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Best Graphic Design Software 2020 – Voted By 53 Experts

Are you looking for the best graphic design software?

Whether you are a professional designer or just want to have another skill to master, choosing the right graphic design software is key. We have reached out to 53 graphic designers and asked them: which graphic design software would you recommend others to use and why?

Without further ado, these are the ones that they recommend you to use.

Top Graphic Design Software 2020

1. Adobe Creative Cloud (39 votes)

Adobe’s Creative Cloud is a collection of 20+ desktop and mobile apps and services for photography, design, video, web, UX and more. Explore your creativity with graphic design software like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.

2. Canva (13 votes)

Canva is a graphic design platform. It allows you to create social media graphics, presentations, posters and other visual content by using an easy drag-and-drop feature and professional layouts.

3. Figma (6 votes)

Figma helps teams create, test, and ship better designs from start to finish. It’s software is fully cloud-based and packed with features to make it easy to share designs with your organization.

4. GIMP (4 votes)

GIMP is a free cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more operating systems. You can further enhance your productivity with GIMP thanks to many customization options and 3rd party plugins.

5. Sketch (3 votes)

Sketch is a design toolkit built to help you create your best work — from your earliest ideas, through to final artwork. The design platform can help you create, prototype, collaborate, and bring your ideas to life.

6. CorelDRAW (2 votes)

CorelDRAW has a graphics suite that can help you design on virtually any device with professional vector illustration, layout, photo editing, and typography tools.

6. Affinity (2 votes)

Affinity offers a full suite including Publisher, Photo, Designer and Workbooks. Affinity Designers is the ultimate graphic design and illustration app to bring your visions to life with.

Hands down, Adobe Creative Cloud is by far the most popular among the designers that we asked. And fair enough, it offers a full suite for graphic designers no matter if you’re a professional one or not. Our experts love their software and mainly Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.

Adobe Photoshop is great to edit, composite and create images. Adobe Illustrator allows you to create beautiful vector art and illustrations. And lastly, Adobe InDesign helps you to design and publish elegant layouts for print and digital.

But even tho Adobe’s solutions are popular, this doesn’t mean you need to stick to it. There are some great alternatives on the market as well! Personally, I love Canva. It’s easy to work with, fully cloud-based and you can get started for free.

If you work in a team, you might want to check out Figma as well. They are all about team collaboration. And again, it’s fully cloud-based.

Either way, most of the graphic designers we asked don’t stick to just one software solution. Each project has different requirements, and based on this you might want to use a different graphic design software.

Read What The Experts Said

Find out what each expert had to say about their favorite software. Select the software from the list below.

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Theo Fels

Creative Director - Feisty Brown

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. This service allows you to use any of Adobe software for a monthly fee. The software is easy to install and is automatically updated so you are never using out of date software. Adobe also has free tutorials for all its applications and free downloads of all adobe fonts.

Also, all adobe products integrate with each other so importing files is easy because you can use the adobe native format (.psd .ai, etc). You don’t have to export into typical formats such as .jpg, png or .mpg.

Adobe Creative Cloud has a ton of stuff, here’s a rundown of the must haves:

InDesign – Print design
Photoshop – imaging and graphic software
Illustrator – vector (resizable graphic) software
After Effects – Motion graphics”

✓ Webflow
It’s also a subscription service. You don’t have to know anything about coding to use Webflow. The genius of Webflow are their tutorials, they are smart, informative, and entertaining. Our studio uses Webflow to make comprehensive prototypes that are fully interactive and responsive. We can show our clients exactly how the website will work and act before we hand it off to our developers. You can also use as a development tool but ONLY if you have the development capabilities in-house.

Shirish Raj Shikhrakar

Lead UX/UI Designer - Parewa Labs Pvt. Ltd.

✓ Figma
I am a UX/UI Designer for Programiz. I have used design tools like Sketch, Illustrator, and Photoshop in the past, and am currently using Figma. And, based on my experience, I would recommend Figma. Here are the reasons why:

This is a browser-based tool so Figma works with any OS (Windows, Linux, macOS, and ChromeOS). Most popular design tools like Sketch are macOS exclusive. However, since Figma is based on cutting-edge technology, not all browsers are supported. Popular browsers like Chrome can run the application flawlessly.
Figma is free for small scale projects(up to 2 designers). Their paid model includes support for large scale projects which require team and library collaboration.

Multiple designers can collaborate at the same time. We can have more than one designer working on the same design piece at the same time. Even clients don’t have to wait for the designs to be ready as they can see the design creation process in real-time.

If artwork and graphics are the only priority I would suggest Illustrator but for creating both application mockups and graphics, Figma is the more versatile tool.

We can preview our designs in our smartphones using Figma’s mobile app: Figma Mirror.

Since everyone can access Figma through the browser it is easier to handover designs to the developers.

Figma can import design source files from other design tools like Sketch. So, this makes switching from other tools to Figma easier.

Plugin support has been added recently. So, we can cross Figma’s limitations by using third-party extensions. However, since Sketch has been around for years, it has more extensive plugin support.

Support for Principle (design tool for creating animations) export. This means we can easily create animations from our Figma workspace.

Michelle Kraft

Graphic and Web Designer - Michelle Kraft Design + Dev

✓ Adobe Creative Suite
If you want software that is going to get the job done right, you need to go with the non-surprising industry standard—Adobe Suite. For the last 15 years, I’ve consistently used Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to create everything I need for both online and print. Recently, Adobe has come out with templates, presets, and tutorials to compete with Canva and allow a user to dive in and get started right away. You can create your own brushes, patterns, and effects to make sure your designs stay unique to you and your brand. There are zero limitations with what you can create in your Adobe designs. I’ve arm-wrestled with trying to create a simple drop shadow in Canva, and I always go back to Adobe software to create what I need to import into Canva.

