I'm looking for an affordable alternative to Illustrator, for Mac or PC, or even iPad, for drawing vector graphics. I have training and experience with Freehand (RIP) and Illustrator, but cannot afford to maintain the upgrade chain on my personal machines.


  • Simply out of curiosity: what version are you using now? Maybe upgrade isn't really necessary? I'm using CS4 for a couple of years now and I don't feel like upgrading anytime soon. Again: I'm just curious :). – thebodzio Jul 4 '12 at 22:46
  • A google search for "free vector graphics" returns a Wikipedia article with many programs as well as a direct link to Inkscape. How do these fall short / what specifically are you looking for? – Farray Jul 4 '12 at 22:47
  • @thebodzio I have Illustrator 10 on my old Windows XP machine. The machine is so old I don't use it anymore. It's disassembled and stored in the garage. – alord1689 Jul 5 '12 at 0:05
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    @alord1689 Thanks for explanation! In the case of Ill 10, I'd still use it, along with learning to use one of the free tools. – thebodzio Jul 5 '12 at 12:20
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    Linked: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/80/… – e100 Jul 5 '12 at 17:52

Inkscape is probably the best alternative I've seen (Mac or WIN). It's free.

If you already have Illustrator, use that. Nothing states you must upgrade. Even going as far back as Illustrator 8, it's still a very good app provided your hardware can still run it.

Seems to me, for an Illustrator owner, using an older version of Illustrator will result in better productivity than learning an entirely new app would be.

  • I have never used Illustrator because I have never seen a reason to move away from Inkscape. I love it, after learning Gimp and imagemagick -- it really sheers my mind when doing things fast with layers. +1 for Inkscape but it is not really "free", you still need to spend time to learn it -- but well it pays back because you get continuous upgrades although time-to-time lagging commercial options but no worry for me. Happy trying! – hhh Jul 4 '12 at 23:14
  • +1 Inkscape is a wonderful bit of open source software. While not as powerful as AI in terms of features, I've found it more than capable and is now my primary replacement for Freehand (RIP). – DA01 Jul 5 '12 at 15:17
  • I know I mentioned Mac/Windows/iPad but I haven't had a chance to check out Inkscape on PC yet—but on the Mac, I'm not too keen on the whole X11 thing. – alord1689 Jul 6 '12 at 5:33
  • @alord1689 it takes a little bit of getting use to, but works just fine. The only major issue is remembering to switch between the CNTRL and COMMAND buttons for your shortcuts (just as you would when switching back and forth between Windows and OSX). – DA01 Jul 6 '12 at 16:18
  • "Seems to me, for an Illustrator owner, using an older version of Illustrator will result in better productivity than learning an entirely new app would be." — Great advice. Older versions of AI are very capable! – Marc Edwards Jul 31 '12 at 0:09

I've got some propositions too :).

When it comes to proprietary world you could take a look at one of the Corel Draw versions or Xara Xtreme.

In the "free world", besides mentioned Inkscape, there's also sK1 (its development ended, but at the same time PrintDesign project have been started to directly replace sK1 in — hopefully — near future).

  • Do you have any experience or knowledge of what these are like and how they compare to illustrator? If so, adding that in would make this a great answer and better than a list. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jul 5 '12 at 12:51
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    My experience with these apps is slim. I mentioned them because each one have some features I found potentialy useful for my personal needs. One of the most profound is CMYK support. When it comes to Xara, its speed and some non-nonsense tools are a big pro. PrintDesign in turn is more on the “Corel” side of the world in regard to UX. It's not as complete as Inkscape, but again—it supports CMYK which is very important in my case. As to “feel” of these two compared to Illustrator, I'd say they do things differently. It's “upside down” difference, but it'll take some time to get used to it. – thebodzio Jul 5 '12 at 22:13
  • I'll add the above information to my answer as an edit if I'll get some positive response regarding its usability. – thebodzio Jul 5 '12 at 22:46
  • It looks like PrintDesign is down for 'remodelling'. – DA01 Jul 6 '12 at 16:18
  • I know what you mean. You're right—I'm editing it :). – thebodzio Jul 6 '12 at 21:43


I downloaded Inkpad (an iPad app) from the App Store. It seems to work pretty well. The concept of a touch interface for vector drawing seems a little bit revolutionary compared to drawing with a mouse, at least for the freehand capabilities. It's also made by the same folks who made Brushes, which was one of the first painting apps for iPad. I found one list online and it was at the very top.


I chose Adobe Fireworks CS6 for Mac, because it is much cheaper than Photoshop and Illustrator, and it seems to do everything I need it to, and in the same way that Illustrator and Photoshop do it, which is a plus.

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