The best free graphic design software

Three iPhones show image editing

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 of the best options around and divided it into five sections – use the drop-down menu to navigate to the section you want.

Free vector art software

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.

Image editing software

05. Photo Pos Pro

Need to fix your photos? Photo Pos Pro can do that and more
  • Platform: PC

If you're on PC and need a decent set of image editing tools without Photoshop's price tag or GIMP's immense toolset, Photo Pos Pro should hit your sweet spot. Built with image enhancement and editing in mind, it's perfect for typical photo editing tasks such as fixing contrast, lighting and saturation, but it'll also stretch to more advanced techniques. 

It boasts an extremely user-friendly interface as well as an in-depth help system to get you started, and if you want to expand its tools to fit your needs there are plenty of expansions and plugins available.

06. Krita

Krita has been in development since 1999
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Designed with the VFX industry and concept artists, illustrators, matte 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 full set of brushes suitable for all manner of work, and there's a whole host of plugins available, from advanced filters to painting assistants for perspective work. 

Notable features include brush stabilisers to smooth out any shaky lines, a wrap-around mode for creating seamless textures and patterns, and a pop-up palette for quick colour-picking.

07. Pixlr

Free graphic design software Pixlr

Free graphic design software Pixlr comes with more than 600 effects
  • Platform: iOS, Android

Free graphic design software Pixlr claims to be 'the most popular online photo editor in the world'. It boasts more than 600 effects, overlays and borders, and lets you do all the main things you'd expect from a photo editor, from cropping and resizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.

If you're used to using Photoshop, then you'll find Pixlr's user interface easy to pick up, as it's very similar. This free app is available in both iOS and Android varieties.

8. Paint.NET

Free graphic design software Paint net

For photo editing, free graphic design software Paint.NET is an excellent alternative to Photoshop

  • Platform: Windows

Paint.NET is a Windows-based alternative to the Paint editor that Microsoft shipped with versions of Windows. Don't let that put you off, though, as it's surprisingly capable, useful and free graphic design software.

The focus is on ease of use, and there's a definite tendency towards photo editing rather than artistic creation. That said, there are a range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend and push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, and so on.

A good range of selection tools, support for layers, and adjustments such as curves and brightness/contrast mean that Paint.NET is a great alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop's toolset.

09. Sumo Paint

Free graphic design software Sumo Paint works in the browser
  • Platform: Web browser (requires Adobe Flash Player)

Sumo Paint is a highly capable browser-based image editor. All the standard features you'd expect from a desktop tool are present and correct (and by buying the Pro version you can install a desktop version of the app if you prefer).

You need the Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you're not going be using Sumo Paint on your iPad. That said, it's lightweight and quick to load, and the free version is very usable.

The standard range of tools and adjustments you'd expect are all included. Brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning, gradients and so on are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-esque floating toolbar. It can also open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumo Paint a perfectly viable option for editing and re-editing.

10. GIMP

Free graphic design software GIMP

GIMP is a popular, free graphic design software alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac

Open-source free graphic design software that debuted on Unix-based platforms, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it's available in versions for Linux, Windows and Mac.

GIMP's interface differs somewhat from Photoshop, but a version of GIMP is available that mimics Adobe's look and feel, making it easier to migrate over if you're ditching Photoshop. The full suite of tools is available here – everything you're accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection and enhancement.

The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You'll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe's Bridge.

Free 3D software

11. SketchUp Make

3D becomes much easier if you use SketchUp
  • Platform: PC, Mac

For getting your first foothold in the world of 3D, it's hard to go wrong with SketchUp, and its free version, Sketchup Free, is an ideal starting point. It provides a friendly and forgiving introduction to building stuff in 3D, starting you off by simply drawing lines and shapes that you can then push and pull around to turn them into 3D forms. 

If you need a bit of inspiration, you can search the SketchUp 3D Warehouse's immense library of models and download them for free.

12. Daz Studio

Free 3D software

3D software Daz Studio is available to download completely free of charge
  • Platform: Mac, Windows

Daz Studio is a 3D figure customisation, posing and animation tool that enables artists of all skill levels to creating digital art using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories and environments.

With Daz Studio, you can create custom 3D characters and avatars, design virtual environments, produce graphic design elements and much more. There's also a handy table that shows you what this free tool offers in comparison to its paid alternatives (scroll down here).

13. Hexagon

Also from Daz3D is Hexagon, a free 3D modelling tool. Hexagon includes everything you need to create detailed 3D models ready for final render. Features include DAZ Studio Bridge, sculpted primitives, freehand modelling brushes, micro-displacement modelling tools, comprehensive UV-mapping modules, advanced 3D paint, and instant ambient occlusion. 

Use it alongside Daz Studio for a complete 3D suite, for free. Ideal for those just getting started with 3D.

14. Blender

Free graphic design software Blender

The superb animation Big Buck Bunny was made using free graphic design software tool Blender
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

If you're serious about 3D but struggling to afford software, then you're in luck. Blender is a free, open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems.

