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Best Program For Designing Printables

Are you looking for the best program for designing printables? Below I will outline the best programs for designing planner printables. I’ve tried all of them, in fact I’m pretty comfortable using most of them. There are a few that I’ve only dabbled briefly and I’ll clarify that throughout the article.

Like many things in life, there are many choices and each has their positive and negative characteristics. I’ll go into these in detail. I’ll also give you my personal opinion on those that I have used.

So if you are sick and tired of trying to find the perfect planner and wasting more money than you care to admit doing so, this article could be just what you have been searching for.


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The Best Software Programs For Designing Printables

The selection of design programs below are simply listed alphabetically. I chose not to list them in order of my preference simply because the program that I favour, may not suit your style or needs.


Adobe Indesign

I love this program. I believe this is the best program for designing printables. Having said that, I use it for business so I need an advanced program with all the things.

I’m comfortable learning new programs and I will admit that this had a steep learning curve in the beginning. However, once you’ve got the basics mastered, I found this program to be smooth and reliable. Any tutorials I need to learn a new skill can be easily found with a quick search online.

Adobe Indesign comes as a part of the Adobe suite of programs. There are over 20 software programs available in the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Each of them is advanced for its specific needs and. I use four of the available programs – three extensively. It is on my to do list to perhaps replace some of the other programs I use with Adobe products, but it just has not been a priority.

As I mentioned above, there is a steep learning curve. This means that you will need to dedicate lots of time to learning and practicing your skills. This can be super frustrating. It is also the most expensive option in this article. In addition to the cost of the subscription you may need to invest in a course on how to learn to adequately use Adobe Indesign.

There are a number of programs within the Adobe Creative Cloud that you could potentially use to design printables. Some people will use Powerpoint or Illustrator and if you are familiar with either of these two programs then by all means, stick with it. However, they do have limitations when it comes to multiple page designs. And if you are already familiar with Adobe functionality, you won’t find it too difficult to master Adobe Indesign.

PROS

  • Advanced features
  • If you can imagine it, you can design it
  • Reliable
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Steep learning curve

Final Thoughts on Adobe Indesign

As someone who loves to learn new technologies, I love this program. Now that my learning curve and frustrations are over, I don’t have enough wonderful things to say about this program. It’s reliable and does everything that I need for designing printables. If you don’t already have access to this program and are going to design printables for personal use, I’d look elsewhere because the cost of Adobe Creative Cloud is prohibitive to say the least.


Affinity Publisher

This is the new kid on the block. It is very similar to Adobe Indesign… very similar. Much of what I said above applies here.

Affinity Publisher has advanced features so anything that you imagine, you can create. It has a steep learning curve. If you are already familiar using Adobe software, then you won’t have too many dramas making the switch. 

At the time of writing, Affinity Publisher is available as a very reasonably priced one-off payment. This alone makes it more attractive than it’s main rival Adobe Indesign. 

There are three Affinity products – I have been using two of them (Publisher & Photo) and I love their functionality. Their applications are advanced and their developers are proactive in listening to feedback and making updates to continually improve this product.

PROS

  • Advanced features
  • If you can imagine it, you can design it
  • Very affordable – with a one-off payment, rather than a subscription
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users

CONS

  • Steep learning curve
  • Relatively new product – still working out some kinks

Final Thoughts on Affinity Publisher

The more I use this program, the more I like it. Yes, it’s just a baby at the moment, but for the past few months, I’ve been using this program exclusively for designing printables for Blue Gum Lane and it has not let me down yet. With every update, this program becomes a little bit smoother as the kinks are continually ironed out.

Unlike Adobe Indesign, this is a very affordable option if you are designing printables for personal use (or commercial) and it’s only getting better. The only true prohibitor is the steep learning curve. If you are not a fan of learning new technologies, stick with the simpler options.


Grab Your FREE Checklist For Designing Printables Below

Printables Checklist PDF - 4 pages spread across image

Canva

Many of you may already be familiar with this free online tool. There are many planner designers who use this tool as their preferred program.

Canva is a great program if you are looking to create simple designs. You have the ability to use their pre-designed templates, add your own design elements, create basic printables. 

With the free version you have limited access to their fonts, images and graphics, however you can choose to purchase these for a small fee. Alternatively, for an annual subscription, you can access these at no extra cost as well as additional functionality such as resizing documents. The resizing feature is particularly useful when you need to change a letter  size document to A4 or vice versa.

This software uses what is known as drag and drop features. You find the element you are looking for in the left hand menu and drop it on your canvas for editing. This is perfect for people who are looking for easy to use software to design printables.

Most of the images that I use when designing with Canva, I’ve purchased elsewhere. The images that they have available do not match my style. I feel that if I’m spending money purchasing elements to use in Canva, it almost negates the reason for using Canva (which is that it’s free). Having said that, even after purchasing images that I want to use, it is still the cheaper option here.

As a free tool, there are many limitations. For example, at the time of writing, it is a long process to create realistic shadows. I actually use my Adobe software to create the shadow and then upload it to Canva. So I might as well use the Adobe products for designing printables and remove the extra step.

PROS

  • Free version available
  • User friendly
  • Templates
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users
  • Great quick design tool for simple designs

CONS

  • You get what you pay for and there are many limitations
  • Can’t create unique elements – you are stuck with Canva’s available features
  • The images available are not whimsical or fun, they have more of a business or simplistic style.

Final Thoughts on Canva

This is a great option for beginners. If you are looking to create simple printables then this could be the option for you. If you are looking for more advanced features with no limitations, then you will find Canva frustrating.


