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A lot of factors are often considered before a single option can be regarded as “best”, and this is true of graphic design software. Aside from having the best PC to handle graphics design projects, a graphics designer should also look out for design tools that best presents his creativity.
Graphics design tools come in different levels; professionals are most of the time, expected to choose tools with vector design and editing capabilities, while beginners and enthusiasts are encouraged to explore both vector and pixel-based design tools to find what works for them.
It’s often common for professionals to demand vector design programs with color features of CMYK and HSB in addition to standard RGB to eliminate printing limitations. This is so because, designs crafted with vector won’t diminish in quality when scaled up or down, making it perfect for professionals who work with print designs.
Beginners, on the other hand, are more driven to demand tools with simplicity, which of course still maintaining enough features to handle standard projects. When it comes to design hobbyists or occasional users, having a program that won’t dig holes in pockets is usually a preference, even though they expect such inexpensive software to handle most entry-level design tasks.
While some graphic design software is developed to cater to the needs of all categories of users, some are more effective in satisfying the needs of a specific category of designers. In this article, we’ve compiled the 12 best tools for graphics designers out there proven to handle the demands of the different levels of designers.
CorelDraw Graphics Suite
The most successful program ever released by Corel Corporation is often regarded by professional graphic designers as the GOAT of vector design. This comes with no surprise as it’s rated as the most accurate software for handling graphics design projects. With the latest version now able to handle tasks like web graphics, and vector effects editing, its functionality can only get better for graphics designers.
The CorelDraw Graphics Suite is a package containing other useful editing applications like; Power Trace for a bitmap to vector image conversions, Photo-Paint for simple image editing, After Shot for enhancing RAW and JPEG images, Font Manager, and CorelDraw the crème de la crème.
While CorelDraw has been praised for having everything a graphics designer can ever want in his workspace, lots of eyebrows has been raised as regards the price of the graphics package.
With the yearly subscription priced at $198, and the lifetime for $499, it’s a software package that digs holes it the pockets of graphics designers, and it’s clearly not the first choice for graphics design hobbyists. There’s a plus side for professionals though, the 15-day free trial is good enough to complete gigs that may help you afford it.
In summary, CorelDraw graphics design software is majorly used by seasoned professional designers, and quite rightly so, the software seems to be all-around better in handling sophisticated design projects like maps, blueprints, and schematic diagrams.
- Customizable Interface: Being able to organize your own workspace to fit your unique style is what every artist craves, and CorelDraw gives you that. On top of that, you can become a Corel developer and create macros that prefer to work with.
- Content Farm: CorelDraw grants registered users access to a digital library containing a plethora of graphics editing resources ranging from photographs, images, templates, fonts, frames, gradients, vectors and bitmap fills.
- Web access: Users can continue working while mobile by using the web app. However, the level of functionality isn’t the same as on a PC.
- AI-Powered Enlargement: Images won’t lose their vector qualities when resized. Enlarging images from the size of an ID to a billboard is easier.
- Wide range of functionality
- Fast and precise
- Easy to use
- No full mobile version
Adobe Illustrator CC
One of the solid graphics design software developed under Adobe. This is vector-based graphic design software that does not only serve the demands of professionals but also cater to the needs of beginners in graphics design. A CorelDraw faithful might say it’s just the vector version of Adobe Photoshop, well having a vector-based program that having a mobile version is a big win.
If ever there is a graphics software good enough to compete with CorelDraw, it should be Illustrator. The simplicity generally is known in any software developed by Adobe is clearly seen in illustrator, and its focus on efficiency of the graphics designer whether on beginner or expert level gives it a huge boost when listing the best graphic design tools.
Adobe Illustrator is hosted on the Creative Cloud (CC) Suite, making it impossible for Graphics Designers to make lifetime purchases. This clearly doesn’t isn’t a good highlight for graphics design professionals that prefers buying their software outright. Getting this software license costs $10 monthly for personal use and $33 for organizations. Again, still not a software design favorite for hobbyists.
At the final reckoning, it is the perfect example of a graphics design tool containing all pro features, and then something for beginners to develop with. This should be a top pick for any beginner with the desire of having steady growth in the graphics design world.
