The best free drawing software

While there are ways to try Adobe Photoshop for free, long-term use can be expensive. Photoshop alone costs almost $240 per year (if you let them bill you annually) and Illustrator is just as expensive. But popular Adobe titles aren’t your only options. The following solutions are very competitive with Illustrator and Photoshop but don’t break the bank. Take a look at our top pick: Inkscape. Inkscape contains a wide variety of professional-grade editing tools and lots of tips on how to use them, including video tutorials and written manuals.

And if Inkscape isn’t quite your digital illustration needs, be sure to check out our other favorite free drawing software options below.

Further reading

The best

Inkscape

Inkscape has probably been the most widely used vector drawing software since its introduction in 2003. Seventeen years later, it’s still a great, professional-quality free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It’s backed by an international community that can help you get started and help you troubleshoot any issues you may have with the open source software.

Much like Illustrator, Inkscape has everything a digital artist needs to create near-photo quality artwork. Your basic toolset includes creating straight lines, freehand lines, shapes, 3D boxes, Bezier curves, spirals, and more. You can add layers, color fills, and even effects to your drawing, such as blurs, bevels, shadows, textures, glows, and more.

There are plenty of text and video tutorials, and you also have access to manuals and quick references, including information on keyboard shortcuts and command line instructions. All this, and no monthly fees required.

The rest

Vector

free drawing software

This is another vector drawing tool that you can download or use online for free. It has an extremely clean interface, with the layer stack listed on the left, your artboard sitting in the center, and the settings for objects you select on the artboard appearing on the right. The toolset looks minimalistic at first until you click on the More shapes on the toolbar to reveal another 28 designs.

At its heart, Vectr is great for creating business cards, typographic logos, posters, and other designs that don’t involve a lot of detail. It’s backed up with built-in lessons covering gradients, using paths, filters, and uploading images. You can also find tutorials that will help you recreate the Google Android icon, design a YouTube channel background image, create Superman and Batman logos, and more. All designs can be exported, printed and shared on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Pixlr X or Pixlr E

Pixlr and screenshot
screenshot

Although it is mainly known as a simple and free online photo editor, you can still use Pixlr X to create new designs. The interface itself is simple and easy to navigate and lets you do things like edit photos, create designs and choose to add a wide variety of “elements” which is the built-in collection of overlays, borders, shapes and stickers from Pixlr.

If Pixlr X is too simple for you and you need more features, the good news is that you don’t need to upgrade to a premium version of the service to make advanced edits. You can simply use Pixlr E. Although navigation is not as easy, Pixlr E is still free and gives you more features and customization. For example, you can customize the shape or style of the brushes and pens you use in addition to their size and opacity. Other Pixlr E features include the ability to blur, sharpen, smudge, create gradients, and add color shifts like vibrance, saturation, and temperature. And you’ll still have access to the tools and effects featured in Pixlr X.

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

free drawing software

GIMP has been around since 1995 as a free and open source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. You’ll have everything you need to import vector artwork for added realism and effects, plus everything you need to edit your photos successfully. GIMP comes with all the tools you need to create digital art from scratch. It’s a must-have program if you enjoy editing images or creating digital art.

GIMP comes with two main components. The first is a workbench that functions as your main interface, plus a second rectangular interface that houses all of your main tools. This tool can float anywhere on your desk, or you can attach it to your workbench for easy access.

The GIMP allows you to bundle various tools. Creating a float with groups of your most used tools will streamline your digital design. If you’re looking for an easy way to streamline your design process, this is it.

The software toolbox offers more possibilities. Use tools to blur, smudge, erase and manipulate your drawing in many ways. You don’t even need to install any additional program to draw lines; GIMP’s Paths tool does the job.

The GIMP also has various visual effects and supports different plugins to enhance your experience.

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Marilyn M. Davis