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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
    
A great way to learn and use the basics of vector design is the inkpad app free for the ipad iDesign is more sophisticated but much harder to use. –  Valavel Nov 20 at 0:16

12 Answers 12

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

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
    
And here is a comprehensive user manual. –  Paolo Gibellini Dec 10 at 9:09

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

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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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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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

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

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 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

I've just come across a fairly basic online vector editor. Definitely a handy web app for creating basic vector work. I imagine it only works on more recent browsers.

The vector editor can be found at: http://editor.method.ac/

The person/company that produced that free open source app, have also produced a few apps for becoming better at design both technically and theoretically.

I think these are immense contributions to the design community and for that reason I am including the links in plaintext because I heard that the no-follow rule doesn't apply. It is not a commercial enterprise so I think it's OK.


Get better with the Pen tool with a simple and fun game: http://bezier.method.ac/


Learn more about kerning with another game: http://type.method.ac/


Learn about shaping letters in typography with another game: http://shape.method.ac/


Test your colour matching skills with another game: http://color.method.ac/

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Gravit is another open source alternative, originally developed as a freehand alternative, that can be used both online and as a desktop app. Gravit

And if you're on a mac, definitely check out Affinity Designer, it is by far the best alternative I've seen- even if it's just been released. Affinity

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Great topic..

As you have already read from many of the followers regarding the alternatives. And these are only the best ones.

My suggestion would be to do a research to see which one you find better. Every software whether its paid or open source have pros and cons.

I am professional vector artist and have worked with many alternatives and have ultimately landed with one final. With my experience I will say to stick with one. Do not over search too many.

Software is just a tool you use, its your designing and creativity that matters the most. I have found that some open source software gives you the same results as a paid one. But yes paid software have many more features.

I would still recommend with Adobe Illustrator(my fav.). But for alternative I would say Mac Affinity seems to be promising.

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Hello Akash, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your input. Unfortunately, you used the answer field to give a comment on another post. Since we're a bit big on details like that here (sorry!), I flagged your post so a mod can convert it into an actual comment. Please don't be discouraged, we know that using this site can be a learning curve. We are happy to have you! Please check the help center if you have any questions, or ping one of us in chat once your reputation reaches 20. –  Vincent Dec 10 at 10:02
    
oh. I am sry for that and thankyou for pointing this out. I am new to Stack Exchange. Will keep this in mind in near future :) -Akash –  Vecree.com Dec 10 at 12:50

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