- In-Panel Editing: Users can edit multiple artworks simultaneously — there’s the efficiency we talked about.
- Customizable UI: Users can use a drag and drop system to tweak the layout to their preferences. Another example of how efficient a designer can be with this graphic design software.
- File Size Optimization: File sizes of completed projects are optimized making it easier to send or upload to online media.
- Content Farm: Users have access to the Creative Cloud Suite containing over 50 million resources to aid graphics design work.
- The best tool for making illustrations, mock-ups, and cartoon graphics
- Best for beginners in handling complex projects
- Fonts integration
- Hole digger in the pockets of graphics designers
- No lifetime subscription
The competition between vector graphics design software gets intense with the birth of Affinity Designer, the successor of the Draw Plus program by Serif Labs. After the release of the first version five years ago, Affinity Designer at the moment is seen a rising star in professional graphic design that’s able to compete with the big boys. A cheaper vector graphics design software available for Windows, Mac, and iOS is definitely a threat to the illustrator and CorelDraw.
The Affinity Suite is the actual download package containing Affinity Designer, Photo, and Publisher. If that doesn’t impress, the main software itself (Affinity Designer) is integrated with three different workspaces — designer, pixel, and export that can be toggled with a single click. The designer and pixel workspaces is used to switch between vector and pixel forms of images — imagine switching between Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop with a single click!
Affinity Designer appears to be using the line “best alternative to Illustrator CC” as its selling point, though a little bit cliché, it’s quite effective as a lot of professionals are likely to trade loads of features on the Adobe Illustrator they clearly don’t need, while saving a few hundred bucks. Surprisingly the software costs just $50 for a lifetime license! Doing the maths, it costs less than half of what you need to license the Illustrator for a single year.
For a final verdict, it’s safe to say this is the cheapest form of Illustrator you can buy, though might mean treading off some classic features like vector eraser and plugin support. For a graphics design software that pays as much attention to beginners as Illustrator, it’s perhaps a win.
- Dual Workspace: Users can switch between Vector and Pixel forms of images without launching another app.
- Solid Design History: Users never lose their work even when the app is closed, or PC turns off unexpectedly. In addition, the undo button as far as 8000 times on a single project.
- Isometric Grids: Helps users seamlessly work with 2D designs.
- Customizable pen strokes
- Zoom feature gets up to 1000000%
- One-time payment for the license
- Absence of perspective grid. A downside only for designers that regularly use it
- You don’t get object blend
- No vector eraser
Finally a vector graphics design software that is free! Ideal software for beginners that wants to hone their designing skills while using pro tools at zero cost. There’s often a case of professionals and companies avoiding the use of free software, but the case of Inkscape is quite different — there are few people who would reject an open-source software.
Inkscape is a great graphics design software capable of handling vector designs, illustrations, and web designs. It’s a favorite for paint artists because of its flexible drawing tools that make drawing a lot easier, and also a top pick for Linux users. Being open-source, the GPL software can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Developers can also tweak the source code for any Linux variant of their choice.
As regards affordability, and functionality, Inkscape is available to be used for free, and it comes with some pro-level tools perfect for learners and graphics design hobbyists. Professionals already used to using Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw could care less because they might have to trade off some legacy features, and that usually doesn’t bode well with them.
When put side-by-side with other top graphics design software tools (especially paid ones), it’s a great software for beginners, hobbyists, and start-up professionals in the graphics design world. It can handle serious projects to some extent but would need more creative work to accomplish what you can get on Illustrator seamlessly.
- Frequent Updates: As seen with most open source programs, there’s a large community of developers helping out with the project, and the release of new features and customizations is commonplace.
- It’s free to use
- Vector manipulation tool
- Use of plugins
- Mac version sometimes experience lags
- Generally slow even on PCs with powerful GPUs
Most vector-based graphic design software usually are found wanting as regards having an online version, but not Gravit, this tool is a stranger to such flaws. Being available across all platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook) is a huge plus too, the only blemish — the free version comes with some pesky limitations that compels you to get the Gravit Designer Pro; some cliché marketing strategy though.
