Best graphic design software package?

I’m looking for a good software package that will allow me to design corporate logos and the like.

Does anyone have any experience with any packages out there, and is there anything that is out there that is free (either to try or free to use as long as you want)?


Can’t help you with free software (although, for the record, you want a vector graphic programme), but the industry standard is Adobe Illustrator.

Graphic Designers, as a basic, use Illustrator (for vector image creation), Photoshop (for rastor image manipulation) and InDesign (for page layout), all from Adobe. They’re sold as a bundle under the title ‘Creative Suite’, and it isn’t cheap.

Adobe’s Creative Suite is free to try (fully-functional 30-day trials), but very much not free to keep. However, it’s definitely the industry standard.

The only thing that I’ve seen that comes close to Photoshop in both power and usability is Corel’s Paint Shop Photo Pro. There is also a free trial and the full version costs $49 as opposed to Photoshop’s $660. It can do both raster and some limited vector graphics, it can read and write Photoshop files, and it does much of what Photoshop does without the price tag.

Having grown up with Photoshop, I eventually switched over to Paint Shop because it was (at the time) easier to use and definitely far more affordable. I’m thinking of switching back to Photoshop only because I discovered student pricing for it. However, Paint Shop is no gimp and it is more than capable of handling the majority of graphics tasks.

There is also a full-featured but incredibly difficult to use free and open-source graphics editor called The GIMP… but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Thanks for the info and this particular nugget. I’ve been pointed to GIMP in the past, and it is not very intuitive. It did, however, help me get something done which I needed. But there has to be an easier way.

The Adobe pricetag is a bit steep, but assuming I have the money, is it worth the price (over Corel’s offering?) Corel’s price seems much more reasonable, but what am I losing by going the cheaper route?

One thing to consider - I’m guessing you probably aren’t in school, but Adobe offers massive educational discounts for the exact same software (for example, the difference between $1899 and $449 for the CS5 Design Premium suite, if you order it directly from them). They offer this even to community college students - it would be really cheap to enroll in a class at a local CC and get eligibility for the educational pricing. I’m not sure if there is a unit requirement but looking at their eligibility requirements, it doesn’t mention anything of that nature, just that you have to be enrolled.

Or if you have any family or friends that are teachers or students they could get the software for the discounted price - I honestly don’t know if it would then be illegal to buy it off them but if it is, disregard that. In any case, it’s better than pirating. :stuck_out_tongue:

But neither of these would be suitable for logo creation. You need a vector illustration package for that so that the logo is scalable.

As to Corel Draw I can’t really comment on how good it is, never having used it, but the two main advantages of Illustrator are that (a) it’s compatibility with other design programmes and (b) the fact that it’s industry standard - every design professional uses it. So, when I’m working, I have Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop open at the same time and can seemlessly drag and drop files between them, almost as if they are one package. And they are colour compatible. Also, as the industry standard, it means anyone else that has need for your file can work with it. I don’t know if you’re planning on creating designs purely for your own use or for others - if the latter, then there’s every chance that web developers, printers or other designers will need to be able to access and work with your file. Use a package that isn’t standard and you may encounter problems.

$449 is much more reasonable than $1899, and I’d prefer not to pirate. So, if I can figure out the requirements and meet them for student use, I’ll take that route. It seems that it is the industry standard, and I would be making logos for both myself and others, so I’d want them to be compatible with software that others use.

So, when I look to buy it, do I just ask for the Adobe graphic design software?

I’ve designed many logos over the years . . . always with Adobe Illustrator. I wouldn’t even consider anything else.

I’m guessing that you’re probably not allowed to use the student edition for commercial use (i.e. anything you’re making money off of). I’ve commonly seen that with student versions of CAD software, for example.

If you’re just doing this as a hobby, it’s probably OK. But you could get in trouble with the BSA if you use a student license in a business capacity.

Also, some of the larger academic institutions may offer the software free to all students. I know I can get CS4 from my institution, though to use it I have install license management software and connect to the campus network.

The open source vector program is Inkscape. Since it’s free, I suggest you try it out and see if it does what you need.

I found it pretty intuitive when I had to recreate some PNGs as SVG files.

NETA: I even found it.

It’s called the Adobe CS5 Design Premium suite: you can see it [here](Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium) (bottom left).

