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5 Best Graphic Design Software in 2022 [Windows, Mac]

Last Updated on Jun. 24, 2022 – by David Morgan
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5 Best Graphic Design Software

Finding the best graphic design software is critical if you want to make the most of your talent and achieve all your project requirements! The top graphic design software offers the flexibility and tools to take your designs to the next level – ideally without a steep learning curve. However, finding a graphic design tool matching your design needs and skillset can be a tall order. 

This guide provides a round-up of the top graphic design software for Windows and Mac users, focusing on feature categories such as layer editing, AI tools, and animation tools. We also discuss the user-friendliness of each software. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or professional designer, we hope this guide will provide you with the necessary insights to choose the perfect graphic design software.


Top 3 Graphic Design Software Snapshot

PhotoDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector – Best Overall

PhotoDirector is a robust graphic design tool and photo editor that offers all the features you need to create professional designs. This software’s photo editing tools include AI-powered tools, color enhancements, and responsive layer editing with object segmentation. Despite its pro-level features, it is easy to learn and use, even if you are new to graphic design. Detailed Review >

Adobe Illustrator Logo

2. Adobe Illustrator – Best for Professional Designers

Adobe Illustrator is an industry-standard design tool for professional graphic designers, with features such as raster image tracing and other vector-based graphic design tools. Most designers who need additional image editing tools use Illustrator with Adobe Photoshop. The Illustrator user interface is customizable, with various space-saving features to ensure optimal performance. Detailed Review >

Affinity Designer Logo

3. Affinity Designer – Best for Intermediary Designers

Affinity Designer is a budget-friendly graphic design tool with various professional features such as a grid system to create isometric elements. This software also offers a dual environment, letting you work on pixel art and vector images without needing to open additional applications. Detailed Review >

What Is Graphic Design Software?

Graphic design software is a computer program that provides the tools to manipulate images when designing signage, corporate branding, packaging, online content, clothing, and more. 

Industry-standard graphic design software products have unique interfaces and design tools. Though some products might have them available, these features typically don’t include modeling, 3D design, or video editing. 

Before paying for a product, ensure it fits all your graphic design needs. Most professional graphic design programs feature tools such as 

  • General photo editing tools
  • Drawing and painting tools
  • Branding and logo design features
  • Design templates
  • Animation tools

High-end software also offers artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as object segmentation and sky replacement. Depending on your project requirements, you should also consider software with a layer editing tool, allowing for complex edits with a few clicks of a button.

5 Best Graphic Design Software

1. PhotoDirector – Best Overall

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 10 / 10

Graphic Design Tools Rating: 10 / 10

Key Features

  • Smooth and user-friendly interface
  • Regular updates with the latest image editing features
  • Professional AI tools

PhotoDirector is a one-stop image manipulation software featuring a suite of advanced image editing and enhancement tools.

Using this software, you can apply dispersion and animation effects, giving life to still images. PhotoDirector also offers professional AI tools, including style effects, sky replacement, and object segmentation to achieve precise selections. 

With PhotoDirector’s layer editing module, express templates, and clipping masks, you can combine elements from different images, creating engaging compositions. As a subscriber, you get access to libraries containing a wide range of creative assets, including stock images that you can use in your projects. The software also provides all the essential image editing tools you may need, including corrections, beauty touch-ups, and more

PhotoDirector uses a folder structure, allowing seamless sorting, tagging, and filtering. Even though PhotoDirector offers professional graphic design tools, this software is ideal for beginners, thanks to an intuitive drag-and-drop platform with guided edits. If you are new to PhotoDirector, you can use the interactive in-program tutorials to learn the system and take full advantage of every feature this software offers.

Reasons to Recommend

  • User-friendly graphic design software
  • Intuitive and responsive AI tools
  • Photo animation tools, including a new dispersion effect
  • Robust layer editing tools

Download PhotoDirector today.


2. Adobe Illustrator – Best for Professional Designers

Adobe Illustrator Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 9 / 10

Graphic Design Tools Rating: 9 / 10

Key Features

  • Professional vector design tools
  • In-panel editing for working on multiple artboards
  • Customizable user interface with space-saving features

Adobe Illustrator is the go-to software among professional graphic designers who create illustrative artwork, logos, infographics, and more. This software’s most significant feature is its vector-based design tools, including a drawing application. Using this tool, you can create vector images from freehand sketches and scale them to any size for your project. 

