Finding one of the best vector editors is vital for any designer. While Photoshop and other image editors tend to get all the attention, if you're creating logos or any other work that has to look good at all sizes then you can't be working with bitmaps; instead you need to make your imagery using scalable vectors that'll look just as good on a billboard as they do on the printed page.
Working with vectors isn't as intuitive as with bitmaps; you need to think in terms of paths, Bézier curves, fills and gradients, and your first attempts at using vector editors are likely to be a lot more frustrating than getting to grips with the best digital art software. However some vector editors are more user-friendly than others and can guide you over the initial humps with helpful tutorials.
We've gathered together the very best vector editors available now, from high-end pro packages through to free apps. If you're after more than vectors, be sure to look at our guide to the best graphic design software for wider range of top creative solutions. And if you already have your heart set on Illustrator, get the best price by visiting our Creative Cloud discount page, or see today's best deal below.
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The best vector editors – paid-for
If you're serious about creating vector artwork then there's really only one choice, and that's Adobe Illustrator. Built for professionals, it's simply the best vector editor you can get, and broadly speaking if you want to get ahead in graphic design then you need to know how to get the best out of it. The initial learning curve can be a little steep, especially if you're new to creating vector artwork, but once you learn its ways, Illustrator will reward you with all the tools you're likely to need (and plenty more besides), and plenty of advanced features for quickly tracing existing artwork so that you can edit it on-screen.
Snapping at Illustrator's heels is the much cheaper but almost as good Affinity Designer. While it can't quite do everything that Illustrator can, it's easier to get to grips with, feels nicer and generally runs faster, and you won't need to worry about compatibility as it'll happily work with AI and PSD files. It also benefits from features that Illustrator doesn't give you, such as a one-million-plus zoom and infinite redos, and it comes at a much more attractive price that's a one-off payment rather than an ongoing subscription. Result!
Originally launched in 1989, CorelDRAW has been in the vector game for almost as long as Adobe Illustrator, and it's still a contender. Today it comes in three versions: there's CorelDRAW Essentials, a basic vector editor that's easy to learn and ideal for beginners, then there's CorelDRAW Standard, aimed at enthusiasts and home business, and finally there's CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, built for professionals with all the vector, typography and collaboration tools you'll need. Both Essentials and Standard can be had for a one-off payment; with CorelDRAW Graphics Suite you can either buy the current version outright or subscribe for a year at a time.
There are plenty of powerful and full-featured vector editors out there, but if you're on a Mac and all you need is an editor for making things like user interfaces and icons, Sketch may be a better bet than a heavyweight such as Illustrator. With a smaller set of features and much more user-friendly interface it's a lot easier to get to grips with than most vector editors, and while you'd never use it for creating detailed vector art it's perfect for quickly prototyping apps and websites. A Sketch licence will cost you $99 for a year, and you can carry on using it after the licence runs out; however if you want updates you'll need to renew it.
For Apple users, here's a great-value vector editor with an impressive array of features. Amadine's available for the Mac for $19.99/£19.99, and there's now also an iPad/iPhone version that you can get for $9.99/£9.99, and while it doesn't offer the full set of tools you'd find in any of our top vector editors, there's more than enough for most designers, whether you want to use it for illustration, graphic design, interface design or just making scalable icons. Aimed both at design professionals and creative enthusiasts, it's easy to use with a customisable UI and a decent collection of drawing and path editing tools, and it'll export your work as JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF and SVG.
The best vector editors – free
If you want a free, open source vector editor then Inkscape should fit the bill nicely. It's pretty much to Illustrator what GIMP is to Photoshop: a functional free alternative that'll do pretty much what you need, although you may find it a bit of a struggle at times. Like many free vector tools it's designed primarily to export SVG files, but it can open a good range of file formats including AI and CDR (CorelDRAW). It'll also run on older, less powerful computers; however its main issue is that it has a reputation for being a bit slow and laggy. If you can live with that, however, it's a good free option.
There are two versions of Gravit Designer available; you can pay for the Pro version, which is currently available for £49/year and offers an enticing set of vector tools, colour spaces, type options and much more, and which you can use as a downloadable app as well as in the browser. Alternatively there's a free, browser-only version that's a little more limited but still worth checking out. You're stuck with just an RGB colour space, it'll only export PDFs at up to 150 dpi and its import abilities are similarly limited, however it still packs a useful collection of drawing tools, and if you like the feel of it you can always upgrade to the Pro version.
A free browser-based vector editor, Vectr is an ideal choice if you need a basic set of vector tools and the ability to collaborate with others. Every image you work on has its own URL that you can share so that friends or colleagues can work on it too, and you can export the finished work as SVG, PNG or JPG. Unencumbered by advanced tools, Vectr's incredibly easy to use with some handy tutorials built in to help you get started. You'll struggle to get complex results out of it, but if all you need are simple graphics that you can create quickly, Vectr's just the thing to do it with.
Another vector editor you can use in the browser, Vecteezy offers similar ease-of-use to Vectr but edges slightly ahead in terms of tools available. There's a strong set of vector and type tools to work with, as well as plenty of ready-made elements to use and customise, and Vectr also enables you to work quickly with keyboard shortcuts and some advanced transformation tools. You'll need to create an account if you want to save your work, however it'll export as SVG or PNG. And if you like what you see, there's also a Pro version with additional features.