To create such designs, along with skills, having the right tools is also a necessity. For this purpose, you will need good graphic design software. It enhances the efficiency of your work. And helps in putting your creativity into real-world design.
An aesthetically pleasing and detailed design speaks directly to the soul of the viewers. Not only it provides a pleasant view but also conveys a message. This way of communicating with the viewers is more effective than any other.
Why you need a graphic design software?
No matter if you are a professional or just a newbie in this industry. Graphic Design software has changed the whole game for all designers. Indeed, a creative and talented designer can make art happen with Microsoft Paint. But the flexibility and advanced tools of good graphic design software take things to a new level. Most importantly, the difference is undeniably obvious. That is why you need to select the best graphic design software for yourself and your brand.
Many of these graphic design software has been around from the very start. For example, in 1987, Adobe introduced the very first software named Illustrator. Then in the year 1989, they introduced Photoshop to the world. While the same year, Corel released CorelDraw.
How to choose the right graphic design software for you?
Choosing the right graphic design software is quite a task. There are several factors which one needs to keep in mind. First and foremost is your need. What type of graphic software you need and why you need it? The answer can vary on a number of needs. From typography to raster and vector image editing to page layout. Then comes the second most important decision. That is if you are looking for free software or a paid one. If paid, then how are you willing to pay. As there are many options you can choose from according to your own convenience.
We have gathered all the information and opinions from our expert graphic designers. And came up with a list of the best graphic design software of 2021.
Let’s dive in.
What is the best graphic design software?
1. Adobe photoshop
The most easily recognized graphic design software is Adobe Photoshop. It’s considered to be the best for image editing purposes. As said by someone, “When it comes to image manipulation Adobe Photoshop can do it all”.
Adobe Photoshop is the most popular photo editing software out there in the market. It’s an all-in-one package that offers amazing excellent graphic design software capabilities. From basic cropping to adding filters and to even more complex raster designs. The skill level required to use this graphic design software is a beginner to advanced. So it’s a great start to learn graphic design skills.
Photoshop is very well known mainly because of its features. Firstly, it offers a wide variety of design tools for both web and mobile applications. The company is constantly working to provide a customizable user interface. By offering numerous targeted workspace layouts. Such as Motion, 3D, Graphic and Web, Photography, and Painting. You can also create your very own custom layout of windows and panels.
Photoshop’s active synchronization with Adobe Creative Cloud offers a variety of unique and new features. Including the Design Space view, Artboards, Content-Aware crop, a glyph panel, touch, Cloud documents, Face-Aware Liquify, synced libraries, and stylus input support. A great addition to its features is that you can download this graphic design software for free. But there will be some limitations on certain tools and features.
- Plenty of design tools to work with
- Extraordinary AI-powered features
- Standard Bitmap Editor
- Unified Stock Library
- Limitless Skill Ceiling
- Easy to use
- Expensive Adobe Subscription
- Inability to create true vector files
- Not-so-good updates
- Overwhelming for new users
2. Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is a must-have if you are in the publishing business. Since 1999, it has been widely used for laying out newspapers, postcards, flyers, and magazines. This contributes to making tried and tested for publishing purposes. You can easily put together brochures, magazines, newspapers, and info sheets. And in a matter of seconds export them to HTML or PDF.
Adobe InDesign is an easy-to-learn software for beginners. Also, a great platform to learn how to combine graphics and text. The skill level required to use this graphic design software is a beginner to advanced. Its best use is for publishing layouts.
The main feature of Adobe InDesign is its usability. It requires a low learning curve and is easy to use. Newbies can easily learn to combine graphics and texts to achieve the best results. It also has an ‘Adjust Layout’ feature. This feature helps to change just the text of a design while the overall design adjusts automatically. It can be a great use for creating and editing infographics.
Designers working with team members can make the most out of Adobe InCopy. It makes it easier to share graphics, text, colors, etc. So, it saves you from some additional steps in your teamwork. InDesign also has an AI-powered sensei technology. This feature ensures automatic arrangement and resizing of images.
- Wide variety of fonts
- Automatic resizing and cropping feature
- industry standard for desktop publishing
- Easy to combine texts and graphics
- Supports HTML
- Suitable for enterprise use
- Helps to remove useless div tags in HTML files
- Allows users to add keywords, footnotes, table of contents, indexes, etc.
- Not ideal for general users
- Heavy on the pockets
- Needs work on PDF comment integration
- Less intuitive user interface
- Overwhelming for new users
3. CorelDRAW graphics suite
CorelDRAW graphics suite is the champion of vector design applications. It is packed with some pro-level features. Actually, it is a graphic design software bundle rather than a single application. The star of the show is CorelDRAW, obviously. But the graphic design software bundle includes AfterShot to manage RAW files, Photo-Pain for image manipulation, FontManager for organizing the text styles you use, and PowerTRACE to convert bitmap images into vectors.
