There’s no question about it: the Adobe suite of graphic design and illustration software isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as the industry champion. Despite its quirks and teething problems that come with nearly every version update, it’s also arguably the best suite that money can buy.
The problem is, it takes a lot of money to buy it. Purchasing any of the CS titles outright can cost anywhere between $300 to $2,000 depending on which version you plump for, and Adobe’s attempts to convince people to pay on its new subscription model can cost anything between $50 to $200 every single month.
Obviously, that’s not an issue for those at NYFA’s illustration school who have got full access to the CS suite as part of their tuition program, but these are prohibitive price tags for everyone else. As such, today we’ll be exploring:
6 Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator
Platform: Any modern web browser
What It Is: An editing suite that deals solely in SVG (scalable vector graphics), which may sound like a restriction but is actually quite useful given the versatility of the format. If you’re scared of getting into SVG editing, you’re missing out, and this will break you in gently. Being a web browser platform also sounds limiting, but again, the speed at which it operates as a result is often superior to desktop counterparts.
What It Is: As with SVG-Edit, Inkscape is also geared towards those who want to work primarily in the SVG file format. Featuring both a clean and intuitive user interface, but packed with advanced features (such as alpha blending, object cloning and very accurate bitmap tracing), Inkscape comes as a highly recommended free alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
What It Is: Full rasterizing controls, layer management, multiple file format support, infinite zooming and every vector drawing tool you could ever hope for… Affinity Designer could quite possible become a true Illustrator killer. At the moment it’s only available to Mac users and the full version comes with a small price tag of $49.99 with free upgrades for two years, but the trial version is still remarkably functional and worth a shot if you’re looking for a free editor. It’s even worth it just to play with the infinite zoom function (yes, infinite.)
Platform: All of them
What It Is: The one you’ve probably heard of. GIMP, an acronym for (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is more of an alternative to Photoshop rather than Illustrator since it its vector functions are limited, but what it can do in terms of image manipulation is second to none. Entirely free, open source, and loved by thousands (which have formed a very active online community since its release.)
Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac
What It Is: While Apache’s flagship vector illustrator looks a little outdated these days, that’s purely a cosmetic concern. It’s still packed with features and is especially geared towards diagram and object manipulation. It also comes with the very handy feature of being able to create Flash (.swf) files from your document.
What It Is: The starter edition of Serif’s DrawPlus is aimed towards the amateur illustrator given that A) it’s free software, and B) it’s very much a scaled-down version of the fuller release, but don’t let that put you off. It’s not limited in any way, there’s no pressure to shell out for the professional edition DrawPlus X6, and it does a good job of emulating its heavy weight cousins.
You might find you need to use a combination of the above free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator to get the job done, but for many people it’ll be worth the cash it saves and you may even find a new favorite. Got any others we need to check out? Drop a suggestion in the comments below!