Use this list to find the best free design tools, software, and apps online to create your own high-quality graphics and art.
There are tons of free design tools on the market, all with varying degrees of function and actual free-ness. Some can even rival the big, expensive pro software suites, but not all. We’ve cherry-picked the most useful tools in this list, weeding out the many duds, so you can start creating your own beautiful graphics and typography.
I’ll walk you through the top free options in these categories:
Quick and easy multi-purpose designSimple vector designAdvanced digital illustrationMobile photo editingAdvanced photo editingColor picker and samplerColor palette generatorProfessional fontsDesign elements – textures, templates, icons, etc.Inspiration
This list compiles the best of their category, ranging from browser-based apps to mobile apps, so no matter what you need to do you will find a solution that delivers on the equipment you have. This list also covers both vector and raster grounds, and they’re all free. Whether you have a specific project you need to wrap up, or you’re looking to hone some skills in the design space, this list has something for everyone.
For Quick & Easy Multi-Purpose Design: Shutterstock Editor
Shutterstock Editor is an intuitive browser-based design app for creating professional-looking content for social media, presentations, and more. With pre-loaded templates, preset sizes for popular project types, and a built-in image library via Shutterstock, Editor can be your one-stop shop for pro graphics with zero design know-how.
Shutterstock Editor offers free templates for a number of project types.
Within it, you can search a library of millions of amazing images to find the one that’s right for you. Then, make quick and easy edits or choose a ready-to-use template.
Editor has templates and layouts for different channels and purposes ready to use right on the start page, including:
Presentation slidesAdsSocial media postsAny custom size you input
Editor’s templates make it easy to share your designs on social media.
Create and customize your images using its powerful editing features like Alignment, Layers, image editing tools, etc., with the preset templates, or to the size and dimensions you input yourself.
Save your project with customizable file sizes in Shutterstock Editor.
When saving you get a choice of files: JPG for basic web-based images, PNG for images with transparency, PDF, and TIFF for high quality photo reproduction. If that wasn’t enough, you can also specify the resolution of the files you save at 72, 150, or 300 DPI.
For Simple Vector Design: Vectr
Vectr is easy to use on- or offline.
Vectr is an online or downloadable app that lets you create simple vector graphics quickly. Whether you need to make your own charts, graphs, or overlay vectors on an image, you can do it all in your browser or offline through the software.
For Advanced Digital Illustration: Inkscape
Find an alternative to Adobe Illustrator with Inkscape.
Inkscape is a standalone, open-source vector graphic editor for desktop. Think of it as a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator with its own unique functions. Using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) as the native format sets Inkscape apart from a lot of vector programs, but most have the functionality to handle it.
Drawing with Inkscape" class="wp-image-124754"/>Use Inkscape if you’re collaborating with teammates.
Inkscape can also give you huge advantage when working with teams when someone needs to change an image directly. The original stays in the layout. Plus, since it’s browser-based, anyone can sign on without separate software.
For Mobile Photo Editing: VSCO
Edit on-the-go with VSCO’s free presets and tools.
VSCO is a hugely popular mobile app for photo editing and enhancement. Featuring presets mostly based on film and great editing tools, this mobile app lets you easily make beautiful photos and videos. The app also boasts an active community and hosts creative tutorials under the Discover tab.
In the free version of VSCO you get:
Basic VSCO presetsStandard editing tools like Contrast, Saturation, and GrainDiscover section features inspiring content from VSCO’s user community
For Advanced Photo Editing: Full Feature Image Editing
GIMP is an open-source alternative to Photoshop.
The humorously named GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is actually an unusually powerful free program. It’s a great alternative to Photoshop, or really any other expensive raster software. Since it’s open-source like Inkscape, it relies on user feedback to improve and evolve.
Free programs—like GIMP—can still be powerful tools.
Gimp offers a ton of really powerful image editing tools, and it’s consistently ranked the best for a lot of reasons. On the website, you’ll find a community of helpful users, galleries to view and share work, and numerous tutorials to get you started.
Color Picker Tool: ColorZilla
Sample intriguing colors with ColorZilla.
Google Chrome extension ColorZilla is free and cross-platform. You can use it to sample shades and hues on any web image to collect specific colors that strike your fancy, then build your own color combos. It shows Hue, Saturation, Value, as well as the RGB breakdown and Hex code.
Color Palette Generator: ColorSpace
ColorSpace never disappoints with its color palettes.
ColorSpace is a site that generates a bunch of color palettes based on the color you enter. So when you find a color you like with ColorSpace, enter it here. With one click you’ll get a long list of different schemes of varying numbers of colors within each. It’s free, looks great, and it hasn’t made a bad palette for me yet, no matter what I entered.
For Free Design Elements: The Shutterstock Blog
From free textures to free templates, find everything you need to design on the Shutterstock blog.
From vector to raster, Adobe Creative Cloud to PowerPoint, sleek minimal icons to decorative flowers to textures for any application, the Shutterstock blog has you covered on all things FREE. It’s far more than just a collection of thoughtful, helpful articles on trends and design concerns. Find a ton of high quality downloads for your next design project, too.
Here’s just a small sampling of what’s waiting for you there:
12 High-Quality and Far-Out Free Psychedelic Fonts64 FREE Flower Images to Layer on Your DesignsFREE Art Deco Design Pack—Patterns, Borders, Shapes, and MoreFree Lightroom Presets for Epic Adventure Photography
. . . and sooo many more.
For Professional Fonts: Google Fonts
Though not a design app, Google Fonts is a free, imminently useful resource to designers. Google’s collection includes thousands of high-quality options designers can use cross-platform. Whether you’re embedding your text in a vector, PowerPoint template, or live on a website, you’re sure to find something that works.
Google Fonts has the perfect typeface for any project.
For Inspiration: Behance
Keep an eye on rising creatives and inspire your own work with Behance.
The best apps and sites for design inspiration are user-driven, and Behance is right at the top. Through categorized, curated feeds you can select which types of design you want to browse. Behance showcases work from single pieces to entire brand portfolios, from both student and pros. You’ll get an eyeful of the best design from around the world, refreshed constantly. You can also download the app for iOS and Android.
Cover image via gigi rosa.
Get more tips on free design programs and working from home here:
The Best Design Collaboration Tools for Remote TeamsFilmmaking Roundup: The Best Free Video Editing Programs8 Best Practices for Creatives Working from HomeZoom Virtual Backgrounds During Social DistancingThe Top 6 Free and Paid Book Cover Design Software
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