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Best Graphic Design Software of 2021

The search for work from home jobs has increased manifolds after the recent virus pandemic that has swept the world. And guess what? One of the highest paid work from home jobs is that of graphic designing.

However, graphic designing is not simple, and it requires skills. You need to know how to use different graphic designing software. No, you don’t have to learn all software. Learning a few is however desired.

Graphic design software programs are complex and come with a massive set of tools and functions that allow the creative minds to create stunning designs and artwork. A well-built program gives maximum control in the hands of a user.

However, with too many features comes a steep learning curve, making graphic designing a forte for the professionals. If you want to get your hands dirty with graphics designing and get into the professional realm, you need to start with one or the other designing software. The choice can be difficult because of too many options.

To help you make choice, I have curated a list of the best graphic design software for 2021 that you can try out. I cannot give you one particular software can tell you that it is THE BEST. It doesn’t work that way. What I feel is best might not be so great for you.

For instance, I have a friend who prefers to work with CorelDraw while I prefer working with Adobe Illustrator. It is a personal choice, and to a great extent, depends on what you want to achieve.

So, try out the different options and you will soon know what you want to use.

Okay, now that I have given a long narration, let’s start with the list.

Best Graphic Design Software of 2021

If you are short on time, here is a quick list of the software listed here:

#1. Adobe Photoshop

#2. Adobe Illustrator

#3. GIMP

#4. InkScape

#5. CorelDraw Graphics Suite

#6. Affinity Designer

#7. Xara Designer Pro X

#8. Gravit Designer

#9. Sketch

#10. Adobe InDesign

Let’s dive in…

#1. Adobe Photoshop

Utter the words ‘Photo Editing’ in front of any graphic designer, and the first name that will pop out of their mouths is Adobe Photoshop. It is the go-to tool for millions of people across the world for editing photos.

With an excellent set of graphic designing and editing tools and functions, Photoshop is the de facto champion of the market. Yes, there are many alternatives, but still, Photoshop has managed to maintain its leading position.

With Photoshop, you will get dozens of design tools for both the web and mobile apps. Photoshop is currently synchronized with Adobe Creative Cloud, which gives access to dozens of unique features such as Face-Aware Liquify, Content-Aware Crop, Design Space View, Artboards, Glyph Panel, Stylus Input Support, Touch Input Support, Cloud Documents, etc.

The user interface is extremely flexible, giving complete control to users. There are various workspace layouts for Photography, Painting, 3D, Motion, Graphic and Web, etc. In case you don’t want to use a predefined layout, you are free to create a unique layout that suits you the most.

Photoshop Advantages

  • There is a complimentary mobile application. Unfortunately, the mobile application is nowhere even close to the desktop application in terms of power and functionality.
  • The user interface is simple and intuitive with quick access to the most widely used tools for photo editing and graphic designing.
  • It has the ability to handle 3D designs.
  • There are many typography and drawing tools.
  • Works with Adobe Creative Cloud offering a library and photo management features.
  • Allows easy transfer of files between different Adobe programs.
  • It can edit video layers and animations.
  • Allows creating different custom canvas sizes apart from providing a set of predefined canvas sizes.
  • It allows isolating elements from the background.

Photoshop Disadvantages

  • It is expensive. There is no one-time purchase option. You need to purchase a subscription along with a subscription for Creative Cloud. This recurring payment model can exponentially increase the cost.
  • It is available only for Windows and Mac. Linux users are out of luck.
  • Support for vector graphics is not great. It is meant for raster graphics.
  • Steep learning curve.

Photoshop’s Open-Source Alternative

If you don’t want to pay for Photoshop and still want a program that give you enormous power for photo editing and graphics design in the raster graphics space, you can check out GIMP. It is the most popular open-source alternative to Photoshop.

#2. Adobe Illustrator

Often considered as an industry benchmark for creating vector graphics. With Adobe Illustrator, you can create corporate logos, page layouts, illustrative artwork, website mockups, and just about anything that you want to create.

The program is highly customizable. You can create your own layout or you can use one of the many preset layouts available.

The program allows dragging and dropping of panels anywhere on the screen. Designers can edit multiple artboards simultaneously using the in-panel editing feature.

The program is high compatibility with various devices, and even supports multiple Windows and Mac configurations.

Advantages of Illustrator

  • It uses mathematical equations for generating graphics instead of using stored pixels. This allows designers to create sharp images with pixel-perfect design.
  • It allows designers to create very small graphic files that can be shared via emails.
  • It integrates Adobe fonts and gives access to thousands of beautiful fonts.
  • It integrates nicely with other Adobe products.

Disadvantages of Illustrator

  • It is expensive and follows a subscription-based model, making it a lot pricier over the long term.
  • It is available only for Windows and Mac users. Linux users cannot use it.
  • It requires powerful machines for smooth and lag-free operations.
  • It has a very steep learning curve.

Open-Source Alternative of Illustrator

One of the best open-source alternatives to Illustrator is Inkscape. It is also a vector graphic designing program that uses mathematical equations for generating graphics.

#3. GIMP

GIMP is by far, the most powerful open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It is not just a simple image editing tool. It allows you to create stunning artwork from scratch.

Just like Photoshop, it is a raster image editing program that generates graphics using stored pixels. So, whatever artwork you are creating using GIMP cannot scale exponentially without getting pixelated.

GIMP offers most of the tools and functions that Photoshop has to offer, but for free.

The interface of GIMP is very flexible and you can customize to your needs. There is a whole community of developers offering development services to GIMP. They have created several plugins that add more incredible features to the already powerful tool.

Though an open-source program, it gets updates. The current stable version is 2.10 that comes with various powerful features.

Advantages of GIMP

  • Designers can use the advanced tools like pencil, airbrush, cloning, etc. to create sketches from zero.
  • The program comes with layer-based designing capability, giving you the ability to design any image below another image.
  • The interface comes with both single window and modular window design.
  • The interface is very clean and easy to use.
  • The application itself is very lightweight and makes efficient use of system resources.
  • A great alternative to Photoshop, especially for Linux users.

Disadvantages of GIMP

  • The developer community is not very large and the updates are relatively slow.
  • The adjustment layers have a non-destructive method of combining multiple photo manipulations. This is not ideal always.
  • Mac users will find it difficult to work with the interface.

#4. Inkscape

Inkscape is the opensource and free alternative to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw. It is extremely powerful with a long list of tools that can help you create just about any vector graphic you want to make.

Yes, the tool icons may look ugly, but they get the job done. On the bright side, if you are aware of how to work with Illustrators, you can quickly get comfortable with Inkscape.

Unlike GIMP, Inkscape has a good and active community to developers who offer frequent updates to this graphic designing software program.

It is a feature-rich program with latest features including a checkerboard background, a mesh gradient, improved measurement tools, improved spray options.

The application is extremely robust and it can do everything that Illustrator can do.

Advantages of Inkscape

  • There is support for multiple gradients and it even throws in a separate tool for creating complex color combinations.
  • The program enables effortless node movement because of the Bezier handles.
  • The tools are powerful and full-featured allowing easy editing and creation of vector graphics.
  • It has several plugins that you can download and use. If you want, you can create plugins.
  • There are several preset filters that you can use.

Disadvantages of Inkscape

  • The Mac version is quite buggy.
  • The program has a slower processing compared to other similar programs.
  • Illustrator compatibility is not the best you can find.

#5. CorelDraw Graphics Suite

If you are looking for a paid alternative to Adobe Illustrator that is equally powerful, CorelDraw Graphics Suite is the one that you should be considering seriously.

The suite is not a single application, but a collection of various applications, and gives you some of the most advanced and powerful editing tools on the market.

Some of the interesting features of CorelDraw include customizable UI environment that allows desktop users to decide on things like icon size, the way the documents open, color scheme for window border, toolboxes, and more.

The suite includes the new pointilizer offering different variable parameters not limited to regular dots.

With the suite, you will get access to Content Exchange. It is an online digital library through which the registered users get access to over 600 gradients, 500 interactive frames, 350 templates designed professionally, 1,000 different fonts, and more than 2,000 vehicle templates.

Advantages of CorelDraw

  • It supports 48 different file types including options like SVG, HTML, EPS, PowerPoint, AutoCAD, PNG, JPG, AutoCAD, TIFF, FreeHand files, etc.
  • It offers a very smooth transition from desktop mode to tablet mode, allowing users to use touch features.
  • It has amazing capabilities of importing third-party PDF and EPS files.
  • You can choose GPU acceleration while working with sophisticated vector graphics.
  • There is absolutely no lag while working with Surface Pen.
  • The program has an app-wide workflow that enhances the productivity of the users.

Disadvantages of CorelDraw

  • It is not at all beginner-friendly.
  • There are too many payment options. That can be very confusing.

#6. Affinity Designer

I don’t know how many of you have heard of Affinity Designer, but it is a must-have graphic designing application for those who are engaged in video graphics designing.

Affinity Designer is a clean, extremely capable, and a way cheaper alternative to Adobe Illustrator.

The program features a very versatile grid system that allows grid setup during isometric video game graphics development. With this feature, designers can take complete control over spacing, subdivision, gutters, angles, etc. to come up with extremely accurate designs and layouts.

What more? It has a very powerful zoom capability, allowing users to zoom all the way up to a 1 million times the original size. This gives room for absolute precision.

The program supports both pixel and vector art environments. This means that you don’t need to use different programs for different purposes.

The snapping feature of the application is very powerful that allows locking and positioning objects based on grids, shapes, alignment grids, nodes, etc.

Advantages of Affinity Designer

  • Offers dynamic on-screen guides for accurate alignment and measurement of designs and objects.
  • The window and rope stabilizers allow creating smooth and accurate curves, enabling users.
  • The work on one project can be easily applied multiple artboards.
  • Affinity Designer has a powerful Boolean operation that allows combining shapes with ease. It also allows to move and edit specific parts of the shapes.

Disadvantages of Affinity Designer

  • You cannot export the files in AI format, which is a big bummer.
  • In Designer Persona, the vector eraser is absent.
  • Natural perspective grid is absent.
  • There are various tools you find with Illustrator that you cannot find on Affinity Designer.

#7. Xara Designer Pro X

Xara is a highly advanced graphic design software program that is mostly used for designing web pages, editing photos, and creating illustrations. It caters to those who seek a program for print and web design solutions.

The program has something called Direct Action Tools that offers stable functionalities and robust features that are suitable for general use.

The overall interface is very intuitive. There is a zooming feature that allows up to 25,000 percent zoom. There is a simple drag and drop feature available that will allow you to place any element just about anywhere on the page.

The application has an unlimited redo and undo feature, allowing users to perform unlimited modifications.

Also, Xara has one of the most sophisticated and fastest rendering engines for vector graphics. This means that if you are working on a very complex design, you can deliver it with high efficiency.

Advantages of Xara

  • The editing options you get with Xara are quite substantial. There are options like object rotating, scaling, dragging, etc.
  • The anti-aliasing feature blends the edges with the background, giving softer edges. This feature is particularly good for improving onscreen image quality.
  • It can import PSD files and even export in PSD format. Whether you are importing or exporting, you will get support for 16-bit color, alpha channel, layer support, CMYK layer conversion, etc.
  • It has support for various file formats including JPEG XR, RAW, TIFF, PNG, PSD, GIF, BMP, JPEG, etc.
  • It has integrated cloud capabilities. Using a web browser on your desktop or tablet, you can view, edit or update the documents.
  • The incredibly powerful zoom option allows for accurate designing.
  • With Xara Designer Pro X, you can sync your files with Google Drive and Dropbox.

Disadvantages of Xara

  • The masking feature is quite difficult to understand and use.
  • The learning curve is very steep.
  • It is available only for the Windows users. Linux and Mac users are out of luck!
  • It is pricey with a yearly subscription plan that costs $299! That’s super expensive.

