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10 Best Free and Paid Graphic Design Software for 2023

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Published on: 10 Nov 2022

"Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated."

-Paul Rand

Without a doubt, graphic designers are creative. It's a unique opportunity for those who have their calling in art. But, But, BUT, there's a difference between creativity and being a graphic designer. As summarised by Scott Adams:

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Design is knowing which ones to keep."

Your love for graphic designing is incomplete without the right software. So, here's a blog that tells you about 5 free and 5 paid software used by graphic designers worldwide.

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But, WAIT! That's not it. Besides the software, we have some extra information. It's collected from the personal experiences of graphic designers in our company. So, yes, the title should be :

"10 Best Free and Paid Graphic Design Software for 2023 and Other Things That No One Will Tell You".

Consider this to be an artist-to-artist discussion. Let's begin with some truth bombs!

Graphic Design: A Dying Career

Graphic design is art. But this art is restricted by many factors:

-First, companies have very precise demands from graphic designers. There is some scope for creativity. But employers and senior managers are very rigid with what they want.

-Second, graphic designers are restricted by the tools they use and the work they do. It's so much like painting. You are a painter. What you paint on the canvas is final. You can erase some elements or correct a few flaws. But, once this image is final, there's no "editing" happening thereafter. If a client demands some reformations in an image, it's a brand new canvas waiting for you.

-Third, graphic designers can create realistic portraits. But that can be useful and problematic at once. Imagine your senior comes and tells you:

"We want you to create the face of a model in front of which we will place our cosmetic product for advertisements". You create and finalise the image of a smiling woman's face. That's great! Congratulations! But what will you do if your senior asks for more adjustments in the image? The lighting is not right. He likes the face, but he doesn't like the angle. So, he asks you to create the same face but at a different angle and in a different lighting mood. It's impossible! And the repetitive effort is exhausting!

The pressure is 100% real. It's also the reason why graphic designers need to upgrade themselves immediately. Do it before the competitive market overtakes this field. For that, we have the solution. But before we address the solution, let's first talk about the software used in graphic design. It will help us explain to you better how you can upskill yourself in the design industry with our solution. So, let's read!

Free and paid software

Before we describe the lists, here's a confession:

The blog mentions personal experiences only for paid software.

Why? ( That sounds like such a lazy job!!!!!)

Before you judge, here's why:

-The paid software are the ones that will cost you money. Free software needs some time but won't cost money. Hence, trying them wouldn't result in loss.

-The free software mentioned below are easy to use. They aren't premium versions. Hence, the features provided in these software are basic. You will find them easy to understand, even as beginners.

-Let's face it, adding filler information will be an exhaustive read. You are here for quick knowledge and not to read novels.

So, without any delay, let's get into the list of free and paid software for graphic design.

Free Software

Canva

5 Best Features:

-The magic resizing tool allows you to change the shape, size, or design of any canva design.

-Change the entire colour palette of an image in a single click.

-The Canva Brand Kits keep your various projects and colour palettes organised. You can also find backup for future reference.

-Choose from tons of templates to fit your requirements. Design for social media, business banners, or offline advertisements.

-Remove the background of any image and create your own to improvise according to your style.

Inkscape

5 Best Features:

-Mesh Gradients to create accuracy and control using grids. Using this tool allows individual control over different values.

-Apply live effects on vector paths through the Live Path Effects (LPEs) system.

-Envelope tool that stretches the shape of a flat plane and squashes to change the control points.

-Perspective tool to match the perspective of the design created. The same tool allows you to manipulate the control points.

-Rotate Copies LPE tool creates various copies around a point. Use the tool to customise various parameters to add effects.

Vectr

5 Best Features:

-Cross-platform software that creates vector images.

-Online vector graphics tools to add various effects.

-Excellent path alteration software to enhance shapes and colours.

-Settings allow the user to know the precise size of each element to replicate designs.

-Transparent and free PNG export to any device.

Photoscape

5 Best Features:

-Convenient and interactive interface with multiple tabs.

-Power tools like objects, home, auto-level, film effect, undo, redo, sharpen, and more.

-Numerous frames to adjust contrast, saturation, brightness, shadow, and other effects. Use these automatically or manually.

-One-stop solution to adjust noise, fake-tilt, crystallisation, vignette, embossing, and more. You can also try  jitter, distortion, cellophane, linear gradient, reflection, and more effects.

-Hundreds of fonts, font thickness adjustments, colour fixes, and transparency adjustments.

GIMP

5 Best Features:

-Customisable interface to adjust the view and behaviour as per the user requirements.

-Full-Screen mode to preview the artwork and edit it using most of the screen space.

-Perspective distortion and correction mode to modify lens tilt.

-Digital retouching includes clone tools and healing tools for minor touch-up details.

-Supports JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, multi-resolution, and multi-colour-depth file formats.

Paid Software

Let's check out the top 5 paid software trending in the world of graphic design.

Adobe Photoshop

5 Best Features:

-The layers palette helps in adding various elements while designing independently in layers. Merge these layers according to the displaying order to enhance the flow of the design.

