Being a graphic designer isn’t exactly the cheapest profession there is. While you might not necessarily need to study formally to become a designer, you will need to know your way around graphic design software, and that can be expensive. 

Free graphic design software: Quick links

But the good news is that there are more options than ever around, and many of them are free. While free graphic design software won’t give you as rich an array of features as software such as Adobe’s CC (get Adobe Creative Cloud here) or Affinity’s software, you may find that with the right combination of the tools below, you can do almost any design job. And even if you have paid for some software, that doesn’t mean you can’t combine it with other free tools.

The learning curve of the free, more basic graphic design tools is also often a lot gentler than trying to get to grips with the complex software and menus of the subscription-based or more expensive packages.

With all that in mind, below are our best free graphic design tools – divided into software for creating vector art, creating and editing images, creating data visualisations and other useful tools you might like – use the menu above to navigate to the section you want. 

Vector art

Free vector art software

Gravit Designer delivers a full vector toolkit for free

  • Platform: Browser, Windows, macOS, Linux, ChromeOS

Gravit Designer is a full-featured vector design app from the company behind Corel Draw. It’s suitable for all sorts of design jobs, from screen, app and icon designs 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. 

You can use Gravit Designer online or download a copy to your computer; note that you automatically start out on a (free) trial of Gravit Designer Pro when you sign up, and once your trial is over you transition to the free version, but lose the Pro features – unless you pay for a subscription of course. 

However, Gravit Designer’s free version is still excellent. You can export as PDF, SVG or bitmap, and you get access to the Gravit Cloud service that enables you to get to your work wherever you are. See the full comparison between the Pro and free versions here.  

Vectr - free graphic design software

Vectr’s online options make it great for live collaboration

  • Platform: Browser, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS

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 expect, plus a wealth of options for using filters, shadows and fonts, it’s versatile enough for day-to-day design tasks. Its live collaboration and synchronisation options are particularly handy, as they essentially enable anyone to watch you design, live, meaning it’s really easy to create in tandem or send feedback. This is a genuine alternative to Adobe Illustrator CC.

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. Note that if you’re not familiar with code, this option probably isn’t for you.

Inkscape - free graphic design software

Free graphic design software Inkscape has very good SVG integration

  • Platform: Windows, Mac OS, Linux

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.