Best Adobe Illustrator Alternative (Free & Paid Options)
If you’re asking yourself: What can I use instead of Adobe Illustrator? – this is definitely the guide for you!
Not every designer can afford the subscription to Adobe Illustrator, let alone the full Creative Cloud suite of graphic design software.
Fortunately, there are various free Illustrator alternatives, as well as some paid options that offer advanced features.
We’ll help you find a vector graphics editor with an intuitive user interface for your graphic design work.
So let’s dive into the recommendations!
Table of Contents
9 Best Adobe Illustrator Alternatives in 2022
1. Affinity Designer
- Extremely responsive
- Works with both pixel and vector images
- Real-time blend mode previews
- Compatible with Illustrator files
- Excellent price
- No subscription required
- Works on multiple operating systems (Mac, Windows, iOS, etc.)
- Lacks some advanced features
- Document compatibility isn’t always perfect
- No realistic perspective grid
The winner of the Apple Design award in 2015, Affinity Designer is Illustrator’s biggest competitor and our top pick for the best Illustrator alternative.
Used by professional designers, illustrators, and game developers from all over the world, Affinity Designer has most of the vector editing features Illustrator has, while also adding in a few of its own.
The most notable is Affinity Designer’s ability to switch personas, toggling between editing vectors and raster graphics.
Other features that graphic designers will love include previews for all different screen sizes, a saveable history with alternate futures, unlimited artboards, and the ability to have each change you make to a design automatically exported.
Oh, and did we mention that Affinity Designer is fast? Even if you’re not using the latest M1 Mac, you can expect great responsiveness.
If your clients or colleagues are still working in the Adobe Creative Cloud, have no fear – Affinity Designer works seamlessly with both Illustrator AI and Photoshop PSD files.
Perhaps the best part of Affinity Designer is its price: it’s available for a one-off payment of less than $60! No subscription fees and all of the updates are included! That’s less than a single month of subscription to Illustrator.
This combined with its full suite of vector editing tools makes Affinity Designer our top Adobe Illustrator alternative in 2022.
Available on macOS, Windows, and iPadOS.
- Fantastic for iPad
- Auto-trace technology
- High-resolution digital canvas
- User-friendly interface
- Allows you to use 3rd-party pencils
- Robust video tutorial library
- Easily imports files from Sketch and Figma
- Unsplash integration
- Mac OS, iPadOS, and iOS only
- Not very customizable
- Need a current Mac OS to run it
If you use a current Mac or iPad, Vectornator will likely be your best free Illustrator alternative.
Vectornator offers many of the same features as Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer, but works in-browser, making it easy to access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Not only does it have advanced tools for creating scalable vector graphics, but it also comes with a copious amount of import and export options (including Sketch and Figma file formats), drag-and-drop abilities, a creative cloud library, and more than its fair share of social media templates.
If you like to do most of your design work on your iPad, you’ll be quite pleased with Vectornator – it’s currently the most powerful vector graphics design software available for iPad.
In the world of free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator, Apple users will be hard-pressed to find a better option.
- Fantastic collaboration tools
- Works on any OS
- Fantastic Grid Layout tool
- No need to constantly save your workspace
- Excellent for prototyping
- Free for individual users
- Lacks documentation
- Doesn’t import Photoshop files
- No CMYK palette
- Needs an internet connection to operate
The best Adobe Illustrator alternative for designing the UI for websites and mobile apps – especially with a team – is Figma.
Figma is a cloud-based design tool that allows teams to work on projects in real-time. It’s browser-based and works much like Google docs.
Beyond the real-time collaboration, some of Figma’s unique features include Vector Networks, an Arc tool, and a Grid Layout panel that truly simplifies making even the most complex grid.
Another invaluable feature is the ability to make a clickable version of a website or mobile app, with all the various screens on one page. No more switching between windows – you can see how the interface works in real-time.
Figma has both free and paid options. The free version works great if there’s only one designer working on a project and you don’t need Figma’s library of components.
Beyond this, you’ll need to pay per additional designer or when you need the proprietary features offered in the paid version ($12 per editor/month).
The main downside of Figma is that it doesn’t have a lot of tutorials out there, so learning it can take a bit of time.
Otherwise, it’s a fantastic Adobe Illustrator alternative – especially if you’re into designing User Interfaces.
