Adobe Illustrator has long been celebrated as the best vector graphics editor on the market. One of the oldest VG editors, it is also one of the most innovative, and it pairs seamlessly with Adobe’s other powerful drawing tools to give users an amazing design experience.
But just because Illustrator is considered the industry standard doesn’t mean that it’s your only option for creating vector graphics. Since Adobe switched to a subscription software model back in 2013, many users have been looking for alternative software. The Creative Cloud subscription model does mean subscribers can enjoy all the latest software updates as soon as they roll out without having to make additional purchases. But subscription costs can also be high, especially for casual users or beginners.
Thankfully, increasing demand and a competitive market has led to some fantastic and affordable software, giving Adobe a run for its money. Not only are many of them cheaper than Adobe, but some of these alternatives are surprisingly powerful. Below you’ll find a list of our favorite inexpensive or free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator. To make it onto this list, the software had to be affordable, powerful, feature-packed, and available on both WIndows and MacOS. We also excluded software that depends on a subscription model.
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Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator
Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it can’t impress.
The strength of open-source software is that it tends to be easy to learn and include the features people actually use most often. And software that builds strong fan followings can continue developing for decades. So before you commit to paid software, check out the free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator.
We wrote about GIMP in our blog post on “Inexpensive Or Free PhotoShop Alternatives,” but it’s worth mentioning again. After all, it’s as much an industry standard as Adobe Illustrator, plus it’s completely free. Available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, it supports all major file types including PhotoShop and Illustrator files.
Despite being free, GIMP offers all the most popular tools from paint programs, photo editing software, and image converting tools. As such, it offers incredible versatility. Additionally, The GIMP community has created hundreds of free tutorials, guides, and social media communities where new users can get help.
Another TracSoft favorite from our PhotoShop alternatives post is Paint.net. Originally designed as a replacement for Microsoft’s Windows-based Paint program, Paint.net has grown into an impressive illustration, photo editor, and vector graphics tool. Offering unlimited undos, support for layers, and special effects.
Because it’s based on the original Paint program, picking it up is pretty easy for most users. But like GIMP, it’s supported by an active community that provides tutorials and online support through multiple social media groups. It’s completely free, lightweight but powerful, and just plain fun to use.
Sketchbook by Autodesk
Sketchbook sits somewhere between Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Frescoe. Used by engineers and architects as well as graphic artists, it boasts a wide range of drawing tools and brushes. Extensive control over line width, opacity, and style makes this software feel and look like working with paper. Beyond a fantastic drawing experience, it supports laters, which can be easily reordered. Finished images can be exported in standard file types like JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, and PSD for easy compatibility.
SketchBook is a powerful, professional tool, but also excellent for beginners. Autodesk has even released a series of high-quality tutorials on YouTube that can help both beginners and veterans improve their skills.
Best of all, SketchBook is available on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. It’s free for a single license, although you will need to register for an Autodesk ID, which will allow you to sync your work across devices.
Lightweight, but feature-packed, Inkscape offers a lot of great tools. You can use it to create and rearrange layers, group objects, draw free-hand or with shape tools, add calligraphy, and even use bitmap tracing and Boolean operators. It supports major file types such as SVG, PDF, EPS, Adobe Illustrator, and CorelDraw, so you can pair it with more powerful tools when necessary. It’s a great on-the-go tool, and perfect for those interested in getting into vector graphics.
You can run the full version of Inkscape for free on Windows, MacOS, or Linux. Like GIMP, Inkscape is growing a devoted following that helps produce tutorials and guides for new users.
Free Browser-Based Vector Graphics Editors
Browser-based SVG editors lack the power of larger, more comprehensive software. But what they lack in completeness they make up for in convenience and portability. If you just need to complete simple graphics, then Boxy SVG and Vectr may be exactly what you’re looking for.
