Graphic design software is necessary for amateur and pro alike, making life more comfortable in an expensive, tech-heavy industry. So I have thought long and hard about it then listed the highly-rated tools when it comes to inexpensively pimping out your digital toolkit.
Additionally, there are lots of the best free graphic design software to choose from. And, although these options probably do not offer you the fancy features found in class-leading, paid-for options like Adobe Creative Cloud, with the best combination of the tools below, you can do almost any design job.
Besides, it is often simpler to learn to use free graphic design software than the more complex software & menus of the subscription-based or more expensive programs. Furthermore, choosing what you get for free, meaning that you can splash out in other areas to combine free & premium tools.
The best free graphic design software
1. Vector art software
2. Image editing software
3. 3D software
4. Data visualisation software
5. Other useful tools
Free graphic design software: Vector art
Platform: Mac OS, Windows, Linux
Inkscape focuses explicitly on the SVG format as its primary file format. This competent editor contains an excellent SVG integration, supporting many of the more advanced features that are not always available in other apps like alpha blending, cloned objects, & markers.
Full support for different color modes means this is a viable alternative to Illustrator for print & web design. Although the UI is somewhat more straightforward than Illustrator, it is still possible to achieve too sophisticated artwork. Of particular note are the ability to trace bitmap images, support variable-width strokes, & native Illustrator files.
2. Gravit Designer
Platform: Browser, macOS, Windows, Linux, ChromeOS
Gravit Designer is the best full-featured vector design app from the company behind Corel Draw. It is suitable for all design jobs, from the screen, app, and icon designs to presentations, animation, and illustration.
With a clean & intuitive UI that adjusts itself as you need it, this free graphic design software packs a wealth of tools for creating detailed and elegant vector imagery. It includes non-destructive booleans, path graphs, a knife tool, multiple fills & blending modes, and a robust text engine.
Moreover, you can use the Gravit Designer online or download a copy to your computer. Remember that you automatically start on a (free) trial of Gravit Designer Pro when you sign-up; when your trial is over, your transition to the free version but lose the Pro features unless you pay for a subscription.
However, Gravit Designer’s free version is still perfect. You can export as SVG, PDF, or bitmap, and you get access to the Gravit Cloud service that allows you to get to your work wherever you’re.
Vecteezy is the top free, in-browser online editor, enabling you to edit & customize Vecteezy’s existing vectors or create vector designs from scratch. It is straightforward to use and is surprisingly robust for a free tool, with keyboard shortcuts & advanced transformations built into the feature set. You have to create an account to save your work; joining the pro version gives you many tools & resources.
Free software: Image creating and editing
4. Photo Pos Pro
If you are on a Windows PC and required a decent set of image editing tools without Photoshop’s price tag or GIMP’s immense toolset, Photo Pos Pro is the perfect destination. Built with image enhancement & editing in mind, it’s ideal for typical photo editing tasks like fixing contrast, lighting, and saturation, but it will also stretch to more advanced techniques.
Moreover, it boasts an extremely user-friendly interface and an in-depth help system to get you started, and if you wish to expand its tools to fit your requirements, there are plenty of expansions & plugins available.
Platform: Browser, Android, iOS
Canva is the incredible photo editor, color palette tool, learning resource, font combination picker, and photo collage, maker. It also features a dedicated infographic maker with thousands of free design elements & fonts at your fingertips.
The top laptops for photo editing
It is more of a full graphic design suite than a photo editor. While it comes some way short of providing the breadth of abilities of Adobe Creative Cloud, its simplicity, variety of beneficial tools, and inspirational learning assets make Canva a hit. Furthermore, you can use Canva in the browser for the full experience, but most tools are available for both Android & iOS.
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS
Specially designed with the VFX industry and concept artists, matte, illustrators, and texture artists in mind, Krita is a free and open-source painting tool that’s been in development since 1999. It comes with a complete set of brushes suitable for all manner of work, and there is a whole host of plug-ns available, from advanced filters to painting assistants for perspective work.
Also, notable features include brush stabilizers to smooth out any shaky lines, a wrap-around mode for creating seamless textures & patterns, a pop-up palette for quick color-picking.
Paint.NET is the top Windows-based alternative to the Paint editor that Microsoft shipped with versions of Windows. And please don’t allow that put you off, though, as it’s surprisingly capable, use graphic design software.
Furthermore, the focus is on ease of use, and there is a definite tendency towards photo editing instead of artistic creation. That said, there’s a massive range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend & push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, etc.