- Advanced vector illustration tools
- Supports a wide range of design formats
- Fast and responsive
- Regular updates
- Runs well on even older PCs
- Customizable UI
- Completely free
- Steep learning curve
- Not great for Macs
- Outdated UI
- No CMYK output
- Doesn’t support high-resolution Retina displays
If you’re a Windows or Linux user looking for a free Adobe Illustrator alternative, Inkscape is well worth a test drive.
Free and open-source, Inkscape is a full-featured vector editor with an active, loyal fan base and a highly customizable UI.
While it doesn’t quite have all the tools of Illustrator, Inkscape definitely has its share of professional features, including an excellent pen tool, automatic bitmap tracing, and a variety of filters.
There’s also support for a wide range of file formats (including PSD, AI, and SVG files).
Inkscape does have a bit of a high learning curve for beginners, and many will find the interface a bit antiquated.
Still, as far as free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator go, Inkscape is up there at the top if you’re running Windows or Linux.
Unfortunately, though, the Mac version isn’t quite as dialled in (especially as it doesn’t support high-resolution Retina displays).
5. Vecteezy Editor
- Easy to use
- No download necessary
- Free and paid options
- Thousands of design elements included
- Integrated with the Vecteezy stock library
- Excellent for beginners
- Only works with some browsers (Chrome, Chromium, or Opera)
- Needs an internet connection to operate
- Only works with SVG and PNG files
The Vecteezy editor is another excellent browser-based Adobe Illustrator alternative that allows you to create and edit SVG files without having to download any software.
Designed to be used by beginners and pros alike, the UI is clean and self-explanatory. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create a piece of vector art with nothing more than basic point and click editing.
There are over 25,000 design elements to choose from, as well as 800 fonts, so you’ll never be in need of vector elements.
You’ll need to jump out of the free version to take full advantage of the site integration, but it’s well worth it – especially if you already make use of Vecteezy’s excellent stock library.
For $14 per month ($108 per year) the Pro version will give you unlimited downloads on Vecteezy. (This includes photos and videos, as well as vector images.)
The only real downsides are that an account is needed in order to save your work and large files can slow down your browser considerably. Also, Vecteezy only exports in SVG and PNG file format.
Oh, and if you’re not a Google Chrome fan, you’re pretty much out of luck. Vecteezy only works on Chrome, Chromium, or Opera.
- Extensive toolkit
- Clean, uncluttered user interface
- Reasonably priced
- Integrated with the Pixabay stock and Google fonts
- Built-in code inspector
- Frequent updates
- Responsive developer
- Easily converts bitmap images to vector art
- Limited to SVG and file formats
- Doesn’t work on Safari or Firefox
If you’re a graphic designer or website designer who works primarily with SVG files and needs a vector editor that creates clean code, you’ll want to take a look a Boxy SVG.
Both a browser-based web app and a downloadable desktop app, Boxy SVG might well create the cleanest SVG markup out of all vector design software.
It’s not quite as intuitive for beginners as, say, Vecteezy, but if you know even a little bit about vector design, you’ll appreciate clean and uncluttered UI.
True, there are other alternatives to Adobe Illustrator that come with a more impressive feature set, but none match Boxy for SVG creation.
While Boxy SVG is free for Linux users, Mac and Windows users need pay only a one-time fee of $20. (There’s a premium option, but most users won’t need it.)
Definitely one of the best Adobe Illustrator alternatives for web designers and anyone else who needs clean code when they create SVG images.
- Top-of-the-line vector editing tools
- Bitmap-to-vector conversion
- Thousands of assets included
- Huge range of fonts
- Compatible with just about any file format
- No subscription necessary
- Robust community of users
- Free trial
- Not great for animation
- Many tools don’t have shortcuts
CorelDraw is a powerful, full-featured graphic design program that covers pretty much the same bases that Adobe Illustrator does, just in a different way.
Perfect for both web design and printed page layouts, CorelDraw comes with an intuitive interface, a massive library of fonts, and plenty of professional tools (depending on which version of the program you choose).
While the subscription plan is pretty pricey ($269/year), buying the full CorelDRAW graphics suite straight out is great value for money – for $549 you get all five professional-level Corel design apps in perpetuity.
You can also opt for the less expensive versions, both of which will meet your basic vector editing needs with ease.
If you’re a pro looking for something as full-featured as Adobe Illustrator and you don’t mind shelling out the dough, take a moment to try out the full CorelDRAW suite.
You’ll likely find it more than worth the investment, especially as it serves so well as an Adobe Illustrator alternative with no recurring subscription fees.