Along with a vector-drawing package, it also includes a desktop publishing feature. This helps to design projects with a multi-page layout. It offers a highly accessible interface that is not only easy to understand but also to use. After some errors and failures, CorelDRAW has made a come back to the Mac with a functional version.
Registered users can benefit from Corel’s online digital library. It gives you access to hundreds of high-resolution digital images and photographs. This feature offers around 2k vehicle templates, 350 professionally designed templates, 1000 font styles, 500 interactive frames, and more than 600 vector, gradients, and bitmap fill. CorelDRAW offers its user a flexible payment program. With three different payment programs along with minimal charges for regular updates.
A unique feature is it is a new pointilizer. It offers a number of variable parameters that are not limited to simple dots. Additionally, you can also get a customizable UI environment. For multiple things like icon sizing, options for how your documents open, window border color scheme, toolboxes, and desktop sizing.
- Immensely featured
- Easy to learn and use
- Offers app-wide workflow and innovation and performance enhancements
- Works smoothly with Surface Pen
- Capable of exporting files in more than 48 file types
- Clean transition from desktop to tablet mode
- Beginners might face difficulty in operating
- Confusing payment options
- No mobile applications
Most people avoid free graphic design software for many reasons. But Inkscape is free graphic design software worth looking at. Before you even decide to buy any other paid graphic design software, you should give it a try. The tagline of Inkscape is “draw freely”. And it surely lives up to its mantra. It is considered to be an alternative to Illustrator for web and print design.
It’s a free graphic design tool packed with countless features. For both newbies and professional marketers. The user base is helpful and passionate while bringing out the best of open-source design. You can easily put together visually appealing graphics and designs with the breadth of learning resources available. Its best use is for vector images and SVG file format. The skill level required to use this graphic design software is advanced.
The main feature of Inkscape is its user experience. As for free vector graphic design software, the customer experience is mind-blowing. A person who is familiar with Adobe tools can easily operate them. It is a capable alternative to Adobe Illustrator. That too, as a free tool. So, if one is looking for a cheap alternative, Inkscape is your go-to.
The software has a community of developers that enables them to provide new updates and features regularly. The latest updates add new features and make it more convenient for the user to use. They also have a manual improvement feature. By which the user can leverage the open-source code to change the lines of code. And customize or enhance the graphic design software according to their own preference.
- Easy to make individual text lines
- Absolutely free
- Available on Mac, Linux, and Windows
- Regular updates
- Advanced features
- Great SVG integration
- Plenty of filters
- Helpful community
- Slow performance
- Steep learning curve
- Mac version can be problematic
- Not a foolproof alternative to Illustrator
Instead of building graphic design software that covers all aspects. The founders of Sketch decided to build a tool to address a specific requirement. The sketch is graphic design software for UI and icons. This vector editor is solely designed for Mac. It is a vector-based graphic design tool. Best for the use of the web, app, and interface design.
The sketch is your go-to if all you need is a digital design and own a Mac. It is ideal for creating interactive prototypes for UI/UX purposes. The graphic design software can be used in general but the main purpose is to create slick user interfaces. As a robust modeling platform, it’s a great tool to create 2d or 3d designs for any complex objects. The skill required to use this graphic design software is a beginner.
When it comes to pricing, Sketch is comparatively cheap than other graphic design software. It offers a yearly subscription. So, you don’t have to worry about paying twice or more. The software is great for mobile and web use. As it leverages snap to grid functionality, snap to pixel functionality to avoid half-pixel renders or imperfect alignment and grids.
Sketch offers designers easy to find custom plugins for any specific tasks. Only through their robust community support. Additionally, it also offers a library of artboard templates for responsive web design layouts and iOS devices. All the designers have to do is select an artboard and the device.
- Regular updates
- Low learning curve
- Great for UI and icons
- Less expensive than other graphic design software
- Allows mirroring designs on larger devices
- Autosaves all the changes made in a design
- Requires some work and enhancement
- Limited illustration capabilities
- Only for Mac users
- Automatic layout flowing option is not available
6. Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop share some similar tools and functions. It is easier to understand for designers who use both. Some may also consider Illustrator as the vector version of Photoshop. But it is more than just graphic design software. Illustrator is perfect for website mockups, illustrative artwork, corporate logos, page layouts, and everything as per the requirement.
It’s an industry benchmark in all the vector creation tools. It allows designing any graphics that can be easily rescaled to any size. Without compromising on the quality of the picture. No matter if you are willing to build something from scratch. Or to make some changes in an already existing artwork. The illustration makes it all pretty straightforward. You can also start your work on an iPad then later transfer your work to the desktop.
Illustrator also offers an in-panel editing feature. It allows the designers to edit multiple artboards at once. This makes it easier for designers to work with more efficiency. The graphic design software is highly compatible with various devices that have configurations from Windows and Mac. Adobe Illustrator offers a user interface that is highly accessible and can be personalized.
Users can enjoy their custom viewing and space-saving features. While working on any screen size and device. By far, the best feature of Illustrator is its high customizability. It can be easily customized through multiple preset layouts along with many other options. Users can also take advantage of the drag and drop feature to move panels anywhere on their screen. It is best used for vector images.
