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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.
A professional image editor.
More affordable than other paid software.
No one-time payment option.
Will take a while to get familiar with all the tools.
Illustrator 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 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.
Price: $9.99 /month, or more with a different Creative Cloud plan; free during the trial
Illustrator CC works with Windows 10, Windows 7, macOS High Sierra (10.13), and macOS Sierra (10.12).
Relatively easy-to-use user interface.
One-time payment option.
Comes with several other tools.
Provides access to a web version.
Upgrades aren't free for the perpetual license.
Subscription must be paid yearly at once.
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 Symmetry mode, Block Shadow tool, PhotoCocktail, and WordPress integration.
Price: $16.50 /month or $469 one-time fee; free during a 15-day trial
CorelDRAW works with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.
Advanced features for a free program.
Runs on multiple platforms.
Works in lots of languages.
Seems laggy at times.
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:
Inkscape can be downloaded for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Runs on the iPad and desktops.
No monthly cost.
Must pay to use it beyond the trial.
Serif's Affinity Designer is a 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.
Affinity Designer boasts an impressive list of features, including these:
Price: $49.99; free during a 10-day trial
Windows and macOS users can install Affinity Designer.
Ideal for web and graphic design.
Supports older Windows versions.
Requires minimal system resources.
Blocky, unattractive user interface.
Trial is only seven days long.
No Mac or Linux version.
Xara Designer Pro X 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,
Price: $299.00; free during a 7-day trial
Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista are supported.
Canvas GFX Inc.
Built for business use.
Perpetual and one-time payment options.
30-day money-back guarantee.
Impractical for novice illustrators.
Price is on the higher side.
Runs slowly on older computers.
Canvas X 2019 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.
Price: $239 /year or $599 perpetual license; free during 30-day trial
This program runs on Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7.
Touch Bar support.
Use a free, extended trial.
One-time payment and subscription options.
Built for Macs only.
Will take some learning to understand it all.
Canvas Draw 5 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:
Price: $89 /year or $249 perpetual license; free during a 30-day trial
Canvas Draw 5 works with macOS Mojave (10.14), macOS High Sierra (10.13), and macOS Sierra (10.12).
Several licensing options.
Supports new and old vector formats.
Compatible with old Mac software.
Must contact them directly to purchase the program.
Works with Mac systems only.
Intaglio is an affordable vector drawing program for Macs from Purgatory Design. The program 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.
Price: $89.00 (1-user license), $379.00 (5-user license), $599.00 (10-user license); free during a trial period
macOS 10.8 and later are supported.