But what is the best graphic design software? There are so many of them—they are like eCommerce platforms. I understand that it is difficult to choose, so I will help you out.
The ones that I have on this list are those that I tested. I’ve worked with professional graphic designers who tested these, and I hope that you can choose one from my list after your read the review.
Here are the best graphic design software programs:
- Adobe Photoshop – Best for professionals who want the best out of a software program.
- GIMP – Best for people looking for a free graphic design software program.
- Inkscape – Best for people who want to draw vector graphics.
- Adobe Illustrator – Best for people who want a professional tool for typography and logos.
- Canva – Best for people who need a software program for social media posts.
- Adobe InDesign – Best for people who are in the publishing industry.
- CorelDRAW – Best for people who want to create artwork like drawings.
- Affinity Designer – Best for people who want an affordable alternative to Adobe products.
Best for professionals who want the best out of a software program.
Pricing: It starts at $27.62 per month. There is no free plan or single purchase.
Unique Feature: Made for people who want to create raster art.
Adobe Photoshop is the best graphic design software, particularly for photo editing. The creator made the program to allow people to create photo art.
However, the software program has already evolved. The company, Adobe, kept on adding new features to it. So, no, it is not just a software program for photo editing but also to create artwork.
Here are some of the things you can do with it:
- Edit photographs
- Compose digital art
- Animate graphic arts
- Create illustrations
- Design products and motion art
While Adobe Photoshop is one of the best tools, it does have a steep learning curve. It is not easy to learn, so it is best used by somebody who really has a knack for digital design.
- Brushes – as an illustrator and designer, you need a lot of types of brushes, which Adobe Photoshop provides. You can also develop custom brushes if you want. Because of this, you can create a lot of effects such as spray paint or even a wash effect.
- Content Fill – the system has AI that knows what you are trying to do. If you want to remove something out of a photo, you can do it with ease and then let the software fill in the spot.
- Professional Tools – the software has leading industry standards when it comes to image editing. You can make major color adjustments and remove a blemish from a person’s face or body—anything is possible!
- Filters – with the tool, you can use many filters instead of making them manually. For example, you can easily choose “ripple”, and your image will show a rippling effect as you would see on the water.
Adobe Photoshop keeps on adding new features time and time again. It is why they now charge per month, not as a packaged product. Pretty much, they have adapted the software-as-a-service business model. It ensures that you get to use the most updated version all the time.
- Unparalleled editing features
- Professional grade system
- It is an all-purpose graphic design tool
Photoshop starts at a monthly plan that costs $27.62 per month. You can test it from the free trial or subscribe to it along with other Adobe products.
Best for people looking for a free graphic design software program.
Pricing: Free 100%.
Unique Feature: It is a cross-platform GNU image manipulation program.
GIMP is one of those free graphic design software tools that offer too much for nothing. You can donate to the GIMP organization if you want, but it is not required.
Here are the things that GIMP can do:
- Photo editing
- Raster art
- Color adjustments and gradients
- Noise reduction
GIMP is an open-source GNU program that can do what many premium software programs can do. As an open-GNU, it works on all operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux.
With GIMP, you can do almost everything that you can do with Photoshop. I agree to what many people say—that this can rival Adobe’s flagship image editing software.
Like Photoshop, it also has an intuitive interface, and it has a low learning curve. GIMP is what you need if you want a free professional-grade alternative to Adobe graphic design software.
- Customizable Interface – artists have a way of working; one good thing about GIMP is that you can create a palette of tools according to how you like it.
- Photo Enhancement – GIMP has filters where it will enhance your photograph without the need for manual work. It even has a channel mixer that will help you make your photos stand out.
- Digital Retouching – you can get rid of unnecessary details from the images. You can use the clone tool or do some touch-ups to enhance your photos.
- Multiple Format – you can save your work in PNG, JPG, and other file formats. It does help if your client needs the final output in a specific file type.
- Has advanced features that will rival paid graphic design software programs
- You can save your work in multiple file formats
- Has support for hardware
- Forever free; no need to upgrade
GIMP is 100% free. All you need to do is download the most recent version.
Best for people who want to draw vector graphics.
Pricing: Inkscape is 100% free software.
Unique Feature: Free, but it has all the features you need to be able to draw. No upgrades are required.
Inkscape is by far the best graphic design software for creating vector images. Vector means that the software program creates lines. When you enlarge these drawings, you do not get pixelated images.
Here are the things you can do with Inkscape:
- Create illustrations, cartoons, and clip art
- Make logos and create your typography
- Make diagrams and flowcharts with ease
- Create, draw, and edit vector graphics
Inkscape is for people who want to create vector graphics for commercial prints. When you do vector editing, you want to make sure that the recipient of the file, or the printing company, can enlarge the size without affecting the quality of the image.
