Top 8 Best Illustrator Alternatives (Free & Premium)
Finding the best design software is not always easy, especially when many different products are available on the market.
From free apps to subscription-based graphic design tools, it can seem like there are an endless amount of vector graphic software products to choose between.
When most people think about graphic design software, Adobe Illustrator is the product that usually comes to mind first.
But, you may be wondering if this well-known product is the best option to suit your requirements, or if there are any suitable alternatives.
Here are eight of the best Adobe Illustrator alternatives available for you to consider:
What is Adobe Illustrator?
Illustrator is a program created by the software giant – Adobe. Adobe Illustrator is widely used by designers and creatives worldwide and is viewed as an industry-standard vector graphics software product.
The History of Adobe Illustrator Software
Adobe started creating Illustrator way back in 1985. This first version of Illustrator was designed for use with the Apple Macintosh and sold in 1987.
Adobe released a version of Illustrator compatible with Windows in 1989, but this received mixed reviews.
As a result, it was not until 1997 that an updated version of Illustrator was released simultaneously for both Windows and Mac platforms.
Since its initial release in 1987, Adobe Illustrator has been through many changes. There have been 25 versions of the software released over its 34 years history. The most recent version, Illustrator CC 2021, was released in October 2020.
Currently, Illustrator is available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. The Creative Cloud is a collection of more than creative programs, including Adobe’s other well-known programs, Photoshop and InDesign.
Main Features of Adobe Illustrator
One of the reasons Adobe Illustrator is so popular is the wide range of features that it provides. Here are some of the main features that this industry-standard program has to offer:
- You can use it on both desktop and iPad
- Able to create a wide range of designs from illustrations, product packaging to business logos and lots more
- Compatible to work with other apps on Adobe’s Creative Cloud, such as Photoshop, so that you can integrate projects seamlessly
- Files are synced to the cloud
- Ability to draw freehand
- Clarity of designs is retained even when scaling up
- Able to collaborate with others in real-time wherever they are.
- Access to Adobe Fonts
Why is Illustrator so Popular?
Adobe Illustrator is the industry-standard program for designers, but what makes this well-established software so popular?
Part of Illustrator’s appeal is its compatibility with other programs within the Adobe Creative Cloud.
This compatibility enables designers to utilise a full range of design tools to achieve the results they are hoping for from their end designs.
Another reason for Illustrator’s popularity is that it can be used wherever you are, thanks to the ability to use it both on desktop and the iPad.
Collaboration with other users on each design in real-time without emailing large files back and forth is another significant feature offered by Adobe Illustrator.
Illustrator’s collaborative capabilities also make it far easier to work seamlessly across the miles with team members worldwide.
If you are looking for Illustrator alternatives to consider, then read on to find out more about eight of the best alternative programs for your design needs:
1 – Vectornator
Vectornator is a popular graphic design tool created in 2017 and ranks as one of the top Adobe Illustrator Alternatives.
As its name suggests, Vectornator is a vector graphic design tool used worldwide by big-name companies and downloaded millions of times.
Vectornator was recently mentioned in the Apple M1 iMac release event because of its usage of Apple’s ML Kit for its AI-powered, time-saving features.
In addition, Vectornator makes extensive use of multi-touch gestures and innovative UI, with a common code base between iPadOS and macOS, bringing desktop power with you wherever you go.
Which Platforms is Vectornator Available On?
Vectornator can be used on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
Vectorantor is entirely free to use. You simply need to download it from the App Store or Mac App Store if you plan to use Vectornator on a Mac.
Vectornator Pros and Cons:
- Intuitive user interface
- Compatible with iPhone and iPad so that you can use it on the go
- Vectornator is free
- UI Design
- Print Design
- Vectornator does not yet natively sync with iCloud.
Like Illustrator, Affinity Designer is another vector graphic software tool and was first released in 2014.
This award-winning program has many benefits and is becoming a popular choice among creatives.
Which Platforms is Affinity Designer Available On?
Affinity Designer is available for Mac, iPad, and Windows.
Affinity Designer Pricing
The price of Affinity Designer varies depending on which platform you plan to use it on. At the time of writing, Affinity Designer was available at the following prices:
- macOS – on offer at $24.99 instead of $49.99
- Windows – on offer at $24.99 instead of $49.99
- iPad – on offer at $9.99 instead of $19.99
Free trials are also available for the macOS and Windows versions of Affinity Designer.
