Best Mac For Graphic Design Students

Posted By admin On 16.02.22

The best MacBook Pro alternatives have the great features of Apple's design, but at a lower cost. MacBook Pro may be most designers' laptop of choice, but it’s no longer alone in its prowess for design and performance – there are plenty of Windows machines that have superb specs and, increasingly, look great.

  1. Best Mac For Graphic Design Students
  2. Best Macbook For Graphic Designers
  3. Best Mac For Graphic Design Work
  4. Best Mac Graphic Design Software
  5. Best Mac Laptop For Graphic Design Student
  6. Best Mac For Graphic Design

Graphic design serves as a key feature for both casual and professional practitioners. From developing sophisticated corporate branding images to banner graphics for a personal blog, graphic design and animation applications are critical to creating impactful visuals.

It’s also true that cross-platform software compatibility is now rarely an issue. With so many productivity apps being based on the web now, plus Adobe’s CC (get Adobe Creative Cloud here) having full support for the superb Windows 10, you won’t find yourself suddenly up the creek without a paddle.

Many Windows 10 PCs also have touch screens, which can be rather handy if you do wish to use a stylus – it’s certainly a better touch solution than Apple’s Touch Bar.

Of course, it remains the case that Macs are an expensive investment for a freelancer or studio and some of the Windows alternatives offer the same power for less (although check out Apple laptop deals post to see what bargains are available). Apple has recently slashed its factory-fitted SSD upgrade prices, but if you configure a MacBook Pro with all the bells and whistles things start rising steeply upwards. We must also say though, that although the MacBook Pro has risen in price in the relatively recent past, so have many PC equivalents.

So let’s explore some of the best MacBook Pro alternatives you’ll find. We’ve listed the core specs of the base model in each case, but naturally more expensive (and better performing) options are available in each case.

01. Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft’s MacBook Pro killer has a detachable tablet screen

CPU: Intel Core i5 or Core i7 Graphics: Graphics: Intel HD 620, optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 RAM: 8 or 16GB Screen: 13.5 or 15-inch 3,000×2,000 PixelSense Storage: 256 GB, 512GB, 1TB

Detachable tablet screen
Can be expensive

If you’re looking at a MacBook Pro equivalent that’s a PC you’ve just found it. Available in two sizes, the Surface Book 2 is a powerful, do-anything machine. Its party piece is a detachable touch display that pops on and off of the keyboard base and works as a separate tablet, although the Surface Pen is an optional extra. And with Windows being very touch-friendly, the tablet isn’t just for show – you can really put it to work. The display is excellent, too – pin-sharp – while there’s support for USB-C and USB-A, although you do have to put up with a proprietary power connector that we hope Microsoft will dump when it revises this machine next. While the base machine is competitively priced, things start to jump up when you talk about opting for the Nvidia dedicated graphics that reside in the base (so can’t be used with the tablet unless it’s attached to the keyboard). Another disadvantage is that it’s heavier than a MacBook Pro. But there are few other computers that have the same quality about them – it’s a robust, well-put together machine, too.

02. Dell XPS 15

Dell’s premium laptops are world-class

CPU: Intel Core i7 Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 RAM: 8-32GB Screen: 5.6-inch FHD or 4K OLED InfinityEdge Storage: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB

Well-specified across the board
Some have 4K OLED displays

This could have gone one of two ways – should we recommend the XPS 13 or its bigger brother, the XPS 15? Well we recommend both, depending on what size you want (and what you need to do). If you’ve got an idea that Dell isn’t a good brand to buy from, it’s time you binned that notion – these are some of the best laptops available anywhere and are very well designed indeed. The XPS 13 comes in various models and could be seen as a MacBook Air equivalent in many ways, but it can be given plenty of power (though not more advanced graphics than Intel’s integrated options, unfortunately). The XPS 15, on the other hand, has Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics across the board as standard in addition to top-line, latest 9th generation Intel Core i7 processors, while several models have 4K OLED displays, too. Both the XPS 13 and 15 are also available in (more expensive) 2-in-1 versions where you can flip the screen 360-degrees.

03. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Distinctive, portable and powerful

CPU: Intel Core i5 or Core i7 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 RAM: 8 or 16GB Screen: 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 PixelSense Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB

Beautiful to use and carry around
Can be a little expensive

When Surface Laptop was first announced, it seemed odd – why would Microsoft go backwards from the superb Surface Book? But it makes a lot of sense. By producing a premium device without the tablet part, Microsoft could cut down on the weight and produce a go-anywhere Surface device for those who wanted, well, a laptop rather than a tablet (you can still use the Surface Pen with this super PixelSense display should you wish to). It’s available with some high-end options including bags of storage and memory, while it’s very well designed like its more expensive brother and there’s something distinctive too; hardy Alcantara fabric surrounds the keyboard. Some won’t like it, but it’s definitely a talking point and, before you ask, it doesn’t stain. There is one moot point, however – there’s no USB-C port at all. Goodness only knows why Microsoft has been so resistant to adopt the ever-more-prevalent standard, but we reckon the company will fix that if it does a new model later in 2019.

