Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular vector graphics editors. Vector graphics are graphics that are based on mathematical equations — that’s opposed to raster graphics, which contains pixels.
One of the benefits of vector graphics is that since they are based on mathematical equations to establish points on a grid, it is easy to enlarge them for a billboard, for example.
There are many good alternatives to Illustrator such as Skencil, sK1 2.0, Xfig and others. Though the best open-source Illustrator alternative is Inkscape which offers a great set of features. It is also one of the easiest tools to use.
Why look for open-source alternatives to Illustrator?
While Adobe Illustrator is a powerful tool, it comes at a high cost — you will need to pay around $20-$30/month for access to Illustrator.
Not everyone can afford to pay that much money, especially if you are a student or are on a budget. Certain Illustrator plugins can also cost you an arm and a leg.
In addition to not being free, Adobe Illustrator isn’t open source. Open source software comes with many benefits — you can use them for free, modify them to fit your needs, integrate them with tools you already use, and enjoy free plugins and add-ons developed by the community.
Unfortunately, many of the blogs on the internet that claim to list “open source Adobe Illustrator alternatives” don’t actually list open source alternatives. For example, I’ve seen lists containing Vector, which is free but not open source.
That’s why I wrote this article — to give you real open source alternatives to Illustrator.
I will go over the 11 best free and open source Adobe Illustrator alternatives for vector graphics editing. Let’s get into it!
Inkscape is the best open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It runs on Windows, MAC, and Linux computers and is entirely free to use.
Its motto is “Draw Freely,” and it has a large community of contributors who give to the project by working on code, running tests, discovering bugs, promoting the software, and providing translations into other languages.
Inkscape can be a bit buggy at times, so do have patience while using it. However, it’s well worth it — it is a powerful tool that allows you to do both simple, basic illustrations and more complex projects.
Here are some of the tools and features of Inkscape:
- Pen and pencil tools
- A calligraphy tool
- A text tool
- Z-order operations
- Alignment commands
- A color selector and picker
- A path marker
- Pattern filling
- Path simplification
- Multi-line text
Inkscape supports the following file formats:
- SVG file generation and editing
- XML editing
- PNG, DXF, OpenDocument, PDF, and many more export formats
- The written tutorials
- The video tutorials
- The books
- The manuals
Some topics covered in the tutorials, as examples, are:
- Bitmap tracing
- Simple letter logos
- Drone icon vectors
- Infinite loop icons
Skencil is an open source vector graphics editor and a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator, licensed under the GNU Library General Public License (LGPL). Keep in mind that some code distributed with Skencil is not part of the actual project and is under a separate Python based license.
Skencil’s advantage is that it is almost entirely implemented in Python. However, it is only available on Linux and UNIX compatible devices.
You can import and export files in different formats for use in Adobe Illustrator and other tools. All information about the tool, including links to the repository, is available on the website.
3. sK1 2.0
The sK1 Project was founded in 2003 by Ihor Novikov and his team, who were based in Ukraine. sK1 2.0 is actually a fork of Skencil and based on the Skencil project; its goal was to improve the original Skencil project in many ways, including by providing better support for things like CorelDRAW file format imports.
Unfortunately, Ihor Novikov passed away due to Covid-19 in March 2021. He was a strong supporter of open source software, and his legacy lives on in the sK1 Project.
sK1 isn’t only available for Linux; there are versions for Windows and MAC devices as well, making it a viable cross platform alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Some features the tool supports include:
- ICC color management
- CMYK colors
- Press ready PDF output
Support for the CMYK color model is important, as it means that graphics you create using sK1 are ready for printing on flyers or press releases.
In addition, sK1 supports multi language rendering, which is perfect for creating bilingual flyers or presentations. There is support for Brahmic scripts, Hebrew, Thai, Arabic, and more, all powered by the Pango Library for text rendering.
The sK1 Project is actually a suite of tools. In addition to sK1 2.0, which is the graphics illustration tool, you may want to use UniConvertor 2.0, which is a vector graphics translator tool you can use for converting file formats into other file formats.
Users of sk1 2.0 can enjoy the sK1 color palette collection, which allows you to create beautiful graphics using a wide range of colors.
Apache OpenOffice is a suite of open source office tools. In particular, OpenOffice Draw is its built-in alternative to Adobe Illustrator, as it allows you to work on vector graphics for free.
OpenOffice Draw is primarily a vector graphics drawing tool, though it does support some raster graphics operations as well.
When creating graphics in OpenOffice Draw, you will find that it is incredibly easy to use them afterwards in other OpenOffice tools, such as Writer. Just copy and paste them; they will be automatically compatible.
