For the layperson, graphic design visually communicates to audiences using illustrations, photography, typography, and iconography. Many professionals use graphic design as a means of communicating through the use of visual content. Modern technological advances have made the art of graphic design a little easier than it used to be. With the emergence of different graphic design apps and software, many people can pick up this art with none or very little professional training.
Graphic design apps are software that can be installed on your computer or smartphone and can be used to execute different kinds of artistic or graphic design projects. It is important to understand that graphic design is no longer restricted to only the creative department.
This is because it plays an integral role in marketing, sales, business branding, and so much more. What makes a good graphic design app will depend on what kind of designs you are interested in.
However, an excellent graphic design app should have a user-friendly interface and be easy to navigate. It should also be compatible with different kinds of devices and operating systems and provide you with high-quality finishes using a comprehensive range of tools. These apps have reduced the need to rely on graphic designers for every design you need solely.
Here are the ten best graphic design apps for 2021 worth checking out.
An excellent place to start is with Adobe Illustrator. This graphic design app makes use of vector images, meaning it uses mathematical formulas between different anchor points to help create curves, lines, and other kinds of shapes. It also means that you can shrink or enlarge any image you’re working on without worrying about a drop in the image’s quality.
However, because Adobe Illustrator uses vector images, it requires straightforward designs, not making it the best choice for photographs. Instead, it does its best work when used to design logos, iconography, clip arts, graphs, and charts, as well as blueprints. That is because each of the designs we just mentioned only requires simple lines and shapes.
That notwithstanding, this vector graphic design software allows you to create so many things from mobile and web graphics to billboards, product packaging, book illustrations, etc.
You can also use a feature like Adobe Sensei to automatically extract color photos to add to your design. Again, you can automatically trace a hand-drawn sketch and transform it into a vector image. Adobe Illustrator costs US$20.99 per month as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud.
- Ability to enlarge or shrink images without a drop in quality
- Uses vector images to create simple designs
- Offers flexibility of use across desktops and mobile devices
- Ability to auto-trace hand-drawn sketches to use as vector images
- Not ideal for photographs
From one Adobe app to another, we look at Adobe Photoshop. Unlike Adobe Illustrator that makes use of vector images, Adobe Photoshop works with raster images. For most designers, Adobe Photoshop is the design app they are most familiar with. Even for those who aren’t designers, this app is so popular that the term “photoshopped” represents any form of an edited or manipulated photograph.
As we mentioned earlier, Adobe Photoshop works with raster images, which means that the pictures are produced from very tiny, square colour dots known as pixels. Any final image quality will depend on how many pixels the designer used in a square inch. In other words, the more pixels you fit into a square inch, the sharper and more detailed your finished image will be. It also makes it possible to enlarge or stretch pictures without losing quality.
By far, Adobe Photoshop is one of the best graphic design apps for enhancing images, creating special effects, and adding filters. That means you can use it for a wide variety of design projects, from simple layouts for print to posters and designs for social media releases. Plus, the Adobe software compatibility means that you can export or embed the images you create or modify into projects in different programs. You can get Photoshop on a desktop or iPad for US$20.99 per month.
- Works with raster images
- Capable of producing higher quality, crisp images
- Can be used for a wide variety of designs
- Can enlarge images without losing the quality
- Works best for adding effect, filters, and enhancing images
- Requires some level of training or experience to use
Up next on our list is the Affinity Designer. Affinity apps are fast becoming one of the forces to reckon with in graphic design software and photo editing. You can use this app to undertake a wide range of graphic design projects such as iconography, UI designs, logos, mock-ups, and so many more. This graphic designing app also comes with a very user-friendly interface, making it an ideal choice for many web designers and professional illustrators.
One significant advantage that Affinity Designer has over both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator is the fact that it combines both raster and vector design tools in a silky-smooth way. This means that the designer can create high-quality designs or presentations with the ability to enlarge images without losing their quality.
