Free Graphic Design and Drawing Software

Category: Software

Buying a drawing or graphic design program makes sense if you draw or design graphics for a living. But for most of us, the need for such software comes seldom, and paying hundreds for a dust-collecting program is not very smart. Fortunately, there are plenty of good and free drawing, graphic design and photo editing programs available to help you create a logo, make a brochure, or touch up a photo. Here are some of the best...

Free Graphic Design Software

Microsoft Paint has been included as a freebie drawing and graphics editor in Windows since Version 1.0 in 1985. That's the good news. The bad news is that the program hasn't changed much since then. You can make shapes, draw freehand with your mouse, add text, then crop, resize or rotate. Mac Paint for Apple computers was abandoned in 1988.

Fortunately, there are plenty of good, free alternatives to commercial graphics tools such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Here are some of the best that I've come across. You'll find options that can be installed on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer. Others run right in your web browser, and don't care which operating system you have.

Paint.NET is a full-featured free image editing program for Windows computers. It features many of the advanced features found in Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro, such as layers, unlimited undo, and special effects. It was originally intended as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint but has grown into a powerful image and photo editor tool that's easy to learn and use.

Free Drawing and Graphics Software

SVG-Edit is a vector graphics editor that’s good for drawing scalable 2-dimensional objects. It works in your Web browser, using the latest WWW standards including HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Use it as an alternative to Adobe Illustrator, which costs over $400 as a shrink-wrapped package, or $30/month as a service provided by Adobe. SVG-Edit requires no download, and because it’s open-source, you can even modify SVG-Edit’s code to work the way you want it.

DrawPlus Starter Edition by Serif is not limited to SVG file formats and 2D drawing, but it runs only under Windows. It’s more novice-oriented than SVG-Edit, but a powerful graphics editor none the less. Most of Adobe Illustrator’s funtionalities are repeated in DrawPlus, and the user interface is quite intuitive. You can quickly convert an object to 3D via extrusion, apply a wide range of 3D styles, or draw your own bevel profile that's instantly applied to your object. If you don’t know what all that means, relax; you can “just draw” with ease in DrawPlus. Serif no longer sells or supports DrawPlus, but you can still download and use the free version.

Canva helps you create all sorts of images (charts, graphs, collages, social media graphics) using a drag and drop tool, and also functions as a photo editor. Want to add a quick "speech bubble" to a photo? Done!

Microsoft Expression Design is a vector drawing program (as opposed to bit-mapped painting). It used to be a paid product, but MS abandoned support in 2012 and made it free. Microsoft says it's suitable for professional illustrators, website designers or budding artists.

More Free Graphics Software

If you're looking for a free photo editor that can be used to touch up your photos, see my article 10 Free Online Photo Editors. You can crop, rotate, sharpen, add borders or apply special effects using only your web browser -- no need to download or install anything. Open files from your hard drive or the Web, and save files to local or social media sites.

GIMP - the GNU Image Manipulation Program began as a Linux product and now also runs under Windows and Mac OS. GIMP closely imitates Adobe Photoshop, making it easier to transition from Photoshop to GIMP. All the advanced Photoshop features you’re looking for are in GIMP, including layers, painting tools, color correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.

For 3D creation, try Daz 3D Following the built-in tutorials, you can learn how to buidl animated 3D figures easily and quickly. Who knows, you could be making money as a game designer a year from now!

Blender is the world’s most popular open-source 3D creation program. Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, Blender enables self-taught students to create 3D figures, virtual environments, and more without buying expensive software. It comes with tutorials that help you get started quickly.

The art of digital sculpting involves taking bits away from a virtual object, leaving only the nose-twitching bunny you just knew was in there. Sculptris from Pixologic is a great starting point for rookies or a fast, handy tool for experienced artists. It runs under Mac and Windows.

Houdini Apprentice is the free-for-non-commercial-use version of the very popular Houdini 3D animation and visual effects tool. A product of Side Effects Software, commercial versions of Houdini range from $2,000 to $4,500. But the developers have made a full-featured “light” version available free of charge.

What's your go-to solution when you need to create or modify a graphic design? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Free Graphic Design and Drawing Software"

Posted by:

03 Jul 2019

I use Paint.NET for editing bit-map images, and InkScape for creating vector images. Both of these programs have many features that I have yet to take advantage of. Highly recommended!

Posted by:

03 Jul 2019 is an excellent image editing and very easy. I am very bad at drawing, but can use to make useful drawings, cards and even forms. Nice to be able to write text, draw many forms and having the possibility to move the text/form after completion, when finally placed it blends into the drawing, no longer a separate object.
It is very deserving of donations.

Posted by:

03 Jul 2019

I use Ultimate Paint to edit and manipulate photos.

Don't forget Irfanview and other photo viewers like XNView that allow manipulation of photos.

If you want to do geometric and rotatable designs, try FMS Logo. It's a dialect of the Logo computer language and it requires you to learn the commands and how to write them but you can do a lot with very few commands and it's fun to use.

Posted by:

03 Jul 2019

Have used Microsoft Digital Image software for years. It is no longer supported. When I tried to load it on a new laptop,it is no longer compatible with current processors. Trying to learn Paint shop Pro and am baffled. Thanks tons for these suggestions.

Posted by:

04 Jul 2019

I've used Canva for quite a while. There are some templates that really take the guess work out of making a professional looking social media site header. Among many other things.

Posted by:

04 Jul 2019

Downloaded DrawPlus Starter edition but can't use it since Serif wants me to register it but the registration webpage is no longer available. Product keys are available for purchase for $20.... unless I'm missing something. I'll try some of the others.

Posted by:

John T
05 Jul 2019

Dan, when I installed DrawPlus, one of the popups had text boxes for name and email. There were also some for a product key (which were already filled in). Perhaps you interfered with that popup somehow.

Posted by:

Graham Jones
07 Jul 2019

In my experience the nearest thing to Adobe Illustrator for free is Inkscape. It is used by professionals. It has something of a learning curve but there is lots of online help. If you want something with less features and less of a learning curve try Gravit Designer.

Posted by:

09 Jul 2019

Bear in mind not all the 'tools' listed in PAINT are free to use - you can purchase the non free tool - I use a 'clone stamp' in reducing shadows (usually my own) and for I.C.E stitched pics. It takes some time to remember the technique but PAINT does have an excellent range of 'tools'. For a regular user like my self the (£32 sterling) 42 dollars for the 'clone stamp' addition has been well worth it.

Posted by:

Jay Bingham
28 Nov 2019

I have GIMP, Paint.NET, IrfanView and 3D Paint on my system. (I have 3D Paint only because it is part of Windows 10). For the most part I use GIMP, the others just don't seem to have the capabilities I want or I do not understand how to do what I want to do with them. My only complaint about GIMP is that it takes a long time to load. Once it is loaded I can do what I want to do with it.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Graphic Design and Drawing Software (Posted: 3 Jul 2019)
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