Best Graphic Design Software: Corel Draw vs Illustrator vs Indesign vs Canva & More

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Best Graphic Design for Mac
Best Graphic Design for PC
Best Web Based Graphic Design
Canva logo

You don’t have to be a professionally trained graphic designer or spend a lot to make your brand look like a million bucks.

Yes, you could hire an advertising agency or a graphic design company, but if you’re feeling a little artsy and don’t mind the challenge, you can try your hand at designing your own branding using graphic design software.

Article Overview

What Is Graphic Design Software?

Graphic design software creates designs from scratch. These tools allow you to digitally “draw” whatever your heart desires. The only limitation is your imagination.

In addition to modifying or creating original logos, graphic design software allows you to combine images, text or other graphic forms to create print and digital advertisements, publications, brochures, postcards and more.

You can use a graphic design program exclusively or in conjunction with another program like a photo editor. Often you’ll touch up a photo in a photo editor and then import it into a graphic design program or vice versa.

You can create a logo or piece of art using graphic design software and then use a photo editing program to scale, resize or change the file format. That’s not to say you can’t use just one or the other starting out, but as you get more advanced you’ll find it worthwhile to have both.

Why Is Photoshop Not Included?

Photoshop is in our category of photo editing software. Checkout our photo editing software reviews to compare Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, GIMP, Picasa, iPhoto, and more.

What Are File Formats?

File formats exported from photo editors are typically one of the following. You’ll want to choose your export format carefully to optimize the image. If uploading to a website, for example, you’ll want to choose a format that makes the file size as small as possible while still retaining quality. Why? Smaller images make your pages load quicker, and page load speed is an SEO factor.

  • jpeg – ideal for images with a large amount of different colors, like photographs.
  • png – ideal for vector style images, or images with a few simple colors (like logos or icons).
  • gif – similar to PNG, but an older format.
  • The original source file of the program that was used to create it (e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign).

Printers often prefer the file to come from the original graphic design software because they can tweak, scale and adjust layers and elements of the design easily (without compromising quality and resolution).

What’s The Best Computer For A Graphic Designer?

Oh, the old Mac versus PC debate. If you’re a graphic designer, Macs are traditionally better computers than PCs. Their high-resolution retina display and ease of use make designing sexy and fun. However, if you decide to go with a PC, most software is available for PC installation as well.

If you’re debating between a full-desktop computer versus a laptop, you’re better off on a desktop because of the screen size and the precision you can get in comparison to a trackpad on a laptop (although you can still use an external second monitor and/or mouse if you prefer).

What’s The Best Graphic Design Software?

Now that you’ve got the lingo and hardware figured out, you’ll need software to do the magic. For comparison’s sake, we feature the best for each operating system (PC and Mac) and then review the rest of the products on the market to help you make the best choice.

For Mac: Adobe Illustrator Review

Adobe Illustrator logoVisit Website

Illustrator is one of the most popular graphic design programs used in the workforce, specifically for creating vector art.  This software involves a fairly steep learning curve, but once you learn the program and all it’s capable of, then it’s pretty user-friendly. One great feature is that it restores your project if the program crashes or if you forget to save.

It’s also set up to work in the proper printing color format, which means that what you create on your device will look the same when it’s printed. It also allows you to upload a sketch or switch between using your tablet and desktop, so you can use other tools for drawing and import your graphics seamlessly.

Software updates are made via the Creative Cloud, so you don’t have to worry about having the latest version. If you’re a more advanced user or don’t mind a challenge, Illustrator is definitely worth the money — it’s the industry standard for creating logos and also more detailed work.

Adobe Illustrator screenshot



  • Mobile or desktop
  • Mac and PC compatible
  • Access to Adobe Stock (over 40 million royalty free photos and graphics)
  • Create vector art and illustrations
  • 30-day free trial
  • Never lose your work
  • Sync files between devices via Adobe CreativeSync
  • Resize the images to any file size or format
  • Phone and live chat
  • Pricey if you use it regularly (or long-term)
  • Steep learning curve


Adobe has subscription-based pricing. Simply pay for the number of months you need the service, and you’re set (or pay annually and save a little).

