The graphic design process requires software tools that can provide solutions to real-time design problems. Ranging from free tools for a beginner designer to paid ones for a pro, you can find all sorts of tools to suit your design niche.
If you are in need of any kind of design, a placeholder will do, but for anything beyond that you will simply have to dig deep to find the exact design software that fits your needs. From simple to complex and free to paid, here are some examples of the best graphic design software in 2019.
Image source: Digital Arts Online
This program is Adobe’s flagship product, perhaps even more so than Photoshop. With hundreds of useful and imaginative options available, Adobe Illustrator allows you to create perfection down to the very last vector of every image. In fact, Adobe Illustrator is considered to be the software that most professional graphic designers use to create high-quality and complex designs.
The main focus of Adobe Illustrator is to create pictures from scratch or edit one of the stock photos from its built-in library. More importantly, Adobe Illustrator receives two major updates a year, offering 100 GB of cloud storage with the subscription.
Adobe Illustrator is a great graphic design tool that doesn’t have a 100% compatibility with other software outside the Adobe software suite, a.k.a the “Creative Cloud”. While Adobe Illustrator is perfectly usable on its own, it truly shines when coupled with the rest of the Adobe graphic design tools. If you’re planning on using other Adobe tools or already are, definitely use Adobe Illustrator to maximize the compatibility synergy.
- Supreme precision
- Professional results
- Synergizes with other Adobe tools
- Subscription based, costing $20.99/month
- Not 100% compatible with non-Adobe products
Image source: FileInfo
The classic and one of the most well-known graphic design software out there, Adobe Photoshop was initially created in 1988 and has been steadily improved since. The software mostly deals with raster images, which are those that are made using a pixel-based program or a digital camera.
Professionals wanting a smooth blend of photorealistic elements would definitely want to pick Adobe Photoshop. The various intricate shadow and color manipulation options enables you to take any number of pictures, perfectly splice them together, and achieve something that looks completely real to the point that today, there’s even a verb created out of this which is “photoshopped”.
The biggest advantage of Photoshop is in its wealth of options and how well they’re documented. Thanks to Photoshop’s popularity, there’s literally hundreds of tutorials and walkthroughs for any given option to help ease a newbie into becoming a graphic design pro. While there is still a learning curve, it’s easier than ever to get into Photoshop and become a pro at using it, which is considered to be a skill in its own right.
- Extremely well supported
- Most compatible graphic design software on the market
- Professional-quality results
- Intricate graphic design options
- Best suited for photorealistic (raster) images
- Subscription based, costing $20.99/month
- Requires some learning
Image source: Chrome Web Store
In 2019, browsers have become better than ever before. They are versatile and have moderate hardware requirements, allowing them to do everything except graphic design; for that, you’ll also need to use something like Pixlr.
Serving as an internet-based collection of graphic design tools, Pixlr allows anyone to jump right in and start creating wonderful graphic design content using only a browser or Pixlr app within seconds. From taking a screenshot to editing and downloading it, Pixlr covers all the basics of capturing photos and editing.
The biggest advantages of Pixlr are the mobility and immediacy it affords. By using only a browser (or app for mobile devices), you can edit, save, and continue editing on the go whenever you’ve got a few minutes of spare time. Professional graphic designers tend to pack it for travel because they can’t work without their special hardware. Hence, Pixlr allows for a very convenient and lightweight work schedule that adapts to you.
Advanced Pixlr editor costs $5/month but also reveals its biggest downside – the dearth of options in the free version of Pixlr.
- Low hardware and software requirements
- Not suitable for detailed, in-depth work
Image source: PC Mag
Some graphic design projects are so complicated that they require an entire team to complete. That’s where Sketch comes in. Focusing on collaborative solutions, Sketch allows an entire team to coordinate and stay up-to-date through innate Sketch tools while still being a highly competent program for graphic design.
In a large organization, it’s hard to keep track of who’s doing what and when. Using Sketch Libraries, the entire company can be on the same page, with designers having a consistent style and managers able to keep track of the progress and make sure everyone is synchronized. Even better, Sketch also works with Dropbox and GitHub.
- Contains collaborative tools
- Free trial
- Only available on Mac
- Not ideal for a single user
Image source: Techworld
This is a free graphic design tool that can be used for vector-based images. Like other free solutions, it is supported by the community, often leaving you to scratch your head if you were to get stuck on it. If you have any questions, you are meant to engage with the community until you find the answer you were looking for.
Inkscape is a welcome addition to the graphic design market, mainly because by using it, we support the idea of free software. It is free both in terms of it costing $0 and it not being constrained by anyone.
Inkscape is an open source, meaning that everything surrounding its functionality is under public scrutiny. You could, in theory, check out the code used to create it and tweak it to your heart’s desire or make your own version of Inkscape and sell it for profit. There is no company lording over how you should use Inkscape – it truly is a free and flexible graphic design tool.
The idea of building a community through joint effort is present in every aspect of Inkscape. In fact, users are even able to contribute to translations and write help articles for the program. Although Inkscape is close to being completely finished, it is still considered to be a program that has quite some bugs and quirks you’ll have to find workarounds for.