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Google Sheets

If you are a functional planner then this could be a great option for you. If I’m at work and need to see what my work week looks like, I can quickly create a weekly planner using Google Sheets. It also allows the user to save as a PDF, which is something I’m always doing when designing printables.

Many people are comfortable working in spreadsheets and it is the perfect tool for creating schedules and time blocking planners. I only have basic spreadsheet skills and I have the ability to whip up a quick weekly planner that is colour coded in a few minutes.

PROS

  • Free
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users
  • Simple to use (or learn)

CONS

  • Too simplistic for advanced designs

Final Thoughts on Google Sheets

If you’re looking for a basic block style design printable then this would be a great option. It is economical and easy to use. However, if you are looking to create more advanced printables then one of the other software options mentioned in this article would be better suited to you.


Microsoft Excel

This review is going to be very similar to my comments on Google Sheets. Microsoft Excel is a great tool for designing functional planner printables. If you are confident working with spreadsheets then you will be happy designing printables in Microsoft Excel.

I have access to this software, but tend to use Google Sheets instead. This is simply because I always have Google Drive open and it’s easy access. I don’t often use spreadsheets, so this is not one of my go to tools. 

PROS

  • Many people already have access to Microsoft products
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users
  • Simple to use (or learn)

CONS

  • Too simplistic for advanced designs

Final Thoughts on Microsoft Excel

If you have access to Microsoft products and you are looking for a simple tool to create simple printables such as block style planners then this would be a great option. If you are looking for more freedom in your design then you would be better considering one of the other software options mentioned in this article.


Microsoft Powerpoint

I’ll be honest – I only recently found out that using Microsoft Powerpoint to create printables was a thing. This means that I have not used it myself to design printables, but I have watched tutorials and had a bit of a play. I’ve used Microsoft Publisher for more years than I care to admit so I’m already familiar with the Microsoft platform. If you are in this boat then it’s definitely worth considering. 

It is very similar to using Microsoft Publisher with the same tools available.

PROS

  • Many people already have access to Microsoft products
  • Available for both Windows and Mac users
  • Simple to use (or learn)

CONS

  • Does not have the advanced features of Adobe Indesign or Affinity Publisher

Final Thoughts on Microsoft Powerpoint

If you have access to Microsoft products and are already comfortable using Microsoft Powerpoint then this would be a viable option for you. Great for those at an intermediate skill level.


Microsoft Publisher

As I mentioned above I’ve used Microsoft Publisher for more years than I care to admit and I’m very comfortable in this environment. If you are in this boat then it’s definitely worth considering this program. 

I find the interface intuitive and if you are not familiar with Microsoft Publisher, the learning curve is not too difficult. 

PROS

  • Many people already have access to Microsoft products
  • Will do anything an intermediate designer needs for designing printables
  • Simple to use (or learn)

CONS

  • Not available for Mac users
  • Does not have the advanced features of Adobe Indesign or Affinity Publisher

Final Thoughts on Microsoft Powerpoint

If you have access to Microsoft products and are already comfortable using Microsoft Publisher then this would be a viable option for you. If you have never used Microsoft Publisher but have reasonable technology skills then this would be a good program to consider.


Visit the BGL Planner School if you are looking for step by step instructions on how to create your own planner printables.

BGL Planner School

Microsoft Word

This is the final Microsoft product that we’ll look at. I am not a fan, it definitely not the best program for designing printables. I avoid Microsoft Word with a determination that might impress you. My experience is limited to a brief window many years ago and the only thing I remember is that every time I hit the ‘ENTER’ key the layout seemed to lose the plot entirely.

I’m sure in the years since then, things have improved. And I do sometimes use it as a simple word processing tool (which is what it is intended for), but that’s it.

I know some people who only use this program, and they use it for absolutely everything they do, including spreadsheets (in their own unique way) and designing printables. Power to them, I have respect for them. But I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be converted to using Microsoft Word for designing printables.

PROS

  • Many people already have access to Microsoft products
  • Good for people who are comfortable in the Word environment and happy to continue using the program rather than learn something new

CONS

  • Microsoft Word was not created to be a design tool and the lack of features available reflects this.

Final Thoughts on Microsoft Word

This was not created to be a design tool. It is a great word processor. Having said that, if Microsoft Word is your jam, then knock yourself out. However, if you are comfortable using Microsoft Word, then the learning curve for the other Microsoft products would be simple for you to pick up. (And yes, I do get the irony that the opposite is also true for me – but I still prefer the other tools).


Woman sitting on floor in front of couch with an open laptop on her lap

Final Thoughts on The Best Program for Designing Printables

So what is the best program for designing printables? As with many things, the best program for you will depend… 

Below is a list of my suggestions for you to consider when narrowing down the best program for designing printables.

  • For those of you who are already using and familiar with one program – go with that.
  • If you have access to one program and are happy to learn how to use it – go with that
  • For the beginner who is looking for something simple & free a design tool such as Canva will be perfect.
  • If you want advanced features on a budget and are not afraid of a steep learning curve then you can’t go past Affinity Publisher.
  • If you want advanced features and all the support tools, bells and whistles and are not afraid of a steep learning curve then you need to try Adobe Indesign.

For those of you who are interested – I think the best program for designing printables Adobe Indesign. Having said that, I’ve been practicing with Affinity Publisher and I really love the experience so far. It definitely does everything that I need for printables design, there are lots of tutorials available for when I get stuck and the price will bring a big smile to your face once you compare it to the Adobe Connected Cloud ongoing subscription.

If you use a different program successfully, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll take it for a test run and if I find it useful, I’ll add it to the list here.


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Happy Planning x

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