Now that you have your sublimation printer and heat press, here’s a list of the Best Graphic Design Softwares and Apps you can use to create your designs for sublimation. There are many available and this comprehensive list and comparison guide will help you choose the right one for you.
The design software is a necessary tool in sublimation printing. It is used to draw or create your own designs, personalize a design, and even put together design elements to customize a ready-made template. Without it, you won’t be able to print your own sublimation transfers.
For many, designing is the fun part of sublimation as it is the most creative part of the entire sublimation process. It can also be the source of frustration because having the wrong design software can limit you on what you can create and print.
This comparison of the available sublimation design softwares and apps will be a useful tool in helping you decide which software is the right one for you.
Factors We Use To Rate The Sublimation Softwares
Each graphic design software has its own features, functions, limitations and capabilities. Knowing each one will help you narrow down what to choose to create your sublimation designs. In this guide to the sublimation software, we will look at the pros, cons, and price of each.
Before deciding on which software to use, take a quick look at our Guide On Sublimation Design Image and Color Basics. This will go over the basics such as RGB vs CMYK, what an ICC profile is and why it’s important, and vector vs raster graphics. Understanding the basics will help you figure out why some images work well for sublimation and why some won’t work.
List of Design Softwares and Apps That You Can Use For Sublimation
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Illustrator
- Affinity Photo
- Affinity Designer
- Silhouette Studio
- Cricut Design Space Desktop
- Procreate for iPad
Adobe Photoshop is a powerful graphics design and photo editing software from Adobe. It can be used for tasks such as removing blemishes or people from photos, adding text or other design elements to an image, and changing the colors or overall look of an image. Photoshop can also be used to create designs that are rich in color and detailed design elements.
Photoshop creates and edits raster file types. Raster files are made up of tiny color squares, called pixels, that make up a highly detailed image. The more pixels a design has, the better and higher quality it will be.
Pros: Industry standard, highly advanced photo editing and graphic design software for both desktop and iPad.
Cons: Steep learning curve but there are thousands of tutorials on YouTube.
Price: Monthly subscription required. Or get the combo Photoshop and Lightroom for a lower price than Photoshop by itself.
Adobe Illustrator is great for creating logos, icons, drawings, typography, and complex illustrations from Adobe. It is a vector graphics software. The designs and graphics it creates are made up of points, lines, curves, and shapes that are all mathematically related which means resizing it will not cause quality loss.
Pros: Industry standard, highly advanced graphic design creation software for both desktop and iPad.
Cons: Steep learning curve but you can also find tutorials for the beginners to advanced users on YouTube.
Price: Monthly subscription required.
There’s a way to save on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. If you’re a Student or Teacher, you can get the full suite of Adobe apps for one low price. See below.
Affinity Photo 2 is a raster graphics editor from Serif. The version 2 was released in November 2022 with new features that’s helpful for sublimation.
Some consider it as the alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It lets you edit photographs and also lets you add text and graphic elements to your designs. It is a simplified photo editing software as it does not have a lot of the tools and options that Photoshop has; this is a key advantage of this software for beginner graphic designers. It is available for Mac, Windows, and iPad. Find the full feature list here.
Pros: Simpler photo and graphics editor without the monthly fee.
Cons: Less tools than Photoshop. Has a steep learning curve but there are more than enough online tutorials.
Price: $70 (price as of 04-2023, can change without notice)
Affinity Designer 2 is the latest version that was released on November 2022. It is developed by Serif and is a vector graphics creator and editor.
It lets you create graphic art for print projects, design logos, and icons. It has a wide variety of drawing and editing tools, has a customized interface, and allows you to design in layers. It is Adobe Illustrator’s competitor but differs in a way that it lets you switch between vector and raster workspaces. It is available for Mac, Windows, and iPad. Find the complete feature list here.
Pros: Affordable due to its one time price and no monthly subscription fee.
Cons: Lacks a few tools that Adobe Illustrator has. Has a steep learning curve but there are more than enough online tutorials.
Price: $70 (price as of 04-2023, can change without notice)
CorelDraw is a graphic design program used for creating and editing vector images such as logos, flyers, infographics, vector art and design prints. Its wide range of capabilities allow users to create professional-grade designs. Some of these features include customizable workspaces, advanced tracing and clipping tools, and support for a wide variety of file formats.
The CorelDraw Graphics Suite Version is the only one you can use if you have a Mac. This version is also available for purchase on Amazon instead of a subscription price. Besides that feature, you can also use this as a web-based app and includes an iPad version.
- Includes enough tools to create vector-based art for sublimation.
- Easier to learn than Adobe Illustrator.
- Not as intuitive as compared to Adobe’s softwares but still used by millions of graphic designers.
- If you have a Mac, you can only use the CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2023 and not the Essentials or Standard versions.
Price: 3 price points depending on the version you choose:
Silhouette Studio software is from Silhouette America, the vinyl cutting company. This software lets you create designs and send them to your Silhouette cutting machine.
A lot of sublimakers started off in the vinyl cutting industry who used this software and once they transitioned, continued to use this to send their designs to their sublimation printer.
The Basic edition is free and does not require you to own the Silhouette cutting machine so it’s a great program to learn some design basics. But this basic edition only allows you to import JPG, BMP, and PNG files and does not allow you to import SVG files. If you find a ready-made design or design elements, you’re limited to just the 3 file types.
One downside of using the free Basic edition is that it only saves your work as a Studio 3, GSD, GST, and DXF file formats. Some sublimation printers, such as the Sawgrass printers, use their proprietary software called Sawgrass Print Manager and do not open any of those files you create in the Silhouette Basic Edition.