Hmm, my linky doesn’t seem to be working: here

Illustrator is definitely the way to go for anyone who wants to do this seriously or on a professional level. If all you’re doing is whipping something up for your own business, you can probably use just about anything.

I see that Inkscape has been mentioned. I’ve never tried it, but have heard some good things about it.

One other caution on GIMP: Not only is it not vector-based, but it doesn’t handle CMYK images. RGB is great for electronic images, but a printer is going to want CMYK when it comes time to do business cards, letterhead, etc. Letting the printer do an RGB to CMYK conversion on their end is going to lead to issues with color matching.

That used to be the case, but most vendors I deal with (actually, all printing vendors I deal with) want RGB files.

If you have your color workflow properly calibrated (using the printer profiles provided by your vendor, calibrating your monitor, etc.), this is not really an issue. I haven’t done a CMYK separation in about 12 years, and I’ve had consistently good results, provided my color workflow is calibrated with the printer’s.

Odd. We frequently have to discourage clients from using RGB as they get results that are less than stellar. Our pre-press systems change the colour space on the fly but there are often times when the results are not what you’d expect.

Calibrating workflow is cool, but not everyone wants to get into it. There are some significant differences in the colour space so you are still restricted to the limitations of CMYK if you’re going to press. If you are not calibrated, or cannot be for any reason, it’s better to at least convert you work to CMYK before sending it to printer. That way you will see where things are going to change before you get a surprising proof back.

As to the OP, our shop does design and we use CorelDraw and Illustrator, mostly the former. Illustrator is standard because it got into the industry first, is good and gets taught at the design and graphics schools. People tend to keep using what they are used to. I like Corel a bit more because, frankly, the interface is easier to use. We pump out a lot a graphics on short order and ease of use is a big issue.

(Disclaimer: My experience is in a print manufacturing business with a commercial printing component. We design a lot of stuff for our own products and deal with outside clients on a daily basis in commercial. We’re a Heidelberg shop from pre-press through CTP to 6-colour sheetfed press. A lot of our commercial work is magazines and similar sized promotional materials.)

Well, that is the case for me. The high-end photographic stuff is always RGB (because it’s not four-color printing, anyway. Quite often it is RGB, but for ink jet you’re doing more than a four-color separation) The vendor I use for press work (Asuka Book) does their own CMYK conversions, but they use a 6-ink process. (I’m not exactly sure how that translates into CMYK, but they do call their printing CMYK, although they want RGB files). The business card vendor I’ve done through various printers have always insisted on RGB files. I honestly can’t remember the last time someone wanted a CMYK. I know some of the advantages, especially with newsprint where your ink limits are especially tight and tweaking the black plate (and compensating in the CMY plates) in different ways will produce different results.

For anything but presswork, I’ve always been asked to submit RGB files.

Wouldn’t soft-proofing give you a better indication?

I’m a tad confused here. When you say that high end photo work is not 4-colour printing, what do you mean? As far as I am aware, there is no such thing as RGB printing. The six-colour processes (such as Pantone Hexachrome, now discontinued, I understand) add two extra inks to CMYK (usually green and orange) to expand the gamut. These processes, and their 7- & 8-colour cousins, have not really captured the market the way their promoters had hoped, as constant improvements in CMYK technology have made them moot in most applications.

Are you possibly talking about giclée printing on high-end colour-inkjet systems? Those are frequently 6-colour (the extra colours in this case being light cyan and light magenta, unlike the green and orange of hexachrome in offset litho). We use one of those for pre-press proofing. It runs off the same RIP acrhitecture as our CTP, but calibrated to use the 6 inks to better approximate the coverage and intensity you can get from offset.

For someone working in vector formats, I’d say work in CMYK from the start. For photoshop, while softproofing is convenient, you have to keep in mind that if the final product will be on a press the file *will *be converted to CMYK or a CYMK+ colour model. Without calibration, there is no guarantee that the printer’s RIP will give the same results as the soft proof. If you convert to CMYK yourself before you send the file, the RIP does not have to convert so there is far less of a chance of the unexpected happening.

I’m talking about LightJet and similar processes which use RGB lasers to expose traditional photographic paper to light. Am I incorrect in calling this RGB printing?