Graphic Design Tools

If you're preparing for a graphic design career, how do you know which tools you should learn to use? Designers in advertising, magazines and other print media primarily use QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign. Packaging designers use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. To widen your own options when entering the graphic design industry, here are the five graphic design programs you may choose: 

  1. Adobe InDesign: This new professional design layout package competes directly with QuarkXPress. It integrates well with other Adobe software and can export to XHTML for multiformat and Web publishing.
  2. QuarkXPress: This is the longest-running and most popular desktop publishing page layout package. It offers Xtensions to enhance its capabilities and has won numerous industry awards.
  3. Adobe Photoshop: This tool is the industry standard for photographic image manipulation and is used by most design agencies throughout the world.
  4. Adobe Illustrator: A vector-based drawing program, this tool is very useful for line-art drawings like logos, maps, and illustrations.
  5. Flash: Developed by Macromedia, this design tool is now owned by Adobe. Web designers use it to create embedded video graphics, Websites, games, animation, and interactive features. 

Software Tips from Graphic Design Professionals

Jamie de Anda has worked in package graphic design for the past seven years. She prefers to work with Adobe Illustrator because "[y]ou're creating vector-based art, so there's no limitation to it, whereas when you're dealing with pixels on Photoshop there are a lot more restraints." 

For designers just starting out, she advises: "It's industry standard to know all the core Adobe software, and either Quark or InDesign, although it's good to know both of those if you have time." 

Jessica Ikenberry, a graphic designer for the past six years, disagrees slightly: "Adobe has a hold on the market. There's no two ways about it....InDesign and Quark are pretty comparable, but if you're just starting out and could learn either one, why not learn InDesign?" The Adobe Creative Suite (CS) Master Collection, her personal preference, bundles InDesign together with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash. 

Jessica also strongly advocates attending design school in order to master these programs, especially since "the programs are all very different. When you learn how to do something in Illustrator, the pen tool doesn't function the same way in Photoshop, so you have to understand the different programs. For me, that wasn't going to come out of a book." 

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