We’ve come a long way, from painting on a canvas with oil paints to painting with pixels. And with the digitization of art, the choices of the digital canvas have increased and today, there is no lack of a great, free graphics designer. When it comes to graphics designers, Photoshop and Illustrator are the ones dominating the raster and vector department of graphic designing. But both of these are expensive and it could be challenging for a budding digital artist to get access to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. So we decided to make a list of free software for graphic design.
The list includes both raster and vector software and both will be presented separately. This is because raster graphics editors and vector graphics editors are very different with different learning processes. I’ll include some supplementary articles to help you get the distinction between raster and vector. All the programs mentioned in the list are free. We’ll also add a brief paragraph about what we liked about the specific program.
Free graphic designer (Raster based/ Photoshop alternatives)
Polarr – Free but priced has better options
Polarr is one of the best raster-based photo editors that could replace Photoshop, albeit not entirely. It is also one of the most versatile graphics editors in this list, supported in Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, ChromeOS, and the most useful web.
The interface is minimal, clean, easy to use, and understandable. It is powerful as well, with histograms, filters, texts, spot remover, liquify tool, composite presets, brushes, all the curves (light, color, exposure, contrast), and everything a beginner would want and a professional would need.
The downside is that there are limitations to the free version. There is an export limit, and some features such as double exposure, color mask are only available in the Pro version which costs $2.49/mo for the yearly plan. Check it out here.
Photos Pos Pro
Another completely free photo editor, Photos Pos Pro was once very popular (count the “P” in the sentence). It is decently powerful with basic functionality. Although I’ll call it more of a Lightroom alternative than a Photoshop alternative. Users can adjust exposure, color, contrast.
There are some problems with this program. First, it is only available for Windows. Secondly, the interface is very dated, like the WinRar interface in the early 2000s. The program is also confusing to use sometimes but since it is free, you can try it for sure. Make sure you have your firewall on because some reviews have mentioned a trojan getting in their system, disguised as a wooden, large photo editor. Check the designer here.
This one is an interesting entry on the list. Originally made in and for Japan, finding the software can be a nightmare because it is stored in some weird directory (you’ll see what I mean in the link for Pixia). The interface looks very dated, like the earlier versions of Photoshop, but the program is very capable, especially for digital artists who use drawing tablets like Wacom.
Pixia has all the features needed to be a capable graphics editor. It has layers, brushes, tablet pressure support, path selection, filters, adjustment for contrast, color, exposure, etc. Everything you need to draw whatever your imagination paints is there. It also lets you export files in PSD (Photoshop) format. Now take a look at the link:
Yes, it is the official link and not a link to Game of Thrones fanfiction.
Microsoft’s paint that we all grew up with has become a muscular, powerful, and capable graphics editor. The only thing here is that it is only available for Windows (for free) and not for Mac (free or otherwise). The new version of Paint can do a lot now, from color adjustments to getting the brush and drawing freely. Specific colors from the color map can be altered as well. If you have a Windows device, definitely try it.
There is also support for plug-ins that lets you export and import PSD files, advanced text editing, color support, etc. There’s no link for it but if you want to go down memory lane and use the classic Microsoft Paint, here is a web version for that. Go ahead, make the flower and house that we all used to make. Visit here for more info.
It is time for the people of Mac. Seashore is a Mac-only graphics editor that is not only free but also open source. This means that you can safely get it into your system without worrying. The interface is a little out-dated but the program is very capable of advanced layer support, color, brushes, and texture.
To get the file, go to the Mac Appstore and search for Seashore and your ship will reach the destination.
Another great, easy to use and intuitive browser-based graphics editor. I found Sumo Paint to be very light, fluid, and easy to use. The reason for that is there is no clutter, and everything you need for your work is right in front of you. If you are into graphics editing, you have to check it out.
There is all the basic functionality like brushes, pencil, crop tool, gradient, clone stamp, blur, color picker…you know, the usual lot. There are a fully capable layer option and an adjustment tab for tweaking the color, exposure, brightness, etc.
There is a paid, pro version as well. Sadly, this means that the free version will come with limitations. It does, but I think the free version is capable enough. Click here to get check it out.
Dark Table is a truly free graphics editing software with a great interface and is available for almost all the computer operating systems; Mac, Windows, Ubuntu (yes), Solaris, Debian, etc. The great thing about this application is that even though it is free, it does not look free. The dark theme and great UI design make it feel premium. Take a look at it yourself;
Great online photo editor that is in the “freemium” format. This means that the free version has some basic features but you need to pay to get the complete version. But the reason I have added it to the list is that the free version has some great features. It has all the basic functionality, clone stamp, spot healer, etc. But you have to get the premium version to use the layers feature. Find Pixlr X here.
