader in design. Adobe Illustrator is the best choice for illustration. This product is perfect for creating a logo for your website or designing a website that has a casual, fun feel. You can scale your drawings to any size.
- Adobe Illustrator offers exceptional customization: Preset layouts are available, and you can save all files in the cloud, making AI a very portable graphic design solution.
- AI innovation: Adobe has integrated advanced AI features into Illustrator. This isn't just about intuitive in-panel editing. Adobe Sensei automatically extracts specific shades from a photograph and brings them into your image.
- Vector Graphics Power: You can create images in any size you like, as mentioned earlier. This includes large, billboard-style illustrations as well as tiny decorations for your smartphone app. It is compatible with many OS options.
- In-Panel Editing: This feature allows designers to edit multiple artboards simultaneously to enable more efficient work.
- Highly Compatible: It can be used with various Mac and Windows devices with different configurations.
- Highly Customizable: Its user interface is highly customizable and accessible. Work on any machine with custom viewing and space-saving features.
- Creative cloud link: To connect Illustrator to the other features in Adobe's Creative Cloud, you can access features through Photoshop and other similar products. You have more stock templates and graphics to use with the entire cloud.
- It feels like Adobe Illustrator was designed to simplify your life. Adobe Illustrator allows you to create complete patterns with a single click. You can also use AI enhancements for your project.
- Cloud sharing: Illustrator, like many Adobe products, is all about collaboration. You can store your documents in cloud storage, share them with colleagues, and work together on anything.
- Excellent customer support. In addition to providing an excellent user interface, Adobe also makes sure that you get the most from your service by providing tutorials and guides.
- Adobe Stock offers over 90 million images, graphics, templates, and videos.
- AI meddles well with the rest of Adobe's ecosystem.
- As with most of Adobe's tools, Illustrator has a steep learning curve.
- It will cost you a lot more than elementary vector and illustration options.
- Requires a powerful machine and plenty of disk storage.
Available for $9.99 for personal and $33.99 for business use. It is also available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud.
5. Affinity Designer, Photo & Publisher
Best affordable drawing software
Affinity is the most affordable version of Illustrator. It's not hard to see why. You can experiment with Illustrator's many functions, including easy color swatching, a grid system, and the ability to ensure that your designs are at the correct scale. Affinity shares Illustrator's snap function, which allows you to lock elements in their place.
- Works everywhere: Affinity is compatible with Mac, iPad, and Windows.
- Snapping and grid: Create and use a grid system to make the most out of your angles and spacing and create an intuitive layout. Snapping allows you to lock products in place.
- Multiple environments: You can work in both vector and pixel art environments without switching between apps.
- Workflow Tools: This product is designed to increase productivity. Access to many features, such as saveable histories or keyboard shortcuts, is available to you.
- Affinity is lightweight and doesn't take up much space. Smooth speed allows you to zoom and pan at 60FPS, view live design previews, and access features at a smooth speed.
- Flexibility Make designs as straightforward as possible. The Affinity Designer engine can handle hundreds of objects without lag. Although the company claims to handle thousands of objects, we haven't tested this claim.
- Live outlines, grids, and templates: It's easy to design accurate designs with live outlines and charts.
- There are some limitations to your file export options (no AI).
- Illustrator is the only artificial intelligence program that offers such a high level of creativity.
All you need is a one-time fee of $49.99 to get Affinity into your arsenal.
6. Xara Designer Pro X
Best for web content & prints
Xara claims to be the fastest graphic design software tool worldwide, and it delivers on this promise. Xara can help you create advanced design elements such as web pages or edit components of your visual portfolio.
Because of its flexible layout, this software tool is easier to use than other design products on this list.
- All-in-one platform: Xara aims to bring all the design products you need together in one place to help you save time and money. A suite of products will be available for web graphics, image editing, and illustrations, all in one location.
- Drag-and-drop: A drag-and-drop interface makes editing and creating super easy. You can also use direct-action tools to help speed up your projects, like transparency or gradient filling.
- Undo/Redo You can roll back your changes as many times as you want and zoom in by 25,000% for the best details of your designs.
- Collaboration You can collaborate with your team using Xara's cloud functionality.
- Text handling Full word processing style control of all text. Perfect for websites and online publications.