You can use Affinity Designer together with Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher to have a complete and comprehensive graphic design workstation for all your design projects. If you are new to this design app, you will need some level of training though, to work your way around the interface. But it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Affinity Design app is available for $49.00, which makes it more expensive than the Adobe alternatives. But there is always a 14-day money-back guarantee to fall back on.
- Combines both vector and raster design tools
- Can be used for a complete range of design projects
- Requires some level of experience and training to use
Moving on, we have the Gravit Designer. This graphic designer app is complete-featured and works on all platforms. Just like Adobe Illustrator, it uses vector illustration to deliver precise creativity. You can create lines, shapes, points, and curves while ensuring that your work comes with incredible form.
Furthermore, this graphic design app comes with a web and app UI feature to help you find everything you need for UI design. You can create wireframes and mock-ups, making use of anchors, symbols, styles, and pages. You also have access to different kinds of photo effects to edit all your images. You can choose from a range of color and lighting adjustments to varying types of filters and blending.
This versatile tool has an easy learning curve for new users, as it is lean and intuitive. Plus, it comes with an online version and a cross-platform function, which allows you to complete design projects from almost anywhere.
Gravit Design is available for a 15-day trial period, after which you can transition to a free version. However, there are PRO features available for subscribed users.
- Lean, intuitive, and very easy to learn
- Can be used across all platforms
- Professional vector editing
- Flexible and non-destructive object styling
- 15-day trial period available
- Not ideal for raster editing
From one vector editing tool to another, the Vectornator is next on our list. Once you get past its name, this iPad graphic design app is a powerful tool that allows you to create sophisticated illustrations with beautiful interface designs and amazing layouts.
This intuitive design software can help you create powerful illustrations with the help of a pen tool. It supports all forms of design inputs, whether you prefer a touchscreen, a digital pencil keyboard with a mouse, or a drawing tablet. It allows you to import and export your selected documents with ease while supporting every file format. Its versatility also means that you can work from anywhere, as far as you’re using an iOS device.
It features an innovative auto trace technology, making it possible to have any design you want in vectors. Therefore, unlike Adobe Illustrator, you can work on photographs by having them available in vectors. Plus, you can also create all your interface, print, and lettering designs on the same platform without switching to another tool.
Unfortunately, Vectornator is only available on iOS devices, iPhones, and iPads. That means Android-powered devices and devices that run on the Windows operating system cannot use this software. Vectornator is currently free for all versions.
- All versions of Vectornator (iPhone, iPad, Mac) are free
- Its versatility allows you to work from anywhere using any iOS device
- Innovative auto trace technology
- Does not work on Android and Windows operating systems
Adobe makes another entry with the Adobe InDesign. Adobe released one of its most potent desktop design software to ward off competitors. When put together, the Adobe suite of graphic design tools has almost become the standard in graphic design.
Although Adobe InDesign focuses mainly on layouts, you can easily import objects and images from Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. It also works smoothly with both vector and raster editing while making it possible to export your finished work as one final document – whether in the form of a multi-page or a single page.
You can use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create independent parts of your design project. But Adobe InDesign is the tool that can bring them all together into one final design piece or presentation.
This graphic design tool is ideal for designing books, magazines, brochures, posters, and even interactive PDF files. You can get Adobe InDesign as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for US$20.00 per month. However, there is also a free trial version available.
- Uses both raster and vector graphics
- Ideal for all kinds of graphic design projects
- Works perfectly with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
- Suitable for digital publications and interactions
- A leading layout and page design software
- Requires some level of training or experience to use
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics design tool for anyone interested in creating vector imagery – whether you are a designer or an illustrator. This tool enables you to create objects by drawing, pencil, pen, and different kinds of calligraphy tools. Its vector editing function also means that you can create shapes, lines, and curves with features that allow you to embed bitmaps, clones, and text tools.
Its object manipulation feature also makes it possible to complete transformations, z-order operations, alignments, and distribution commands. You can select from a comprehensive range of colors using color picker tools and color selectors. There are also pattern fills for bitmaps or vectors, a gradient editor for multi-stop gradients, and dash strokes, with several predefined dash patterns.