As open-source software, it is not perfect. You will find things in Photoshop or CorelDRAW that are not in Inkscape.
I strongly recommend Inkscape for budding artists and illustrators. However, it is not the best tool for companies that produce professional animation for a global media company.
- Pen Tools – Inkscape has a wide array of tools for drawing. Some examples are shapes, pencils, calligraphy pent, and many others.
- Layers – like other programs, Inkscape allows you to create layers so you can work on one aspect of the drawing without touching the others.
- File Formats – you can save your work as SVG, bitmap, JPG, and even PNG.
- Node Editing – you can add, remove, or edit points in the image that you made. It makes drawing and adjusting points easier than manually recreating the drawing for joints
- Object Creation – you can create high-end objects because of the different features. What it means is you can draw even something 3D, not just 2D.
Inkscape is what you need to get to focus on vector graphics. It is best for people who illustrate with a PC, not a mobile device. It is so packed with features that you may no longer need other vector-focused software programs.
It is also one of the best graphic design tools for people who are averse to a subscription. You do not need to pay any monthly fee here. The thing is that you need to update your software program from time to time.
- Works on several platforms
- 100% free; no need to upgrade or pay to get the full feature
- Has a robust community of supporters and developers
- Lots of tutorials on the web
- Excellent user interface
Inkscape is 100% free, and you can download it on Linux, Windows, and Mac.
Best for people who want a professional tool for typography and logos.
Pricing: Adobe Illustrator only has one price, which is $27.62 per month.
Unique Feature: Compatible with iPad, and it works with the Adobe Creative Cloud platform.
Adobe Illustrator is the best graphic design software for logo and font creators. While it is not as robust as Photoshop, I can say that it is not really a fair comparison as these two programs do different jobs.
If you are an illustrator—you make drawings—then get the Adobe Creative Cloud package which includes a lot of the tools from the Adobe suite.
Adobe Illustrator is one I recommend if you want advanced color mixing options, color palette creation, and many more. With it, you can create layers, make logos, draw cartoons, and also access a cloud library where you can store all your designs.
- Logo Creation – with this software, you can create and even combine different types of shapes. It is an important aspect of creating a logo so you can perfectly represent what your clients need.
- Adobe Creative Cloud – this feature allows you to access a collection of software for creative design. If you subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, you can access video editing, photography, and even web development applications from Adobe.
- CAD Tools – if you are an architect, you can use the software program in conjunction with your architectural software programs.
- Free-hand Drawing – with Illustrator, you can use a variety of drawing tools. Some examples are brushes and pencils.
As you can see, the software program is not just limited to creating shapes. You have the freedom to draw as you please, which is critical if you are developing a type of font.
The Adobe Creative Cloud is one excellent feature, too. With this, you can access the other toolkits of Adobe should the need arise in your line of work.
- Has a helpful user interface
- You can save files in small or huge sizes
- The system works for both web and print types of work
Adobe Illustrator is available on a subscription for $27.62 per month. They offer a free trial.
Best for people who need a software program for social media posts.
Pricing: Canva has three price points, one of which is free. The price varies according to your team size.
Unique Feature: It is software that you can use without the need to download and install a program.
Canva is an online graphic design software program that is an excellent tool for creating banners, posts, and marketing materials. It is not a software program like Photoshop or Adobe Creative Cloud Express.
Here are the things you can do with it:
- Instagram stories
- Office or class presentations
- Business cards
With Canva, you select a template, and then you drag and then drop elements. You can also create videos from templates, which you can use as your YouTube intro.
You cannot use Canva to edit an image extensively. What you can do is edit a photo by merely altering its color scheme. For example, you can make a colored photo and make it black and white or have a yellowish patina to give it an old vibe.
- Ready Templates – there are many templates that you can use according to your needs. For example, there are templates for a YouTube thumbnail, Facebook banner, Pinterest, etc.
- Free Photos – there are thousands of free photos that you can use without worrying about copyright infringement. Some photos are for sale, which you can purchase separately.
- Online Graphic Design Software – there is no need to install the software program. You can access it from any device and edit from there.
- Multiple File Types – you can download your work as PNG, JPG, and even PDF.
- Drag-and-Drop – the way it works is really like PowerPoint, but more sophisticated than that. There is no need to draw manual lines or edit photos. Just drag a picture or an element and click on some options to change them.
What you will love about Canva is that it is a graphic design app ready for desktop publishing. You can download the graphic art as a file or share it directly with your audiences through your social media channels.
