Best Graphic Design Software for Commercial and Home Use

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 1, 2018
We might not notice it but graphic design surrounds us in each and every field of our lives, online and offline alike, from websites visuals to ads on the streets and brands logos. It is also an industry that is in huge demand today and one that pays really well if you are good at it. Whether you just want to decorate your own website or social network page without paying someone or you dream of a job in this field, there is a software you might need. Here is a selection of solutions for just about any type of user. ...Read more ...Read less
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BEST 2018
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
TYPE
OPERATING SYSTEM
MOBILE APPS
FEATURES
SUPPORTED FILE TYPES
TRIAL
 
PROS

CorelDraw is an industry-renowned graphic design software famous for its abundance of features yet simplicity of use. And most of all, it has one of the largest lists of supported file formats.

CONS

No Mac version.

OUR VERDICT

It is not just a single app but a whole pack where you will find just about anything you might imagine needing in your work with vector images. From bitmap-to-vector tracing app to screen capture and tons of extra content, it is one of the most stellar options for a designer.

detailed parameters
TYPE

Vector

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows 7 | 8.1 | 10

MOBILE APPS

No

FEATURES

Touch-friendly, Stylus support, Interactive perspective correction, Interactive align tool, Bitmap-to-vector, Upload to Wordpress, Perspective effect, Multi-monitor viewing, 4K support, Video tutorials, Webinars, Hints docker, Insights from the Experts

Bonus software included:
Corel CONNECT 2018, Corel PHOTO-PAINT Home & Student 2018, Corel PowerTRACE, Corel CAPTURE 2018, WhatTheFont, Barcode Wizard, Duplexing Wizard

SUPPORTED FILE TYPES

AI, PSD, PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, SVG, ICO, EPS, TIFF, RAW, PPT, CDR, DES, HTM and more

TRIAL

30-day money back

PROS

The latest update was pretty big in terms of new features as well as upgrading some old ones. From the new Puppet Warp feature to enhanced typography, this software for graphic design is rivaled by very very few others.

CONS

Subscription-based model is not convenient for everyone.

OUR VERDICT

Continuous upgrades and the extensive package of features make Adobe graphic design software the one used by most professional and amateur designers in the world. The company goes step-in-step with the trends, promptly bringing you whatever is the rage at the moment.

detailed parameters
TYPE

Vector

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 | 8.1 | 10 
MacOS 10.11 | 10.12 | 10.13

MOBILE APPS

Adobe Illustrator Draw for Android and iOS

FEATURES

Top-of-the-line typography features, Tracing, Color tweaking, Puppet Warp, Fast asset export for screens, SVG color fonts, Up to 1,000 artboards on your canvas, Data merge, Multiple PDF pages import, Dropbox Smart Sync, Stylistic sets, OpenType variable fonts support, MacBook Pro Touch Bar support and more

SUPPORTED FILE TYPES

AI, PSD, PNG, TIFF, BMP, CSS, JPG, DWG, DXF, EMF, SWF, PCT, TGA, TXT, WMF, SVG

TRIAL

7 days

PROS

Affinity Designer offers a two-in-one solution with its so-called 'personas' — you get both raster and vector graphic design software in a single app and can switch between them quickly and with ease.

CONS

No feature to make pixel images into vector ones.

OUR VERDICT

One of the best options when you look for graphic design software for beginners: though lacking some high-level tools, the Designer app offers ample features in both vector and raster personas at a really affordable price.

detailed parameters
TYPE

Vector & Raster

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 | 8.1 | 10 
MacOS 10.9 | 10.10 | 10.11 | 10.12 | 10.13

MOBILE APPS

No

FEATURES

Continuous export, Designers constraints for UI designers, Wide range of Shapes, History panel, Brush stabilization, Non-destructive Boolean operations, Text to curves, Adjustment layers, Mask layers, Blend modes, Raster brushes, 1,000,000% Zoom, Advanced grids, Split screen view, Live pixel preview, Dynamic symbols, Unlimited artboards

SUPPORTED FILE TYPES

EPS, PSD, SVG, PDF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, WMF, EXR, HDR

TRIAL

10 days

PROS

The Ultimate package includes additional apps dedicated to performing specific tasks but if you don't need them you can purchase the core app only and save some money.

