9 Best Adobe Illustrator Alternatives (Paid and Free)

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Graphic Designer Considering Adobe Illustrator Alternatives
Photo via Envato Elements

In the ever-evolving world of graphic design, finding reliable and powerful tools is crucial for artists who want to create striking visuals. Enter Adobe Illustrator, a popular, industry-leading vector editing software that has been the go-to choice for many professionals over the years.

However, Adobe Illustrator's hefty price tag and subscription requirement have driven designers to seek alternatives. In this article, we'll explore some of the best free and paid Adobe Illustrator alternatives available today, providing you with a comprehensive list of options to boost your creativity while keeping your wallet happy.

Key Takeaways

  • Adobe Illustrator alternatives are sought after by graphic designers primarily for cost savings, or to avoid an ongoing subscription commitment.
  • The best free Adobe Illustrator alternatives include Inkscape, Vectr, and Vectornator while the best paid options include Affinity Designer, CorelDRAW, Gravit Designer, Sketch, Boxy SVG, and Graphic.
  • Choosing the Adobe Illustrator alternative that's right for you depends on your specific needs, as well as your situation (hobbyist or professional).

Why Look For Adobe Illustrator Alternatives?

I've you're a regular reader of Bittbox, you know that we're big fans of Illustrator. After all, it's the most powerful and capable vector design program available. However, there are other capable programs as well.

The main reason why you may want to consider an alternative to Adobe Illustrator involves cost and payment options. To license a copy of Illustrator, you'll need a valid, active subscription to Adobe's Creative Cloud. Not only is it more expensive than some competitors, it forces you to commit to monthly payments if you want to continue to use Illustartors.

Years ago, you could purchase Illustrator and continue to use it with no additional payments. Today, that's not an option. A Creative Cloud subscription comes with some excellent features and perks, including constant software updates. However, some customers prefer to make a one-time payment for software rather than an ongoing monthly payment. Most of Adobe's competitors do not force customers into monthly payments.

The learning curve of Illustrator may be another consideration. Because the software includes so many advanced tools, it takes some time to learn and master the basics. That's fine for a professional, but if you're a hobbyist, you may prefer something that's easier and faster to learn.

Best Free Adobe Illustrator Alternatives

Beleive it or not, there are some pretty good vector editing programs that can be used at no cost. Here are our favorites.

1. Inkscape

Inkscape

Inkscape is a highly recommended open-source software for creating stunning vector graphics. It has various drawing and shape tools that allow designers to create professional-quality icons, logos, and other graphic designs without spending significant money on design software.

What's great about Inkscape is its ability to support multiple file formats such as SVG, PDF, EPS, AI (Adobe Illustrator), and CDR (CorelDRAW). You can open or import files in all of these formats, which comes in very handy. You can save or export files in SVG, EPS, PDF, and many other file formats.

Furthermore, Inkscape can be used across all major operating systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux, making it extremely versatile.

2. Vectr

Vectr

One of the best free Adobe Illustrator alternatives for graphic designers is Vectr. This online application offers a stress-free vector graphics editing experience, perfect for those who prefer working on their browser.

It's not quite as advanced as a program like Illustrator, but it's an excellent choice for hobbyists or freelancers who don't need all of the features of Illustrator. Additionally, web-based access is extremely convenient.

3. Vectornator

Vectornator

Vectornator is one of the best free Adobe Illustrator alternatives for graphic designers looking to save costs without compromising on quality. Its intuitive user interface and powerful design tools make it an ideal option for digital illustration, vector drawing, and UI design.

In addition to being completely free to download and use, Vectornator boasts a range of features that rival those found in paid software options like Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator.

With its extensive collection of creative tools and design applications, Vectornator offers excellent artistic software capabilities for graphic designers at all levels.

The downside is, Vectornator is currently only available for Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

Best Paid Adobe Illustrator Alternatives

For those looking for more advanced features and capabilities, the best paid Adobe Illustrator alternatives may be a more suitable replacement.

4. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is a highly powerful and popular alternative to Adobe Illustrator. This graphic design software can be used on Windows, macOS, and iPad.

It boasts an impressive range of features similar to those offered by Illustrator but at a much more affordable price point. Equally important, it's a one-time payment with no monthly subscription required.

Affinity Designer offers advanced vector editing capabilities, which allows users to create incredibly precise designs with ease.

Additionally, the interface is intuitive and easy to navigate while still offering users plenty of creative flexibility.

5. CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW is a powerful and popular Adobe Illustrator alternative that is widely used by graphic designers. This professional design software provides all the necessary tools for creating high-quality vector graphics, digital illustrations, and layouts.