- Easy to use; the user interface is intuitive
- Lots of free elements that are copyright-free
- The free account gives you a lot of tools to use
- Free – a free account that you can use forever. It has limitations
- Pro Version – starts at about $50 per month; you get access to millions of free premium stock photos.
- Enterprise – starts at $30 per month per person; you get built-in workflows and also implement SSO to log in.
Best for people who are in the publishing industry.
Pricing: Adobe InDesign cost $27.62 per month.
Unique Feature: It is the best graphic design software for publication purposes.
Unlike Photoshop, Adobe InDesign is not an image editing software. Rather, it is a graphic design tool used for publication. For example, you can use it to design a magazine prior to printing.
Here are the things you can do with it:
- Publish online
- Make stand-alone layouts
- Create digital publications
- Share files with others
Since it is focused on the publication of materials, you can also create marketing materials that you or your clients can use on social media posts. You can design and print flyers, brochures, magazines, and even layout books.
I can say that Adobe InDesign is like Ferrari, while Canva is a Volkswagen. Even if Canva is the best free graphic design software equivalent of InDesign, Canva does not even come close.
- Web Design Publication – you can publish directly to the web after designing your publication. You can also create animations, videos, and even slideshows that you can immediately share.
- Templates – there are many stock templates you can use if you are stuck. There are templates for all types of publication materials you want to make. For example, there are templates for infographics and brochures
- Apple M1 Compatibility – there is support for Apple M1 silicon. The software program will run optimally in devices that run the Apple M1 advanced chip.
- eBook Creator – use the software to design eBook covers and also publish them. The software allows you to create and design the book, its contents, and its pages. The beauty is that it will also save in file formats that eBook readers recognize.
- Ease of Use – there are cool features that help make your job easier. For example, it has AI that proportionally adjusts your layout margins and design. So, what happens is that if you change the size of the document, you do not need to re-align everything.
If you want the best graphic design software for publication, this is the supreme choice. Of course, there are other alternatives like Microsoft Publisher, but then that pales in comparison with Adobe InDesign.
In addition to this, the software program can also rival the best landing page builders. You can create a landing page and also publish it from the system.
- It offers features specific to a publication
- The graphic design tool has advanced features
- Works great for both digital and print publications
- It has a clean user interface
- It is easy to learn
Adobe InDesign costs $27.62 per month, which is similar to what their other products cost. You can buy this in a bundle, and then you will get access to other creative apps that they offer in their suite.
Best for people who want to create artwork like drawings.
Pricing: CorelDRAW is available in an annual plan and a one-time purchase package.
Unique Feature: It has in-app tutorials and hint panels, which makes it the best graphic design software
CorelDRAW is a comprehensive platform for drawing. It is like Inkscape, but beefier. It is not just one tool but a collection of many tools that allow you to draw an image from scratch.
Here are the things you can do with it:
- Birthday cards
- Concept art
- 3D modelling
- Posters and flyers
CorelDRAW also makes it possible for architects to render their designs, albeit not as complicated as what an Auto-CAD program can do.
In the most recent update, you can now integrate CorelDRAW with Microsoft teams, which means that you can use the commenting feature.
In the commenting feature, you or your colleagues can leave comments to tell all people involved in a project to make some changes. It is a helpful collaboration tool.
- Robust Tools – there are many customization options for CorelDRAW, which allow you to design your control panel the way you like it. The tools also include an in-product learning guide.
- Multi-Touch – you can use this best graphic design software on a drawing tablet with a stylus. You do not have to draw on a PC and mouse only.
- Multiple Use – the software can tackle many types of graphic design needs. You can create brochures, calling cards, posters, flyers, etc.
- Photo Editing and Raster – it can work like Photoshop, which means you can use it to edit photos. You can also create raster drawings instead of vectors.
- iPad Compatibility – there is an app that one can use on an iPad tablet. The app works perfectly for drawing on a tablet instead of a desktop computer.
- Works best for vector images
- It has font and photo editing capabilities
- There is an app that allows collaboration
- You can edit the images without destroying the original
- It offers multiple options for professional print
- Annual Plan – costs $36.58 per month
- One-Time Purchase– costs $859
Both plans give you the same pro version of the software program. There is also a free trial for you to test it for seven days.
Best for people who want an affordable alternative to Adobe products.
Pricing: Affinity Designer is available at one price point only.
Unique Feature: It has interchangeable functionality between vectors and pixels (rasters).
Affinity Designer is a popular graphic design software program that is trying to fight Adobe head-on. As an award-winning software, the program is an excellent choice for creating concept art and mock-ups.
Here are the things you can do with it:
- Print projects
- Banners and posters
- UI design
The good thing about Affinity is that you can use it as a vector and a raster design tool. What it means is that it can serve two functions at the same time.