CONS

Some tools need to be bought additionally.

OUR VERDICT

PaintShop Pro 2018 is a good option for beginners as it has a simplified interface as well as a complete one so after growing your skills you won't need new photo editing software, you'll just switch to another workspace with more features.

detailed parameters
TYPE

Raster

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 | 8.1 | 10 

MOBILE APPS

No

FEATURES

Over 100 royalty-free backgrounds, Photo-to-drawing/painting feature, Simple RAW editing, Several crop composition guides, Text tools, Scripting engine, Face recognition, Batch processing, Social media features

SUPPORTED FILE TYPES

BMP, EMF, EPS, AI, PS, GIF, IMG, JPG, JIF, JPE, JPEG, PGM, PIC, PPM, PNG, PSD, RAW, TGA, TIF, TIFF, WBMP, WBM, WEBP, WMF and more

TRIAL

30 days

PROS

The layers-based operation simplifies adjustment for certain objects without affecting other effects. You can also record the adjustment sequence to later apply it to another image in one click.

CONS

Rather basic editing options.

OUR VERDICT

An extremely simple graphic design software, it will help with basic photo editing to everyone who is not a professional in the field. Over 200 filters and correction options will create masterpieces from your photos.

detailed parameters
TYPE

Raster

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 | 8.1 | 10

MOBILE APPS

No

FEATURES

RAW support (500+ camera models), Layered retouching and repair, Image repair tools, Precision targeting, Noise removal, Color targeting, Non-destructive adjustments, Dehaze adjustment, GPU-accelerated layers engine, Photoshop plugin support, Photo organization and management, Photo sharing and social media posting, Fully customizable and more

SUPPORTED FILE TYPES

ACDC, BMP, GIF, JP2, JPG, PCX, PNG, PSD, TGA, TIFF, WBMP, WEBP

TRIAL

3 days without registration, 
31 days upon registration

X

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Corel CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite 2018

Non-Commercial Suite

CorelDRAW is one of those programs everyone interested in design has at least heard about if not tried. Where in raster graphics the Adobe's biggest rival is probably CyberLink, there is hardly anything that can compete with them in vectors better than Corel. In certain ways, CorelDRAW is more popular among designers working in vectors than Adobe's Illustrator. However, what we have here is not the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite but its cheaper (and, admittedly, a bit limited) edition, CorelDRAW Home and Student Suite 2018. Cease to worry, the limitations are actually pretty small and, considering the price difference between this suite and the full one, we believe this is a great bargain.

The best thing about CorelDRAW Home and Student Suite 2018 is that it is not as hard to master as one might think when they hear the name of a professional graphic design software. The interface is pretty clean and user-friendly, the tools are marked and their icons show what they do. It is a non-commercial edition so you can't use it officially to earn money but it is probably one of the best graphic design software for beginners. It will come in handy for school projects, creating fun postcards for friends and family, getting your skills closer to the level where you transition to the full-size CorelDRAW Graphic Suite and can earn money in this industry.

Review of Corel CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite 2018 Graphic design software for home and school

Plethora of Apps

This is a Suite, meaning that having bought it, you get not one app but a number of graphic design programs. Namely, the following:

  • CorelDRAW Home & Student 2018, the main app designed for creating vector illustrations and page layout.
  • Corel PHOTO-PAINT Home & Student 2018, a raster graphics app for when you need to tweak photos and pixel-based images; its full version is even considered by some user to be close in capabilities to Photoshop.
  • Corel PowerTRACE, an application to convert your bitmaps into vector images by tracing.
  • Corel CONNECT, a simple and intuitive content finder that syncs CorelDRAW and PHOTO-PAINT and allows you to search the necessary images on your PC, in your local network, or on the Corel's content DVD.
  • Corel CAPTURE is, as the name suggests, a screen capturing tool. Admittedly, there are a couple of simpler screen capturing apps throughout the Internet, some of them even free, but it is still nice to have it included in the Suite.
  • The built-in WhatTheFont engine that will help you identify any fonts you see using a MyFont website. This one easy, you don't need to go to the website specifically, just click the feature in the Font menu in CorelDRAW and it will send you to the site in no time. (Note that you do need an Internet connection for that)
  • Barcode Wizard, a tool to, yes, create barcodes. Pretty useful and also fun, for some reason.
  • Duplexing Wizard will help you do the back-to-back printing.

Add here more than a thousand of clipart and digital images and hundreds of other useful content for just about any needs. This suite is definitely a good buy.

Corel CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite 2018 Graphic design software for home and school in the use

Usefulness to Boot

CorelDRAW Home & Student 2018 Suite offers a selection of features that would be useful for amateur photographers. Have you ever made a photo where everything was stunning except for the crooked perspective? Like the roof of the building you were photographing or the horizon in the distance looked distorted? Not parallel to the edges of the photo? Now there are a number of ways to fix this issue even in Photoshop, for example, but most of them a somewhat tedious and fussy. Not in CorelDRAW. With the straightening bar, this will take no more than a couple of seconds and the picture will look just perfect.

Here's another example of a great feature: the CorelDRAW software for graphic design is really great when it comes to adjusting perspective. Be if the task of making an in-perspective image looks like it was taken head-on, or aligning the picture for real-world "distance" look, the tools here do it with ease you would never suspect. It does not take a genius to master a software that does so many things automatically.

The suite is able to work with 4K monitors, multi-monitor set-ups, and it supports stylus work, design students and enthusiasts will benefit from it tremendously. And it has an Upload to WordPress feature built-in, which is a feat for bloggers.

Detailed review of Corel CorelDRAW Home & Student Suite 2018 Graphic design software for home and school

 

Adobe Illustrator CC

Long-lasting Top Graphic Design Software

Can you believe that Adobe Illustrator has been with us for the last 30 years? 31, actually, as it was launched in January of 1987. This is a long time! And for all this time, it has stayed on the top of the vector graphic design software for PC. Now that's something to boast.

Adobe Illustrator is a to-go solution for many professional graphic designers. The reasons for that include the software's long presence on the market as well as its developers' habit to react to every trend promptly by releasing small-ish updates two-three-four times a year lately. It was not always like that, of course, there were times when Illustrator updates had a couple of years between them, but well, those times had also way less need and fewer trends in graphic design for the software developers to use, so there's that as well. Now, since the start of the Creative Cloud program that replaced the Creative Suite, there are major upgrades to most Adobe's software roughly once a year and smaller updates in between: fixing bugs, adding tiny treats to cater to designers who keep their hand on the pulse of trends, things like that. They keep the professional and amateur community interested and any competitors on their tiptoes, trying to be faster, more flexible, and less expensive at the same time.

Review of Adobe Illustrator CC The state of the art of illustration

Biggest Upgrades

The newest update, issued in October 2017 (Adobe CC 2018) and then expanded just recently in March (within the Adobe CC 2018.1 edition), brings to our table quite a feat of upgrades to the existing features as well as some completely new ones.

First of all, the Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 now launches faster than before. That was always one of the complaints with all Adobe graphic design software for Mac and Windows alike, as well as their video editors—it takes time to load all the overwhelming range of tools they offer. Little by little, every new release takes less time to launch and we can't help but notice it. But that's not even the cap of the huge iceberg that is the 2018 edition of the Illustrator CC. Here are the two we find to be the most notable, though the list is way more extensive.

The new and smart Properties panel

This is pure convenience. In the new CC software for graphic design, Illustrator and Photoshop included, the properties panel now reacts automatically to you selecting a tool, an object, or a layer on your image and shows you exactly the controls you might need to work with it. This saves a lot of time and speeds your work tremendously, let alone makes it simpler and less stressful.