You can create all kinds of graphical images using OpenOffice Draw, with functions such as:
- Bézier curves
- Layer management
- 3D functions
- And a lot more
OpenOffice Draw comes with the Draw Guide, which is a reference book to help you understand and learn the functions present in OpenOffice Draw.
I liked that you can split a drawing into multiple pages, which makes OpenOffice Draw perfect for creating long vector graphics presentations.
OpenOffice is one of the oldest and widely used open source office tool suites, and Draw is a popular tool used for all sorts of illustration purposes.
Even though OpenOffice can seem a bit outdated at times, it provides a great user experience once you get the hang of it, and it works very well.
One of the advantages of OpenOffice Draw is that Apache OpenOffice is available for download on a wide range of devices, including Windows, Linux, and MAC.
For Windows, you can use OpenOffice Draw on Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 2012, in addition to Windows 7 and up.
LibreOffice is an open source office suite based on the OpenOffice software. LibreOffice Draw is an excellent free and open source alternative to Adobe Illustrate for working on vector graphics, even though it also supports some types of raster graphics operations.
LibreOffice is a fork and improvement on OpenOffice, with some minor differences and a similar layout overall. Being that it is open source, you can modify it further if you have the know-how.
You can create multi-page drawings with LibreOffice, and you can export vector graphics in a variety of formats, such as PDF, PNG, HTML, and more. Since LibreOffice Draw is an integral part of the LibreOffice ecosystem, vector graphics you create in Draw can be copied and pasted into other LibreOffice tools, such as LibreOffice Writer.
LibreOffice is available on a wide range of devices, including Windows, MAC, Linux, and BSD operating systems. However, you will need to have at least a Windows 7 or higher; you can not use LibreOffice Draw on Windows operating systems that were released earlier than Windows 7.
Now we come to Collabora Online Draw, which is an excellent cloud based alternative to Adobe Illustrate. Collabora Online is an on-premises hosted software based on the LibreOffice framework, and its goal is to bring LibreOffice to the cloud.
So, if you have used LibreOffice Draw before, you will find Collabora Online very similar, except that it offers web based access and online cloud features.
The Collabora Online Development Edition, or CODE, is free and open source, but it is not supported with regular maintenance and updates. The paid version is for small businesses with up to 99 users, with discounts available for educational institutions and NGOs; it is supported, but not open source.
Collabora Online integrates with platforms like Nextcloud and ownCloud, as well as Moodle.
One of the benefits of Collabora Online is that not only is it available for desktop, but it brings LibreOffice to mobile iOS and Android devices as well.
Using Collabora Online Draw, you can work on vector graphic illustrations in the cloud. It is perfect for those who want a self hosted alternative to Adobe Illustrate.
When working on graphics in Collabora Online Draw, you can insert images, sounds, animations, and more from the built-in library. In addition to regular illustrations, you can work on 3D objects.
Once you create an illustration, you can export it in a variety of file formats, including PNG, JPG, GIF, and more.
SVG-Edit is an awesome free alternative to Adobe Illustrate that is open source and allows you to edit vector graphics straight from your browser.
It has been around for a decade or so, and it is updated every few months. It has a sizable community of developers supporting it, and the repository is available on GitHub.
There was a time in which the project was not being maintained. However, a team of new developers took pity on it — it’s a great tool, after all — and decided to breathe new life into it.
Since it is meant to be used in your browser, you can use it on any device, with any browser, making it cross platform. The most current version works with the following browsers:
- Opera 59+,
- Chrome 75+
- Firefox 68+
- Safari 11+
- Edge 18+
However, if you have an older browser version, you may still be able to use SVG-Edit, but you might need to download and install an older build.
There is a Stack Overflow group where you can chat with other developers or users and ask them questions.
Xfig is a great open source alternative to Adobe Illustrate that works on most Unix compatible devices on the X Window system.
The X Window has nothing to do with Microsoft Windows; it is a separate system.
However, there are versions that have been modified to work on both Windows and MAC computers, so you can run Xfig on those platforms as well.
On Windows, it can run on a Cygnus X server, and on MAC, the version is ported to run on MacPorts.
There are a few dozen fonts available, as well as various shapes. You can create vector graphics images and then export them in a variety of formats, but you will need fig2dev as well, which will translate fig files into other file formats.
Some shapes available include:
- Arc boxes
- Spline curves
- And many more
One thing is certain: While Xfig is an excellent vector graphics editor, it is not for beginners. You will need to have some technical skills to get it to work on your computer, regardless of the operating system you are using.
