When it comes to professional vector design software, Adobe Illustrator is widely considered the gold standard. With a huge feature set and massive level of design power, it’s the software of choice for most professional graphic and web designers.
However, Adobe’s recent move to a subscription-based billing model with the CC (Creative Cloud) product suite has made many former Illustrator users search for something without the hefty monthly price tag.
These five Illustrator alternative applications each have their own benefits and downsides. However, each can serve as a solid replacement for graphic designers that need a powerful, user-friendly vector application for Windows or Mac.
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Want an open source Illustrator alternative? Inkscape is a completely free vector graphics editor available for Windows and OS X, making it the perfect alternative choice for budget-conscious designers on both mainstream operating systems.
Inkscape’s interface is easy to use but still packed with useful features that make it an excellent choice for print designers, web designers and illustrators. It’s also well optimized and fast, making it a better choice than Illustrator for low-end PCs.
Some of Inkscape’s most useful features include its opacity settings, transformations and excellent selection of gradient options. While it isn’t quite as powerful as Adobe Illustrator, it’s hard to pick out faults in software that’s completely free to use.
Although professional designers will likely want to stick with a paid application for their vector designs, Inkscape’s features make it a great choice for casual designers looking for a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
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While Inkscape offers a free alternative to Illustrator, CorelDRAW is its primary paid competitor. A professional vector graphics editing application, CorelDRAW is one of the most popular professional vector design applications on the market.
CorelDRAW isn’t just one application – it’s actually a suite of applications including a bitmap image editor, photo editor and more. Priced in line with Adobe’s software, its primary audience is professional designers looking for an Illustrator alternative.
Unlike Inkscape and Illustrator, which are both available for Mac and Windows, the entire CorelDRAW software suite is only available for Windows. With a price that’s similar to Adobe’s, CorelDRAW is really only suitable for professional designers.
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DrawPlus X6 is the latest edition of DrawPlus – Serif’s professional vector drawing software. Available in free and professional editions, it’s a powerful piece of design software that includes most of the features found in Adobe Illustrator.
With a wide variety of pre-built templates, DrawPlus X6 is a good software choice for new graphic designers looking to familiarize themselves with the structure of business cards, brochures and more before designing their own from scratch.
Like CorelDRAW, DrawPlus X6 is only available for Windows. With a fantastic user interface and enough features to satisfy the amateur designer, it’s a good option for amateur designers seeking a user-friendly, inexpensive vector graphics tool.
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Who says you need a computer to use graphic design software? iDraw is a vector design and illustration app for Mac and iOS, making it a little different from most Adobe Illustrator alternatives.
Despite being available for Mac and iPad, iDraw’s interface is packed with useful features and doesn’t feel at all ‘dumbed down.’ The iPad version is less powerful, which is understandable, but it remains good enough for basic graphic design.
All of the basic vector editing features – fonts, shapes, arrows and lines – are easy to find in iDraw’s interface. Although it’s not made by Apple (as its name may suggest), it’s fully compatible with iCloud, making it easy to sync designs on Mac and iPad.
The Mac and iPad versions of iDraw are priced differently – the iPad version costs $8.99 and the OS X version is $24.99. Although there’s no need to buy both, they’re obviously designed to complement each other and work very well together.
Along with iDraw, there are hundreds of great image and vector editing apps for iOS and Android. Complete your mobile graphic design suite using our blog post on the best free photo editing apps for iOS and Android.
While Illustrator and CorelDRAW are ideal for designing magazine layouts and print media graphics, they can fall short when it comes to digital design. Sketch is a vector design application for Mac that’s built from the ground up for digital design.
From websites and application interfaces to icons and buttons, Sketch is perfect for designing the essential elements of modern software. It’s also amazingly easy to use, especially for designers already familiar with software like Adobe Illustrator.
With a design that’s unbelievably polished and streamlined, Sketch is more than just an alternative to Illustrator – it’s also a great complementary application for graphic designers that want to focus on the digital side of graphic design.
From being able to export CSS styles and custom properties to automatically syncing up with iCloud, Sketch is a fantastic piece of software. Available only for Mac, Sketch is priced at $79.99 and delivers plenty of value for the modern digital designer.
Which Illustrator alternative is best?
Each of the above applications replicates (or, in some cases, improves on) the main features offered by Adobe Illustrator. Some, like iDraw and Sketch, are designed to achieve a specific purpose, while others are more specific Illustrator alternatives.
If you’re searching for a professional Illustrator alternative, CorelDRAW is arguably the best choice of the above. However, open source applications like Inkscape and specialized design apps like Sketch also deserve a place in any designer’s toolkit.