8. Gravit Designer
- Easy to use
- Autosaves every 5 minutes
- Cloud storage included
- Works with numerous file formats (including Sketch and AI)
- Available on just about very platform
- Real-time collaboration
- Plenty of video tutorials
- Free version is quite limited
- Lacks some vector- advanced tools
Gravit Designer is a vector editor with a free version that’s browser-based and a paid version that’s downloadable.
Like Vectornator, the free version of Gravit Design is a browser-based illustration tool that offers many of the vector drawing tools found in Illustrator.
Gravit Designer has a nice, clean user interface and has all the features you need for creating icons, logos, and other scalable graphics.
Of all the apps on this list, Gravit Designer is compatible with the widest range of platforms. Its web-based version can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, and its premium downloadable version works on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Chrome OS.
Files can be exported as SVG, PDV, PNG, or JPEG
The Pro version is $49/year – much more affordable than Adobe Illustrator.
- Powerful tools
- Strong community
- Powerful raster image editing capabilities
- Only basic tools for vector editing
- Non-intuitive user interface
- Not updated as often as other programs
Although GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is best known as a free Adobe Photoshop alternative, it does have some limited vector functions and can be a great choice for those designers who work with both raster and vector images.
The interface can be challenging for those more accustomed to Adobe products, but it’s a highly customizable interface and there are plenty of third-party GIMP plugins.
It is a free and open-source platform, and its sophisticated features make it a powerful design tool for desktop users.
As far as free alternatives go, GIMP is great if you primarily edit raster images but need the ability to go back and forth.
GIMP is definitely one of the more powerful free software alternatives you’ll find. Whether it’s right for you, however, will really depend on your workflow.
How to Choose the Best Adobe Illustrator Alternative
Here are some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself when choosing your next graphic design software:
- Features: What features do you really need? Not everyone needs all the bells and whistles available for editing vector graphics. If you’re just looking to do graphic design for a home business, most of the free vector software in this list will probably be all you need.
- Platform: Are you looking for software that’s downloadable or are you comfortable editing purely online?
- Being able to work entirely online can be handy if you can’t afford one of the best computers for graphic design, since you won’t be reliant on the latest graphics cards, high RAM, etc. Also, do you need an app that works with both your desktop and your tablet, and allows you to toggle between them?
- File Format: What does your end output look like? For personal use, PNG and JPG will likely be enough, but if you’re collaborating with others and/or writing code, you might need an Illustrator alternative with more output options.
- Workflow: Do you frequently switch between bitmap images and vector images? Do you frequently need bitmap image conversion, or are you working almost exclusively in the vector arena?
- Application: Are you designing for the web or for print? If for print, make sure you choose a design app that has dependable color management, CYMK, etc.
How Can I Use Illustrator Without Paying?
If the free Adobe illustrator alternatives don’t fit your needs, it’s worth noting that you can download a free trial of Illustrator by following this link and clicking the ‘Start Free Trial’ button.
The free trial lasts for 7 days, and it can be a handy way to get a feel for all the advanced features in the full version of Illustrator as well as create, edit and save your own AI files.
In order to download Adobe Illustrator for free, you’ll need to supply your credit card, but you won’t be charged until after the trial ends.
If you feel it’s not suitable for your needs, simply uninstall Creative Cloud, then cancel your membership and you won’t be charged at all.
Adobe Illustrator Alternatives FAQs
Is Inkscape better than Illustrator?
Inkscape is not as capable as Illustrator when it comes to vector editing.
Is GIMP as good as Illustrator?
GIMP is better than Illustrator when it comes to photo editing. Illustrator is much better than GIMP for vector editing.
Is Blender better than Illustrator?
Blender is better for 3D image rendering. Illustrator is better for standard vector-based graphic design.
How can I open an AI file without Illustrator?
Many programs open AI files, including Affinity Designer, Inkscape and CorelDraw.
Finding the right Adobe Illustrator alternative may take a bit of time, as you may want to try out the different options before committing – especially if you’re needing one of the fuller-featured options like the CorelDRAW suite or Affinity Designer.
If you’re just looking for a vector graphics editor for your home business, it’s worth trialling the best free alternatives in this list first.
If you’re needing something full-featured and are hell-bent on avoiding a Creative Cloud subscription, Affinity Designer and CorelDraw will be your best options.
Also, you can create the equivalent of Adobe’s “holy trinity” of graphic design software by purchasing Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher (both of which are equally as affordable) or by investing in the entire CorelDRAW software suite.
Good luck and let us know how it goes!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.