The HTML-based vector graphics design software which was initially developed by the Gravit team headed by Alexander Adam under the Gravit GmbH has long since been acquired by the Corel Corporation in 2018 — not everyone saw that coming. However, most designers feel it’s a welcome development as there’s no assurance that Gravit’s HTML5 project fail-safe.
The software’s free version is available across platforms (including the browser), and a user who wants to go Pro only needs to part with $100. That’s a pretty decent price for a graphics design tool that lets you work on any device with an internet connection. The Pro version gives users access to print options like CMYK and HSB, better resolution up to300dpi, more export options, offline work mode, rollback versions, etc. On the other hand, a free user being denied these doesn’t make the software completely useless — can still serve well for beginners, and graphics design lovers who get creative occasionally.
For a final verdict, we’d say it’s a good graphics designer that beginners can use to get a fell on how some pro tools work. It’s also excellent for occasional users who design as a hobby. On switching to pro, the one-time payment is also great as well — not being made to suffer recurring charges is always a joy.
- Simple UI: While on the dashboard, some key tasks like resizing of document and theme switching can be done with a single click. A newbie in the graphics design world won’t find this program difficult to navigate at all.
- Style Creation and Manipulation: Users can create their own styles that can alter borders, effects, text, and fills. Styles can be applied to multiple objects, and changes to the style can be set to affect all objects applied.
- Bezigon Tool: A perfect tool for creating smooth curves around edges.
- Lots of fonts and effects to choose from (especially in the pro version)
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Unlimited cloud storage (in pro version only
- A lot of features missing in the free version
- Not ideal for handling team projects
Xara Designer Pro X
This vector-based graphics designer software is dedicated to designers using the Windows PC, by the Xara Group. The all-in-one approach used when developing this tool, gave it the ability to handle multiple designing tasks — something the big boys like Illustrator CC and CorelDraw won’t do. It’s perfect for handling design projects like photo editing, illustration, web graphics design, advanced page layouts DTP and document creation.
At first glance, you’d think it some yahoo graphics design software especially when you consider the name. Well, it’s all wrong, Xara Designer Pro X is the flagship design software held by the Xara Group. Being a Flagship, a plethora of functionality is expected for it to be competitive in the graphics design race, and this strategy has made it indeed competitive. The integration with Xara Cloud, and having the web-based options is just one of many values designers can get from the program.
When it comes to pricing, it’s somewhat of a problem for an occasional user — pricing is always steep. While that’s the case, for an app that you can use to create a responsive web page without knowing anything about web design, we’d all say it’s a good buy. Xara Designer Pro X costs $299 for a yearly subscription. Though expensive to designers using Inkscape or Gavit, if you ever need a package to design whatever, you should be bold to cough out this bill.
In summary, it’s a pretty decent design tool for professional graphic designers, and beginners ready to move to the next level of graphics design. There have been little abject reviews by professional graphics designers concerning the software’s functionality. Being only available for Windows devices isn’t seen as a huge step backward, there’s a web version Mac PCs can always use on the go.
- Intuitive Drag and Drop: This basically facilitates the design process. There are numerous tools users can implement with a simple drag and drop move. This is especially useful for beginners in creating responsive web interfaces without any experience with web design or code.
- Cloud Services: While this might mean additional costs, a subscribed user can save projects to the cloud, then share/download whenever they want. This feature is also key for professionals involved in collaborative work — while connected to the cloud, users can share live designs with other project partners.
- All-in-one integrated graphics design package
- Easy to learn and use
- No executable file for Mac OS and Linux
- License plan could’ve be made an outright buy
Well, this is graphics design software that has chosen to restrict itself to the Mac OS, rather than being a jack-of-all-trades. This trend seems to also be seen in its functionality strengths as it’s centered on creating website designs, icons, and user interfaces. If you’re looking to generate quick mock-ups or prototypes, this is an ideal app to consider.
The software developed exclusively for Mac OS can handle other pixel design projects, but it has to be said — it’s more suitable in creating on-screen projects. It’s a program that supports plugin installations, if you are ever worried about accuracy you could switch to vector mode with a plugin, design whatever UI you want.
