Unlike when I first started out as a designer, these days there are so many different graphic design software programs to choose from, with options to suit every budget or experience level.
So many in fact it can be an overwhelming choice to make, and then you have to spend the time learning how the thing actually works. Make the wrong choice and you've wasted precious time and have to start all over again from the beginning.
The following list, while not comprehensive, gives you some guidance into the most popular options currently on the market.
I would love to be able to categorize these accurately based on difficulty or ease of use but 'easy' is relative. If you are a brand new user with no experience at all, likely you're going to find even the easiest program a little bit challenging. It all depends on where you are starting from.
I recommend this one as a compatible option for Photoshop files. It looks and feels a lot like Photoshop when you are using it though it doesn't have ALL the features that Photoshop has (obviously) but it's great for creating basic design layouts with lots of editing tool options. If you have any experience with Photoshop or PS Elements you'll feel at home with it. There are thousands of online tutorials for Photoshop and simpler actions will easily transfer over to Photopea.
This is also a lot like Photoshop in how it looks and feels. Recently revamped there are now two options; PixlrX and PixlrE. PixlrX is super basic and only has very limited editing options. Great for projects where you are just adding a text overlay, cropping or making minor photo adjustments. PixlrE is the advanced option that mimics Photoshop and has a robust selection of design and drawing tools.
While it will open photoshop files, it doesn't seem to be able to handle larger sized files very well and doesn't keep layers organized in folders, so complex files end up very messy. Photopea works better here.
This design program is a closed system editor. What that means is, you can't create and save native files the same way as regular software programs. Files 'in progress' can only be saved inside Canva and you can only download finished projects in flattened form such as PDF, PNG or JPG. Designers offering Canva templates therefore will always label their products specifically as Canva templates. If a designer (like me) does not mention Canva in the product details... a Canva specific template is not included.
You'll only be able to use my PNG format files here, which is fine for simpler projects. Canva is very user friendly and reasonably quick to learn. Just note that the free version of Canva has very limited tool options.
It has a nice selection of tools for beginners and a friendly navigation. This is not one that I have personally tested, but it comes highly rated for what it is and is the most likely candidate for me to recommend as a beginners graphic design tool with an easy learning curve.
It is only compatible with image files such as jpg and png and has a more limited selection of tools than some of the more advanced software options but otherwise a perfect option for the occasional simple project.
This is definitely not one of my favorites, but it's been a few years since I last tried it and I'm adding it to the list because it is a popular free software with advanced editing capabilities. It is very similar to how Photoshop works and has all the tools you could need for either drawing or graphic design. I didn't find it particularly intuitive but luckily there are loads of helpful tutorials available as Gimp has been around for quite some time now.
While it will open Photoshop files it doesn't support all features so some files may not function properly.
This downloadable software is a vector graphics editor and a comparable substitute for Illustrator. It opens any vector based files with full functionality intact. It has a steep learning curve but plenty of tutorials can be found online to get you started. While you can use it for any type of graphic design projects I don't recommend it for beginners unless you're prepared to spend some time upfront learning how to use it.
MS Word - I list this here only because so many people insist on using it, largely because they have it and are comfortable using it. You can do simple design projects, but keep in mind this is a text editor, not a graphics editor, so there are big limitations. My PNG window files work perfect here though, just insert as image into any blank document.
MS Powerpoint - Personally I would choose this over Word any day. Page setup is a little trickier (set page size first) but the tools are far more design friendly so you get just a bit more flexibility. I recommend using the same PNG window files here as well.
MS Publisher - You have to buy this separate, it's not included in the MS 360 office pkg, but if you design regularly and want a simple + easy to use program, this one is aces. Admittedly, I haven't used it myself for a long time, but when I did I loved it because it was intuitive and had the same sort of feel as all the other MS programs. You can go from no experience to design whiz very quickly.
PaintShopPro - From the software brand Corel. For PC users only, one time purchase and very affordable. Corel used to be very popular but has been overshadowed recently by the plethora of newcomers on the market. This is still a very good quality software program however with loads of features.
PicMonkey - This is an online editor that requires a monthly subscription. I haven't had a chance to try this yet but it is popular among my clipart customer base. For the money, there are more comprehensive choices, but I suspect the attraction will be ease of use and the ability to use anywhere anytime.
PS Elements - Adored by the scrapbooking community this program has fallen in popularity only because so many other options abound but it has nice affordable one time only price tag and is moderately easy to use. You'll find many tutorials and it's compatible with it's big sister Photoshop.
Photoshop - Offered via a monthly subscription (get the cheaper photographers pkg) this program takes some time to learn but online tutorials abound as it has been around a very long time. I use this almost exclusively in my own work. Recommended for those who require a robust program that does it all and will get regular use from it.
Affinity Designer - One time payment and very affordable. I only recommend going this route if you plan to be a serious designer and need top rated software. There is a steep learning curve for any vector based programs.
Procreate - This one you pay for, meant as a drawing app, it does have enough flexibility to be used for design layouts. Just be mindful of how many layers you create as layer numbers are restricted based on the amount of available RAM on your device, so this differs for everyone.
Vectornator - I haven't used this one, but it looks comprehensive, with a steep learning curve. But it's free. It looks to be built for pro designers so there should be good support and tutorials. An excellent option if you plan to do a lot of designing on the go.
Pages - For ipad users, the Pages app is Apple's version of Word + Publisher together. Reasonably intuitive to use with a fairly easy navigation.
As you can see, this list is by no means comprehensive. I've included only programs that are suitable specifically for graphic design, rather than those specifically and only for drawing or photo editing. There are probably hundreds more programs and apps that offer very niche actions that may be a perfect fit for your own needs. Apps for mobile are constantly being created. Online tools come and go. And existing programs are updated or expanded.
If you are still unsure which route is best for you, ask your peers online in any forum groups you're part of for their recommendations or experience. Everyone will have a different perspective or opinion and you may glean something more through those conversations.