Adobe Discount Banner

5 Best Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator: Free And Paid

5 Best Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator: Free And Paid

Graphic design is an ever-evolving creative field that uses digital tools to bring ideas to life. For over 36 years, Adobe Illustrator has been the undisputed industry standard software for creating vector graphics. With its powerful features for image editing, typography, and graphic design, Illustrator enables designers to craft polished logos, icons, illustrations and more.

However, designers now have more options as the graphic design landscape changes. The dominance of Adobe's subscription-based model has opened the door for new, more affordable contenders. Today, there are a slew of alternatives to Adobe Illustrator that offer similar or even expanded features compared to the creative giant.

This comprehensive guide will explore the world of Adobe Illustrator alternatives in 2023 and beyond. We will compare the capabilities of leading alternatives like Affinity Designer, Inkscape, Vectornator and more against Adobe's offering. What unique advantages does each software bring to the table? Can they genuinely replace Illustrator without limitations? We will uncover how these alternatives stack up by evaluating price, learning curves, platform availability, and feature sets.

Our goal is to empower you, as a designer, with the knowledge to choose the best vector graphics software for your needs. Whether you want an affordable option for personal projects or a robust tool for commercial graphic design work, an Illustrator alternative can fit your requirements and budget. Join us as we dive into this constantly evolving landscape and determine whether emerging tools have what it takes to dethrone the industry's long-reigning champion.

The Reason for Adobe Illustrator Alternatives

Eps File In Adobe Illustrator Interface

In recent years, the demand for Adobe Illustrator alternatives has grown significantly. This trend can be attributed to several factors, including cost considerations, changing design paradigms, and the need for more flexible licensing models. Let's delve into these factors:

1. Cost Considerations

Adobe Illustrator's subscription-based pricing model can be expensive, especially for freelancers, small businesses, and students. As a result, individuals and organisations have sought more budget-friendly alternatives that offer similar capabilities.

The cost of design software can be a significant barrier for many aspiring designers and small businesses. With monthly or annual payments, Adobe Illustrator's subscription-based pricing model can add up quickly. This cost structure may need to be revised for those who are just starting or have limited budgets.

Statistics: According to a survey conducted by Design Tools Survey, 47% of respondents cited cost as the primary factor influencing their choice of design software.

2. Changing Design Paradigms

Modern design often demands collaboration, quick iterations, and adaptability. Some Adobe Illustrator alternatives are better equipped to meet these requirements by providing cloud-based collaboration tools and user-friendly interfaces that encourage faster workflows.

In today's fast-paced design industry, collaboration is critical. Design teams often work on projects simultaneously, and clients expect quick turnarounds. Adobe Illustrator, while powerful, may not provide the collaborative features needed for these workflows. This has led designers to explore alternatives that offer real-time collaboration and efficient teamwork.

3. Licensing Flexibility

Many designers are seeking alternatives to escape the constraints of Adobe's subscription-only model. Some other options offer perpetual licensing, allowing users to purchase the software once and use it indefinitely without recurring costs.

Adobe's move to a subscription-only model has caused frustration among some users. They may prefer to make a one-time purchase and be free to use the software without ongoing payments. Alternatives that offer perpetual licensing provide this flexibility, appealing to those who want to avoid subscription commitments.

The 5 Best Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator

Now that we've established the reasons behind the growing interest in Adobe Illustrator alternatives let's dive into the most noteworthy contenders in the market. We will explore their features, capabilities, and suitability for various design tasks.

1 – Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer has rapidly emerged as a formidable contender in graphic design software. Developed by Serif, this vector editor combines powerful professional tools with an affordable one-time payment model, making it an attractive option compared to subscription-based Adobe Illustrator. Since its launch in 2014, Affinity Designer has been embraced by over 6 million users worldwide. But does this alternative have what it takes to replace Adobe as the industry standard?

