Graphic designers are always on the hunt for new graphic design software that might take their skills to the next level. Of course, there are some tried and true programs every designer needs, but there are also a few lesser known options you might like to hear about.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 254,100 graphic designers with an expected 3% annual growth rate. With that many people doing design work, there’s always a new trend, new software or new investment down the pike.
The best graphic design software to invest in depends a lot on the type of work you do. In this article, we’ll look at some of the more popular as well as some obscure graphic design software.
How We Rated Graphic Design Software
To figure out the best graphic design software available, we looked at a number of factors.
- The features included
- Consumer reviews
Most graphic designers make around $53,380 per year, so we also considered the price of each software and how affordable it was.
The best software isn’t worth much if there isn’t any help when you run into issues. Figuring out which ones are frequently updated and provide plentiful support matters. Here is the list of programs we think you’ll appreciate.
No list of graphic design software choices would be complete without looking at Adobe Photoshop. There’s a reason it’s widely used by marketing agencies, photographers and articles. The software is jam-packed with features to give your work a creative edge.
One big advantage to Photoshop is the add-ons, filters and brushes you can download. You’ll also find plenty of help from tutorials on the site to classes and free resources offered by others.
- Tools for both mobile and desktop applications
- Drawing and typography tools
- Synced libraries and cloud storage
- Layer editing
There is a slight learning curve with Photoshop but once you become familiar with the functions, you can do just about any type of photo manipulation imaginable.
Price: Free 7-day trial; $20.99 per month
Canva doesn’t have quite as many photo manipulation features as Photoshop, but it’s a great starter graphic design software for beginners. One of the biggest advantages of the software is that it comes with templates you can choose to get things up and running fast. For example, if you need a Facebook banner, you start with a template and plug in your own images and colors.
- Stock photos at your fingertips
- Cloud storage
- Upload your own images
Canva offers a free version, so you can learn the software, but to access advanced features such as transparent backgrounds and resizing, you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version.
Price: Free; Pro $9.99 per month for up to five people
Corel is another company that’s been in graphic design software for decades. One only for Windows, CorelDraw now has a Mac version of its software. The graphics suite has many professional-level features. One thing we love about Corel is the customizable interface. You can also buy a perpetual license instead of a subscription.
- LiveSketch tool
- Interactive sliders
- Vector previews
- Interface works with touch screens
CorelDraw can do just about anything Photoshop can do, it’s just another option in your graphic design software arsenal. You may want to try both and see which is easiest to use.
Price: Free 15-day trial; $499.99 perpetual license; $20.75/month for annual subscription
Photographers and graphic designers working on ad campaigns will appreciate the functionality of Capture One Pro software. A newcomer on the scene, the software offers some benefits the heavier programs don’t.
- True-to-life color
- Speedy tethering
- More refined layers and masks
- Speed edit settings
People who work with Capture One point to the better workflow and faster performance of the software than some of the more popular choices.
Price: 30-day free trial; $299.00 professional license; $24 per month subscription
If you’re looking for some terrific function at a reasonable price, you can use Bazaart on the run on both Apple and Android devices. The software puts some simple, but powerful photo editing features in your hands. It’s very simple to use, having almost zero learning curve.
- Remove background and replace
- Refine edges
- Fix lighting
- Save to your phone or a file
Many e-commerce businesses use the software to place products on a plain white background. It can save designers a lot of time as they don’t have to keep stopping and using a lightbox.
Price: $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year
If you’re just getting started in the industry, you may want a free graphic design software solution. GIMP is well-known, open source software that allows you to do many of the same things you can do with Photoshop and some of the others.
- Often taught in schools
- Easy for beginners–no sharp learning curve
- Frequently updated
- Tons of free tutorials
- Advanced manipulation such as shear and transformation
Unfortunately, you won’t be working in layers, so mistakes are harder to back up and you need to have an idea of what final look you want before you start. Still, for 100% free graphic design software, it is feature-rich.
The best place to start when deciding what graphic design software to invest in is by looking at what you have and knowledge you already possess. If you’ve mainly worked in Adobe products in the past, then switching to Gimp or Corel may seem overwhelming and vice versa.
Consider where you are, clients you already have and what tasks you may need to complete in the next year. Once you have an idea of the core of your business, it’s much easier to make a decision about which software you should invest your hard-earned dollars into.