If you’re a designer, much of this is common knowledge. If you’re new to design, you might be overwhelmed with the selection, cost, and difficulty of choosing a design program. I can’t tell you which program to choose, because everyone’s workflow and learning style are different, but here’s a starting point.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Generally speaking, the industry standard design software is the Adobe Creative Cloud (formerly Adobe Creative Suite). This is a set of software that includes over 20 programs for print, digital, web, gaming, and video design. Let’s go over the more popular programs included.

Photoshop – This program is best suited for raster based designs and photography editing. Photoshop is not the best program to do page layout such as a brochure or flyer.

Illustrator – Best for vector artwork. Illustrator is a versatile program that can be used for almost all design projects. It’s best for single layouts such as a poster or postcard design. Logo’s should be designed in Illustrator.

InDesign – If your project has multiple pages like a catalog or magazine, this is the program to use. InDesign has tools that focus on page layout and typography.

Other Programs

CorelDraw & CorelPaint – These programs are not as popular as the Adobe Creative Suite but offer many of the same features.

Quark Xpress – Once was the most popular production software, it was surpassed in popularity in the mid 2000s.

Free or Cheap Alternatives

All of the aforementioned programs are expensive, but fortunately there are some free or cheap alternatives that aren’t as feature rich, but still good for a beginner.

Alternatives for Photoshop:


Alternatives for Illustrator:

Affinity Designer

Alternatives for InDesign:

Serif PagePlus Starter Edition

When you select a print vendor, it’s important to verify that they accept files from the programs you’re using. For instance, TKO Graphix does not accept Microsoft Publisher or Quark Xpress files. If a program isn’t supported by your print vendor, they may offer alternative suggestions, such as exporting the file out of the program into a format that they do accept.

Alternatively, you could also leave designing to the professionals. Did you know that TKO offers a wide array of design services? Whether you need a vehicle wrap, business card, website, or logo– we can design it for you. Contact us.

TKO Tech Talk is a column written by Eric Benge, who has over 10 years experience in the design and print industries. Technology changes rapidly, the advice or information included in these articles is considered accurate and helpful as of the date they are posted online. If you have any questions, technology related or otherwise, please contact us.