Features 

At its core, Affinity Designer aims to be an all-in-one design workspace. It fuses pixel, raster and vector editing capabilities in a sleek interface. Key features include:

  • Vector Tools: Designer matches Illustrator for precision vector design with smooth curves, advanced pen tools, and boolean operations.
  • Typography: Robust OpenType support, glyph management, and text-on-path tools give designers tremendous type control.
  • Pixel Persona: Switch to a pixel workspace optimised for web, UI and icon design. Useful for mockups.
  • RAW Editing: Built-in non-destructive RAW editing makes it great for photo retouching and compositing.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Available on both macOS and Windows systems.
  • Asset Management: Built-in resources like vector brushes, fonts, templates, etc.
  • Pantone Support: Design and colour match using industry-standard Pantone libraries.
  • One-Time Payment: Just a single purchase price – no subscriptions required.

Performance

In real-world use, Affinity Designer proves impressively capable. Its fluid interface allows quick multi-page document creation, intuitively mimicking familiar Illustrator workflows. Designers praise its typography engine, with advanced OpenType formatting, glyph management and text-on-path handling. Seamlessly switching between vector and pixel personas also speeds up web and UI design. Overall, Affinity Designer checks all the boxes for professional graphic design work.

Verdict 

Affinity Designer presents a compelling case as a full-fledged Illustrator alternative for its affordable price, the wealth of features, and constantly improving performance. While Adobe still holds the advantage in industry adoption, Affinity's feature set and usability continue to push boundaries. Affinity Designer's one-time cost may be the tipping point toward switching for designers who baulk at monthly subscriptions.

2 – CorelDRAW Graphics Suite

Coreldraw Graphics Suite Software

With over 30 years of experience in graphics software, CorelDRAW is one of the most robust alternatives to Adobe Illustrator. Offering an extensive toolkit catering to both vector and raster design, CorelDRAW provides a viable option for graphics professionals dissatisfied with Adobe's subscription-only model.

CorelDRAW appeals to users with its flexible purchasing options, advanced illustration features and massive built-in content library. According to Corel Corporation, since its first launch in 1989, it has grown to serve over 100 million users worldwide. But can this graphics veteran still compete with newer offerings?

Features 

At its core, CorelDRAW aims to be a versatile graphic design application for print, web and digital media work. Notable features include:

  • Vector Illustration Tools: Smooth curves, shape editing, perspective drawing and more for detailed illustrations.
  • Bitmap Image Editing: Expansive pixel-based editing tools for photo retouching and manipulation.
  • Page Layout Tools: Multi-page layouts, master pages and templates for brochures, manuals and publications.
  • Typography: Font management, text wrapping, OpenType support and artistic text effects.
  • Built-In Content: 10,000+ clipart images, 2000+ fonts, 350+ professionally designed templates.
  • Touch and Pen Support: For direct on-screen drawing and design.
  • Flexible Licensing: Available via subscription or perpetual licence for a one-time cost.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Works on both Windows and macOS.

Performance 

CorelDRAW shines in hands-on use thanks to its wide-ranging features. While the interface lacks the polish of Affinity, the massive toolset empowers users to tackle virtually any design task. Illustration and drawing tools, in particular, are powerful and intuitive. The bundled content assets enhance productivity further. If there's any drawback, the perpetual licence cost is slightly higher than competitive software. But for a professional, all-in-one graphics solution, CorelDRAW is hard to beat.

Verdict 

CorelDRAW stakes its claim as a genuine Illustrator alternative with rock-solid illustration tools, versatile page layout options, and pixel image editing capabilities. The perpetual licence option expands its appeal for one-time purchase seekers. While the interface could use modern refinement, CorelDRAW’s sheer depth makes it a graphics workhorse suited for any project. For professional designers not beholden to Adobe, it presents a feature-packed option.

3 – Inkscape

Inkscape Download Tutorial

Inkscape is a competent vector graphics editor in the free, open-source software. With over 40,000 downloads of the newest version, this community-driven application provides free access to professional vector tools and file formats. While it lacks certain advanced features of premium apps like Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape’s expansive toolset and price tag make it a go-to for budget-conscious designers and beginners. But can open-source software truly rival proprietary counterparts?

