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6 Best Graphic Design Software of 2021 (Free and Paid)

Stunning design that speaks to an audience is paramount for brands of all sizes.

Whether you need this software to help you start a blog like this one or edit product photos for your ecommerce business, selecting the best graphic design software can take your brand identity to the next level.

Considering this trend, Adobe Photoshop has become the reference point of image editing and graphic design software. However, over the years, several other visual design software tools have emerged to cater to different needs and preferences of designers.

A capable graphic design tool not only enhances efficiency, but it also helps in putting stunning creativity into real-world design.

This article will cover the top 6 options ranked in order of quality.

Let’s get started.

Disclaimer: Please note, I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you if you choose to purchase one of the products. However, these are my top picks for graphic design that I have used and tested this year. You can read my affiliate disclosure in my privacy policy.

What is the Best Graphic Design Software?

1. Abode Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is synonymous with photo editing for graphic designers. It is one of the most popular photo editing software tools in the market in a robust package that offers excellent graphic design capabilities.

Key Features:

  • Design Tools: Offers a lot of design tools for both mobile apps and web
  • Creative Cloud: Its active synchronization with Adobe Creative Cloud offers a lot of unique features, including Content-Aware Crop, Face-Aware Liquify, Artboards, the Design Space view, synced libraries, a glyph panel, Cloud Documents, touch, and stylus input support, among others.
  • User Interface: Adobe is continuously working on delivering a more customizable user interface. It offers several targeted workspace layouts, including Graphic and Web, Motion, 3D, Painting, and Photography, Designer can also create your own custom layout of panels and windows.
  • Open-Source GIMP Software: If you don’t want to pay a dime, then you can download and install this software for free. Consider installing it on a powerful machine to avoid lag and other performance issues.

Pros:

  • It offers a complimentary mobile application
  • Its slick user interface offers a lot of assistance for easy use
  • Got a rich set of typography and drawing tools
  • Comes loaded with 3D design capabilities
  • Offers a library and photo management with Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Efficient file transfer between different programs
  • Multiple design tools come with responsive graphics
  • Ability to edit animation and video layers
  • Users can define the size of the canvas, create custom brushes, work in 3D, isolate elements from backgrounds, among others.

Cons:

  • Adobe now offers Photoshop along with the subscription of Creative Cloud. The recurring payment turns out to be more costly, and people who want to buy software forever don’t have the option to buy a perpetual license
  • A plethora of features might overwhelm a new user
  • Offers lessor support for raster and vector images like SVG files
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Pricing Plans:

Adobe offers Photoshop at a subscription price of US$33.99 per month per license.

Get started with Adobe Photoshop today.

2 . Abode Indesign

Adobe InDesign is a must-have software tool if you are in the business of publishing. It offers excellent capabilities to design stunning magazines, info sheets, and brochures while easily exporting them to PDF or HTML.

Key Features:

  • Easy To Use: Unlike PhotShop, InDesign requires a low learning curve. That means new users can quickly learn how to combine text and graphics to achieve the best results.
  • Adjust Layout: The ‘Adjust Layout’ feature empowers the designer just to change the text of the template, and design gets adjusted automatically, which is great for infographics.
  • Sensei Technology: Adobe’s AI-powered Sensei technology ensures automatic resizing and arrangement of images.
  • Adobe InCopy: Designers can leverage InCopy to work with other members of the team by sharing text, colors, and graphics.

Pros:

  • Graphic designers can efficiently combine graphics and texts for easier streamlining and optimizations of files.
  • It allows users to add tags to indexes, keywords, anchor text frames, footnotes, table of contents, and captions with hyperlinks.
  • It supports HTML exporting that enables web developers to export clean and simple codes during the implementation of the website’s layout designs. This works great for WordPress sites.
  • It can help you eliminate redundant div tags in HTML files along with insignificant content grouping.
  • Has the capability of resizing multiple objects and change the width and height at the same time.
  • Designers can leverage its Eyedropper tool to apply position or size instantly to another object within the document.
  • It is an industry-standard for desktop publishing.

Cons:

  • The less intuitive user interface can make things overwhelming for new users.
  • Not positioned for general users. Suitable for enterprise use only.
  • Relatively expensive than other similar software available in the market.
  • PDF comment integration needs perfection

Pricing Plans:

Adobe offers InDesign at a monthly subscription of $20.99. The full Creative Cloud costs $52.99 per month.

Get started with Adobe InDesign today.

3 . CorelDraw

CorelDraw Graphics Suite packs some pro-level features and offers a highly accessible interface that is easy to use. It is a bundle of multiple applications that deliver powerful editing features.

Key Features:

  • Content Exchange: It is Corel’s online digital library through which registered users can get access to thousands of high-resolution photographs and digital images. It also offers over 2000 vehicle templates, 1000 fonts, 350 professionally designed templates, more than 500 interactive frames, over 600 gradients, vector, and bitmap fills.
  • Flexible Payment: Corel offers three payment programs through which users can buy the software along with nominal charges for regular upgrades. It also offers an upgrade program for existing users.
  • Customizable UI: You get a customizable UI environment for the desktop, icon sizing, toolboxes, options for how your documents open, and window border color scheme. Users can also visit Corel’s developer community website to design macros that suit their workflow.
  • New Pointilizer: Corel’s new pointilizer offers a lot of variable parameters that are not just limited to regular dots.

