Creating stunning design projects takes talent, but you also need the right tools. Here are 10 software suggestions for your consideration.
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Eye-catching graphics are more important than ever before in today’s digital world. And with the rise in visual content comes the demand for highly skilled graphic designers. But all graphics experts need the right tools to create gripping content.
Graphics come in all forms and sizes, including drawings, clipart, typography, logos, web graphics, headings and backgrounds, and you’ll need great software to create, design and manage your work.
And with such a large variety of free and paid graphic design programs, it can be confusing deciding what to invest in.
To help you select the right software, we’ve listed the most popular programs below.
1. Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is the industry leader for creating clean-cut layouts for desktop and mobile devices. From webpages to magazines and brochures, this easy-to-use tool is on the top of the list.
It’s easy to navigate around the program, add layers, resize images, design your own swatches and add a number of special effects resulting in a precise and detailed product.
With Adobe creative sync, you can also share your work between your desktop and mobile apps to make sure that you always have the latest version accessible on any device.
Price: Starting from $25.97/month
2. Adobe Photoshop
From a beginner to an experienced designer, this tool is one that everyone should have on their PC. It enables users to change images, add shading, remove unwanted objects and insert different aspects as needed.
It offers essential features like channel mixing, perspective correction and a clone stamp tool which can be used by amateur users, while professional graphic designers can take full use of its advanced pattern effects and brush aids.
Price: Starting from $25.97/month
See also: How to Become a Graphic Designer
Crello is a web-based graphic design software that allows you to create appealing visuals for all your business and individual needs. Even with no design skills in the pocket, you’ll craft professional-looking materials for social media, web and print.
Once you sign up, you get access to Crello’s massive, continuously updating media library of customisable templates, premium images, audio and video files, royalty-free stock files, and animations. Their intuitive drag-and-drop editor offers numerous editing features so you can design truly original visuals for your projects.
You can also upload external files, add them to your designs, and download final versions in preferable formats.
4. Adobe Illustrator
Another great program that is home to the Adobe Creative Suite is Adobe Illustrator. This vector graphics solution is ideal for professionals who want to create designs for websites, logos, video games and print.
Illustrator comes with its own plugins which can speed up the overall process. The tool allows you to create artwork with seamless alignment by drawing pixel-perfect shapes and precise lines that automatically align to the nearest pixel shape.
5. Adobe XD
Adobe XD also comes complete with UX kits, making it easy for you to quickly mock up intuitive applications for Apple iOS, Windows and Google platforms. You can also interact with a number of different devices with a real-time view so that all your team members are working on the same project at the same time.
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GIMP, also known as GNU Image Manipulation Program, is another popular image editor tool like Photoshop. The only difference is that it’s free! It comes with a heavy feature tool that’s capable of editing and fine-tuning the most basic or complex images.
The simple and easy-to-use interface is one of the main features that make this piece of software so desirable. It can also support downloadable plugins and be used with no previous training – which is great for beginners!
CorelDRAW is possibly one of the most expensive design tools on the market but arguably one of the most useful. It’s a largely powerful suite that can work with both vectors and bitmaps for a unified design flow.
Additionally, it has one of the most remarkable feature sets and is relatively easy to get to grips with. You can use CorelDRAW to come up with creative images, designs, graphics and websites that are ideal for any device.
See also: Careers for Artistic People
Inkscape is a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator that works for Windows, Mac and Linux. It bodes a relatively easy-to-use interface and useful tools for print, logo and web design. These tools can be used to amend visual aspects such as paths, shapes, clones, text, gradients and transparency effects, among many others.
Inkscape works mainly with SVG but also allows for export to PDF, PNG, EPS and PostScript.
9. Affinity Designer
Affinity Designer is another vector design program that is ideal for any stage of design, from sketching to branding and UI design to typography and web graphics.
The software is one of the fastest, regardless of the size or complexity of the project. It’s highly customisable with a modern interface, later control and the aptitude to undo up to 8,000 steps.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced piece of software to work on either print or web designs, Affinity Designer will cater to all of your needs.
10. Cinema 4D
If your design leans on the animation side, Cinema 4D could be just the application for you. The powerful 3D modelling and motion graphics platform comes with an array of tools that are unique for motion graphics.
The intuitive platform makes the processes of lighting, texturing, rendering and procedural modelling much easier, with tight integration to Adobe After Effects, Illustrator and CAD applications - allowing even newbies to create visually stunning 3D videos thanks to Cinema 4D’s unsolidified workflow.
Price: Starting from $395
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As any designer will know, it’s tricky to sift through the most useful and practical software programs from the vast selection available, but what’s important is to identify applications that have an easy-to-use interface. You’ll realistically use a mixture of the tools listed above to create the most captivating designs.
Just starting out? Get an introduction to graphic design with CalArts’ specialised course! Check it out on Coursera
Join the conversation! Are you a graphic designer? Let us know which tools you’re most familiar with in the comments section below.
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 19 September 2019.