✓ Affinity
Adobe comes with a frustratingly expensive subscription plan. If that’s something you don’t want the hassle of dealing with, there is another great contender out there called Affinity. Affinity has created a trio of software (Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher) comparable to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher can be purchased for $50 each, which means the entire Affinity set costs less than 4 months subscribing to the Adobe Suite. Something unique that Affinity brings to the table, is the seamless integration of their software. You can be working in Affinity Publisher, but open Affinity Photo within that very software. Adobe does not have anything like that and you must switch back and forth between each application.

Cost aside, one of the biggest reasons Adobe and Affinity are recommended is the ownership of your own files. Using online design software might be handy, but anything you create does not really belong to you. With Adobe and Affinity, you always have the capability of saving your files and handing them off to someone else, even if you decide to remove the software from your computer. That’s huge news if you want to own your logo and have it print without looking pixelated on a t-shirt!

While the internet has taken over our lives, designing for print will always be a part of a graphic designer’s life. There will always be a time and place that you will be asked to design printed pieces. Books continue to get printed and flyers continue to be handed out. If you want to make sure you’re setting up files for print that don’t disappoint the client, you need Adobe or Affinity software which have the capability to create CMYK files with bleed. Even files that go to VistaPrint need to be set up correctly if you want to cry tears of joy (instead of tears of sadness) when your project arrives on your doorstep.

Beth Adan

Director of Marketing - NisonCo PR

✓ Canva
A super user-friendly tool that lets you design anything from a Facebook cover image to a restaurant menu, Canva is something I use nearly every day for both personal and professional projects. It’s free to sign up and provides a simple way to add text or graphics to an image without having to use a bulky program like PhotoShop. You can easily scale graphics and text to create the perfect logo. Although most elements are free, if you want to purchase a paid graphic or image, it’s just $1. Canva recently offered all their images at no charge to Premium members, which is a gamechanger for graphic design in 2020!

Brian Gargone

Founding Co-Owner - Squeeze Marketing

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
At Squeeze Marketing, all of our designers use the Adobe Suite. It is the software we are all most familiar with and it gives us greater design opportunities. We use Illustrator for hand-drawn designs, whereas we use Photoshop or InDesign for laying out projects. Additionally, we most recently started using XD to wireframe our websites to show clients their navigation before taking it into development.

Jiten Thakkar

Digital Marketing Consultant, Coach & Author

Graphic designing is an integral part of personal/corporate branding. It is also the main essence of any social media marketing strategy.

With years of real-life experience of using various software, I would recommend below currently:

✓ Adobe Illustrator
This is by far the best one I have been using from a long time to do a lot of things. You can create icons, logos, business cards, banners almost anything that is centred around vector design.

✓ CorelDRAW
This one is available for Windows OS and Mac as well. You can use it to make awesome logos, banners for the website or any print-related designs.

✓ Canva
For any new graphic designer, or anyone with less experience using software, I suggest to use this online web-based software which aims at making designing life simple. The key differentiator here is most of the designs in CANVA are free to use which makes it a good choice for quick graphic work.

Anastasia Dyachenko

CEO and UI/UX designer - Cadabra Studio

✓ Sip
A tool that helps pick colors, edit them, organize them. and even share with anyone you want as well as link between other tools in your workflow. I prefer Sip to other tools because of its vast functionality and great usability.

✓ Humaaans
A free design library with mix-and-match illustrations of people. There you can change their hairdos, tops and pants and use the illustrations in your works. Very helpful.

✓ Svgsus
Probably the best tool to search for icons and keep them by creating your own libraries.

David Jon Walker

Assistant Professor of Art in Graphic Design - Austin Peay State University

✓ Adobe Photoshop
Adobe’s Photoshop, at this point, has become a verb as the expected solution of static visual graphics. It serves as the go to software for photograph editing and compositing multiple images for complex graphics; think movie posters and advertisement images for web graphics.

✓ Adobe Illustrator
Illustrator is a program for heavy lifting in vector-based artworks. Designers prefer to use Illustrator to create logos, illustrations, display typography, signage and more.

✓ Adobe InDesign
InDesign is the professional standard (replaced Aldus’ Pagemaker) for publication layout for magazines, books, and presentations. Imagery created in photoshop or designs from illustrator can be easily imported for use within a layout. Formatting text and large bodies of text is its strong suit. These three are the leading programs utilized by designers all over the world, from freelancers to advertising agencies.

Teaching graphic design as a professor at a university, it’s imperative that my students gain an adequate level of proficiency using these programs in order to push the boundaries of their creative muscles while readying themselves for the field. Experimentation and the collaborative use of these offerings continue to push the heights of design to new levels.

Nirmal Kumar

Blogger & Graphic Designer - OnlineRockersHub

✓ Adobe Illustrator
I would recommend others to get started with Adobe Illustrator for their graphic designs. I am using the same on my website OnlineRockersHub for various reasons:

Ease of Use: Managing all images in a single illustrator file is so easy and convenient. And you save all your files on your desktop. Changing file formats, resizing vector images are so easy to do.

Illustrations: The latest trend in graphic design is illustrations. To keep up my website design with the competitor’s design standards, I have upgraded myself to use illustrations.

Available Online Resources: Popular Graphic Design sites like Freepik and Flaticon are offering only vectors in .ai format. It is good to go with Adobe Illustrator to make use of these millions of resources.

So try out Adobe Illustrator and enjoy designing!

Craig Barber

Senior Designer & Founder of Logobly - Logobly

✓ Sketch
Sketch is a fantastic, fast and lightweight design tool. Its primary focus is digital graphic design including things like apps and websites. But I find you can use Sketch for any graphic design including brand and logo design as well as print design. It’s a must-have in any graphic designers toolkit and is getting more and more popular by the day. I love how Sketch allows you to export multiple files including SVG, PNG and even PDF files at different sizes and weights.

