When it comes to graphic design software, there are a plethora of options available to users. Unfortunately, the most advanced programs are paid, and most of the free ones don’t offer nearly the same level of usability as the paid options.
However, there are some exceptions. This list contains the best free graphic design software for both new and advanced users.
Inkscape is an open-source graphic design software that has been around since 2003. Although it was initially geared towards creating vector images, it has become more well-rounded over the years.
It contains a lot of the same tools one would expect in a typical graphic design software—a pencil tool, shape tool, and transformation tool, amongst others. The availability of these tools allows users to create new designs and themes just like they would in Adobe Illustrator.
Being open-source, many of Inkscape’s initial drawbacks have been resolved by an active community. Despite this, the user experience is quite sluggish when compared to the alternatives, and navigating the UI can be a bit of a hassle for new users.
Download: Inkscape for Windows, Mac, and Linux (Free)
Thanks to its popularity, most designers have used or at least heard of GIMP. It is one of the lightest and most feature-packed free graphic design software out there. It also has a rich history, having been around since 1996.
GIMP is a good place to start for beginners, as it contains a plethora of automatic image correction plugins, as well as an easy-to-use UI. You will not miss Photoshop while using GIMP because it contains a wide variety of image manipulation tools, including painting, selection, and color correction tools.
As a bonus, GIMP has a built-in file manager similar to Adobe Bridge. While GIMP has a huge library of available plugins, it doesn’t support Photoshop plugins, which could be a setback to many users.
Download: GIMP for Windows, Mac, and Linux (Free)
Blender has always been the go-to choice for a lot of 3D animators and modelers. This is not without good reason, as the software comes packed with an advanced toolset. Blender also happens to be the largest open-source 3D creation tool.
Using Blender, you can do anything ranging from python scripting and high-end production path tracing to video editing and rendering. The software also contains a skin modifier and allows for masking. For advanced users, features such as camera and object motion tracking are available as well.
Due to its extensive range of tools, it may take some time for new users to get acquainted with its interface.
Download: Blender for Windows, Mac, and Linux (Free)
Pixlr is one of the most newbie-friendly image editing tools available on the internet. The best part is that users can run it from within their web browsers.
Pixlr is ideal for users who want to make quick and simple edits to their pictures. It also contains numerous presets to enhance photos with a single click. A nifty feature, called Pixlr BG, uses AI to automatically remove the background from pictures.
Pixlr comes in two versions: Pixlr E and Pixlr X. The former offers a simplistic set of tools that can be used to make basic edits to your pictures, such as cropping and adding text. Pixlr X, however, has a wide range of advanced tools similar to the Photoshop format. Pixlr also has its own app for Android and iOS devices.
Canva is another web-based design tool that offers users a simplified way to design and edit images. The paid Pro version also offers useful features, such as social media scheduling and access to an even larger library of royalty-free images.
The focus here is on ease of use, as Canva primarily uses the drag and drop system. Even though it may seem too simplistic, users can still create impressive designs. Canva allows you to create brochures, presentations as well as edit existing images using its built-in image editor.
The only downside is that it may be too simplistic for advanced users. Additionally, many handy features are only accessible in the paid version of Canva.
Paint.NET is an easy-to-use graphic design software, and proves to be much more capable than the default version of Microsoft Paint on Windows.
It offers users a similar interface to MS Paint, but with better features and more functionality. Users can perform all basic image manipulation tasks using Paint.NET. In addition to this, the software supports multiple layers for more advanced image editing as well.
Also, if you happen to own a high DPI display, you will encounter no issues, as the program comes with excellent scaling features.
At the end of the day, Paint.NET is supposed to replace MS Paint, but it can’t hold a candle to design tools such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator due to its basic editing toolset. Another drawback is that Paint.NET is only available for Windows computers.
Download: Paint.NET for Windows (Free)
These Free Graphic Design Software Offer Great Functionality
As evident from this list, there are quite a few free graphic design tools that provide almost equal functionality to their paid counterparts. Despite this, more advanced graphic designers are better off sticking to paid programs, simply because of the range of tools they offer.
But if you’re on a tight budget, GIMP or Blender are your best bet because they are geared towards more experienced graphic designers and animators.
Also, keep in mind that most of the free graphic design software available on the internet are supported by donations. As such, you may want to try and donate as much or as little as possible, so you can keep these programs up and running.
Here are the best design apps for designers on a budget. Our list includes the best free design software you can find online.
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