You no longer have to use or buy two separate programs for vectors and rasters. As such, it will save you money.
- Shape-Shifting Vector Tools – there is a wide variety of shapes you can use to start drawing; there are more shapes here than what you can find in Adobe Illustrator.
- Vector and Raster – this is probably the most important feature. You can create a project on either vector or raster. As such, you can manage the quality of your work from the same program.
- Integrations and Sharing – you can integrate the tool with Pixabay where you can get free images to work on. You can also share your documents with other people.
- Typography – there are three ways you can control typography—frame, artistic, and path. With this feature, you can create a new font if you want.
Affinity Designer is what I recommend for people who may also need to use the software on iPad. It s fast, and you will get the support you need. Although it is a full-feature program, you can also get the same things from Inkscape and GIMP.
The one big benefit of Affinity Designer is that you can work on two modes from the same program—pixel or vector. You will save a lot of time from this rather than transferring files from one program to another.
- Lots of tools at an affordable price
- You can swap between raster and vector
- Excellent user interface; intelligent design
- No subscription is required
Depending on where you are, the price may vary. On average, you can get Affinity Designer for $55. The free version will only last a few days. The iPad version is much cheaper, as you can get it for almost half the price of the desktop version.
Why use graphic design software when you can draw? Below are some of the reasons why you should consider one right now.
- Work Management – whether you are a business or an individual, you can manage your files like people do when they manage their product inventory. It saves you the headache of dealing with lost files. As such, you do not have to repeat projects from scratch.
- Saving and Editing – there will always be a mistake in an artwork. If done on a piece of paper, it is highly likely that the error cannot be repaired. With the top graphic design software, graphic designers can undo these errors and easily move forward with a project.
- Repeat Use – if you are in business, you will certainly need graphic arts again and again. If this is the case, get the best graphic design software and hire an artist. You will save on the cost of hiring a designer compared to hiring freelancers.
It is true that a graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Creative Cloud is expensive. However, you may be in a situation where getting a program like this can save you more money in the long run.
The world today operates on visuals. Because of that, you must use graphic design as part of your marketing strategy, not just to make a logo.
A graphic design tool works just like any software program. These tools allow you to create something. The thing is that these software programs lean on drawing tools.
A software program focuses on several specific functions. For example, Microsoft Word is about writing, so it has features like a dictionary, grammar checker, formatting tools, etc.
A paid or free graphic design software works under the same principle. You have tools for creating vector graphics, color palettes, editing tools, etc.
So, the way the best graphic design tools work depends on what the graphic designer needs. Today, these tools are so accessible. There are free graphic design apps that everyone can use.
Some of these tools are so sophisticated that graphic designers can use them for photo editing and producing responsive web design layouts.
Before you choose, review the best graphic design tools that I have here. Then, ask yourself what you plan to do with it. You must also consider your current skills because some tools have a steep learning curve.
Graphic Software FAQs
1. How much does a graphic design software cost?
The cost varies. There are paid graphic design software that will cost you hundreds of dollars, and then there are free ones. The thing with free graphic design software is that it has severe limitations.
You must ask yourself what you intend to do. For example, if you are not a professional, you can start with Inkscape and GIMP.
2. What software do most graphic designers use?
The most used graphic design software is Adobe Photoshop. There is nothing in the world that can exceed its power. For free tools, the most popular is GIMP.
Do not base your decision on what many people use. For example, GIMP is free and popular, but you cannot use t for animation. There are other tools that you can use for that purpose.
3. Which is the best software for graphic design for beginners?
The best graphic software program for beginners is GIMP. It is a free tool, and I can say that it is the best free graphic design software on the market today. You can use it as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop.
4. Is Canva a Graphic Software?
Yes, Canva is a graphic design software, and it is one of the free graphic design software programs out there. However, be warned. It is not a complex system. Canva is only best for marketing purposes. I recommend it for people who only want to create image posts.
5. What software is best for logo design?
The best graphic tool for logo design is Adobe Illustrator. Adobe built this software for a specific purpose—making logos. This software program has been around since 1987, and Adobe has done nothing but keeps on improving the system.
The best graphic design software is Adobe Photoshop. Nothing else comes close. While many people think it is only meant for photos, it can do more than that.
Adobe Photoshop has gone from a photo editing software to one where you can render 3D art. However, it is a tad expensive and has a steep learning curve. Nevertheless, it is worth it.
Now, the best free tool that I can recommend is GIMP. It is 100% free—it is not like Canva or other free software tools that give you limited access to the free version. GIMP is an open-source graphic design software program that you can use as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop.