In the world of graphic design, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting on your design journey, finding the best graphic design software is essential. This comprehensive guide explores a graphic design software list that includes free and premium options. Let’s dive in!
While it takes several minutes to read something and make sense of it, it only takes a second for our mind to perceive a hidden message behind a complicated-looking logo. Welcome to the world of graphic design and the software responsible for creating it!
Graphic Designing Software Categories
Graphic design software is divided into the following groups based on how well it works and who uses it:
- Software for vector graphics
- Software for image editing
- Software for 3D rendering
- Software for data visualization
Let’s take a closer look at these categories and the best graphic design software they have to offer.
Best software for vector graphics
|Widely used industry-standard vector graphics editor; Offers precise control over anchor points and paths; Advanced typography tools.
|Popular vector graphics editor; Supports multiple page layouts; Offers extensive color management features.
|User-friendly vector graphics editor for UI/UX design; Includes an extensive library of design elements; Allows for easy collaboration with team members.
|Free and open-source vector graphics editor; Offers a variety of tools for creating and editing paths and shapes; Supports a range of file formats.
|Professional-grade vector graphics editor; Offers advanced features such as non-destructive editing and support for multiple artboards; Seamless integration with other Affinity software.
“Vector drawings are those that require mathematical and programming statements to create vector images.” The resulting images are made with geometrical shapes defined on a cartesian plane.
As opposed to the previously preferred raster images, the vectors can be zoomed in as much as we like, and it won’t affect the image quality. Vector art has quickly become the norm for making digital portraits and paintings.
1. Adobe Illustrator
The top graphic design software for vectors, Adobe Illustrator, is a giant on its own. If you can master using it, you can create stunning graphic designs and complex vectors in no time.
Adobe releases frequent upgrades that come with a variety of tools and key features. Its Pen Tool is great for making natural strokes and modifying the design without losing quality.
Another benefit of Adobe Illustrator is that it can save and export files in different formats. It supports PDF, SVG, EPS, and many more formats. Since Illustrator is part of the Adobe family, you can easily integrate it with other Adobe software for further improvements.
While Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for vector drawings, it can be a bit expensive, considering you’ll have to subscribe every month for $20.99. It does give 100 GB of cloud storage, but the repeated subscription can be a bit of a hassle every month.
Prior to Adobe Illustrator dethroning it, CorelDraw was the vector graphics champion. Nonetheless, it has some fine tools that are easy to use and quite cheap compared to Illustrator.
With the addition of the usual vector design, CorelDRAW offers tools like PowerTrace that allow users to convert raster images into vector graphics in no time. It also gives the option of LiveSketching, which takes your hand-drawn prompts and uses AI to convert them into vector elements.
The rest of the vector drawing tools are pretty similar to Adobe Illustrator and can be mastered with practice. The best part about CorelDRAW is the options it gives when purchasing packages. It offers three choices:
- CoralDRAW Standard is available for a one-time payment of $299 per year.
- CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2021 at $599 per year.
- CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2022 at a subscription of $22 per month.
Sketch is not fancy software like CorelDRAW or Illustrator, but it is a perfect tool for creating icons and UI design. Its minimalistic features are supposed to give the user a handy experience.
They don’t have to take days to learn the software. Compared to other graphic design software tools, it is easy to learn. Sketch comes with a built-in library of plugins that allows
The only limitation is that Sketch is available for Apple devices only. So, unfortunately, Windows users cannot take advantage of it. But thanks to the plugins and latest updates, developers can now collaborate with each other by inspecting and measuring Sketch elements on any operating system.
Sketch is not free; it requires $9 a month for the standard version and $20 for business features.
Inkscape is another free and open-source software it is excellent for vector graphics. It’s among the best graphic design software free options, and you can use it to create stunning illustrations.
It offers a variety of markers, object cloning, and even alpha blending to make your artwork beautiful. The best thing about Inkscape is the active community it holds. Stuck somewhere?
No worries; just post your query on an Inkscape social media platform, and you’ll get your confusion answered in no time. Inkscape’s only downside is that it does not support CYMK colors. This might cause some hindrance to you while taking prints of your artwork.
5. Affinity Designer
Affinity Designer is the closest thing to the industry standard of Illustrator. Some of its features even surpass the efficiency of the latter.
