The 8 best alternatives to Adobe Illustrator

Graphic designers who don't want to cough up the money for Adobe's monthly subscription can use these vector tools.
4 minute read
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
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If you vector heavily away from the raster-based antics of Photoshop, there's a very good chance that Adobe Illustrator is probably the go-to tool for your geometric creations.

Being fluent in this industry-standard program definitely has its benefits, but what if you're sick of paying Adobe's exorbitant monthly fee to get your vector on? Where can you turn if you already know your way around a pen tool and an anchor point, but don't wish to pay a premium to be creative?

The obvious answer: peruse our curated list of the best alternate Illustrators. We've tracked down the wannabes who are nipping at the heels of almighty Adobe, and also some browser-based fare that punch remarkably well above their weight for the bargain basement price of bupkis.

Inkscape

Available on both sides of the PC/Mac divide, this is an open source illustrative tool that you shouldn't draw incorrect conclusions about just because it's free. For the most part what we have here is very much in line with Adobe's efforts: flexible drawing tools for object creation / manipulation, broad file format compatibility, powerful text support and the ol' trustworthy bezier handles and spiro curve tools made the cut, too.

Though the processing times can be noticeably slower than Illustrator, Inkscape is downright impressive for a free-to-download piece of software. It's basically the vector equivalent of Gimp: a freebie so good you just know it has to be a thorn in Adobe's side.

Boxy SVG

The creators of Boxy SVG have a lofty project goal: to offer a best-in-class tool for natively editing SVG files, both for beginners as well as professional web designers (and on any device and operating system, no less). We'll be darned if they're not within striking distance of achieving that.

Using a Chromium-based rendering engine, you can open Boxy in a browser and quickly give birth to your wildest artistic dreams, thanks to a respectably sized toolset, compositing panels and masking options. Better yet, it's all delivered via a WYSIWYG UI that cuts out all the needless complexity of Illustrator.

Affinity Designer

Tracing its line way back to 2014, Affinity Designer has grown to tick all of the boxes expected by any respectable designer, namely: a decent tool set, workspace features and import/export file capability. Don't let the fact that it's a Photoshop/Illustrator hybrid put you off, either, as Affinity can easily fulfill most of your intermediate-level vector needs (notable exception: lack of a perspective grid).

Developer Serif is in no danger of dethroning our Adobe overlords with this, but what's being delivered is a lean, cost-effective, non-confusing package that's great for designers on a tight budget.

Gravit Designer

If you need to whip up illustrations, screen designs, high-quality icons, slick presentations, or just a weird cubist portrait of your significant other that won't be received well at all (because they never are,) Gravit has got you covered.

This cross-platform graphic design tool is a powerful and versatile vector beast that has a very low learning curve and a UI of unobtrusive organic panels. The only downside that sticks in our craw: once the one month trial period ends you become locked out of certain export features until you cough up for a Pro license (and $100 USD per annum is a bit steep).

Vectr

What Vectr lacks in vowels it more than makes up for with real-time sharing /synching of projects and cross-platform functionality. All the features we need are present, be it an uncluttered UI and an intuitive toolset overflowing with nothing-but-the-essentials.

That said, not having an equivalent tool for Illustrator's 'trace image' function was a bit of a problem for us and not every on-the-go designer will be able to ensure they have an online connection to make full use of Vectr. Beyond those peccadillos, this is well worth its low, low entry price.

SVG-edit

Behold, the great grandfather of all the web-based programs on this list. SVG-edit is a quick and easy way to create basic Scalable Vector Graphics through your web browser for the price of nix, nada, nothing. While this old boy has been around for ages and still sees regular updates, we have to admit that the other whippersnappers presented here have superseded this senior citizen. We're including it in this wrap up as the most ideal option for beginners hoping to veer into vector. A: because its somewhat diminished features set will keep from distracting the newbies. And B: it's free and its homepage tutorials are succinct and easy to follow.

Canva

This browser-based design tool earns bonus points right out of the gate by offering a library of 50, 000 themed templates. If you just want to dive in and whip something up in minutes – be it a logo, poster, icon, poster, ad, or an abstract mess that only your short-sighted mother could love – Canva can deliver.

The sizeable downside: there are no drawing tools to speak of, meaning you'll have to cobble together – or collage if you will – your masterpiece from existing parts. Elitist designers will look down their nose at us for including Canva on this list; beginners on a budget will be cheering us. Worth it.

Fatpaint

Honestly, this isn't the best vector program going and is well behind the other features-rich offerings on this list. We just wanted to include it because it's called: FatPaint. Also, whatever you make on it can be quickly ordered to print on mugs and T-shirts. Presumably XXXL ones.

 

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