If I described Boxy SVG in one word, that word would be “surprising.” Although it runs as an extension in Google Chrome, it packs a lot of features such as a range of pens, bezier curves, text tools, basic shapes, stroke and fill, layers, grouping, and paths. The UI is simple and uncluttered, and somewhat similar to Canva. While you won’t find the more sophisticated tools that make Adobe Illustrator really shine, what you will find with Boxy SVG is tools for the types of things SVG graphics really excel at. And the advantage of being less sophisticated is that Boxy SVG takes mere minutes to learn. Boxy SVG supports SVG, SVGZ, JPEG, and PNG files.
Vectr is even more stripped-down than Boxy SVG, but it’s also incredibly simple to use with a highly-intuitive interface. One handy feature is that each illustration you create is assigned its own URL, which can be shared with other users and used to collaborate. It has built-in tutorials to help beginners, and it excels at creating stand-out social media graphics with little time or effort. It does support laters, shapes, text, and PNG, JPG, and SVG file formats.
Inexpensive Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator
Some things are worth paying for. If you’re a designer or require high-quality, original graphics, then paying for a top-notch vector graphic editor might be worthwhile. If you do, there are a number of paid software options to choose from. However, two consistently rank at the top of the list, CorelDRAW and Affinity Designer.
So CorelDRAW isn’t inexpensive. Like, at all. But no list of Adobe Illustrator alternatives would be complete if it didn’t include CorelDRAW. And depending on how you use your software and how often you use it, it is possible to come out cheaper using Corel instead of Adobe.
One of the older tools on this list, CorelDRAW dates back almost as far as Adobe Illustrator and has easily been Illustrator’s biggest competitor since its inception. In fact, there are advocates who swear CorelDRAW is actually the better vector drawing program—ultimately, it comes down to user preference. Both offer state-of-the-art tools, and since CorelDRAW is equipped to handle all major file types including Illustrator files, using one doesn’t prevent you from dabbling in the other.
At $299, CorelDRAW is pricey, especially compared to Adobe Illustrator, which is $20.99/month (or $251.88/year). However, that’s a one-time purchase for one of the best design software programs on the market, which may serve you faithfully for many years. When it comes to comparing costs, you can see it again comes down to user preference.
There’s no doubt CorelDRAW is a powerful, feature-rich tool that offers the same wow factor that draws people to Adobe Illustrator. And for professionals, the ability to add tools like CorelDRAW Essentials and CorelCAD greatly extends the functionality of this software. These add-ons can be paid for through a one-time purchase or an annual subscription, and that flexibility is nice. But at the end of the day, the price tag makes this software for professionals, not casual users or beginners.
Affinity Designer by Serif
Over and over, experts consistently select Affinity Designer as the best alternative to Adobe Illustrator. And there’s a lot of good reasons for that. For one thing, it offers full compatibility with Adobe’s Creative Suite, and the interface is designed to look similar to Illustrator so those who are familiar with Adobe’s software can easily transition to Serif’s. This software supports all your standard file formats, including EPS, JPEG, PDF, SVG, PSD, PNG, TIFF, and GIF, and supports 10-bit, CMYJ, CIELAB, and Pantone.
While there are a few things Affinity Designer can’t do, there are also a few things it does that Illustrator doesn’t, such as switching between raster and vector workspaces within the same tool and unlimited redos. The full version of the software runs smoothly on MacOS, Windows, and iOS, with many users claiming it runs faster than Illustrator. You can also pair it with Affinity’s other offerings, Affinity Photo (a PhotoShop competitor we covered before on this blog) and Affinity Publisher (an InDesign alternative).
At a one-time payment of $49.99, Affinity Designer is a steal. However, it frequently goes on sale for 25-50% off. Best of all, you’ll receive all updates, fixes, and new features for the software until the next version is released, which is usually every 3-5 years.
Unleash Your Inner Artist with the Right Team
Vector graphic editing and graphic design have never been easier or more accessible. With so many great VG editors out there, it’s hard to choose one best alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
But it is easy to choose the best web developer for you. That’s because with TracSoft, you have an experienced team of web developers, software engineers, and cybersecurity experts backing you. We offer reliable, high-performing websites that will excite and engage your clients. And we’ve been doing this for big and small clients for over twenty years.
Contact TracSoft today and learn how we can help your business go further.