Best Graphic Design Programs for the Beginner Designer

Finding the right graphic design program when you’re just starting out can be a confusing task, but here is a quick run-down of some of the top tools out there today to help you get started on creating something fantastic.

Sketch

Cost: $99, including one year of free updates.

Level of difficulty: Reasonably easy

Features: Sketch is a Mac app that’s equipped with a handy number of features that include a complete toolkit, non-destructive editing, pixel precision, vector editing to ensure maximum sharpness, and a color picker that ensures a high level of accuracy. The large clean artboard function allows you to get a clear, holistic view of your design. Sketch includes an expansive ecosystem of useful plugins that include Sketch Squares, which lets you pull photos directly from Instagram in replacing or filling layers, Overflow, where you can create vibrant user flow diagrams, and Content Generator, which allows you to fill out designs with names, bios, photos, placeholder text and more. And unlike Adobe, you only have to pay for it once.

Functions: Adding data to logo designs

Best used for: UI, mobile, web, and icon design

Adobe Creative Suite

(Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign)

Cost: $49.99/month. Purchasing a license will cost you monthly, but gives you full control in the dimensions of vector design, video production, and web graphics and programming.

Level of difficulty: Easy to learn but difficult to master

Features: Adobe is the foundation for all young graphic designers and offers a comprehensive package of software that works with a wide array of formats and extensions accessible from anywhere in the world. Photoshop’s consistent user interface is clear and easy but its functionality is not, and really isn’t designed with the beginner in mind. Illustrator is known as the standard for vector illustration and design and is newly equipped with the intelligent Properties panel which streamlines your workflow in empowering you to access tools, effects, and options and giving you rapid access to color effects. InDesign is a publishing software that allows you to create vibrant and robust page layout designs, but the steep learning curve suggests it’s not a beginner’s tool.

Functions: Photo editing (Photoshop), Vector graphics (Illustrator), Formatting Layouts (InDesign)

Best used for: Branding and editorial design and marketing materials

Canva

Cost: Free but limited to two folders and 1GB of storage. Canva for Work costs $12.95/month with a 23% discount if pay annually, with more features.

Level of difficulty: Easy and clear

Features: Canva’s drag-and-drop interface allows you to work via app or on a computer. It comes with hundreds of templates that are ready-to-use but can be difficult to sort through, as there’s no categorization feature. The free version is solid enough for the basics of graphic design, but there are varying levels of customization (such as the ability to upload your own fonts and various resizing functions) that make the paid plans more convenient. Canva has marketing, ebook, and social media templates, and is a simple and useful way to get started in graphic design.

Functions: Drag-and-drop, graphs, and photo editing

Best used for: Marketing and social media materials

Adobe XD

Cost: $9.99/month

Level of difficulty: Easy, fast and efficient

Features: Adobe XD is a prototyping solution for user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers that supports wireframing and vector design. It compliments Photoshop and Illustrator in allowing you to create prototypes for demonstration while supporting the opening of Photoshop and Sketch files. XD comes with a wide range of design features such as a repeat grid, versatile artboards, contextual layers panel, and interactive transitions with a clean and intuitive interface.

Functions: UI/UX work for wireframing and prototyping

Best used for: Complete screen mockups of websites or apps


Snappa

Cost: Free for starter plan, $10/month for pro, $20/month for team

Level of difficulty: Very easy

Features: Snappa is a cloud-based editor that smoothens the process of creating content and encourages collaboration between team members. It’s fused with your social media account which automates the sharing process and is equipped with custom fonts, templates, and graphics resize without the advanced tools found in Photoshop and other more complex applications. Its graphics are free, its design is speedy and efficient, and is tailor-made for those with no prior experience in editing visual content.

Functions: Social media connection

Best used for: Marketing, social media, and personal purposes

Unbounce

Cost: $99/month for essential

Level of difficulty: Easy

Features: Unbounce allows you to create, publish and test landing pages while expanding your digital reach. It’s a drag-and-drop landing page software that is built with converting more traffic towards your site in mind, even if you have no coding experience. It’s handy design, customization features, and user-friendly A/B testing functionality allows for an intuitive experience that lets you build from a range of templates, including 85 specifically for mobile.

Functions: Build and conduct A/B testing for an unlimited number of pages

Best used for: Landing page creation

Vectr

Cost: Free

Level of difficulty: Easy

Features: Vectr is designed with the beginner in mind, and provides a simple yet robust cross-platform application that comes with every tool and feature needed to get started designing. It includes basic features like a pen, pencil, and various shapes that are aimed at creating no-nonsense vector graphics on desktop devices or in any internet browser. It comes with an array of tutorials and best of all - it’s free.

Functions: Vector graphic creation

Best used for: Hi-res logos, brochures, and presentations