Below are the prices for Illustrator. There are more plans available with the option to purchase all the Adobe apps for a time period based on your membership plan. So if you’re looking to buy all Adobe apps, be sure to check out their site for other prices.

  • Individuals: $20.99/month
  • Business: $33.99/month
  • Students & Teachers: $19.99/month for all Adobe apps
  • View all options

Best For PC: CorelDRAW Review

CorelDraw logoView on Amazon

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite is the latest version of Corel’s illustration and design software. The full package includes a photo editor and some other programs in addition to CorelDRAW, which is primarily for vector and page layout.

There’s finally a Mac version, and if you’re on Windows you can sync your files with Microsoft OneDrive. The software comes with more than 10,000 digital images, 2,000 photos and 1,000 fonts for creating designs. This saves you a ton of time instead of starting from scratch or searching for stock photos or art elsewhere.

You can even create your own QR code complete with text, images and colors. CorelDRAW has many advanced features, but their robust support makes it easy to learn.

CorelDRAW screenshot



  • Resizes fonts and vector graphics
  • Package of programs including photo editing
  • Supports 100+ file formats, including Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Create your own QR codes
  • 5+ hours of training videos included, in addition to forums and support
  • Content Exchange for sharing designs with a community of other users
  • Great customer support
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • PC only
  • No free trial
  • Higher learning curve


  • Download: $79.99

Best For Online/Web: Canva Review

Canva logoVisit Website

Canva is quickly becoming a popular choice for small businesses. The online website makes it easy to create branded graphics and presentations as well as other graphics that businesses need. You can start with a template type (e.g., Facebook cover photo, postcard, Twitter graphic), and it automatically scales the design to the size you’ll need.

You can choose from a number of pre-made templates from designers and/or use their library of clipart, stock photos and other graphic elements to create your own. While most of their layouts and elements are free, there is a nominal fee ($1-2) for some stock photos and designs (created by contributors) unless you upgrade to Canva Pro (which gives you access to additional features too).

Canva has the ability to collaborate with the team and create brand standards with the Pro version you can save colors, templates and folders to organize files and photos and even upload your own fonts. For all plans, you can import your own photos and even edit the photo brightness, saturation, apply filters and crop, all within the web-based editor.

There is no software to install, just open a browser and start designing. Canva is great for beginners and advanced users alike. But don’t expect to do any heavy design work here including larger print jobs or vector files.

Canva screenshot



  • Templates sizes are optimized for various social media channels
  • Export in high-res PDF, JPG or PNG formats with or without crop marks
  • Collaborate with teams using Canva for Work
  • Free product; pro version includes stock photography
  • No need to install software, work from anywhere
  • Share designs publicly with others
  • Free design school and gallery for inspiration
  • No phone or chat support (Twitter, Facebook and Email only)
  • Browser-based means you must have internet access to design
  • Some users complain of it being difficult to cancel paid plans


  • Free: $0/forever for 8,000+ free templates, 100+ design types and photos
  • Pro: $9.95/month/user (if billed annually) for everything in the free plan plus Brand Kit, one-click resize, 60,000+ templates, 60+ million premium stock images, upload your own fonts and custom templates.
  • Enterprise: $30/month/user for everything in the Pro plan plus multiple Brand Kits, built-in workflows to get approval on designs, unlimited storage, additional support and more.
  • View all options

Read Our In-Depth Canva Review

More Graphic Design Programs To Consider

Adobe InDesignFotoJet | Xara Designer Pro

Adobe InDesign Review

Adobe InDesign logoVisit Website

InDesign, another Adobe product like Illustrator, is also a great option depending on your needs.

Illustrator is better for creating illustrations (hence the name), whereas InDesign excels at creating multiple-page layouts and designs that are more text heavy. Publications are often created in InDesign because it’s so easy to create a design template and apply it across multiple pages.

Additionally, there are many benefits of using an Adobe product, including quality performance, a plethora of features, superior customer service as well as constant product improvements and updates.

Adobe InDesign changes and adapts to new technology and can design iPad apps, eBooks, interactive online documents and more. You can download it via the Creative Cloud for a free trial and test it out (and even try it along with Illustrator).

