Our top choice of the perfect free graphic design software
Despite the fact that graphic design software is costly and some students or those who wanted to have theirs could not afford it. But that doesn’t mean that those who can’t afford to splash out on one-off payments or commit to subscriptions have to go without – there is some excellent free graphic design software out there with features to rival the big name packages. And depending on what you’re trying to achieve, even if you’ve already shelled out for paid-for creative apps like Adobe’sCreative Cloud suite – which we highly recommend you get if you can – you may still find these free tools useful. Here are our best free graphic design tools – divided into sections for creating vector art, editing images, creating data visualisations and other useful tools you might like – use the menu above to navigate to the section you want.
01. Gravit Designer
Gravit Designer is a full-featured vector design app suitable for all manner of jobs, from screen and icon designs through to presentations, illustration and animation.
With a clean and intuitive interface that adjusts itself as you need it, this free graphic design software packs a wealth of tools for creating detailed and beautiful vector imagery, including non-destructive booleans, a knife tool and path graphs, plus multiple fills and blending modes, and a powerful text engine.
It’ll export as PDF, SVG or bitmap, and if you need to access a project on the go, there’s the Gravit Cloud service that enables you to get to your work wherever you are.
Available both as a browser-based web app and as a stand-alone desktop app, Vectr is a free editor for creating 2D vector graphics. With all the vector features you’d hope for, plus plenty of options for using filters, shadows and fonts, it’s versatile enough for day-to-day design tasks. Particularly useful are its live collaboration and synchronisation options, which enable you to hook up with anyone, anywhere, to create in tandem. This is a genuine alternative to Adobe Illustrator CC.
If you’re looking to quickly output SVG or edit an existing SVG file, there are a few online editors that will do the job just as well as Adobe Illustrator. SVP (scalable vector graphics) is an open format that allows you to reproduce your Vector drawings programmatically, and one of the nicest projects is SVG-Edit.
The standard – albeit basic – toolset of every vector-image editor is here, and although it’s limited to the SVG format, it’s surprisingly capable.
As with many of the free options available, Inkscape focuses on the SVG format as its primary file format. This highly capable editor has a very good SVG integration, supporting many of the more advanced features that aren’t always available in other apps – such as alpha blending, cloned objects and markers.
Full support for different colour modes means this is a viable alternative to Illustrator for both print and web design, and although the interface is somewhat simpler than Illustrator, it’s still possible to achieve extremely sophisticated artwork. Of particular note is the ability to trace bitmap images, support for variable width strokes and native import of Illustrator files.
It seems harsh to place Canva under the ‘Image Editing Software’ heading because it does so much more. Canva is a photo editor, colour palette tool, font combination picker, learning resource, and photo collage maker, and it even features a dedicated infographic maker with hundreds of free design elements and fonts at your fingertips. It’s really more of a full graphic design suite than a photo editor, and while it comes some way short of offering the breadth of abilities of Adobe Creative Cloud, its simplicity, variety of useful tools, and inspirational learning assets make Canva a hit. You can use Canva in the browser for the full experience, but most tools are available for both Android and iOS.
06.Photo Pos Pro
If you’re on a Windows PC and need a decent set of image editing tools without Photoshop’s price tag or GIMP’s immense toolset, Photo Pos Pro should hit the spot. Built with image enhancement and editing in mind, it’s perfect for typical photo editing tasks such as fixing contrast, lighting and saturation, but it’ll also stretch to more advanced techniques.
It boasts an extremely user-friendly interface as well as an in-depth help system to get you started, and if you want to expand its tools to fit your needs, there are plenty of expansions and plugins available
07. Sumo Paint
Sumo Paint is a highly capable browser-based image editor. All the standard features you’d expect from a desktop tool are present and correct (and by buying the Pro version you can install a desktop version of the app if you prefer).
You need the Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you’re not going be using Sumo Paint on your iPad. That said, it’s lightweight and quick to load, and the free version is very usable. The standard range of tools and adjustments you’d expect are all included. Brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning, gradients and so on are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-esque floating toolbar. It can also open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumo Paint a perfectly viable option for editing and re-editing.
08. SketchUp Free
For getting your first foothold in the world of 3D, it’s hard to go wrong with SketchUp, and its free version, Sketchup Free, is an ideal starting point. It provides a friendly and forgiving introduction to building stuff in 3D, starting you off by simply drawing lines and shapes that you can then push and pull around to turn them into 3D forms.
If you need a bit of inspiration, you can search the SketchUp 3D Warehouse’s immense library of models and download them for free.
If you’re interested in the art of digital sculpting, check out 3D software Sculptris from Pixologic. Perfect for all skill levels, the software is a great starting point for users new to the discipline, while more experienced CG artists will find the it a quick and easy way to realise concepts.
Sculptris is based on Pixologic’s ZBrush, the most widely-used digital sculpting application in today’s market. So, when you’re ready to move on to the next level of detailing, skills learned in Sculptris can be directly translated into ZBrush.
10. Google Charts
Google Charts tools are powerful, simple to use, and free. You can choose from a variety of charts and configure an extensive set of options to perfectly match the look and feel of your website. By connecting your data in real time, Google Charts is the perfect infographics generator for your website.