Affinity Designer Pros and Cons
Affinity Designer Pros:
- Easily switch between vector and raster
- You can customise keyboard shortcuts
- Created with input from designers
- More affordable than Illustrator
Affinity Designer Cons:
- Not easy to switch between Affinity Designer and the rest of the Affinity apps in the suite
3 – Gravit Designer
Gravit Designer was first introduced in 2014. This free vector-based graphic design tool is a popular software choice for designers and has many uses.
Gravit Designer is now available in two versions; Gravit Designer and Gravit Designer Pro.
Which Platforms is Gravit Designer Available On?
Gravit Designer is available to use on a range of platforms. Gravit Designer is compatible with Mac OS, Chrome OS, Linux, and Windows.
Gravit Designer Pricing
Gravit Designer is the free version of this graphic design software, but Gravit Designer Pro may be a better choice if you want to experience more features.
At the time of writing, Gravit Designer Pro was on offer at $49.00 per year, instead of the usual price of $99.00
Gravit Designer Pros and Cons
Gravit Designer Pros:
- Auto-updates so you will know you are always using the most up-to-date version of Gravit Designer
- Autosaving feature available for cloud files, which can be disabled and enabled whenever you like
- It can be used in-browser or as a desktop app
Gravit Designer Cons:
- The introduction of Gravit Designer Pro meant many features previously available on the free version of Gravit Designer were only available on the paid-for version
- Not able to work collaboratively in real-time, which could be an issue if you have teams working remotely in different locations
- Unable to work offline with the free version of Gravit Designer
4 – CorelDRAW
CorelDRAW is part of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. CorelDRAW was the first vector-based graphic design program designed for use with Windows.
CorelDRAW was released in 1989 and has enjoyed over 30 years as a popular design tool.
To date, 23 versions of the program have been released. The latest version of CorelDRAW was released in March 2021.
Which Platforms is CorelDRAW Available On?
CorelDRAW is available for Windows, Mac OS, and the CorelDRAW.app is now available for designing when on the move.
The introduction of a Mac OS-compatible version of the software was first available around 20 years ago, and after a long absence, a Mac version of CorelDRAW is now available.
There are a few different CorelDRAW plans to choose from for individuals and organisations.
- You can purchase individual plans for $35.00 per month or $421.00 per year. Alternatively, you can choose to make a one-time purchase of CorelDRAW’s plan for
- Business plans for medium and large teams can be purchased for $421.00 per year or as a one-time purchase of $1096.00, including CorelSure software maintenance.
- CorelDRAW also offers customised plans which are suitable for larger organisations. Customised plans are available as well.
Free trials of the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2021 are available to download for Windows and Mac. Free trials last for 15 days.
CorelDRAW Pros and Cons
- Different versions of CorelDRAW are available for different types of users, including beginners, enthusiasts, and professional designers
- A choice of licensing options available so you can choose the best option for your needs and budget
- Easy to collaborate with other team members in real-time and gain feedback on designs instantly
- So many different features that it can take a while to become familiar with all of CorelDRAW’s capabilities
5 – Inkscape
Inkscape is a unique vector graphic software tool and was first developed back in 2003. The latest version of Inkscape was released in January 2021
This well-established image tool is a member of the Software Freedom Conservancy and is a non-profit organisation. Members of the Inkscape Project author Inkscape, and the Inkscape community provides user support.
Which Platforms is Inkscape Available On?
Inkscape is compatible with various platforms, including Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and Windows.
Inkscape is free to download and free to use.
Inkscape Pros and Cons
- Completely free to use.
- Helpful online community of graphic designers
- It runs across different platforms, including Linux
- It can be challenging to learn how to use Inkscape
- Fewer features than other programs
- It may be hard to use for beginners with little experience with other graphic design software programs
6 – Sketch
Sketch was first introduced back in 2010 and is a popular digital design tool. Unlike some of the other Illustrator alternatives listed here, Sketch is used less for print design and illustration purposes and more for UI and UX design for apps and websites.
Which Platforms is Sketch Available On?
