The Best Graphic Design Software
What Is Graphic Design Software?
Graphic design software is a program that allows you to create a wide range of image or text-based items.
Depending on the company, you might make:
- Social media posts
- Promotional videos
- Magazines, E-zines or E-books
- Digital advertising such as banners
As social media is such a massive part of our lives, businesses and brands now focus their promotional activities on these networks.
The internet and social media have also allowed more people to work from home, start their own businesses, or create side-hustles.
As the internet relies heavily on imagery and videos, the need for tools that can create these memorable posts has increased.
Today, there are hundreds of available graphic design software for your business. However, not all are created equal.
Paid software usually comes with more features, customization, and innovative tools. While the free options usually have a limited or simpler version of the paid tools.
There is also software more suited to different types of imagery, for example, vector and bitmap.
Vector is made up of lines, shapes, and points. They can be edited to the smallest detail and scaled to any size, as often as you need.
A logo is a vector image. It can be used in almost any circumstance and printed in different locations, from the head of a letter page to a billboard on the side of a building.
Vectors are incredibly versatile.
Bitmaps also referred to as raster images, are made with pixels. They are commonly photographs and images. As they are made up of pixels, they risk becoming blurry or unproportionate when resized.
How Can Graphic Design Software Help Your Business?
For those considering investing in graphic design software for your business, there are several advantages:
1. Flexibility – This software enables you to create incredible images and graphics in a matter of minutes without having to shoot the content. This saves much time and allows you to quickly and constantly generate content
2. Cost-Efficient – Even the most expensive software is more cost-efficient than hiring a graphic designer to create your content. You can also save the images/videos you create and edit them as needed, saving time and money
3. Streamlines your branding – A majority of graphic design programs allow you to upload your brand colors and fonts to create cohesive designs every time. Some even have the option to resize an image to fit all social media posts flawlessly
4. Improve engagement – A cohesive message and branding increases awareness and eventually engagement: the more creative and exciting a brand is, the more engagement they receive
5. Diversity – Graphic design software can be used in almost all areas of your business, from marketing , invoicing, rebranding, web design, and content creation
Key Features of Graphic Design Software
Before committing to graphic design software for your business, you should decide what tools and features you need.
The most common features you should look for are:
Creating something from scratch can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you are not a particularly creative person. Having access to a bank of templates gives you a good place to start.
When assessing templates, consider what you will be creating more as different content has different sizes.
If you are more focused on web design, look for a graphic design program specializing in website templates, the same for videos, reading material, and social media posts.
Buying props and taking professional photos can get expensive.
Look for graphic design software that also comes with stock photos and images. For the Adobe apps, there is Adobe Stock, a directory of thousands of images, pictures, photographs, and graphics.
Image banks take the stress out of gathering all the resources for a photoshoot and taking the perfect image.
They also save much time and much money.
For those businesses with multiple employees, collaboration tools make operations more streamlined.
Having all the content saved in one Cloud, accessible by everyone, enables quick and easy sharing and cohesive designs.
Some programs also allow you to add comments or feedback to individual pieces. This encourages all employees to follow a standard and make adjustments.
Most importantly, you want to feel comfortable using the software.
Depending on your skills, you may want a program that:
- Is easy to use
- Has a clean look
- Has easily accessible tools
- Can be customized
Best Graphic Design Software For Your Business 2021
Paid Graphic Design Software
Best for: App design
Pricing: Yearly subscription of $99 or $9 per month with a 30-day free trial. There is no free version.
Sketch is a vector-only software from the Netherlands. It is for Mac users only and promises an easy learning curve and great UX designs.
- Custom plugins for different tasks
- Library of templates for web design and iOS devices
- Phone and email support
- Training videos and documents
- Excellent auto-save function
- The Cloud makes for easy sharing and collaboration
- Can export any layer as a PNG file
- You can mirror designs to see how it would look on a device
- Easy to use
- For Mac devices only
- As it's a new tool, there are many areas for improvement, such as layout flowing options and inability to render in high resolution
Best for: Creating social media graphics
Pricing: Starts at $12.99 per user, per month with a 30-day free trial. There is also a free version.
Due to its wide range of design options and ease of use, Canva is one of the world's most popular graphic design software.
The free version is suitable for bloggers and beginners, while the paid version is ideal for small businesses.
- Web-based with a mobile app
- Drag and drop tool
- Can upload company branding colors and fonts
- 1,000s of templates
- Brand suit allows you to create cohesive social media images
- Very easy to use, with an appealing interface
- Unlimited design options
- All work is autosaved in the Cloud
- Allows for team collaborations
- Cannot use offline
- Advanced graphic designers may find it too basic
- Difficult to use on small screens or mobile phones
Best for: Designers working with B2B companies and brands
Pricing: Undisclosed – You need to sign up and wait to be contacted to use the software
Ceros is one of the best graphic design tools globally and is used by companies such as Red Bull and NBC. It allows you to create interactive digital content without needed to use code.