A vast range of selection tools, support for layers, & adjustments like curves and brightness/contrast mean that Paint.NET is the best alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop’s toolset.
Platform: Android, iOS
Free graphic design tool Pixlr claims to be ‘the most famous and leading online photo editor in the world.’ It boasts over 2 million combinations of free filters, overlays & borders. It allows you to do all the main things you would expect from a photo editor, from cropping and resizing to removing red-eye & whitening teeth.
If you are used to using Photoshop, then you will find Pixlr’s UI easy to pick up, as it is very similar. And this free app is available in both iOS & Android varieties. Remember that the app does offer in-app purchases, you can pay $2.99/£2.99 to remove the ads, for instance, and you even pay extra for things like borders and stickers.
9. Sumo Paint
Platform: Browser (requires Adobe Flash Player)
Sumo Paint is a competent browser-based image editor. All the standard and unique features you would expect from a desktop tool are present & correct (by buying the Pro version, you can install a desktop version of the app if you want).
You required the Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you will not be using Sumo Paint on your iPad. That said, it is lightweight & quick to load; the free version is very usable.
The standard range of tools & adjustments you would expect is all included. Brushes, pencils, text, shapes, cloning, gradients, etc., are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-Esque floating toolbar. It can even open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumo Paint a perfectly viable option for editing and re-editing.
Free graphic design software: 3D
10. Houdini Apprentice
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS
Houdini is a 3D animation & visual effects tool used widely throughout the media industry for a movie, broadcast, entertainment, and visualization. Additionally, its cheapest version costs just a little under $2,000.
The makers of the program – SideFX – are a good bunch and, knowing that cost can be an issue, provide an Apprentice version for free. With this, you can access all the full version features to develop your skills & work on personal projects. The program is purely for use, non-commercial, and also learning purposes.
Hexagon is the best free 3D modeling tool. Hexagon includes everything you required to create detailed 3D models ready for the final render. Features include Daz Studio 3D Bridge, freehand modeling brushes, sculpted primitives, micro-displacement modeling tools, advanced 3D paint, comprehensive UV-mapping modules, & instant ambient occlusion.
Additionally, use it alongside Daz Studio for a complete 3D suite, for free, ideal for those just getting started with 3D.
Platform: Windows, Linux, macOS
If you are serious about 3D but struggling to afford software, then you are in luck. Blender is a free, open-source 3D content creation suite readily available for all major operating systems.
Moreover, Blender Foundation founder, Ton Roosendaal, started back in 2002; Blender is now the most comprehensive open-source tool for 3D creation. Its makers are working on its development always, but you can pretty much do anything 3D related with this software, including modeling, texturing, rendering animation, and compositing.
13. SketchUp Free
Sketchup Free is an ideal starting point. It offers a friendly & forgiving introduction to building stuff in 3D, starting you off by just drawing lines and shapes that you can then push and pull around to turn them into 3D forms.
In case you required a bit of inspiration, you can search the SketchUp 3D Warehouse’s vast library of models & download them for free.
Free graphic design software: data visualization
Infogram is the best free tool that provides access to a massive variety of graphs, charts, and maps and uploading pictures & videos to create cool infographics.
Moreover, the data upon which the infographics are based can be found in an Excel-style spreadsheet, which the user can effortlessly edit and see the results change in real-time. When you are happy with your infographic, you can publish it on the Infogram site for all to enjoy, embed it into your site, or share it through social media.
It was just a matter of time before an infographic resume generator turned up. With this, you can visualize your resume in one tap and look at previous instances & resume templates. Enabling folks to express their professional accomplishments in a straightforward yet compelling personal visualization, I think this is an option worth exploring.
Free graphic design software: Other free tools
Platform: Browser, Android, iOS
Find Behance here
With millions of views each month, the online creative community Behance is a crucial resource for artists of all disciplines. It is a fantastic way to see what your peers are up to, as well as finding new work and creative inspiration from top web and graphic designers, agencies, and illustrators.
Platform: Browser, iOS, Android
Dribbble allows designers to share their creations easily and is the best source of inspiration and a great way to promote your work.
Platform: Browser, Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Linux.
Made by the folks behind Gravit Design and sharing the same engine, Klex is a simple-to-learn and accessible tool for anyone who wishes to create impressive graphics in just a few clicks. While not aimed at pro designers, it is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to quickly bang out unique designs.
There are many ready-made templates to choose from, and thousands of assets, a great selection of effects & filters, customization options, and a load of fonts and text assets.