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The 13 Best Graphic Design Apps to Elevate Your Creativity

The 13 Best Graphic Design Apps to Elevate Your Creativity

We must admit that graphic design skills are a big must-have superpower in this pictorial society. If you are a professional designer, an entrepreneur who wants to spruce up his brand or someone who simply loves making beautiful things, having the right tools will make all the difference.

This article is like a backstage pass into discovering some of the best graphic design apps. We’re talking about some game-changing software that transforms your wildest imaginations into vivid, astonishing artwork (no magic wand required!).

So, grab your drink of choice and set those creative juices flowing as we plunge into an exhilarating world where art meets technology in fascinating ways ever. You’ll soon discover that only you can limit yourself- plus maybe how much caffeine you can handle!

Table of Contents

Adobe's Creative Suite – The Industry Titan

Adobe Creative Suite Graphic Design Software

Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite is like the Michael Jordan of graphic design software, a legendary all-star everyone knows and respects. This power-packed collection provides top-notch tools to meet every designer’s needs.

Adobe Photoshop: The OG Image Editor

Let’s start with the crown jewel, shall we? Adobe Photoshop is the OG, the grandfather of image editing software, which has been designers’ best friend since the 90s. The things you can do with it are unique, making Michelangelo shed tears of happiness.

So if you’re retouching photos, creating stunning digital art or crafting eye-catching graphics, don’t worry; Photoshop will always have your back. Its layers, masks, endless tool sets, and filters help you translate your craziest visions into a pixel-perfect reality.

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Adobe Illustrator: The Vector Virtuoso

While raster graphics are Photoshop’s strong point, Adobe Illustrator reigns supreme in vectors. This bad boy creates sharp artwork that looks perfect at any size, making it ideal for logos, icons, illustrations and more.

An illustrator’s pen tool is his best pal for drawing smooth curves and complex shapes with surgical precision. Even raster images can be converted into editable vector graphics through the live tracing feature in Illustrator, thereby saving days spent trying to achieve this manually.

Adobe InDesign: The Layout Maestro

Now, let's talk about laying out your designs like a pro after dealing with image editing and illustration. Enter Adobe InDesign, the layout maestro that puts “design” into graphic design.

Whether creating a fantastic magazine spread, an elegant brochure or a flashy poster, InDesign lets you take charge of typography, colour schemes and page elements. Its user-friendly interface, coupled with advanced typographic controls, ensures the production of breathtaking layouts that cannot go unnoticed by anyone who sees them.

But what’s even better? These three giants work perfectly with one another, so you can merge them into any creative cloud program, which is like having a well-oiled machine at your fingertips.

Image editing✨✨✨✨✨✨✨
Vector graphics✨✨✨✨✨✨✨
Page layout✨✨✨✨✨✨✨

Affinity's Powerhouse Trio – Affordable Excellence

Best Drawing Apps Affinity Designer

Adobe’s suite is undoubtedly the industry’s benchmark, but Serif has tried it with its excellent Affinity line. Of course, these three powerhouses, Designer, Photo and Publisher, include many cheaper features than Adobe’s subscription.

Affinity Designer – The Vector/Raster Hybrid Hero

Like a Swiss Army Knife of graphic design apps, Affinity Designer handles vector and raster tasks easily. Be it logos, illustrations or intricate designs, you’ll love using this because it has an intuitive interface and non-destructive editorial capability.

Designer packs quite a punch in features such as live pixel/vector persona switching, digital painting tools (even on vectors!), and advanced typography options. Furthermore, it can handle massive documents while zooming around without losing tiny details.

Affinity Photo – The Photoshop Alternative

Look no further for a powerful yet pocket-friendly Photoshop alternative than Affinity Photo. This pixel-pushing powerhouse delivers professional-grade image editing and raw processing capabilities without breaking the bank.

From advanced retouching tools and HDR merging to panorama stitching and focus stacking, Affinity Photo covers all bases. Experimentation is made easy through its non-destructive adjustment layers plus live filters, whereas the persona system allows you to switch between persona workflows conveniently.

Affinity Publisher – The InDesign Contender

The last member of this trio is Affinity Publisher, a robust desktop publishing app that rivals Adobe Indesign. With its sleek interface, advanced layout tools, and unparalleled typographic controls, crafting stunning documents couldn't be easier for Publisher.

Whether making a magazine or brochure or even writing an entire book, master pages, facing-page spreads, powerful text handling capabilities ensure your work always remains consistent and efficient. Moreover, you must remember the ability to import and edit Photoshop or Illustrator files directly, making the affinity suit into one seamless creative ecosystem.

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Sketch – The UX/UI Designer's Secret Weapon

Sketch App Mac

When it comes to UX/UI design or any other form of digital product design, Sketch has become indispensable. It is a Mac-only app that has become an industry standard for creating visually appealing and functional user interfaces.

Sketch allows you to build your interface designs using its intuitive vector tools, artboard system and extensive library of plugins. This also includes collaborative features like real-time shared editing and version control, which are ideal for team-based projects.