✓Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator would be my second choice for graphic design. It’s a large complex piece of software that allows you to deep dive into graphic design. It’s great for logo design, icon and illustration design as well as large print-based graphic design. Although it is not meant for digital design, some designers still use it for digital graphic design but I would not recommend it for website and app design.

✓ Adobe Photoshop
Lastly, photoshop. It’s a classic all-rounder that still gets used today for print and digital graphic design. Photoshop started its life as a photo editing software, but then added features to allow it to create anything from websites to print ads. Whilst photoshop has a lot of functionality you can use for graphic design. It is a fairly clunky piece of software that is suited best for photo editing and not as much for graphic design.

Eden Weinberg

Creative Marketing Manager - Bell + Ivy

✓ Adobe Illustrator
As a graphic designer and creative in the digital marketing field, Adobe Illustrator is my preferred software platform for creating designs. I would recommend learning Adobe Illustrator to anyone interested in developing and furthering their graphic design skills on a professional level.

The reason I recommend Adobe Illustrator as the most beneficial baseline software for graphic designers is the ability to create vector graphics. Once you can master creating a vector graphic in Illustrator, your design capabilities are expanded exponentially.

The ability to create and manipulate vector art with Illustrator gives you the freedom to customize designs to bring your creative visions to life in a way other softwares may not allow you to. My opinion is that creating vector designs with Illustrator is the most important foundational skill as a graphic designer.

Some examples of practical applications of this skill using Illustrator are:
– Creating custom professional logo designs,
– Custom social media graphics and templates,
– Email marketing designs and templates,
– Web design assets like banner graphics and custom graphic icons
and much more.

Reese Spykerman

CEO - Design by Reese

✓ Adobe Photoshop
When it comes to design software, I’m old school–still running Adobe Photoshop CS 5 because it does the job well and doesn’t require me to pay a monthly software fee. I recommend Photoshop for anyone serious about graphic design because it’s the industry standard for a reason: whether it’s manipulating photos (erasing blemishes, anyone?) or creating simple graphics for Instagram, Photoshop can do a LOT.

✓ Adobe InDesign
One thing Photoshop isn’t great for is complex layouts, like ebooks, magazine and brrochures. For that I turn to Adobe inDesign, which allows me to easily manipulate and move text. It gives a lot more control over text formatting and layout than Photoshop–attempting to do complex layouts in Photoshop will only net you tears of frustration.

✓ Adobe Illustrator
Finally, if I need to make a Vector graphic (think something like a super clean shape, or a line art drawing of an elephant, or beautiful, hand-lettered graphics) I turn on Illustrator, which makes smooth, beautiful shapes. Sometimes Illustrator works well for quick, 1-page layouts, like a simple brochure.

✓ Keynote
Finally, I’ve been laying out simple PDFs lately in Mac’s Keynote software. Yes, Keynote for PDFs! It’s fast, intuitive, and for anyone who isn’t a serious designer, easier to learn than Photoshop or inDesign.

Holly Mullinax

Art Director - The Symphony Agency

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe Creative Cloud or Creative Suite is the industry standard for design software and has been for the past 20+ years. Most professional design jobs will require you to work with this suite of tools, so it’s important to learn them regardless of the other options that are available. Photoshop is often the first program designers learn to use and is probably the most versatile tool in the Creative Suite tool chest. However, Photoshop is a pixel-based, or raster program and therefore not ideal for professional vector graphics (logos and illustrations), text, or multi-page print layouts. For these projects, using Photoshop in tandem with a vector software like Illustrator, or a desktop or web publishing software like Indesign or XD will create the best final output.

The main programs I use for print and digital design are Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, XD, and (in some cases) Bridge and Lightroom for batch photo editing and file organization.

Photoshop is a pixel-based software used for image creation and manipulation. It utilizes a layered editing system and allows editing/compositing through the use of masks, blends modes, filters, and transparencies. Photoshop is the go-to software for artists, designers, and photographers because of its versatility.

Illustrator is a vector-based software for creating resolution-independent illustrations and graphics. Illustrator is often used as companion software to Photoshop to handle the vector graphics within a Photoshop file. It’s also used as a stand-alone program for creating vector graphics (e.g. logos) and illustrations. The benefit to graphics created in illustrator is that they are scalable without losing resolution. This means they can be resized larger or smaller and not lose visual quality or become “pixelated” or blurry.

InDesign is a desktop publishing software and is best suited for typesetting and creating multi-page layouts or layouts with text, photos, and vector graphics. It can be used to create flyers, brochures, magazines, business cards, postcards, menus, etc. Newer versions of InDesign allow for digital publishing or web/application layouts. InDesign can be difficult for a beginner and is often best learned after developing a strong understanding of basic design principles, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

XD is a prototyping tool used by web designers, UI designers, and UX designers to design apps and websites. XD adopts both the functionalities of other design software while adhering to, and focusing on, web-based design principles.

Nate Heim

Senior Art Director - Company Man Studios

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
As a graphic designer who splits time between the digital and print industries, the “must-know” programs are Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

– Photoshop is great for manipulating photos, compositing photos or sometimes building an image from scratch.
– Illustrator is a must for logo design and illustrations. Since it’s vector-based, files can be enlarged to any size and keep their clarity. Chances are that any logo you see, they were designed in Illustrator
– And if doing a print piece, like a multi page document such as a brochure or tri-fold, folder, etc… InDesign will make your life easier. InDesign is also usually the most preferred file type for printing companies and presses.

