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Can you recommend a good alternative to Adobe Illustrator for Mac? I am learning vector based graphic design, but I am not ready to make such a large investment as to purchase a copy of Adobe Illustrator. Also, Illustrator might be a little more power than I need at the moment.

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I still use an old copy of Macromedia Freehand for a lot of vector work. It's very lightweight and I still find I can do some things faster with it than in Illustrator. –  JYelton Aug 31 '11 at 15:55
    
Just FYI for future generations reading this question, Adobe is selling Studet & Teacher versions of their software at HUGE discounts (like, 70-90% off the normal price). You can't resell that software, and are allowed to use it only on your own machine, but it can be a great deal if you're in the right situation. –  Pekka 웃 Sep 7 '11 at 12:28
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10 Answers 10

From 5 best free vector graphics editor :

  1. Inkscape : the reference from open-source. Should works on every platform
  2. Karbon : Works on every platform but got less options than inkscape.
  3. Aviary : Works online, you only need a browser. It's quite powerful but require flash player. So say good buy to iPad ;)
  4. Draw Plus Starter Edition : As powerful as inkscape but quite... more beautiful interface (subjective, I know). Works only on windows.
  5. Creative Docs : Microsoft product, so only on windows (requires .net 3). I don't know it...

If you need more ideas, try the list of vector graphics editor's wikipedia page ! Pretty complete with free and... less free software ;)

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I have never used it, but Sketch is a vector graphics program for Mac that is less expensive than Illustrator. We have a couple of questions pertaining to it tagged under

Sketch UI

Sketch is a designers’ dream toolbox. Specifically created for designers, it powers a beautiful interface and powerful tools. Tools every designer will appreciate. Making beautiful graphics isn’t challenging anymore. We set out to build a better app for graphic designers. Not to copy — rather to improve.

Features:

  • Simple but powerful interface, built for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion
  • Optimized for Retina and non-Retina displays
  • Powerful styling; multiple shadows, multiple fills, gradients, blending, blur, noise and more...
  • Flexible boolean operations to combine simple shapes into complex shapes
  • Artboards and Slices for exporting multiple images out of a single document
  • Automatic @2x export for Retina graphics
  • Unique Color (with RGB and HSB modes) and Font pickers
  • Beautiful native text rendering and text styles
  • Vector and pixel zoom; zoom in with infinite vector precision or see individual pixels
  • Multi-stop and radial gradients editing right in the canvas. Powerful WYSIWYG rendering.
  • Shared & Linked Layer Styles that automatically update each other
  • Powerful, easy-to-use Vector Tool Additionally, designers in the following areas will enjoy these features:

For Web and UI Designers

  • Copy CSS Styles to clipboard (including gradients!)
  • Slices: export areas on the canvas as images
  • 960px grid, with support for more advanced grid options
  • Multiple pages support inside a single document

For Icon Designers

  • Artboards; each size is its own square
  • iOS Icon Templates
  • Pixel Grid
  • Pixel Effects, such as Gaussian and Motion Blur
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Sketch is much more intuitive than Illustrator or Inkscape, if not quite as powerful at this point. I have big hopes for the next version. I've expressed my two main concerns in their support forums: Editable/shareable color swatches and asset linking rather than embedding –  plainclothes Aug 9 '13 at 18:06
    
I gave it a shot, but didn't find it intuitive at all compared to inkscape, so I suppose that's a subjective thing. –  DA01 Jan 10 at 2:59
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Inkscape is a good alternative, and if you want more complicated vector graphic, you could try Torapp guilloche designer, it is free and runs in Chrome 20 and above. No installation and plugin is needed.

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I found that none of the above have recommended Pixelmator, which in my opinion is one of the best parallels to Ai.

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Pixelmator is primarily a raster image editor. AI is vector based. Pixelmator is more of an alternative to PhotoShop. –  DA01 Aug 31 '11 at 15:02
    
@DA01 accepted. I missed to notice that point. Cheers! :) –  ikartik90 Aug 31 '11 at 18:07
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If you're comfortable with Ubuntu (either in VM or dual booting), I suggest Xara Xtreme for Linux: http://www.xaraxtreme.org/

It's really powerful, commercially tested, and is by far the best open source illustration software.

Here are some examples:

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Why is Dick Cheney conducting an orchestra? –  DA01 Aug 31 '11 at 15:01
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I would love to see Inkscape look this nice. –  expiredninja Apr 24 '12 at 4:45
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You should try 'artbaord' http://www.mapdiva.com/artboard/ It can do what adobe illustrator can do but for cheaper, plus it has loads of free to use clipart.

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anyone else used artboard? Would be interested in hearing more about i. –  DA01 Jul 9 '12 at 21:07
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Check out Inkscape:

http://inkscape.org/

Inkscape is a free (and open-source) SVG vector graphics editing program. I've never used Illustrator, so I can't directly compare, but I've done all of my work in Inkscape and it is quite capable.

You might also want to check out Inkscape's tutorial for Illustrator users: http://wiki.inkscape.org/wiki/index.php/Inkscape_for_Adobe_Illustrator_users

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+1 @Computerish : Thanks for that 2nd link! –  bguiz Mar 20 '11 at 8:29
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Adobe Fireworks is a cheaper alternative to Illustrator, but it can still handle vector graphics. The downside is that you'll miss out on features like Live Trace, Live Paint, and a lot of the filters.

Also, you can try Inkscape for free. Both, however, are a different workflow than Illustrator. Also, if you're looking for a free Photoshop alternative, try GIMP.

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GIMP is a raster editor and not really suitable for vector graphics editing. –  Computerish Jan 5 '11 at 2:13
    
Thank, Computerish. I updated my answer. –  Virtuosi Media Jan 5 '11 at 2:19
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Inkscape is the free alternative. I've never used Illustrator so I don't know how well its features compares to Illustrator (however others have done comparisons). It is quite feature rich and powerful nonetheless: check out some of the screenshots here. Also it might be just perfect for you since you say you are only learning and not looking for something that will overwhelm you with its plethora of features.

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You might try something like Corel Draw. It is significantly less money and very full-featured.

Still might be a bit more pricey than you're looking for, though.

If you were very recently a student be sure to check to see if you can get education-version prices. Or see if you can find an older version of software at a lower price since most of the core functionality will still be there.

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+1 I have done print design work for a long time on the cheap with used or special-deal licenses of older versions of this program, and it's always fared well. In my experience, it also is fairly popular with printing companies, which means a lot –  Pekka 웃 Jan 5 '11 at 21:52
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@Pekka - this. Older versions of Corel Draw can be picked up off ebay quite cheaply. Often cheap enough to be worth buying just for the Bitstream fonts. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Sep 7 '11 at 12:13
    
Oh yeah! it does come with a pretty extensive font collection as well :p –  Damon Sep 7 '11 at 12:51
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