Its text support feature allows you to include multi-line texts, text in shape, text on a path, line spacing adjustments, letter spacing, kerning while using any installed outline fonts.
Inkscape works on both Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. You can use it to export or import a wide range of file formats, with a multi-lingual support feature.
This graphic design tool is currently free to use.
- Free to use
- Works on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems
- Flexible drawing tools
- Wide file format compatibility
- Does not support raster graphic designing
Sketch remains one of the most used design platforms by different graphic design professionals and freelancers. The easy to use and intuitive interface and features ensure that tools stay out of the way. This is ideal for even first-time users and learners, as it helps them get the hang of it quickly.
With Sketch, you can give life to all your creative ideas, with scalable vector graphics, pixel-perfect icons, interactive prototypes, and full user flows. Its scalable feature allows you to expand or stretch images without worrying about a drop in image quality. You can build designs that scale by creating a foundation for your image or design system with responsive and reusable components, which allow for automatic scaling to suit their content.
You can also select from a wide range of integrations and plugins that enable you to undertake different design projects – from designing with live data to animating interactions. Plus, this graphic design tool also makes it possible to collaborate with your clients or other designers to test ideas, get feedback, and hand off your designs to developers.
There is also a shared cloud feature, which provides a safer storage space for your work so you can have access to it whenever, wherever. In addition to that, a shared cloud workspace allows everyone on your design team, clients, and collaborators to have instant access to your work at every level.
The only downside to this graphic design app is the fact that it is only designed to be used on devices that run on the Mac operating system.
Sketch is available for $99 one-time payment for individuals and $9 per contributor seat monthly for teams. Alternatively, a team can also pay $99 every year. However, there is also a 30-day trial available.
- Affordable, with education discounts available
- Shared cloud feature
- Scalable vector graphics
- Wide range of integrations and plugins
- Only works on Mac operating system
- Not ideal for raster graphics
Procreate may be one of the relatively new names on the graphic design block, but it pulls its weight as far as creative tools are concerned. It offers brand new and exclusive features combined with a deeper Apple Pencil integration to give it a massive advantage over many other competing graphic design apps.
The Pencil filters allow you to create stunning and captivating effects using any brush tool. You can get the look you want, where you want it, by making customized adjustments whenever you want.
Procreate also introduces powerful new features and adjustments that will make for incredible design effects and dramatic finishes. In addition to that, essential elements like Noise and Blur have been given huge improvements with unique new possibilities like Chromatic Aberration, Glitch, and many more.
You can also use the latest, powerful, and flexible Bloom, Noise, and Half Tone to give your work the perfect finish you are looking for.
Other features like text input, Procreate on face, gradient map, and so much more improved features will help make your digital design experience much better. Procreate is available for US$9.99, with no subscriptions.
- Supported on all iOS devices
- The latest version does not contain any in-app purchases
- Comparatively affordable
- Only works on iOS supported devices
And our last but not least entry is the popular CorelDraw graphics app. Despite facing competition from so many other graphic design apps, CorelDraw remains one of the most widely used graphic design tools.
It is available in three different packages – CorelDraw Essentials, CorelDraw Standard, and CorelDraw Graphics Suite. That means it offers graphic design options to suit different levels of skill and experience.
It features specialized design software ideal for creating precise assembly instructions, documentation, and schematics. You can also make use of the affordable CorelCAd, and Business & Education features to deliver expert results. A design gallery gives you access to work from CorelDraw artists and designers to take inspiration from.
CorelDraw is also compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems. CorelDraw Essentials is currently available for $155.00. CorelDraw Standard costs $419.00 while the CorelDraw Graphics Suite is currently $399.00.
- Available in different options for different skill levels
- Works on both Windows and Mac operating systems
- Requires some level of training or experience to use
Graphic design apps come in at various price points and learning curves. Some are aimed at simple, day-to-day illustration and graphic designs, while others are more difficult to master and might be better suited for professionals. What unites all these apps are their amazing features and beautiful results. No matter which one you choose, you won’t regret it.
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