- Simple web design: Creating online pages is easy thanks to page layout tools, text control, and drag-and-drop functionality. This approach will make it easier to complete projects faster.
- Cloud capabilities: This is especially useful for hybrid teams, as it allows you to upload content to the cloud and share it with others in a matter of seconds.
- There are tons of file formats available: You can sync files to your Google Drive and Dropbox as well as Adobe PSD. Or export in many bitmap types.
- Convenient interface: Everything you need, from photo editing to blending illustrations, can be found in one environment.
- It is not available outside the Windows operating system.
- It can be exhausting at times. It feels awkward to use the masking feature.
A lifetime license starts at $299.00. Additional version upgrades are available every few years to bring you the latest features.
Best for online logo design
LogoDesign is an online logo design software that enables you to create professional brand identity designs without a background in design. This SaaS program works on drag-and-drop functionality allowing you to combine various elements of design to create professional company logos.
- Extensive library: The design library at LogoDesign.Net is vast and extensive. Everything from wordmark logos to icon-based logos is available here. You can find abstract logos, vintage logos, minimal logos, and tens of other styles all housed under one roof. The designs are varied, comprehensive, and cater to several different industries. Whether you are looking for advertisement logos, real estate logos, travel logos, legal logos, photography logos, or thousands of other designs, this extensive design library is full to the brim with unique and appealing logos that will give your brand a fresh identity.
- Handmade designs: Each of the logos you see here is designed by a professional artist. The company employs dozens of graphic designers to create customizable logo templates that suit the branding needs of multiple businesses.
- Friendly Interface: The UI is incredibly friendly. The drag-and-drop function ensures that you can work on your templates with absolute ease and freedom. Everything is easily accessible and you have tons of customization options to create a truly stellar look for your brand.
Each logo template is a vector graphic to ensure scalability. No matter how you manipulate the size of the logo, the design will remain legible and intact.
Flexible pricing options are another great feature. Depending on your design needs and budget constraints, you can find a suitable price package that will be everything you are looking for.
The hassle-free design process also includes all kinds of branding – business cards, t-shirts, mugs, website headers, and so much more.
- Working with templates puts you at risk of creating logo designs that may be similar to other brands. This is something you can avoid by truly personalizing and customizing the design.
The Best Graphic Design Software For Beginners
Graphic design tools are not just for professional designers. Access to basic design tools is essential for any marketer or business leader. It will be easier to create infographics or images for content marketing areas or creative for Social Media. These are some options that are easy to use for beginners.
Best online graphic design software for novice graphic designers & small businesses
What could be simpler than creating all the graphics in a template format? Canva was created for those with little or no design experience. You can still create many products with Canva.
Templates are available for social media, email campaigns, events, and many other areas. You'll also have access to many stock photos and other graphic resources.
- Photo editing Make simple changes to photos on your website, such as adding effects or removing distortions. You can also use filters on social media.
- Stock resources Get extra creative content to use in your emails and blogs. There are millions upon millions of templates, videos, and photos. You can find only a fraction of these resources for free.
- Templates: Templates are one of the main draws to Canva. You can't go wrong when you use templates pre-made templates for particular website CMS environments and social media sites.
- Drag and drop editor: The drag and drop editor makes it easy to create your pages. This environment allows you to work with photos, videos, elements, and templates. It is quick and easy to find fonts, stickers, visual effects, and animations.
- Social Scheduling: Schedule your posts to go live in your Canva account.
- Canva is easy to use. It is easy to search stock images and videos online in seconds. Drag and drop elements into the right place and then experiment with a wide range of filters.
- Start with the free plan to determine how many visual assets are needed.
- Canva can create many different forms of graphics, such as logos, landing pages, templates for email marketing, emails, and Facebook posts.
- Canva doesn't give you the same level of control as other marketing tools. You can't explore as many layers and advanced features as you would like.
- Canva is a browser-based SaaS, so it can become slow, especially if you throw in many designs.
The free version supports 15 designs per month and comes with approximately 8,000 templates. For $99.99 per annum, the pro version grants you access to thousands more templates and resources.
- For more info on Canva you can read my Canva review
Best for free in-browser editing
This graphic design software is compatible with two of our categories. It is free and easy to use, even for beginners. Vectr allows you to create primary graphic assets using a browser-based program. You can edit layers of photos and design web pages. There are also a variety of tutorials that will help you.
