Best Illustrator free alternatives

The rundown of the best free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator

Discover the top free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator

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In this article, we’re taking a look at the five top options to consider when looking for the best Illustrator free alternatives. Adobe Illustrator is considered the industry standard software for vector graphics design and editing. However, the subscription model can make it expensive for hobbyists, students, and freelancers on a budget. Luckily, there are several capable free vector graphics editors that can serve as solid substitutes to Illustrator for your illustration and design needs. Today, we’ve outlined a variety of desktop software that make up some of the best Adobe Illustrator alternatives, so read on to find out more.

How we picked the best Illustrator free alternatives

Before we delve into the software specifics, let’s walk through how we picked each of the tools. With such a wealth of design software available out there, you might be wondering how we came about the best Illustrator free alternatives on our list. Well, in picking our choices of Adobe Illustrator alternatives, here are some of the key factors we evaluated:

Features

On the whole, we looked for an alternative that at its core provides vector drawing and editing tools similar to Adobe Illustrator. This includes having basic features such as the pen, shape, text, paintbrush, and gradient tools. However, the addition of advanced features like image tracing, bitmap, and typography controls was also taken into consideration. An essential element was each program’s ability to handle both raster and vector graphics or to be able to convert one to the other.

Learning Curve

An alternative shouldn’t have a steep learning curve if you’re transitioning from Illustrator, or just getting started with vector design. On the whole, we looked for graphic editing tools with similar terminology, keyboard shortcuts, and overall workflow to Illustrator.

File Compatibility

Given that you might be testing out a few of these different apps, we made sure to pick tools that allow you to open and edit common file types like SVG, PDF, PSD, PNG, JPG, and AI. The ability to export and convert between formats was also considered. This is to ensure compatibility with Illustrator documents and make collaboration easy.

System Requirement

System requirements are an equally important factor when it comes to choosing a free Illustrator alternative. So, in selecting the tools, we considered those that work with both high-end systems as well as low-end systems. We took a look at the Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop system requirements, making sure that the graphic design software we’ve selected can run on most laptops, PCs, and iPads.

User Reviews

Finally, in selecting these graphic editing tools, we made sure to weigh in on some of the online reviews left by users. We picked those with more positive reviews, reading through other tech websites as well as Reddit pages to get a feel for which software is widely used and popular amongst designers and artists worldwide.

Best Illustrator free alternative

Inkscape

The open-source vector editor Inkscape is arguably the most full-featured free alternative to Illustrator out there. It provides professional-grade tools for the creation of logos, icons, drawings, typography designs, and more. Inkscape sports many of the basic functions expected for vector drawing such as a pen tool, shapes, freehand paths, and calligraphy brushes. Furthermore, flexible object manipulation, gradient meshes, cloning, alpha channel support, and an array of extensions make Inkscape a highly versatile platform that’s perfect for use by both beginners and professionals.

Overall, Inkscape is praised for its intuitive user interface and open-source status, and the fact that there are plenty of learning resources available makes it a great alternative to expensive software such as Adobe Illustrator. In short, there’s very little that Illustrator can do that’s not available on Inkscape. Moreover, its native format is scalable vector graphics (SVG) but it is also compatible with other major file formats including AI, EPS, PDF, PNG, etc, meaning you can transport your work and illustrate across platforms.

Key features

  • Comprehensive node editing with bezier curves and shapes
  • Object manipulation tools like align, distribute, clone, etc.
  • Text tool with typography and font controls
  • Fill and stroke capabilities, gradients, pattern fills
  • Supports filters, effects, and extensions for added functionality
  • Can render primitive 3D shapes
  • Imports and edits some Adobe Illustrator files
  • Excellent for cartoons, logos, diagrams, arts and crafts

Best Illustrator free alternative for beginners

Vectr

Vectr is another solid in-browser illustration app with an elegant drag-and-drop interface. Its handy features include layers, grids, templates, and integrations with Google Drive or Dropbox giving you access to cloud software for free. Without a doubt, Vectr is a great choice for beginners, or just anyone needing to create a simple graphic with minimum fuss. The intuitive software comes packed with essential vector drawing tools such as pen, line, curve, and shape, as well as the ability to resize, rotate, scale, and re-arrange your objects.

Vectr is perfect for creating user flows, website mockups, logos, and other 2D designs, with the function of real-time collaboration with teammates and colleagues, meaning you can share ideas and provide a window into your creative process. While it might lack some of the more complex features of Illustrator, Vectr has been created with accessibility and collaboration in mind, and its pared-back and easy-to-use nature makes it a perfect tool for beginners. Moreover, it’s cross-platform, being available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and web, meaning access shouldn’t be an issue.

