Is this art app a worthy Illustrator alternative?

Illustrator Tammy Coron takes professional vector graphics software Inkscape for a test drive.

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a simple vector graphics application and you can't afford the higher price tag of Adobe Illustrator, this is a worthy alternative. It has all of the tools you'll need to create high-end vector graphics, and it won't leave your pockets empty. However, the lag made it feel almost unusable at times. Here's hoping that future releases will take this app to the level it's capable of reaching.

For

  • Free
  • Endless filters
  • Bonus new effects tools

Against

  • Painfully slow
  • Requires X11 to work

Creating vector graphics on a shoestring budget is a little easier thanks to open source software like Inkscape. But is it truly an alternative to the industry standard, more expensive Adobe Illustrator?

The Pros

Let's start with the obvious: cost. Inkscape is open source which means it's free to use, edit, and incorporate into other programs. For anyone on a budget, this is quite possibly the best reason to give it a try.

Another upside are the endless filters one can apply to their images. This includes bevels, textures, overlays and more. To be honest, I spent quite a bit of time playing with the filters. The image below was created using just a few a shapes and a handful of filters.

Inkscape review

As expected, Inkscape includes the usual toolset one would expect from a drawing app: Layers, Shapes, Text, Fills, etc. But it also includes some obscure tools such as the Spiral tool. Seeing as I'm a huge Tim Burton fan, this was an unexpected – and welcome – bonus.

As for the interface… for the most part, it follows the usual design pattern. The default view is configured to show the various tools on the left with additional "Snap Control" options on the right. While the interface isn't entirely intuitive, it is something you can get used to after using it a bit.

Inkscape review

Speaking about the interface, it's worth noting that Inkscape is an X11 app, and as such, the interface may feel a bit different than a native Mac application. It also may run a little slower.

The cons

I had high hopes for Inkscape. And to some degree they were met. Unfortunately, from a usability standpoint, Inkscape fell a little short; at least for me.

One major setback was the painfully obvious lag. As I started adding more and more objects, and then applying filters to those objects, the app slowed to a crawl. In some cases, it would take a few seconds for the zoom features to work. This was unbelievably frustrating. On the plus side, I didn't notice the lag as much when less filters weren't present.

Something else that was a bit off-putting was the fact that Inkscape requires X11 in order to work. Apple no longer ships with X11 so another Open Source application needs to be installed in order to use Inkscape. For some, this is a complete turn off. For me, it wasn't a huge deal, but it was still another extra step I would have rather been able to skip.

The Verdict

4

out of 10

Inkscape

If you're looking for a simple vector graphics application and you can't afford the higher price tag of Adobe Illustrator, this is a worthy alternative. It has all of the tools you'll need to create high-end vector graphics, and it won't leave your pockets empty. However, the lag made it feel almost unusable at times. Here's hoping that future releases will take this app to the level it's capable of reaching.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tammy Coron is an iOS developer, backend developer, web developer, writer, and illustrator. She blogs at Just Write Code.