The best free graphic design software

Not everyone has the cash to spend kitting themselves out with the most expensive graphic design software, particularly when starting a new business or embarking on a new career in design. 

There's no denying that paid-for creative software – like Adobe's fantastic Creative Cloud suite of applications – will always be better than a freebie. 

But for those who don't want to pay and have time to do the groundwork, there is some free graphic design software out there that will do the job well.

To save you from doing said groundwork, we've compiled this list and divided it into five sections – use the drop-down menu above to navigate to the page you want.

01. Gravit Designer

Gravit Designer delivers a full vector toolkit for free
  • Platform: Online, PC, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS

Previously known as plain old Gravit, 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. 

02. Vectr

Vectr's online options make it great for live collaboration
  • Platform: Online, Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebook

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 enabling you to hook up with anyone, anywhere, to create in tandem.

03. SVG-Edit

Free graphic design software SVG Edit

Although SVG-Edit is limited to the SVG format it's surprisingly capable
  • Platform: Web Browser

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. SVG (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.

This is built entirely on HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript without requiring any server-side processing. So not only can you use it to create and edit documents, but as it's open source you can also download and modify the code – making your own version if you want.

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.

04. Inkscape

Free graphic design software Inkscape

Free graphic design software Inkscape has very good SVG integration
  • Platform: Windows/Linux (Mac possible if you're technically minded)

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.

There are source binaries available for Windows, Linux and Mac, and compiled versions currently offered for Windows and Linux.

Next page: More free image editing software