Adobe InDesign screenshot



  • Desktop or mobile
  • Compatible with both Mac and PC
  • Sync files via Adobe CreativeSync
  • Publish and distribute documents online
  • Access to 45 million royalty-free photos and graphics
  • Phone and live chat
  • Better for page and text layouts than traditional graphic design
  • On the more expensive side
  • Steep learning curve


As mentioned above, Adobe’s subscription-based pricing allows you to pay on an annual or monthly basis. You pay per program, so if you have the creative cloud, you’ll only pay another license fee for any additional software you download and use.

However, if you find yourself using multiple programs of Adobe, it’s probably best to upgrade to a plan that includes all the programs.

  • Individuals: $239.88/year or $31.49/month
  • Business: $33.99/month
  • Students & Teachers: $19.99/month for all Adobe apps
  • Schools & Universities: $14.99/month per user license or $155.88/year per device license
  • View all options

FotoJet Review

FotoJet logo

Visit Website

FotoJet is a one-stop shop for all your graphic design needs, including graphic design, collage maker and photo editor. It was developed by PearlMountain Limited, a dedicated graphics software developer who claims to have “their finger on the pulse of what their customers old and new are looking for.”

Simply upload your photos and choose one of their templates. Then, enhance your pic using such features as filters, crop photos, overlay text and more. Finally, export the image size and format you need. FotoJet is a useful and affordable entry-level graphic and photo design tool if you’re on a budget and only need the basics.

FotoJet screenshot



  • Desktop or mobile app (no download required)
  • Mac and Windows
  • Large database of design templates
  • Design tutorials and tips
  • No design experience required
  • Credit card required for free trial
  • No phone or chat support
  • For beginners, no original source files


They have one pro plan with two payment options (and offer a free trial).

  • Billed Annually: $34.99/year ($2.91/month, 40% savings)
  • Billed Monthly: $4.99/month
  • View all options

Xara Design Pro Review

Xara logoView on Amazon

For a graphic design program, Xara is not the sexiest of services, but it can get the job done. The Design Pro suite is their flagship product. It includes illustration, photo editing, HTML web design features and more, making it a one-stop shop for all your design needs.

They offer many online tutorials for you to learn how to use their more advanced features, but the site is not the easiest to navigate and find the answers you’re looking for. Another downside is that there are so many features that it can be overwhelming. It’s only available for PC and comes at a slightly more expensive price point, but you can give it a free trial.

Xara Design Pro screenshot



  • Desktop software runs faster than competitors
  • All in one software that can edit photos, create websites, layouts and more
  • Robust number of features and capabilities including flash animations
  • Xara cloud for easy document sharing (in Beta)
  • Free trial
  • PC only
  • Requires more experience
  • High entry cost


Don’t Miss These 26 Fundamental Graphic Design Tips (Video)

Once you’ve decided on your software, here are 26 fundamental graphic design tips from Jess Creatives that you don’t want to miss.

How Can I Learn Graphic Design?

Classically trained graphic designers often have a degree from an art school, but thanks to technology and online learning, it’s easier than ever to become a self-taught designer. You don’t have to go back to school to get creative.

Anyone with a computer can learn design basics. So, if you need help learning one of these graphic design software programs, check out these online learning tools. Some offer classes that can help you speed up the learning process.

Branding Consistency

Regardless of your graphic design skill level, if you have a business, it’s essential to have a polished, professional look that is consistent across your various print and digital assets. These include your business cards, your website, all the way down to fonts, and everything in between. Branding tells the world you take your company and your business seriously enough to invest in good design.

About The Author:

Sadie has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, graphic and web design, social media strategy, email marketing and more. She is a 4th generation small business owner and has worked with a wide range of brands from fortune 500 companies to startups and entrepreneurs.

Sadie is a self-proclaimed Apple/Mac guru and keeps up with all the latest tech trends at conferences including South by Southwest. Sadie has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin's Moody School of Communications and a concentration in Business from the Red McCombs School of Business.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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Hi,Thanks for the article. It was very helpful.
Illustrator is excellent for creating vector graphics. I like to work on my logo and cartoon projects because all its functions are really easy to use. Also, it has keyboard shortcuts to zoom in, zoom out, undo, paste or cut, which are very useful to me. I have a XP-Pen Deco 01 grapic tablet for Vector edits work . I also like the fact that I can export my projects to different formats like AutoCAD, Photoshop or Flash.

