11 Best Graphic Design Software & Tools (June 2021)

11 Best Graphic Design Software & Tools (June 2021)

In this fast-paced, digital world, graphic design is all about software. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional-level user, personal computing and graphics tools have changed the traditional ways designers and artists work.

The pre-loaded Microsoft Paint in most computers can be useful to many designers to create something beautiful, yet basic. But the functions and flexibility that specialized graphic design software offer can make all the difference in taking something from average to amazing. So, that brings us to the question of the hour: which graphic design software is the best for creatives?

The journey towards finding the perfect solution can be tough, as there are many graphic design software out there claiming to be the best. In a parallel universe, you might find tools that are all best and simply perfect. But, in the real world, perfection is a myth and the fast-paced development of new technologies means you will always find something that’s better. More powerful and plentiful choices make your final pick difficult.

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Don’t fret yet. I have done the hard work for you by trying all popular and some under-appreciated graphic design tools. By narrowing down the list to 11 top graphic design software, I hope to help you find the right solution for your designing requirements.

Must-Have Features of Graphic Design Software

Most graphic design software may share some similar characteristics, but they certainly are not equal. So, to make your search easier, you should look for the following features:

Templates:  Any good design software will provide templates and allow you to customize them to make your own templates.

Templates provide a foundation for a designer to build on and save time v/s starting from scratch. Templates are excellent shortcuts to professional-looking designs with some of the work done before you begin.


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Image database: Assume that you have all the photos you need for a project without any photoshoots. Now, calculate in your mind how much time and money you will save? A lot, right?

So, add an image database to your shopping list as a “must-have” option for any graphic design software you choose. This picture library will contain everything from stock photos to original artwork from your team, such as infographics, diagrams, and more – all in one place from inside the software.

Make sure to check for what type of image database the software has and the size and quality of the images. This will help you figure out in advance whether you need to buy an additional image library.

Collaboration Tools: Traditional methods of sharing files raise issues in keeping track and information loss. Why take the risk when you can avoid it by choosing a software with built-in collaboration tools?

With this feature, you and your team can save your work to the cloud and modify designs in real-time. You can also restrict access to others based on their roles.

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Intuitive Interface: The interface of any software can enhance or detract from the user experience. An intuitive interface places tools and menus where they’re supposed to be. Also, the design is easy to understand for any user.

So, it is vital to look for software with a user-friendly interface.

Our Selection Criteria for the Best Graphic Design Software

To help you choose the best graphic design software, I have compiled a list of some great applications that are sure to give wings to your designing efforts. The selection criteria I followed to identify the best tools are:

  • Core features: The software must offer all the core graphic design features. This includes designing, pre-loaded templates, collaboration tools, image database, intuitive interface, and basic editing tools to create delightful graphics.
  • Reasonable Pricing: I have included tools that are affordable and have reasonable plans for the features they offer.
  • High “Features and functionality” rating: The product should have a minimum rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Trust Radius, G2, and Capterra.
  • Minimum 20 user reviews published on review websites in the last two years: Recent reviews let us know about the pros and cons of the current software edition.
  • High Recommendation Rating: The tool should have an average recommendation rating between 8 and 10 on a scale of 10 on Getapp, G2, and Capterra.

What is the best graphic design software?

See our comparison table below to see what is the best graphic design software for your needs.

 

Templates Platform Collaboration Tools Pricing
Adobe Photoshop
(Get discount)
YES Windows, macOS YES US $31.49/mo
Adobe Illustrator
(Get discount)
YES Windows, macOS YES US $31.49/mo
Adobe InDesign
(Get discount)
YES Windows, macOS YES US $31.49/mo
CorelDraw YES Windows, macOS YES US $249/year
Sketch  YES macOS YES US $9 per editor/monthly
GIMP YES Windows, macOS, Linux NO FREE
Affinity Designer YES Windows, macOS YES US $60.54 for Windows and Mac
US $24.21 for iPad
Gravit Designer YES Windows,  macOS,  Linux YES US $49.00/Year for PRO
Canva YES Browser, iOS, Android YES US $ 119.99/year for PRO
Infinite Design NO Android, iOS NO FREE
Inkscape NO Windows, macOS, Linux YES FREE

11 Best Graphic Design Software Tools

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Adobe Illustrator
  3. Adobe InDesign
  4. CorelDraw
  5. Sketch
  6. GIMP
  7. Affinity Designer
  8. Gravit Designer
  9. Canva
  10. Infinite Design
  11. Inkscape

At the bottom of this article is a full list of all the best graphic software choices.

