Graphic design is a handy skill no matter what your profession is. Knowing how to use the tools and knowing the right tools can help you boost your career. Today, we’ll be looking at some graphic design software that can be used by any professional.
Where can you use graphic design software?
Well, you can use graphic design software almost everywhere from making floorplans to making website layouts. In most of these cases, there are specialized tools that can help you do the same but using graphic design software just ends up being easier than learning the other tools for a single project.
First and foremost you can use graphic design software to make cool illustrations that can be added as your profile picture or even act as the cover picture for your highlights. Graphic design software is a crucial part of the process of making any professional-grade video.
Even if you’re in the audio business, you need to know how to use graphic design software to make cover art and other promotional material.
You might not believe this but you can even do some basic VFX with the help of graphic design software. It is a painstakingly difficult and lengthy process but the results are worth it. The results are surreal and have a style of their own that can’t be replicated with VFX software either.
Now moving onto the less obvious applications of graphic design software, we have made blueprints. Yes, blueprints, the sheet of paper that contains all the instructions on how to make something. Although it is a bit difficult to keep everything in scale, a bit of mathematics and a bit of imagination can empower you to make flawless blueprints using just graphic design software.
A very cool application for graphic design software in the corporate world would be to make better-looking presentations, most presentations made on PowerPoint or any other such software tend to look very standard and boring. You can use your graphics skills to make the slideshow better by using graphic design software.
Another important application is to edit documents such as PDFs and images. You can remove signatures, important data, and more from images and PDFs with graphic design software. This comes in very handy from my personal experience.
I could go on for days trying to list out all the places where you can use graphic design software but I think the above few examples summarise the versatility of this skill.
What to look for in a graphic design software
As a content creator myself I need my graphic design software to have multiple export formats such as .png, .jpg, .pdf, .svg, and .gif.
.png is used wherever you need to use the image on top of another image so you need to preserve the alpha layer.
.jpg is the most popular file format for images on the web since they are smaller than .png files and have reasonably good quality.
.pdf as discussed above is an important consideration since removing information from PDFs is the biggest use case for the average person.
.svg is a vector graphics file format that is used for some very specific use cases but nonetheless, it is an important file format.
Finally, we have .gif which is just fun and always good to have.
Apart from the file format, I’m also looking for the layout. I’m not necessarily going for the layout that is the easiest to use but rather a layout that is considered industry standard so that you can shift from one graphic design software to another without any friction.
For example, Photoshop is the current industry standard and any other graphic design software which has a similar layout would be my preference.
When choosing a graphic design software you also need to keep in mind the community around the software. A good community is one that is very active and makes tutorials on the software and pushes for new features that get done. The advantages of a good community around software cannot be understated.
Knowing which platform the software works on best is also important, in case you don’t think you’ll be using the graphic design software frequently, you’re better off using online graphic design software. With macOS, you should try out the software specially built for mac such as sketch before trying anything else out.
Lastly, look out for the requirements for the software, most of the software won’t run on integrated graphics, in that case, you might want to upgrade.
Your options in graphic design software
This software needs no introduction, photoshopping has now become a universally recognized verb.
Photoshop is one of the best graphic design software in the market right now, it is the industry standard right now and seems to hold its position for the rest of the foreseeable future.
With photoshop you unlock many new possibilities, photoshop is used almost everywhere apart from being able to edit documents, you can also edit images and use effects on them to make them look cooler.
Photoshop is the holy grail of graphic design software and in my opinion a whole new skill in itself. With photoshop there are no limits. You can do anything that you can think of from editing documents to color adjusting pictures to even illustration if you know photoshop well enough.
Learning photoshop is a skill that can make your resume stand out no matter which industry you’re trying to apply in.
Photoshop being the industry standard has a great community around it, there are thousands of tutorials that can help you in your journey of learning graphic design.
One of the biggest caveats of this software is the subscription, literally, everything else is a plus point for this software.
Photoshop is made mostly for windows and mac and runs very well on both of the operating systems.
In case you want to pursue graphic design as a content creator, later on, this is the software you should be using
- Use Adobe Sensei to make your pictures pop out with a single click.
- Use different filters to make your images clearer with motion reduction filters
- Select the subject in the picture with just one click
- Use all the design principles with snap-on guides
- Warp pictures over any shape
- Facelift faces in your pictures
- Colourise black and white pictures
- Extend backgrounds
- Price: $99.99
GIMP aka GNU Image Manipulation Program is the second name on this list. It is a photoshop inspired graphic design software.
The best part of this software is that it is free and will be free forever. GIMP does not have all the features that Photoshop has but it works just about perfectly as a free replacement for Photoshop.
GIMP is available for both Windows and Mac and works equally well on both. GIMP is developed as an open-source software which means that a community of developers put their time into building this without any promises of being paid which makes this software even more impressive.