Adobe Illustrator offers layer editing that lets you stack image content, then move or edit one layer without affecting the graphic elements on others. In addition, the software offers various AI tools, including a selection tool, cutting tools, and a magic wand for making bulk corrections. You can also use Adobe Illustrator with Animate to design vector animations. 

This software is great for creating vector images that you can scale up without losing quality. However, the program doesn’t offer image editing tools such as content-aware fill, color correction, and panorama stitching. You need to use Adobe Illustrator with Photoshop to access these features, which can be challenging for beginners and expensive. 

Pros
  • Professional vector creation tools
  • AI tools to streamline your workflow
  • Raster image tracing for converting pixelated images into vectors
Cons
  • Lacking photo editing tools
  • Animations only available with Adobe Animate

3. Affinity Designer – Best for Intermediate Designers

Affinity Designer Interface

Image from Affinity Designer.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

Graphic Design Tools Rating: 8 / 10

Key Features

  • Vector tracing and isometric illustration tool
  • Responsive drawing tools
  • Dynamic on-screen guides

Affinity Designer from Serif is an affordable graphic design tool for intermediate designers, with features that allow optimal design accuracy. These tools include flexible grid systems to create isometric elements, a snapping tool, and responsive zooming. The dual-environment capability lets you work in vector and pixel art environments simultaneously, saving valuable time.  

You can create vector and pixel image layers using the layers panel to create unique compositions and effects. You can also use this panel to create clipping masks and gradients. Affinity Designer is relatively easy to learn and use and is ideal for illustrators who want to create vector images. 

Affinity Designer is a responsive app, UI, and web designer with tools such as live pixel preview, non-destructive editing, and dynamic symbols. However, unlike PhotoDirector, this software lacks some basic features, such as a shape designer tool, and the layer editing tool might be confusing to some. 

Pros
  • Features for creating accurate designs
  • 1,000,000% zoom function
  • Brush stabilization tool
Cons
  • An unintuitive layer editing tool
  • No shape designer tool

4. Adobe Photoshop – Best for Experienced Designers

Adobe Photoshop Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

Graphic Design Tools Rating: 8 / 10

Key Features

  • Extensive range of image manipulation tools
  • Professional typography and drawing tools
  • Quick selection tools

Adobe Photoshop is synonymous with photo editing, and many illustrators and content creators with advanced graphic design skills use this software. Photoshop offers an extensive range of photo manipulation, enhancement, and correction features, along with typography and drawing tools. You also get access to various libraries with stock images that you can use in your graphic design project. 

This software offers non-destructive layer image editing with manual masking to create compelling effects. You can also use AI tools, including color transfer, landscape mixer, and automatic sky replacement. In addition, Photoshop is a decent tool for creating 2D animations, such as GIFs. 

Photoshop is one of the best graphic design and photo editing tools available. However, learning how to use this software can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you are a beginner graphic designer who wants to design intricate elements. Your project might also require Adobe’s premium assets, which come at a high price tag. 

Pros
  • Professional photo correction and enhancement tools
  • Intuitive AI-powered tools
  • Layer editing module
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
  • Expensive graphic design option

5. CorelDRAW – Best for Illustrators

CorelDRAW Interface

Image from CorelDRAW.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Overall Rating: 7 / 10

Graphic Design Tools Rating: 8 / 10

Key Features

  • Professional vector image software
  • Customizable design platform
  • Live sketch tool

CorelDRAW is a graphic design tool for illustrators who require optimal efficiency, reliability, and professional features. This software lets you customize your design space, including the window border color and icon size. You can also ensure that the tools you use most are readily available. 

CorelDRAW offers a layer editing module that lets you create compositions while keeping elements separate. Using this software, you can also create GIFs and frame-by-frame animations. The AI-powered tools you get with CorelDRAW include PowerTRACE™, a bitmap-to-vector tracing tool that improves the quality of your bitmap. 

Even though CorelDRAW is an excellent tool for creating and enhancing illustrations, this software is not ideal for photographs. When you enlarge an image, the program tends to accentuate imperfections, which can impact the overall quality of your image. 

