When you’re first starting out in design, it’s important to recognize the importance of software knowledge. Specifically, the industry standard software. Currently, the graphic design software you need to know is Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. Some design agencies and freelancers do use other programs, but since Adobe programs are the current standard in graphic design software, it’s crucial to know them.

History of Design Software

Adobe hasn’t always been the standard software suite for designers. About a decade ago, Quark XPress was the industry standard for desktop publishing. The Corel software suite was also used by some designers and agencies, and still is.

Today, there are some newer design software programs that have slowly taken some of the market away from Adobe. The Affinity suite of programs is the one to watch here. There are also iPad apps like Procreate that have really changed the illustration game altogether.

For the most part, if you’re a new designer, you want to learn the big three programs; Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Here’s a bit about each to get you started.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has become so popular in and out of design circles that people use the term Photoshop as a verb. It is an extremely powerful photo manipulation program. Photoshop is primarily used for retouching photos, creating digital art and illustrations, website design, and creating basic 3D designs. Photoshop can be very intense on your computer and can create some pretty large file sizes, so large projects require a pretty decent computer. I’ve been using Photoshop for more than eighteen years and I’m still learning more about it every day. It’s an incredibly robust program with tools and features that can turn an ordinary image into something amazing. I consider Photoshop to be the single most important software program for designers. Used to Create: Photo edits, website designs, posters, basic 3D art Adobe Photoshop

If you want to learn more about Photoshop check out the official Adobe Photoshop Classroom in a Book.

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Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is used for creating vector art; aka, art that isn’t pixel based, but math based. This means that you can create vector artwork that can be scaled up or down without a reducing in quality. Vector graphics, in general, contain less information. This allows for smaller file sizes. Illustrator is mainly used for logo creation and vector art and comes with powerful tools for creating amazing vector artwork. Used to Create: Illustrations, logo designs, graphic elements Adobe Illustrator Vector Art

If you want to learn more about Illustrator check out the official Adobe Illustrator Classroom in a Book.

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Adobe InDesign

Finally, there’s Adobe InDesign, which is for page layout. This means it’s primarily used for creating designs that are to be printed, as well as physical or digital publications. Anything with multiple pages will also likely be created in InDesign. Years ago I worked as Art Director for a magazine right at the time Quark was no longer the industry standard. I ended up teaching myself InDesign, and fortunately, it was very similar to Quark, but better. There are so many features in InDesign to make your workflow easier, but it takes some time to uncover them all. Used to Create: Business cards, signage, brochures, magazines, books/ebooks Adobe InDesign

If you want to learn more about InDesign check out the official Adobe InDesign Classroom in a Book.

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Other Programs

Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are the main three, but there are also supporting programs. This includes things like Acrobat for displaying and making modifications to PDF files, Lightroom, which is useful for photographers for image editing, and some newer programs like Adobe XD for website design and prototyping.

There’s also Adobe Fuse for creating 3D characters for your design work and Adobe Dimension which lets you show product mock-ups in a 3D space. Adobe also has software for video effects and editing, which are Premiere and After Effects. If you’re interested in learning about motion design, After Effects would be a great program to learn.

Learning Resources

  • Adobe has a decent tutorial library for their programs here.
  • LinkedIn Learning is also a fantastic source for learning all the Adobe programs. It used to be Lynda.com so the library is enormous. It’s currently part of the LinkedIn Premium subscription, but you can also do a free one month trial. Do it, and spend that month watching as many videos as you can. That’s what I did and it was amazing.
  • YouTube is a really great place to learn about the Adobe programs and anything graphic design related in general. You can check out my channel which, at the moment, is primarily Adobe speed designs. There are also other amazing channels like Photoshop Training Channel, Yes, I’m A Designer, Creatnprocess, and Satori Graphics.

Graphic Design Software: In Conclusion

Hopefully this gives you a place to start learning about graphic design software. Because these programs have been the industry standard for so long now, there are tons of amazing resources and tutorials out there. Really, just Google what you want to learn about and you’ll find it. If you’re not sure where to begin, think of a design project you want to create, like a logo or business card, and search for tutorials on that. Good luck!

What graphic design software do you want to learn more about? Are you currently using the Adobe programs or something else? Let me know in the comments!