- Web-based editing You don't need any special software. You can do everything in your browser. For collaboration purposes, you'll be able also to share documents in real-time.
- Scalable Vectors: Vectr lets you scale vectors to any size without losing clarity. Both vector and raster options are available.
- Cross-platform performance You can sync your Vectr accounts across multiple platforms and then download an application for your desktop.
- Knowledge Guide: Vectr provides a variety of tutorials and educational materials to help you use the software.
- Vectr can be accessed online, so you don’t need to worry about space limitations.
- Vectr feels more professional when working with your colleagues, although syncing may sometimes be slow.
- Vectr gives companies access to an essential tool for graphic design and teaches them how they can get started.
- You won't find nearly as many features on this app as you would in a premium version: basic image and photo editing.
- It can sometimes be slow, primarily if you use the service online.
Free of charge.
Ideal for sketching and prototyping
Sketch is a vector-based tool that allows you to design graphic designs. It's available as both a web-based application and a downloadable version. Sketch is a software platform ideal for creating an interactive prototype or sketching out some product plans.
- The intuitive interface of Sketch: Whether you are using it online or offline, the interface is easy to use and has a simple layout. It is easy to locate components you wish to drag and drop in place or experiment with layers.
- Sketch can offer design assistance if you aren't familiar with designing mockups. You can use the library of artboard templates, grids, or “snap” functionality to lock in elements.
- You can create custom plugins with the help of the community.
- Collaboration: You can share your designs online with anyone through a cloud-based platform. This makes it easy to test your ideas.
- It's quick and easy to create mockups and prototypes in the cloud. It works well with the activity feed, which shows you other designers' work.
- Extensions: It is nice to have access to various developer plugins. You can use plugins to automate certain parts of your work, and assistants can help you spot design problems.
- Libraries: Download various libraries that include iOS icons and standard solutions for user interface design.
- This is not intended for photo editing but prototyping and UI design.
- The limited illustration capabilities and the low support for high resolutions are limitations.
Yearly Subscriptions start at $99 per editor for the Standard edition. You will have to contact Sketch for a quote on the business subscription.
Free Graphic Design Software
Free software will always have limitations when compared to premium products. Some products are worth your attention. These are some of our favorite products.
1. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Best Free Graphic Design Software overall
Gnu Image Manipulation Program, also known as GIMP, is an alternative to Photoshop that people with limited budgets can use. It has many similar features, such as working with professional layers, fine-tune snap functionality, and other similar features.
- You can personalize the interface to your liking. You can also add new functions to the GIMP community with many plugins.
- Photo enhancement: This includes correcting perspective distortion and experimenting with filters.
- Digital retouching: You have many options to retouch images using tools like clone or healing digitally.
- Multiple file formats: You can export and import images in multiple file formats, including PNG, TIFF, and GIF.
- Linux support: GIMP is essentially the only tool on this list with native Linux support.
- Leverages sketching tools such as cloning, pencil, and airbrush
- GIMP has tutorials on all of its features to soften its learning curve
- Its Layers feature allows designers to design an image under an existing image
- The user interface is clean and relatively easy to use, even for those who are new to the world of image editing
- It provides the option of working with a modular and single-window interface
- The program is very lightweight and uses computing resources efficiently, resulting in a fast performance
- There are tons of options: GIMP supports many file formats in addition to GNU, Linux, and Microsoft.
- Community: Many texture packs and brushes are available online for community support.
- Windows and macOS users will not find the interface very sleek.
- Sometimes, the adjustment layers can be challenging to use and cause problems.
Free and open-source software.
The best free vector software
Vector software can be pretty expensive, depending on what features you require. Inkscape is an excellent alternative to expensive software packages. It offers a highly accessible, free tool with tons of unique features. You can find inspiration and tons of resources to help you get started.
- Object creation, manipulation: Inkscape, a fantastic vector creation tool, has a text tool, embedded bitmaps, shape creation, and clones. You can group objects and transform them, as well as create layers.
- Inkscape's strong community is what makes it so remarkable. This service is constantly evolving, and new functionality and features are added all the time.
- Open source code: If you are a developer and have some knowledge, you can access the code in Inkscape to make changes.
- Many editing functions: From fill and stroke capabilities to text rendering and support, the Inkscape feature listing includes many of the tools that you'd expect from high-end products such as Adobe Illustrator.