Pros:

  • It offers app-wide workflow and under-the-hood innovation and performance enhancements to boost productivity
  • Works perfectly without any lag with Surface Pen
  • Users get the option to choose GPU acceleration over the default CPU while working with system-intensive sophisticated vector graphics
  • Smooth transition from desktop to tablet mode to leverage touch features
  • It offers better EPS and third-party PDF importing capabilities and leverages with their GPL Ghostscript feature
  • It is capable of exporting files in up to 48 file types, including AutoCAD, JPG, PNG, SVG, AutoCAD, JPG, and TIFF. It can also open 35 file types, including EPS, HTML, AutoCAD, PDF, PowerPoint, SVG, and even old FreeHand files.

Cons:

  • Unlike Adobe, there are no complimentary mobile applications offered by Corel
  • Two many payment options might confuse the user
  • Not easy to operate for beginners.

Pricing Plans:

CorelDraw is available for a 15-day free trial. Its full version is available for $474 with a 30-days money-back guarantee. You can also pay for an annual subscription for $198, or just $16.50/month.

Get started with CorelDraw Graphics Suite.

4 . Inkspace

Inkscape is a capable free graphic design software that can help designers create scalable graphic designs that won’t stretch or blur during resizing. It’s a user-friendly option for hobbyists or beginners interested in vector drawing.

Key Features:

  • User Experience: For free vector software, the user experience is quite impressive. Designers who are familiar with Adobe tools can efficiently operate Inkscape.
  • Regular Updates: Inscape has a robust community of developers that enables it to provide updates and new features regularly. Its latest update has got mesh gradients, a checkerboard background to view transparency more comfortably, improved spray, and measurement tools.
  • Free of Cost: It is one of the most robust and capable alternatives to Adobe Illustrator that is available as a free tool.
  • Manual Improvement: Users can leverage the open-source code to change the lines of code and enhance or personalize the software as per the requirement.

Pros:

  • Users can easily make individual text lines without frames along with the paragraph type.
  • It supports multiple gradients and comes with a separate tool to create complex combinations.
  • It comes equipped with Bezier handles to ensure more effortless movement of nodes.
  • Inkscape offers several well-designed and full-featured tools to create, edit, and convert vectors.
  • It is also capable of downloading or creating ready-made plugins.
  • Users can leverage different preset categories of filters to save time and effort.

Cons:

  • Inkscapes’ streaming text needs to be converted into plain text, for instance, before export.
  • The Mac version is not error-free.
  • Processing is a bit slower than other graphics software.
  • Compatibility with Illustrator is not bulletproof.

Pricing Plans:

Inkscape is an open-source platform that is available for free.

5 . Sketch

The sketch is a vector-based graphic design tool that is best suited for app, web, and interface design. It is best suited for creating interactive prototypes for UI/UX purposes.

Key Features:

  • Low Cost: Sketch offers a yearly subscription that is significantly lower than other subscriptions
  • Great For Mobile and Web: It leverages grids, snap to grid functionality, and snap to pixel functionality to avoid half-pixel renders or imperfect alignment. These perfections are critical to ensure perfect responsive design/multiple screen sizes and resolutions.
  • Screen Templates: It offers a library of artboard templates for iOS devices and responsive web design layouts. Designers just need to select an artboard and the device.
  • Custom Plugins: Designers can easily find custom plugins for specific tasks through robust community support

Pros:

    • Being a new design tool, it is not entirely polished and requires a lot of enhancement
    • It offers limited illustration capabilities that can hamper intricate illustration work
    • Screens don’t render in high resolution while accessing from the cloud
    • Available only for Mac users
    • Absence of automatic layout flowing option

Cons:

  • Inkscapes’ streaming text needs to be converted into plain text, for instance, before export.
  • The Mac version is not error-free.
  • Processing is a bit slower than other graphics software.
  • Compatibility with Illustrator is not bulletproof.

Pricing Plans:

6 . Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is more than just a graphic design tool that is perfect for illustrative artwork, page layouts, corporate logos, website mockups, and almost anything else as per the requirement. Moreover, it’s an industry benchmark in vector creation tools.

Key Features:

  • High-customizability: Adobe Illustrator is highly customizable through multiple preset layouts along with other customizability options. Users can leverage the drag and drop feature to move panels anywhere on the screen.
  • In-Panel Editing: Its in-panel editing feature allows designers to edit multiple artboards simultaneously to help designers work with more efficiency.
  • Highly Compatible: It is highly compatible with numerous devices that have different configurations from Mac and Windows.
  • User Interface: Its user interface is highly accessible and customizable. It offers custom viewing and space-saving features to help you work on any machine.

Pros:

    • Instead of stored pixels, it generates graphics based on mathematical equations to ensure crisp and sharp lines that you can print in any dimension
    • It creates graphics files in relatively small sizes so that designers can share them easily through a simple email attachment
    • You get access to over 90 million images, graphics, templates, and videos from Adobe Stock
    • Use Adobe font integration to select thousands of fonts and implement the most suitable font for the project
    • Tight integration with other Adobe products

Cons:

  • It is costlier in comparison to other vector-based graphic design tools
  • So many features can look a bit overwhelming for new users. It requires a steep learning curve to use it efficiently
  • It could eat up a lot of space on your machine
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Pricing Plans:

Adobe Illustrator offers a monthly subscription of US$9.99 for personal use and US$33.99 for enterprise use.

Get started with Adobe Illustrator today.

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