50 Must Have Design programs for Increased Productivity

We always love working in Photoshop, Flash, 3D Studio Max as designers but sometimes they could really get slow or fixing a minor correction in such huge programs may really give a test for our patience which make us think about some other alternatives to these bulky softwares.

We have a solution to this in the form of smaller designer programs which can substitute some of the most used features found in the bigger ones.

They could really be a handy tool if you are going to do repetitive and simple tasks by quickly finishing your job in quite an effective way because they are meant to that specific job and you need not be a professional to use these programs which makes your job much easier if you are assigning your task to somebody else and don’t want them to use your precious programs.

Design programs involve a lot of things like editing the images in any specific way, program the designs in an illustrative way, creating an animation, Tools to create high end graphics, create 3D life like images, using Flash Tools and many other technical aspects are involved which these smaller programs do it in a much professional and in a quick way.

Presenting you with such a collection of  programs which could really surprise you with their small size and great functionality.

Image Editing programs


Paint.NET is a photo editing software or photo editor tool with a range of powerful tools, layers, undo options, history, actions manager and special effects. Supports common image formats.


GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program is a Graphics editing program similar to Photshop is used for photo retouching, image authoring and composition. Can also be used as batch processing system or mass production image renderer.

3.Xara Xtreme

Xara Xtreme works on Linux and is used as a powerful drawing tool which has many tools like Zoom, text tool, Transparency tool, Blend and Bevel tool, Freehand tool and many other tools and has a new plug-in system for importing and exporting filters.


PaintStar is a digital image processing software mainly used for Photo retouching, Image morphing and composing, displaying thumbnails. Also supports the common editing techniques and has many tools like transformation tools, selection tools, gradient fill tools, filters and effects, color conversion and more.

5.Active Pixels

Active Pixels, a similar photo editor as Photoshop has many similarities to it as layers, magic wand tool, gradient etc., Active Pixels includes a screen capture tool, red eye fixer and a picture browser but some of its filters lack proper configuration settings.

6.Picasa 3.1 Build 71.43

Picasa locates your pictures and sorts them into visual albums arranging by date with name of the folder for easy recognition and keeps them neatly organized. Makes it easy to share images and albums and posting them on blogs, the latest from Picasa is Web Albums.

7.Art Weaver

ArtWeaver is a drawing program from novice to advanced users where you can record your steps to play in future. Offers a wide selection of brushes, filters, history function, editable text layers, graphic tablets and many other functions.

8.VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor

VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor offers simple image editing, allows refining digital photos, draw artworks and produce powerful graphics. Has a Caricature tool to transform faces into funny, distorted images.

9.Photo Pos Lite

Phot Pos Lite is an Image and Computer Graphics editor which is a free version of the Photo Pos Pro which contains a part of the Photo Pos features which lets you edit, enhance and manipulate the images, supports many file types, scanners and digital cameras, special effects, editing tools and more.

10.Magix Xtreme Photo Designer

MAGIX Vtreme Photo Designer offers an impressive set of tools to edit your photos easily and transform photo ideas into reality. Has an intelligent task wizard to explain the editing procedure. Also create collages with image retouching tools, cloning tools, magix wand tool.


ColorPic is a professional tool for picking colors from a palette which lets you select 16 colors at once where the HSV and RGB values can be adjusted and a magnifier attached for accuracy.


Magnify the thinks on the screen to its pixel level which is very use to use with a re sizable magnification area, an adjustable zoom factor, mouse wheel control, an overlay grid and image capture facility.

13.Easy Thumbnails software

Easy Thumbnails is a Windows utility to create precise thumbnail images and scaled down / up copies from other picture formats. Also has a slider control to rotate and adjust the brightness, sharpness or contrast of the images and preview them. Also has 11 re sampling filters and a simple file selector and built in image viewer.

14.FastStone Photo Resizer

Fastone Photo Re-sizer is a tool to convert and rename images in batches with sequential number and a preview. Supports popular image formats and allows to re-size, apply color, border and watermark effects, supports folder or non folder structure.


ImageDiff is a comparison tool to compare images and see the accurate differences by each pixel. Compares images of different proportions and formats and applies a colored filter to see the exact degree of change.


Irfanview is a small and fast graphic viewer which is based on feature cloning and stealing of ideas with multipage TIF and ICO support. Includes features like paint options, email option, multimedia player, scan support, loss less jpg rotation, plug-ins, slideshow, support for Photshop filters and many more.

