Do you want to become a graphic designer, webdesigner, illustrator or simply learn to draw and design graphic elements using a computer or a tablet? Here is a selection of the best graphic design software on the market.
Drawing by hand is nowadays the exception in the world of graphic design! Nowadays, many CAD (computer-aided design) and DTP (desktop publishing) software programs allow you to let your imagination and creativity run wild, provided you have the technical skills to master these valuable tools.
First and foremost, it is important to note that there is no such thing as a better graphic design software, but there are some software programs that are better suited to the realization of a project than others! Which software to choose for an initiation or an improvement will largely depend on your personal needs or your professional objectives. However, some graphic creation and design software are frequently used in companies, and knowing how to master them will certainly facilitate your professional insertion in the graphic design field. This is why our selection of tools is also based on the popularity of these programs in the working world. Indeed, learning to master a software, as fun and easy to use as it may be, would not be of much interest if no professional uses it on a daily basis. Without further ado, discover these 10 must-have tools for graphic design and drawing.
This is the most famous software of the Adobe suite (and incidentally the most pirated). It even has the luxury of having its own file format: PSD. Photoshop allows you to perform feats in the field of photo retouching and image processing. Widely used by photographers, Photoshop is also a must-have for the vast majority of graphic designers, web designers and other graphic creation experts. From photo editing to the automation of repetitive and time-consuming tasks (e.g. adding a logo to a large number of images), not to mention the design of web page mock-ups or the possibility of inserting 3D visuals, Photoshop offers innumerable features and a sufficiently rich palette of tools for even graphic design professionals to use only part of the software’s potential. A Photoshop training course will help you get to grips with this key graphic design tool and understand the concept of layers (essential for optimal use of the tool) in order to start drawing, cropping, retouching and playing with reality to gradually achieve more and more ambitious graphic projects.
GIMP is an image editing and retouching software that is often presented as an interesting alternative to Photoshop which still dominates the market. This solution, which has the advantage of being free and open source, also allows you to perform all sorts of actions and visual effects (clipping, disappearance of an object, work on the brightness …). The tool palette is relatively similar to Photoshop, the principle of layers allows you to work in non-destructive mode and a host of selection tools or freehand drawing aids will facilitate the design of your artistic drawings, retouching and other image manipulations.
Another key software of the Adobe suite, Illustrator is an illustration and graphic creation tool that allows you to create vector images, i.e. images that will not pixelate even if they are enlarged X100! This is the great strength of this drawing software and this is what differentiates it from tools such as Gimp and Photoshop which only deal with images composed of pixels and any intervention on their size will lead to a loss of quality. Adobe Illustrator allows graphic designers and illustrators to create logos but also all kinds of print or digital communication media: flyers, business cards, posters, banners for social networks, etc. The diversity and quality of the drawings that can be made with Illustrator never cease to impress, just visit some websites or accounts of professional and amateur graphic designers to have a good overview of the field of possibilities opened by a (very) good mastery of the drawing software.
4. Affinity Designer
A relatively new software (the first version dates back to 2014), Affinity Designer is a serious competitor to Illustrator, although it does not yet enjoy the same popularity, mainly due to the fact that Adobe’s software has been used for a long time. The tool is just as powerful as its main rival, and its price can be interesting for people who don’t necessarily have a large budget to devote to buying a license or a monthly subscription to a program. It has more or less the same functionality as Illustrator, with some of the same tools as Illustrator. It should be noted that Affinity Designer intends to overshadow the Adobe suite, since the publisher (Serif) has also launched Affinity Photo and Affinity Design, which are alternatives to Photoshop and InDesign respectively. Fortunately for the user, Affinity Designer is not a stand-alone application and allows interaction with the different solutions in the Adobe suite.
5. After Effects
This is without a doubt the most powerful tool in the Adobe suite. After Effects, whose first version dates back to 1993, is primarily known and used by audiovisual professionals since it was essentially used and designed for video editing, in particular special effects (on green background in particular). Today After Effects has considerably enriched its range of tools and graphic and motion designers can use it to create visual effects and make 2D or 3D graphic animations. If you have already worked with a software from the Adobe suite, you will not be completely disoriented by the interface since you will find, for example, the principle of layers that will allow you to advance on a project without destroying or altering the original files. Don’t hesitate to take a look at everything that can be done with After Effects, by visiting YouTube or specialized websites. You’ll quickly see that the learning curve is well worth it! Mastering the After Effects software will make it easier for you to enter certain fields of activity (the audiovisual sector, animation, but also advertising and digital communication) and professions directly related to graphic creation.
InDesign is not a drawing software but a DTP (desktop publishing) tool, that is to say that it allows you to lay out communication media that can be printed: catalogs, magazines, newspapers, etc. A graphic designer is often required to use this software to design pages that are both pleasant to read and coherent. Mastering InDesign requires creativity, inventiveness and a good knowledge of UX (user experience) in order to arrange the different blocks and graphic and textual elements in perfect harmony. If you are new to InDesign, you can start by creating (or redesigning) your resume with the software, it’s a great way to get started with its toolset. An online or in-person InDesign training will of course be necessary to fully master the software and become an expert in document layout.
7. Adobe XD
Adopted by more and more webdesigners and UX designers, Adobe XD is a UI/UX design tool that makes it very easy to create interfaces and mock-ups of web pages or mobile applications. With the help of this software, a web design professional will be able to ensure the quality of the user experience and work on animations and transition effects or interactions that will give a touch of dynamism to the different projects. The use of Adobe XD offers a significant time saving for web professionals (webdesigner, integrator or web developer) concerned with designing responsive websites, that is to say, able to adapt to each browsing support: tablet, cell phone and of course desktop computer. Moreover, it is easy to share with customers or collaborators the different prototypes made, which allows to have quick feedback and to modify very quickly a project according to the feedback of the main people concerned. Finally, Adobe XD easily links with other software in the Adobe suite, which again is a strong point for professionals used to juggling Photoshop and Illustrator.
Very easy to use, Canva is an online tool (freemium) that is perfectly suited for beginners who do not necessarily have a great knowledge in graphic design. This solution offers users the possibility to easily create visual elements by relying on a well-stocked library of templates if needed. The drag-and-drop system makes it accessible to anyone with a minimum of familiarity with computers. Canva is mainly intended for creating visual content to be published on social networks but you can also make good use of it in other digital environments. If it is an ideal solution for profiles that do not necessarily want to become professional in the field of graphic design (community manager, content manager, communication officer), Canva still allows a certain level of customization that has nothing to envy to other software of the same family.
You’re probably familiar with Paint, the drawing software that is part of the Windows operating system. Paint.net is a much more complete and elaborate version of Microsoft’s tool. This graphic editing software includes all the basic functions you would expect from this type of tool (cropping, resizing and clipping an image) as well as many more technical tools that, once you have mastered them, will allow you to use your creative spirit to carry out your most ambitious projects. Forget the haphazard drawings you made with Paint at a time when alternatives were still expensive and underdeveloped, and try Paint.net
Like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer, Inkscape is a vector drawing program that allows you to create visual elements without losing quality. Free and open source, Inkscape offers a wide range of tools and an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has already used a drawing program. However, mastering its more advanced features may require training, unlike a tool like Canva, which can be learned on your own. The fact that the software is free does not prevent it from being a powerful tool for creating countless graphic creations that can then be used on different visual communication media.
The prerequisites to take in hand these graphic design and drawing software
The use of these different software programs generally only requires a minimum of knowledge in graphic design and a good command of computer tools. Most of the time, these prerequisites are enough to join an online or face-to-face training session. In other words, what will make the main difference in mastering one or more CAD and DTP programs is your curiosity and motivation, not to mention regular practice, including after training! Finally, you should know that you will not be asked to master all of them, and that a simple tour of job search sites will help you identify the software most commonly used in companies according to the position you are targeting: graphic designer, web designer, illustrator, UX designer, etc.