In addition to its impressive feature set, CorelDRAW also offers a one-time fee for those who don't like subscription payments (although the price is higher than Affinity Designer).

CorelDRAW's exceptional file format support means that designers can easily exchange files with clients or colleagues using different software applications without losing quality.

6. Corel Vector (Formerly Gravit Designer)

Corel Vector

Corel Vector is a powerful vector graphics editor that can be used for digital design applications. It's available as a free or paid version, making it accessible to graphic designers with varying budgets.

The browser-based Corel Vector has an intuitive interface that makes it easy for users to jump in and start working on their projects quickly. It also allows you to import files from Adobe Illustrator, which means you won't have any compatibility issues. This feature keeps your work flowing without wasting time converting file formats.

In addition, Corel Vector's impressive creative flexibility enables designers to experiment freely with different design elements and create visually appealing works of art in no time.

7. Sketch

Sketch

Sketch is a highly-acclaimed vector drawing program that has become one of the best alternatives to Adobe Illustrator. It offers several advanced features, such as shared libraries, real-time collaboration, and excellent capabilities for UI design and layouts.

Designers can easily create and manipulate objects in Sketch, making it an ideal tool for digital design. The program allows designers to export PDFs with clickable elements, which is particularly useful in creating prototypes or presenting designs to clients.

Additionally, Sketch is compatible with macOS and supports plugins, giving users plenty of customization options.

8. Boxy SVG

Boxy SVG

Boxy SVG is an excellent paid Adobe Illustrator alternative that is highly praised by graphic designers. It offers a clean and user-friendly interface, making it easy to use even for beginners.

Boxy SVG boasts an extensive toolkit that allows users to create scalable vector graphics quickly and efficiently. This software's most significant advantage over Adobe Illustrator is its ability to work specifically with Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) files, where it excels beyond other graphics editors.

This program has changed the game by offering a highly comprehensive approach dedicated solely to scaling vector graphics while also providing an intuitive structure within a moderately-priced package compared to its competitors like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and Sketch.

9. Graphic

Graphic

One of the best paid Adobe Illustrator alternatives is Graphic, a vector-based design software that offers powerful graphic design tools. It provides a user-friendly interface and allows users to easily create stunning digital illustrations.

With its comprehensive drawing tools and extensive support for different file formats, including PSD and AI files, Graphic stands out as one of the most flexible solutions available for professional designers.

It's perfect for creating logos, icons, and web graphics with precision and speed. Graphic is currently only available for Mac.

How To Choose The Best Adobe Illustrator Alternative

To choose the right Adobe Illustrator alternative, consider your budget, assess the learning curve, and analyze compatibility with other software.

Determine Your Purpose

Before choosing an Adobe Illustrator alternative, it's essential to determine your purpose. Will you use the software for professional design work or personal creative projects? The answer to this question will help you decide which alternative is best suited for your needs.

Another factor to consider in determining your purpose is the level of complexity required for your project. If you're a beginner looking for simple design tools that are easy to use, then Inkscape may be an ideal choice.

On the other hand, if you require advanced design features, then Affinity Designer or Sketch or might be perfect.

Consider Your Budget

When choosing an Adobe Illustrator alternative, it's essential to consider your budget. While some options may seem more affordable upfront, they may not have the same level of features or support as a higher-priced option.

For example, Inkscape is a free vector graphics editor that offers many of the same features as Adobe Illustrator but without the price tag. On the other hand, if you're willing to invest in a paid alternative, Affinity Designer provides robust design tools and compatibility with other industry-standard software at a reasonable cost.

Assess The Learning Curve

When choosing an Adobe Illustrator alternative, assessing the learning curve is crucial. Adobe Illustrator has a vast array of features and tools that can be overwhelming for beginners or those who are not tech-savvy.

However, there are several alternatives available that offer easier-to-learn interfaces and simpler tools without sacrificing functionality.

It's important to remember that each person's proficiency level and learning speed vary, so what works best for one individual may not work for another. Affinity Designer is often considered the best all-around alternative to Adobe Illustrator because of its ease of use and advanced functionalities suitable for both beginners and professionals.

Analyze Compatibility With Other Software

One crucial factor to consider when selecting an Adobe Illustrator alternative is its compatibility with other software. Since graphic designers often use multiple tools in their workflow, it's essential to ensure that your chosen design software will work seamlessly with the others you depend on.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Adobe Illustrator has been a popular vector editor for graphic designers over the years. However, many users don't like being forced into an on-going subscription payment. Fortunately, there are some excellent Illustrator alternatives with one-time payments, and others are free.

This article highlights some of the best free and paid alternatives available today. From Inkscape to Affinity Designer and Sketch, these design tools offer a range of powerful capabilities that bring creativity to life.