Nevertheless, Sketch's close integration with popular prototyping tools like InVision, Marvel and Framer distinguishes it. This uninterrupted workflow lets you change your motionless models into clickable, interactive prototypes in a few clicks while shortening the design-to-development gap.

Canva – The Graphic Design Democratiser

Canva 3D Mockup Tools

The heavy artillery of professional design software is outside the reach of everybody. However, that is where Canva comes into play with its easy-to-use interface and many templates, images, and design elements to democratise graphic design for all.

Canva makes it super simple to create beautiful social media posts, presentations, marketing materials and more, even if you are not a seasoned designer using drag-and-drop simplicity. Anyone can make stunning content with its intuitive tools and pre-designed layouts that take the guesswork out of design.

However, don’t be deceived by its accessibility; Canva offers some good stuff under the hood. You can do this without sweating or digging into your pocket too much courtesy of features such as background remover, photo effects and custom fonts.

Procreate – The Illustrator's Digital Canvas

Best Drawing App Procreate Review

For all digital artists and illustrators, Procreate is a complete game-changer. This application, which is very powerful but intuitive, helps to transform your iPad into a flexible digital canvas by giving you access to an array of brushes and advanced drawing tools.

Procreate’s inking engine responds quickly, and its palm rejection feature works without noticing, making the experience of drawing more natural than traditional media. It has layers, blending modes and transforming tools that can give you control over your art like never before; it also boasts impressive 3D painting features that add depth and dimension to your creations.

However, what separates Procreate from other applications on the market is how seamlessly it integrates with Apple’s ecosystem. You can quickly move files between different applications such as Photoshop or Affinity or even create time-lapse videos showing how you developed your artistic skills with others.

Figma – The Cloud-Based Collaboration King

Figma Design Tools

Designing digitally entails much collaboration, and Figma is among the cloud-based heroes revolutionising teamwork. It combines vector graphics editing, prototyping and real-time partnership all in one place on the web.

Goodbye to version control nightmares and endless back-and-forth email threads – Figma allows many designers to work on one file simultaneously to see each other’s changes immediately. Robust commenting and annotation tools enable seamless communication, ensuring everyone is on the same page (literally).

But Figma is not just about collaboration: it is also a powerful design tool in its own right. You can make perfect mobile, web, or any platform designs using its intuitive vector editing capabilities, component libraries, and auto-layout features. Moreover, when you want those static visuals turned into interactive prototypes, Figma’s robust prototyping tools will have your back.

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The Underdogs: Hidden Gems Worth Exploring

Best Apps For Designers Coreldraw

We’ve looked at some of the big guns in design so far, which, without a doubt, are legendary within graphic design circles, but there are a few dark horses that need to be given a chance to shine. You might miss these unassuming gems, but they have unique features and possibilities.

Affinity PixelPersona: The Best Kept Secret for Pixel Artists

We already discussed our love for Affinity Designer and Photo, but did you know they have something called “PixelPersona?” It is a pixel editor inside designer software, turning it into a full raster editor capable of competing with Photoshop one on one.

Though its other functions include HDR tone mapping and non-destructive editing, this app boasts several advanced pixel tools. Thus, integrating easily with other Affinity applications simplifies the transition between vector and raster workflows.

Clip Studio Paint: Where Every Digital Artist Wants To Be

Clip Studio Paint tops the list of must-have software for anyone who is into digital art or illustration. Its pressure-sensitive brush engine and extensive brush library mirroring traditional media provide an unrivalled natural drawing experience.

Moreover, apart from being an excellent sketching tool, Clip Studio Paint comprises advanced elements like 3D modelling, animation tools, and comic/manga creation features, thus representing a versatile complete package application for artists working in different spheres.

Corel Painter: A Digital Painting Rebel

And no compilation can leave Corel Painter out when talking about digital painting. This is the industry’s best mimicry of the physical appearance of various conventional painting materials such as oils, watercolours or pastels; therefore, this app has been the go-to solution for many professional artists and illustrators.

However, Corel Painter offers many brushes, paper textures, and revolutionary tools like stunning Particle Brushes, ensuring that users achieve magnificently realistic digital artwork where reality combines with virtuality.

The Battle of the Vector Editors: Illustrator vs. Affinity Designer vs. Sketch

Okay, let us answer the question that has been puzzling humankind from time immemorial – which Vector Editing App is the best among them all? Nonetheless, Adobe Illustrator has always been regarded as the standard of this industry, while Affinity Designer and Sketch have tried their best to meet its standards. Let’s now analyse the facts.

  • Illustrator, the mother of all apps in the vector editing area, has an enormous feature set and powerful toolbox and is well integrated with other Adobe apps. But some people hate it because it takes so long to learn how to use it and has subscription-based costs.
  • On the other hand, Affinity Designer costs less than a one-time purchase alternative and has a modern look. It is a good option since this software allows you to make non-destructive changes and quickly go through processes such as vector or raster.
  • However, Mac-only Sketch stands tall among them regarding UI/UX design. This choice has an artboard system, thus making it easy for digital product designers who prefer working with prototyping tools and want a tight plugin ecosystem around their applications.

