In the highly introspective and artistic world of graphic design software, there is an industry standard of excellence and innovation that empowers companies to create compelling pieces of work. What used to be drawn, manipulated and edited all by hand has, in recent decades, become primarily digital. With the millions of magazines, newspapers, trade papers and more all vying for attention, your unique graphic design, layout and content are essential to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. The best graphic design software provides robust tools and features that make the difficult feat of standing apart a simpler task to achieve.
The Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard is anything but ordinary and is everything extraordinary. The Design Standard includes the latest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat X Pro, Bridge and Device Central. If you are a graphic designer, or work for a print media outlet, such as a newspaper or magazine, you are probably the most familiar (and infatuated) with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. These eminent applications have made Adobe software the darling of innovation and ingenuity in professional design software.
You would think other graphic software companies, such as Corel and Xara, would be intimidated by Adobe's superb graphic design software; instead, they have stepped up to the plate in a big way. CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7 and Xara Designer Pro 7 provide similar tools and compelling features that you can find in the Adobe Creative Suite Design Standard. Remember that, while the price difference is staggering between Design Standard and the other two suites, all of Adobe's features and tools are more sophisticated and refined. For more information, please visit our Learning Center for additional articles about the best graphic design software.
Modern uses for illustration and graphic design software run the gamut in the creative world, from cartoon illustrations and advertisements to logo, banner and poster design. Graphic design software requires a certain set of tools in order to produce, edit and layout the various media types in the design world. Industry sets the standard of common protocols and acceptable formats, and software must provide all the tools to meet these guidelines.
Photo editing and retouching, along with vector illustration and page layout, all fall within the scope of modern graphic design. Several of the applications we reviewed include a similar user interface and are set up to be compatible with other applications and tools (such as a drawing tablet).
Ease of Use
You may be a seasoned graphic designer, well versed in how to edit pictures, create 3D graphics, write text and create a project for a customer. But, if you are a recent convert to the glorious world of graphic design software, you may not know the pen tool from the crop tool, or a RGB color swatch from a Pantone Spot color. Don't worry, you don't need to read every book or watch every online tutorial on InDesign or Photoshop to qualify to use these applications. Our reviews will identify just how simple each graphics software is to use, from layout and workflow to accessibility of palettes and tools.
This category also addresses the ability of the graphic software suites to adapt and work with other applications and file types. Website creation, mobile and tablet compatibility – and the ability to share your work with colleagues and clients – are a big part of this category, and of relative importance in the functionality of the application as a whole.
Digital Imaging Features
Graphic design software should enable you to import industry standard file types and manipulate or experiment with them in a variety of ways. Editing features include retouching, filters, color correction, channel mixing, artistic rendering, layers, batch processing, content aware scaling and many more.
There are two main graphics types: vector and bitmap. Bitmap refers to your basic image – made up of a series of pixels in a grid and confined in space by the pixel resolution. Vectors, on the other hand, are created using lines and points, which mean they can be infinitely resolved with no loss of quality. The best graphic design software suites now blend the functional elements of both of these types of graphics. Vector illustration features include vector brushes, pen tool, text effects, tracing, 3D effects, raster effects, AutoCAD support, graphing, bleed presets and more.
Print Layout Features
Print layout is almost the culminating step that graphic designers take when creating an advertisement, newsletter, magazine spread or newspaper layout. With an application like Adobe's InDesign, you can create some pretty stellar designs, but as the designer, you can use digital imaging and vector illustration to edit and create stunning photos, images and objects that you can, in turn, place in your final product. For each graphic design software application, we evaluate typography, text effects and the workspace, including paragraph, style and color palette tools. We will also be looking at the ability to add master pages, which is critical for consistent formatting when you're creating a multi-page product.
Help & Support
These complex and multi-faceted illustration software applications require documentation and support from the developer in times of emergency, during set up and while you learn how to get the most of the application. If, during times of duress, you are unable to contact customer service or find the proper documentation, the illustration software you spent hundreds of dollars on will be rendered useless. In each of our reviews, we’ve tried to accurately represent the helpfulness of each application's help and support features, including a knowledgebase, video tutorials, user manuals, support forums and customer service contact methods, such as email, telephone and live chat.
Graphic design software is the answer to your success. Well, that's a bit cliché, you may be thinking. But, honestly, these design software applications present powerful, robust features and tools that are essential to creating innovative advertising and marketing campaigns, web pages and more. Whether you are a seasoned designer with your own business, or a newbie interested in learning the intricate workings of design, the best graphic design software will help translate your creative ideas into astounding results.
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|Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design Standard||CorelDraw Graphics Suite||Xara Designer Pro 7|
|Selection and Mask Tools|
|3D Raster Effects|
|Automatic Lens Correction|
|Non-Destructive Image Editing|
|Paragraph and Character Styles|
|Spot & Pantone Colors|
|Object & Selection Editing|
|Grids & Guides|
|Preflight & Package Tools|
|Gradients & Transparency|
|Importable and Exportable Files|
|On-Screen Color Proof|
|Help & Support|
|Online Manuals (PDF)|