It allows the users to work on multiple artboards that can have different versions of the same artwork. It even has tools like one million percent-plus zoom and infinite redos that are not available in Illustrator.
You can get Affinity Designer with a one-time payment. That makes it a pretty affordable choice compared to Adobe’s products.
Best software for image editing
|Widely used industry-standard image editing software; Offers extensive photo manipulation tools; Supports a wide range of file formats.
|Free and open-source image editing software; Offers advanced features such as customizable brushes; Support for plugins.
|Corel Paintshop Pro
|Comprehensive image editing software; Offers powerful photo editing tools, including RAW editing; Batch processing capabilities.
|Professional-grade image editing software; Offers advanced features such as HDR merging and focus stacking; Support for 360-degree image editing.
|User-friendly graphic design platform; Offers a variety of design templates; Tools for creating social media graphics, presentations, and more.
1. Adobe Photoshop
Who does not know about the giant that Adobe Photoshop is? From industry professionals to young people, everyone uses Photoshop for one reason or another. It is safe to say that, like its brother, Illustrator, Photoshop also holds a benchmark when it comes to raster image and vector editing tools. This is undoubtedly one of the best graphic design software choices for professionals.
But photo editing tools and manipulation are not all that it can do. Photoshop lets you draw and create images from scratch as well as make composite photos of already created pieces.
Like Illustrator, it also requires a monthly subscription that can be quite expensive compared to other applications.
If you’re looking for a graphic design software free download, GIMP is a powerful open-source option. It’s available for Windows, making it an ideal choice for graphic design software free download for Windows 10.
It allows designers to code and script tasks that need to be repeated throughout the artwork. This way, you won’t have to do the same thing again and again; just run the script, and you’re good to go.
3. Corel PaintShop Pro
This is another great program with a ton of image editing features. PaintShop Pro offers you efficient selection tools that allow you to work on smaller areas with great detail.
It also supports RAW images that allow you to adjust white balance, exposure, and other professional settings without having to convert them into another format.
Corel PaintShop Pro has free trials for its features that can be upgraded into more sophisticated packages. Since it automatically saves the original piece, PaintShop Pro is easier to master compared with Adobe Photoshop.
4. Affinity Photo
Once again, Affinity Photo has the cheaper version of everything you need for image and photo editing. And unlike Photoshop, it only requires a one-time payment. With a wide range of custom brushes and tools, it’s easy to fix and improve photos as you like.
Affinity Photo can support images from other platforms. It also gives a unique experience of creating single images but with an enhanced field of depth.
Canva is easily the easiest software to use for beginners. It is available in the browser and as Android and iOS apps as well. The clutter-free and intuitive interface also allows the users to choose from a variety of templates to edit their images and even create new designs. This online platform is perfect for beginners. It offers a user-friendly interface and a vast library of templates for various design projects. You can use it for free graphic design software online, and it’s suitable for best graphic design software for beginners.
Best software for 3D work
|ndustry-standard 3D animation software; Offers advanced simulation and modeling tools; Support for multiple scripting languages.
|AutoDesk 3Ds Max
|Comprehensive 3D modeling and animation software; Offers extensive support for plugins and third-party renderers; Advanced particle and fluid simulation tools.
|Free and open-source 3D creation software; Offers a wide range of modeling and animation tools; Support for simulations and visual effects.
|Professional-grade 3D modeling and animation software; Offers advanced polygon modeling tools; Seamless integration with other software such as Adobe After Effects.
|User-friendly 3D modeling software; Offers a simple interface; Powerful modeling tools for creating architectural and interior design models.
1. Autodesk Maya
This is where we won’t talk about Adobe products as the industry standard because Autodesk Maya is the reigning king in the realm of 3D art. You can imagine the popularity and productivity of Maya from the fact that big names like Pixar use it to create those characters we all love.
3D modeling is not the only thing Maya does—it can easily do rendering and animations as well. That is why professionals swear by it. Beware, though; Autodesk Maya‘s learning curve is a lot steeper than the rest. It takes quite a lot of time to master it if you don’t have any prior knowledge.
Plus, Maya is expensive: $225 a month and $1785 a year. You better invest wisely or opt to take learning courses before jumping right in.