John Negoita

Founder - PSDDude

✓ Mockofun
I’ve been a Photoshop user for a long time and it has been working out great for me. Recently I’ve switched to Mockofun with some very satisfying results.

Mockofun is an online graphic design tool that in some points surpasses Photoshop. It’s meant mainly for non designers, but I can tell you that it saves me a lot of time for professional design also. It has very high quality filters, over 800 free fonts and some amazing editable creative text typography that I’ve never seen in another tool.

Most of it is free with some limitations, but the subscription is really affordable. I use it more and more because Photoshop tends to eat up more and more resources with every new release.

Lily Ugbaja

Owner - FindingBalance.Mom

✓ Canva
Canva is the easiest graphic design software I’ve ever worked with. I love that it’s so versatile and quick to use.

Here are some cool features Canva has:
– A photo gallery
– Ability to save and reuse templates
– Ability to automatically resize graphics
– A large collection of beautiful fonts
– Apply photo color to design background (The photo editor itself is pretty good)
– Design grids and frames
– A large collection of icons
And a whole lot more.

Basically, Canva lets people do what pro designers can do with less the skill.

Chris Kaiser

Founder & CEO - Click A Tree

✓ Canva
It’s super easy to learn and free to use, hence it’s a fantastic beginning.

Andreas Johansson

UX Specialist - AndreasJohanssonUX.se

✓ Adobe XD
Adobe XD is my go-to tool for prototyping and creating mockups. I like it because it is 1) a cross-platform tool (works for both Mac and Windows, 2) I can create designs and interactions in the same tool, and 3) Adobe XD has some fantastic features such as the repeat grid (create one base design for e.g. a card, which you then can repeat as many times as you want as a pattern).

✓ Flowmapp
Flowmapp for user flows and site maps. Information design is an underrated part of graphic design work in my opinion. Flowmapp is a very user-friendly tool that helps a lot in this process. It is super easy and quick to create both flowcharts and site maps that are user centered. On top of that, the design deliverables themselves look very impressive and can pretty much be demoed on their own.

✓ Zeplin
Zeplin for handover between design and development. Zeplin is a great tool because you minimize the amount of time spent on misunderstandings between what you created as a designer, compared to how the developer interpreted it. You also spend less time on boring stuff like creating visual design specifications for spacing, margins, fonts used, colors used. All of this get automated thanks to this wonderful tool.

Ray Morrone

Designer - The Agency Orange

As the lines get blurred between Graphic Design, User Interface Design and Front End Delevopement most Creative Directors look for designers with a full toolbox of software knowledge.

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Knowing Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop is mandatory. But having knowledge of After Effects to create Ui/Ux annimations and prototypes is increasingly valuable.

✓ Cinema 4D
Knowing 3D software like Cinema 4D lets you take your projects to an impressive new level.

For example, a typical corporate logo project may start with the logo being created in Illustrator. Then the work will be imported into Cinema 4D and manipulated as a 3D object. From there it will be animated, cleaned up and refined in After Effects..

Kristin McCrossin

Creative Director - Boomtown Internet Group

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
For true graphic designers, the Adobe suite can do everything. The Adobe tools are intuitive (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc) once you know the basics of how to use them. They can do anything you want – from editing images to creating a logo from scratch.

✓ Canva
The other software I use is Canva. Canva is great for people who need a graphic but don’t want to pay a designer or for designers who don’t want to work extra hard to create a simple graphic. They have tons of templates and free stock images to choose from plus, you can easily re-size any design.

Meghan Kotz

Senior Brand Manager - Eat Your Coffee

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
I’d highly recommend the combo of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe XD. Illustrator is constantly updating to stay in line with the latest trends. It’s also so widely used, meaning there is a YouTube tutorial on just about anything, which makes it that much more user-friendly.

Adobe XD is great for teams and creating responsive web design. Although it is mostly used for experience design, it can be used for less-skilled designer or those who need to collaborate with teams (you can share and edit the same design). It has some quicker grab-and-go items that make the design experience less technical and a bit more simplistic. The files also work in the same platforms .xd will open in Illustrator and .ai will open in XD. It’s great for website mockups and plotting out ideas.

The most crucial part about using these in tandem with the whole Adobe Creative Suite is ability to share an asset library between the programs. I have saved assets and brand guides, colors, etc. for certain brands that make it fast to use exact color matches and brand in seconds.

Lydia Hesterman

Creative Director - SQRD Media

We live in the golden age of design software – it wasn’t long ago that the only real option available was Adobe Photoshop, and then Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. While these are still amazing options, there’s a wider range of tools available based on skill set or project type.

✓ Canva
Simplest, cheapest tool for beginners.

Canva.com is a powerful tool for making simple designs like invitations, flyers, posters, or simple booklets. With pre-made layouts, basic icons, some stock photos, and a very simple yet thorough interface, anyone can build out a great design. It’s a web tool so you don’t have to buy or download anything. The perfect place to start for any beginner.

✓ Figma
For designing websites.

If you have any interest in being a UX or UI designer, start by downloading Sketch (Figma or Adobe XD are some relevant competitors). The tool is super easy to learn if you’ve had any experience in the Adobe products and doesn’t take long to learn if you haven’t. Mix in a great prototyping tool like InVision and you’ll have some solid experience for your first UX internship.

✓ Adobe InDesign
For long-format (anything longer than 5 pages).

Adobe InDesign is made for booklets, pamphlets, presentations, or anything with multiple pages. You’ll want to dive into “master pages” for footers and headers, as well as “Paragraph styles.” They are total game changers that will help you design better and faster when you’ve got a lot of pages to juggle. InDesign is severely limited when it comes to designing icons or photo editing, but you can easily make simple posters, flyers, invites, and web assets.

✓ Adobe Illustrator
For icons, logos, web assets, and one-page designs.

