InformationDecember 13, 2021by

Free graphics and design programs

Whether you’re passionate about graphic design, get the occasional artistic genius or work in the field, you may not (yet) be able to afford an investment in graphics and design software. Most of us have broken our teeth on free software or software acquired from more dubious sources.

Even though commercial versions have evolved significantly over the years, their free alternatives haven’t stood still either. Free graphics programs may not have come to have exactly the same feature set and capabilities as commercial ones, but some of them can be a worthy competition!

Let’s not waste any more time. Below are some recommendations of some of the most popular, completely free graphic design programs that I have used or personally use:

Vector graphics software

Inkscape

A free, open-source vector graphics program built around the SVG vector format. It’s similar to Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw or Xara X and you can do almost anything with it. If you want to learn a vector program that gives you the most options, but keeps it free, you can’t go wrong with Inkscape.

inkscape

The native format is SVG but you can export projects in any format supported by browsers or for commercial printing.

Gravit designer

With Gravit designer (which has a free and a PRO version), you can create graphics for promotional materials, marketing, website illustrations, presentations, social media banners and more.

It supports multiple pages in the same document, layers, has easy-to-understand panels and multiple parameterized as well as “freehand” editing tools. On the right it has a context-sensitive properties panel, so it changes automatically giving you functions relevant to the selected object in the scene.

gravit designer

The free version offers 500 MB of cloud storage (which allows you to store the projects you’re working on and access them from another computer), PDF export (in 72 and 150 dpi resolutions), and works only in RGB colour space.

The PRO version offers for the annual subscription, unlimited cloud space, PDF export up to 300 dpi (suitable for printing), colours in CMYK, HSB in addition to RGB), you can work offline, some extra export options and project version history.

For beginners, the free version should be more than enough and you can create projects for display on screens and the web.

Vectr

Another program that can be used online, directly in the browser as well as a downloadable version. You can create 2D vector graphics, business cards, logos, icons, website layouts, brochures, posters, presentations and more. On top of that, you can easily share your creations via a simple URL that you can send via email, social media, etc., without the need for attachments.

You can export to PNG, SVG or JPG or URL your creations. If you don’t want to export but want to save your projects online, you need a free account created on the site.

vectr

Bitmap graphics programs, photo processing

Paint.NET

A program designed for the Windows platform, and even though the name makes it sound like an alternative to the Paint program that comes with Windows, don’t be fooled: Paint.NET is far more capable than Paint and offers many more editing possibilities than creation itself.

The focus is on manipulative features: special effects, distortions, rotations, perspective, selections, layers and contrast adjustments, levels. It’s a viable alternative to Photoshop, especially if you’re not too keen on super-advanced and complicated features.

paint net

GIMP

GIMP is probably the most popular free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Started in the 1990s, it comes very close to Photoshop in terms of the functions and tools available, the way it works and even the names of sections and operations.

GIMP is an open-source project, supports all major platforms and has a plugin architecture that can extend its functionality considerably. It supports all major graphic file formats (TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PSD, etc.), and if it doesn’t support a particular format, you can certainly add a plugin for it, although you may not need to if you don’t work with exotic formats.

gimp interface

If you’re not afraid of a challenge, you’re serious about graphics, and you really don’t want to spend money on Photoshop or similar, GIMP is the best option, price-wise.

Krita

Started in 1999, Krita is mostly aimed at illustrators (like animators, digital concept artists, comics, cartoons, etc.). It is free, open source and can run on most popular platforms.

Krita comes with 100 brushes (which you can adjust in 9 ways), designed for a variety of styles and you can even make Flash (or Adobe Animate) style animations. It also has vector editing and text editing tools. These are saved in SVG format.

krita interface

The interface is easy to customise, the panels and small drawers can be configured as you wish and once you’ve made yourself at home, you can save the layout to keep it that way forever.

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