Other downsides to using the Basic edition is that it doesn’t allow you to work in layers or have any glyph support (glyph is a different typeface or shape of the font character to add an additional design flair to it).
The Designer Edition, Designer Edition Plus, and Business Edition have progressively more features that you can use in the design process. Some examples include using the warp tool, font glyph manipulation, eraser tools, advanced warp features.
Pros: Easy to use and learn.
Cons: This is not a design software, it’s a cutting software. But it works for the basic design functions that can be printed for sublimation designs.
Price: $100 for the Business Edition Upgrade. (can change without notice)
Cricut Design Space
Cricut Design Space is the design software from Cricut. It used to be web-based but is now an app for your computer desktop.
It’s another vinyl cutting machine software that some use to create designs for sublimation. It allows you to upload jpg and svg files that you can use to add additional elements such as text for personalization.
Pros: Easy to use and learn.
- Max image size for printing is limited to 9.25” x 6.75” so you’re limited to creating designs for small sublimation items only.
- Not color aware – If you print from this design software straight to your printer, your colors may be off as this software doesn’t accept ICC profiles, therefore, they are not color aware.
Price: free with a cricut account
Canva is an online raster graphic design software that can be used to create your sublimation designs.
It includes thousands of templates, images, and fonts that you can use for your design. They have many templates you can use as your base design including mugs, shirts, sweatshirts, …even a shirt template!
They also have many elements that you can use that’s included in the free version and there are many more that you can use if you purchase their subscription. You can also upload your own design elements too. Once you’re done with the design, download it as either PDF, JPG or PNG. Then open that image and send it to your sublimation printer.
- Very user friendly with its easy to use interface.
- No graphic design background needed as its self-explanatory.
- Can download PNG, JPG, and PDF files for sublimation designs
What Makes Canva Pro Great?
- Beginner-friendly design program for sublimation.
- Download 300dpi images for sublimation.
- Capable of social media content creation, video editing with audio, and social media scheduling.
- Includes 40,000+ templates.
- Low cost monthly charge with no contracts.
- Does not have the advanced editing features when compared to Adobe, CorelDraw, and Affinity.
- Web-based so if you are in an area where the internet is spotty or non-existent, you won’t be able to use it.
Check out this sublimation tutorial on how to sublimate on kitchen towels. The free sublimation design is made in Canva, downloaded, and sent the a converted Epson Ecotank ET-2400 printer with Printer’s Jack Sublimation Ink. You can see on the video tutorial on our Youtube Channel how great the colors look.
Procreate from Savage Interactive is an app for iPads that can be used to create raster graphic designs for sublimation.
You can create your designs using their hundreds of brushes (pencils, inks, charcoal) and a full spectrum of colors to create texture or even make your own brush too. You can use your fingers or the Apple pencil when creating your designs. It also have filters that you can use to add some dramatic effects to your images. You can export your designs in the native procreate file, PSD, PDF, JPG, PNG, and TIFF. Then you can open these files to send to your sublimation printer.
Pros: Lots of tutorials available and can be used on your iPad when you want to design on the go.
Cons: Currently available for iPads and iPhones.
Price: $10 (price as of 04-2023 and can change without notice)
Gimp is an open-source raster graphics program. Open source means you can change its code and distribute those changes to other users. It can be used to create your own design composition. It has customizable brushes and gradients that you can use to enhance your designs.
Pros: basic raster design program
- Lack of customer support since it’s an open-source software
- Not good with working with layers
- Need third-party plugins to be able to use some features
Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics software that can open SVG, PDF, EPS, CDR, VSD, and AI files. It has many drawing tools, text tools that you can use to create your design graphics. You can save and download these designs in a PNG format.
Pros: basic vector design program
- No dedicated support since it’s an open-source software
- Glitchy and buggy especially with Macs.
How To Choose Which Sublimation Software To Use
Choosing the sublimation software is not an easy task. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each as they all differ in their capabilities, amount of support, amount of video and written tutorials, the learning curve, and even prices.
What You Can Do With These Sublimation Design Softwares
These graphic design softwares and apps are not just for creating designs from scratch. They are also useful for modifying your designs or pictures to fit your sublimation blank, personalizing your designs, and editing your design for color to make sure it comes out well when pressed on the blank.
Creating personalized gifts is the one major advantage of being able to do sublimation, for example: adding the name, last name, or that important date (wedding and anniversaries). Check out our posts of Free Cursive Heart Fonts that are great when personalizing gifts for weddings and engagement and these Free Skinny Fonts are great for Farmhouse Style Designs.
Our Top Picks – Top 3 Sublimation Softwares:
|Affordable monthly fee if you decide to use the Canva Pro version that includes many images and templates. You can download as a PDF, JPG, or PNG.
|Affinity Photo and Designer
|quickly catching up to Adobe in terms of tools and have a one-time cost instead of the monthly subscription.
|Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
|very powerful, industry standard graphic design softwares.
What software do we use for our Sublimation Business?
Adobe (Photoshop and Illustrator) is what we use because we are familiar with it and have been using it for years. It has a lot of advanced features that we use daily.
We are currently testing Affinity and Canva and have found them to be good alternates to Adobe.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Sublimation Design Softwares:
*DISCLAIMERS: Any prices mentioned above are the price at the time of the original publication. These can vary, can fluctuate, and can change at any time. Please check the retailer for current prices.
We make every effort to make sure the above information is correct and up to date by doing our due diligence when performing our research. However, typos can occur and unintended mistakes happen. We are not responsible for any incorrect data published here.