The best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives 2023
The best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives lets you create and edit vector graphics without subscribing to Creative Cloud.
When it comes to creative apps, it can feel as if Adobe has cornered the entire market. From Photoshop to Adobe Illustrator, when it comes to design work, the company’s products have become the industry-standard.
But Adobe is far from the only developer of quality graphic design software. And plenty of artists and designers are keen to avoid the ecosphere. Some users have found a complex interface that threatens to overwhelm budding new artists. And issues around the Creative Cloud subscription model - the only way to get Illustrator - abound.
Thankfully, the best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives offer genuine replacement for the popular digital art software. Unlike raster graphics, these programs use mathematical expressions to draw the lines, shapes and colors, allowing them to infinitely scalable, so you can blow an image up to the size of a billboard with no obvious pixilation.
However, not all Adobe Illustrator alternatives are created equal. Some have limited features, a handful only support certain file formats, and others are bundled with unwanted extra software.
To help you choose the right tool for you (and your creative workflow), we’ve tested the best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives for creating icons, logos, diagrams, charts, posters and website graphics.
Didn’t click with Photoshop and Lightroom? We’ve also tested the best Photoshop alternatives and the best Adobe Lightroom alternatives.
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The best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives in full:
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 Inkscape review.
Best browser-based editor
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.
Best for new users
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.
Best basic vector editor
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.
Best for web developers
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.
How to choose the best alternative to Illustrator for you
We put the question to Klaus Vossen, Senior Product Manager for CorelDraw . How to go about choosing the best graphics design software for to reach creative nirvana.
Here’s what to look for:
1. Comprehensive tools to speed up your workflow When choosing design software, it’s important to decide on something that offers everything you need to express your creative vision all in one application. Look for a product that not only offers powerful tools for vector illustration, multi-page layout, and typography, but photo editing too.
2. High-quality bitmap-to-vector conversions Designers are often tasked with converting low-resolution bitmaps to vector images, making this a key feature to look for in your design software choice. Some applications use artificial intelligence to process a low-resolution bitmap image and turn it into a vector file which can then be scaled up to a much larger size without losing quality. This is arguably one of the most important tools you’ll need in professional graphics design, particularly if you work with large-scale printing.
3. Dependable color management If printing is a large part of what you do, you’ll want to make sure your software includes dependable color management tools so you don’t end up with any unwanted surprises when your work comes back from the printer. When embarking on your vector illustration journey, take some time to understand color palettes, color proofing, and color profiles to make the best possible images. Professional-level color management can provide an accurate representation of color throughout the entire process.
4. Professional output format capabilities Professional output formats let you send images to printers and embroiders, or to share digital files with clients and colleagues. Choose a program that offers extensive file support to ensure you can use your files across multiple applications that may be part of your day-to-day work. If you’re working with design files and building your brand, it’s worth investing time into vector graphic design, which has plenty of practical applications. Select a professional tool that can address all your graphics needs with a variety of output formats so you can work faster and smarter than ever before.
How we test
How we test the best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives
When testing the best Adobe Illustrator alternatives, we start by assessing what features the free drawing software has in comparison to Adobe's premium tool.
We dive into UI design, making sure users can easily navigate through the apps and create the designs so vivid in their imaginations. Even the most advanced digital art tool should have clear documentation to guide users so they can master the tool.
We also assess what extra tools and features are available - or where restrictions or limitations are evident.
Finally, we make sure that free really means free. Users shouldn't face hidden charges or subscriptions - any fees and upgrades must be clearly signposted.
See how we test, review, and rate on TechRadar