#8. Gravit Designer

Based on HTML, Gravit Designer is all about vector graphics. If you are a graphic, web or product designer, this is the tool that will suit you the best. With a very clean layout, the interface allows users to quickly switch between tabs.

The dashboard is the place where the user can set the document dimensions. The program has a feature called Pages that is a combination of artboards and pages with canvas settings.

The program comes with an interesting collection of tools that allows users to create interesting and eye-catchy designs. Some of the common tools that you will get include Pen tool, Lasso tool, Bezigon tool, etc.

The program is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and even Chrome OS. This increases the efficiency of the designers using the software program.

Advantages of Gravit Designer

  • The program offers an extremely customizable, easy-to-use, and engaging interface, making it super simple even for the starters.
  • You can get explicit ways of designing social media posts including posts for Facebook and Instagram.
  • The software program is available in both desktop and web version.
  • You can use the program for editing scalable vector graphics.
  • The tool and knife tool support that the graphic design software offers has support for non-destructive Boolean. This is great news for those who want to engage in user interface design.
  • You get unlimited cloud storage if you settle for their pro version.

Disadvantages of Gravit Designer

  • The documentation is not very detailed. This may be a problem for new users.
  • You will need an active internet connection for the fonts to work properly.
  • The application will not give you the option of real-time collaboration.
  • Running prototypes on smartphones is not possible. This may be a problem for the designers.

#9. Sketch

This graphic design software program is designed for vector graphics. It is particularly good if you want to design interface, web or app. Also, if you want to create interactive prototypes for UX and UI purposes, Sketch is a good option to consider.

The application is great if you are trying to create responsive designs. It offers it offers grid, snap to pixels, and snap to grid functionalities that help to ensure you avoid imperfect alignments or half-pixel renders.

Sketch tries to make life easy for designers by offering premade templates for iOS devices. There are premade responsive web design layouts as well.

Sketch has a large community for support. It is not difficult for designers to find task-specific custom plugins simply by asking the community.

Advantages of Sketch

  • The product has a sharing and collaboration feature powered by the cloud. The program allows sharing the entire interface.
  • Any layer or a group of layers can be exported as a PNG.
  • The learning curve is very low.
  • Step-by-step autosave feature ensures that designers do not lose their work.
  • Designs can be easily mirrored on larger devices to find out how it would really look like on a larger screen.

Disadvantages of Sketch

  • It is a Mac-specific application. Windows and Linux users cannot use it.
  • If you try to access from the cloud, screens won’t render in high resolution.
  • Illustration capabilities are very limited that can prevent you from creating intricate illustrations.
  • The option of automatic layout flowing is absent.
  • It is a relatively new application and requires further work.

#10. Adobe InDesign

Yet another one from Adobe’s suite of products, Adobe InDesign is a very powerful tool that is specifically great for people who are in the publishing business. If you want to design brochures or info sheets or magazines, you cannot ignore.

What’s interesting is that InDesign’s learning curve is low compared to similar applications. It comes with Adjust Layout feature in which all you need to do is change the text and the layout will adjust automatically. This particular feature is of great use if you are designing infographics.

The software program also automatically resizes and arranges images using the AI-powered Sensei technology. It also allows team collaboration using Adobe InCopy that allows designers to share graphics, colors, and text.

Advantages of InDesign

  • It allows quick and efficient combining of texts and graphics for easy optimization and streamlining of files.
  • It allows adding table of contents, footnotes, anchor text frames, keywords, indexes, etc.
  • Web developers can enjoy its ability to export clean and simple HTML codes.
  • It can quickly get rid of redundant div tags in HTML.
  • It has a powerful eyedropper tool that can apply size or position to another object present in the document.

Disadvantages of InDesign

  • Suitable only for expert users.
  • Interface is not very intuitive.
  • Relatively expensive.
  • Still needs to achieve perfect in PDF comment integration.