The skill required to use this graphic design software is advanced. So, it will take some extra time to learn about its functions and features. But the nearly limitless potential for creating vector designs is worth all the efforts and time.
- Extremely powerful
- Available on Windows and Mac
- Industry standard tools and features
- Top vector and type tools
- Adobe Sensei AI features
- Creates graphic files in small sizes
- Access to more than 90 million videos, images, etc.
- Close integration with other Adobe products
- Helpful user interface
- Allows the user to precise editing
- Steep learning curve
- Requires Creative Cloud subscription
- Takes up a lot of space in the user’s device
7. Affinity designer
Affinity Designer is a graphic design software specifically aimed at professional designers and their way of working. It is said to be a capable, clean and cheaper alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Not only it is light on the pockets but also easier to use and faster as compared to Illustrator.
This graphic design software was built from scratch over a five-year development project by Serif. It is designed to handle a very wide variety of design tasks. Including typography, branding, web design, logos, concept arts, repeating patterns, and countless others. Its inherent cloud functionality makes it a great option for teams of designers to work on a common goal.
It is great graphic design software for beginners to use as a learning tool. But enough powerful for freelance graphic artists to work on when on a budget. Affinity Designer is the perfect option for anyone who doesn’t want to spend on the Adobe offering. Thus also needs graphic design software that performs on a high level. It is best used for vector files. The skills required to use this graphic design software are a beginner to advanced.
When considered to be an alternative for Illustrator, it surely must have some great features. Out of all the great features, one of them is its versatile grid system. This grid system enables the designers to set up grids while creating isometric video game icons and graphics. It offers the user complete control over spacing, angles, gutters, and subdivisions to create perfect layouts.
Affinity Designer also has a very helpful zoom feature. You can zoom as far as 1,000,000 percent. This enables the designers to work with utmost accuracy and precision. Users can work in both pixel art environments and vector art environments. Without the need of opening any other application. Designers can lock and position different objects and elements. Depending on the grid, shapes, alignment guides, and nodes of other objects.
- Available on Windows PC and Mac
- Standard collaboration
- Plenty of useful tools
- Offers great value
- Dynamic on-screen guides
- Boolean operation
- Wide variety of colors
- Powerful desktop and iPad application
- Faster as compared to Illustrator
- Some Illustrator tools aren’t available
- Absence of vector eraser
- Absence of natural perspective grid
- Doesn’t allow to export files in AI
- Lacks some advanced features of Illustrator
GIMP isn’t just your ordinary graphic design software that offers the same Photoshop features for free. It’s an open-source free raster graphics editing software that plays a part on Unix-based platforms. The word GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This graphic design software supports all file formats which makes it convenient for users.
It provides its users multiple professional-quality functions to fine-tune snap and create designs from scratch. One of the versions of GIMP available in the market mimics Adobe’s feel and look. So, if you are not a fan of Photoshop. You can easily migrate over that version of GIMP. The layout isn’t as appealing as Photoshop or Adobe. But you still get advanced retouching, cropping, and drawing capabilities. It’s best used for raster images. The skill required to use this graphic design software is a beginner.
The main feature of GIMP is its flexibility. Its user interface is highly customizable. More importantly, the GIMP community has developed multiple plugins to add features without any cost. People who are aware of coding will have greater benefits. As they can customize it to the higher levels according to their own preference. The GEGL scripts of GIMP make it an open platform for processing images.
GIMP has an active community of developers. These professional developers ensure to add new features and regular updates. The software is compatible with dozens of operating systems. Including Windows, Linux, BDS, Solaris, and macOS.
- Wide set of tools for a free program
- Provides up-to-the-mark results
- Great community
- Enable users to sketch easily
- Tutorials for every feature
- Easy to use
- Options of modular and single-window interface
- Speedy performance
- Not-so-perfect for Mac users
- Updates takes time
- Eccentric front end
- Not recognized by many
What are the benefits of graphic design software?
There are many benefits that graphic design software brings to the table. All of these benefits enable designers to create visually appealing images and graphics. This graphic design software plays a key part in enhancing your brand engagement. By the help of creating high-quality visuals, it helps to convey the right message to the audience.
Graphic design software provides the user flexibility and scalability. They can create stunning graphics and images without facing any problems. Such as, the files can be exported into multiple file formats. So, you don’t have to worry about getting the right file format. Paid tools might be expensive but offer great value for money. Apart from paid graphic design software, there are also free ones. Designers can benefit from these free tools to create their unique artwork. It saves you a lot of expenses.
Finding the best graphic design software for yourself isn’t an easy task. It’s just a matter of opinion and depends on the requirements of the user. If you are willing to make the right decision then you have to consider some of the essential points. For example, your budget, the features you need, and if you need frequent collaboration. These points will help you to make the right decision without any confusion. Remember not to limit yourself. As there are always more options to discover. Try them out too. Maybe you will end up finding yourself a graphic design software that’s perfect for you.