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

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Best Graphic Design for Mac
Best Graphic Design for PC

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 logo and branding using graphic design software.

Article Overview

What Is Graphic Design Software?

Graphic design software is intended for creating designs from scratch. Its tools allow you to digitally draw whatever doodle 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 editing program. Often you will 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.

What Are the Graphic Design File Formats?

File formats that are exported from photo editors are typically:

  • jpeg
  • png
  • gif
  • 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 original graphic design software like because they can tweak, scale and adjust layers and elements of the design easily if need be.

What Is the Best Computer for Graphic Design?

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 need be).

View Apple iMac on Amazon

What Is 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 the sake of comparison, we featured the best for each operating system (PC and Mac respectively) and then reviewed the rest of the products on the market along with the pricing and pros and cons of each one to help you make the best choice.

Let’s get started on the reviews so you can get designing…

Best Graphic Design 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. There is a pretty 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 it restores your project if the program crashes or if you forget to save.

Illustrator is 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 seamlessly.

Updates to the software 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 as it’s pretty much the industry standard for creating logos and also more detailed work.

Pros

Cons

  • 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
  • Steep learning curve

Adobe Illustrator Price

To go more in-depth about Illustrator’s pricing model, Adobe has subscription-based pricing. This may be a pro for some of you and a con for others. If you only have one project to do this is nice because there’s not an enormous upfront cost.

All you do is pay for the number of months you need the service, and you’re set. But if you use this year after year, the cost will add up.

Below are the prices for Illustrator. Please note that there are other plans available besides these where you can 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: $239.88/year or $29.99/month
  • Business: $29.99/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

Best Graphic Design for PC: CorelDRAW Review

CorelDraw logoView on Amazon

CorelDRAW graphics suite X7 is the latest version of Coral’s illustration and design software. The full package includes a photo editor and some other programs in addition to CoralDRAW which is primarily for vector and page layout.

Sorry Mac users, Corel is only available for PC. But, if you’re a fan of using Windows products, you can sync your files with Microsoft OneDrive. The software (either one time download or subscription) comes with more than 10,000 digital images, 2,000 photos and 1,000 fonts to use for creating designs. This allows you to use existing graphics, photos and layouts 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! Corel DRAW has a number of features, which requires you to be a more advanced user, but their robust support makes it easy to learn.

Pros

Cons

  • 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
  • Steep learning curve

CorelDRAW Price

  • Download: Out of stock
  • 30 Day Subscription: $24.95
  • 1 Year Subscription: $198.00

Other Graphic Design Programs

Adobe InDesign | Canva | FotoJetSerif DrawPlus | Xara Designer Pro

Adobe InDesign Review

Adobe InDesign logoVisit Website

InDesign is similar to Illustrator in that it is another product within the Adobe family. While it’s tough to say which is better, they are both great options 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 that across multiple pages.

Additionally, there are the many benefits of using an Adobe product including quality performance, a plethora of features, great 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).

Pros

Cons

  • 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

Adobe InDesign Price

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 just pay another license fee for any additional software you decide to 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 for $49.99/month which includes access to 20+ programs and 20GB of cloud storage.

  • Individuals: $239.88/year or $29.99/month
  • Business: $29.99/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

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, presentations as well as other graphics that businesses need. You can start with a template size you’re looking for (e.g., Facebook cover photo, postcard, Twitter graphic) and it automatically scales the design to the size you’ll need.

Similar to FotoJet, 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).

What stands out about Canva is the ability to collaborate with the team and create brand standards with saved colors, templates and folders to organize files and photos and even upload your own fonts. 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 up a browser and get to designing. And the best part is? There is no monthly charge to use the service. Canva is great for beginners, but as with most free products, it is pretty limited in its capabilities.

Pros

Cons

  • Templates sizes are optimized for various social media channels
  • Export in high-res PDF, .jpegs or .png of formats with or without crop marks
  • Collaborate and do more with teams using Canva for Work
  • Library of clipart, photos, icons and designs (or upload your own)
  • Free with option to go pro or purchase stock photos or art a la carte
  • Browser version only, no need to install software, work from anywhere
  • Share designs publicly with others
  • Free design school and gallery for inspiration
  • No mobile app (but they do have an iPad app)
  • Limited in design capabilities
  • Limited in font options (select web fonts only)
  • No phone or chat support
  • Browser-based means you must have internet access to design

Canva Price

  • Canva Basic: Free (with some designs and clip art an additional fee of $1-2 each).
  • Canva for Work: $12.95/month (monthly) or $9.95/month (if billed annually). Includes additional features like branded templates, auto-resize, organizing images into folders and additional features (coming soon!). Additional clip art and photos also extra. Comes with 30-day free trial.

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 the features such 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.

Pros

Cons

  • 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

FotoJet Price

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

Serif Draw Plus Review

Serif logoView on Amazon

Serif Draw is a beautifully designed drawing program that has all the features you’ll need in design software and then some. It’s great for first-time designers who want to get their feet wet and learn how to draw, design and paint like a pro without having to learn a more advanced design software program like InDesign.

Serif includes all the same features as In Design and Illustrator with even more tools and tricks, making it a great entry-level program to use without the huge time commitment or investment. The primary downsides to SerifDraw are that it’s only available for PC and there is no free trial (however they do offer a refund if you’re not satisfied with their product within one week of download or 30 days if purchased as a disk).

Pros

Cons

  • Unique features include creating repeat backgrounds and custom pattern fills
  • One-time download fee, no reoccurring fees or subscriptions
  • Export to ESP files or turn into vector work via AutoTrace Studio
  • Photo editing in addition to designing, painting, drawing, etc.
  • 100% money back guarantee
  • PC only
  • No free trial
  • Limited support (UK-based) but offer tutorials and online community
  • For more advanced users

Serif Draw Price

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.

Pros

Cons

  • 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

Xara Design Pro Price

Video: Graphic Design Tips

Here are 26 fundamental graphic design tips that will ensure that your audience is pleased with your design from Jess Creatives.

How to 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.

Consistency Is Key

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 and everything in between. Branding tells the world you take your company and your business seriously enough to invest in good design.

What’s your favorite graphic design software and why?

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Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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LA Stone
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.
LA Stone
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.

allan
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.
ben lewis
nice i used it its easy tom use good interference great work
Abayomi Shobowale
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.
Dave Yates
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…
Jon Stephens
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.
Ashutosh Bhardwaj
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..

amit shah
thank you so much for this wonderful information.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Happy to hear our article helped you!
njcello
You can’t look very professional if you don’t know the difference between it’s and its
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
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.
zaman seo
Great post thanks for sharing, it is very important to improve the security of online store..
Sara Rebeka
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.
Jefrine Sara
Hi, Sadie. This is really a wonderful comparison between Corel Draw, Illustrator and InDesign.