Designers working on photo editing using a graphic design tool
36% of marketers use online tools or graphic design programs to develop visuals

41% of marketers believe that more than 70% of businesses will heavily rely on visual content in 2021.

This indicates that brands will increasingly invest in professional graphic design services to get quality visuals that support their marketing efforts.

In this article, we outline the best graphic design software, free and premium versions, that designers of various skill levels and skill sets leverage for their design needs.

Agency description goes here
Agency description goes here
Agency description goes here
designrush

What Is Graphic Design Software?

Graphic design software is a tool, or set of tools, that designers leverage to create and edit visual content.

This includes different artwork like:

  • Images
  • Logos
  • Animations
  • Website mockups
  • Page layouts
  • Posters
  • Interactive PDFs
  • Brochures
  • And more

These tools help product designers, package designers, web designers, game developers and other types of artists to create high-quality visual content as well as boost their productivity.

Top Subscription-Based Graphic Design Software

These are the best premium graphic design tools on the market:

best graphic design software: Adobe Photoshop
[Source: Adobe]

#1: Adobe Photoshop [Free Trial Available]

Adobe Photoshop is one of the best graphic design software used by 90% of the world’s creative professionals, according to the computer software company.

The tool is synonymous with photo editing and offers features of various complexity. From basic image cropping to designing logos and making animations, designers of every level can use it to create artwork.

Key features:

  • Auto creations including slideshows, collages and effects
  • Intelligent editing like adding motions, adjusting facial features and adding fun filters and effects
  • Step-by-step guided edits such as moving, scaling and duplicating objects, replacing backgrounds and creating multi-photo texts
  • Sharable photos to social media and other platforms
  • Effortless organization including finding photos faster with auto-tagging

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac

Skill level required:

  • Entry to advanced

Pros:

  • Equipped with 3D design capabilities
  • Integrated stock library
  • Capabilities for performing professional color grading
  • Smooth file transfer between different programs
  • Ease of editing different image formats
  • Cloud storage
  • Customizing images for social media
  • Complimentary mobile application

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Consumes a lot of space
  • Impossibility to create true vector files
  • Incomplete updates or untested beta versions

Cost:

  • $20.99 /month
  • Free trial? Yes, seven days (credit card required)
Get started with Photoshop today.
Try Photoshop
best graphic design software: CorelDraw
[Source: CorelDraw]

#2: CorelDraw Graphics Suite [Free Trial Available]

The CorelDraw Graphics Suite is a full package bundle that offers pro-level features allowing professional designers to create vector illustrations, use various layouts, edit photos and take advantage of typography tools to deliver outstanding design projects.

This best graphic design software is always up-to-date and includes powerful tools, like customization options, that help designers work faster and smarter

Key features:

  • Vector illustration and page layout
  • Image editing and pixel-based design program
  • Font exploration and management tool
  • AI-powered bitmap-to-vector tracing
  • Online vector illustration via a web browser
  • Screen capture tool (only available in Windows version)
  • RAW photo editor
  • Creative web content development
  • Publishing directly on WordPress
  • Cutting-edge typography

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac

Skill level required:

  • Advanced

Pros:

  • Flexible payment
  • Capabilities to export files in up to 48 file types
  • Customizable UI environment
  • Content exchange
  • Smooth transition from desktop to tablet mode
  • Can handle a large amount of data without being slow

Cons:

  • Not easy to use for beginners
  • Documentation is not available with all features
  • Less-than-perfect updates

Cost:

CorelDraw offers two types of purchase options for its graphics suite including:

  • Annual plan: €29.08/month (about $35) or €349.00/year (about $420)
  • One time purchase: €719.00 (about $875), where users have access to the current version they get only
  • Free trial? Yes, 15 days (no credit card required)

With both options, users can get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Get started with CorelDraw today.
Try CorelDraw
Adobe website
[Source: Adobe]

#3: Adobe Illustrator [Free Trial Available]

Adobe Illustrator is another great tool from the company’s Creative Cloud that shares similarities with Adobe Photoshop. However, unlike Photoshop, Illustrator is centered around vector design.

Using this best graphic design software, designers can create different types of artwork, from logos to website mockups and page layouts.

Adobe Illustrator is most suitable for professional designs since it offers a wide range of tools, allowing them to create designs fast.

