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Here’s my personal opinion on the best graphic design software for beginners and small businesses, and frankly, it isn’t always the most expensive. Learning a new software program takes time; it’s not a reflection on anyone’s design skills. It’s simply reality. It’s pretty tough to choose the “best” graphic design software; that’s like telling everyone that the color blue looks perfect on them. Blue won’t look good on some, and blue won’t be a color everyone wants to wear. So proclaiming that a particular editor is the best that’s perfect for everyone is kind of outrageous. Instead, I have my own personal graphic design software list that I think is top-notch based on cost, real-world experience, and functionality.
Graphic design software – raster graphics versus vector graphics
Let’s face it. The 800 lb gorillas in design software are well known. Adobe’s suite of products is pretty darn amazing and rightly so, but it comes with a price tag that beginners and even a few stubborn folks like myself might not want to commit too. Graphic design is a tough business to get in to. The pay isn’t always that great unless you’re a Picasso, and the competition is fierce. Plus, to get clients or online traffic you have to hand out a few freebies to generate interest which takes time.
Graphic design software options
While Adobe, Corel and Affinity Software make robust products, I’m more inclined to recommend to the new designer free or low-cost alternatives. Choices like GIMP, Inkscape, and Canva don’t have every feature that the for-pay ones do, but you can do a lot with these free versions – I do use Canva Pro for my social media posts; it runs around $12/month. My point is that Inkscape makes great vector graphics; GIMP is awesome for photo editing. I don’t see the need for an expensive program for what I want to accomplish. Instead, the money I would have spent on editor subscription fees is used for other aspects of my business. Yes, there is a small trade-off some features but I don’t care especially if I’m not needing them.
Graphic design software for search engines and social media.
It’s a balancing act to promote via search engines versus social media but social media demands interesting images that generate curiosity. Promoting a business through web and social media requires web-friendly images with an engaging call to action text. That’s different than just creating digital products for sale or showcasing a portfolio. Since I’m a small business with a budget, the best graphic design software is a balance that must meet both functionality and financial needs. The editor I use is specific to the job at hand which is why I use multiple editors. Most of my readers are interested in GIMP, look for tips on Inkscape or want to create social media posts and documents with Canva. Understanding the advantages of each editor has convinced me that using more than one editor is the best route from a purely business perspective.
While some might tell me to niche down to one editor, I’m upfront why I write about multiple editors. Adobe has it right; they offer more than one tool for a reason. Photoshop is a raster graphics program that focuses on images while Illustrator is a vector graphics program. Corel and Affinity Software follow suit. It’s simply common sense; each editor works with a specific file type. There is no one tool that works with both raster images and vector graphics. If you learn only one editor you miss out on a whole range of design capabilities. Some folks choose to do that which is fine but I don’t. It’s like my brother preferring to paint in oil versus watercolor; that’s his choice and he is happy with it.
The best graphic design software is the one that meets your needs.
Still, in my opinion, knowing when to use an editor and which one gets the job done fastest is the best of all possible situations. With that approach, I use the editor that works whether it’s converting vectors to web-friendly formats or blending images with text for social media. By using multiple editors, I’d argue that I have more opportunities for creating engaging content to catch my audiences’ attention. My business is fun, but it’s ultimately about providing value to my readers and clients.
So the best graphic design software for beginners for free or anyone else that’s interested is the best graphic design software for your next project and budget. Anything else just doesn’t make sense.
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