With rapid changes in the realm of technology and media, all of our lives have been transformed by the changes brought about by them. What was once possible only by manual labour and effort is now easily done by our advanced technology. With graphic design software, people are now able create beautiful design work that earlier would either have not been possible at all or only with a much longer time taken through hand drawing.
For professional graphic designers, what software they use is a big matter of importance since each software has its own unique array of tools and uses and using the wrong software for the wrong job can seriously hamper your effectiveness.
For that reason, we have compiled a list of the best graphic design software of 2019. Whether you’re a beginner graphic designer looking for a software to start your design professional journey on or whether you’re an established graphic designer who is now looking for either an upgrade or just surveying what other options are out there, this list will prove to be incredibly useful for you.
All graphic design software have a special niche that they generally try to cater to. Some software cater to making of animation or 3D rendering for motion graphics to be used in film or video games. Some cater to designing web elements or the UI of mobile apps. Or some just simply to make logos or art. Which software suits you best depends on the exact type of work that you’re looking to accomplish with the software.
Best Graphic Design Software in 2020
With that in mind let’s jump into our list of the best graphic design software:
GIMP is an open source (a software that anyone can modify, inspect or enhance by looking at its source code) which is free as well. Lots of hobbyist and beginner graphic designers start out with GIMP preciously for the reason that it is free to use unlike most if not all other reputed graphic design software.
GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program is a raster graphics editor and is available for Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows. It is used for free-form drawing, converting images between different formats, editing and retouching images. Like most raster based graphics editor, GIMP is more photorealistic than vector based editors but GIMP uses vector based (geometric Cartesian coordinates) for general layout and for elements such as texts boxes. This provides GIMP with a ton of versatility and flexibility in its tool set.
GIMP is abundant with various features that lets one fine tune any image or simple create one from scratch using just a base image. Colour adjustment, customizable brushes, image enhancement, and noise reductions are just few of the features that one can get with GIMP.
For more advanced users, functions such as layer masks, advanced filters, Bezier curves and even an animation package plugin provide more tools for them to work with. GIMP also offers a ton of user made assets and plugins due to its open source nature.
GIMP starts out with around 150 standard effects and filters; though more can be added through scripts and plug-ins. Even though GIMP is a free software, it is powerful even to be often considered a replacement for Adobe Photoshop.
Where GIMP does falter is its less than stellar documentation and its reputation for having a slight learning curve, mostly because of its less than adequate documentation and manuals. It is slightly difficult to figure out many of the more advanced options for a beginner but GIMP is a fantastic alternative for those who are on a budget or don’t need the full capabilities of something like Adobe’s Photoshop.
- Free and open sourced
- Easy to script and automate
- Tons of user made assets, plug-ins and other material
- Good versatility and powerful tool
- Steep learning curve for beginners
- Not as powerful as a fully kitted out graphics editor
- Advanced options are slightly harder to operate
Canva is a browser based graphics design tool. It’s easy to use drag and drop format on the website makes it easily accessible to many professionals and amateurs. It is mostly used for print media and graphics design.
It was founded back in 2012 in Sydney, Australia by Melanie Perkins. Through its easy to use drag and drop editor and robust functionality it quickly grew to having over 750,000 users in its first year itself. Last year in 2018, Canva started to partner with Dropbox to easily integrate the graphics and images available on the website to the platform.
Due to its intuitive design, both professionals and beginners are easily able to design materials such as brochures, invitation cards, charts, book covers, flyers and even more in terms of print media. For more graphic oriented design such as logos, and web elements, the immense library of pre-made templates ease out your job.
It is great for a group of professionals working remotely from various locations since it is browser based, letting collaboration happen instantly and easily. Canva is free for people who have 10 working members or less. You also get 1GB of cloud storage along with access to a library of 8,000 templates. A paid membership unlocks for bigger groups lets one have unlimited cloud storage options, more advanced editing tools, a bigger library of templates and more features.
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Easy to collaborate with others
- Browser based means you never need to remember carrying your files again
- Free for smaller groups
- Templates to make your work easier
- Not as powerful as some of the other advanced editors
- Browser based platform means you’re dependent on your internet
- 1GB storage space might be a little less for free users
InDesign from Adobe is a publishing and typesetting software, letting you create beautiful documents for both print and digital media. The InDesign software lets one go all the way from creation, to preflighting, to even the publication of media.
