Ask any entrepreneur about branding, and they will tell you that a strong brand image not only sets you apart from competitors but also grabs your target audience’s attention. That’s why all companies have some kind of logo or design that describes their brand. Every business has its own unique brand, and everything you see is made possible using an array of tools.
Graphic design tools give designers a platform to visualize all the ideas churning in their heads. These tools help them tell a story through beautiful logos, book covers, brochures, web designs, signage, etc., to depict a specific notion in the readers’ or consumers’ minds.
Some years back, when you mentioned graphic design, two things came to mind: Mac (because it was the only machine powerful enough to handle heavy tasks) and Photoshop (since it was the most advanced tool). However, other newcomers have made a name for themselves, and Windows machines can now handle design projects pretty well.
Whether you’re a professional graphic designer who wants to take their work to the next level or a hobbyist looking for a fun way to create logos, choosing the right graphic design software is crucial. With hundreds of graphic design apps out there, free and paid, it can be quite a challenge to settle for the most suitable one.
Luckily, we’ve gone through all the trouble of checking out the most popular tools and picked the 5 best graphic design apps of 2021, making your choice a little less stressful.
Canva has grown to be one of the best graphic design tools in the world of image editing. It is popular freemium online graphics software with millions of users worldwide. Canva is an all-round design tool with all the features you’d want to design everything from flyers to websites to invoices.
It offers a vast selection of templates to get you started right away, whether you want to create an Instagram post, presentation slides, Facebook posts, flyers, or YouTube thumbnails. It’s especially helpful for business owners or marketers who want to get the job done quickly without having to pay hefty designer fees.
It comes packed with an array of time-saving intuitive tools that can make anyone, with or without graphic design skills, look like a professional designer. Canva prides itself on simplicity – whether you’re creating business cards, brochures, logos, or letterheads, the process is straightforward.
Canva vs. Canva Pro
Canva is a free app that offers you the ability to design anything without paying a dime. That said, when using it, you are bound to face certain inconveniences, such as watermarked materials, a limited number of templates, etc. Canva Pro, on the other hand, is a premium service that offers you a massive template library and hundreds of thousands of photos and elements to choose from. You also get unlimited access to premium animations and fonts.
Unlike Photoshop or Illustrator, which both require a learning curve to master their tricks and get familiar with the software, Canva gets the job done with just a few clicks. What’s more, useful guides appear as you move elements around the template to help you keep everything aligned and consistent.
Canva’s Key Features
Canva comes integrated with an impressive number of editing and layout tools that cover everything from adding blur effects to image cropping to removing the background. For instance, you can pick a template or photo from the available options and add text captions or fun stickers.
Some of Canva’s top features are as follows:
- Multiple photo effects
You can add effects to the photos that Canva provides and photos you upload. These include adjusting brightness, contrast, tint, blur, and saturation. You can also flip or crop your photos and add filters. Under the Effects tab, you can add effects like Pixelate, Slice, Bad TV, Duotone, Glitch, and Color Mix.
- Access to a whopping 75+ million photos and videos and over 420,000 templates if you upgrade to Canva Pro
The free Canva version gives you access to only a fraction of these. To use the templates, first, select a design type and then click on the Templates tab. The tool will automatically find perfect matches based on the design you picked. You can filter templates by color or language. To add photos, switch to the Photos tab and use the filters to narrow down the photo types you want. Alternatively, you can upload pictures from your computer using the Upload Photo tab. If you are looking for specific photos from third-party apps like Pixabay, Pexels, or Instagram, go to the More tab. The Video tab lets you upload videos to your template.
- A comprehensive font library
You’ll find a vast font library under the Text tab. From the basic fonts, like Times New Roman, to complex ones, you’ll be spoilt for choice about which to pick. Canva Pro users can upload their own fonts provided they have a license to use them.
- Various elements
Logos come in various shapes and styles. The Elements tab is where you’ll find lines, shapes, charts, gradients, stickers, and more. You can further edit the elements by adjusting the color, size, and transparency.
- Exciting animation effects
Canva has animation effects that you can play around with to create a logo just the way you want. From free ones to paid ones, you can select Breathe, Fade, Rise, Stomp, Neon, and other effects to make your social media images more creative.