The pricing is quite steep for software with limited functionality. Sketch software license costs $99 per year for a single PC. Although licensing multiple PCs gets cheaper, but overall it’s still steep for a software-only good for creating UI/UX prototypes
At the final reckoning, it’s basically a design tool for creating interface designs, and prototypes. Being expensive is somewhat understandable — not all software will target the needs of UI designers the way it has done. The only blemish — it’s an overkill for non-professionals and hobbyists.
- Plugin Supported: Users can find cool plugins to aid their workflow
- Smart Interface: Items dragged to the artboard template are automatically resized to align with other objects on the art board.
- Ideal for handling team projects
- Autosave of existing moves
- Quite expensive
- Limited functionality especially for illustration projects
InDesign is an elegant pixel-based graphics design tool developed by Adobe, primarily used by professionals to handle design projects like; edit printing, magazine-websites, books, posters, etc. It’s often regarded by its users as “the ideal graphics design software” for all print-media tasks.
All praises given to this program is expected — the majority of design tools released by the adobe hardly become a flop. Although InDesign is not as intuitive as other programs under Adobe, meaning you still have to use series of clicks to complete tasks that can actually be done with a single click, users can take comfort in the fact that it extensively covers all features to handle print design projects.
Subscription for InDesign is available on the Adobe Creative Cloud in two modes; as stand-alone software for $20.99 monthly, and as part of Adobe’s complete design Suite for $52.99 monthly. Again, there is no option for a perpetual license which is a turn-off for occasional users.
InDesign is targeted at professional designers who frequently design page layouts, or any print-media task, and also addresses the needs of designers in training. Although expensive, it’s software that’s worth every penny.
- Adobe InCopy: This is feature facilitates collaboration by allowing users share designs with other members
- Automatic Resizing: images and objects placed in the workspace are automatically resized to fit the layout.
- HTML Exporting: Web developers can export the HTML codes of completed website designs to implement directly in website builders like WordPress. Exported codes are clean, and eliminates the use of unrequired div tags.
- High-end features perfect for professional projects
- Easy to learn and use
- It requires relatively more clicks to execute some simple tasks.
- It is very expensive when compared with other alternatives that can do the same thing.
Adobe Photoshop CC
Often regarded as the standard of rating image designing tools, Photoshop is yet another highly rated software developed by Adobe. The dominance enjoyed by this ‘photo editing beast’ is no fluke, it comes as a result of pure consistency in improvement for over three decades — common among programs developed by Adobe.
Adobe’s Photoshop evidently stands alone in the ranking of photo editing tools as per functionality, and features. Although it’s a graphics design software without support for handling tasks like vector or raster image editing (there’s Adobe Illustrator for that), it’s still an all-around favorite for designers who handle tasks like logo, poster, and banner creation, website design, and general image editing.
Just like Illustrator and InDesign, Photoshop is also hosted on the Creative Cloud which means there’s no option for perpetual purchase even if you wanted to. This issue of recurring subscription often casts a shadow over the excellent programs available on Adobe’s Creative Cloud. As a result, it’s not always the ‘best pick’ for hobbyists and occasional users. Photoshop costs $33.99 for monthly license — a handful of designers believes the high price tag is as a result of the tools and features integrated within, with thoughts of it getting lower if redundant features were scraped permanently. We don’t know if Adobe will take this into consideration for future updates.
All things being considered, this is a perfect editing tool for professionals who pride themselves in rendering high-end services with high-end tools. It can be an indispensable tool for beginners who are able to afford it, but a waste of money for hobbyist because it’s clearly an overkill for them.
- Content Farm: Being powered CC, users gets synced with a library containing millions of resources to help with editing work. Other editing functionalities like content-aware crop, and face-aware liquefy are made accessible on the Creative Cloud.
- Customizable UI: As the recent trends of Programs developed by Adobe, the UI is customizable. There are different layout to help increase a user’s efficiency in the workspace.
- Open-Source GIMP Software: What if you want to use it so bad, but not ready to pay for it? You can opt for the free open source version
- Assortment of features and tools
- Support for mobile devices
- Integrated with 3D design functionality
- No lifetime subscription
- A lot of redundant features
It’s expected as the list gets bigger, there will be inclusion of programs with reduced capabilities —PhotoScape is a clear case in point. The graphics design software developed by MOOII Tech a Korean-based company, tags it as an all-in-one graphics editing program. Although, judging from its functionalities, they didn’t exaggerate, but it’s a software that leaves professional vector-based graphics designers in the dark. In plain English — it’s an excellent photo editor.