2. Autodesk 3Ds Max
Have you ever watched a drawing or animation where you can literally see the character’s hair on the arm and even the fur on a cotton shirt? Well, we have to thank Autodesk 3D Max for that.
3Ds Max is much easier to learn and use compared to Maya. It’s also quite cheap, with an affordable subscription and a 30-day free trial.
As a bonus, you can use the software for free if you are a student or associated with an institute. It’s only con is that the software is a Windows desktop application only. That means iOS and Mac users will have to look somewhere else.
Blender is for 3D, just like Canva is for image editing—easy to use and available to all. In many institutes, they teach 3D artwork starting with Blender. This open-source and completely free software may not be as popular as Maya, but it has some amazing tools that keep getting improved.
Using its tools, it lets you model, render, animate, composite, and sculpt your models. What’s more interesting is that if you are familiar with the Python language, you can easily code scripts and automate your task as per your requirements.
4. Cinema 4D
Another great 3D software is Cinema 4D. It comes with almost all the features that Maya has, but it is relatively easy to learn owing to the huge number of tutorials and community support. It uses some products from other platforms so that its features can be used in more ways.
One such plugin is from After Effects by Adobe, which enhances the visual by ten folds. The parent company, Maxon, is always striving to acquire and add new plugins from various platforms so that Cinema 4D can thrive to its fullest.
Cinema 4D is neither free nor cheap. It offers annual packages and bundles starting from €274.29 and going as high as €1351.77. It does offer a 14-day free trial so that you can try the features and decide for yourself.
SketchUp is your go-to software if you are a newbie in the field of 3D. It lets you start by drawing simple lines and shapes and then turn them into amazing 3D models.
Unlike conventional art, 3D modeling and rendering are not easy skills to learn. That is why it is recommended that you start with beginner-level software like SketchUp instead of opting for a complicated one right from the start.
Best software for data visualization
|Interactive visual communication platform; Offers a wide variety of templates and multimedia tools for creating engaging content; Real-time collaboration features.
|Data visualization and infographic creation tool; Offers a drag-and-drop interface and extensive customization options; Real-time data integration.
|Microsoft Power BI
|Business intelligence and data analytics platform; Offers powerful data modeling and visualization tools; Seamless integration with other Microsoft products.
|Comprehensive data visualization and business intelligence software; Offers advanced analytics and data blending capabilities, as well as support for real-time collaboration; Integration with third-party data sources.
|Business intelligence and data analytics software; Offers a flexible and customizable data exploration interface; Powerful data modeling and visualization tools.
It is important to present your data in a way that is pleasing to look at and easy to understand. Graphs, charts, facts, and figures do not have to be in black and white while the rest of your content is vibrant. Here is a list of software that helps you achieve the infographics you desire:
Genially is the best software out there for all your infographic needs. It lets you create beautiful interactive and animated content like buttons, quizzes, presentations, and more.
It also allows the users to pick data from other platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, and other similar storage platforms. This software lets you share your work with your team and also lets them edit the original work.
You can create content using the free templates available, but these will have watermarks on them. To access your work without watermarks, you will have to buy the paid version, which unlocks many more templates.
Infogram is another great tool for presenting your data. This software lets you create maps, charts, and graphs that can be easily interacted with. It allows the users to keep their data organized in a spreadsheet and publish it to any social media site using the embedded plugins.
Infogram has helped people with disabilities because it has alt-text for images and can be used with a keyboard. It also makes sure that the content looks exactly the same on different devices and does not lose quality or formatting.
3. Microsoft Power BI
We can’t expect Microsoft to stay behind and let the other companies win. Microsoft was the first company to make software, and Power BI is what makes data that seems unrelated into meaningful pictures.
You can provide the data from any database or website, or you can upload an organized CSV, XML, or JSON file to let Power Bi do its work.
Tableau is highly data-driven software that motivates you to keep your data organized. Big businesses like Lenovo, Lufthansa, and Verizon use this software. Tableau takes your data and presents it in an intelligent manner.
Most successful businessmen in the world agree that organized data is just as useful in decision-making as other technicalities.
5. Qlik Sense
People of all skill levels can understand the data easily thanks to Qlik Sense‘s use of the business intelligence concept. Many times, people working in a firm hesitate to make decisions because they cannot interpret the data properly.