Perhaps the most popular and useful graphics editor that we have in the list for Photoshop alternatives, GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free and open-source program, supported in macOS, Windows, and Linux. It is feature-rich, can do almost everything Photoshop can. The interface is a little dated but that’s something overshadowed by the ease of use and FREE tag. The other great thing about it is the regular update it receives. The latest one was on October 7. Go ahead and give it a try.
Another browser-based graphics editing software with a clean, minimal interface. Photoshop users will find the interface to be very similar to Adobe’s graphics editors. It is free and there is no paywall. The only issue is there will be ads shown on the side of the window, so that could be a bit distracting.
In Functionality, the software is feature-rich, powerful, and can be a Photoshop substitute for basic tasks. The best thing about it is the support for other file formats such as PSD (Photoshop), RAW (cameras), GIMP, Sketch, Adobe XD, PDF, and all the other image formats. Visit Photopea here.
InPixio offers a free photo editor that can be downloaded only on Windows. The paid software works great but the free one is limited with basic image editing functionality like tweaking the curves, adjusting the color, exposure, etc. Filters and presets are also available. Since it is free, no harm in trying. Try it all you want here.
Another greatly designed graphics editor available both for Mac and Windows. There is a free version and a paid version and both look very premium and easy to use. It comes with all the usual features in a graphics editor. Check it out here;
LightZone is a graphic editor you can check although there is nothing specifically great to mention about it. RawTherapee is a RAW image processing software which is cross-compatible and free. Check out both of these here:
Free graphics designer (Vector based/ Illustrator alternative)
A very capable Illustrator replacement that is capable of doing all the vector-based illustrations with all the necessary features. Inkscape is not only free but also open-source. This means that the program is free of any malicious code to harm your computer.
Create paths and illustrations with all the necessary effects such as blur, anti-aliasing, etc. We recommend it. This is also a great way to get into learning vector art if you don’t want to spend a lot on Adobe’s Illustrator. Check out Inkscape here.
Vectr is a free, online vector-based graphics editor with a sleek and easy to understand interface and all the basic functionality. When it comes to illustrations, basic shapes and the pen tool is a basic requirement. There are ads on the side panel and that you have to work with. But I think after a little while, you’ll get used to it. After you are done with the art, export it in JPEG, PNG, or SVG format. Click here to get to Vectr.
Vector creator by Icons8
This one is my personal favorite because it is so helpful when it comes to supplemental vector illustrations and edit with the way you want. While it is not that powerful and it will be difficult to use it as an Illustrator replacement if you want to work professionally, it still is a great way of getting free resources. Give it a try and I’m sure you’d use it often. Click here to visit the official site.
At first glance, it might look like a very simple illustration maker, but it is very capable. Easy to use and simple to understand interface, very easy to learn if you are a beginner, and some cool features which took me by surprise. Tools like quad bezier and cubic-bezier are great tools that I think should come to Illustrator as well. Take me to BoxySVG.
This web-based graphics editor is more akin to an online logo maker than an Adobe Illustrator replacement. But since there is the pen tool, shapes tool, text tool, and a stock of photos and vectors available, I thought it could wiggle its way in this list. Vecteezy is free but there are some complications. First, it is not very intuitive to use. It is very basic and you’d hardly get anything done. The second and much more debilitating flaw here is that the illustrations you make cannot be used commercially. That sucks. But still, check it out here.
LibreOffice Draw is a free and open-source graphics editor that is one of the most premium and trustworthy applications on this list. It is capable, easy to use, and free. Give it a try and you might want to get into the LibreOffice Suite. Click here to visit LibreOffice Draw’s official site.
We have not included some of the vector editors such as Gravit, Fatpaint, Youidraw, Skencil, Rollapp, etc. The reason behind this is because all of these programs are either freemium, meaning that there is a paywall and the free version does not get all the features of the programs are very outdated with a really 2000s user interface.
But since we have mentioned them, you can always search for these graphics designers and take a look. Who knows, you might even pay for some of these. Gravit is a great vector designer based on the freemium model.
So that was it. This was the exhaustive list of all the pixel (raster) and vector-based free graphics editors that could replace both Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ll link some relevant articles below that are connected to graphic designing so do check them out if you are interested. This concludes the article.