Being a free image editor most professionals are bound to have their reservations and regards trust and functionality. While that’s the case, its user interface which is designed to protect the interests of a beginner can prove it to be in good stead.
In summary, PhotoScape is a great design tool used for editing images — it can be all a picture artist needs, or the perfect take-off point for beginners learning photo editing. It has to be said, it shouldn’t be considered as a final solution to Photoshop, even if it’s able to execute most operations on Photoshop.
- User Interface: It has a simple appearance, which teaches beginners the meaning and use of each item when the mouse hovers over it.
- Editing Capabilities: Being primarily an editing tool, it has an elaborate editing toolkit containing image, page, batch, and GIF editing. Tools are also labelled and self-explanatory which is a further bonus for beginners.
- Extensive editing abilities
- It’s free
- No web or Linux version
- Some editing features on Photoshop are not present
A 3D graphics design program currently owned by Trimble Inc. though appears 10th, some designers would rank it lower considering the fact that the development even if a team handling the SketchUp project has been all but stable — the program has had three owners over the last two decades. However, even if software changed ownership a few times, it doesn’t necessarily affect its performance on executing graphics design projects.
Although SketchUP isn’t exactly mingling with the big boys of graphics design right now, it doesn’t affect its pride as one of the best CAD software you can find out there.
The interface too though may look anything but classic, but its functionality is somewhat at par to the big names like CorelDraw. A feature yet to have a flaw is the navigation, as a user can get around the workspace seamlessly while implementing the customizable palette feature. Majority of the tools and features present in SketchUp is targeted at 3D design projects, but quite a number of these tools also satisfy the demands of 2D projects, hence, making it a powerful CAD solution.
The SketchUp design tool is available in three modules; SketchUp free which is the go-to software for 3D/2D designs, SketchUp for school which is the core browser-based module, and SketchUp Pro which is the paid version that comes several add-on functionality. This is modular arrangement is ensures that the SketchUp program takes care of the designing needs of different level designers. The pro version costs $625 for a lifetime license.
In summary, SketchUp is a decent design software that has its strengths centred on handling 3D design projects. It is a great tool for all level of designers, and the simple workspace addresses the issue of redundant tabs and buttons that can overwhelm a beginner.
- Customisable Workspace: Users can tweak the pallets in the workspace to suit their preferences and facilitate effective work flow.
- Effects and Animations: aside being a great CAD solution software, SketchUp comes with a number of effects and animations to add creativity to any design project.
- Beginner friendly interface
- Multi-platform supported
- Lacks house wizard, and wall tool
- Limited level of functionality
Vectr which was launched in 2017, is a relatively new vector graphics design software. Despite being a new graphics design software, the developers (Vectr Labs) has really impressed with their innovation — not often you see a software this new support multiple platforms and a web version. Vectr currently have one of the fastest community of users, and this has indeed given it a spot in the list.
The vector-based graphics editing tool is one of the best apps to use for beginners, most of it due to a very simple user interface. Professionals are also not left out as vectr is a program designed to satisfy the demands of any pro-designer. It also has the collaborative feature making it an ideal software for collaborative vector design projects.
Vectr is free on all platforms, making it a software to be embraced by graphics design enthusiasts. Surprisingly, being free shouldn’t indicate any significant trade-offs with regards to functionality — this program packs a punch.
There surely comes a time where free programs would be given much respect as the premium. Vectr is surely headed towards that path.
- Grouping of layers: Designers can work with design layers in groups such that a single move is effected on all layers
- In-app tutorials: Beginners have the choice of using in-app tutorials to aid learning.
- Support for collaborative work
- Very fast in executing design tasks
- Doesn’t have an extensive library of design resources yet
While there are a host of other graphic design programs that are can perform standard design tasks, we’ve selected the best 12 graphics design software while considering the basic needs for professionals, beginners, and graphics design hobbyists.