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.

What Are The Graphic Design 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 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 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.

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.  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 Graphic Design 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


Best Web Based Graphic Design: 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


Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from Canva.

Read Our In-Depth Canva Review

Other Graphic Design Programs

Adobe InDesignFotoJet | Serif DrawPlus | 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

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 InDesign 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 within one week of download or 30 days if purchased as a disk).

Serif Draw Plus screenshot



  • 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


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


Need Some Graphic Design Tips?

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

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.

Branding 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, 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.

What’s your favorite graphic design software and why?

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.

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