Best graphic design software 2022 (2023)

By Ian Evenden


The best graphic design software will help you tackle your latest project, whether it’s designing a new logo or refreshing your CV.

Best graphic design software 2022 (1)

Our handy round-up of the best graphic design software will help you find the perfect tool for your next visual task. Whether you’re a complete beginner to graphic design or a seasoned pro, our guide will help you find software that perfectly fits your needs.

We reckon that the best graphic design software package for most people will probably be Corel Paintshop Pro, as it’s easy to use and has a wide range of tools available. However, it’s only available on Windows, so if you’re using a Mac we recommend that you stick with Adobe Illustrator CC instead. Both of these packages come with excellent vector editing tools.

Although the above options are definitely our favourites, we’ve thrown a couple of free graphic design programs into the list as well. These aren’t quite as powerful as the paid-for packages, but they should be adequate if you’re looking to create simple invitations or infographics.

If you’re looking for a dedicated way to tweak real images, have a look through our list of the best photo editing software as well. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something that will help you get really creative, try out one of the options in our list of the best comic creator software.

1. Corel PaintShop Pro 2021: Best graphic design software for Windows

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Corel PaintShop Pro 2021

The best graphic design software available, for a one-off payment

(Video) Ranking Graphic Design Apps for 2022

Reasons to buy


Hundreds of photo filters


A powerful mixture of vector and photo editing tools


Software is easy to learn

Corel PaintShop Pro’s powerful mixture of photo editing tools and vector-drawing tools, coupled with its relatively low cost, makes it the best overall graphic design software we tested. You’ll find over 650 photo filters that you can apply to your projects, as well as vector brushes, pen tools and the ability to create custom brushes. This software might be a bit daunting at first because it has so many tools to learn. But the interface is easy to navigate, and the company provides plenty of learning resources to help you become a proficient user.

Although you’ll find advanced photo editing tools, like panorama stitching and HDR image creation, this program does not include automatic vector tracing. This means you need to hand-trace raster images if you want to turn them into vectors. Although this software is compatible with most major image file types, it doesn’t work with SWF files, meaning you can’t make that kind of animation file. PaintShop Pro is only available for Windows, so Mac users will need to look elsewhere.

  • Read our full PaintShop Pro 2021 review (opens in new tab)

2. Adobe Illustrator CC: Best graphic design software for Mac

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Adobe Illustrator

If you're working on a Mac, this is the best software for you

Reasons to buy


Customizable vector-tracing feature


Creative freedom with vector tools

Reasons to avoid


Lacks many photo editing features

(Video) Best Graphic Design Software Free (2022) | Free Graphic Design Software

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for vector-based graphic design software due to its powerful, professional-grade tools. One of the best features of this software is the raster image tracing, which lets you convert pixelated images into editable vectors with the click of a button. When working with vectors, select the white cursor tool to rearrange node placement and curves. This gives you far more control over vectors than many other programs allow.

Adobe intends this software to be used in conjunction with Photoshop, so it doesn’t really have photo editing tools. This means it lacks color correction, content-aware fill, lens correction tools, HDR image creation and panorama-stitching features. However, you have access to masking tools, a history log and a few templates.

You can test this software using the seven-day trial. This is shorter than the average 30-day trial, but it’s better than nothing. As with most other Adobe software, this program can be used only through subscription payments. You can choose between monthly payments and yearly payments, but there is no way to make a one-time purchase.

  • Read our full Adobe Illustrator review (opens in new tab)

3. Affinity Publisher: Best for linking up with other apps

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Affinity Publisher

An inexpensive option that links into other editing apps

Reasons to avoid


Best with all three apps

If you’re familiar with Adobe software but are not keen on paying for the expensive monthly or yearly subscriptions, Serif’s Affinity software is the solution. The three Affinity apps only require a one-time payment, and they are the least-expensive programs we tested. There's even a one-month free trial period, so you can test the software before buying it. Affinity Publisher is comparable to Adobe InDesign, but has an ace up its sleeve: thanks to what Serif calls Studio Link, you can edit photos and vector illustrations in the Publisher app, using the tools from the Photo (Photoshop) and Designer (Illustrator) apps.

This makes it hard to review Affinity Publisher, or indeed any of the Affinity apps, in isolation. The three are meant to be used as one, and their wide compatibility, as well as pro-grade tools and print output, make them a hugely compelling choice in a crowded marketplace.

  • Read our full Affinity Publisher review (opens in new tab)

4. Inkscape: Best free graphic design software

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If you'd rather not pay at all, Inkscape will handle most tasks you throw at it

Reasons to buy




Good selection of tools



Reasons to avoid


Can be slow

(Video) 4 Best Free Graphic Design Software for Beginners - 2022

Inkscape is to Illustrator what GIMP is to Photoshop – a feature-packed open-source alternative created by a team of dedicated and talented enthusiasts. It's hugely adaptable and powerful, and an excellent tool for graphic designers.