You can do most of the standard things with GIMP such as color adjustments, slicing out objects and pasting them, retouching some features but GIMP lacks all the smart and intelligent tools that Photoshop has such as easy subject selection, background extension, and other such features.
I personally use GIMP as my main graphic design software since it can export to a wide variety of file extensions and can help me edit PDFs and color adjust images.
Even though GIMP lacks the smart features, you can still recreate the same effects with the tools available in GIMP, it might be a bit more difficult to do but it’s doable.
Finally talking about the community, GIMP being a community-building program has a very active community, the community is not as big as that of Photoshop but it’s a good community nonetheless, you can find tutorials for almost everything you can do on GIMP. In case you want to get some help, you can always ask on the GIMP forum, someone is surely going to help you out.
One advantage that GIMP has over Photoshop is its performance on Linux, GIMP was made initially as a Photoshop clone for Linux which can explain why it works better than photoshop on Linux.
- Customise your interface to your preference, maximise your layout for maximum productivity
- Enhance your photos by correcting distortion, colour and perspective with some simple filters
- Digitally retouch your photos to get the perfect shot without having to take multiple takes
- Draw your heart out with fully supported drawing tablets. Use a variety of pen and brush settings to get the perfect look
One of my biggest problems with GIMP is that it can’t export .svg files and is a bit difficult to use as illustration software. This is where Inkscape comes in. Inkscape is a graphic design software designed for illustration.
Inkscape shares more similarities with Adobe Illustrator rather than Adobe Photoshop.
Inkscape is also another free and open-source software (FOSS) which means that it is developed by a community of freelance developers working for free.
The main reason for me to learn Inkscape was the ability to export SVG files and being able to do text manipulation which was extremely difficult on GIMP. I tend to use both GIMP and Inkscape together to be able to do everything that I want to do.
The way I see it, Inkscape is a bit difficult to use with its non-standard interface making it slightly difficult to learn but is definitely a good idea to learn.
Inkscape is more geared towards making artwork from scratch and less about editing images or documents, as a matter of fact, you can’t import PDFs into the software which is why I add this name below all the other names on this list but it is an important software since you can export characters from Inkscape into adobe after effects and animate them to make videos. This functionality is limited to Inkscape and very few software other than Inkscape can do it.
- Create objects in Inkscape with lines, shapes and the pencil tool
- Use the calligraphy tool for some interesting effects
- Insert text onto your canvas as a multiline textbox that can be flexed to the required shape
- Clone an object in such a way that the two objects remain linked and any change in one of the objects are reflected in both the objects
- Manipulate object attributes such as z-index, scale, rotation and flex dynamically as well as by punching in the numbers manually to get precise measurements
- Embed bitmaps onto your objects
- Edit objects by changing bezier paths and nodes to reshape the image after creating it
- Export the file in SVG, XML and many more formats
- The objects are rendered dynamically meaning that all the changes that you make can be seen live on your screen
- Anti Aliasing makes sure that you never see pixelated lines on your screen
Pixlr is an online graphic design software capable of most of the basic operations. Pixlr has two modes Pixlr x and Pixlr e both are very well made and are easy to use.
Pixlr is again, modeled after Photoshop and has some very similar effects. Pixlr is very similar to photoshop in the aspect of its workflow.
In case you don’t want to download any graphic design software such as Photoshop or GIMP you can try Pixlr online. It sports some similar features, the only difference being that you will need an internet connection to use Pixlr.
Pixlr is absolutely free to use, although on the free version you do end up seeing some ads. On the other hand, you can go for the premium subscription, with the premium subscription you can save higher quality images, explore more options and also not see ads.
- You can use templates to reduce the time taken to make things
- You can align elements with the help of snap-on guides
- Create multiple projects without any limitations
- Remove backgrounds with the help of their AI-powered background removal tool
Side by side comparison
|Softwares||Price||Layout||Export Formats||Smart tools|
|Photoshop||$99.99||Industry-standard||.png, .jpg, .pdf, .svg, .gif, etc||Yes|
|GIMP||Free||Industry-standard||.png, .jpg, .pdf, .gif, etc||No|
|Inkscape||Free||non-standard||.svg, .xml, etc||No|
|Pixlr||$0 to $14.99/month||Industry-standard||.png, .jpg, .webp, etc||Yes|
In conclusion, Photoshop would be my recommendation in case you can spend the money or else GIMP and Inkscape used together would be my suggestion. On the other hand, if you don’t want to download any software Pixlr would be your go-to.
Yes, although before trying to export it, you should make sure that all the elements of the composition are made inside photoshop in that session.
No, Pixlr does not support .svg file types yet.
No, Inkscape only deals with vector-based drawings.
Depending on what you are looking for, you won’t be able to find something very similar to photoshop but GIMP comes close.
Vector graphics are images that can be broken down into bezier curves and simple shapes.