-The colour channel palette has specific shades that are added to the uploaded image. The RGB mode consists of blue, green, and red. But, in a different colour space, the palette takes an entirely different LAB or CMYK form.

-The pen tool is another effective tool that draws paths along the anchor points. Boost limitless creativity by using the flexible pen. Draw new shapes or edit existing shapes.

-The software allows the user to maintain the quality of the original shape layer. Within the fixed shape quality, edit the colours,  gradients, and other effects anytime.

-The vector mask uses black and white colours within the masking layer thumbnail. The layer mask creates a "masking portion" using the grayscale colour combination. Once the mask is done, the area under the mask disappears.

Here's what the common opinion about Adobe Photoshop says:

Like

Adobe Photoshop is known for its versatility. Initially, it was used to edit images. But, Photoshop has emerged way beyond it with its advanced tools. Create logos, brochures, or print designs using Photoshop as a one-stop answer for all. The software itself has many online tutorials, which help explore versatile packages. The interface is interactive and robust. Plus, Photoshop has many great plugins, brushes, and templates to choose from.

Dislike

Despite its versatile use, Photoshop has gathered some complaints from its users. Of course, the software is effective in creating designs. But it can also generate increased file sizes that can bog down the program. What's more bothersome is that Photoshop works on pixels and not vectors. Hence, it does not allow conversions, increasing the file size. Moreover, not every feature receives updates to resolve the issues. In fact, the presence of so many features is overwhelming, creating a high learning curve. Photoshop may seem to be an expensive choice if you are a first-timer. It's specifically true if you have to bear the costs alone.

Adobe Illustrator

5 Best Features

-The availability of digital brushes, pens, and pencils allows a free hand.

-Advanced-level colour palettes to fill shapes. Also, freedom to use gradient colour schemes and mix different colour effects.

-Split designs through layers. You can create edits in the layers whenever you want before finalising.

-Snapping capabilities and grid anchor points to draw shapes and alignments with accuracy.

-Cloud libraries store assets like texts, graphics, colours, and characters for future use.

Here's what the common opinion about Adobe Illustrator says:

Like

One, the design quality in Illustrator will always be premium, whether you scale up or scale down. Illustrator does not compromise the quality of work, even if you used many layers to create it. Two, the interface is easy and intuitive, which makes it user-friendly. The functioning is smooth, and you can navigate through the software once you grasp the idea of it. Three, a user can work on multiple designs fast. Why work on a single design at a time when you can multitask and finish your workload faster? Four, the files are accessible through creative clouds across computers and tablets.

Dislike

First, the software has too many tools, but it is different from Adobe Photoshop. This makes it quite confusing for beginners. Even professional Photoshop users find it difficult to adjust with it. That's because Illustrator tools work differently in comparison to its sister product, Photoshop. Second, the learning curve in Illustrator is too steep. There's so much to learn and work with that it becomes overwhelming. Third, added to it is the plight of being unable to save new file versions in the same file. This results in forming multiple versions of the same file. Hence, your desktop's file management system can go completely berserk. Fourth, many file management systems do not support Adobe Illustrator files. Larger files created on Illustrator don't fit in most systems.

CorelDraw

5 Best Features:

-Page layout controls to create premium-quality vector illustrations.

-Photo-Paint tool to edit images and layouts in raster format.

-Font manager to customise and manage various fonts.

-PowerTRACE tool to convert raster images to vectors through AI.

-Screen recording facility to capture works for future reference.

Here's what the common opinion about CorelDraw says:

Like

CorelDraw is known for its excellent memory usage. The software runs smoothly even on a low-end device. Unlike most software requiring robust hardware, CorelDraw is an economic choice. Moreover, the site has a super user-friendly and intuitive interface. It can export PNG layered images in a couple of clicks. And, no, the quality is not compromised in doing so. In fact, the software creates transparent vector-based images for web usage. As a beginner-level designer, you can create simple shapes at first. Then proceed to more creative designs. You will learn to use the add/subtract/node/weld functions to unleash innovative designs.

Dislike

So many positives! But there can't be zero negatives. After all, to err is human (and now technology too). First, you must customise the default look and feel every time you install Coreldraw. Initially, the software had a minimal approach which was smoother to run. The new upgrades are not all bad. But, they barely justify the high price since they have only added minor features. Moreover, these new features keep getting added with bugs. Personal advice, if you want to work with CorelDraw, it's better to skip a few upgrades and wait for a stable version.

Adobe InDesign

5 Best Features

Easy creation of digital magazines, ebooks, and more. Designs can be created in the form of video, audio, animations, and slideshow.

Interactive performance with Experience Manager and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Automatic backup of work for future reference.

Ability to add JP2k, WebP, and HEIC images without requiring any conversion.

Auto-style tools to design headers, body text, and various sections of content.

