With the best free Adobe Illustrator alternatives, you can create and edit vector graphics cost-free. These are a great choice if you're new to designing with vector graphics. Unlike raster graphics, they use mathematical expressions to draw the lines, shapes and colours. This means they’re infinitely scalable, so you can blow them up to the size of a billboard with no unsightly pixelation.
While it’s true that Adobe Illustrator is the industry-standard software for creating and editing vector graphics, you’re committing to an expensive Creative Cloud subscription. It’s not always the most cost-effective solution for many. Thankfully, it's not the only choice. There are many Adobe Illustrator alternatives out there that are free.
However, not all Adobe Illustrator alternatives are created equal – some only support a few file formats, while others are bundled with unwanted extra software. Still, vector graphics are the best choice for a number of design and illustration tasks, such as creating icons, logos, diagrams, charts, posters and website graphics. So we've put all the most popular free Illustrator alternatives to the test and picked the very best.
Example vector files designed by Freepik.
The best Adobe Illustrator alternatives at a glance
Open source vector graphics package Inkscape is staggeringly powerful, and is the best free Adobe Illustrator alternative for pro and semi-pro illustrators, graphic designers and web designers.
As well as the standard drawing and shape tools, Inkscape boasts a special spirals tool, a tool to create patterns and arrangements of clones, advanced object manipulation options, multiple filters (including bevels, textures, overlays and more), and some nifty fill settings. In short, there’s very little Illustrator can do that Inkscape can’t.
Because it's open source, it’s not only free to use but if you have the technical know-how you can even edit it and incorporate it into other software. And new features are being added all the time; the latest version brings mesh gradients, improved SVG2 and CSS3 support and new path effects to the party.
So what’s the catch? Some users have complained that it performs slowly, although that does seem to depend on what device and operating system you’re using. The best thing to do is just download it and give it a quick try; there's nothing to lose.
Read our full review: Inkscape
Boxy SVG is a free tool for creating scalable vector graphic files that runs as an extension in Google Chrome. It comes with a good range of basic tools, including pens, bezier curves, text, basic shapes, stroke and fill, layers, ability to add type, groups, transforms and paths.
The main selling point for Boxy SVG is the utter simplicity of its UI. It makes a virtue of paring down the experience of creating vector graphics to a fairly minimal set of options. These essentially restrict you to the kind of things that the SVG format is good at. As a result, it’s fast, easier to pick up than Illustrator, and the files it creates are clean and efficient.
As well as importing and exporting files in SVG and SVGZ format, you can also use Boxy SVG to import and export JPEGs and PNGs. Wonderfully convenient.
Vecteezy is another free in-browser Adobe Illustrator alternative (the developer earns a crust selling premium illustrations, and its customers include the BBC, Amazon, McDonald's and Dell).
You can import and edit SVG files, or create your own designs from scratch. There's a selection of shapes and ready-made clipart to choose from, and a huge array of typefaces for text-based designs.
Vecteezy also includes a pen tool for drawing freehand shapes and editing existing paths, plus a simple color-picker. It's all refreshingly simple to use, and even brand new users will grasp the fundamentals within a few minutes.
There are just a couple of points to be aware of: you'll need to create an account or log in using Facebook in order to save your work, and if you open a particularly large file, Vecteezy warns you that doing so might cause your browser to freeze. This is a risk with any similar web app though, and we appreciate Vecteezy being so up-front about it.
Vectr is a free in-browser Adobe Illustrator alternative. It was originally available as a desktop application for offline use as well, but this has now been discontinued.
Don't let that put you off, though; Vectr is intuitive to use, with a shallow learning curve. “Design software shouldn’t bring people a sense of struggle, yet that’s exactly how the troublesome design software we grew up on made us feel,” says its developer, who has created this pared-back vector editor with accessibility in mind.
While it lacks many of the advanced features of Illustrator, then, it’s got all the tools you need for basic vector editing – shapes, text, multiple layers and like – and what it does, it does very well. You can save all work you create in Vectr online, or export it in PNG, JPG, or SVG file formats.
Vectr is a great choice for beginners, or just anyone needing to create a simple graphic with the minimum of fuss.
If your prime reason for wanting a vector graphics editor is to create SVG files for websites, then SVG-Edit may be all you need. You can use this free vector software within your web browser to create SVG images and edit existing ones.
SVG-Edit works in any modern browser, and offers a basic set of vector editing features including hand-drawing tools, shape tools, text tools and path tools. The tool is open source, which means that new features are being added all the time by contributing developers.
- Check out our guide to the best free photo editors