Inkscape and Illustrator are two graphics software known to be the best out there for creating vector graphics.
Both tools fit graphic designers, web designers, illustrators, and average people who want to make edits to existing graphics.
However, both tools work differently, they’re based on a different interface and are powered by a different engine. On top of that, they come at a different price. So these are all of the factors that can help you make your choice, and that’s what this review below will help you do!
Inkscape is a popular vector graphics editor. This tool is built with designers in mind who need flexible drawing tools, broad file format compatibility, powerful text tools, and even Bezier and spiro curves.
Backed up with a thriving community, Inkscape is constantly growing and getting updates that help include all valid points users bring to the table.
With high compatibility based on open-source code, Inkscape is very versatile and flexible, from system compatibility, file support, and even to imports & exports.
An industry-leading vector graphics software, Illustrator is Adobe’s creation. This software has a long history since it was initially released back in 1985, and yet has reached such a quality level that it meets professionals’ needs.
This software is ideal for creating almost anything a designer wishes, and this includes everything from single elements to larger design workflows and entire compositions from scratch.
Still, Illustrator is most often used to create posters, patterns, logos, and anything else that can be printed or displayed on large banners as Illustrator helps vectors retain the image quality at any size.
Since Inkscape is based on open source and is free software, it is easy to get started with.
All you have to do is visit Inkscape’s official website, where you will see a large Download button that leads directly to the download page.
Inkscape is compatible with almost all operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and you can even get the raw source code if you plan on developing the software further for your own needs.
On top of that, you can download extensions or the latest development version if you’re skilled enough to help contribute or make a change to the software for personal reasons.
To get started with Illustrator, you must visit the official Illustrator page from Adobe’s official website.
Illustrator is not free, so you will have to buy the software before use. Adobe occasionally tends to offer a free seven-day trial for Illustrator, so you should watch out if such an opportunity is available.
After purchasing Illustrator, you can download it onto your device/computer, install it, and you’re ready to go.
Inkscape has plenty of drawing tools where the most popular one is the pencil tool which is ideal for free-hand drawing. On top of that, Inkscape features a pen tool ideal for Bezier curves or straight lines.
There’s also a calligraphy tool that helps users create great-filled paths. Along with the drawing tools, Inkscape features shape tools, text tools, embedded bitmaps, clones, and other features that help with object manipulation, fill and strokes, operations on paths, and rendering.
Inkscape offers plenty of tools and features for free software so you won’t be missing anything as you unleash your creativity.
Similar to Inkscape, Illustrator also features plenty of different drawing tools. The tools work differently, yet they all help you create drawing paths that shape the segments and connecting points.
Illustrator’s most popular drawing tool is the paintbrush tool, similar to the pencil tool, but it allows more free-form drawing. What’s great about Illustrator’s paintbrush is that you can select different brush types to match your drawing style.
Some advanced tools that can also help your drawing include the blob brush, curvature, and pen.
Both Inkscape and Illustrator have plenty of tools and drawing options even though one tool is paid and the other is free. Therefore, this category is a tie since you won’t be missing any drawing features no matter which tool you decide.
Inkscape is very versatile when it comes down to files and formats. Supported formats include SVG, SVGZ, PDF, EPS.
Inkscape can even import and work with Adobe Illustrator-specific format, and the latest Inkscape version also supports CorelDraw and Visio formats natively.
With such wide file and format support, you should keep in mind that you can open, import, and export all of these formats across different projects without issues.
However, Inkscape can also support a wide range of vector formats with the help of extensions that you install additionally.
Within Illustrator, you can save projects in four main formats that include Illustrator’s specific format (AI), EPS, PDF, and SVG.
However, you can also export your Illustrator projects in 15 different formats. All of the files are also compatible with the earlier versions of Illustrator, and the latest Illustrator version can work with about 20 different formats across 50 different software versions.
Therefore, Illustrator won’t be an issue with the version or the type of file you’re working with. You’ll be able to focus on the project and save, import, and export without thinking twice about it, which is highly convenient.
Both Inkscape and Illustrator support many different formats and files, which makes things easier for the users. Interestingly enough, Inkscape supports Illustrator’s specific file formats and can work with 20 different file types across different software versions.
Therefore, both tools are very strong in file and format compatibility, so this category is a tie.
Bezier and Spiro curves are crucial in graphic design, and Inkscape supports and provides tools that help artists create Bezier and spiro curves with ease.