- A drag-and-drop editor
Canva’s drag-and-drop feature helps you to create powerful visuals in minutes. The feature comes in handy when you’re editing videos, elements, fonts, photos, or templates.
- A publisher
Of course, you’re creating images and videos that you can share to your social media accounts or websites. On top of letting you share your images directly to your social networks, the tool enables you to schedule your posts on social media.
- Brand Kit
If you’ve created assets like brand fonts, logos, colors, etc., the Brand Kit is where you can save them to use later. To enjoy this feature, you need to upgrade to Canva Pro or Canva for Enterprise.
- A content planner
Canva has an interesting feature that lets you view all the content you have scheduled. You can easily add the designs you created or create a new one instantly.
- Team collaboration features
If you have a team, you’ll find Canva very convenient. The platform lets you add team members and give them access to your designs. You can control how you want them to access the designs via shareable links.
Reasons to Use Canva
- The free version comes with tons of features.
- You can upgrade to Canva Pro and have unlimited access to countless features.
- The Brand Kit feature lets you store all of your brand’s color schemes and fonts in one place, ensuring consistency in all your designs.
- Resizing your images is easy, which means you can make them more suitable for posting on your social networks.
The Limitations of Canva
Despite all the good things that Canva brings to the table, it has a few limitations:
- It lacks local file storage. This means that if your internet is down or the tool’s website is inaccessible for some reason, you won’t be able to access your designs.
- There is a lack of uniqueness. Since all users have access to the same templates, you might find that your design isn’t that unique because it has been used by a lot of people. The same applies to the elements since you can only use what’s available. A competitor like Photoshop allows you to create items from scratch, thereby making them truly your own.
- While Canva has a mobile app, the experience is not as user-friendly as on the computer.
- Free Plan
As we mentioned earlier, the free version of Canva gives you access to an impressive collection of features and functionalities. You get access to 250,000+ free templates, 100+ design types, countless photos and graphics, 5GB of cloud storage, and the option to invite members to your team and collaborate on your designs.
- Pro Plan
For $119.99 per year (billed yearly) or $12.99 per month (billed monthly), Canva Pro offers everything from the Free plan plus 75+ million premium stock photos, audio tracks, videos, and graphics, 420,000+ free templates with designs updated daily, Brand Kit, 100GB of cloud storage, and unlimited use of the Background Remover feature, among many others.
- Enterprise Plan
This plan, which starts at $30.00 per month, per person, offers everything you can find in Pro plus the ability to control team members and team uploads, unlimited cloud storage, and 24/7 enterprise-level support.
Canva offers users a 30-day free trial to test the waters. During the trial period, you can invite other team members to join your brand, and you won’t be billed until the trial period ends.
Canva’s Affiliate Program
When using Canva Pro, you can earn up to $36 for each new Canva Pro user that signs up with your unique referral link. It’s a win-win situation.
Canva has a desktop app for Windows and macOS, mobile app and web version.
VividLoom is a web-based logo creation tool that makes the task of creating and editing logos simpler and faster. Your business logo is the first thing your customers see. It’s what they will relate to your business, and it might just be your best selling point. So, you want to create the most attention-grabbing logo. There are different types of logos. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Monogram logos (or lettermarks), like HBO and IBM
- Wordmarks (like Google and Coca Cola)
- Pictorial marks (like the Twitter bird and the iconic Apple logo)
- Mascot logos, like the famous cartoon characters of KFC and Planters’ Mr. Peanut
Some companies, like Starbucks and Harley-Davidson, use emblem logos. Regardless of the type of logo you want to depict, the VividLoom logo maker can help you get the job done with ease. You don’t need special design skills to use this tool. It uses an AI algorithm to automatically generate an array of logos for you to choose from.
Once you settle on the logo you like, simply download it. You can then edit the font, add a slogan, and change other settings, like the logo layout and the background. You can even add shapes that best depict your business mission and vision. You can save your logo and review it before deciding to download it and use it on your website.