Being open-source means it's free, and Inkscape is a great free program for creating vector illustrations. It's so good, in fact, that it's a serious alternative to premium tools like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer. You can manipulate image shapes, fill them with gradients, apply filters, group them with other layers, convert them to paths, distort them and so much more.

The latest version of Inkscape supports mesh gradients, offers a checkerboard background that makes it easier to see transparencies, and features improved spray and measure tools. It's compatible with the SVG format, but can also important EPS, PostScript, JPG, PNG, BMP, TIP and Illustrator's AI files, and export to PNG or other vector-based formats.

If you can do it in Adobe Illustrator, the chances are you can do it in Inkscape, and that's pretty incredible for a piece of free software. If nothing else, give it a try to see how you find it.

5. Canva: Best web-based graphic design software

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For small, entry-level design jobs... Canva is perfect

Reasons to buy


Free version

(Video) Free Graphic Design Software




Easy to use

Reasons to avoid


Very limited tools

Canva is a free, web-based design app, with a premium option for more serious design projects. The regular version is fine for creating basic projects like flyers, cards, posters, and other items that don't require a massive amount of bespoke design or vector work. And while you have to pay to get some of the best features of Canva, you can create some basic projects by just using the free version.

Canva has a range of pre-created templates too, which gives you a good start with certain types of design project. You can use it to craft logos and other types of branding, if you don't need anything too intricate, although it pales when compared to the likes of Affinity and Illustrator.

  • Read our full Canva review (opens in new tab)

How much does graphic design software cost?

You can typically find basic graphic design software between $30 and $100. There are more advanced programs, which can sell for as high as $300 or require a subscription. Some, but not all, of the less-expensive software provided fewer tools. However, other affordable programs, such as Corel PaintShop Pro, have just as many design tools as more expensive software. Just determine which tools you need most, and then purchase the program that provides them.

How we tested graphic design software

When you are learning how to use new software, you focus on how easy it is to use and if it can complete your desired tasks in a timely manner. To evaluate the software, we focused on both the illustration tools and the image editing features of each program. We determined which tasks we were able to complete, how long those tasks took and how easy the software was to use.

To explore the different effects the software offered, we used the same three images for all of the programs: a portrait, an image of a landscape and a still image. Then, we used common design tools – such as those for cropping, inserting text and resizing – and applied them to each of the images, noting how long it took to complete each task. The software interface played a significant role in how quickly we could find the tools, with clean and user-friendly workspaces helping the most.

To test the illustration tools in each program, we created a brochure that included text, graphics, gradients and shapes. These common tasks required a combination of tools. We evaluated how quickly we were able to do each of these tasks, as well as the speed of the software and the quality of the image after we had manipulated it. All of these factors made up each program’s ease-of-use score. Programs that lacked illustration tools, such as the pen tool or vector brushes, required more time to create design elements.

Overall, most of the programs performed similarly, but some outshone the rest. If you are looking for software to create dramatic effects on your photos, consider the number of photo filters the software has. Some programs, like Corel PaintShop Pro, provide dozens of filters.

The workspaces and tools differ from one program to the next. However, most allow you to customize your workspace, which helps you navigate the software. We looked for software that came with both predesigned templates and support within the application because these factors make the software easier to use. CorelDRAW comes with hundreds of such templates.

Your specific uses for the graphic design software will determine which program will work best for you. We created an ease-of-use score that reflects how quickly we could complete common tasks. You should also look for a program that has all of the tools you need to create your designs.

Printing: how important is the finished product?

When you’ve finished designing a project and you want to present it to others, you need the best printing features. For printed articles, you should set up your page to “bleed” so that the creases of your magazine appear continuous and colored. Equally important is the option to show your printer’s marks. This will help you immensely in the package-and-print process.

The best graphic design programs offer on-screen color proofs that allow you to preview the colors on your page. For example, it confirms that a rose-red heart you created will print as the right color, and not a dark shade of pink. Using a Pantone swatch significantly helps with this, as Pantone creates the colors with an exact chemical process that ensures the colors print the same anywhere. Another important feature is prepress support, which automatically ensures there are no errors before the project is sent to the printer and alerts you of any necessary changes.

Importing & exporting files: Will you use other files on your software?

Compatibility can be an issue with graphic design software. When you share files, you want people to be able to open them no matter which program they use. Most software supports different file types, especially common ones such as JPEG, BMP and PDF. The more file types the graphic design software offers, the more versatile it is. You should not let file types limit your designs or your learning.

Ian Evenden

(Video) Which Design Software Is Best For You? (This Video Will Help You Decide!)