17.FastStone Image Viewer 3.2

FastStone Image Viewer is an fast and stable Image browser, converter and editor. Provides a full screen mode, thumbnail browser, magnifier, musical slideshow, image annotation and other functionality pop up when mouse touches the edges of screen.

18.Alch Icon suite 1.2

Alch Icon Suite is an icon editing studio which has a range of effects to edit any windows icons and create your own icons in an effective manner.

Illustration Design Programs


DrawPlus is a vector drawing software where anyone can create graphic drawings to web animations. Has an watermark and border wizard, natural curve editing and smoothing, quick shape tools, helps creating logos, calendars, envelops, business cards, banners and more.

20.Draw plus 4

DrawPlus is a vector drawing software where anyone can create graphic drawings to web animations. Has an watermark and border wizard, natural curve editing and smoothing, quick shape tools, helps creating logos, calendars, envelops, business cards, banners and more.

21.Insight Point

InsightPoint is used for creating illustrations and layout, multipage slide shows in SVG format, object oriented vector design tools and can be used in both Windows and Linux.

22.Karbon 14

Karbon is a vector drawing application to explore vector graphics to create vector art or photo realistic vector images. Also create logos, illustrations, clip arts and more.

23.Smooth Draw

SmoothDraw is a freehand drawing tool for creating natural paintings and high quality pictures. Supports many brush tools, retouching tools, adjustments and other effects.

24.Penil 0.4.3b

Pencil is an open source animation / drawing software for creating hand drawn animations or cartoons using bitmap and vector graphics. This software can be used in Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

25.Spray vector generator

SPRAY vector generator produces helper objects like random position, outline color, grids and rays for Vector Illustration software like Xara X. Generated objects can be placed through clipboard.

26.SMN v5.1

ParticleDraw is a Windows drawing program where the brushes are result of dynamic systems which are tunable and can construct arbitrary systems of particles which can be further used as brushes.

3D Modeling & CAD


Blender is an open source 3D rendering program used for modeling, animation, UV Unwrapping, shading, Imaging and Composting, Game creation. Includes tools fir 2D and 3D procedural brushes, collision simulation and lot more.

28.K – 3D

K-3D us a 3D modeling and animation software with an object oriented plug in architecture excelling in polygonal modelling and a procedural engine.

29.Google SketchUp Pro 7

Google SketchUp is a 3D modeling program to create 3D models of house, spaceships, redecorating your room or giving your city a new look and place in Google Earth and anything for which you want to create a model. You can also share your models with others through 3D Warehouse.

30.3D Canvas

3D Canvas is a 3D modeling and animation tool with an intuitive drag and drop approach where complex models are created using tools to deform, sculpt and paint those shapes.


Looxis creates 3D portraits through a hi-tech camera by using a laser which etches the portrait within an optical crystal making it a unique piece.


Bryce 7 is a 3D landscaping and animation tool which can create a paradise with unbeleivable realism, improved skies and even particles, lighting and much more.

33.3D Box Shot Maker

3D Box Shot Maker is used to design an impressive and attractive box shot as your software box cover. Just a font and side image is enough to generate the final image which can also include shadow and reflections.

34.Alibre Design Xpress 9.2 SP1

Alibre Design Express is a 3D modeling software for creating mechanical parts and 2D drawings and assemblies. It is used in wood working, manufacturing, creating mechanical designs.



AnimPixels is an animated movie software where you can create your own animated movie using the movie components in AnimPixels or download them from the Internet.

36.Touch Art Sampler

Touch Art Sampler is used to learn, design and perform live visuals, 3D artworks and VJing. Customize the visuals by adding the lighting, color, textures, audio and sync visuals.


Synfig is an open source vector based animation software designed for producing high quality animations and eliminates the task of manual tweening and producing 2D animations of great quality.


A Windows application which can create a single animated GIF file from any number of images which are saved as separate GIF files. Also includes automatic interlacing and transparency detection.

39.3D Plus2

An amazing graphics design software for all to create stunning graphics for your home, school or business to create 3D scenes, logos, animations and models.

Authoring Tools

40.Project Dogwaffle

A light yet powerful tool for artistic expressions, includes internal support for BMP files where brushes and animation frame sequences can be loaded and also images in other formats can be converted in the same.

