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The Ultimate Graphic Design Software Comparison

The Ultimate Graphic Design Software Comparison

Graphic design is integral to business, marketing, and personal projects in the digital age. With so many options for graphic design software, it can be overwhelming to determine which solution is right for your needs and budget. This comprehensive guide examines the top graphic design software comparison available in 2024 to help you make the best choice.

Key Factors: Graphic Design Software Comparison

There are several vital factors you should evaluate when selecting graphic design software:

Purpose and Scope of Use

First, consider how you plan to use the graphic design program. Will you be designing graphics for web, print, or both? Do you need software for basic image editing and illustrations or professionally oriented tools for page layouts, packaging mockups, interactive designs, etc.? Identify the core uses to narrow suitable options.

Learning Curve

Some graphic design software like Canva has an easy learning curve suitable for beginners, while programs like Adobe Illustrator offer advanced capabilities but can be more challenging to master. Assess your current skill level and willingness to invest time learning new software when weighing different solutions.

Available Features and Tools

Evaluate features like image editing tools, fonts, templates, animations, integrations with other programs, and other capabilities. More robust software often provides greater control, customisation and expansive features. But you may only need some things if your usage is basic.


Graphic design software ranges from free programs like GIMP to paid tools with subscription plans like Adobe Creative Cloud. Factor in your budget constraints and whether free, one-time purchase or monthly subscription models provide the optimal value.

Compatibility and Accessibility

Consider what devices and operating systems the graphic design solution supports. Web-based programs allow universal access from any device, while some software may be designed solely for Mac or Windows.

The Top 10 Graphic Design Software Products

With an overview of critical selection criteria in mind, let's examine some of the leading graphic design software tools on the market in 2024:

1 – Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Suite Graphic Design Software

The Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry-standard graphic design and content creation suite. Key programs include:

  • Photoshop: Best for image editing, compositing, design and illustration. Offers layers, masking, filters and high-end retouching tools.
  • Illustrator: Vector graphics software ideal for logos, icons, typography, technical drawings, charts and graphics.
  • InDesign: Professional page layout and design for print and digital media publishing.
  • XD: Fast mockup and prototyping tool for UX/UI design.
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Creative Cloud provides seamless integration between Adobe's apps. It's the most comprehensive toolset available but also the most expensive at $53 per month with an annual plan.

2 – Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer provides powerful vector and raster graphics tools as a Photoshop and Illustrator alternative. Key features include:

  • 1,000,000+ % zoom for precision
  • Non-destructive effects and adjustments
  • Perspective glows, blends, and shadow controls
  • Batch export abilities
  • Compatible with Mac, Windows, iPad

It's available for a one-time price of $55, making it very affordable. The learning curve is steeper than beginner tools but offers pro-level capabilities.

3 – Canva

Canva Design Tools

Canva is a free graphic design platform with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface. Great for non-designers to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents, and other visuals. Features include:

  • Photo editing and design templates
  • Massive library of fonts, images, illustrations, and videos
  • Animated elements and backgrounds
  • Brand kit and collaboration tools
  • Social media sizing presets

The free plan has limited assets. Paid plans start at $12.95 per month with more premium content. Easy to learn and use but less robust for professional projects.

4 – Procreate

Procreate is one of the most powerful iPad sketching, painting, and illustration apps. Features include:

  • Over 200 handmade brushes
  • Ultra-realistic canvas textures
  • Animation and typography tools
  • 16K canvas support
  • Context-aware gestures

Exceptional natural media capabilities. Built-in graphics editor and masking make it flexible for graphic design, too—just a $10 one-time purchase via the App Store.

5 – Vectornator

Vectornator Graphic Design Software Comparison

Vectornator is a fast, intuitive vector graphics editor for Mac, iOS and iPadOS. Core features:

  • Natural pen/touch drawing and editing
  • Dynamic symbols for reuse
  • Powerful typography controls
  • Live collaboration abilities
  • Export as SVG, PNG, PDF, etc.

Great Adobe Illustrator alternative at a fraction of the cost. Can create everything from logos and infographics to website mockups. Free version available with Pro upgrade ($29/year).

6 – Inkling

Inkling is a professional screen design app for Mac and iPad by Wacom. Perfect for UX/UI designers and illustrators. Key features:

  • Intelligent drawing assistance and correction tools
  • Dynamic symbols and template libraries
  • Tailored for Apple Pencil and Wacom styluses
  • Cross-platform creation capabilities
  • Camera view for working from real-world

Free limited version. Full Inkling is subscription-based at $4.99/month.

7 – Figma

Figma Design Tools

Figma is a popular browser-based graphic design and prototyping tool. Useful for UX/UI, Web/App design, marketing materials, icons, etc. Main features:

  • Real-time collaboration
  • Design systems building capabilities
  • Prototyping and animated transitions
  • Libraries of components and styles
  • FigJam whiteboard for brainstorming

Very affordable. Free version with additional team functionality starting at $12/month per editor.

