Must-Have Design Software and Tools for CreativesMust-Have Design Software and Tools for Creatives
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Must-Have Design Software and Tools for Creatives

Today’s creative professionals rely on a robust digital toolkit to bring their visions to life. The right design software, apps and tools dramatically enhance productivity and efficiency when crafting digital artwork, graphics, illustrations, animations and more.

This comprehensive guide covers the essential design tools every modern creative should have in their arsenal, whether you work in graphic design, motion graphics, UX/UI, illustration, photography, animation or other fields. Let’s dive in!

Adobe Creative Cloud

For most creatives, an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription provides access to the core suite of industry-standard design apps for both desktop and mobile.


Used for photo editing, compositing, design and web/app prototyping. The world’s most ubiquitous creative software.


Ideal for working with vector graphics, illustrations, typography, logos and print projects.


Top desktop publishing and multi-page layout app used to design books, magazines, flyers, brochures and more.

After Effects

Leading motion graphics and video compositing tool for film, TV, video and web projects.

Premiere Pro

Professional video editing software for cinematic films, documentaries, social content and beyond.


All-in-one UX/UI app for designing and prototyping responsive websites, mobile apps and more.


Powers comprehensive photo editing and organization for photographers.


Robust web development application for coding and publishing responsive website projects.


Enables creation of rich vector and raster animations for web, TV, games and mobile apps.

Acrobat Pro

Best tool for working with PDF documents including editing, formatting, adding signatures/security and more.

Must-Have Plug-ins and Add-Ons

Plugins expand Creative Cloud capabilities with useful effects, assets, tools and integrations. Here are some top picks:

GFX Monk

Massive library of graphic elements, templates and assets for using across projects.

Envato Elements

All-you-can-download access to stock photos, video, audio, fonts, templates and creative assets.


Huge selection of customizable motion graphics templates and assets for animating projects fast.


Transforms photos into realistic artwork with styles like pencil sketches, color splash, and oil paint in one click.


Retro design toolkit with filters mimicking early design and printing methods like lithography, duotones, engravings and more.

Astute Graphics

Collection of plugins for graphic and web designers adding useful tools like alignment guides, styled shapes, patterns and effects.


Video plugins and templates providing transition effects, title sequences, filters, VFX and more.


Huge library of stunning premium fonts you can access right within apps like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Essential Complementary Tools

Round out your creative toolkit with these additional apps purpose-built for specialized tasks:

Affinity Designer

Full-featured vector graphic design and illustration software rivaling Adobe Illustrator.

Clip Studio Paint

Powerful comic and manga art creation and coloring app. Great Photoshop alternative.


Leading digital illustration and painting app made for the iPad and Apple Pencil. Intuitive sketching.


Top collaborative UI/UX design platform for teams. Great Sketch alternative.

Substance Painter

3D painting software allowing applying of materials and textures to 3D models during rendering.


Sculpting and 3D modeling solution for fine art and video game asset creation.

Cinema 4D

3D modeling, animation and motion graphics software ideal for animators.

DaVinci Resolve

Professional yet approachable video color grading solution.


Auto rigging and animation tool for 3D character models.

Spark AR

Platform for easily creating augmented reality camera effects and filters.

Helpful Productivity Booster Apps

These utility apps and browser extensions give added convenience and efficiency gains:


Subscription providing access to a huge library of Mac apps for creativity, productivity and utility.


Mac menu bar tool providing quick window manipulation commands like tiling and stacking.

CleanShot X

Top Mac screenshot tool with markup, scroll capture and video recording capabilities.


Adjusts screen color temperature based on time of day to reduce eye strain.


Visualized disk space analyzer helping free up storage space on Macs.


Displays keyboard shortcuts for actively using Mac apps right in the menu bar.


Browser extension de-cluttering web pages to focus reading on just the main content.


Checks writing across the web for spelling, grammar and style improvements.

The Best Design Resources

These sites offer endless fonts, templates, assets, learning guides and inspiration daily:

  • Creative Market
  • Design Cuts
  • Graphic Burger
  • PixelSquid
  • Creative Booster
  • Envato Tuts+
  • Pixabay
  • Behance
  • Dribbble

Equipping your creative toolkit with the right blend of design apps, plugins, utilities and resources will empower you to increase output and take the quality of your digital artwork and content to the next level.

FAQ: Must-Have Design Software and Tools for Creatives

1. Why are Adobe Creative Cloud apps essential for creatives?

Adobe Creative Cloud provides access to industry-standard design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premiere Pro, XD, and more. These apps are integral for various creative disciplines such as graphic design, motion graphics, UX/UI design, and photography due to their robust features and compatibility across platforms.

2. What are some key features of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator?

  • Photoshop: Used for photo editing, design, and prototyping for web and apps.
  • Illustrator: Ideal for creating vector graphics, logos, typography, and print projects.

3. How can InDesign and After Effects benefit creatives?

  • InDesign: Essential for desktop publishing and multi-page layout design (e.g., books, magazines).
  • After Effects: Leading tool for motion graphics, video compositing, and animation (suitable for film, TV, and web projects).

4. What role does Adobe XD play in UX/UI design?

Adobe XD is an all-in-one platform for designing and prototyping responsive websites, mobile apps, and more. It streamlines the UX/UI design process with tools for wireframing, prototyping, and collaboration.

5. What is the purpose of tools like Affinity Designer and Procreate?

  • Affinity Designer: A powerful alternative to Adobe Illustrator for vector graphic design and illustration.
  • Procreate: Leading digital illustration and painting app designed for iPad and Apple Pencil, favored for its intuitive interface and robust sketching capabilities.

6. How can plugins and add-ons enhance Adobe Creative Cloud apps?

Plugins like those from GFX Monk, Astute Graphics, and others add functionalities such as graphic elements, motion graphics templates, and design effects, expanding the capabilities of Adobe Creative Cloud apps.

7. What are some useful productivity booster apps for creatives?

  • Setapp: Subscription service providing access to a variety of Mac apps for creativity and productivity.
  • CleanShot X: Top Mac screenshot tool with markup, scroll capture, and video recording features.
  • Grammarly: Helps improve writing across the web with spelling, grammar, and style suggestions.

8. Where can I find design resources and inspiration?

Platforms like Creative Market, Behance, Dribbble, and learning sites such as Envato Tuts+ offer fonts, templates, assets, tutorials, and design inspiration to enhance your creative projects.

9. What is the benefit of using tools like DaVinci Resolve and Mixamo?

  • DaVinci Resolve: Professional video color grading software that offers advanced features while remaining approachable for users.
  • Mixamo: Automates rigging and animation for 3D character models, saving time in the animation production process.

10. How can I optimize my creative toolkit for efficiency and productivity?

By integrating essential design software, plugins, productivity apps, and accessing reliable design resources, you can significantly boost your output quality and streamline your workflow across various creative disciplines.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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