Adobe Illustrator is a powerhouse where many designers spend the majority of their time. It’s been around for years so some of the tools aren’t as intuitive as they could be, but some would argue that it’s basically a very (very, very) fancy MS Paint. If you need a logo or some icons, start here. Just watch a couple of YouTube tutorials, brainstorm in your sketchbook, and you’ll be good to go.

✓ Adobe Photoshop
For any photo manipulation or editing.

Adobe Photoshop is still the king here when it comes to major photo editing. Lightroom is great for batch editing. Most anyone who is in design went though a heavy Photoshopping phase in high school, but honestly, these days if you need a basic crop or lighting change or even compressing a file, you can probably find an app or a free website with a bit of googling.

Johnathon Lovett

Creative Lead - Reicura

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
The most essential tools for the vast majority of my design work are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These two applications, much like the rest of the Adobe suite, arm me with the expansive tools necessary to complete a wide variety of projects. They are both applications that continue to enrich the learning of the user. Every time I approach a new project, I can practice a new route to accomplishing my goal. This creates a deeper and richer understanding of the suite and using it effectively, both within the specific application and beyond.

Aside from these desktop applications, using my iPad Pro as a drawing tablet has opened the scope of possibility for implementing my physical artistic skill in more of my design work.

✓ Sketch
Using the Adobe Draw and Sketch applications on iOS and then exporting assets to my main workspace has been an eye-opener and game-changer. Being able to easily implement a hand-drawn quality to my work or easily sketching up drafts for clients on the fly has provided me new and exciting developments; in both my style and overall approach to graphic design work.

Julie Bonner

Creative Director - Julie Originals

✓ Adobe Suite
Adobe Illustrator: For creating vector logos.
Adobe Photoshop: For photo editing and creating layered images.
Adobe InDesign: For multi-page layout like sales sheets, brochures, books.

✓ Myfonts
For finding unique fonts and purchasing them

Nell Chronister

Designer - Hoot Design Company

✓ Adobe Suite
As a designer, I highly recommend the Adobe Creative Suite. I learned the basics of the entire Adobe suite in less than a year while I was in my undergrad. The software is always evolving and updating, and there are countless free tutorials and webinars that allow you to grow as a designer. If you put in the time to learn the software, it becomes intuitive. And once you have a handle on Adobe, the possibilities are ENDLESS!

Elizabeth Moosburner

Lead Designer - Venta Marketing

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
As the design department for a full-service digital marketing agency, our team is responsible for creating the assets used in landing pages, ads, multimedia projects, websites, and branding guides. To handle all of these digital mediums, we rely on the versatile design tools in the Adobe Creative Suite — primarily Illustrator.

Illustrator gives graphic designers the freedom to create, draw, scale, and add dimension to high-resolution vector art. From basic shapes to advanced 3D elements, Illustrator helps our agency create pixel-perfect designs for every marketing campaign.

✓ Canva
If you are just starting out and want to learn about the basics of great design, I recommend using Canva, a semi-free platform that helps you create social media assets, business cards, blog banners, logos, and more. It doesn’t have the same power as Illustrator but Canva’s desktop and mobile versions are a plus along with the thousands of templates, fonts, and stock assets.

Jolene Rheault

Owner - Refreshing Solutions

✓ Adobe Suite
As a professional graphic designer, I tend to stick to the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) because they offer a lot of versatility and tools.

✓ Canva
However, if you are new to graphic design, you can’t go wrong with Canva. I also work as a social media manager and will create my custom templates within Photoshop and then transfer it to Canva so I can easily mix up the images and text on the go. In a quick pinch, my client can go in and edit the template as well.

Greg Corey

Founder/CEO - Porchlight

✓ Adobe Suite
We recommend Adobe Creative Suite, with Illustrator, PhotoShop and InDesign being the ones we use most. They are the standard for our industry. In addition, we like that they have online training videos that make it easy to log in and out between your office computer and home computer. This has really helped during the COVID-19 crisis and the remote working schedule that we have lately had to deal with.

3D design software – We use ESKO and Strata. These programs help us turn our flat Illustrator files into the full 3D-rendered images that we send to our clients so they can see what the packages look like from all different angles. Then we use Strata to build the actual store environments. We create the floor, shelves and signage to help tell the story of how the packaging that we’ve designed will look on the shelf.

Orlando Delbert

Art Director - OTK Media Group, Inc.

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
The graphic design software I would recommend others to use would be largely based on the type of design he or she intends to focus on mainly. I myself have been using mostly various Adobe products from the Creative Suite, (as well as some high-end proprietary hardware-based systems), for many years.

The mainstay for many graphic designers is Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Photoshop is considered by many to be the best imaging and graphic design application, for it’s versatility, ease of compositing layers, creating masks, editing of photographs, and for creating design pieces that can be introduced into video and visual effects projects. Photoshop is exceptional for combining text elements with photography, as well as to create your own elements, with tools that allow you to create shadows and highlights to create a sense of depth and realism in your artwork.

And if you plan on doing a lot of work with logo creation and typography, Illustrator offers some of the same features as Photoshop, while working in a resolution independent, vector-based graphics environment. What that means is, unlike Photoshop which is raster-based, (based on colorized pixels), Illustrator uses mathematical formulas and coordinates to create many types of graphics, not bound to resolutions of the print or film resolution worlds. Illustrator is largely used for web design, product packaging, and large-format designing needs, such as banners and billboards because of its resolution independent nature.

My design background is largely in motion graphic design and special digital visual effects for television and film. I’ve been using Adobe After Effects since their initial beta release decades ago. After Effects is exceptional in the creation and combining of individual design and video assets and to animate them in a 3-dimentional space, in an affordable software package. While the elements themselves are 2-dimentional, the end user has the ability to change the look and location of each individual element over time.