Key features

  • Browser-based application, no installation needed
  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
  • Vector drawing tools like pen, line, curve, shape
  • Color and gradient fills and strokes
  • Import/export PDF, JPEG, PNG, SVG
  • Text tool with font, size, and styling controls
  • Align, distribute, flip, group, and lock objects
  • Layers for organizing illustrations
  • Real-time collaborative editing
  • Cross-platform – Windows, Mac, Linux, web

Best Illustrator free alternative for professionals

Gravit Designer

Gravit Designer is an HTML-based application for designing high-quality vector graphics, that makes a perfect alternative to Illustrator for professional use. As a free browser-based graphics design app that requires no downloads or installation, Gravit Designer is great for quick edits and the creation of 2D graphics through your web browser. However, its more complex interface marks the software as one beyond a simple tool for beginners.

You get a neat minimal UI with a robust toolkit including smooth curve drawing, text styling, shape tools, effects, and more. It’s excellent for mockups and social media graphics, with vector editing of paths and shapes, and a variety of object manipulation tools at your fingertips. There are also a couple of unique features helping Gravit Designer stand out, including a photo to vector trace function and a built-in design asset library. If you’re serious about investing in your graphic design, it could be wise to check out some of the best computers for graphic design to pair with your new software.

Key features

  • Browser-based application with offline mode
  • Drawing tools like pen, shape, text, pattern brushes
  • Vector editing of paths and shapes
  • Object manipulation tools – scale, rotate, align, etc.
  • Typography controls for text
  • Layers and groups for organization
  • Filters, blend modes, effects
  • Gradient and image pattern fills
  • Exports SVG, PDF, JPEG, PNG, EPS file types
  • Collaborate in real-time on designs

Best Illustrator free alternative for graphic design

Figma

While primarily a UI/UX design tool, Figma has become a very popular software for graphic designers due to both its versatility and collaborative features. It allows designers to easily create vector graphics, prototypes, and design systems all within one platform, including capabilities such as vector networks, boolean operations, blends, and path edits. On the whole, Figma’s interface and features make it an excellent software for building site mockups, logos, icons, illustrations, and more. If you’re looking for an app specifically to hone in on graphic design, Figma should certainly come up on your radar.

Some stand-out features of Figma that make it a notable free platform for free graphic design include real-time collaboration allowing multiple designers to work on the same project simultaneously, viewing and editing each other’s changes in real-time. Furthermore, designers can turn their static designs into interactive prototypes to simulate user experiences, and prototypes can be shared across teams for feedback without the need for coding. Finally, Figma makes it easy to create and share re-usable components such as colors, typography and UI elements to maintain consistency across your projects., and works smoothly on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android so designers can access files from anywhere.

With its emphasis on collaboration and prototyping, Figma enables graphic designers to iterate and test ideas faster while maintaining style guides more efficiently. It’s one of the best Illustrator free alternatives, especially for graphic design purposes.

Key features

  • Vector design and prototyping tools
  • Pen, shape, text, frame, drawing tools
  • Boolean operations on shapes
  • Typography and text styling controls
  • Layers and groups for organizing
  • Libraries for reusable components
  • Interactive prototyping and animations
  • Developer handoff and workflows
  • Version control and release tracking
  • Commenting and feedback tools

Best Illustrator free alternative for browser

SVG-edit

This HTML5 web app provides a lightweight SVG drawing editor right in your browser, allowing users to easily create and edit SVG graphics without the need for any special software. With its focus on being user-friendly, customizable and lightweight, svg-edit lowers the barrier to SVG creation for designers, developers and anyone wanting to draw vector graphics easily. All you need is a modern web browser to start designing your SVGs!

The minimal toolbar gives quick access to common operations, and you can use the virtual pen and paper workspace to create and edit vector shapes, as well as add text, contours, gradients, patterns and clipping paths. With its easy learning curve, customizability and availability right in the browser, SVG-edit lowers the barrier for casual users to create vector images without investing in expensive software. Furthermore, its browser-based nature means it has a small footprint and can handle even complex SVG edits without the worry of performance issues. On the whole, SVG-edit is up there as one of the best Illustrator free alternatives for those specifically looking for a browser-based software.

Key features

  • Open source web app for SVG editing: no installation is required, runs in browser
  • Basic shape tools – rectangle, circle, ellipse, line
  • Path editing with nodes and handles
  • Object transforming – move, scale, rotate, skew
  • Layers panel for organization
  • Fill and stroke colors, gradients
  • Import/export SVG, and PNG files
  • Filters and image adjustments
  • Clone, duplicate objects

Final thoughts

While none can quite match the full suite of advanced features in Adobe Illustrator, these free apps provide more than capable DIY vector illustration and graphic design capabilities for any skill level. Their accessibility and price make them great options for students, budget-conscious professionals and anyone looking to dabble in digital drawing and graphic design. Moreover, this is a non-exhaustive list; there are still many other software we haven’t discussed that make worthy competitors to Illustrator such as Sketch, Affinity Deisgner, and Gimp for you to individually research.

Marla writes across a wide range of topics across PC Guide, including AI, PC hardware, and news on the latest tech releases. She's a passionate writer that's interested in the future of technology.