8 – GIMP

GIMP is a free, open-source raster graphics editor similar to Photoshop. Key highlights:

  • Layers, filters, masks, and photo enhancements
  • Support for third-party plugins
  • Batch processing and scripting capabilities
  • Extensive user-created plugins and scripts
  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux

It has a steeper learning curve than Canva but is much more robust as a Photoshop alternative. Entirely free, making it an excellent option for beginners.

9 – Krita

Krita Vector Graphics Tool

Krita is a free and open-source digital painting and illustration app for concept artists, illustrators, and VFX artists. Features include:

  • Customisable brushes, textures, and brush engines
  • Wrap-around mode for seamless textures
  • A pop-up palette for quick access to colours and tools
  • Support for HDR imaging and over 100 layer types
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Great for digital painting but also concept art, textures, comics and animation. Steep learning curve but rivalling paid tools.

10 – PicMonkey

PicMonkey is a cloud-based image editing and graphic design platform accessible from any browser. Useful for:

  • Photo touch-ups and effects
  • Designing graphics, social posts, banners, etc.
  • Logo, collage, invitation makers
  • Animated images and videos
  • Integrates with HubSpot, WordPress, Facebook

Very easy to master and use. Free version with premium upgrade ($7.99/month) for more tools, storage and output flexibility.

Key Differences and Factors by Software Category

To recap the core strengths of the leading software options:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud – The industry standard with unrivalled features but the high cost
  • Affinity – Pro-grade vector/raster capabilities at an affordable one-time price
  • Canva – Free and easy tool for beginner-friendly graphic design
  • Procreate – Made for iPads, incredible digital illustration capabilities
  • Vectornator – Powerful Illustrator-alternative for vector graphics
  • Inkling – Specialised and natural UX/UI design for Mac iPad
  • Figma – Top browser-based design and prototyping solution
  • GIMP – Free Photoshop alternative with expansive capabilities
  • Krita – Leading free digital painting and illustration art app
  • PicMonkey – Easy photo editing and graphic design in the cloud

The right software depends on your specific graphic design needs, budget, skill level, and preferred devices.

Answering Common Questions About Graphic Design Software

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions to provide more context in determining the ideal graphic design solution:

What's the most accessible graphic design software for beginners?

For graphic design newbies, Canva and PicMonkey are the easiest to pick up, thanks to simple drag-and-drop interfaces, templates, and intuitive tools. Adobe also offers simplified web and mobile apps like Spark for beginners.

Is GIMP an excellent free alternative to Photoshop?

Yes, GIMP provides professional-grade photo editing, illustration, and design tools rivalling Photoshop in many respects. The interface differs and has a steeper learning curve, but it's extremely powerful for free software.

Can I design book covers and layouts without InDesign?

Yes, software like Affinity Publisher, Scribus, LucidPress, and Word offer decent book and document layout capabilities without paying for InDesign. Some limitations apply, but great free and low-cost options exist.

What's better for logo design – Illustrator or Photoshop?

Illustrator is better suited for logo design thanks to its vector graphic capabilities vs Photoshop's raster-based editing. Logos scale better when created as vectors in Illustrator or other vector-based software.

Is there a decent free alternative to Illustrator?

Yes, Vectornator provides a fantastic free vector graphics editor similar to Illustrator with options to upgrade for more features. Krita and Inkscape are two other great free Illustrator-like alternatives.

Should I pay monthly or yearly for Adobe Creative Cloud?

The yearly plan offers a lower monthly cost at $53/month vs $79.49 on a monthly subscription. Annual plans benefit freelancers, companies, and frequent users who rely on Creative Cloud apps daily, making the yearly plan more economical in the long term.

Which software is best for making YouTube thumbnails?

YouTube thumbnails are easily created using photo editing apps like Photoshop, GIMP, PicMonkey or even Canva. The key is having software with JPEG export, layered editing, text tools, and sizing presets like 1280 x 720px.

What skills does a graphic designer need to master?

Essential graphic design skills include mastering software like Adobe Creative Cloud, illustration, typography, layout, and colour theory; visual solid aesthetic, creative problem solving, communication, and analytical skills for design strategy.

Final Recommendations

The graphic design software market offers solutions for all needs and skill levels. Beginners benefit from user-friendly tools like Canva and PicMonkey to easily create social graphics, presentations, and more. Photoshop alternatives like GIMP provide free pro-grade editing capabilities. Pro designers require the expansive industry-standard feature sets of programs like Illustrator and InDesign.

Carefully examine your budget, intended design projects, preferred devices/platforms, and readiness to learn when comparing graphic design options. Both one-time purchase and subscription models offer excellent value in different ways. Leverage free trials to test software and invest time to master your chosen products. Proper graphic design software skills give creatives the tools to efficiently design and produce stunning visual materials that communicate and connect with any audience.

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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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