- Open source
- Has a community built around it
- Lack of professional support
- Still in beta as of October 2019
Image source: Larry Jordan
More and more static content is being woven together into animations and hosted on video platforms. In cases where you want to rehash and reuse static graphic design leftovers to create an animation, Apple Motion will be a suitable choice.
Animations and animated transitions are the forte of Apple Motion. The program is well-stocked with pre-made effects that make it easy for anyone to ‘drag & drop’ their way to glitzy and shiny animated content made out of scraps.
- User- and beginner-friendly
- In-depth controls for nuanced effects
- Only available on Mac
Image source: PC Mag
Clean, professional, and detailed – those are the main attributes of CorelDRAW. Using the symmetrical drawing function, you can produce mirrored images of anything you draw and edit them however you see fit. From tiny details to massive projects, CorelDRAW does everything a professional graphic designer could ever want a software to do. However, learning how to handle the wealth of options it offers is another challenge for a beginner graphic designer.
CorelDRAW is an extraordinary tool with a price to match it. If you’re designing the most intricate and complex graphic designs out there, CorelDRAW is truly one of the best and most reliable software solutions to use. For everything else, there are cheaper and more accessibles programs out there that will do the job just fine.
- Interface compatible with touch devices
- Scalable graphics engine allows adding tiny details to massive projects
- Produces results of professional quality
- Steep learning curve
Image source: AppKed
Affinity Designer is a graphic design tool capable of producing designs of sublime quality. You can zoom in and out to your desire, allowing you to screen the details or take a look at the larger image. From miniature designs to massive projects, Affinity Designer can handle it all, provided that you have the hardware to match.
Affinity Designer excels at producing otherworldly, creative art that’s inspired by meditation and religious works. If you’re the type of designer that isn’t content with fiddling with stock photos, give Affinity Designer a spin and see what you end up with.
- Realistic shadow editing
- Layered editing
- One million percent zoom
- Hardware requirements
Image source: Canva
If Pixlr is too complicated for you, luckily there’s Canva for you to use. With simple graphic design options, Canva isn’t meant to compete with the likes of Adobe Photoshop. However, it merely provides the bare minimum of utility for any user, even those with very little to no graphic design experience, wanting to start their own business or print out a graphic design without having to call anyone to walk them through it.
Templates automate the design process even further and now graphic design is doable with just the simple use of a mouse.
Canva has a clean, minimalistic interface and options to match. There’s not much depth in Canva but that’s actually perfect for senior users who might get flustered encountering the wealth of editing options in a more professional editor.
- Perfect for layman users
- Requires an internet connection
Image source: All PC World
This is another one of Adobe’s products with the same monthly subscription but a slightly different toolset. It is mainly used for print and publishing design, such as books or any other document that contains multiple pages. The interface is balanced and smartly adjusts to the user’s needs, providing them with contextual information on the go. Plus, the main benefit of Adobe InDesign is that it provides a comprehensive overview of the project, allowing you to troubleshoot problems before you send the file off for printing.
Just like with all other Adobe products, you will be nudged towards buying as many other Creative Cloud programs as possible since they all coordinate seamlessly. For example, it’s possible to get the entire Adobe font library within InDesign and then have specific fonts from it used across the entire project done in other Adobe software solutions.
Complex publishing graphic designs that have an intricate structure or layout will be those that will benefit from Adobe InDesign the most. The more different parts there are in the project, the more work there is to be done when changing anything. Thankfully, InDesign allows you to view the entire project at once to find out what should be changed and where. Changes and adjustments become a breeze when InDesign is involved.
- Integration with other Adobe products
- Huge font selection
- Overview and easy adjustment of the entire project
- Subscription based, costs $20.99/month
- Some features are still barebones
Image source: Magix
Different stages of design might require changes to be made to its parts or the entire project while still maintaining the color and font. Changing individual elements in the projects while keeping its integrity will require a special type of graphic design software, and this is where Xara Designer Pro X comes in.
Xara Designer Pro X comes with over a million stock photos and templates.
This is one of those software products that attempt to be a single solution for all your graphic design needs, and when it comes to desktop publishing, Xara Design Pro X definitely succeeds.
This is quite a capable tool that can equally handle both raster and vector images with ease. However, it can also output documents, images, or even entire HTML websites.
- Extensive templates library
- Available on Steam
- Pricey at $299
- Windows only
Image source: Gravit Designer
In some instances, you simply can’t do without Windows but that’s an operating system that does become oppressive after a while. The ideal graphic design software would thus allow you to skip and hop from one operating system to another as you please, maintaining all your projects in sync. Gravit is one such cross-platform graphic design solution meant for professionals.
Precision vector tools in Gravit Designer make it a child’s play to make creative, dreamy designs out of any shapes and colors imaginable. You can create all the print and digital designs for a product from start to finish, including stationery and app UI.
A neat feature of Gravit Designer is the ability to import an image and turn it into a set of fully editable vectors.
- Trial and free version
- Flexible vector editing options
- Subscription based, $49/year
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.