The integrated pen tool is adjusted in a way to allow users to generate Bezier curves, as well as straight lines. It only requires a touch of a button to switch between these two.
The same applies to Spiro curves. Even though you might need a bit of time to learn how to draw a Bezeir or Spiro curve properly, there are plenty of tutorials you can find on creating these curves by using Inkscape.
Just like Inkscape, Illustrator provides an effortless way to create beautifully curved Bezier curves with the help of an integrated feature that’s assigned to the pencil tool.
When it comes down to Spiro curves, this isn’t integrated into Illustrator, but there are third-party add-ons that help you add this ability with the help of a plugin.
This plugin also allows you to control the shape of the curves, which can be applied to Bezier curves.
Inkscape has both features integrated into the software, and there are even plenty of tutorials on how to get the most out of them. On the other hand, Illustrator complicated things a little bit by not including the Spiro curving feature, which is why Inkscape wins this category.
One look at Inkscape’s community gallery, and you’ll be able to see real artwork from Inkscape’s users.
All graphics are well categorized, so it’s clear to see that almost anything is possible with Inkscape – photographs, all types of artwork to UI mockups, color palettes, games showcases, and much more.
Of course, not all graphics will represent the same quality due to the artist, but it’s recommended to check out the most popular artwork as this will often showcase how detailed the artwork can be in Inkscape.
This includes banners, large graphics for wall commercials, logos, drawings, and almost anything that’s scaleable.
This even includes typography, recolor graphics, and all sorts of vector-based graphics.
Even though Illustrator doesn’t feature user’s work directly on their website, you can find many Illustrator artworks on websites such as Behance.
These two graphic tools are equipped well enough to provide users endless opportunities to get as creative as possible and have no limit on the graphics they can produce.
Therefore, this category is a tie between Inkscape and Illustrator.
Inkscape doesn’t have the most beautiful interface among graphics software, but it has a simple and minimalistic interface full of features.
Even though Inkscape’s interface might not look like much, it’s well designed to provide simple and harmonious work since the art is happening in one window and all of the features surround the window without interrupting or disturbing the artist.
Such a combination looks simple on the outside, and yet when you get down to drawing and graphic designing, you will notice how smooth and effortless it is to use Inkscape.
Alongside the digital canvas area, about nine elements surround the canvas that doesn’t get in the way yet produce a great workflow and remind users of all the possibilities Inkscape provides.
Illustrator has a bit nicer interface but based on the elements, it’s very similar to Inkscape’s interface.
Of course, Illustrator comes with many more features than Inkscape, so in my opinion, Illustrator did an even better job providing all of these features without disturbing the users.
Illustrator offers a digital canvas place surrounded by tools, a top documents menu, and a side panel full of additional settings and tools.
More simply, Illustrator provides more features and much better support users need in the most critical moments.
Also, if you’ve used any other Adobe tools, you’ll feel familiar with Illustrator’s interface since it keeps the “Adobe” style all over it.
Inkscape did put the effort into providing a neat and minimalistic interface, but Illustrator did twice as good by providing as many (and even more) features while providing a four-element interface that almost looks minimalistic.
Therefore, Illustrator’s interface is a lot more enjoyable, which is why Illustrator wins this category.
Additional features are always good to have as they might not be necessary, yet they can improve and even change the way you work in the graphics tool.
Inkscape comes with additional features such as duplicate guides, hairlines for technical drawing, fillet and chamfer, text and document fixes for designing, customizable themes, various icons and fonts, and much more.
Other features that can improve your work include live path effects, split-view mode, easier alignment of objects on canvas, and theme switching on the fly.
Inkscape provides plenty of features that can compete with paid tools such as Illustrator for a free tool.
Illustrator introduced many additional features unique to such a graphic tool and aren’t easy to find among its competitors.
Adobe decided to focus on collaboration, so Illustrator comes with collaborative editing. To share and collaborate with others, all you have to do is share your work link, and everyone can collect all edits in one document without having to send large files back and forth.
Along with that, Illustrator also introduces easy patterns, enhanced glyph snapping, and super convenient canvas rotation that you can use when you’re working on a tablet or a similar device.
Both Inkscape and Illustrator have great additional features that help artists be as creative as possible and get things done efficiently, easily, and without missing out on anything that can affect the work.
However, Illustrator has pretty advanced features, which was expected from Adobe, so Illustrator wins this category.
Inkscape is very easy to use, from the moment you download and install the tool to when you start working on your first designs. You’ll never feel overwhelmed by several features or an interface that might be a distraction.
