Every graphic design program these days seems to have a subscription plan. A few still have one-time payments but finding a free graphic design program is getting harder and harder. You used to be able to buy the full adobe suite of editing programs for a one-time fee, but they scrapped that option and now programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop will each cost you more than $20 a month each.
We understand these programs take a large team to create and support and no one at adobe works for free, but not everyone can afford these programs. And most of the free ones, like Crello, Canva and Snappa, are only available online and don’t offer much in terms of pro features. Thankfully there are a few free offline alternatives out there for graphic designers and illustrators.
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the best free powerful graphic design and illustration software that are available to install and use offline on Linux, Windows and/or Mac.
Gimp is a free open-source image manipulation program. You can edit photos and create original work/paintings with professional tools and features that give Photoshop a run for their money. Gimp is available for free on several platforms including Windows, GNU/Linux, OS X.
The interface is familiar and easy to adapt to if you’re used to using other popular software. It’s responsive and light on your computer but still brings a pack of powerful features you wouldn’t expect to be free. Because it’s open-source, you can edit its source code and share your version. Gimp is part of a family of other free open-source programs that work together seamlessly, including Scribus for document formatting and Inkspace for Vector art.
Whether you’re a graphic designer, illustrator or photographer, Gimp offers you all of the features you need for free to produce high-quality creative work. If you need more advanced features or a scalable program for a large organization, you might want to check the release notes on the official site to see if it has what you need.
RawTherapee is an open-source raw- image processing program, a free alternative to Adobe Lightroom. Its powerful software allows you to develop raw photo files from your camera and edit them to your taste.
You can edit your files non-destructively thanks to the responsive 32-bit (floating point) engine. RawTherapee boasts of best-in-class de-mosaicing algorithms and the ability to work with multiple-frame raw files. The dark-mode interface is well-organized and if you need to help there are many tutorials online on almost every feature on the program as well as an active community of users to share insights with.
The software is available on Linux, windows and macOS platforms. Download from the official site.
If you’re looking for a vector drawing program available for free online, Inkspace is the best and most popular one out there. It’s packed with features you can only find in premium programs like Adobe Illustrator making it a great free alternative. There is a large community of graphic designers and developers constantly working to improve this open-source software. There’s also the large pool of add-ons available to customize or extend the functionality of Inkspace.
Inkspace has all the standard tools available in other vector programs; pen, pencil, text, calligraphy etc and it supports various file formats such as SVG, PNG, DXF, PostScript, EPS ans=d more. The community forum provides a place to share ideas and find the answers to most of the problems you may encounter when using Inkspace.
Inkspace is available for GNU/Linux, Windows and macOS. Download from the official site.
Krita is an image creation, painting and editing software available for free on GNU/Linux, Windows and macOS. It’s great for concept artists, illustrators and comic creators. Krita produces smooth responsive brush strokes in a wide range of textures. Produce high-quality digital paintings in as much detail as you want and Krita will handle your large files with relative ease. Krita is stable and capable. The interface is clean and allows you to customize it to your preferences.
There are no limits to what you can create with Krita as the features rival those of paid programs. Being an open-source program, you’ll get a lot of updates which is a good thing as bugs get fixed but it can be annoying and sometimes, new updates come with issues. However, Krita has great support to help you overcome this. My favorite feature on Krita is the pencils. The softness and realism is unlike those of any other program i’ve used.
Overall it’s a great free painting software for illustrators and graphic designers. Download from the official site.
Lunacy is a vector design tool that’s available on the windows store. It’s popularly used for designing icons and UI/UX but you can do vector illustrations, create mockups and design ads. Another great feature is the ability to produce AI-generated photos. The intuitive AI also gives you suggestions for icons and styles for your work and the Smart Upscaler improves the resolution of raster images as you scale them.
You can do just as much with Lunacy as you can with macOS’ Sketch. It’s a free alternative to sketch and you can save land load .sketch files on Lunacy. Lunacy allows works both online and offline. Other features include cloud sharing, dark mode, code export and support for 16 languages. The software is completely free, no ads and you can use it for personal and commercial use. Web designers, graphic designers and illustrators will find Lunacy very useful.
Download from the official site.
There’s a growing community of developers making open-source programs that offer features that are just as good as the expensive paid software in the market. Freemium software like GIMP, RawTherapee, Inkspace, Krita and Lunacy provide equal opportunity to everyone to excel in design and do commercial work regardless of their financial capabilities.
If you use the programs listed, don’t forget to thank and donate where possible to those who keep these programs running. Now get designing! Do you know any other programs that belong on this list? Reach me through the contact form on my about page.