VividLoom’s Key Features
- Logo Maker
To make your work even easier, VividLoom gives you access to Logo Maker, an online tool that helps you create your own unique logo. The logos are generated automatically so that you can download and use them. The logo generator works in three easy steps:
Step 1: Come up with logo ideas that best describe your brand or business.
Step 2: VividLoom’s Logo Maker will generate hundreds of different logo variations. Browse through them all and choose what you feel will get the attention of your audience.
Step 3: Customize the logo you’ve picked using VividLoom’s intuitive online editor. You don’t need separate software to do that. Once you’re done, download the logo.
When it comes to customizing your logo, VividLoom goes all out, giving you several options:
Your logo symbol needn’t always be upright. A simple turn to the left or right can transform it into a powerful visual. The Rotate feature lets you play with the angles of the logo, making sure it feels right to your eyes.
Sometimes, a logo symbol may appear large, to the point it engulfs the other elements that are part of the design. A rule of thumb is that the wordmark should be two-thirds the size of your symbol. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s a worthy consideration if you want to convey a clear message.
Some apps are just too complicated to use, so no wonder they are best suited for professional designers. If you’re just starting out as a designer or don’t want the complex processes of Photoshop or Illustrator, VividLoom lets you choose a color simply by clicking on one of the more than a dozen color palettes. The colors are hand-picked to give you more variety and style. You can choose to stick to one color (like Target’s red color) or introduce a neutral color (white, black, gray, or beige) to act as a secondary color (like BMW’s black background color). To portray playfulness and creativity, you can opt for a mix of primary colors, like those used in Google’s logo. With VividLoom, you can change the background color, the text color, the shape’s color, and the logo’s color to your liking.
It matters a great deal where you position your logo’s symbol. Again, there isn’t a hard and fast rule about positioning, but you have to factor in the concept behind your brand to ensure you place the symbol where it’s most fitting.
VividLoom lets you stack and unlink your symbol and wordmark so that you can choose what works best for your brand, depending on where you will use it.
The best part about using VividLoom is that it provides over 100 free logos so that you can pick the ideal one and customize it to meet your unique preferences. And it’s free – you only pay if you need additional file formats or sizes. For example, if you want a high-resolution file in PNG or JPG, it will cost you a one-time fee of around $45.
Reasons to Use VividLoom
- The tool is simple to use thanks to its user-friendly interface.
- You can create logos without paying anything.
- There is a wide variety of logos, designs and colors.
The Limitations of VividLoom
- Your designs lack uniqueness given that you can only use the available logos. You can find someone else using something close to your logo.
- Paid features are quite expensive, yet the tool lacks advanced editing options.
There are no monthly plans for VividLoom’s design services. The pricing varies depending on factors like image resolution, file size, and instant downloads. The details are as follows:
- Low Resolution Pack costs a one-time fee of $5. For this, you get the PNG file format, 200 pixels x 200pixels, and instant downloads.
- High Resolution Pack costs a one-time fee of $33 (the original price is $45). For this, you get features like resizable vector files (SVG, PDF, and EPS), print-ready logos, and logos with transparent backgrounds.
- Premium Extended costs a one-time fee of $65. This gives you access to all the features in Premium plus the option of instantly removing your logo from the tool’s servers, which prevents future purchases.
VividLoom’s Affiliate Program
Currently, there’s no information regarding VividLoom having an affiliate program.
VividLoom offers a web browser version.
99designs is nothing like the other graphic design software in this review. It’s a vibrant marketplace for freelance graphic designers who offer their services at an agreed-upon fee. Rather than being a software editing application, it connects clients to a global community of professional graphic designers.
In other words, you don’t do the design work yourself but rather hire someone else to do the job for you.
99designs’ Key Features
99designs offers two primary services:
- Hire a designer
- Start a contest
99designs is where you can meet design experts with over 90 skill sets. You get to choose from a pool of vetted designers to ensure quality work. First, you have to provide what’s called a “brief”, which basically entails explaining how you want your piece designed. It’s where you highlight things like the desired style, fonts, colors, and works.
Try to make your brief as clear as possible to make it easier for the designer to understand how you want the work done. Before picking a designer, you can review their portfolios to check their previous projects and assess their skills. You can also request quotes and choose a designer whose charges fall within your budget range.
