Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that a graphics program, even a good one, wont turn a bad designer / artist in to a good one. Graphic Design, digital painting, digital drawing, photo manipulation etc. are all skills which need to be learned whatever you use to do it. You couldn’t expect to become a great golfer just by getting a really good set of golf clubs, you would also need information, lessons and practice. What a good program can do it make the right tools readily available, supply the range of tools needed and make the work flow logical.
The exception to this would be some of the “automated tools” which can perform certain actions with little or no user input. Whether you choose to use those or not will depend on what level of input you want into the finished article, if you are creating because you enjoy it / believe you hacce some skills in that area or because you have a simple task you need to get done.
Choosing the right graphics program.
Choosing the right graphics program can be difficult. Having a good understanding of what you want to do is a good idea, particularly if you just want to achieve one or two tasks, like removing scratches from photographs, creating a logo or creating an element for your website.
If you want to learn a graphics for a range of work then it is best to learn one of the full programs whereas some specific tasks can be done using specific software. Jumping right in with something like GIMP may be a bit much especially if you haven’t used graphics software before. Programs like Paint.net are a little simpler for the beginner. There is an overlap between the tools used on most programs, the selection tools will operate in a similar manner, as will the paint brushes, fill tool etc. so if you choose to change programs later on you aren’t really starting over again. The ability to use one will give you a good start with the next.
So your main decision are:
1. Do you want a specialised program which will be limited in what it can do but will probably do that one task (or more) well with clear instructions. Or would you like a general graphics programme which may be a little harder to learn but will help you complete a whole range of graphics tasks.
2. Choosing a program from those available. This may be restricted by your operating system or the lack of programs available.
3. Your level of experience. Do you need a program which can be used by a beginner or will you be able to handle a more complicated program?
If you answer these questions then the answer should help you select which program is suitable for your current needs.