- Open source software can sometimes be confusing and clunky. However, Inkscape is different. Thanks to its simple interface and knowledge articles, it is easy to learn Inkscape as a beginner.
- This is open-source software. You can make your own modifications and integrate with other programs if you have the know-how.
- It also offers convenient bonus features such as using presets and filters to make your work easier. Bezier handles allow for faster node movement.
- The Mac version is more likely to have bugs and functional issues.
- The processing is slower than other solutions.
Inkscape is available for free.
3. Gravit Designer
The best HTML-based app
Gravit Designer, also known as Designer.io, is a fully-featured vector design application that works on all platforms. It's the basic free version, but it still includes the entire color space, PDF export, and 500MB of cloud storage.
- Multi-platform design tool: You can work on your projects from anywhere. Gravit Designer is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, and Chrome OS. You can even use your internet browser to work with Gravit Designer.
- Touch interface: This interface allows you to edit and experiment with designs using touch devices. It's ideal for those who use drawing screens or tablets.
- Gravit Designer's quick start functionality makes it simple to get started quickly. There are a variety of pre-set canvas designs and templates and pre-made fonts and design assets.
- Cloud integration: All of your content will automatically be saved to the cloud to avoid losing valuable work.
- Gravit Designer is reliable. You can access Gravit Designer anywhere you are. We also love the cloud storage feature, and the automatic save function.
- Interface adaptable: You can modify various aspects of the interface to make it more user-friendly, such as accessing a dark mode that is easier on the eyes.
- This product is simple to use. You can get started quickly with pre-made templates, shapes, fonts, and filters.
- To get more storage, you will need to upgrade the premium version
- Despite the cloud service, there is no real-time collaboration option
You have two options. One is a free one, and the other is a professional version that costs $100 per year.
4. Autodesk Sketchbook
Best raster graphics software for tablets
Autodesk Sketchbook, a graphic design program for drawing tablets for artists, is simple and effective. This digital app lets you convert your ideas into digital format. It features simple sketching functionality multiple components such as perspective guides and curvilinear.
- Intutive sketching interface: You can sketch more naturally with the help of perspective guides and curved rules on your tablet. Access 16-sector Radial Symmetry is also available.
- Unlimited brushes and layers: Create your own brushes or use one of the 140 available. For blending, you can add infinite layers.
- Scan sketches with your smartphone: Take a picture of a sketch and scan it to import it into the software. Other intelligent features such as predictive stroke are also available.
- Simple selection tools: You have many options to upgrade or transform your content quickly.
- With Autodesk's Sketchbook, you can immediately start sketching with valuable tools such as selection and rules, selection, blend, gradient, and fill.
- The predictive stroke, distortion tools, and distort transformation tools are just a few of the available intelligent features.
- You can also create your own by altering and adjusting brushes in addition to having access to various pre-made tools.
- Sketchbook supports 4K animation of sketches.
- This software is minimal in comparison to other editing and illustration tools.
- Sometimes it can be slow to render
You can download and use Sketchbook for free on Android and iOS. The Pro version is available for Windows and Mac and will set you back $19.99.
What is the right Graphic Design software for you?
Graphic design software supports creators and designers in creating projects. Some software allows you to create beautiful animations and videos, while others focus on vectors and illustration.
Many professional graphic designers have access to many software options.
The Creative Cloud package from Adobe includes various software options, including photo editing, publication creation, illustration, and publication creation. Graphic design software can give you more power to improve your creativity skills.
To reap the benefits of these software solutions, you must know what to look out for. There is no single strategy that will work for everyone.
My favorite choice for beginners remains Canva, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you want to employ less advanced graphic design practice.
Consider the following before making a pick:
- Feature Set: As mentioned, many types of graphic design software can be used for different projects. You should know the purpose of the software and decide which features are essential to your success. Software with scalable capabilities can be a good option, as you can add new functionality as your skills grow.
- Budget: Often, a lower budget means fewer features. Many affordable and accessible graphic design software programs are great for beginners. Start small by downloading demos and free trials, and then upgrade to the software that offers you the greatest return on your investment.
- Ease of Use: Most design software will require some learning. Some software is more accessible than others. You should choose software that you are comfortable using daily. It can help to stick with brands you know to lessen the initial growing pains.