Design contests are the bread and butter of 99designs. Typically, the bigger your budget, the higher the number of submissions that will be available for you to browse. With this option, you get to choose from a variety of styles from different graphic designers. The contests present an innovative way of finding talent from the pool of graphic designers.
Here’s how a 99designs contest works:
- Like when hiring an individual designer, you start by creating a “brief” with all the details of how you want your design to look. However, instead of submitting the brief to one designer, you submit it to the entire community of designers.
- After a few days or hours, depending on the complexity of your design, the ideas start trickling in. Your task will now shift to browsing through the creative concepts from the hundreds of designers and picking the one that is best at communicating your message.
- After selecting the best design, the final step involves collaborating with your designer on the project. You can then make payment arrangements and gain access to the result. The copyright and ownership of the design are all yours, and you can choose to keep working with your designer on future projects. You can pick JPG, PNG, or GIF file formats if you want your designs for digital use. Or, if you prefer to print, you can get your logos in PDF and get them designed in InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop.
When collaborating, you can request some minor adjustments to the final product. Major adjustments will cost you additional fees, but it will depend on how nicely you ask. The best part is that you can contact designers directly from the messaging board and from the page where you process and rate contest entries.
Reasons to Use 99designs
- 99designs can help you find a designer fast. The team will seek all the necessary information and find a designer that meets your specific needs.
- 99designs has an active community forum where you can get news and support related to design.
- You can get just about anything designed on 99designs. The graphic designers are drawn from far and wide and undergo strict vetting to ensure only the best make the cut.
The Limitations of 99designs
- Communication issues can arise since not everyone on the platform is a native speaker of your local language. This can lead to misunderstandings.
- The “Brief” option doesn’t offer the best way to describe what your design should communicate. It can be hard to describe a visual look with words.
- Costs can be high. To hire the best experts, you have to pay a premium for the Gold or Platinum plan.
- Wasted efforts can occur. This is a con for freelance designers. When you submit a brief, you get contributions from hundreds of designers, even though you’ll only end up picking one. The rest will have essentially worked for no pay.
99designs has various categories, each with different pricing plans. For example, web design starts from $599 for the Bronze plan, $899 for Silver, $1,599 for Gold, and $2,499 for Platinum, the top tier. Logo design plans start from $299 for Bronze, $499 for Silver, $899 for Gold, and $1,299 for Platinum. For one-to-one contracts, the pricing is determined by what your designer charges. Clients pay a flat 5% platform fee to cover the cost of payment processing and other services.
99designs’ Affiliate Program
Like Canva, 99designs has an affiliate program where you get paid for promoting the brand. The program is divided into three commission tiers, each with different pay rates. The higher you rise through the tiers (see below), the better the pay rate:
- Associate affiliate
This tier gives you $60 for each new contest you refer.
- Affiliate partner
When you make 25+ sales, your pay increases to $80 per sale.
- Brand partner
When your sales surpass 50, you become an official brand partner with up to $100 per each sale in commissions.
99designs is a web-based platform.
InVideo is free cloud-based video creation software that lets you create professional-looking videos and edit them in just a few clicks. You can create videos of all kinds without any technical experience thanks to over 4,000 video templates and access to a huge media library.
The platform is ideal for media companies, small business enterprises, and brands looking to expand their audience engagement by converting article content into video content.
A Hubspot study found that posting relevant video content has the potential to drive more traffic. The report showed that 83 percent of consumers were more willing to share video content with their friends. The problem is that it can be costly and time-consuming to create videos that will sell.
InVideo comes to the rescue with pre-made templates and themes, or you can start from scratch if you have the skills. InVideo produces top-quality videos that will surely get the attention of your clients. Like Canva, InVideo has no learning curve due to its ease of use.
InVideo’s Key Features
- Pre-made templates
You can choose from more than 4,000 templates. To make things even easier, you can search for a specific keyword or choose from the listed categories. You can edit templates by changing the audio, text, color, videos, and even animations.