This is where Qlik Sense uses active intelligence so that everyone can make smart decisions. You can get Qlik Sense for just $30 a month after trying out their free trial. Larger enterprises can get custom quotations as per their requirements.
Categories of Graphic Designing
Graphic designs can be divided into eight basic categories that are based on the purpose and key features used. These types are not entirely distinct from each other; rather, they overlap more often than not. Here’s what these types are all about:
1. Web Design
Every business these days needs a website that can direct its potential customers in the right direction. A creatively made website ensures that the customers know their way around and can easily find information about the product. This can only be achieved with the help of carefully curated elements.
2. UI and Interactive Design
Human-computer interaction has always been the nemesis of each other. We have all gone through those awfully tiny cross buttons on overlapping ads. The advertisers might benefit from it, but that is not a good design for humans. Graphic designers are supposed to come up with designs that are easy to interact with and can convey complex technicalities in simple terms.
3. Motion Graphics and Animation
Ever seen those stop-motion videos made from Lego pieces and dice? Yes, those are motion and graphic design software that require special skills to turn a 2D image into a 3D moving one. What was once a children’s play flipbook has now completed a full circle of evolution. It includes imagery, text in motion, and much more.
4. Advertising and Marketing Design
We all hate the ads we get between our favorite shows and videos and on the pages of our favorite magazines, but do you know the psychological impact of these ads on your brain? Without realizing it, you will purchase the product for which you have seen the most ads.
Sounds interesting? That is what marketing and advertising designers do when they create that funky design for a product. They target the audience in a way that attracts their attention and compels them to take action.
5. Packaging Design
How should a product look to a customer when they decide to purchase it? Should it be packed in a cardboard box or a paper one? What colors and designs should be used for packaging?
These are the questions that motivate graphic designers to come up with unique and interesting packaging designs. Even when the product is not physical, it still needs to be presented in a decent way for the customers.
This is by far the vastest field of graphic design. If you are creative enough, you can create drawings and illustrations using your imagination.
Many people earn money by taking prompts from their clients and drawing according to them. These drawings can be logos, album covers, vector graphics that can be resized, paintings, portraits, and much more.
7. Game Design
If you have played the classic Mario games or the Prince of Persia, you know the distance game technology has covered over decades. What used to be single-frame 2D games have now become highly detailed, ultra-realistic 3D ones.
And who do we have to thank? The genius developers, of course. It’s the developers who create free and paid graphic design software, while the designers make sure someone’s dream game can come to life.
8. Publication and Typographic Design
This design includes creating layouts and templates for text-based things like magazines, newspapers, visual books, etc. The designer focuses on how the reader will interpret each element and where to place it in each color.
The typography part is more focused on the usage of fonts and styles for a specific piece of publication. For example, you cannot use the blood-dripping cursive font to write an ad for Valentine’s Day.
Now that we are done with the basics of graphic design, it is time to move on to the powerful tools that make the magic possible. These programs are designed for different purposes and provide ease and utilities to the designers. Without these tools, the designers might have to start everything from scratch, which takes an exponential amount of time.
Eight Basic Principles of Graphic Designing
If you’re a beginner and are looking to advance your graphic designing career, then you need to keep a few things in mind!
While graphic design does not require a professional degree, not everyone can master this skill to perfection. Granted, a good aesthetic sense is a bonus when it comes to creating designs, but that is not all. Art knows no boundaries, but even the most professional designers keep eight basic principles in mind before publishing a new piece. These principles are:
Balance in design refers to harmony that can be seen and felt throughout. In simple terms, it means that your design should not have elements that do not merge with the central element.
When you look at a balanced design, you’ll notice right away how all the shapes and elements work together without being an eyesore. According to the experts, balance can be of three types:
You design the elements along the x and/or y axes and carefully weigh both sides.
This type deals with the overall color, contrast, and scale of the design. It makes sure that the flow of the design remains uninterrupted and tidy.
Radial designs involve circular elements that start and meet in a perfect manner. For viewers, such designs seem dynamic and moving.
Contrast is needed when you place elements that are opposite each other. It can be two shades of the same color, but if one is too bright and the other too light, they won’t complement each other much. Similarly, thickness, size, and style matter in the same way. Contrast is important for customers so that they can better comprehend the design.