Han Castanedo

Senior Designer - Duckpin

✓ Procreate
Procreate is an excellent software for Graphic Designers to learn. It has robust features that allow you to go from sketching concepts to doing refined hand lettering and illustration work with the ultimate hand control using the Apple Pencil and iPad. With ever-expanding typography options, this software is versatile enough to be your only design software and even more powerful when combined with other specialized design tools. It’s an affordable and sound investment that in my experience has already paid for itself tenfold.

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe products are of course the obvious and invaluable pieces of software to learn, with the top products being Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Xd.

Photoshop is an important part of editing and resizing assets and versatile enough to handle digital painting and light animation.

Illustrator is the premier tool for creating editing vector graphics and typography across both print and digital.

Designers interested in pursuing publication design should learn the ins and outs of InDesign, which has a variety of tools catered specifically for print needs.

✓ Sketch
Those interested in designing for web and product design should learn Adobe Xd or Sketch, which allows you to build out crisp clean layouts and assets to export to developers.

Lisa Schroeder

Creative Supervisor - The S3 Agency

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
As a designer and production specialist, I recommend Adobe Creative Cloud for layout and production tasks, specifically Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. It’s an essential product for collaborating within the design industry, whether you’re sharing files with internal team members, clients, creative partners or suppliers. The desktop programs are robust and powerful, the apps allow access on other devices, and then there’s Adobe Fonts. Most designers I know will agree, a well-designed typeface is the icing on the cake.

Skyler Jackson

Artist - Art of Skyler Jackson

✓ Canva
I am actually a full-time artist. Recently I started using Pinterest to promote my work, and Canva is hands down the easiest graphic design software to use and create a wide range of designs. You can create designs for social media, blog posts, banners, you name it and its probably on Canva. I have made some great designs to help promote products through Pinterest using this super easy software. Totally recommend!

Kenneth Choo

Author, Speaker, Consultant - KC Creative Marketing Pte Ltd

✓ Canva
I would highly recommend for starters to use Canva for simple graphic designing because there are many templates that are available for them.

If they need some free software to better graphic designing, I would suggest Free Photo Toolfor better photo or graphic editing. It is easy to use and it is free although there are ads. Personally I use them when my graphic designers are busy with assignments and that is when I will use these free online software for my graphic designing jobs.

Syed Usman Hashmi

Digital Marketing Strategist - PureVPN

There are a variety of tools I use to design creatives, social media posts, and banners, but out of all I recommend everyone to use Adobe Illustrator and Canva for their variety of benefits.

✓ Canva
Canva has a variety of great features with built-in templates and most of its fonts and graphics are free so they don’t require any subscription to use.

Its preset sizes let you design automatically without spending much time on thinking of the specific dimensions.

Most importantly Canva automatically saves your designs on the cloud, so that you don’t need to worry about the hard disk space that a particular creative acquires and can be accessed from any devices no matter wherever you are.

✓ Adobe Illustrator
However, on the other hand, Illustrator is best for the detailed crafting of creatives for your landing pages with a variety of tools with vector-based designing however it needs much more expertise than other tools e.g. photoshop or canvas.
The helpful user interface, it’s in-pane editing, no resolution issues and minimum utilization of resources makes this software unique and much preferred than other tools.

Brian Smith

Design Director - FullStack Labs

✓ Figma
Figma is a product design software that allows our team to design & prototype applications efficiently. We can produce rapid mockups as well as high-fidelity prototypes that are ready for development. It has a multiplayer aspect that allows our whole team to work on a single file at the same time.

Whimsical
We mostly use Whimsical for the planning phase of a new application. We can quickly create feature maps, user flows, and wireframes. With this tool, we’re able to gather client feedback before spending more time on the finer points of the designs.

George Kern

Art Director - Printed Pixel

✓ Adobe Suite
Adobe’s Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator etc) (successor to the Creative Suite Master Collection) is the industry standard and is easy to recommend based on the amount of features the collection of software has to offer. New users may be overwhelmed by the number of features each application has but once you used to their software and its interface you get a pretty good feel for how their other software will behave and how to use it because of similar look and feel of the workspaces. A lot of people might be turned off by the recurring monthly subscription costs but for professional usage, it’s just another cost of doing business.

✓ Affinity by Serif
Affinity has their own lineup of software to compete with Adobe and their offerings are pretty great and a fraction of the cost. It is very fast and it is a one time purchase without a subscription model.

Affinity Photo – Adobe Photoshop
Afinity Designer – Adobe Illustrator
Affinity Publisher – Adobe InDesign

James Dunne

Graphics Designer - Happy Shrimp Marketing

✓ Illustrator
For illustration and vector artwork, Illustrator is still the most powerful option when it comes to digital tools. It can do everything you need for vector artwork.

✓ InDesign
For print media, Illustrator and InDesign are a power combo. For laying out documents for print, I have never used a tool as powerful as InDesign. It handles grids (both layout and baseline), pages, colour and everything I could want when designing for print.

✓ Figma
I used to use Photoshop much more than I do now. It was perfect for a pre-mobile web. But Figma is better suited now. And that’s because it’s much more suited for web design. It makes it easy to design for a responsive web, but it also allows you to design interaction. This isn’t possible in Photoshop

Nicholas Allen

Founder / Designer / Developer - Sublime Dzine

✓ Adobe Suite
For graphic design, no one beats out Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. They’ve been doing graphic design since the beginning. That said, both are pretty hefty pieces of software with steep learning curves and can be rather expensive. Adobe’s creative suite is a great option for getting the best and keeping it cheap.