Any suggestions on the best programme for designing Surface Repeat Patterns?
I’m just starting out and Illustrator seems so expensive.I would like to be able to sell professionally, any expertise appreciated.

Adobe student plan is 19,83€ (Italy) for the first year and after they start charging you 30,49€ even if you are still a student. Just had an unpleasant discussion with Adobe customer care. They tried to persuade me i was informed that 19,83€ was only first year promotion. But seems I am not they only one who missed important sunscription condition 🙂

Indesign is page layout software so should be compared to other similar software like poor old Quark Express which it nearly destroyed in the mid 2000’s. Xara, DrawPlus, etc are consumer software. Those can be compared with each other, but not against the likes of Illustrator and CorelDraw.

I like these comparisons. I’m in the Adobe camp, but it’s really hard to recommend one over the other. There are advantages on both sides. Corel is certainly cheaper for now. Adobe is higher quality and more reliable. Adobe is universally supported. But if you’re working in embroidery, sign making, and other large format printing, Corel has a strong userbase there. Maybe for everything else, Adobe is stronger. Going forward, Adobe is innovating at the speed of light, while Corel still bundles software that it abandoned in the late 90’s in the box with CorelDraw. Corel Photo-Paint is an antique but they throw it in the box and add a new version number to it with little change to it for almost 20 years. For some of those years, they actually did no changes to it whatsoever. But it’s essentially “free in the box” so if you need CorelDraw, then Photo-Paint is like a bonus.

Adobe is so expensive it’s crazy. Corel spams it’s customers with advertisements after you’ve paid 500 dollars for the software. You get ads everywhere. Inside the program, in your desktop notifications area. Ads when you launch the app. Ads when you close the ap. Adds in the brush menu to sell you brushes. This behavior is class action lawsuit material in my opinion but that’s what Corel users are dealing with. In fact, if you have a very old copy of CorelDraw, Corel made the ads “retroactive”, so suddenly you’ll get those ads in your software that existed a decade before Corel started doing this. I get the ads in my old version, X4. It’s not easy to recommend either of them.

You just block CorelDraw program from accessing the internet(block the program using Windows firewall), then open it up only for updates, time consuming but this will prevent the annoying ads.

nice i used it its easy tom use good interference great work

I am a Corel Draw user for over 5 years and recently i discovered that Illustrator and InDesign programs are best design software for professionals. I need more explanation on this.

Its not better. Corel will always be better. And I run a multi million pound printing company. Illustrator is used for Ad’s not really print. Corel has built in imposition, print separation, crop tools etc…

I have to disagree with Dave Yates. I also work in a multi million pound printing company and have a completely different experience of Coreldraw. I run the pre press studio and am familiar with Indesign, Illustrator and Corel products. I find the core tools in Adobe products to be more intuitive and accurate than Corel. In addition to this we have found Corel products have issues with creating pdf’s – many main stream CTP workflows (Screen, Heidelberg, Fuji, Agfa) have no official support for corel programs. We (and other printers we have felt with) have experienced unexpected results with corel pdf’s – including transparency/flattening issues, bounding box issues, page order issues and spot colour issues. We have had no issues with pdf’s created by Adobe products. These issues occur in both pdf’s created in corel by ourselves or ones supplied by clients. We have tried them through multiple CTP workflows and experienced the same issues.

Hello Admin

nice comparison!!
i am leaning corel draw, do I need to learn Illustrator also ?
i came to know that now designing industry is using mostly Illustrator..

thank you so much for this wonderful information.

Happy to hear our article helped you!

You can’t look very professional if you don’t know the difference between it’s and its

Our apologies for having one instance of “it’s” instead of “its”. Human error occurs sometimes, especially when you have an article that is over 2200 words. I can assure you, we know the difference between it’s and its.

Great post thanks for sharing, it is very important to improve the security of online store..

As a professional designer I already work with illustrator regularly. For some work I used Serif Draw Plus. But never use Xara. Anyway thanks for this information. It helps others to understand what type of software they need to use.

Hi, Sadie. This is really a wonderful comparison between Corel Draw, Illustrator and InDesign.

Jefrine, glad to hear you liked the article and happy graphic designing!