Taking the first steps in graphic design can be quite daunting. There are so many software options available to choose from, and finding one that works for you may be a very time-consuming process.

If you’re thinking about becoming a graphic designer and are serious about it, you’ll soon find out that some of the best graphic design software does not come cheap. This is particularly true in the case of landmark Adobe products, such as Photoshop or Illustrator. As a beginner, however, you’re going to need a lot of practice and experience before you land your first paid gigs that will require you to use the software mentioned above.

Consider trying out some of the free graphic design software that is available on the internet, before you splash the cash on the more advanced digital toolkits. Especially if you’re not trying to become a designer, but rather need to implement clever visuals in the business strategy of your company. In these instances, it might be best to outsource these tasks to firms that provide graphic design services. They’ll get the job done quickly and efficiently, and you’ll save a lot of time.

In the event that you’re actually trying to become a graphic designer, check out these top five pieces of software you can use to sharpen your skills and get ready to put your services out in the market.

GIMP

Many people swear by GIMP as the only graphic design tool you will ever need to make it in this industry. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you – created by a team of professionals passionate about graphic design; it is a textbook example of what a good open-source program should look like.

GIMP allows you to edit and process ready images, as well as create new artwork completely from scratch. With fully customizable menus and a wide plethora of advanced options, you might just find yourself using GIMP long after you’re done learning the ropes.

Blender

If 3D graphic design is what you’re about, then Blender is the perfect match for you to take the first steps in this field. Its interface is quite similar to GIMP or Photoshop (to be honest, there aren’t that many variations, to begin with), but they lack the much-needed customization options. Some users complain about the cluttered menus being a nuisance when working with Blender, but then again – if you’re serious about pursuing a career in graphic design, you better get used to that!

Canva

Even if you’ve never heard of it before, you’ve surely come across posters and images designed in Canva. Located completely in your browser, it is by far the best free online graphic design software. Although not as complex and functional as some of the other options on this list, if you need to market an upcoming event, you can’t go wrong with Canva.

It is especially useful for people who don’t want to waste their time coming up with their own image components, or are not too good at digital drawing. Canva offers up plenty of placeholders and ready-made visual assets that you can put together to create a fresh and appealing work of art.

If you’re hungry for more templates and customization options, they do offer a paid version; however, the free one should serve you just fine for basic design work.

Paint 3D

Gone are the days when Microsoft Paint was the obvious punchline of designers’ jokes and the go-to choice of all IT substitute teachers in elementary schools across the world. With the arrival of Windows 10, the creators of this most popular operating system have decided to revamp the good old Paint.

Paint 3D is one of those programs that are fairly easy to pick up but difficult to master, making it the perfect option for beginning graphic design aficionados. It allows you to easily manipulate and enhance 2D and 3D projects even as a complete amateur. One of its major drawbacks is that it does not let you work with layers, which is something that every designer should be familiar with.

Snapseed

As opposed to all of the previously mentioned programs, Snapseed is an application solely designed for photo editing and manipulation. As such, it won’t let you create new images from scratch. Even so, it is still a valuable part of the graphic designer’s toolkit, as it allows you to get some stunning effects with very little effort on your side. This is thanks to the clever placement and implementation of well-known editing techniques that let you enhance and transform images with just a few clicks.

Not only is Snapseed completely free and open-source (it was acquired by Google recently, though, which might be a bummer if you care about supporting independent developers), but it can also be used on your smartphone! The Snapseed app is available for both iOS and Android, making it incredibly easy for you to keep developing your skills on the go.

Final Thoughts

Each one of the programs listed above will come in handy when it comes to learning the essentials of graphic design. If you’re really trying to make it in this industry, though, it’s strongly encouraged that you try and master all of them. Each one focuses on different aspects of design, and a well-rounded artist should be capable of utilizing all of these in their work.