- An article-to-video converter
You can convert any text into video to increase customer engagement. There’s an option to choose video sizes, including Wide (16:9), Square (1:1), and Vertical (9:16). But before you get started, make sure that you’ve set up your logo, colors, and other brand elements that deliver your message to consumers or clients. The brand presets will be integrated into your videos after you select your templates from the vast library. You can then paste your text in the appropriate field or simply enter your URL to let InVideo pull up your text. This way you can script your lines from within the platform. If it is your first time using the platform, don’t worry. You can find helpful tutorials on how to create videos.
- Intelligent Video Assistant recommendations
Intelligent Video Assistant offers corrections in real time.
- Audio tools
Audio tools allow you to add background music and voice-over narration to make your videos more personal.
- Speed adjustment
You can easily change the speed of your videos.
- A blank canvas
You can also create video content from scratch and upload your own photos and videos to the platform.
InVideo’s other distinctive features are as follows:
- 1000+ stickers
- Text overlay
- Enhancements, including collages and masks
Reasons to Use InVideo
- It’s a time-saver. You get access to countless templates and themes that help you quickly create videos for different platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.
- You don’t need training to use this software. You can use video tutorials provided on their website.
- It’s versatile. If you are a trained video editor, you can start from scratch and create unique videos using the tools provided.
- It offers more customization options since it lets you upload your own images, audio, and videos.
- You can invite team members to work on projects together or get their insights on the videos you’ve created.
- InVideo is cloud-based software, meaning all changes are saved automatically. It also means you can access your video files wherever you are and work on them at anytime.
The Limitations of InVideo
- Some of the voices used in voice-over narration can sound robotic.
- The platform can lag sometimes, making the entire process frustrating.
- The exporting process requires some improvements.
- The Free Plan gives you access to more than 4,500 video templates to choose from, a 3m+ standard media library, automated Text to Speech capabilities, and 15 minutes of video duration per video. However, your videos will have the InVideo watermark.
- The Business Plan costs $30 per month (billed monthly) or $15 per month (billed $180 yearly). For this plan, the InVideo watermark is removed, and you get 10 iStock media each month, over one million premium media, and 60 video exports each month.
- The Unlimited Plan costs $60 per month (billed monthly) or $30 (billed $360 annually). You get everything from the Free Plan plus 120 iStock media each month and unlimited video exports per month.
Users get 1GB, 10GB, and 100GB worth of cloud storage for the Free, Business, and Unlimited Plans respectively.
The trial runs for seven days, after which your credit card will be charged based on the plan you opted for.
InVideo’s Affiliate Program
Members of InVideo’s affiliate program get a 50 percent commission on all successful conversions.
InVideo has a web-based version and apps for Mac and PC.
Luminar AI is the world’s first image editing tool fully powered by Artificial Intelligence. It takes the complexity of Photoshop and uses a variety of AI tools to automate the process. Let’s say you have an idea of what your image should look like but don’t know how to get it done. Luminar AI can help you convert your ideas into the exact design you want.
It streamlines image editing in ways that are unique to the platform. For example, sky replacements and skin retouch, which take multiple steps to complete in Lightroom or Photoshop, now take just a few clicks.
To make things even more interesting, it can be used as a standalone image library and editing tool or as a plugin alongside Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Originally, the software was designed for macOS but has since expanded its services to Windows. Both expert photographers and novices will find every tool they need to edit their photos on Luminar AI – plus a little extra help. No more wasting time on masking, brushes, or layers – now you can make edits fast and create better photos in just 30 seconds! No wonder it ranks amongst the best graphic design apps of 2021.
On the days you feel like having everything in your hands, you can make manual edits. On your lazy days, you don’t need to fret – Luminar AI will create beautiful images in a few clicks.
How Luminar AI Works
Luminar AI is an all-in-one AI photo editor, unlike Topaz Labs, which is also AI-powered but comprises a collection of individual apps. When you select an image, Luminar AI will recommend templates based on the type of image you chose. If it’s a landscape photo, it recommends landscape templates. If it’s a portrait, the AI recommends portrait templates.
The use of the smart technology is not limited to template selection. Other tools and algorithms within the platform also use AI. A case in point is when you’re adding detail or structure to your landscape image, Luminar AI will ensure that it does not add detail to the sky to avoid increasing noise detail.
