Fav Free Design Software Picks

My top free design software choices, Lovelytocu.ca

When I first started learning computer based illustration and graphic design, you had to pay thousands of dollars for the software. And I only remember knowing of two possible choices... Corel and Adobe.

These days, anyone can be a graphic designer, with the tools and resources to do so more accessible now than ever before. And every year it seems like a raft of new choices crop up. It's quite amazing.

In fact, there are so many design software choices it can be super overwhelming to figure out which one to start with, or which one has the tools you need.

Since a lot of my customers are looking for affordable and simple options, I've made a list of my favorite choices that I would use if I didn't have Photoshop or Illustrator and had a simple project to work on.

These are listed in random order, I haven't tested each so thoroughly that I can rank which one is 'best' - and besides,'best' is a bit subjective depending on your project and skill set.

Also note that these are selected based on desktop computing, although some of these will work well on a tablet. (these are full programs and not apps)


I recommend this one because it's actually compatible with Photoshop files (among others) and looks and feels a lot like Photoshop when you are using it. It doesn't have ALL the features that Photoshop has (obviously) but it's great for creating basic design layouts with lots of drawing tool options.

It's also a web based software, so it's accessible on any device, anywhere.


This is another online editor, also a lot like Photoshop in how it looks and feels. Recently revamped there are now two options; Pixlr X and Pixlr E.

Pixlr X is super basic and only has very limited editing options. Great for projects where you are just adding a text overlay, cropping or making photo adjustments. Pixlr E is the advanced option that mimics Photoshop and has a robust selection of design and drawing tools.

While it will open photoshop files, it doesn't seem to be able to handle larger sized files very well and doesn't keep layers organized in folders, so complex files end up very messy.


I hesitate to call this a favorite (it's not), but it's been a few years since I last tried it and I'm adding it to the list because it is a popular free software with advanced editing capabilities. It is very similar to how Photoshop works and has all the tools you could need for either drawing or graphic design. This is a downloadable software.

Beginners will likely find it rather overwhelming as it does have a steep learning curve and isn't particularly intuitive. Luckily there are loads of helpful tutorials available as Gimp has been around for quite some time now.

While it will open Photoshop files it doesn't support all features so some files may not function properly.


This is for Windows users only . Another Photoshop alternative, this downloadable software is great for photo editing and simple design projects. It's based on the original Windows paint tool but is far more advanced. Because it has Microsoft origins it is easy to navigate and use with a similar layout to other MS software, so it should be more intuitive to use for those familiar with MS.


Another easy to use software, this comes in both online and downloadable options. It has a nice selection of tools for beginners and a friendly navigation.

This is not one that I have personally tested, but it comes highly rated for what it is and is the most likely candidate for me to recommend as a beginners graphic design tool with an easy learning curve.

It is only compatible with image files such as jpg and png and has a more limited selection of tools than some of the more advanced software options but otherwise a perfect option for the occasional project.


This downloadable software is a vector graphics editor and a comparable substitute for Illustrator. It opens both Illustrator and Corel Draw vector files with full functionality intact.

Again, a steep learning curve but plenty of tutorials can be found online to get you started.

It's a great option for anyone looking to learn vector drawing or wants to edit an Illustrator file they purchased as part of a design bundle.

While you can use it for graphic design projects I don't really recommend it for beginners unless you're prepared to spend some time upfront learning.

For anyone looking for professional grade software at an affordable non-subscription price, check out Affinity. They offer three awesome software choices that not only rival Adobe, they out-do Adobe.

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