Adobe Illustrator CC is a superb vector editing tool that's ideal for print work, web mockups and logo design. But it's also quite expensive and has a steep learning curve for novice users. So what are the Illustrator alternatives?
Since Adobe bought Macromedia and pensioned off Freehand, you might think that the options for vector editing were limited to the Creative Cloud – but there's actually a wealth of very capable software out there for every platform, ranging from desktop applications to web apps.
Common to practically all vector editors is support for the open SVG format, which makes it easy for you to export your artwork in code and render it from that code directly on your website. That doesn't mean that all vector-based image tools are created equal, though, so we’ve picked out five of the best for you to investigate. Let us know what you think of them!
01. Corel Draw X6
- Platform: Windows
- Price: £478.79
This alternative to Illustrator is an old favourite from Corel – it's been around for more than 20 years and is a mature, fully-featured application as a result.
All the standard vector editing tools are here, as well as an intuitive colour palette system and a fun set of vector shaping tools that allow you to distort basic vectors into more organic shapes.
There's also support for object styles, which can be applied to any element on your canvas including text – much as in Adobe's software.
Other interesting features include the ability to draw placeholder content for page layouts, built-in support for application scripting and advanced fill options that allow you to fill an object with bitmap artwork.
One interesting point of note is that Corel Draw will happily open Microsoft Publisher files, which could be a major timesaver for designers who have clients that send artwork in that format.
Corel is keen to sell you the Corel Draw Suite rather than the standalone product, so you do get a lot for your money including 10,000 clipart files, 1,000 high resolution stock images, 1,000 fonts and 350 templates as well as Corel's alternative to Photoshop, Photo-Paint X6, and a website development tool thrown in.
- Platform: Web Browser
- Price: Free
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.
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an open format that allows you to reproduce your Vector drawings programmatically, and one of the nicest projects is SVG-Edit.
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.
- Platform: Windows/Linux (Mac possible if you’re technically minded)
- Price: Free
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: three more alternatives to Illustrator