Advanced Illustration Programs

A collection of drawing software for Mac, Windows and Linux

Illustration software offers vector-based graphics editing and drawing capabilities for creating simple and complex non-photographic designs, technical diagrams, and illustrations such as logos and stylized art. Most also offer basic typography and page layout capability for producing small documents. These advanced drawing tools are powerful enough for high-end professional design and business use.

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Adobe Illustrator CC (Windows, Mac)

Illustrator At Work.
vgajic / Getty Images

IIllustrator CC is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. This once expensive software is now available as a reasonably priced subscription service. The industry-standard vector drawing app is well supported among professionals, particularly those with a print-oriented environment. Create logos, icons, and complex illustrations for the web, print, video and mobile devices. 

Illustrator CC (2017) introduced pixel-perfect artwork creation. Use it to draw shapes and paths that align to the pixel grid seamlessly so you'll never have to deal with anti-aliased icons again.

Although Illustrator CC has a challenging learning curve, Adobe offers video tutorials and user guides to simplify the learning process. 

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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite (Windows)

Besides getting CorelDRAW, the core application for vector-based illustration, you also get Photo-Paint for image editing, Corel Website Creator and, several other utilities, fonts and clipart in the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. As an affordable graphics suite, it's a popular choice among small business users. The newest version includes the state-of-the-art LiveSketch tool, along with enhanced pen and touch capability. 

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2017 is optimized for Windows 10.

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Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Inkscape is the open source community's free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Although it doesn't match the full range of features of Illustrator, it is a worthy alternative with advanced and professional features for vector-based drawing. 

Inkscape features include:

  • Pencil, pen and calligraphy tools
  • Shape tools
  • Text tools, kerning, letter spacing and line spacing
  • Advanced fill and stroke options
  • Gradient editor
  • Color selector and color picker
  • Layers


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Affinity Designer (Windows, Mac)

Serif's Affinity Designer is professional graphic design software that claims to be the fastest and most precise vector graphic design software available.

The modern interface works in any color space and is cross-platform compatible. It offers adjustment layers, effects, and blend modes. The workspace is customizable with docked and floating UI modes. It also features:

  • Professional print controls
  • Advanced type capabilities 
  • Shapes library
  • Force touch, stylus pressure, tilt and other controls
  • Easily edited vector brush strokes
  • Create your own brushes and nozzles.

Available for Windows and Mac X 10.7 or later (64-bit processor)

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Xara Designer Pro (Windows)

Xara Designer Pro promises amazing speed, a small size, reasonable system requirements, a moderate price, and a powerful feature set. It comes with loads of tutorials and video demos to ease the learning curve, and its loyal base of users are zealous. Xara is proud it introduced the world's first vector anti-aliasing in its all-in-one program that incorporates illustration, photo editing, page layout, websites and more. Additionally, 

  • Xara's Zoom tool zooms to 25,000 percent
  • Offers unlimited undo and redo
  • Supports a wide range of import and export file formats
  • Generates PDFs, even those including transparency or graduated fills
  • Supports CMYK color separations, spot color plates, and Pantone color support.

Xara Designer Pro runs on Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10.

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Canvas X 2017 (Windows)

Canvas X 2017 from ACD Systems is aimed at a user base of large corporations and technical professionals, specifically aerospace, energy, research and engineering, but it should not be neglected as an all-purpose graphics tool for small business users, web designers, educators and creative professionals. The one drawback of this powerhouse is its intense learning curve. 

  • Includes color management 
  • Suitable for commercial printing and any advanced image or export format
  • Include text formatting and style tools along with editing, proofing, and annotation capabilities.
  • Offers a template library for illustrations publications, presentations and animations.
  • Shares documents with secure encryption and password protection.

Canvas X 2017 operates with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 on 64-bit computers.

A 30-day free trial is available.

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Canvas Draw 3 (Mac)

Canvas Draw 3 for Mac is designed for business professionals and creatives. A comprehensive set of vector tools and advanced raster image editing capability position all of a project's graphic elements in a single document. This program supports:

  • Pressure sensitive Wacom tablets
  • 128-bit password encryption
  • Unicode text engine and UI
  • Copy and Paste with RTF
  • Improved drop-down menu
  • 2D and 3D vector objects
  • Autotrace capability

Canvas Draw 3 for Mac requires Mac OS X 10.10 or higher.

A free trial is available.

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Intaglio (Mac)

Intaglio is an affordable Macintosh vector drawing program from Purgatory Design. Intaglio carries the legacy of MacDraw into the modern Macintosh world. Mac users who grew up with MacDraw should feel right at home, and those new to Mac drawing can pick it up quickly.

  • Intaglio supports many vector and bitmap file formats
  • Reads legacy drawings from AppleWorks, ClarisDraw and MacDraw II/Pro
  • Works with SVG, PDF and EPS files
  • Converts bitmap images to vector paths
  • Contains 2D drafting features
  • Exports vector files 

A save-disabled demo version is available as a free trial.

The current version of Intaglio requires Mac OS X 10.8 or later.