Features 

As a free vector editor, Inkscape includes:

  • Drawing & Shape Tools: Nodes, bezier curves, boolean operations for flexible vector design.
  • Text and Typography: Full typography engine with font rendering, multi-line text, and letter spacing.
  • Fill & Stroke Options: Colour management, gradients, and pattern fills for unique visual styles.
  • File Format Support: Open standard SVG plus exports to PNG, PDF, AI, EPS and more.
  • Clipping and Masking: Vector masking tools for isolating image regions.
  • Object Manipulation: Transform, align, distribute and arrange objects precisely.
  • Extensions: Optional plugins that expand functionality.
  • Cross-Platform: Windows, Mac and Linux versions available.
  • Free and Open Source: Licensed under GPL, developed collaboratively by the community.

Performance 

Given its expansive features for free software, Inkscape performs admirably. The interface presents a learning curve coming from Illustrator but is well-organised. Drawing and manipulation tools work smoothly and efficiently. Typography and text flow options are competent for most vector design tasks. The active community behind Inkscape also provides excellent documentation resources for new users. Compared to paid software, certain features like colour management feel limited. But for general vector graphics work, Inkscape remains competitive.

Verdict 

Inkscape is hard to overlook for budding creatives and designers on a budget. Its professional-grade vector tools rival premium counterparts like Illustrator in many respects. Ongoing community development also points to an actively improved future. While pro designers may still prefer proprietary apps for more robust features, Inkscape presents a fully capable free alternative perfect for personal projects, education and entry-level work.

4 – Corel Vector (Was Gravit Designer)

Gravit Designer Pro Free Software

The landscape of graphic design software continues to shift beyond the desktop. Emerging as a pioneer in cloud-based vector design, Corel Vector brings robust collaboration tools and platform-agnostic accessibility. With over 4 million users worldwide, this web app empowers design teams to iterate and finalise projects in real-time from anywhere. But can browser-based software provide enough power and performance for professional graphic design?

Features 

As a cloud vector editor, Corel Vector offers:

  • Real-Time Collaboration: Multiple designers can simultaneously work on and edit the same document.
  • Comments/Annotations: Designers can leave notes and feedback on designs in progress.
  • Version History: Ability to revert designs to previous versions.
  • Cloud Storage: Projects are securely stored and accessible from any device or location.
  • Cross-platform Access: Use on Windows, Mac, Chromebooks and Linux without installs.
  • Vector Design Tools: Bezier curves, boolean operations, shape editing capabilities.
  • Typography Controls: Font management, glyph support, paragraph tools and text styling.
  • Asset Libraries: UI kits, icons, illustrations and photos available.

Performance 

In practice, Corel Vector impresses with smooth performance, rivalling desktop apps. The real-time collaboration suite notably streamlines team workflows for branding, presentations and more. Designers praise the intuitive interface that maintains parity across platforms. However, limitations exist – file export options are fewer than standalone vector apps, and computing-intensive tasks slow down. Corel Vector has ample power and convenience for essential to intermediate vector projects. But for graphics professionals, desktop tools may remain preferable.

Verdict 

Corel Vector provides an efficient web-based vector design workflow for remote teams and individual users alike. Its focus on live collaboration, platform accessibility and cloud convenience distinguish it from traditional graphic design software. While pro designers may still need the horsepower of Illustrator or Affinity Designer, Corel Vector's feature set impressively mirrors desktop counterparts. This cloud app is difficult to beat for light vector work on the go.

5 – Vectr

Regarding introductory graphic design software, Vectr aims to be the most accessible option for new users. With simplistic vector tools, multi-platform availability and a streamlined interface, this free vector editor removes traditional barriers to entry. Since launching in 2016, Vectr has steadily grown its user base to over 2.5 million through its web app and desktop versions. But are its features too basic for serious design work?