  • Read our full review of the Surface Laptop 2

04. HP Zbook Studio 15

A workstation-level equivalent of the 15-inch MacBook Pro

Best Mac For Graphic Design Students

CPU: Intel Core i9 Graphics: Nvidia Quadro P1000 RAM: 32GB Screen: 4K DreamColor 3,840 x 2,160 pixels Storage: 512GB SSD

High-end processing power
So-so design

HP’s ZBook Line comes in a variety of configurations and styles – you even can get a 360-degree convertible version (Studio x360), too. The HP ZBook Studio 15 is our pick of the bunch though since it has workstation-level specs. Indeed, you’d be hard pushed to find as much power for the price anywhere. Not only is there Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics under the hood, but you also get Intel’s top-line Core i9 processor, 32GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. The DreamColor 4K display also has 100 percent Adobe RGB coverage, too. You’re spoilt for choice for ports, with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, an SD card slot and dual USB-A, too. You’re able to ask HP for a custom configuration should you so wish.

05. Lenovo ThinkPad X1Carbon

Light to carry, but highly capable

CPU: Intel Core i7 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 RAM: 8-16GB Screen: 14-inch FHD or WQHD or 4K UHD Storage: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB

Plenty of ports
4K display only on the most expensive model

Think business laptops and you’ll probably come up with the ThinkPad. However, since the ThinkPad line was taken over by Lenovo, no longer are all ThinkPads black and rather dull. Indeed, while the 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has an understated look, it’s a genuine MacBook Pro competitor that’s lightweight – starting at around 1.1kg – but can be specified with various options up to 8th generation Intel Core i7 processors, a super-bright 4K Dolby Vision-certified display and up to 16GB of memory and 2TB of SSD storage. However, like the Surface Laptop, there aren’t any discrete graphics options which could be a deal-breaker. But there is a lot to like with the X1 Carbon – the array of ports is impressive for something 15mm thick, with HDMI, 2x USB-A and dual USB-C Thunderbolt 3, one of which is located alongside a proprietary network port – those two can be plugged directly into a desk dock. There’s even a model with integrated mobile broadband – simply slot in a SIM and you’re always on.

06. Refurbished MacBook Pro

Get the same Mac you want – but for less

Spec: Varies depending on refurb model

Get the Mac you want
Sometimes need to wait

Best Macbook For Graphic Designers

What better MacBook Pro alternative could there be than an alternative MacBook Pro? Let us explain. Like many other computer manufactures (Dell Outlet being another good example). Apple sells off machines that get returned to it for less than they were originally on sale for. These machines aren’t faulty – or have had a faulty part replaced. Often they’ve just been returned for refunds because the customer changed their mind. So they’re repackaged, reformatted and sold to you with savings that can run into the hundreds. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The only downside is that sometimes the machines can have odd configurations – or you have to wait around for the model you want to pop-up. Still, it’s always worth seeing what’s available. Everything comes with a one-year warranty and there are plenty of other Apple products available, too.

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Why use graphic design software?

We’ve tested graphic design software since 2009. In our most recent testing, we spent over 50 hours comparing these programs' features, tools and interfaces to determine which software creates the most professional work while still being affordable and easy to use. We’ve determined that Corel PaintShop Pro is the best overall program because it offers both vector and pixel-based tools in one inexpensive software.

Best overall

Corel PaintShop Pro

Graphic design software with a vast array of tools

Hundreds of photo filters
Powerful mixture or vector and photo editing tools
No automatic vector-tracing feature
Not available for Mac

Best Mac For Graphic Design Work

Corel PaintShop Pro’s powerful mixture of photo editing tools and vector-drawing tools, coupled with its relatively low cost, makes it the best overall graphic design software we tested. You’ll find over 650 photo filters that you can apply to your projects, as well as vector brushes, pen tools and the ability to create custom brushes. This software might be a bit daunting at first because it has so many tools to learn. But the interface is easy to navigate, and the company provides plenty of learning resources to help you become a proficient user.

Although you’ll find advanced photo editing tools, like panorama stitching and HDR image creation, this program does not include automatic vector tracing. This means you need to hand-trace raster images if you want to turn them into vectors. Although this software is compatible with most major image file types, it doesn’t work with SWF files, meaning you can’t make that kind of animation file. PaintShop Pro is only available for Windows, so Mac users will need to look elsewhere.

Best Budget

Affinity Designer

A one time purchase graphic designer that provides value

Least-expensive software we tested
It’s comparable to Adobe Illustrator
Limited photo editing tools

If you’re familiar with Adobe Illustrator but you’re not keen on paying for the expensive monthly or yearly subscriptions, Serif’s Affinity software is the solution. Affinity Designer only requires a one-time payment, and it’s the least-expensive program we tested. However, there is no free trial period, so you cannot test the software before buying it. This software is comparable to Adobe Illustrator; both are vector-based design programs that are built to work alongside a photo editing program and a desktop publishing program.