Key features:

  • Drawing
  • Collaborative editing
  • Snap to pixel capability
  • Color synchronization
  • Import and export of settings
  • Custom design options

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac

Skill level required:

  • Advanced

Pros:

  • Helpful user interface
  • Smart guides
  • Integration with other Adobe products
  • Wide variety of tools
  • Supports precise editing

Cons:

  • Takes a lot of space
  • Steep learning curve

Cost:

Graphic designers and artists can purchase Adobe Illustrator:

  • As a single app for $20.99month, or
  • As part of the Creative Cloud for $52.99/month
  • Free trial? Yes seven days (credit card required)
Get started with Illustrator today.
Try Illustrator
Adobe website
[Source: Adobe]

#4: Adobe InDesign [Free Trial Available]

Adobe InDesign is another must-have best graphic design software from the company’s Creative Cloud that allows users to create stunning artwork for the publishing community as well as collaborate with writers and editors.

The tool is used both in print and digital media, particularly for laying out magazines and newspapers, posters, interactive PDFs, brochures, reports and eBooks, among the other projects.

Key features:

  • PDF accessibility enhancements
  • Alternative text
  • Tag page items
  • Text management in Creative Cloud libraries
  • Object styles
  • Endnotes support
  • Paragraph borders
  • Adjusting layouts
  • Automatic resizing and arrangement of images
  • HTML export

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Low learning curve
  • Huge selection of fonts
  • Capability of resizing multiple objects
  • Intuitive cropping and resizing features
  • Combining graphics and texts to optimize files

Cons:

  • PDF formatting is not perfect
  • Suitable for enterprise use only
  • Not very user friendly for new users

Cost:

Similarly to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, you can purchase InDesign as:

  • As a single app for $20.99month, or
  • As part of the Creative Cloud for $52.99/month
  • Free trial? Yes, seven days (credit card required)
Get started with Adobe InDesign today.
Try Adobe InDesign
best graphic design software: Xara Designer Pro
[Source: Xara]

#5: Xara Designer Pro X [Free Trial Available]

Xara Designer Pro X is a popular graphic design software with powerful features for illustrations, photo editing, web design and desktop publishing.

With simple drag-and drop functionalities, hundreds of template layouts and design elements, designers can create custom work easily and quickly.

Key features:

  • Direct action tools
  • Desktop publishing
  • Web design
  • Graphic and photo design
  • InDesign import
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Custom layouts
  • Creative effects
  • HTML website creation
  • Drawing tools
  • Live effects
  • PSD and PDF support
  • Advanced photo manipulation

Supported platforms:

  • Windows

Skill level required:

  • Professional

Pros:

  • Fast and easy to use
  • Easy drag and drop features
  • Infinite undo/redo
  • Zoom to 25,000%
  • Quality screen display
  • Solid object editing
  • Online editing and collaboration

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Product support isn't great
  • Can be buggy at times

Cost:

  • $299 (yearly subscription)
  • Free trial? Yes, 14 days
Get started with Xara Designer Pro X today.
Try Xara Designer Pro X
best graphic design software: Canva
[Source: Canva]

#6: Canva [Free Trial Available]

Canva is a drag-and-drop online editor that allows even non-experts to create designs easily and quickly, which makes it one of the best graphic design software tools for those with no prior design knowledge.

This Cloud-based platform comes equipped with a vast library of templates that users can leverage to create invitations, book covers, presentations, marketing materials and much more.

Key features:

  • Team collaboration
  • Drag-and-drop gesture
  • Precise cropping
  • Photo effects
  • Transparent images
  • Design grids
  • Stickers
  • Photo frames
  • Cloud storage

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android

Skill level required:

  • Beginner

Pros:

  • No previous experience needed
  • Easy to use
  • Wide selection of high-quality templates
  • Access from any computer and device
  • Project collaboration and sharing

Cons:

  • The free-plan has some limitations
  • Requires fast Internet

Cost:

The software offers two paid versions:

  • Pro ($119.99/year)
  • Enterprise ($30/month per person
  • Free trial? Yes, 30 days (credit card required)

Canva also offers a free graphic design software version that comes with less advanced features.

Get started with Canva today.
Try Canva
best graphic design software: Sketch
[Source: Sketch]

#7: Sketch [Free Trial Available]

Sketch is a vector-based tool available exclusively for the macOS platform. It is most useful for designers working on iPhone, iPad and macOS applications since it is most appropriate for building interactive prototypes for UI/UX purposes.

While this best graphic design software is not developed for photo editing purposes, like Adobe Photoshop, it is great for designing various interface elements.

Key features:

  • Vector editing
  • Boolean operations
  • Pixel-level precision
  • Easy еxports
  • Cloud sharing
  • Prototyping
  • Customizable shortcuts

Supported platforms:

  • Mac

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Low cost
  • Massive library full of templates and responsive web design layouts
  • Ability to design and collaborate in a single workspace
  • Has a lot of plugins made by the community
  • Export layer or groups as PNG files

Cons:

  • Available only for macOS users
  • Not suitable for print designs or illustrations
  • Slow on updates
  • Absence of automatic layout flowing option

Cost:

Sketch offers two pricing plans:

  • For individuals: $99 (one-time payment)
  • For teams: $9 per Contributor seat, monthly or $99 when billed yearly
  • Free trial? Yes 30 days (no credit card required
Get started with Sketch today.
Try Sketch
best graphic design software: Gravit Designer
[Source: Gravit Designer]

#8: Gravit Designer

Gravit Designer is a suitable tool for graphic designers, product designers and web designers, helping them create high-quality vector graphics.

It is an HTM-based software great for designing illustrations, logos, animations and other types of artwork and marketing materials but also for editing photos.

Key features:

  • Advanced vector editing
  • Object transformations and distribution
  • Image editing
  • Organizing design projects
  • Text and typography
  • Live effects and adjustments
  • Automatically saving Cloud files every 5 minutes
  • Cloud integration
  • Social media posts design

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Easy to use and navigate dashboard
  • Entirely customizable interface
  • Cross-platform portability for Windows, Mac, Linux and Chrome OS
  • Friendly keyboard shortcuts
  • Supports multiple file formats for export and import

Cons:

  • Complex designs make it slow
  • Lack of option for real-time collaboration
  • Prototypes can’t be run on smartphones
  • Many basic features are included in the Pro subscription

Cost:

  • €59.50/year (or about $65) with a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Free trial? Not available
Get started with Gravit Designer today.
Try Gravit Designer
best graphic design software: Affinity Designer
[Source: Affinity Designer]

#9: Affinity Designer [Free Trial Available]

Affinity Designer is a useful graphic design software and a low-budget alternative to Adobe Illustrator which makes it most suitable for professionals who are in the early stages of design careers.

This tool is a combination of vector and raster design tools that graphic artists, web designers and game creators can use to create vector graphics, UX/UI designs and concept art.

Key features:

  • Pan and zoom at 60fps
  • Live gradients, effects and adjustments
  • Real-time blend mode previews
  • All transforms and curve edits previewed live
  • Handles huge documents
  • Snapping option
  • Sophisticated typography

Supported platforms:

  • Mac, iPad, Windows

Skill level required:

  • Entry to advanced

Pros:

  • Simple for beginners to use 
  • Sufficiently powerful for designers on a budget
  • A wide selection of colors
  • Advanced grids, snapping and alignment
  • Dynamic on-screen guides
  • Unlimited artboards

Cons:

  • Lacks natural perspective grid
  • Doesn’t export files in AI
  • No vector eraser in Designer Persona

Cost:

  • $49.99 for Windows and macOS
  • $19.99 for iPad
  • Free trial? Yes, 90 days (no credit card required)
Get started with Affinity Designer today.
Try Affinity Designer

Top Free Graphic Design Software

These are some of the leading free graphic design software tools on the market:

best graphic design software: GIMP
[Source: GIMP]

#1: GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is one of the most popular open-source image editors on the market that is equipped with many sophisticated tools, customization options and plugins.

Suitable for graphic designers, photographers and illustrators, this tool has advanced photo retouching, drawing and cropping capabilities like many expensive and widely known programs.

Key features:

  • Highly customizable interface
  • High-quality image manipulation
  • Original artwork creation
  • Graphical design elements
  • Art for user interface components and mockups
  • Programming algorithms (multi-language support including C, C++ and Python)
  • Color management

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, BDS

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Clean and easy to use user interface
  • Great number of tools for a free program
  • Tutorials for every feature
  • Regular updates
  • Option of working on a modular and single-window interface

Cons:

  • Not as quickly updated as other programs
  • Not as intuitive to use for macOS users
Get started with GIMP today.
Try GIMP
Inkscape website
[Source: Inkscape]

#2: Inkscape

Inkscape is a cross-platform and free graphic design software most suitable for beginners interested in vector drawing.

It is a user-friendly option with flexible drawing tools that graphic designers, illustrators and web designers can use to create easy and quick designs for any purpose.

The tool focuses on the SVG format as its primary file format and has many available filters and a helpful community for beginner designers to grow.

Key features:

  • Object creation (drawing tools, shape tools and a text tool)
  • Object manipulation (transformations, Z-order operations, grouping objects, alignment and distribution commands)
  • Fill and stroke (color selector, a gradient editor, pattern fills, path markers)
  • Text support
  • Rendering
  • File formats

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Linux, Mac

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Regular updates
  • Easy personalization of code
  • Lots of filters
  • Supports multiple gradients
  • Comes equipped with Bezier handles

Cons:

  • Can be slow sometimes if a complicated process involves rendering
  • Compatibility with Illustrator is not impregnable
  • macOS version comes with certain errors
Get started with Inkscape today.
Try Inkscape
Vectr website
Source: Vectr]

#3: Vectr

Vectr is an open source editor and free graphic design software for creating 2D vector graphics mostly used by beginners and amateur artists. It is not the best option for professional graphic designers because it might not include all the advanced features they might need.