 

Top 11 Best Graphic Design Software Tools (Free & Premium)

1. Adobe Photoshop

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Adobe Photoshop is one of the most well-known graphic design software used for creating and editing photos by millions of people around the globe. This software comes with a massive suite of tools which makes it suitable for painting, drawing, editing, and creating photographs, banners, logos, or websites.

See here for the best Adobe Creative Cloud Discounts & save 40-70% off their subscription.

Key Features:

  • Layers: They help users focus on specific parts of an image without disturbing others.
  • Hue and saturation: Editors can change the shade and intensity of the colors in the images.
  • Levels: This feature is used to change the color balance and tonal range in a picture.
  • Color channels: Users can identify particular shades within the color channels palette included in the image.
  • Filters: Using this feature, users can make changes to the image in a few clicks.

Pricing: 

Annual plan, prepaid

US $239.88/yr ($19.99/mo)

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Annual plan, paid monthly

US $251.88/yr ($20.99/mo)

Monthly plan

US $31.49/mon

Pros Cons
➕ Supports HTML exporting ➖ The interface can be overwhelming, especially for beginners
➕ Can resize multiple objects at the same time ➖ More expensive than other software
➕ A suite of powerful editing tools
➕ Has an integrated stock image library

 

2. Adobe Illustrator

Credit: Pinterest


Adobe Illustrator undoubtedly is the best graphic design software for creating logos, icons, sketches, or any other type of visual design. Photoshop and Illustrator have some similarities in terms of tools and functions, but Adobe Illustrator focuses on vector design.

See here for the best Adobe Creative Cloud Deals & save 40-70% off their subscription.

Key features:

  • Real-time drawing and editing: With this feature, you are no longer restricted to the outline view. You can draw, move, scale, and rotate an object in real-time.
  • Enhanced free transform tool: Real-time editing and enhanced free transformation, when put together, make editing easier and more fun. With this feature, the bounding box will now follow the changes.
  • Cut, copy, and paste artboards between documents: Now, copy-paste or drag and drop between two different illustrator documents is possible.
  • In-Panel Editing: This feature enables designers to function more efficiently by allowing them to edit several artboards simultaneously.

Pricing

Annual plan, prepaid

US $239.88/yr ($19.99/mon)

Annual plan, paid monthly

US $251.88/yr ($20.99/mon)

Monthly plan

US $31.49/mon

Pros Cons
➕ A suite of drawing tools ➖ Heavy software
➕ Detailed graph creation is possible ➖ More expensive than other vector graphic design tools out there
➕ Generate graphics based on mathematical equations ➖ Requires dedication to learn all the features, which can be overwhelming
➕ Access to millions of graphics, images, videos, etc. ➖ Feels like Photoshop

 

3. Adobe InDesign

Another Adobe software, InDesign is best suited if you are in the publishing industry. Adobe InDesign is your go-to software if you want to design magazines, books, posters, brochures, etc.

As this software is not as complex to learn as Photoshop or Illustrator, it is a great graphic design software for beginners.

Save up to 40-70% with these Adobe CC Discounts.

Key features:

  • Adjust Layout: If a designer changes the template’s text, then the graphics will adjust accordingly.
  • Adobe InCopy: This feature allows you to work with your team members on the same project by sharing colors, graphics, and text.
  • Sensei Technology: AI-powered Sensei technology helps with the automatic arrangement and resizing of objects.

Pricing:

Annual plan, prepaid

US $239.88/yr ($19.99/mo)

Annual plan, paid monthly

US $251.88/yr ($20.99/mo)

Monthly plan

US $31.49/mon

Pros Cons
➕ Easy to combine graphics and text ➖ Less intuitive user interface
➕ Supports HTML exporting for websites ➖ Best suited for professional industry use only
➕ Capable of resizing multiple objects at the same time ➖ Comparatively expensive to similar software

 

4. CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW

Not just in this list of graphic design software to break up appearances of Adobe’s name, CorelDRAW is a design industry classic – and one which continues to be an influential and in-demand option today.

Covering both bitmap and vector design, CorelDRAW does what Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator do so well separately in one combined package.