- Customizable templates, branding and forms
- Collaboration tools
- Multi-channel distribution and campaigns
- Analytics and conversion tracking
- Configurable workflow
- Creative freedom
- Interactive look-books
- Easy to use
- Excellent customer support
- Similar to the Adobe programs
- Crashes often
- Reports of lots of bugs
- Reports that it is expensive
Best for: Ease of use and creating banners
Pricing: Seven-day free trial, then prices start from $17 per month for Create account and $35 for Automate.
There is also a free account and a custom Enterprise account.
Formerly known as Bannersnack, Creatopy is used by SMEs and Fortune 500 companies to fulfill their creative needs.
It is Cloud and web-based with extensive support and learning tools.
- Drag and drop function
- Stock image library
- Font selection
- Collaboration tools
- Easy to use
- Create banners and designs quickly
- Autosave does not always work
- Cannot always customize the way you want to
Best for: Picture editing
Pricing: Photoshop subscription alone is $20.99 per month, but the Adobe Photography plan (Lightroom and Photoshop) is $9.99 per month. The All App plan is $52.99 per month.
Adobe Photoshop is probably the best-known graphic design software. It is the go-to for many photographers and digital designers. The Adobe Suit makes it part of the most comprehensive selection of design software in the world.
- Innovative design tools
- Extensive Creative Cloud
- Customizable interface
- Available for all devices
- Complimentary app
- Lots of assistance and help tools
- 3D design tools
- Edit different animation, photo and video layers
- Interface is difficult for new users
- Number of tools and features can be overwhelming
- Subscriptions can be costly
Best for: Creating stunning PDFs
Pricing: $20.99 for the single app or $52.99 for Adobe Suite
Adobe InDesign is renowned for creating incredible-looking e-books, magazines, and brochures.
- Adjust layout feature
- Sensei Technology that enables automatic resizing and arrangement
- Collaboration tools such as Adobe InCopy
- Eyedropper tool for small details
- The industry-standard program for desktop publishing
- Easier to use than Photoshop
- Can combine graphics and texts
- Can add captions with hyperlinks, footnotes, contents, and indexes
- Supports HTML exporting
- Less intuitive interface compared to Photoshop
- Can be costly if only using casually
Best for: Illustrations and vectors
Pricing: Individual app costs $20.99 per month. The Adobe Suite is available for $52.99.
Illustrator is Adobe's design tool that creates perfect illustrative artwork, website mockups, and logos. It is an industry leader in vector creation tools.
- In-panel editing that allows the designer to edit multiple artboards at the same time
- Access to over 90 million images and graphics through Adobe Stock
- Incredibly customizable
- Compatible with both Windows and Mac
- User-friendly and fully customizable interface
- Uses mathematical equations instead of pixels to generate the best quality image
- One of the most expensive vector-based design tools
- Can be overwhelming for new users
- Takes up a large amount of space on your computer
Free Graphic Design Software
Best for: Photo editing
GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a desktop program very similar to Photoshop. It allows users to fine-tune pictures and design incredible artwork from scratch.
- Highly customizable interface
- Additional plugins for more advanced users
- GEGL Scripts
- Regular updates
- Compatible with multiple operating systems
- Has a layers feature
- Only uses the space it needs
- Interface is not as compatible for Mac
- User community is small
Best for: Beginners or casual designers
Inkscape software is a free tool designed for those interested in vector drawing but does not want to commit to a paid subscription.
- Similar Adobe tools and interface
- Regular updates influenced by community needs
- You can change the open-source code manually
- It is free
- It has excellent features and tools for a free program
- Can create complex combinations
- Errors are common on the Mac version
- Processing can take longer than other graphic design software
- Compatibility issues
Best for: Beginners and small businesses
PostMyWall is a free program that allows you to create posters, social media posts, and videos quickly.
There is also a paid version, costing $8.33.
- Collaboration tools
- Post scheduling
- Automated publishing
- Customizable branding
- Specialized creation tools
- Constant upgrades and enhancements
- Wide choice of templates
- Easy to use
- High-quality downloads
- Schedule and publish not available on the free version
- Free version is not as comprehensive as other free graphic design software
- Customer service is difficult to contact
Best for: Indi magazine makers
Scribus is one of the few free graphic design software that matches its paid alternative. It is perfect for those who want to produce high-quality magazines and newsletters without paying large subscription fees.
- Vector drawing tools
- Works with CMYK and spot colors
- Works like Adobe InDesign
- Ideal for interactive PDFs
- Easily edit layers
- Scales images without losing quality
- Opening some file types can be difficult
- No spell check feature
- Can run slow with multiple pages open
- As it is open-source, some documentation is unorganized and difficult to find
Picking the right software for your business is never easy, especially when it comes to creative tasks.
Social media moves so quickly that any delay in generating content could see you missing out on sales or new customers.
Before committing to a program, take advantage of the free trials to see which one meets all your needs.
If you have employees, have them test the software to all agree on one that works.
Unfortunately, no one program will tick every box.
Start by deciding whether you will use the graphic design software for website design , content creation, or readable material such as brochures and magazines.
This will help narrow down your options.
From there, you can see which matches your budget and suits your other needs.