InDesign is a desktop based tool which will let you create projects such as magazines, flyers, annual reports, brochures, stationery, and posters, to eBooks, digital magazines and even interactive PDFs. One can even publish content suitable for tablet and mobile devices if using InDesign along with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, which is also a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Available in 24 languages, the most common users of InDesign are usually graphic designers, production artists and self-published authors. InDesign also supports exporting to EPUB and SWF formats for the creation of eBooks and other digital print media. It also supports XML, CSS and other coding markup languages which makes it easy to use for exporting tagged text contents.
InDesign when used with the Creative Cloud, has many tools and features that lets you easily collaborate with other editors and/or writers, cutting down on drafting work significantly. You can share text, colours, graphics or shapes since you get access to the Creative Cloud Library.
- Best page layout and typesetting software
- Can be used for print, digital and web media
- Easy to collaborate with other users through Creative Cloud
- Needs full Creative Cloud access to be completely useful
- Very limited use outside of its niche
Photoshop is a raster graphics editor for macOS and Windows published from Adobe. It is the benchmark for which all image editors are judged by. It is the most commonly used as well, used throughout the globe by amateurs, beginners and professionals alike. The ubiquity of Photoshop is such that it has now become a verb for graphically editing an image, though Adobe has discouraged such use.
Photoshop is targeted for graphic designers, artists and photographers. One can easily compose and edit images in numerous masks and supports alpha compositing, marks and colour models like RGB, CIELAB, duotone, CMYK and more. Photoshop uses the PSD and PSB file format to help it support such features. Just like GIMP, Photoshop even as a raster based graphics editor, can use vector graphic rendering and rendering 3D graphics and video.
Through Photoshop, one can design icons, mobile app UI, banners, websites and posters. It helps new users do this through tools which are easy to pick up and built-in templates. People can also use Photoshop’s tools to aid in enhancement of images along with creation of various art using some image as a base stock.
Through its advanced options one can enhance and create incredible illustrations. Paintings can also be made through the software, leading some beautiful pieces of art. 3D artworks and videos can also be made using the software’s engine.
As far as patterns and effects, Photoshop comes with easily over a hundred different effects, patterns and brush styles. One can easily change the settings of the brush by being able to change various settings like brush smoke smoothing, brush management and etc. With Photoshop one also gets access to Lightroom photos. Some more features that one gets with Photoshop are paint symmetry, luminance masking controls and etc.
- Great versatility and powerful capabilities
- Easy to pick up comparatively due to great manuals and documentation
- Some elementary level vector based graphic processing
- New update system is not very well received.
Adobe Illustrator is our only entry which is a dedicated vector graphics editor. It is the best software for graphic designer. Most of its users are professional graphic designers or artists. Illustrator is a very versatile tools while lets one easily create artistic renditions for website designs, print design, brand logos and video games. Since it is based in the more mathematical and Cartesian vector system, it lets users easily make beautiful sketches, illustrations, designs and topographical sketches.
Illustrator like most Adobe products comes with pre-made design presets and templates letting one use those presets instead completely starting from scratch and saving precious time that way. Through its vector system, it is easy to create crisp, sharp lines which then make it possible to have incredibly clear segments because the program creates paths that align to the grid according to the closest pixel in their proximity. This feature means that all lines that are drawn are clear with minimum to zero risk of overdrawing.
Through its connection with the Creative Cloud, collaboration is easier than before through easy access to share images and projects.
- Easy to scale artwork to any size needed without compromising quality
- Most robust and versatile set of tools on any graphics design software
- The most standard vector graphics editor in the market
- Needs Adobe Creative Cloud to enjoy most other benefits
- Unintuitive UI design in some regards
- Steep learning curve even with manuals and documentation
And with that we come to the end of our selection of the best graphics design software in 2019. While there are many more graphics design software out there we felt that these 5 that we have highlighted have the best quality of tools and accessibility compared to all the other currently out in the market. Your choice of the best graphics design software will be highly dependent on what sort of work you’re looking to do. For illustration and image creation, a vector based software like Illustrator will be your best choice.
While on the other hand, if you want to work on designing page layouts and typesettings then something like InDesign is going to be the best choice for you. So as always keep your own requirements in mind before choosing any one particular software that you choose to stick to. With that, we hope that this guide has been helpful and has provided you with some insight into this topic and hopefully you find a software that will let you do the optimal work that you want to do.