Puppet Warp

This is a completely new feature and it will be deeply appreciated by animators and character designers. What you previously did using single anchor points and paths, you can now do faster and make look more natural with this tool. You can set points that you wish to move as well as those you need to stay fixed and then you twist, transform, rotate all you want. The feature comes in handy when you need your character move their hands, for example, or it will also be useful for customizing text shapes.

Adobe Illustrator CC The state of the art of illustration in the use

Smaller but Notable Upgrades

Another notable addition to the Adobe graphic design software this year is the support for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar. If you are already used to this in other apps, your working speed in Illustrator will most likely go up, however, it takes some time to master for those who did not use the Touch Bar before so for them, this addition might be not that significant.

The software improved greatly in ways of font manipulation by adding SVG OpenType fonts support, where you can manipulate just about anything without distorting the style. You can now make a thousand artboards on your canvas (that is if your computer is powerful enough to handle this load), reorganize and align them without fuss. The adjustment of handles and anchor points size deserves a mention as well: although minor and insignificant at first glance, it adds great comfort to work process. There's more: DropBox browsing and PDF import improvements, data merging, style sets, text management, etc.

It's hard to mention all the benefits of the newest Illustrator update, we do encourage you to check it out yourself with the week-long trial. By the way, there is a sort of mobile version of Illustrator, too.

Detailed review of Adobe Illustrator CC The state of the art of illustration

 

Affinity Designer

Raster and Vector Graphic Design Software in One App

Serif Ltd. is a company established in 1987, the very same year the first Adobe Illustrator was released. For years, Serif had been creating software for Windows. However, their Affinity project is a very young enterprise, it was only started in 2014. Moreover, the first release of the Affinity Designer was not for Windows but for MacOS and has been adapted to Windows only two years later, in November 2016.

Affinity Designer quite strongly resembles Adobe graphic design software, which does not really come as a surprise since Adobe is a leader in the industry and many rival companies use its products as inspiration. That being said, there is a list of differences between Affinity and Adobe's software, and some of them might sway you towards the less famous company.

Affinity Designer makes perfect graphic design software for beginners, for several reasons, one of the main ones being its price. Affinity Designer has a set price, not a subscription fee, and this price is lower than mainstream software like CorelDRAW. At the same time, the Designer app offers the functionality of two pieces of software in one. Whereas with Adobe, you will need Illustrator for vector and Photoshop for raster graphics, and with Corel, it would be CorelDRAW for vector and Photo-Paint for raster, with Affinity Designer, you only need one since it works with both vectors and pixel-based raster images using its two modes called "Personas". Switching between them takes one click and a fraction of second of your time.

However, as you might expect, there are limitations.

Review of Affinity Designer Professional graphic design software

The Limitations Are Few

Affinity Designer uses boolean functions, which is good in and of itself when creating complex shapes but can hardly compare to the Illustrator's Shape Builder, for example. There are some tools we have gotten used to after the years with Adobe and Corel products that are absent from Designer, like the Knife tool, for example, or Mesh and Blend. There is no multiple stokes option yet as well. As for the raster graphics pixel persona, the Photoshop-available magic wand and cloning brush that can save a lot of time sometimes can be found in Affinity's other software, the Affinity Photo, but not in Designer. (Still, these two together cost less than a combo of vector and raster Corel apps, for example.)

The good news is that Affinity team is working on expanding the toolset and they promise the upgrade will be at no additional cost. However, how soon it will happen we can not say and right now certain tools some designers find irreplaceable are missing from this graphic design software for Mac and Windows.

Affinity Designer Professional graphic design software in the use

Some Things Are Better

Besides the price and the combination of raster and vector software for graphic design in one app, here are the things you might appreciate in Affinity Designer over any other software.