Features 

As a lightweight vector tool, Vectr offers:

  • Easy-to-Use Interface: Concise toolset and minimalist UI for simplicity.
  • Vector Illustration Tools: Create shapes, lines, and curves for logos, graphics and more.
  • Typography Controls: Add/edit text and basic formatting like size, colour and alignment.
  • Collaborative Editing: Multiple users can simultaneously edit documents.
  • Cross-platform Access: Use as a web app or downloadable desktop app.
  • File Export: Download or export designs as SVG, PNG, JPEG, or PDF.
  • Template Library: Collection of free templates to jumpstart projects.
  • Real-Time Preview: Instantly see edits take effect for intuitive designing.

Performance 

Vectr's pared-down toolset performs speedily, instantly applying vector edits. The web app interface is exceptionally responsive, duplicating familiar Illustrator workflows. However, more advanced users may find the features too limiting. Text and typography tools need deeper controls, and complex vector manipulation remains tricky. File export and colour management options could also improve. But for basic logos, graphics and drafting, Vectr delivers on its simplicity promise.

Verdict 

As an entry-level vector design tool for beginners, Vectr hits all the right notes with its low learning curve and multi-platform delivery. While its features need to be more robust for extensive illustration or detailed work, the software makes it easy for novices to pick up vector graphic principles. For introducing students or hobbyists to digital design, Vectr is a great starting point before progressing to more profound desktop applications.

FAQs About Adobe Illustrator Alternatives

Are these alternatives compatible with Adobe Illustrator files?

Many alternatives support Adobe Illustrator file formats like AI and SVG, ensuring seamless compatibility for your existing projects. You can import and export files between these alternatives and Adobe Illustrator without compatibility issues.

Can I use these alternatives on multiple devices?

The availability of these alternatives varies, but many offer cross-platform compatibility, including Windows, macOS, and even Linux. Some are cloud-based, allowing you to access your work from anywhere with an internet connection.

Do these alternatives have professional-grade typography tools?

Some alternatives, like Affinity Designer and CorelDRAW, offer advanced typography features, rivalling those found in Adobe Illustrator. You can create and customise typography with precision in these applications.

What about customer support and learning resources?

Most alternatives provide comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and user communities to help you get started and troubleshoot any issues. You'll find a wealth of online resources and communities dedicated to supporting users of these software options.

Are there any cloud-based alternatives for collaborative design work?

Yes, cloud-based options like Gravit Designer enable real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same design project simultaneously. This collaborative feature particularly benefits design teams working remotely or across different locations.

Conclusion

In summary, many viable alternatives to Adobe Illustrator are available today, whether you need a free option or are willing to pay for a premium program. Open-source programs like Inkscape provide powerful vector graphics capabilities without the cost. Affinity Designer delivers professional-grade tools at a one-time price, making it very affordable. While Adobe Illustrator still leads in some areas, like industry adoption and name recognition, the other programs highlighted here have compelling features at a fraction of the cost.

For casual users or those on a budget, free tools like Vectr or Gravit Designer present capable options to get started with vector illustrations and graphics. Those willing to invest in a premium alternative can benefit from Affinity Designer. For expansive creative capabilities, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite provides everything needed for illustrations, layouts, tracing, editing and more.

The alternatives showcased here are just a sampling of what's available in 2023 outside the Adobe ecosystem. It's an exciting time with more choices than ever for creators seeking Illustrator alternatives tailored to their needs and budget. While Adobe still leads in some areas, the competition is stronger than ever. For those looking to save money or try different tools, this article provided some promising options to consider as Illustrator alternatives.

👉 Read More:  Convert PNG to PDF: Pretty Simple with These Tools
Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

Need help Building your Brand?

Let’s talk about your logo, branding or web development project today! Get in touch for a free quote.

Leave a Comment

Trusted by Businesses Worldwide to Create Impactful and Memorable Brands

At Inkbot Design, we understand the importance of brand identity in today's competitive marketplace. With our team of experienced designers and marketing professionals, we are dedicated to creating custom solutions that elevate your brand and leave a lasting impression on your target audience.