Graphic Design Tools For Professionals (With List And Tips)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Graphic designers have extensive options in selecting analog and digital design tools. While both open source and paid tools are easily available, some may require a certain amount of skills training. By learning about the different tools available to graphic designers, you can select the specific tools that you might need for your professional work. In this article, we explore various graphic design tools, review a list of essential graphic design software tools and get tips for selecting the appropriate ones for your purpose.

Graphic Design Tools For Professionals

You can consider the following graphic design tools for your professional purposes:

Basic analog tools

Pencil, pen and paper are the most inexpensive and convenient analog tools to use for graphic design purposes. They are easy to carry around and workable even in off-grid locations. You can use them to quickly jot down your design ideas and develop these intuitively. Many research studies show that drawing or writing by hand can enhance your creativity and focus.

Related: What Is A Graphic Designer? And How You Can Become One

Graphic design hardware

Desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones have become indispensable to graphic designers for creating digital or hybrid design works. You can also use them to photograph, video record, store, share and send the works. If you do a lot of digital graphic design work, it is essential to get devices that have high-end processors, graphics cards, memory and retina displays. Having touchscreen capabilities can enable you to draw directly on the screen with a stylus.

The best ones can give the authentic feel of analog drawing with the time saving benefits of not having to scan and clean up the work. You also get to try out different colour combinations and filters, edit the design extensively, create different design versions and store all of them.

Graphic design software applications

You can install free open-source or subscription-based graphic design software applications on your computer devices. You can also access them as cloud-based services from your Internet-connected devices. Proficiency in these applications is essential for most professional graphic design jobs nowadays. With them, you can create, manipulate, edit and share a range of graphics in different formats for various online and offline publishing and presentation purposes. They enable you to use designs, drawings, illustrations, photographs, or videos to create reports, presentation slides, newsletters, e-books, regular books, magazines, brochures, posters, advertisements and a lot more.

Graphics repositories

Various online repositories offer free and paid memberships to access their extensive collections of images. They have public domain and copyright-free images, icons, fonts and templates that you can download and use legally in your graphic design projects for free. You can also buy copyrighted items for professional use. These online graphic design libraries are also great places to browse for design ideas if you are looking for some inspiration.

Graphic design storage

As you advance in your professional career as a graphic designer, you are likely to need a lot of storage space for your design output. Getting a computer with a hard drive capacity of at least 1 terabyte (1 TB) is advisable. You may also benefit from investing in external hard drives and cloud storage. It is essential to save your design assets in at least two separate locations so that there is no risk of losing any of them if anything untoward happens.

Cloud storage is very convenient as you can access it from anywhere and at any time. You can use it to manage, synchronise, store and share your designs. Additionally, cloud storage makes it easier to collaborate on design projects with team members in the same or different geographic locations. Generally, you get limited storage for free and can purchase larger storage for a subscription fee.

Monitor calibrators

Monitor calibrators are physical hardware tools that can ensure colour accuracy. These devices check your screen display and calibrate the monitor so that the printed output is exactly the same as the colours you see on screen. For graphic designers, this is extremely important for the maintenance of design quality.

Colour standardisation systems

Aside from a monitor calibrator, you might want to invest in a colour standardisation system that helps with precise colour identification and matching. The system assigns specific numbers to colours which helps printers match the colours accurately and avoid colour inconsistencies. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is the most widely used one in the industry.

Graphic design portfolio

Graphic designers require offline and online portfolios to display their design creations. Increasingly, many designers prefer online portfolios for their sheer convenience. As you can access them at any time from any location, they are always available to show to clients and other interested parties. Even when you are not actively marketing your talents, the design portfolio is available online for viewing. Using search engine optimisation can make the portfolio easily findable for online visitors.

You can create your online graphic design portfolio using free or paid portfolio website services. You can also consider building a professional website, either on your own or by hiring a web designer to build it for you.

Related: How To Become A Graphic Designer: A Complete Guide

Essential Design Software Tools For Graphic Designers

Here are some of the design software tools that you can use for your graphic design work:

1. Inkscape

Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics tool that offers plenty of functionality, is not dependent on proprietary file formats and is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux and web-based platforms. While it does not have the most intuitive user interface, it comes with clear documentation to make it easier to learn. Its features include text tools, drawing tools, a built-in XML editor, command-line export support and SVG file support. You can use it as an alternative to Adobe Illustrator.


GIMP is a free, open-source graphic design software program that is an excellent alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It has a user-friendly, customisable workspace and a powerful suite of tools for drawing and image editing. The learning curve might seem steep at first, but it comes with the necessary documentation and knowledge base. It is compatible with the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

Related: How To Find Remote Graphic Design Jobs (With Practical Tips)

3. Krita

Krita is a powerful, open-source digital art software with a a customisable workspace and a good lineup of tools. You can use it for free to create 2D drawings, illustrations, animation, bitmap files and more. It is also useful for image editing. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux and web-based platforms, works on touch-enabled devices and has audio import support.

4. Adobe Illustrator

A part of the Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Illustrator is a subscription-based, resource-heavy vector graphics software that can help you create a range of digital artwork, icons, logos, infographics and more. You try it for free for seven days and then decide if you want to pay a monthly or annual subscription. Its features include a wide range of tools, an extensive library of templates, images, icons and fonts, Creative Cloud for anywhere access and Adobe Sensei AI to auto-extract and match colours. It has a steep learning curve, but Adobe offers some well-presented tutorials.

It can integrate with other Adobe software and is compatible with Windows, Mac, iPad and Android platforms.

5. Adobe Photoshop

Widely used in desktop publishing, Adobe Photoshop is also in the Adobe Creative Suite, comes with a seven days free trial and offers monthly and annual subscription plans. You can get a complimentary mobile app with your subscription. Its features include a user-friendly interface, a wide range of design tools, well-written tutorials and an extensive library of images, icons, fonts, templates and videos. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, supports multiple file formats and can integrate with other Adobe software.

6. Adobe InDesign

Another member of the Adobe Creative Suite that you try for free for seven days and subscribe to monthly or annually, Adobe InDesign is an excellent choice for desktop publishing. It can integrate with other Adobe programs, is compatible with the Windows and Mac platforms and offers an extensive library of images, fonts and templates. You can use it to create image-rich e-books, magazines, documents, reports, newsletters, presentations, posters and advertisements.

Related: Graphic Design Skills (With Examples And Tips)

Tips For Selecting Graphic Design Software Tools

You may find the following tips useful for selecting graphic design software tools:

  • Review job descriptions for graphic designers to find out about the current software requirements in the industry.

  • Compile a list of the most in-demand graphic design software tools and research their features, documentation, platform compatibility and pricing.

  • Decide if you want to use open-source software or subscription-based software.

  • Review the graphic design software documentation and tutorials to see if they are clear and easy to understand.

  • Find out if there are online forums and communities where you can ask questions and get reliable answers about the different graphic design software tools.

  • Talk to senior graphic designers and other industry colleagues and ask them which design software programs they regularly use and why.

  • Since many of the software programs have steep learning curves and may require a considerable investment of your time, it is advisable to select the ones you intend to use for the long term.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

Explore more articles