Pros
  • User-friendly vector image creator
  • Superior illustration design tool
  • Robust AI and animation tools
Cons
  • Lacking in-program guides
  • Issues with real-world picture encoding

Best Graphic Design Software Comparison Chart

Software PhotoDirector Adobe Illustrator Affinity Designer Adobe Photoshop CorelDRAW
OS Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac Windows, Mac
Beginner-friendly Yes No Yes No Yes
Layer Editing Intuitive layer editing module with gradient, text, and shape tools Layer editing tool for stacking images Vector and pixel image layer editing Non-destructive layer editing Intuitive layer editing feature to keep elements separate
AI Tools Object segmentation, sky replacement, and AI style effects Intuitive selection and cutting tools Object selection Landscape mixer, color transfer, subject selection, background replacement PowerTRACE™ bitmap-to-vector tracing tool
Animation Tools Yes No No Yes Yes
Free Download
Free Download
Secure Download
Download Download Download Download

PhotoDirector vs

OS

Windows, Mac

-

Beginner-friendly

Yes

-

Layer Editing

Intuitive layer editing module with gradient, text, and shape tools

-

AI Tools

Object segmentation, sky replacement, and AI style effects

-

Animation Tools

Yes

-


How to Use a Graphic Design Software

This section looks at how to use graphic design software. We CyberLink PhotoDirector in this step-by-step guide as it is the best software for graphic designers of all experience levels.

Initial Steps

  1. Download and install PhotoDirector to your computer, then launch the program.
  2. Import the images you want to edit.
  3. Click Import in the bottom left corner of your screen, then select Photos from the drop-down menu, opening your computer’s file explorer. Select the images you want to include in your graphic design project. Click Open to import these images. 

    You can review and tag the images you are importing in the Photo Import window. Then, click on Import in the bottom right corner of the window to add these files to your library.

  4. Carry out basic color corrections.
  5. Before using the AI tools or adding layers to your project, you can enhance the images in your library using PhotoDirector’s Global Adjustment Tools.

Guided Tools for Graphic Design

PhotoDirector offers various guided tools for graphic designers, including AI-powered tools you can use to create compelling designs. Follow the steps below to use incorporate these tools into your workflow: 

  1. Click on the Guided tab at the top of your screen. 
  2. Use the sky replacement tool. 
  3. PhotoDirector Interface - Sky Replacement

    Under the Guided tab, select the Sky Replacement tool. Here, various templates will appear with previews of the different backgrounds you can add to your image. Next, click on the sky you like, automatically replacing your subject’s background.

    PhotoDirector Interface - Sky Replacement Adjustments

Adding Layers, Shapes, and Text

After making basic corrections, you can add various elements to your image, including text and shapes. 

  1. Click on the Edit tab at the top of your screen. 
  2. Add an image layer.  
  3. Drag and drop an image file you want to add as an additional layer to the left-hand window. Using the Opacity slider, you can change the layer’s transparency. You can also edit this layer using the Gradient and Magic Wand tools in the vertical toolbar to the right of your screen. 

    PhotoDirector Interface - Gradient
  4. Add a shape to your project. 
  5. PhotoDirector Interface - Add a shape

    Select the Shape tool from the vertical toolbar on the right of your screen. Using the various tools in the Shape window, you can adjust the shape and color of the shape. 

  6. Add text as a layer. 
  7. PhotoDirector Interface - Add text as a layer

    Select the Text tool from the vertical toolbar, then select the font, size, and spacing properties in the Text toolbox. Using your mouse cursor, draw a text box on the image, then enter the text you want to add.

Download the Best Graphic Design Software for Free

Graphic design is a versatile discipline with various applications, and graphic design software programs often specialize in specific tasks, such as vector image creation. These products are also available in various levels of complexity, and choosing an interface that matches your skill level is crucial. 

PhotoDirector is the best graphic design software as it offers professional tools and is easy for beginners to use. Its most significant features include layer editing and guided tools, including AI-powered tools such as sky replacement. You can also use this program to add unique animation effects. 

Download PhotoDirector today.

Graphic Design Software FAQ

1. Should I pay for graphic design software?

Various high-end graphic design products are available for free, but they might lack the features you need. If you want optimal graphic design functionality, you will need to pay for a premium product.

2. How much does graphic design software cost?

No industry standard for graphic design pricing exists. Generally speaking, once-off pricing ranges from $50 to $200, depending on the software’s features. Some products are also available on a subscription basis, and you must pay according to a billing cycle.

3. What graphic design features should I look for?

The top ten features you should look for are

  1. Compatibility with your operating system
  2. A user-friendly interface
  3. A layer editing module
  4. Animation tools
  5. Vector and raster image editing ability
  6. AI-powered tools
  7. Support for all main image file formats
  8. Guided edits or tutorials
  9. Stock image libraries
  10. Design templates 

If you are looking for the best graphic design software that checks all of these boxes, we recommend that you download PhotoDirector.

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