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables. He also has a passion for cameras and photography, and has written for TTR on these subjects.


What is trending in graphic design 2022? ›

The graphic design trends of 2022 are a ragtag bunch once you take them all in. Frasurbane and anti-design, escapism and grunge, doodles and parametric patterns. It's hard to imagine any of these disparate personalities mingling at a party, but next year they effectively will be.

What software do most graphic designers use? ›

Graphic Designers most commonly use graphic design software. Adobe Creative Suite is the most popular option in the industry, but there are also other powerful design programs available, such as Sketch. In addition to software, Graphic Designers rely on other tools such as computers, tablets, and cameras.

Which software is best for graphic design for beginners? ›

11 Best Free Graphic Design Software for Beginners [2022 Updated]
  • Krita - Best for Illustrators.
  • Sketch - Best for Mac Users.
  • GIMP - Best for Aspiring Professionals.
  • Mega Creator - Best for Non-Designers.
  • Corel Vector - Best for Colors.
  • Inkscape - Best for Vector Graphics.
  • LibreOffice - Best for Businesses.
16 Sept 2022

What is the biggest trend of 2022? ›

The Fall 2022 Trends Vogue Editors Are Shopping Now
  • Ultra-Baggy Denim. Balenciaga cotton baggy jeans. ...
  • Leather Jackets: The Epitome of Cool. ...
  • Punk Prep. ...
  • Saturated and Strokable Knits. ...
  • Bigger, Better Bomber Jackets. ...
  • The White-Tank-and-Blue-Jean Formula. ...
  • Floor-Skimming Hemlines. ...
  • Tailored Waistcoats.
19 Aug 2022

Can I learn graphic design by myself? ›

With time, effort and dedication, it is very possible to teach yourself to become a graphic designer. Some of the steps involced include: Learn how to draw: You cannot design if you cannot communicate your designs, therefore learning how to draw by hand or by computer, is a must.

Do graphic designers use Canva? ›

Canva (free or Pro) is definitely a great resource for entrepreneurs who want to design brand graphics and visuals that look professional with its endless collection of ready-made templates and ability to upload your own brand kit!

Can I learn graphic design in 3 months? ›

The time it takes to become a Graphic Designer can vary depending on the person's education and experience. A typical university program can take four years, while a graphic design course or UX design bootcamp can range between a few weeks to a few months.

Can I become a graphic designer at 40? ›


The mature person also has the ability to learn new skills but also add previous skills which are a fantastic mix for creative and unique ideas. Obviously, you need to have a passion for design in the first place to allow you to take new things on board.

What apps do graphic designers use? ›

Creative Cloud apps for graphic design.
  • Illustrator. Illustrator. ...
  • Photoshop. Create gorgeous images, rich graphics, and incredible art. ...
  • InDesign. InDesign. ...
  • Adobe Fresco. Adobe Fresco. ...
  • Photoshop Express. Photoshop Express. ...
  • Dimension. Dimension. ...
  • Adobe Fonts. Adobe Fonts. ...
  • Adobe Stock.

What do graphic designers use to draw? ›

Best Drawing Tablets for Graphic Designers in 2022
  • Wacom Cintiq 16 — Best drawing tablet overall with screen (Editor's Choice)
  • Wacom Intuos Pro (Medium) — The best drawing tablet overall with no screen (Editor's Choice)
  • XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pen Display — Best budget tablet with screen.
24 Aug 2022

Which software is best for logo design? ›

Best Logo Design Software Programs of 2022
  • Best Overall: Adobe Illustrator.
  • Runner-Up, Best Overall: Logo Design Studio Pro.
  • Best for Beginners: Designhill.
  • Best Price and Best for Collaborating Across Teams: Canva.
  • Best Features: Tailor Brands.
  • Best Free Software: Hatchful.
20 Sept 2022

What kind of art is trending in 2022? ›

The company's findings show that the most popular art styles in 2022 are expected to be abstract (54%), followed by contemporary (48%) and modern (42%) while 48% of designers indicating they anticipate an increase in use of sculpture.

What will be the next trend in 2022? ›

Genomics, gene editing, and synthetic biology are a top trend of 2022 because these advancements can help us modify crops, cure and eradicate diseases, develop new vaccines like the COVID-19 shot, and other medical and biological breakthroughs.

What will be the trends in 2022? ›

2022 Fashion Trend: Voluminous Silhouettes

From oversize shirting to ballooned silhouettes and a continuation of the puff sleeve trend, dresses and tops will retain their volume through the end of the year.

What is the next graphic design trend? ›

Large and Bold Typography

Typography makes up a considerable amount of design, and it gets bolder and bigger nowadays. It is a part of the maximalism trend, which is also a part of 2022. Bold fonts grab the attention and build a hierarchy among design elements.


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