Top 5 Graphic Design Software for 2023
As graphic designers, we’re obsessed with shortcuts and sneaky methods that make our creative projects easier and more efficient to carry out. Ensuring you’re using the best software can make all the difference, but which graphic design software is the right one for you?
Fortunately, graphic designers are spoiled for choice with software to choose from. However, it’s important to remember that creating artwork for different purposes may require specific software, from vector-based and photo editing programmes to video editing and specialist publishing software. It’s all about having the right tool for the job.
But don’t worry – we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 best graphic design software of 2023, including the pros and cons of each alongside the skill level required. So no matter how advanced you are, you can be sure to find the best software that works for you.
Adobe Photoshop is the alpha graphic design software. Initially released in 1990, Photoshop quickly became the desired software for photo editing and image manipulation. The chances are that if you’re interested in graphic design software, you’ve more than likely come across Photoshop. Image cropping, colour adjusting, layer masking and product mock-ups are just a few examples of the techniques you’re able to carry out in Photoshop. Although the software does have the capability to create logos and other branding material, it’s important to remember the software is based on pixels and not vectors.
With limitless boundaries, Photoshop is an excellent software to begin your graphic design journey. Although it might be overwhelming at first, many techniques and basic functions are quite simple to master.
Don’t get ahead of yourselves though, some of the techniques that can be executed via Photoshop are suited more towards advanced users.
Used mostly for: Photo Editing
Skill level required: Beginner-Advanced
- Extensive range of design tools
- Endless skill boundary
- Large library of tutorials available for free online
- Caters to all skillsets
- Confusing interface if new to Adobe
- Pixel-based rather than vector
- Costly subscription
Adobe Illustrator is all about vector design. Illustrator gives you a platform to create stunning, vector artwork which ranges from logos, typography, iconography and digital illustrative sketches. Unique tools such as Illustrator’s pathfinder and shape builder tool allow for beautiful vector creations, as well as an endless list of fonts and glyphs for completely customisable type work.
If the name doesn’t give it away, like Photoshop, Illustrator is developed by the American software company Adobe. This makes integration between the two products (and other Adobe products) seamless and extremely efficient if used in conjunction with a shared project.
Although Illustrator can be a little trickier to use than Photoshop, if a beginner or intermediate designer has experience with the latter, getting to grips with Illustrator shouldn’t be too difficult as both products share a similar interface.
Overall, Illustrator is a slightly more complex software to learn, but the ability to produce stunning vector designs with such attention to detail makes it all worthwhile.
Used mostly for: Vector Designs
Skill level required: Intermediate-Advanced
- Similar interface to Adobe Photoshop
- Perfect for vector exports
- Available on tablets (Adobe App)
- Difficult to learn
- Costly subscription
Canva is a great online resource for those who don’t want to dive into the deep depths of graphic design software but rather blissfully dip their feet in at the shallow end. It has become a go-to tool for avid social media users from influencers and bloggers to social media managers – and best of all – you can use Canva for free!
Canva is always updating. Time-slashing shortcuts such as the remove background tool and Canva’s own auto-animate are just a few of the features you can use. You can also upgrade to Canva’s Pro version which includes access to more advanced features and a vast catalogue of design templates that your grandparents could figure out.
Used mostly for: Graphic Design
Skill level required: Beginner
- Free Online Resource
- Can export vector designs
- A vast catalogue of templates (250,000+ free)
- Extremely easy to use
- Limited design tools
- Canva Pro requires a monthly subscription
Adobe XD is an innovative prototyping software that is becoming a hugely valuable asset to possess in your graphic designer’s arsenal. Web and app design is a rapidly growing industry, so learning a prototyping tool with the creative prowess of Adobe XD can be hugely beneficial.
Adobe XD is centred around UX and UI design and has features and a layout that is similar to that of other Adobe software such as Illustrator and Photoshop. The dieted approach to Adobe XD removes the bulk of unnecessary design features and leaves you with a streamlined, clean and user-friendly UX and UI prototyping programme.
It works hand in hand with Adobe Illustrator, so any complex vector designs you create can easily be CTRL+C/CTRL+V into XD, and then further edited. Illustrator isn’t the only software in which XD works accordingly, with software such as Zeplin and Figma allowing for easy collaboration with front-end and back-end developers.
Used mostly for: UX and UI Prototyping
Skill level required: Intermediate
- Easy collaboration with a variety of software
- User-friendly prototyping
- Available in a free starter pack
- Still an early-stage software
- Lack of text capabilities (no underline or bullet point options)
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro is Apple’s professional-level video editing software. Although there are several video editing software to choose from:
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC
- CyberLink PowerDirector
- Adobe Premiere Rush
Final Cut Pro brings an abundance of powerful video editing tools alongside a fairly simple user interface. Like everything Apple, Final Cut focuses just as much on style as it does on performance. It offers more capability than its sibling software iMovie for those of us who wish to create content for social media, cinema and television.
Although professionals may prefer Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut shouldn’t be neglected. Apple ensures Final Cut is updated regularly and with features like automatic colour correction and audio enhancement (including background noise removal), Final Cut is certainly a strong contender for your video editing software of choice.
Used mostly for: Video Editing
Skill level required: Intermediate
- Magnetic timeline
- Fast performance
- Quick, easy export
- No motion tracking may discourage longtime editors
- Only available on Apple Products (iMac, Macbook etc.)
Whilst on the search for the best graphic design software, it’s important to remember that it’s all down to personal preference and what it is that you want to create. This means ensuring that the software you pick works best for you and/or your project/s – taking into account your design style, your needs and of course, your client’s needs.
There’s always new software to discover and thankfully, a lot of them allow you to try before you buy – so why not try them out? You might find your perfect software match.