Here's what the common opinion about Adobe InDesign says:

Like

If you want to create vector art, InDesign is the software for you. The software has excellent page layouts that help in designing and editing graphics. The user-friendly interface of this software can help you edit on the go. Create new drafts within minutes whenever and wherever. Fast, but certainly not furious! InDesign has powerful tools, integrations, and capabilities to help graphic designers explore innovation.

Dislike

What's the most common complaint about InDesign or Adobe products in general?

InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop are adobe products. So, why do the shortcuts and features differ?

And why is this even a complaint? Because as a graphic designer, you have to constantly halt and consider which program you want to use. Juggling between these software is a hassle on its own. For example, anchor points in InDesign differ from that in Illustrator or Photoshop. If the functionality isn't the same, why should the name be? Why create the ruckus in a beginner's mind?

Adobe Lightroom

5 Best Features

-The catalog file saves photo-editing changes made. This means you can clear all the changes by clicking on the "reset" button to start from the original image.

-The adjustment brush allows adjustments on specific areas. for example adding brightness, exposure, and more.

-Graduated filter allows even application of gradient filter to give a flow-kind-of touch.

-The radial filter allows the user to draw an ellipsis around a subject. You can also adjust even the unselected areas.

-Easy software that works on both laptops and mobile devices.

Here's what the common opinion about Adobe Lightroom says:

Like

What users love about Adobe Lightroom is that it has free mobile-phone access. Of course, not everything is included in the free portal. But there's still enough to create minor design changes. Moreover, the synchronisation of the retouching settings on Lightroom is uncomplicated. The software can easily cut down 80% of the work with its batch-edit facilities. The presets, specifically, make designing easy and fast. You can use these presets in a single click and set fine retouching, effects, and more.

Dislike

Okay, so Lightroom has specific issues. For one, there are no constant updates or bug-fixing. Secondly, the software needs regular database backup, which can be pretty exhausting. If there is any database corruption, the user will lose everything they have worked hard for. Moreover, files saved via Lightroom are large and take up a lot of storage space. Thirdly, you will need some expertise to understand how to work with Lightroom. The contrast curves and the colour scale can be too vibrant and distasteful if not handled well. Lastly, the Lightroom histogram needs to fix its issues. The current version lacks waveform and skin-tone, which are available in other software.

3D Tools for Graphic Design: A Clever Upgrade

At the blog's beginning, we told you graphic designing was a dying career and that we could help you save it. How do you upgrade yourself as a graphic designer so that you can stay in the niche but with way more relevance? The answer to your question is 3D designing. Hear us out before you sigh in disagreement!

How can 3D tools take graphic designers to the next level?

Through 3D tools you can create 3D assets. For instance, if your client asks for a model’s face, you, first, create a 3D image of a person. Having a 360 degree angle of a face means you can use it from versatile angles. Render this face on 3D planes, save as an asset, and use it however you want in any way. Same face can be used in various projects to match a theme. Plus, it saves a lot of time.

Imagine you created a landscape. But your client doesn’t like the position of the sun. For any conventional graphic designer, it’s a mountainous workload of creating a new landscape from scratch. But what if you create the same landscape through 3D assets. Client doesn’t like the position of the sun? You can simply move the sun to a likeable position. 3D tools make it that convenient.

Designers, We Need to Talk!

On KoolStories, you get to learn according to your wish. Graphic design, 3D design, motion graphic design, animations, and more. We offer skills and experts to teach you those skills. Give your learning a scope beyond what schools teach through bite-sized courses. Our micro courses and one-to-one sessions give you first-hand knowledge of these skills. You will get to learn how they will come in handy in real life. Join the app today and unleash a new perspective of learning.

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FAQs

What are the disadvantages of Adobe Illustrator?

Here are the disadvantages of Adobe Illustrator:

-Takes up an extra amount of storage space.

-High learning curve.

-Lacks tutorials for complex designs.

What are the best functionalities available on Adobe Photoshop?

Here are the best functionalities you can find on Adobe Photoshop:

-Resize image dimensions

-Crop images.

-Process raw files.

-Add colours, blurs, and clones.

-Adjust lights and shadows.

-Retouch design and colour-correction.

-Sharpen images.

What can I do in InDesign?

Several things. InDesign is a versatile software. Here’s everything you can do:

-Create graphic designs and graphic logos.

-Generate designs for brochures, postcards, comics, stickers, and many other types of visual documents.

-Create consistent texts through typesetting features for various publications.

 

How can I use lightroom for graphic designing?

Here’s how you can use lightroom for graphic designing:

-Cloud-based software that allows editing in full-resolution format.

-Edit raw images to produce vector designs.

-Excellent presets that can save settings for future use in any project.

-Easy switch from Develop module to Print module.

 

How can I use CorelDraw for best results?

CorelDraw has versatile use. Let’s check out some of the best uses of this software:

-Easy and quick copy-paste of large files without any delay.

-Extract files from the client’s website using the Corel CONNECT option.

-Freehand Pick tool for more control while selecting objects.

-Refining vector design by using tools like Smear, Attract, Tool, and Repel.