Sketch is only available on the Mac OS.
Sketch offers two pricing plans so you can pick a plan that matches your usage requirements.
- The first price plan is suitable for individuals and teams and is available for $9 per editor per month or at an annual cost of $99 per editor.
- The second price plan is a business plan and is only available via yearly billing. You will need to contact Sketch direct for price details to establish the best business plan for your needs.
A Mac-Only license for the Mac app is also available for Sketch. The Mac-only license does not include many Sketch functions available on the two main pricing plans and works with local documents only.
The Mac-Only license is available for individuals and teams for a one-off payment of $99per device.
Sketch Pros and Cons
- Can add extra functionality with plug-ins and integrate with third-party apps
- Possible to add ‘guests’ to your workspace to enable access to collaborate on particular projects.
- You can sync documents, and you can browse versions of your document history.
- Sketch does not offer a free plan; all Sketch plans are paid-for
- Sketch does not work across platforms and is only compatible with Mac OS
- Some users report that the prototyping tool is a little tricky to use
7 – Graphic
Graphic is a graphic design tool packed full of features and suitable for a wide range of graphic design and illustration tasks, including highly detailed work such as complex illustrations.
Which Platforms is Graphic Available On?
Graphic is explicitly designed to be used with Mac OS X. Graphic is also available for compatible Apple mobile devices with its Graphic iPad and Graphic iPhone versions.
Graphic is available in a choice of price plans, and the cost of these depends on which version of Graphic you require; Graphic Mac, Graphic iPad, or Graphic iPhone.
Each of the apps is available to download from the App Store.
- The Graphic Mac version for Mac OS X is available to download for $29.99
- The Graphic iPad version of the software is available to download for $8.99
- The Graphic iPhone version of Graphic is available to download from the App Store for $2.99
Graphic Pros and Cons
- Graphic Plug-ins are available to download
- Using Graphic for iPad on the iPad Pro offers a similar experience to the Mac version
- The Graphic iPad version is optimised for use with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil
- Not suitable for cross-platform use as it is designed for Mac OS X and iOS only
8 – Figma
Figma is a vector graphics editing tool and much more. Figma enables users to create designs, prototype them, and collaborate all in one program.
Figma was launched in 2016 and has grown quickly in the past five years to become a popular choice of design software.
Which Platforms is Figma available on?
Figma is mainly a web-based tool, so it runs across platforms. You can use Figma with Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Chrome OS.
Figma offers a range of pricing options for different users. It is possible to use a free version of Figma forever.
- The free version of Figma is the Starter plan and is restricted to one team project with unlimited viewers
- The Professional plan costs $12 per editor per month when billed annually, or $15 if paid on a month-to-month basis. The Professional plan is also available for free for students and educators
- The Organization plan is suited to businesses that require more than nine editors. The Organization plan costs $45 per editor per month and is available for annual billing only
- It is also possible to try Figma for yourself before you buy as they offer a free trial
Figma Pros and Cons
- Allows fully collaborative working between teams in real-time
- You can embed advanced prototyping capabilities and comments to prevent them from being lost
- The New FigJam feature allows teams to brainstorm together on a virtual whiteboard
- Some users report it can be hard to get used to working using Figma
- More guidance on how to use the program would be beneficial
As you can see, there are some strong contenders available right now to choose between when trying to find the perfect graphic design software.
Each of these contenders has its pros and cons to think about and its unique features.
When weighing up which product is right for you, consider several factors to help you decide. You may want to think about the following before making your final choice:
- Which platforms do you plan to use the software on?
- How many editors will you need to add to your software plan?
- Do you need real-time collaboration for your design projects?
- What is your budget for vector graphic design software?
- Are you happy with the level of user support offered by the software company?
- Do you want to use plug-ins?
- Will you need a prototyping feature?
- Do you need cloud-based storage for your projects?
- Will you be working on the go and require mobile compatibility?
Carefully considering the above questions should help you to narrow down your choices and find the perfect Adobe Illustrator alternative for your projects.
Author Bio: Darya Jandossova Troncoso is a photographer, artist, and writer working on her first novel and managing a digital marketing blog – MarketSplash. She enjoys spending time with her family in her spare time, cooking, creating art, and learning everything there is to know about digital marketing.