The advent of the digital space has created an increasing demand for skilled visual communicators who are able to represent brands online. A vast majority of graphic designers are also no longer working for specialised agencies and consulting companies, choosing instead to work in-house for companies.
These changes in the status-quo have, in turn, propelled the innovation of graphic design software. Designers in 2020 want better, digital-first, cross-platform and more affordable tools — a demand which has catalysed the creation and growth of massive and very innovative companies.
Let’s review the most prominent graphic design tools of 2020, to help you pick the ones best suited to your unique creative workflow.
A solid raster graphics design tool is a must-have for any serious designer. The good news is that raster software comes in all shapes and sizes.
Affinity Photo is a professional photo editing application that makes no compromises on quality, despite offering one of the most affordable products on the market. It offers powerful features for fettling and fine-tuning images, as well as modules that reveal great depth, colour and detail in raw files.
Photoshop 1.0 was released back in 1990 — and has since become one of the most well-known graphic design tools of all time. In 2020 Photoshop is still a great option for anyone looking to create anything that involves raster graphics.
Procreate is a powerful raster graphics tool for iPad and iPhone devices. Using a good stylus, a skilled designer can create stunning graphics and art. Procreate has been around for a while and has amassed a huge social following on Instagram and YouTube by showcasing their most inspiring pieces and detailed tutorials.
Pixlr is a free online photo editor that gives desktop apps some serious competition. While it’s relatively new with some features still in beta-mode, the editor is perfect if you’re looking to fine-tune photos or power complex compositions. It’s easy-to-use, free and bound to get better with time as new features are rolled out.
Vector graphics are everywhere, both in online and offline realms of design. For years vector graphics design hadn’t been as accessible and popular among the masses as rasters, mainly because vectors are inherently precise and sophisticated. But in recent years that’s changed, as better and more intuitive software had entered the scene.
Affinity Designer is a popular vector graphics editor with advanced features for creating illustrations, icons, branding, UI designs, typography, web graphics and more. The zooming features are particularly useful for ensuring accuracy, while the live and responsive nature of the program is commonly celebrated as its greatest strength.
Adobe Illustrator is another reliable option. Featuring a wide variety of tools, filters and effects, Illustrator is used widely across the graphic design community for websites, video games, logos and more. It allows you to produce artwork with pixel-perfect accuracy, while the design presets and templates ensure speed and convenience.
Vectr is a free option for vector graphics. It’s an intuitive option that’s easy for anyone to learn and use, and perfect for those who don’t need the more advanced features of high-end applications. It’s a great option for anyone looking to create simple vector graphics in a jiffy.
Vectornator is the ideal vector graphics tool for iOS and iPad devices. It has an easy drag and drop interface that makes it easy to use for novices, while still offering some advanced features like auto-trace, unlimited layers, colour profiles, live blend modes and alignment tools.
Fontbase is a cross-platform font management system. You can organize the fonts on your laptop into collections, preview them adjusting the color or background and experiment with styling.
Fontbase is free, but comes with a premium subscription option, which includes features like advanced search, auto-activation and advanced glyphs.
The idea behind Befonts is quite simple — it’s a platform offering free fonts for creatives. Downloading fonts is easy and the members are encouraged to submit their own free fonts.
If you’re truly passionate about graphics, these two little apps might become irreplaceable in your toolbox. Fontspark helps designers discover and preview fonts, while Colorspark is all about — you guessed it! — colors and gradients.
There are many free stock photo platforms out there. Sometimes you just have to be persistent and check a couple of platforms before you find what you need. Here are the major royalty-free images directories out there:
As a graphic designer, you can never have too many icons and illustrations to use in projects. It’s usually easier to modify pre-made assets instead of creating them from scratch.
Social media is a huge and constantly expanding medium for graphic designers. After all, this is primarily what has birthed new roles like Social Media Manager.
Although technically you can use any of the above-mentioned tools to design social media graphics, certain specialized tools might be easier and more practical to use.
Canva is indisputably the most commonly used image editing software, and it’s not hard to see why. It has an incredibly easy to use interface, has a free tier that comes with a lot of useful features and can be used to make anything from Facebook Cover Photos to Instagram Stories. You can layer images, colours and impressive typography in a myriad of ways to create unique graphics for your social media posts in minutes.
Pablo is the fastest and easiest way to create images with quotes for social media. It’s free to use and you won’t even need to sign in to start creating inspirational quote images, blog post headers, testimonial posters and more.
DesignWizard allows you to easily create personalised images and videos optimized for social media and web. The basic version is free, but you'd need to pay for the premium visuals and video templates or if you want to upload your own assets.
Ever wanted to use a particular element of an image but remove the clutter or background around it? RemoveBG allows you to do just that, in a matter of minutes. It’s completely automated, so you won’t have to do anything other than upload the photo you wish to remove the background from.
We’ve also compiled a more comprehensive list of social media design tools for you to explore.
If you need to create a logo quickly and effortlessly, DesignEvo might be a perfect choice. It's a free online logo maker with 10,000+ templates that you can use and customize as you like.
Looka is another great choice. Pick a few logo templates you like, color schemes, and symbols, and their logo generator will design endless logo concepts using the power of artificial intelligence.
Infographic content has proven to be much more engaging than just plain text. In 2020, you don't have to be a professional designer to create stunning infographics.
Venngage is an intuitive and visual tool with a drag and drop editor which has 1000s of custom designed infographic templates to choose from (many of which cost nothing to use).
Designers are no longer working in a silo. They're usually members of broader cross-functional teams, and need adequate tools to speed up the collaboration.
Filestage is perfect tool to review videos, images, and documents all in one tool. You can comment on files, collaborate in the real-time, manage the versions, add branding and export the comments.
Now that you’re familiar with some of the best graphic design tools on the market, you can be assured that there’s a perfect tool for you at every step of the process, whatever your budget or skill-level might be. While there are bespoke benefits attached with each tool, the right one for your needs should include all the features that suit your convenience whilst still being suited to your abilities and budget.
When it comes to graphic design software, it appears that the product offerings are only becoming more competitive and advanced with time - so always keep an eye out for the newest tools and return to this list as we’ll be updating it regularly.
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