This best graphic design software offers users detailed guides and tutorials helping them bring their designs into reality.

Key features:

  • Arrange elements
  • Align elements
  • Gradients
  • Pathfinders
  • Shape tools
  • Fills and strokes
  • Pen tool

Supported platforms:

  • Windows, Linux, Mac, Chrome OS

Skill level required:

  • Entry

Pros:

  • Very friendly for beginners
  • Good selection of tutorial videos

Cons:

  • A bit limited in capabilities
  • No advanced features
  • Lack a good library of shapes and icons
Get started with Vectr today.
Try Vectr

Types Of Graphic Design Tools

While some graphic design tools come equipped with a number of features that designers can use to create different types of artwork, some of them have a single purpose.

So, based on their functionality and purpose, we can divide them into three main categories:

  • Desktop publishing tools: These types of programs allow designers to create visual communications like page layouts, business cards and brochures that they need for digital use or printing.
  • Photo editing tools: Designers take advantage of photo editing tools to alter digital images, illustrations and prints. They come with a wide set of features like cropping unwanted parts, adjusting brightness and contrast, replacing look and more.
  • Drawing tools: Also known under the name of drawing software, these tools help designers create art and illustrations. They allow for precise dimensioning and positioning and users can easily transfer them to other systems.
Get free proposals from top graphic design agencies!
SUBMIT YOUR PROJECT

How To Choose The Best Graphic Design Software

With so many options on the market, selecting the best graphic design software can be a tricky process.

However, there are a few points to consider that can make your choice easier:

Available Features

Based on your needs as a designer and the type of work you do, you should first and foremost look at what features these tools offer so that you can make the right choice.

For instance, if you work for clients in the publishing industry, then Adobe InDesign may be the best fit since it allows collaborating directly with writers and editors but also laying out magazines, newspapers and similar types of artwork.

However, if you need photo editing tools then Adobe Photoshop may suit your needs.

Cost

While some of these tools are free to use, others come with different pricing structures and range from more affordable to expensive ones.

So, it is a best practice to think about how much you are able to allocate or how much you want to spend on a premium tool if the free ones don’t fit your needs.

However, make sure you strike a balance between price and features and don’t overpay any tools just because they are well popular and there are other free or more affordable ones that offer similar solutions.

Usability

What can be more important than creating the actual design, is how you can use it after you finish your projects.

Based on your needs, see how you can export these files, if you can share them online easily and whether you can print them without compromising quality.

Why Should Marketers Invest In Graphic Design Tools?

36% of marketers use online tools or graphic design programs to create visual content. (Venngage)

This is because these tools come equipped with certain benefits including:

  • Learning is easy: Almost all graphic design tools come with a lot of tutorials, guides, learning resources and communities helping beginner designers to grow. These allow them to learn how to use new features and functionalities that can boost their productivity and improve their capabilities.
  • Designs are kept safe: Most of these graphic design software have the option to store designs in the Cloud automatically. This makes them easily available but also safe since they are not only saved in a secure environment but recovering deleted projects is also possible.
  • Production speed: Designing visual content with these programs is quick since they are equipped with a great number of tools, features, functionalities and drag and drop gestures that speed up the design process. What’s more, they also come with many templates, so designers don’t always have to create everything from scratch.
  • Great flexibility and scalability: These tools provide users with great flexibility to develop great visual content without having to capture photos in real life. In addition, designers can also export the file in multiple formats like PDFs, create visuals for social media posts and even distribute them directly to various marketing platforms like WordPress and Facebook.
  • Designing marketing materials that drive business results: Using graphic design software, designers can create professional and consistent visual content for marketing purposes. This can help their clients improve their branding efforts, maintain brand positioning as well as enhance brand engagement.

Best Graphic Design Software Takeaways

Designers take advantage of the best graphic design software to create outstanding visual content for personal and professional purposes.

We distinguish three types of graphic design tools:

  • Desktop publishing tools
  • Photo editing tools
  • Drawing tools

The key benefits of using these are:

  • Learning is easy
  • Designs are kept safe
  • Creating visuals is fast
  • Great flexibility and scalability
  • Designing marketing materials that drive business results

To pick the best graphic design software for your needs, consider the following three points:

  • Available features
  • Cost
  • Use
13 best destinations for graphic design jobs revealed!
FIND THEM HERE