  • Fast launch. According to the Affinity's developers, this was one of their main goals when creating their graphic design software for PC, and we must say they fared well in that, the app takes half the time Illustrator takes before it is ready for use.
  • The collection of pre-prepared shapes is vast and all the possible tweaking options are easy to find and manipulate.
  • The Constraints tool will be loved by UI designers. It was created, basically, to make it easier to produce designs adaptable to different screen sizes, like, when you switch from your iPad to your iPhone all the icons on the website you open don't shrink or go beyond the screen.
  • Continuous export. We've all been there—suddenly, there is a blackout or the computer crash and you need to do everything from scratch since you've forgotten to save/export the last two hours of your work. Not with the Affinity easy graphic design software, this one offers you a feature where, when it's on, every change is automatically exported. Sort of like working with GoogleDocs or Evernote, but in graphics.
  • History panel. Well, this one does not need an introduction, does it?

All in all, Affinity Designer is not the most powerful graphic design software right now but its creators certainly make some considerable efforts towards that ambition. Right now, this is software we'd recommend beginners and those web designers who are not willing to pay for features they don't use.

Detailed review of Affinity Designer Professional graphic design software

 

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018

Renowned Creator

Corel is another name well-known in the field of graphic design, alongside Adobe. Most people have heard of CorelDRAW at least once, it's a famous software for vector graphics. But this is a review of top photo editing software and we are here to tell you about another Corel product, the new PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate. Creators claim it to be an "affordable alternative to Photoshop" and they are more or less truthful in it.

The new thing in PaintShop Pro 2018 is that it has two workspaces for users with a different level of skills and experience. For those only beginning their journey into the world of photo editing, it might be more convenient to start with the Essentials workspace (you make the choice upon startup and can switch at any moment). In here, you will find the most basic functions like Crop, Eraser, Drop, Gradient and some more heavily used instruments. You can also add some features here if you need, using the Search button—this might be useful for editors who have some (or even a lot of) experience but need fast work with certain tools and uncluttered window. On the other hand, with Complete workspace, you get the whole range of tools and instruments, large enough to get lost in sometimes. Fortunately, Corel has answered the pleas of its users of previous versions and has made the user interface much simpler to navigate.

Review of Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Photo editing software

Do It Faster

What Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 offers its users is over 100 backgrounds, 75 new patterns/gradients/textures, 30 new brushes, color palettes, and, what we've found even more useful, a scripting engine. What does it mean, in this particular case? The scripting engine in a photo editing software is a feature where, when you need to edit several photos with the same effects (for example, a series of photos in the same color scheme and with similar contents but at different angles), you create a script with the necessary changes and apply it to all the photos. You can create a script for almost every task you do often, or not often but sometimes it's just the best. There is, by the way, a batch processing option as well. With these two possibilities, editing becomes much easier and faster, which can be extremely useful at times.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Photo editing software in the use

Buy a Batch

There are two options for you to choose from right now: PaintShop Pro 2018 is a single app, whereas PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate is a collection of professional photo editing software and in addition to the main app it also includes Painter Essentials 5, Perfectly Clear 3 SE, and Corel AfterShot 3, all dedicated apps for certain tasks. With the Painter Essentials 5, you can take your photo and turn it into a drawing or a painting; it also offers tools to sketch from scratch and create stunning pictures. Perfectly Clear 3 SE is an intelligent app able to enhance images tremendously with a single click thanks to the collection of presets. Corel AfterShot 3 is an app designed for RAW editing, it makes photos from your camera look professional and it also supports batch processing, you can apply the changes to up to 1000 photos.

Detailed review of Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 Photo editing software

 

ACDSee Photo Editor 10

No Frills but Everything You Need

The ACDSee Photo Editor is a simple graphic design software for beginners. It is not overly packed with features and high-level functionality and can hardly be used for professional photo editing but if you are just an enthusiast, want to beautify your photos, and don't want to pay too much, this is a nice enough option. It has every tool necessary for great photo adjustment even if not much more.