In conclusion, determining the “best” vector editor largely hinges on your needs and workflow preferences. Nevertheless, what remains certain is having any of these products in your kit will surely boost your vector art expertise.

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Tips and Tricks for Maximising Your Design Prowess

Now that we’ve finished with the most critical players of graphic design, you need to know the following professional tips and tricks for the full potential of your creativity:

  • The best thing is to know their shortcuts. If you learn them to perfection, they can boost your effectiveness and productivity.
  • Try out plugin ecosystems and third-party extensions because they have the potential to alter how these applications work.
  • Don’t be afraid of trying out new things! This profession requires pushing boundaries and creative experimentation.
  • Always seek knowledge from tutorials, online communities, or design resources– You can continually improve on what you have learned before.
  • Stay organised using layer groups, folder structures, or naming conventions – it will save your life in future.
  • Ensure that you are constantly backing up. Nothing is as bad as losing hours (or days) of hard work due to a tech glitch.
  • Take breaks and walk away from the screen. Different perspectives can identify problems quickly and inspire new ideas.

The Future of Graphic Design: AI, AR, and Beyond

App Design Augmented Reality Trends

Expect the graphic design landscape to be mind-blown by technological advances as it continues to evolve at a stunning rate. As for the future of design, AI and AR are just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine AI-powered design assistants who can analyse your work, offer intelligent suggestions, and generate entire layouts or graphics based on your specifications. Or picture AR tools that allow you to visualise and interact with your designs in real-world environments, thus promoting unmatched creativity and collaboration.

Today, these cutting-edge technologies may seem like science fiction, but they are quickly transforming into reality. Indeed, these advancements will be exploited by future graphic design apps, thereby giving rise to a new era of design possibilities whose magnitude we can only begin to fathom.

Hold tight, my fellow creatives, because even from here, the next thing in graphic designing is outstanding!

Conclusion: Find Your Creative Soulmate

Ah! What a ride we have had! From the industry's big boys to unknown little things that are the best-kept secrets, we have covered many graphic design apps for every style, skill and budget.

But here's the twist: hunting for “the best” app does not involve following trends or relying on others. It’s about finding a tool that aligns with your creative process, workflow and personal choice.

Whether you are an established professional or a new designer just starting your creative journey, make sure you explore, experiment and eventually discover that perfect software mate. This application feels part of your artistic vision, allowing you to create your most outstanding pieces.

However, remember that not the tools but limitless imagination and enthusiasm determine what will be on display at your digital easel. Thus, dear painters and snazzy creators, move forward and unlock all possibilities because this planet awaits being thrilled by your visual masterpieces!

FAQs: Your Graphic Design Questions, Answered

Do I need a powerful computer to run graphic design software?

It depends on the software and how complicated your project is. But usually, it is ideal to have a modern computer with adequate RAM size, a fast CPU, and graphics cards, especially for jobs that require heavy resource usage.

How much do graphic design apps cost?

Prices vary significantly from free options such as Canva to subscription models like Adobe Creative Cloud (starting around $20/month) and one-time buys like Affinity apps (about $50 per app).

Can I get discounted rates on graphic design software as a student or educator?

Most major software companies offer substantial educational discounts or special pricing to students, teachers, and academic institutions.

Are there free graphic design app alternatives to paid software?

Although they come with fewer functions compared to paid apps, this does not mean that they cannot make good starting points for learners or individuals running low on funds, e.g., Canva versus Gimp versus Inkscape.

How difficult is it to learn graphic design software?

Learning time depends on your skills and experience with the app. Nonetheless, most contemporary designs put user experience at their core.

Can graphic design apps work with files from other programs?

Most professional quality systems support file format exchange, including importation/exportation, making them compatible across multiple applications. These standard cross-compatible formats include PSD, AI, PDF and SVG.

How do I choose the right graphic design app for my needs?

Factors such as your area of specialisation (e.g., retouching photos, drawing illustrations or creating layouts), level of experience, budget and way of working should lead you to the right software. Additionally, consider looking at reviews, tutorial videos and, most importantly, free trials to identify what meets your requirements.

Are there graphic design apps specifically for web or mobile design?

Nevertheless, some general-purpose apps such as Illustrator and Sketch offer powerful tools for designing digital interfaces in addition to more specialised UI/UX and web/app design apps like Adobe XD, Figma and Sketch.

Can I use graphic design software for video editing or animation?

However, apart from their primary function of creating stills, some programs such as Adobe After Effects or Corel Painter have advanced tools for video editing and animation. At the same time, others like Procreate or Clip Studio Paint can even be used to make animated illustrations or GIF files.

How vital are keyboard shortcuts and customisation options in design apps?

Very! By learning keyboard shortcuts alone, one can be much more productive with the app, not to mention personalised brush settings, customisable workspaces, or preferences that may help you tailor your workflow to the specific app’s interface and work style.

Are there graphic design apps optimised for touchscreens or stylus input?

Of course! Procreate is a famous example, like Concepts and Sketchable, designed mainly for drawing on a touchscreen device, thus usually allowing users to enjoy stylus support expanded by gestures.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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