The Most Used Graphic Design Programs

Graphic design is almost completely digital these days, which means that it requires graphic design programs in order to achieve the desired results. Most designers are familiar with a variety of graphic design programs, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom.

Each graphic design program has its own purpose, such as photo editing, 3D graphics, vector graphics, or raster graphics. Thus, designers have to have working knowledge of a variety of tools in order to succeed.

Here’s our list of the top graphic design programs that you will find other designers and design studios using. No fear if you can’t afford to buy graphic design software, as some of graphic design programs in this list are free.

Adobe Photoshop

The go-to design program, Photoshop is a versatile (albeit expensive) tool to handle most of your design needs.

Maxon Cinema 4D Studio

Perhaps the easiest to use full-fledged 3D program, Cinema4D is a popular 3D package for designers.

Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator’s niche is with lossless vector graphics, such as logos and illustrations, which makes it a must-have program for a designer.

Corel Draw Graphic Suite

A bit different from Photoshop or Paint Shop Prop, Corel Draw provides digital art capabilities for a lower cost than Adobe products.

Autodesk Maya

Maya is the ultimate in 3D and animation software. Depsite a steep learning curve, it has found a home for Hollywood VFX and in design projects as well.

Xara Designer Pro

Xara Designer is another design package that provides various graphics editing capabilities.

3d Studio Max

3d Studio Max is like Maya Lite. It is easier to use and more commonly used by designers, but still is challenging and a lot of fun to use.


Gimp is a free but powerful graphic design program that is like a free version of Photoshop.

Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is a bit like Microsoft Publisher, except with Adobe’s integrated graphics platform.


Like Gimp, Blender is a free alternative, although Blender is for 3D graphics.

Google SketchUp

Sketchup is an awesome tool from Google that allows for quick 3D modeling and architectural visualization.

Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is an awesome photo editing utility used by photographers and designers to modify the visual profiles of images.

Autodesk AutoCAD

AutoCAD is a bit more technical than other 3D programs, but you’ll still find it used by designers for various purposes.

Serif Photoplus

Photoplus is another photo editing utility that allows for editing of pictures in a flash.


Canvas is another technical 3D program that is an alternative to AutoCAD that you may find used by technical illustrators.

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects is a visual effects package that can be used to create some great visual effects for design projects.

DAZ Studio

DAZ Studio is a great 3D program that is user friendly but powerful as well.

Adobe PageMaker

Pagemaker is an Adobe product similar to inDesign and Microsoft Publisher.

PaintShop Pro X4

Paintship Pro is a mix between Gimp and Photoshop, providing the features of Photoshop with a lower cost.

SmithMicro Poser

Poser is a great 3D program for rendering character bases for design projects.

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