How to Choose the Best Graphic Design Software

The best graphic design software

What to Know

  • The big names in graphic design software are Adobe, Quark, Microsoft, Corel, and Serif.
  • Most programs are distinguished by these categories: page layout, illustration, photo editing, and web design.
  • Adobe InDesign is the most prolific page layout program, and it continues to improve with each new version.

The best graphic design software programs are high-end applications used primarily in professional environments, but value and accessibility depend on whether you're an in-house or freelance graphic designer. Here are some tips for finding the best graphic design software for your needs.

Choose Graphic Design Software Based on Task

It's almost impossible to name the "best" graphic design software, but among the high-end professional applications, Adobe InDesign is the most prolific page layout program, and it continues to improve with each new version. Along with its partners, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, this Creative Cloud trio is arguably the best graphic design software on the market today.

That said, the best graphic design software is the software that works best for you. Specific programs are better suited for certain tasks than others. Although the previously mentioned programs are considered industry-standard, they are not the only choices. Here's an FAQ for you:

Photographer Editing Photos on her computer.
vgajic / Getty Images

Publishers of Graphic Design Software

There are five major publishers of graphic design software:

  • Adobe is the maker of InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Framemaker, Dreamweaver, and other software.
  • Quark's powerhouse page layout software—QuarkXPress—is still massively popular despite losing its crown to Adobe.
  • Microsoft produces Publisher, which is ubiquitous on Windows computers.
  • Corel develops CorelDraw and PaintShop Pro X9, among others.
  • Serif's PagePlus, PhotoPlus, DrawPlus, and WebPlus are affordable alternatives.

Categories of Graphic Design Software

Here are the four major software categories for graphic design:

Minimum Requirements for Graphic Design Software

In addition to a word processing program, every designer needs either page layout or web design software (depending on their field) and photo editing software. Most also need a scalable vector graphics drawing program, but some SVG features are incorporated into high-end page layout software, so you might be able to get by with those unless you are doing logo design.

A logo designed in Photoshop cannot be enlarged without losing quality; a logo designed in a vector art program (like Illustrator) can be sized to fit on a business card or the side of a huge truck with no loss of quality.

What About Web Designers?

You need to know HTML and CSS. When you do, you can write a website using only a word processing program. That doesn't mean you might not prefer to use a software program to help you out. Adobe Dreamweaver is just such a high-end program, but there are affordable alternatives such as CoffeeCup.

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