Luminar AI makes use of recognition technology where millions of images are fed to the algorithm to determine the type of image, e.g., wildlife, landscape or portrait, and things like sky, water, eyes, faces, etc. The process is done repeatedly until it determines the type of image and objects in the photo accurately enough.
Luminar AI’s Key Features
- AI Sky Replacement
AI Sky Replacement has got to be the most amazing feature of Luminar AI. Not only does it identify the sky in an outdoor scene, but it also selects all the tiny bits between hillsides and mountains, buildings and rooftops, branches and trees and recognizes everything without a click of the mouse. In other words, it intelligently eliminates all the exhausting steps of auto-selection tools, including edge shifting, edge masking, removing edge halos, and edge transitions. It goes a step further to offer you a library of replacement skies to drop into your images.
- Augmented Sky AI
This AI compliments the Sky Replacement AI, to allow you quickly add objects onto a landscape image and make it look more artistic. For example, you can add birds, the moon, or aurora to the sky. If you don’t find a package you like, you may add your own objects.
- Composition AI
If you’re a beginning photographer still learning about composition, you will find Composition AI particularly useful as it suggests crops for your images.
- Atmosphere AI
Add mist, fog, or haze to your outdoor pictures for a calm or melodramatic look.
- Image-Based Template Suggestions
This AI is responsible for helping you choose the most fitting template for your image. Gone are the days when you needed to test several presets, like you’d normally do in Lightroom.
- Mood and Color Harmony
Yes, the Mood tool lets you choose from an array of color palettes to change the mood in the image. Color Harmony offers you a more robust color grading option.
- Skin AI and Face AI
Want a slim face? Check. Relight the face? Check. Improve the eyes? Check. Face AI has got it all sorted out. Skin AI, on the other hand, lets you remove blemishes from the skin and can also reduce glare from oily skin.
The software lets you add contrast to your highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in a way that doesn’t affect the whole image.
Luminar AI vs. Luminar 4
You may have come across Skylum Luminar 4 and are wondering how it’s different from Luminar AI. Well, for starters, Luminar 4 is a year older than Luminar AI, which was released at the end of 2020. While they are both based on AI, Luminar AI is more AI-based and automatically suggests templates, unlike Luminar 4, where templates are called “Looks”.
They share similar AI technology, including Face AI, Sky AI, and Augmented Sky AI, among others. One stark difference is that Luminar 4 supports user-created layers, whereas Luminar AI doesn’t. If you need faster edits, upgrading from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI is a wise move. However, you may want to test it for free first before making the jump.
Reasons to Use Luminar AI
- You get faster edits and better images.
- You can make an edit on one image and then synchronize the changes to other photos in your catalog.
- It can boost specific facial features (like whiten teeth or eyes) without damaging the rest of the image.
- It has a user-friendly interface.
The Limitations of Luminar AI
- The tool doesn’t support layering features, meaning you can’t do non-destructive editing.
- Online resources on how to use the platform are quite limited.
Luminar AI’s Pricing
You can choose a pricing plan based on whether you need a one- or two-computer license:
- The Master Plan is priced at $79.00 for a one-computer lifetime license and $99.00 for a 2-computer license.
- The Expert Plan costs $148.00 for a lifetime license for one computer and $168.00 for two computers.
- The Guru Plan, which costs $207 for a 1-computer lifetime license and $227 for a 2-computer license, adds extras like Aurora HDR and an annual subscription to Luminar X Membership.
Luminar AI’s Affiliate Program
You can promote the Luminar brand and earn a commission starting at 20 percent. Your earnings can grow up to 40 percent based on your sales. Members benefit from a 90-day cookie link attribution period, discounted apps, and new campaigns that help maximize their earnings.
Luminar AI can be used on Macs and PCs.
Hopefully, you find our review helpful. There is no obvious leader: every tool we’ve tested here has its selling points and can be useful for a number of purposes. Tt several of the above options, pick one you like the most or use more than one app to make your designs super special. With the tools outlined in this post, you can step up your game to make your graphic designs stand out from the crowd and be able to compete with the most talented experts in the field.
Do you already have a favorite graphic design tool? Tell us about it in the comments below, we’d love to know!