Because you’re supposed to use this program in conjunction with Affinity Photo, a photo editing software, pixel tools are limited. However, unlike Illustrator, Affinity Photo has a few pixel-based tools, like a pixel brush and shape tools, which you can access in the Pixel Persona mode. That way, you’re not completely dependent on an outside program for basic image editing tools.

This software’s advanced pen and vector tools allow you to adjust stroke and line density, as well as node and curve positions, to truly give you creative freedom when you’re working on your projects. Many of the tools are the same as Illustrator’s, and many even have the same hot keys. One thing that is missing from Affinity Designer is automatic image tracing, which would turn a raster image into a vector at the click of a button. Affinity’s forum mentions that the company hopes to implement this feature in later versions, but for now, you’ll have to hand-trace images.

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Best for professionals

Adobe Illustrator

A professional standard illustrator tool

Adobe Illustrator
$20.99
Customizable vector-tracing feature
Subscription-based software
Lacks many photo editing features

Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for vector-based graphic design software due to its powerful, professional-grade tools. One of the best features of this software is the raster image tracing, which lets you convert pixelated images into editable vectors with the click of a button. When working with vectors, select the white cursor tool to rearrange node placement and curves. This gives you far more control over vectors than many other programs allow.

Adobe intends this software to be used in conjunction with Photoshop, so it doesn’t really have photo editing tools. This means it lacks color correction, content-aware fill, lens correction tools, HDR image creation and panorama-stitching features. However, you have access to masking tools, a history log and a few templates.

You can test this software using the seven-day trial. This is shorter than the average 30-day trial, but it’s better than nothing. As with most other Adobe software, this program can be used only through subscription payments. You can choose between monthly payments and yearly payments, but there is no way to make a one-time purchase.

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How much does graphic design software cost?

You can typically find basic graphic design software between $30 and $100. There are more advanced programs, which can sell for as high as $300 or require a subscription. Some, but not all, of the less-expensive software provided fewer tools. However, other affordable programs, such as Corel PaintShop Pro, have just as many design tools as more expensive software. Just determine which tools you need most, and then purchase the program that provides them.

Why trust us on graphic design software?

In our most recent evaluation, we spent over 50 hours testing and comparing graphic design software to see which programs were the easiest to use and offered the most creative freedom. We also evaluated the tools and features of each program to see if they warranted the cost of the software. To get further insight, we reached out to a professional graphic designer, Brooklyn Parks.

Best Mac Graphic Design Software

How we tested graphic design software

When you are learning how to use new software, you focus on how easy it is to use and if it can complete your desired tasks in a timely manner. To evaluate the software, we focused on both the illustration tools and the image editing features of each program. We determined which tasks we were able to complete, how long those tasks took and how easy the software was to use.

To explore the different effects the software offered, we used the same three images for all of the programs: a portrait, an image of a landscape and a still image. Then, we used common design tools – such as those for cropping, inserting text and resizing – and applied them to each of the images, noting how long it took to complete each task. The software interface played a significant role in how quickly we could find the tools, with clean and user-friendly workspaces helping the most.

To test the illustration tools in each program, we created a brochure that included text, graphics, gradients and shapes. These common tasks required a combination of tools. We evaluated how quickly we were able to do each of these tasks, as well as the speed of the software and the quality of the image after we had manipulated it. All of these factors made up each program’s ease-of-use score. Programs that lacked illustration tools, such as the pen tool or vector brushes, required more time to create design elements.

Apple computer for graphic design

Overall, most of the programs performed similarly, but some outshone the rest. If you are looking for software to create dramatic effects on your photos, consider the number of photo filters the software has. Some programs, like Corel PaintShop Pro, provide dozens of filters.

The workspaces and tools differ from one program to the next. However, most allow you to customize your workspace, which helps you navigate the software. We looked for software that came with both predesigned templates and support within the application because these factors make the software easier to use. CorelDRAW comes with hundreds of such templates.

Best Mac Laptop For Graphic Design Student

Your specific uses for the graphic design software will determine which program will work best for you. We created an ease-of-use score that reflects how quickly we could complete common tasks. You should also look for a program that has all of the tools you need to create your designs.

Best Mac For Graphic Design

Printing: how important is the finished product?

When you’ve finished designing a project and you want to present it to others, you need the best printing features. For printed articles, you should set up your page to “bleed” so that the creases of your magazine appear continuous and colored. Equally important is the option to show your printer’s marks. This will help you immensely in the package-and-print process.

The best graphic design programs offer on-screen color proofs that allow you to preview the colors on your page. For example, it confirms that a rose-red heart you created will print as the right color, and not a dark shade of pink. Using a Pantone swatch significantly helps with this, as Pantone creates the colors with an exact chemical process that ensures the colors print the same anywhere. Another important feature is prepress support, which automatically ensures there are no errors before the project is sent to the printer and alerts you of any necessary changes.

Importing & exporting files: Will you use other files on your software?

Compatibility can be an issue with graphic design software. When you share files, you want people to be able to open them no matter which program they use. Most software supports different file types, especially common ones such as JPEG, BMP and PDF. The more file types the graphic design software offers, the more versatile it is. You should not let file types limit your designs or your learning.

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