In addition, it may require you to go through a bit of a learning curve, even if you do have some technical skills.
However, I’m sure that the Xfig user manual will make things easier. It will teach you how to draw objects, edit objects, use layers for depth, use keyboard shortcuts, and a lot more!
The Xfig user manual is available in Japanese as well. If you need to read it in a language other than English or Japanese, consider using Google Translate.
9. Gravit (Old Version)
Gravit is a free design tool that is a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator, regardless of the device you use; it is available for Windows, MAC, Linux, Chrome OS, and your browser, and there is an open source copy available (more on that later).
It has a web based version as well, allowing you to work on vector graphic design projects on the web. If you prefer offline use, you can download the desktop app instead.
It is also available as a progressive web app.
When you work on Gravit in the cloud, you can share files easily with other Gravit users, making Gravit a great option for collaboration purposes.
Gravit saves cloud files automatically every five minutes, so you never have to worry about losing your work. However, you can change this time interval so that it saves more or less frequently.
Here are some other cool features of Gravity:
- It syncs with Google Drive, so you can open or create new files in Google Drive from the Gravit designer.
- The cloud version syncs with the desktop version. If the same file has different versions on the cloud and on the desktop app, Gravit will ask you whether you want to update the desktop version to the cloud version or keep the desktop version instead.
- You can choose a light or dark theme.
- There are preset canvas sizes for print, social media, different device types, and more.
- There is a built-in Google fonts library, allowing you to pick from hundreds of fonts in different languages when creating graphics.
You can even create graphics for print on demand products you sell via print on demand platforms such as TeePublic, CafePress, RedBubble, and others. In addition, the software is available in 14 languages, including Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Polish, and many others.
So, is Gravit really free and open source?
Well, there are two versions of Gravity. The free version is entirely free to use, with no limitations.
However, there is also a Pro version of Gravity, which is not open source or free to use, but you can get a three month free trial (while offer lasts).
The free version of Gravit used to be open source, but it later went closed source. While that is a shame, the old open source version is still available on Github here and is still under the GNU General Public License, which means it is entirely free to use and distribute.
Although the open source version has not been updated in many years, it may still be useful to many of you who are tech savvy and are interested in using a similar open source vector graphics editor.
GIMP is primarily a raster graphics editor, but it does have some limited vector graphics features as well. Since it is entirely open source, it can be a good alternative to Adobe Illustrator for vector graphics editing if your needs are basic.
If you have more advanced needs, however, I would recommend checking out any of the other Adobe Illustrator alternatives mentioned above.
So, what is GIMP? GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program.
It is a cross platform and open source image editing software, meaning you can use it on Windows, MAC, Linux, and other operating systems. While it is usually thought of as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop, it makes for a viable Adobe Illustrator alternative too due to its vector graphics (SVG file) editing support.
GIMP has been around for two and a half decades, and it is very popular among photographers, designers, and others.
It has a massive community behind it, which is composed of people who create plugins, fix bugs, and create tutorials. You can find many tutorials on the web on how to use GIMP, including on how to use GIMP for SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) files.
Xara Xtreme LX (LX stands for Linux) is an open source version of the Xara Xtreme vector graphics 2D editor for Linux devices. While it has been discontinued, there are still older open source versions available on GitHub, which can serve as good alternatives to Adobe Illustrator if you have the technical skills to set them up.
Although it is primarily a vector graphics editor, it is a crossover product, which means you can use it for drawings and images too.
This Github repository, from user samuell, is one repository containing a mirror code of the original Xara Xtreme for Linux. However, it has not been updated for around 15 years.
Instead, I’d recommend checking out this Github repository, from user earl-ducaine. It was last updated just 10 months ago.
It has only been verified with Ubuntu 16.10, but you should be able to compile it with other versions of Ubuntu and other distributions as well.
Developers are working on the project to debrand it and remove the original Xara Xtreme name. Instead, it will be rebranded as an open source vector graphics software called Xoamorph, with similar functionalities and a similar layout.
Keep in mind that the source code may have bugs, some of them significant. That means you should only use it if you are a developer who has the skills to fix any bugs that you come across.
The problem with finding good open source Adobe Illustrator alternatives is that it’s harder than you think. There are not a lot of good options out there, and many of the ones that do exist are outdated.
There are many free Illustrator alternatives, but open source alternatives are harder to come by.
The best Adobe Illustrator alternative is Inkscape. It has a lot of features, is easy to use (it doesn’t require going through a huge learning curve), does not require technical skills like some of the other alternatives I mentioned, and contains a lot of tutorials and manuals to help you learn how to use it.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.