Key features:

Content Exchange: It is an online digital library with thousands of high-resolution pictures and digital images. It also includes templates, fonts, professionally created templates, interactive frames, gradients, vector, and bitmap fills.

Customizable UI:  You get a configurable UI environment for the desktop, including icon resizing, options for how your documents open, and the color scheme for the window border.

Pricing:

Annual Subscription
US $249
One-Time Purchase
US $599

Pros Cons
Supports 48 different file types (HTML, TIFF, AutoCAD, JPG, PNG, etc.) Complex, not a beginner-friendly software
Surface Pen works flawlessly with no lag No complimentary mobile applications
You can take advantage of touch functionality, with smooth transition from desktop to tablet mode

 

 

5. Sketch 

The sketch is a vector-based graphic design software only for Mac users. It is basically used for app, web, and interface design. Unlike Photoshop and other image editing tools, it isn’t built for photo editing purposes.

Key features:

  • Low cost: It provides significantly lower prices than other software.
  • Smart Layout: This feature allows objects to resize according to the content automatically.
  • Screen Templates: Sketch offers an artboard library for iOS devices as well as responsive web design layouts. Designers need only choose an artboard and a device.
  • Custom Plugins: It offers hundreds of custom plugins that designers can use for a specific project.

Pricing:

Standard
US $9 per editor, monthly

Pros Cons
➕ Easy collaboration with teammates ➖ Only available for Mac users
➕ Save changes automatically ➖ While accessing the cloud screen doesn’t render in high resolution
➕ Requires a low learning curve and is easy to use
➕ Optimized for screen designs

 

6. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)

GIMP is open-source graphic design software that can run on many platforms like Linux, Windows, and Mac. GIMP includes many features provided by paid tools. Also, it does more than create graphics. You can edit images as well.

Key features

  • Regular Updates: Besides being free, GIMP gets regular updates as it’s an active community of developers.
  • Compatibility: Unlike some paid software, this is compatible with many platforms like Windows, Mac and Linux, BDS, and Solaris.
  • Flexibility: The user interface of the tool is customizable. If you know how to code, you can customize it according to your needs and take it to a higher level.
  • GEGL Scripts: This feature makes GIMP an open image processing platform.

Pricing:

FREE

Pros Cons
➕ Tutorials provided for every feature ➖ Updates are provided at a slower pace
➕ Easy user interface for beginners ➖ Interface is not perfect for Mac users
➕ Lightweight

 

7. Affinity Designer

As a cost-effective alternative for Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer works smoothly and is said to be faster than Illustrator, improving your workflow.

Affinity Designer is also suitable for beginners as it is easy to learn and use.

Key features:

  • Grid Systems: This feature allows designers to set up grids when designing isometric game graphics and icons. Also, it allows for detailed layouts by giving designers complete control over angles, gutters, spacing, and subdivisions.
  • Snapping Option: Designers can lock and place objects based on other objects’ grids, shapes, nodes, and so on.
  • Dual Environment: Work in both pixel art and vector art environments in a single place.
  • Zoom Feature: This software can zoom up to 1,000,000%, allowing designers to work with incredible precision.

Pricing:

Mac

US $60.54

Windows

US $60.54

iPad

US $24.21

Pros Cons
➕ Offers a wide range of colors and brushes ➖ No vector eraser
➕ Create smooth curves with rope and window stabilizers. ➖ No perspective grid
➕ Dynamic on-screen guides ensure accurate object layout ➖ Missing tools available in Illustrator

 

8. Gravit Designer

Gravit Designer is another free vector-based graphic design tool. This software can be used for logo creation, photo editing, animation, etc. The user/designer can also customize this software according to individual needs.

Gravit Designer also has a pro version, which is paid and contains more advanced features.

Key features:

  • Portability: Using cross-platform portability, users can port their work from one operating system to another. This will enable them to work on any machine or environment.
  • Pages: This feature is a perfect blend of pages and artboards to accompany the canvas settings.
  • Gravit Designer Dashboard: The dashboard makes it easy to navigate and switch between tabs and to easily set the width and height of a document.