Started by Blender Foundation founder Ton Roosendaal back in 2002, Blender is now largest open source tool for 3D creation. Its makers are constantly working on its development, but you can pretty much do anything 3D related with this software, including modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and compositing.

15. Sculptris

Free graphic design software Sculptris

Master the art of digital sculpting with Pixologic's free graphic design software Sculptris
  • Platform: Mac, Windows

If you're interested in the art of digital sculpting, check out 3D software Sculptris from Pixologic. Perfect for all skill levels, the software is a great starting point for users new to the discipline, while more experienced CG artists will find the software a quick and easy way to realise concepts.

Sculptris is based on Pixologic's ZBrush, the most widely-used digital sculpting application in today's market. So, when you're ready to move on to the next level of detailing, skills learned in Sculptris can be directly translated into ZBrush.

16. Houdini Apprentice

Free graphic design software Houdini

Get to grips with the Houdini graphic design software with this free Apprentice version
  • Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Houdini is a 3D animation and visual effects tool, used widely throughout the media industry for film, broadcast, entertainment and visualisation. And its cheapest version costs just a little under $2000.

But the makers of the programme – Side Effects Software – are a good bunch and, knowing that cost can be an issue, offer an Apprentice version for free. With this you can access all the features of the full version in order to develop your skills and work on personal projects. The programme is purely for use non-commercial and learning purposes.

Free data visualisation software

17. Google Charts


Display real live data with Google Charts
  • Platform: Web browser

Google Charts tools are powerful, simple to use, and free. You can choose from a variety of charts and configure an extensive set of options to perfectly match the look and feel of your website. By connecting your data in real time, Google Charts is the perfect infographic generator for your website.


free graphic design software Vizualize

Free graphic design software hints at how resumes could look in the future
  • Platform: Web browser

It was only a matter of time before an infographic resume generator turned up. With this you can visualise your resume in one click and also take a look at previous examples. Enabling people to express their professional accomplishments in a simple yet compelling personal visualisation, we think this is an option worth exploring.


Free graphic design software Easel ly

Free graphic design software offers a dozen free templates to start you off
  • Platform: Web browser

This free web-based infographic tool offers you a dozen free templates to start you off, all of which are easily customisable.

You get access to a library of things like arrows, shapes and connector lines, and you can customise the text with range of fonts, colours, text styles and sizes. The tool also lets you upload your graphics and position them with one touch.

20. Infogram

Free graphic design software Infogr am

Create infographics for your website or to share on social media
  • Platform: Web browser

Infogram is a great free tool that offers access to a wide variety of graphs, charts and maps as well as the ability to upload pictures and videos to create cool infographics.

The data upon which the infographics are based can be found in an Excel-style spreadsheet, which the user can easily edit and see the results change in real time. When you're happy with your infographic you can publish it to the Infogram website for all to enjoy, or embed it in to your own website or share it via social media.

Other useful free tools

21. Klex

Klex is an easy-to-use way of creating great designs quickly

  • Platform: Online, PC, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS

Made by the people behind Gravit Design, and sharing the same engine, Klex is an easy-to-learn and accessible tool for anyone who wants to create impressive graphics in just a few clicks. While obviously not aimed at pro designers, it's a perfect tool for anyone who wants to quickly bang out memorable designs. There's a plethora of ready-made templates to choose from, plus thousands of assets and a great selection of effects and filters, as well as customisation options and a load of fonts and text assets.

22. Expression Web 4

Expression Web is free graphic design software to download from Microsoft's website
  • Platform: Windows

If you're a PC user, Microsoft has made its Expression Web 4.0 software free of charge. There's no tech support available for free downloaders but its a pretty powerful alternative to likes of Dreamweaver that won't cost you a penny. In this article, illustrator, artist and graphic designer Stefan Lindblad explains why it offers an alternative worth investigating.

23. Google Fonts

Free graphic design software Google Web Fonts

No list of great free graphic design software would be complete without Google Fonts

The Google Web Fonts project – renamed Google Fonts – is an extensive catalogue of free and open source designer web fonts, presented in an intuitive directory. The initiative invites users to explore and test fonts in more than 135 languages, and create their own customised collections of font families.

24. Behance

free graphic design software Behance

Sign up for Behance using either your email address or via your social network

With millions of views each month, online creative community Behance is a key resource for artists of all disciplines. It's a fantastic way to see what your peers are up to, as well as finding new work and creative inspiration from top web designers and agencies. Find the best ways to get your work noticed on Behance here.

25. WordPress

Create your own portfolio blog with Wordpress

There are a whole lot of designers who don't have their own blog, but it's a great way to showcase your fantastic work, get recognition in your industry, earn extra income and get new clients. WordPress is the most popular platform for blogging, and while it can be a little fiddly to set up, there's lots of helpful information online to get you going. Check out these articles:

26. Dribbble

Free graphic design software Dribbble

Dribbble is a great source of inspiration as well as a designer's tool

Dribbble enables designers to share their creations easily, and is a good source of inspiration as well as a great way to promote your own work. Check out this article to find out which designers you should be following on Dribbble.

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