Widely-accepted industry standard for illustration, it integrates well with other Adobe products. On the downside, it does have a steep learning curve. It's acceptance by service bureaus and printers keeps it as a top choice for professional designers. Illustrator can also be used for some page layout tasks including business cards and ads. It is available as part of some of the Adobe Creative Suites or as a standalone application.
Illustrator CS5 for Windows and Mac
It is part of the Design Premium, Web Premium, Production Premium, and Master Collection editions of Adobe Creative Suite 5.
Part of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, this illustration component, like Adobe Illustrator, is often used for page layout. Popular among both experienced and novice Windows designers, for new designers, the Suite's bundling of both vector and bitmap tools and other utilities makes it quite a bargain.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 for Windows As of September 2010 there are 3 CorelDRAW X5 Suites: Standard, Professional (adds Web/Flash components), and Home & Student (removes some of the pro features of the Standard edition including print separations).
Formerly Xara Xtreme Pro, this package combines photo and illustration in one package. In addition to drawing and photo editing, it also does Flash animation. There's also a slightly less advanced and very low-cost version called Xara Photo & Graphic Designer. Get trial versions.
Designer Pro 6 for Windows; Photo & Graphic Designer 6 for Windows
- Designer Pro & Photo & Graphic Designer (Company Store)
A popular free, open source vector drawing program, Inkscape uses the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Use Inkscape for creating text and graphics compositions including business cards, book covers, fliers, and ads. Inkscape is similar in capabilities to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. Inkscape is also being used to create fonts.
Available as of 2011: Inkscape 0.48 for Linux, Windows, Mac, and will run on FreeBSD, Unix-like systems
All-in-one vector and bitmap graphics and publishing software for Windows. "Canvas 11 is an indispensable tool for professionals who work images that contain up to 32 bits of floating point data per channel." Use Canvas for high-end technical illustration and more. Some of the Canvas specs: open AutoCAD drawings, import Office 2007 PowerPoint, Word, and Excel files, open Photoshop CS files, PDF export, auto trace, professional print feature, create Web graphics, 200,000% zoom and precision drawing.
Canvas 11 for Windows and Canvas with GIS Module for Windows
Canvas 9 Review (About.com Graphics Software)
- Canvas 11 (Compare Prices)