The feature you might not find in some of the more expensive and maybe even some professional graphic design programs but which is present in ACDSee is the built-in RAW support. Furthermore, the list of supported cameras is over 500 names long, including some of the rarer models. That is more than absolute most editors and certainly more than any editors at a price like this.

The second thing we'd like to mention is the convenient user interface. All the most popular functionality is within a one-click reach by default—the tools on the left and the layers, adjustment layers, colors, and history on the right. The interface is fully customizable, though, so if you find this placement uncomfortable for some reason, you can move the panels around, open/close them when necessary, turn certain tools on or off, etc.

Review of ACDSee Photo Editor 10 Your creative environment..

Layer After Layer

This software for graphic design has a layered workspace. This means that every adjustment you make, be it exposure, brightness, contrast, blur/sharpen effect, or gradient map, to name a few, they will be applied as a new layer on top of your original image. How is this convenient? Well, when applying a variety of changes directly to the image, you stumble upon a problem: if you need to dispose of one effect, you need to undo everything applied after it. On the other hand, with separate layers as effects and adjustments, you can just turn it off or delete it directly without affecting other layers. Now, this is possible to do in Photoshop as well, for example, but you'll have to first create the layers and then apply the effects to them, and that is purely inconvenient when Photoshop has other ways, complex as they are. The ACDSee Photo Editor 10 creates those layers automatically and you can come back to them at any moment to tweak that one parameter to enhance the image with consideration to all other applied effects.

Some users might consider all this layer collecting a bother and an additional load on the PC (hence, slower operation) but that is also not a problem since, first, this simple graphic design software does not require too much power from your processor and, second, it uses GPU-accelerated layers processing, making your work a breeze.

ACDSee Photo Editor 10 Your creative environment.. in the use

Enhancement Possibilities

One of the greatest things Adobe offers today is the widest possible range of add-ons, presets, and plug-ins created by third-party developers. Those can be added to the specific software and used by anyone willing to pay (though there are free ones as well). Well, other software also sometimes has plug-in possibilities but rarely as wide a selection of plug-ins themselves, what with the Adobe graphic design software being the most popular one. So, here's another piece of great news: ACDSee Photo Editor 10 is fully compatible with Photoshop plug-ins. You can take advantage of them without paying the monthly fee for Adobe's products. Isn't that nice?

Detailed review of ACDSee Photo Editor 10 Your creative environment..

 

What Is a Graphic Design Software?

Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Literally, not metaphorically: a beautiful cover caught your eye and you ended up buying a book? Or maybe you decided to watch a movie because it had this absolutely stunning advertising poster? Companies' logos are an essential part of their brand, the part that is most remembered and recognized, for better or worse. It seems so simple, at first. But there is a reason graphic designers are paid ample money for their job.

Graphic design is not a single profession, either, it is a vast number of occupations where if you are a top specialist in one branch it does not mean you can do good in all of them. A logo designer is not essentially an illustrator and not every illustrator can make a comprehensive and memorable infographic, for example. That's why design companies have teams of specialists and big corporations invest in design departments instead of dumping everything on a single person. There are exceptions but they are just that—exceptions. And to be a good graphic designer in your preferred field, you need to master an appropriate software.

Computer graphics are generally divided into two types: vector and raster graphics. The first type uses lines and shapes, vector software is good for creating logos and illustrations that have a geometry-like feeling to them; vectors are also usually sharper, more defined visually. Raster images, on their part, use pixels and create smoother-looking images since they handle gradients better. However, when you try to stretch a raster image to fit a bigger frame, you will get a blurry image. Vector graphics, instead, are resolution-independent, meaning they can be enlarged without losing quality. Though best used in combination, the two types of graphic design software have their target users: raster programs are used more in photo editing, collaging, and photomontage while vector software is the to-go solution among web/logo designers, game illustrators, etc.

Separately stand the 3D graphic design and CAD (computer-aided design) software since they are mostly targeting very specific tasks: 3D is used for modeling and animation and CADs are adopted by architects. 3D and CAD programs are vector graphics.

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Publish Date: 2018-05-25 14:27:52