Top 6 Design Programs to Use

by | Mar 30, 2021

graphic design programs

There are a plethora of design programs available on the internet. From photo editing to user interface design, it’s hard to figure out which are the best to use for what you need – especially if you’re on a budget. We recommend using these design platforms for your next design venture…


Adobe Photoshop:


Photoshop is one of the most well-known design software out on the market. Although its use can be used for a variety of projects, its primary use is photo editing. The software is generally simple to use, but a little bit of learning and practicing may be in order if you want to make or edit more complex things. 


Photoshop uses a layering system, so you can stack drawings and/or images on top of each other and edit them separately. The program offers a ton of tools to edit images, such as the magic wand, quick selection, pen tool, stamp tool, and dodge and burn. Using those tools, along with some layer masking and effects, and you’ll have yourself a masterpiece that was quick and efficient.


There are a few cons to the program, one of the big ones is that it can’t create true vector files. Photoshop works off a pixel grid (raster), unlike Illustrator that follows lines and points to form shapes (vector). Another is that it is under an in-house proprietary license or software licensed by the company that is closed-source. Basically, it means that you can’t modify or distribute the software.


Just like most industry-standard software, Photoshop comes with a hefty price. They offer cheaper prices for students, teachers, businesses, and universities, and a free trial to test the program out before you commit. 




Procreate is an iPad exclusive app that allows you to create sketches, illustrations, and animations. The best part of all? It’s only $9.99! It has a large library of customizable brushes to choose from, and the ability to create your own. The app also auto-captures a recording of your drawing, which makes it easier to post your progress and method of designing. 


The accessibility for the platform is made easy with hand gestures, such as holding down your pen/finger to sample a color on your drawing. Luckily, Procreate does not require internet, so you can use the app on the go, anywhere you are!


The only downfall of Procreate is that it’s only available on iPad – not just any tablet or computer. 


This app is a one-time fee, not a subscription, like other design platforms. But, it is easier to use with an Apple Pen, which can be pricey.


Adobe Illustrator:


Another top contender is Illustrator, the vector-based program designed to illustrate stunning typography, logo design, icons, packaging, vector sketches, and much more. This program makes it almost effortless to get precise lines and details in your designs. It also has some rich history, being the first Adobe design program to debut back in 1987 – three years before Adobe acquired Photoshop. It’s no wonder why Illustrator is an industry-standard!


Illustrator makes working with typography as easy as a hot knife to butter. The software gives you the ability to warp text, type on a path, add a stroke, and even create outlines, making your text into a shape instead. It can also access other platforms and transfer files, such as Adobe XD, InDesign, and After Effects. 


Although it might have a similar interface to Photoshop, Illustrator is a bit more challenging to learn. The program has a learning curve. Illustrator is a bit harder to master than Photoshop, so it might benefit from taking some classes or watching tutorial videos to get the basics down. Unfortunately, it is under the same in-house proprietary license as Photoshop.


Just like Photoshop, it’s not cheap. They do offer a cheaper price for students, teachers, businesses, and universities, and a free trial to test the program out before you commit to Illustrator as well. 




If you’re not a design-major, but need quick, good-looking graphics, Canva is your best friend. Canva is a drag-and-drop editor that has over 400,000 templates, 75 million stock photography, videos, and graphics, and over 3,000 fonts. It’s simple and easy to use, specifically made for people with no design knowledge at all. Not as customizable as Photoshop or Illustrator, but it’s definitely a contender. 


They have several options for using Canva. The base program of the software is free, but your choices of templates and cloud storage are limited. They have Pro and Enterprise plans that are offered either monthly or yearly as well. Canva is free for teachers & nonprofits with an existing Canva account. If you want to see what it all has to offer beforehand, they offer a free trial as well.


Adobe XD:


For one of the best UX/UI design programs, try Adobe XD. A fairly newer software, XD is a vector-based user interface made for designing websites and apps. This app has some really useful quirks, such as responsive resize for images and icons, auto animate to do small animations across all artboards, and the repeat grid, that allows you to repeat any element evenly.


XD is separated into two sections: design and prototype. The design tab is where you add and customize all your elements, whereas the prototype is where you can create animated prototypes of your work by linking artboards together. With a simple, easy to use interface and never-seen-before uses, XD is a force to be reckoned with.


The downside to holding the ‘Adobe’ name is the price tag. They do offer a cheaper price for students, teachers, businesses, and universities, and a free trial to try the program.


Clip Studio Paint:


On the other side of the spectrum, Clip Studio Paint is a vector-based drawing program, primarily used for concept art, character design, illustration, comic creation, and animation. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, this program will be a walk in the park.


This program works best with a drawing tablet, such as a Wacom tablet. Clip Studio Paint takes great pride in being able to customize your brushes in detail, and format it to match the nuance of your pen pressure as you draw. 


Clip Studio Paint is a one‑time payment software. It’ll cost you a small $49.99 for Paint Pro (character art, concept art, illustration), and $219.00 for Clip Studio Paint EX (comics and animation). They offer a lengthy free-trial period, and sample files to see the capabilities first-hand.


Closing Thoughts


There are numerous design programs available on the web. While they all vary in focus, they all have the same goal – creating beautiful graphics to help serve your clients. 

Need some graphic design help? Contact Transformation Marketing today. Not only can TM assist you with graphic design, but we also offer social media marketing, search engine optimization, blog writing, web development, programmatic advertising, and much more! Visit our website or call 402-788-2896!


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