The concept of alignment is the same as that of aligning text: keeping everything in order. In a well-aligned design, the elements do not seem to overlap with each other or are too far from each other. The aspect ratio of each element should make perfect sense when put together.
While creating designs, the clients sometimes request certain elements be more prominent than others. It could be a word, a shape, or simply an outline that emphasizes an element more.
This difference in the weight of elements is known as a “hierarchy” in graphic design. You can add weight to an element by making it bigger, highlighting it, using a more vibrant color, or placing it above the others.
Rhythm is the repetition of certain elements that come together and form a significant design. It can be made by repeating a single shape or by creating a progressive look by adding naturally coherent elements.
9. Color and Space
Graphic designers have the responsibility of choosing the right colors for the right purpose. More often than not, clients relay this information themselves.
Other times, designers need to come up with suitable colors on their own. For example, you cannot use a red and orange color scheme for a hospital website. Instead, use calming colors like blue and green.
Similarly, “space” refers to the gap you leave between the elements. Too much of a gap can give a negative impression, while too little might make the design look congested.
Proximity is similar to the concept of space, but it leaves a stronger impact on the viewer. It follows some of Gestalt’s principles.
When you place related elements closer to each other, they make more sense in a different way than when they are put farther apart.
Elements unite when they are grouped together, and this works very well if the elements are the same or similar.
Read More: Best Content Writing Tools of all Time
Free Graphic Designing Courses for Beginners
We hope that, so far, you have acquired the basics of graphic design and the software that is used. Unlike other fields of art, it is not necessary for an individual to be talented by birth.
Sure, that would be the cherry on top, but that doesn’t mean everyone can learn a new skill. You’re lucky that many institutes and organizations give people who want to learn the chance to learn from experts.
There are paid as well as free courses from around the world that at least give you a head start in your career. Here is a list of the best free online courses that will enable the aesthetic eye in you and give you the push you desperately need:
1. Canva Design School
Our beloved software has a design school of its own that holds thousands of free tutorials. The video tutorials may seem short and insufficient, but they hold true to their word and can teach you quite a lot about your query.
2. Adobe Digital Learning Services
The undisputed king of digital services does have a learning platform, and that too has certifications. It offers free classes on design and management at different times throughout the year. All you have to do is get yourself registered, find the schedule for your classes, and start the learning curve.
3. Udemy Graphic Design Courses
No one can beat Udemy when it comes to online graphic design courses. You search a word, and it gives you thousands of paid and unpaid courses at your disposal. Of course, they have courses for beginners in graphic design.
But keep in mind that Udemy does keep the good stuff locked behind a “paid” tag. Nonetheless, you can grasp the basics of a concept until you are confident enough to invest a few bucks.
4. Alison Graphic Design Courses
Alison is like Udemy in that it lets learners take courses and get diplomas and certifications. The courses are well versed in general and in-depth concepts. You can also find courses for using online graphic design tools, software, and other aspects.
5. MIT OpenCourseWare Graphic Design Course
We don’t need to write much about MIT except that it is an honor to study anything there. Generously enough, MIT offers free courses for about every field, including the best graphic design software.
You can bet that those MIT professors will teach you so beautifully that you’ll end up searching for more and more courses to polish your skills.
6. Creative Live
This is a great opportunity for you to take live courses as they happen around the world. The courses are absolutely free, but you’ll have to take them at their designated times only. Each class is designed for a specific niche where you can learn about your desired aspect in real-time.
The realm of graphic design is both beautiful and scary. While you can create anything your mind thinks of, it takes a lot of practice to master the dedicated software you need. These programs can be a pain, as each requires time and sometimes money.
But without them, you can get into quite a bit of hassle. So, in order for you to become the professional graphic designer that you are, you need to be steadfast and committed to your goals. With enough time and practice, you will be able to create beautiful artwork in no time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Graphic Design Softwares
Q: Which software is mostly used for graphic designing?
A: Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects are among the best software for graphic designing.
Q: What are the four graphics software?
A: Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, CorelDraw, Inkscape, Microsoft Paint, and Paint.Net are the most used and famous Graphic software.
Q: Is Photoshop a graphic design software?
A: Yes, Photoshop is a premier software for digital image editing and graphic design, offering industry-leading tools and one-click transformations.