41.AmitySource Userbar Generator

AmitySource Usebar Generator generates unique and attractive sidebars with a choice of colors, patterns, special effects and an overlay image.

42.uMark Lite 1.1

uMark is a Professional Image Watermarking software which marks your images with a copyright notice or a logo of yours so that nobody else can see or copy that.


Terragen is a photo realistic scenery rendering software which generates realistic landscapes and animations, special effects and has been used in films, games, books, magazines and advertisements.

Flash Tools

44.Flash Slide Show Maker Professional

Flash Slideshow Maker creates animated photo slide show as a Flash album. Automatically transforms your digital photos to flash file format with background music and transition effects.

45.LiveSwif Lite

LiveSwif is a key-frame based animation system to create Flash movies, buttons or banners. Provides a path and transform motion to create animations.

46.Sothink SWF Catcher for IE V3.3

Sothink SWF Catcher is an extension to Internet Explorer which is used to save Flash based charts,movies, presentations and games at the same time. Can be embedded easily into Internet Explorer by adding a small button.

47.Sue Fisher : The Font Thing

Sue Fisher manages TrueType fonts in Windows which installs and uninstalls fonts, copies or deletes them, renames, filters, groups and uses multiple font windows to compare them.

48.FontHit Font Tools

FontHit Font Tools is a font software used to preview, install, uninstall, print and view the fonts in categories. Can drag and drop the fonts for preview. Supports various font formats.


FontRenamer Software renames the truetype font to the real name of the fonts which makes it easy to understand. For example arialbi.ttf is renamed as Arial Bold Italic.ttf.


FontInfo has an overview of fonts installed on your system which you can view as a concise list of fonts.

Siva Kumar

Photography and design lover i like these two essential things more than my job(Web developer). So only i have launched Pokkisam and a Photography,design inspiration blog too Photography and design inspiration blog Follow me in twitter to get interesting things in photography and design >>pokkisam

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  1. Srinivas Gupta says

    Thanks Siva,
    Article helps me a lot, nice round up
    Once again Thank You very much.

  2. says


    I agree with “this article is nothing but pure link-bait/seo masturbation. The author adds NOTHING to this list. It might as well be a google results page for “design tools”. I am looking forward to better content from this site.” (via Tagny Daggart)

    Wise one:
    “If you need 50 apps like this to be productive, you may need to re-assess your workflow.”

    My 2 cents:
    This post is called “50 Must Have Design programs for Increased Productivity”, there’s nothing “must have” shown in it. Not to mention the second part of the title, I mean, how this bunch of mostly random apps could possibly increase anyone’s productivity? I guess you would just spend one day installing them, the next day trying out each of them, and another day UNinstalling them from your system…

    Final thought: either 1wd seems to be out of ideas (which is quite hard to believe in), or editor-in-chief is on vacation.

  3. Tagny Daggart says

    Um, I love this site, but this article is nothing but pure link-bait/seo masturbation. The author adds NOTHING to this list. It might as well be a google results page for “design tools”.

    I am looking forward to better content from this site.

  4. Red says

    Drawplus and Inkscape have the same teaser texts. Nice roundup still, yet a lot of programs that really have no use compared to better free equivalents.

  5. Juegos says

    Thanks for this impressive collection Siva, I recommend Pinta, it’s a nice alternative to Paint.Net and is compatible with Linux, Mac and Windows.

  6. Andy Hutchins says

    Meh. If you need 50 apps like this to be productive, you may need to re-assess your workflow. Honestly, this list just seems like a bunch of random, obscure graphics programs. Hardly any of them seem suitable for any kind of prodessional design work aside from maybe GIMP and Inkscape.

  7. Narendra Keshkar says

    Nice post with many valuable tools to make work more easier. Thanks for posting.

  8. Kannan says

    Nice collection.
    You have missed out Poser which is also a great 3D rendering program.

  9. Jack says

    I’m sorry but none of these are “must have” in the least – especially if you have the programs you mentioned before.

  10. says

    A correction alert (after which you can ditch this comment, if you like): You have the description for DrawPlus in both 19 (Inkscape) and 20 (DrawPlus). I comment because I’m interested in what Inkscape might be. Other descriptions seem fine, I think.

    • says

      “Inkscape is a Vector Graphics Editor, similar to Adobe Illustrator, that strives to
      be SVG Compliant, open source, responsive and extensible.”

      By the way, have you heard of search engines, like google?