Home - Design Tools - How to Graphic Design on Mac

How to Graphic Design on Mac

Mac is the perfect spot to start graphic design. There's a rich history of graphic designers using the tools and applications that are available to any Mac user. You can do this as well. With all the information that is available today on how to graphic design on Mac, it is easier than ever.
How to Graphic Design on Mac

That’s also the problem. There’s so much information available on how you can graphic design on Mac. It can be quite daunting to select the information that is relevant for you. We’re going to focus on the Mac that is best for design work as well as the apps and software you will need.

Here we go!

Table of Contents

How to start graphic design on Mac

Starting your career as a graphic designer begins with selecting the computer you want to do your work on. We believe that you’re here for a reason. That reason is that you’ve chosen to do your design work on Mac. Good choice! Here’s our recommended approach to graphic design on Mac.

First of all, you will need to get yourself a Mac. Knowing you want to do graphic design work on Mac is one thing but purchasing the right one is almost as important.

For a graphic designer, raw CPU and GPU power are a must-have. That rules out the Macbook and Macbook Air. Your options are the Macbook Pro, the Mac Pro, or the iMac (Pro). To help you decide, we wrote a guide on selecting the best Mac for designers. Go read that post if you’re looking for a Mac.

In that post, we talk about how you select your Mac based on your needs as a designer, client requirements, and budget. If you know you’re going to be a graphic designer, the choice is going to be a lot easier.

The best graphic design apps for Mac

Now that you’ve decided on the Mac you’re going to use it is time to start collecting the design tools you need to get the graphic design job done. These apps are all available on Mac. With some practice, experience, and the use of online tutorials you can learn any of the graphic design apps we list below.

Sketch

Sketch logo

Sketch is one of the best all-round design tools available today. You can use the Sketch app for graphic design, UI, and UX design. The software is vector-based which means you can scale your designs to unlimited sizes.

The scalability of your design work is important in today’s mobile device landscape. Every phone or tablet brand has its own screen sizes, ratios, and resolutions. Sketch has multiple templates and a wide pallet of plugins to help you become a very productive graphic designer.

Sketch isn’t the best tool for print. The app doesn’t have features aimed at that. If you want to be a graphic designer that is aimed at print and press we recommend checking out the software we talk about further along this list.

To be able to be a graphic designer on Mac, using Sketch is essential. You can try Sketch for free using a 30-day trial. After that, you’re required to purchase a license for $99.

We wrote a post on everything you need to know about Sketch to help you get started. Do you want to learn more about graphic design in Sketch? We recommend reading that post!

Adobe Photoshop

Ah, yes. Who doesn’t know the good old Adobe Photoshop? This application is a classic in the world of graphic design. You can use Photoshop for a wide array of graphic design tasks. This includes web design, photo edits, and drawing.

Adobe Photoshop is a raster-based application, which means that it is best used for graphic design that aims to be on mobile and web devices. If you want to create high-quality print designs in Photoshop you will need a very strong GPU and a big hard drive. It is possible, of course, but keep in mind that it will also cost you a lot of money.

You can try Adobe Photoshop for free as well. After the trial period, you will be billed $20 every month. This will give you access to Adobe Photoshop. If you want to use the entire list of apps you will have to pay $53 every month. This will be a better value if you want to use apps like InDesign or After Effects as well.

Go for the ‘all apps’ package once the total monthly cost of individual apps goes beyond the price point of the ‘all apps’ software pack. You’ll then get all of Adobe’s graphic design apps for the same price.

Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is the vector-based assist to Adobe Photoshop. You can use Adobe Illustrator for any kind of graphic design work that needs to be printed. Because of the vectors used in this application, you can scale your design to be as big as you need them to be without creating gigabytes worth of design files.

From a graphic design perspective, you can best use Illustrator for logo design and any form of artistic drawing. The pricing is the same as we just discussed above.

Free graphic design software for Mac

All of the graphic design apps we’ve mentioned above will cost you money on a monthly or yearly basis. Sometimes this isn’t an option. We get that. Luckily, there is also great graphic design software available for free. This is our list.

Canva

Some graphic designers will scoff at the idea of Canva being on this list. However, if you make a list of the best free design software available for Mac in 2021 you can’t get away with not including Canva.

Canva is a great piece of design software for graphic designers that are just starting out. You can start your design work from any number of Canva templates. Do you want to design a brochure? Use a template! It is as easy as that. From that point forward, you can edit your design and export the final product as a printable PDF.

As we mentioned before, Canva is a great application for starting graphic designers. If you’re wondering if you can be a graphic designer on Mac, Canva is your starting point.

Finally, keep in mind that Canva is based on a freemium model. You can use the app for free. However, if you want more templates you will have to get the paid version of the app.

Gravit Designer

If you break it down, Gravit Designer is a free alternative for Adobe Illustrator. It is a vector-based graphic design tool that is very user-friendly and easy to learn. The software is browser-based. This means you can use Gravit Designer on any of the main operating systems. All you need is a stable internet connection.

Just as the other free graphic design software solutions on this list, Gravit Designer has a free and a pro version. One downside to this particular design tool is that the developer is quite forward with trying to get you to pay for the Pro version of the tool. There’s the occasional pop-up that tries to convince you about the benefits of Gravit Pro.

Compared to the free version, Gravit Pro will give you more export options, the ability to work offline, and additional color profiles. If you mainly design for web, the free version will do just fine.

Are you a graphic designer that wants to design for print? Then you will need the Pro version of Gravit Designer. You can use most of the Pro features for free in the first 30 days of using this design tool. After that, it will cost you $49 per year.

Krita

Krita is painting and sketching graphic design software that is free to use for everybody. The app is open source as well. Sounds great, right?

As we said, you can use Krita for painting and sketching which makes this design tool more artistic and creative than most of the other graphic design tools we put on this list. Krita has a steeper learning curve so getting to know this tool takes a bit more time. However, once you do, this is a great app that will get you great design results.

The open-source nature of Krita means that anybody can access the app. Everybody can also improve and edit the application. This is both a pro and a con since you might get bugs in a new version or you might lose a feature that you really liked. 

In summary, Krita is the only design tool on this list that is truly free to use. That comes with its own kind of downsides. If that is your preference, Krita is the graphic design tool of your choice.

Do you need help getting started as a designer?

That’s our list of graphic design tools. We’ve made this list to help you determine where to start your journey of becoming a graphic designer on Mac. We believe that this list is diverse enough to have a tool that fits every designer’s needs.

Do you still need some help? We’ve created a program to help you become a better designer. If you join, you will get access to our exclusive group of designers that are on the same journey as you. You can also ask us anything. Do you need some career advice? You got it!

Nick Groeneveld

About the author

Nick Groeneveld is a designer from the Netherlands with over 5 years of UX, visual design, and consultancy experience. He has worked in many different industries, including retail, finance, and sports.

Take a look at Nick’s LinkedIn and Medium for more.

Was this post helpful to you? Share it with others!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin