One of the most common questions that I get from non-designers is “What programs do you use? Are there any free options that are just as good?” I use Adobe and they are the industry standard in the design world. I honestly don’t know if there are any free options out there because I never cared to check. Once you use Adobe’s applications you will never use anything else.
A few months ago I kicked Adobe CS6 out and upgraded to the new Adobe CC (Creative Cloud). Adobe CC eliminates the standard yearly company upgrade to a service that allows you to pay monthly. These programs will be automatically updated as bugs are discovered or new features are released. Another benefit to this service that it includes every adobe program that they offer, from website design to illustration.
The three major tools in my arsenal are Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
Photoshop is a digital image editing software program. I do most of my work in Photoshop. Some of the most common things that you can create in photoshop are web ads, print material, website layouts… the list goes on and on. The capabilities of this program are endless.
Illustrator is a pixel based program while Illustrator is a vector based program. Illustrator is most often used to create illustrations (as the name implies), banners, posters and logos. It is best to create these type of graphics in Illustrator because it is vector and is scalable to any size without loosing any resolution. You can also import your logo that you create in Illustrator into Photoshop to place it onto a photo or any other pixel based graphic. One of the biggest assets of Adobe is that all programs work flawlessly between each other and have common tools, looks, and feels.
Indesign is probably the most neglected application in the Adobe Suite. InDesign is the go to when creating multi-page layouts with lots of written content such as books, magazines, and PDF documents. It is best to create high resolution prints in Indesign to make sure that the text is really crisp. Keep in mind that you can import graphics from Photoshop or Illustrator into Indesign and lay the copy out on top of those graphics. Another good use for InDesign that I use is for is variable date where I create separate layers for each tier with different info on each. This way the printer can use those layers to create a specific design for each person, male/female, in market/out market, ext.
So to answer the question, I don’t know of any programs that will ever compare to these, although they do have some kinks to work out with the Creative Cloud as well like the recent security breach.
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Posted by Justin Piontek
Justin Piontek owns Justin Piontek Graphic Design, based in Madison, Wis., and is a professional mountain biker. He started designing professionally for casinos and has since developed a versatile portfolio including nonprofit and retail clients, among others.