✓ Canva
As a professional, I find myself also using Canva pretty consistently as well. Their tool is fast and browser-based with a nice mobile app too. I use them for most of my social media and website graphics that aren’t fully custom or when I’m short on time. Canva is also great when you need to create a large number of graphics in a single sitting. I’ll make a month’s worth of graphics for a client’s social media calendar in about an hour for instance. Oh, let’s not forget the library of stock images from Canva with image templates and the ability to post directly to your social media.

Jeremy Lessaris

Founder & CEO - Designed.co

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe dominates the professional graphics software world with Creative Cloud that includes a comprehensive suite of design, video, animation, web, and other media applications. They are platform-agnostic (Mac/PC) and run on nearly every device you can think of. Adobe is the standard for nearly all professional creative projects. However, when it comes to digital design including website, app, and UI design (not development) I would also include Figma which offers the best balance between features, usability, and overall performance.

Honorable mention:

Going beyond software I would also recommend collaboration tools for working on ideation with clients. Our secret sauce here at Designed.co is a Jamboard. We love whiteboards but this is next level collab and allows our teams to be just as effective remote as they are in the office.

Yoann Bierling

Founder - International Business Consulting

✓ GIMP
Modifying images for many purposes, including resizing, using filters, merging pictures, and more, GIMP is a great tool – and a free one – to work on pixels. The main reason to use it is the ease to upgrade it through plug-ins, and it’s integration of all the main image formats.

Personally using it to all and any image work for my websites, from creating logos to hiding sensitive content from pictures, there is always a way to do anything related to graphic design, even if sometimes it might be a bit complicated to get to the result you are looking for.

But, hey, after all, to be a good graphic designer, you must be creative! GIMP gives you the opportunity to express it fully on images.

Louis Porter

Graphic Designer - CoinCorner

In the graphics design team at CoinCorner, we use a number of Adobe’s design software to create everything from marketing materials to Bitcoin sock designs.

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Illustrator is my top recommendation as it doesn’t limit the types of designs you can produce.. I use it daily to create the likes of web and mobile landing pages, industry-standard vector graphics, infographics and web banners, and more. It has very useful features such as being able to blend typography and graphics together, and adding multiple artboards to one document so that all work can be kept together.

Secondly, I’d recommend Photoshop as the best software for editing, manipulating and transforming images. It makes the entire process of image editing very easy, allowing users to combine photos and graphics to create new pieces of artwork, as well as make GIFs for use on social media and marketing emails.

Finally, as a graphics designer rather than coder, I liaise closely with our in-house tech team to optimise designs for our web and mobile platforms. To make this process easier, I use the XD software to produce functioning mock ups without the need for any coding. Designs made in XD can be shared with others across the business, giving them the chance to play around with the web or app design elements before it’s coded into our applications too.

Myra Wafiqoh

Executive Assistant to CEO - Breadnbeyond

Video marketing is like a machine with many moving parts. It’s quite understandable if you get a bit lost wondering which tool does what part. And so does graphic design. As someone who’s been in the industry for quite a while, I understand that rather well. After all, running an Explainer Video Company means that we have a seemingly infinite number of tools at our disposal!

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
✓ CorelDRAW
For software, it usually depends on the type of design being worked on, if a lot of work with vectors, then usually use vector-based applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.

But if you use a lot of raster images or work with photos, for example, photo/image editing, or digital imaging, then use a raster-based program, such as Photoshop. There are many other programs that are more specific, for example for editorial layouts such as magazines, for example, using Adobe InDesign. But in general, mostly use vector and raster-based applications will be or Adobe Photoshop or Illustrators.

William Taylor

Career Development Manager - VelvetJobs

✓ GIMP
I use the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). It is the perfect alternative to Adobe Photoshop. The professional tools make it ideal for not just graphic designers but photographers as well.

The photo manipulation feature is highly enhanced. The flexibility of the tool allows you to create crystal-clear graphics. The interface is totally customizable and the full-screen mode allows you to view and edit at the same time.

GIMP runs on GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and other OS. Being a cross-compatible graphic design software program, it has a strong support community. The only problem is that it has a few bugs and struggles with Cintiq tablets in the initial stage.

Samuel Cowlishaw

Marketing & Sales Specialist - Blend Supply

✓ Adobe Illustrator
I always recommend Adobe Illustrator. I use it for about 45 hours per week currently.

The most notable part of it is the Layer system. It allows you to organize multiple objects on your artboard. When I created my company’s product catalog, I used the layer system to organize thousands of product pictures and descriptions.

Now when I go back into that Illustrator document, I am able to quickly locate products and make changes. The second benefit of Illustrator is Artboards. This allows you to export the project you are working on into the specific size required. Many of my projects require specific dimensions. It also lets you work on objects off to the side of the artboard.

Scott Krieger

Director/Lead Web Dev - Studio 54

✓ GIMP
GIMP is so much more than a photo editor, it offers a lot of incredible Photoshop features for free. Considering it is free, it provides multiple professional-quality functions that fine-tune snaps and create artworks from scratch.

It’s highly customizable and there a lot of super useful plugins from the Gimp Community, most of which are free.

Compatible with a lot of operating systems.

It has far fewer updates than Photoshop too, which can really be annoying and halt your work progress at the most crucial times.

Louise Everarts de Velp

Graphic & Web Designer - ledv studio

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
I’m a huge advocate for the famous Adobe trio – Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. They’re the standards in the industry, with the greatest variety in functionality and a wide availability of resources and tutorials to really elevate your work. Since the design community has been thriving on Adobe for years, there are nearly endless possibilities to leverage top-notch tools and bespoke community resources such as fonts, textures, etc. to create something truly unique. There is a bit of a learning curve, but these programs are simply the best and most professional tools out there to bring any design to life.

