The Calculated Creative

Best Free Graphic Design Software

Top free graphic design programs to try out - many provide capabilities comparable to paid professional tools.

Graphic design software can be expensive, but there are many great free options available. Here are some of the best free graphic design programs:

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free open-source raster graphics editor that can be used for a wide range of image editing and graphic design tasks. It provides a robust set of professional-grade tools comparable to paid programs like Photoshop.

Some key features of GIMP include full support for layers, masks, channels, layer grouping, advanced selection tools, transformation tools, and an extensive set of paint tools such as clone and heal brushes, blur and sharpen brushes, smudge, dodge and burn, and more. GIMP has a large collection of filters and effects, allowing you to apply distortions, lighting effects, textures, and more to enhance your designs. It supports a wide array of file formats for import and export.

One major advantage of GIMP is its extensibility via plug-ins. There are hundreds of plug-ins available, allowing you to expand GIMP's capabilities for animation, 3D image editing, scientific imaging, and more specialized tasks. The interface is highly customizable as well. GIMP runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Its batch processing and scripting capabilities make it suitable for handling large workloads. For designers on a budget, GIMP provides professional-level photo and image editing completely free.

Inkscape - Create Vector Graphics like a Pro

Inkscape is a widely used free and open-source vector graphics editor for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is extremely capable for creating logos, icons, illustrations, diagrams, charts, and other types of vector imagery.

The Inkscape workspace features a familiar WYSIWYG interface with on-canvas editing that makes it simple to work with objects, shapes, paths, and text. It provides a deep toolset focused on vector drawing and editing - you can apply strokes, fills, gradients and patterns to shapes. The node tool allows for fine control of paths and shapes. Useful features include clone and duplicate operations, Z-order modifications, grouping, alignments, distributions, style operations, spraying, and more.

Flexibility is a big plus for Inkscape. It uses the open SVG vector graphics format as its native document format. But it can import and export various file types like EPS, PNG, PDF, AI, etc. Text support includes multiline editing, kerning, letterspacing, flowed text boxes, spellcheck, and more. For layouts, you can size pages, use guides and snapping, and create multi-page documents.

Overall, Inkscape provides extremely robust professional-level vector graphics capabilities completely free of charge. For graphic designers on any budget, it's an excellent alternative to premium tools like Adobe Illustrator.

Canva - Create Social Graphics and Documents Visually

Canva is a graphic design platform built around drag and drop simplicity and a vast library of templates, images, fonts, and design elements. While not as full-featured as GIMP or Inkscape, Canva makes it easy for non-designers to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents, and other visuals quickly.

Canva features an intuitive drag and drop workflow - you can easily browse Canva's enormous library of assets, drag them onto your canvas, and modify them to your needs without dealing with manual sizing or positioning. Canva breaks graphic design down into its key elements of images, text, shapes, and more. So you don't need years of design expertise to put together quality graphics.

The template library includes over 60,000 templates for every need - social media posts, ads, logos, flyers, invitations, infographics, posters, resumes, and more. You have access to over 1 million stock photography and design elements to spice up your creations. Other handy features include ability to resize graphics for various formats, collaboration tools, and integrations with apps like Facebook and Google Workspace.

For personal and business users needing to create great-looking graphics and documents quickly, Canva is an extremely helpful free tool. The range of templates and drag-and-drop ease allows you to look like a professional designer with minimal effort.

Gravit Designer - Free Vector Design Across Platforms

Gravit Designer is a full-featured free vector graphic design app available for Windows, macOS, Linux, ChromeOS, and within web browsers. It functions as a viable free alternative to premium apps like Adobe Illustrator.

The Gravit interface features an intuitive drag and drop workflow that allows you to easily manipulate vector shapes, graphics, text, and multiple layers. It provides all the essential vector drawing and illustration tools - pens, shapes, path editing, bezier curves, typography controls, boolean operations, and more.

Flexibility is a major advantage of Gravit Designer. It supports infinite canvas sizes and layers. Documents can be exported to SVG, PNG, JPG and PDF formats for flexibility. The web-based version enables starting designs on desktop and continuing the work on mobile or other devices.

Useful features include snapping guides to assist with alignments, asset management and sharing through libraries, and collaborative editing tools. The pro version unlocks additional capabilities like shared style sheets and 300+ professional vector design assets.

For a freely available vector graphics app, Gravit Designer is quite full-featured. Its web-based availability makes Gravit a uniquely portable vector design tool across devices. For budget-conscious designers, Gravit is a capable option over paying for Illustrator or other apps.

Figma - Web-Based UI Design Platform

Figma is an innovative web-based interface design platform developed for UI and UX designers. The free version provides a very capable set of professional-grade tools for UI design.

A major advantage Figma provides is real-time collaboration - multiple designers can work on a single project simultaneously. The multiplayer capabilities allow entire product teams to interactively brainstorm, design, and edit UI concepts together.

Figma includes powerful vector design tools for crafting interface components and icons. You can easily manage styles and components through design systems features. Prototyping tools allow you to build interactive, click-through prototypes to demonstrate UIs and user flows. Figma provides thousands of fonts, icons, UI kits, illustrations and other assets to accelerate designing.

The Figma community has built an expansive ecosystem of plug-ins that integrate with helpful apps like Slack, Dropbox, Unsplash, Invision, and more. Figs also enables easy asset importing from Sketch. For UI designers, Figma provides an incredibly capable free solution.

The Takeaway

While the programs listed above are all free options, Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry standard software suite for professional graphic designers and artists. The full Creative Cloud bundle includes popular programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and more.

Although it requires a paid subscription, upgrading to Adobe CC can be worthwhile for designers who need access to premium features and capabilities.

The seamless integration between Adobe programs can improve workflow efficiency. Adobe CC also receives regular updates with new features and provides access to cloud storage, Adobe fonts, templates, stock images, and more. For graphic designers working professionally, the expanded toolset and capabilities of Adobe CC is often worth the investment over free alternatives.

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