What’s the best graphic design software?

Pictured above: Adobe InDesign 6 

We’ll start with what doesn’t work!

Word processor programs, such as Microsoft Word are a bad choice for print layout. The reasons for that are numerous, and not within the scope of this article. The bottom line is (unless you’re dealing with simple black and white documents, and the simple, non-critical graphics), MS Word won’t work.

By the same token, programs such as Excel or Powerpoint are a bad fit. They’re designed with an entirely different purpose in mind.

 If not Word, Excel or Powerpoint, what will work?

Look for a page layout program. If you can budget for it, Adobe InDesign is today’s most popular pro page design software. QuarkXpress is another less popular, but powerful option. There’s a bit of a learning curve on both of these programs; they’re very feature-rich.

InDesign is available for purchase or subscription. You can grab a 3 month trial of Adobe InDesign here. Or purchase a full version here.

Low Budget Alternatives

A low budget option is Scribus, an open source (free) program that has the potential to export “print ready” PDF files. This book will get you up to speed on Scribus’ many features.

BTW, the popular Windows page layout program MS Publisher, may work in some situations, but is hopelessly cobbled when true quality results are needed.

Low Cost Macintosh Options
If you own a Macintosh computer, there’s one choice that stands out for the novice document designer. Apple’s Pages program is simple, intuitive and has a decent engine under the hood. Used correctly, it can easily create typical business or personal documents, and save them in print ready PDF files.

Beyond the software. Your document should be:

1. Sized correctly. Don’t just randomly place a business card in the middle of a letter size sheet.
2. Designed with the correct number and type of colors for your printing process. If you find this statement confusing, chances are your document will come out wrong.
3. Built from compatible elements. Besides text, any graphics, clip art, photos or other elements require compatible file formats, color model, and quality fonts.
4. Built using a page layout, or possibly a draw program. Files created in image editing programs (such as Photoshop) are a poor choice for average documents that contain a combination of text, logos, and non-photographic elements.
5. Compatible with mechanical requirements of the printing process. Text that is too close to the edge, can be problematic. Documents with “bleed” (wall to wall) color, or unusually heavy ink coverage may give you less than optimal results, unless properly treated.

Publishing for the Masses

If you have the time, and a little bit of money, creating your own documents for print can be fun and effective. But remember when time is tight, or when the stakes are high, consider hiring an experienced graphic design pro to help. The right designer can make ALL the difference!

Remember: when you create your own documents using any of the major publishing packages, Copies&Ink will be able to help you get much better results in your final projects. And if you support us by purchasing the software from Amazon though the links on this page; we’ll earn a modest affiliate commission from your purchase.


About the author

Bill Alpert