✓ Canva
The overlooked online design tool I would recommend as an industry “best kept secret” is Canva. Canva combines an intuitive interface with a simple collaborative system for organizing and sharing designs—perfect for beginner designers and fast turnarounds! It’s super useful if you design templates for your clients such as social media templates, presentations, planners, recipe templates, etc. You can share the designs through a template link and it will automatically duplicate them in the client’s account. You will probably need the paying version ($110 a year for Canva Pro) to be able to upload custom fonts, download .png images with transparent backgrounds, and access millions of illustrations and pictures, but your clients can still access your pro-designed creations from their free accounts. Win, win!

Dan Cruz

co-founder - inbeat

✓ Adobe After Effects
After Effects is a powerful tool, which allows you to create custom animations faster than any other “easy to use” software out there. To top things off, it allows you to export animations in SVG format, which loads much faster than a gif or a png on a web page. It also allows me to create custom product interactions efficiently to show our developers how a user will interact with the product.

✓ Figma
Figma is the best product design software out there. It allows me to design products, which our developer can build with speed. The barrier from Figma to production-ready code is low. This tool reduced our product design and development cycle by at least 40%.

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
Of course, I use Adobe Creative Cloud every day (Photoshop and Illustrator mostly), but Figma and After Effects are those two tools that empower my design workflow.

Jaclyn Hoffman

Project Manager - Falcon Marketing

✓ Adobe Creative Suite
As a designer, my preferred software is the most current Adobe Creative Suite (2020).

Between Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign, each of these softwares serves a different yet essential purpose for graphic designers.

For example, Illustrator, which is a vector-based software, is an amazing tool for creating design elements such as logos and drawings.

InDesign is the best layout software. If I am building a page for both print and digital media that is composed of text and images, I will always turn to InDesign.

Photoshop is probably the most commonly known Adobe design tool, as it is extremely diverse, and has so many helpful features.

Aside from the obvious photo editing capabilities, at Falcon Marketing we use Photoshop for designing full websites. Each page of the site is mocked up in Photoshop, and then the Photoshop files are used to develop the code to build pixel perfect websites.

Teodor Panterov

President - Central Park Tours

✓ GIMP
I have been using GIMP for a very long time as it is a lighter version of Photoshop.

✓ Canva
However, recently a colleague of mine introduced me to Canva. I am very impressed mainly because they have a very wide selection of very nice made templates for different occasions. They are very easy to edit and has no lawyers and it is entirely online. I am still playing with it but recently made something for my company – Central Park Tours in 15 minutes, something which will take me an hour or more with GIMP. Definitely less functionality with Canva (no shadows, no layers etc) but for busy people who do their own designs it is awesome so far. Still learning.

Vincent Lee

Author - Brand Me

✓ Adobe Suite
I started my career as a graphic designer and till now, I still swear by the Big Three; Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe InDesign. Yes, they are all three Adobe products but file compatibility between software is important.

Illustrator as a vector program will allow designers to create scalable graphics that can be applied to something as small as a social media profile pic to something as big as a highway billboard. Photoshop as an image editor will allow designers to manipulate photo images and even enhance graphical elements created in Illustrator.

InDesign, a page design and layout tool, is not just limited to print publication, allowing designers to incorporate all image and vector creations from the first two software into interactive PDFs, eBooks/digital magazines, and interactive PDFs.

Hannah Wright

Founder - SaaS Design

✓ Figma
Figma is my favorite graphic design software. Unlike many other design tools, anyone can use it (regardless of their operating system) because it is cloud-based. This also makes it the best tool out there when it comes to real-time collaboration. Before using Figma, I used to dread having to send files back and forth manually each time I made an update.

Figma also provides smart shortcuts which can really help speed up your workflow as a designer. My design time has been cut in half due to Figma’s shortcuts and user-friendly interface.

Stacy Caprio

Owner - Her.CEO

✓ Adobe Suite
I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and recommend both to anyone looking to create designs for marketing, ads, or apparel. Photoshop is great for quickly creating transparent backgrounds, cropping images, changing color, and other small edits, and it is easy to use once you learn the basics. Illustrator has a steeper learning curve, but is great for creating vectors, smoothing out lines and making your illustrations look professional and polished.

Roxanne Brown

Creative Art Director - PageSparx

✓ Adobe Creative Cloud
For a solution that covers most broad-based graphic design needs, most industry professionals including us, would recommend Adobe’s offerings. Adobe has become the standardized format for the industry, pushing giants like QuarkXpress and others to the wayside. Unfortunately, like many companies, Adobe has moved to a SaaS (Software As A Service) model that a lot of graphic artists/designers grumble about. Gone are the days where you can just buy software in a box and update when you wanted or needed to. With the new model (which isn’t exactly new because they rolled out the Creative Suite SaaS model back in 2012), you’re forced to pay a monthly fee for a subscription to their family of applications.

There are plenty of good alternatives to Adobe products, but they’re not conveniently all under one roof – or company. If you don’t mind using apps from various companies, there are even quite a few free options out there. These programs may be compatible and open certain files but may cause problems when you want to save to a specific proprietary file format.

Graphic Design FAQ

What is the best graphic design software to use?

Our experts voted for Adobe Creative Cloud, Canva and Figma. See our article for the full list of solutions.

Can I use free software?

In case you don’t want to spend any money, there are free solutions available. One of the highest rated ones is Canva. Our experts highly recommend this tool.

What is the difference between Photoshop or Illustrator?

Photoshop is a raster graphic editor and mainly used to for image editing. Illustrator is a vecotr graphics editor and mainly used to create designs or images from scratch.

What’s included in Adobe’s Creative Cloud

Creative Cloud is a collection of 20+ desktop and mobile apps and services for photography, design, video, web, UX and more. It includes Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and much more.

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