Instead, Inkscape remains as minimalistic as possible while providing almost all features every artist might require to make graphic work possible.
On top of that, Inkscape has a very supportive community which is why Inkscape might be a better choice for beginners who are only getting started.
Illustrator has a couple of good things in terms of easy usability. First, its interface is based on the interface of other Adobe tools, so if you’ve ever used any other Adobe tool such as Photoshop, you would easily learn the ins and outs of Illustrator.
Secondly, Illustrator’s interface is so wisely organized that it has way more features than its competitors, and yet they’re all hidden away, so they aren’t a distraction. Of course, these tools and features are always a click away.
Backed with professional support, Illustrator can also be a good tool for anyone, from beginners to the most experienced artists out there.
Illustrator has a slight advantage since it features a well-known interface and is built to provide everything the user would need without overwhelming them.
Not that Inkscape isn’t doing a good job, but Illustrator has a slight advantage which is why Illustrator wins this category.
Inkscape is compatible with Windows, macOS, and all Linux operating systems. There are also 16 different versions that you can still download, and they date back to 2004. Inkscape is serious about its support of the software since you can directly reach out to the manager of the project.
Each new version is likely to stay compatible with the earlier mentioned operating systems and Inkscape is also available as a raw code since it’s an open-source tool.
Unfortunately, Inkscape is not compatible with devices such as tablets. On the bright side, computer system requirements are minimal, so you can run Inkscape on almost any computer by using any Inkscape version that fits your system.
Illustrator has slightly higher system requirements, but it is compatible with operating systems such as macOS, Windows, Windows Servers, and is even available for iOS devices such as iPad tablets.
Inkscape supports more operating systems than Illustrator and it supports iOS devices such as iPads which can be used as a digital canvas.
Therefore, each tool has a pro and con so this category is a tie.
As mentioned earlier, Inkscape is a free tool based on open-source and is available for anyone, whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced graphic designer or artist.
Therefore, all you have to do is visit the official Inkscape website to grab a free copy of the tool and to unleash your creativity!
Illustrator is a proprietary tool, so you will have to purchase the license to use the tool.
Luckily, Adobe tends to offer a free trial, so I recommend giving the tool a try, even if you’re sure you’re ready to make the purchase. You’ll get a free week, after which you can upgrade to the pricing plan.
Illustrator costs $31.49/month, but you can also opt-in for an annual plan which costs $239.88/year. If you prepay your annual plan, when calculated, Illustrator will cost $19.99/month, which is a significant discount.
This was the pricing at the time of writing. For the latest pricing, visit the official Illustrator pricing page.
- Both tools provide a bunch of integrated tools that help artists draw and produce all types of artwork
- Both tools are compatible with plenty of formats and file types
- Both tools can be used to produce all types of graphics and artwork
- Both tools have a similar and easy-to-use interface
- Both tools are compatible with various operating systems
- Both tools get frequent updates regardless of their pricing structure
- Illustrator has its own file format
- Illustrator has a more minimalistic interface that’s similar to other Adobe tools
- Illustrator has very advanced additional features that Inkscape doesn’t
- Illustrator is compatible with iOS devices so it can be used on tablets
- Illustrator is a paid tool while Inkscape is a free tool
- Illustrator is an open-source tool while Illustrator is a proprietary tool
- Inkscape uses node editing method while Illustrator uses direct selection tools for working on nodes of paths
- Different shortcuts for applying the same commands in both tools
- Minimalistic interface that’s easy to get used to
- It’s completely free
- It’s compatible with most operating systems
- Has all necessary features that are essential for vector graphics
- Plenty of resources available within the Inkscape’s community
- Low system requirements
- No dedicated support
- Regardless of the easy-to-use interface, Inkscape can come with a learning curve for beginners
- A bit limited exporting options
- Helpful and minimalistic user interface
- Great in-panel editing
- Great scalability
- Files are created in decent sizes
- It is perfect for vector graphics
- Very versatile
- Plenty of additional features
- Many file exporting options
- Dedicated support
- Can take up a lot of space on the computer
- Higher system requirements
- Harder learning curve for beginners
Illustrator is a clear winner in this one. Not only does it rely on more advanced technology, but it also has plenty more features packed inside a better modern interface.
There are also plenty of additional features that Inkscape can’t compete with. Such a combination of features and tools in one software provides a huge difference to the end-user, making Illustrator worth purchasing.
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.