Pricing:

Gravit Designer
Free

Gravit Designer PRO

US $49.00/Year

Pros Cons
➕ Customizable, easy, and engaging user interface ➖ No real-time collaboration
➕ Support multiple file formats ➖ Not available for offline use
➕ Allows editing of scalable vector graphics ➖ Can’t run prototypes on smartphones

 

9. Canva

Canva is a fantastic graphic design software choice for beginners and professionals looking to create complex art projects in minutes. From designing creative ad copy to graphic design and visual art, Canva can be easily used for different graphic requirements. The simple navigation and the user-friendly, sleek interface make it even more remarkable.

Key features:

  • Collaboration: Using Canva, you can edit in real-time with your teammates from any device.
  • Snapshot Straightening: This feature allows you to sharpen your project by squaring up the photos.
  • Drag and Drop Speech Bubble: Now, you can add speech bubbles to your images with a simple drag and drop option.

Pricing: 

Free

Pro

US $119.99/year

Enterprise

US $30.00/month per person

Pros Cons
➕ Super easy to use ➖ Cannot create unique objects
➕ Easily change text, fonts, layouts, and colors ➖ Generic templates and photos
➕ Design from existing templates ➖ Hard to use on smaller screens

 

10. Infinite Design

Infinite Design is an easy-to-use graphic crafting mobile application available only on Android. With a convenient pen tool and the designer’s creativity in action, users can freely draw graphics from eye-catching designs to complex arts with ease. The app offers freedom to designers with an infinite canvas to experiment with features and create exceptional beauties.

Key features:

  • Transform tool: Translate, Scale, Rotate, Flip, Distort, and Skew the graphic.
  • Rotate and flip the canvas: Not just the image but the whole canvas can rotate.
  • Automatic shape detection: This software can detect the shape of the object automatically.
  • Grid for reference or snapping: Grid lets users have full control over editing.
  • Vectorize: This feature turns any image into fully editable vector paths.

Pricing:

  • Free
  • In-app purchases for additional features
Pros Cons
➕ Easy to learn and use ➖ Must purchase in-app features
➕ Convenient pen tool
➕ Can draw 3D cityscapes
➕ Import and export SVG graphics

 

11. Inkscape 

Inkscape, an open-source graphic design software, is best known for its ability to smoothly create vectors. With a wide variety of vector editing and designing tools, this application proves handy for graphic designers.

Key features: 

  • Regular Updates: This tool has a robust community of developers who provide regular updates and new features.
  • Manual Improvement: Designers can enhance the software by editing the open-source code.
  • Excellent User Experience: As a free software, the user experience is considered quite impressive. Also, designers familiar with Adobe can efficiently operate this tool.

Pricing:

  • Free
Pros Cons
➕ Includes several well-designed and full-featured tools ➖ The Mac version has bugs
➕ Enhance with downloadable plugins ➖ Processing can be slow
➕ Create complex combinations using a special tool. ➖ Illustrator compatibility isn’t promising

 

Best Graphic Design Software

Here is a list of more top software choices for graphic design.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the best graphic design software for t-shirts?

The 5 best t-shirt design software to use are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, GIMP, Inkscape, and CorelDRAW.

  • Which Adobe graphic design software is the best?

When it comes to image manipulation, Adobe Photoshop can do it all.

  • Which graphic design software is best for logos?

Adobe Illustrator, Canva, Designhill, Tailor Brands, and Hatchful are some popular logo design software tools & logo makers.

  • What’s the best free alternative to Adobe Photoshop?

Photopea, GIMP, FireAlpaca, and Krita are some of the free alternatives to Photoshop.

  • Free graphic design software for beginners?

Vectr, Inkscape, Gravit Designer, Canva, and GIMP are some of the best free graphic design software for beginners.

  • Which graphic design software should I use to make invitations?

Adobe Spark, Canva, Adobe InDesign, and Inkscape are good software to use for making invitations.

Which Graphic Design Software is Best for You?

Coming back to the original question, which graphic design software is perfect for you or your business? Maybe, the question is best thought of as “What are your heart’s and wallet’s thoughts on this?

Well, choosing the best graphic design software comes down to your requirements, usage and skills. Do you prefer something with 360-degree features, or do you prefer fast and speedy designs? Are you looking for a cost-effective solution or ready to go all out for the best (and most expensive) choice? Do you have all the skills needed to operate the software or are you a beginner?

Our job was to narrow down and guide you to the top 11 graphic design tools out there for creatives. So, take a closer look at what exactly you are expecting from the software and compare the features above to decide “the one” made for you.

Have you worked on graphic design software? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

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