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11 Best Free Graphic Design Software for Beginners [2023 Updated]

Last Updated on Sep. 16, 2022 – by David Morgan
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5 Best Free Graphic Design Software

Does the idea of branching out into a graphic design career excite you? Do you have a talent for marketing and logo creation? Are you a person who simply loves to create? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you're in the right place.

This article reviews the eleven best free graphic design software for beginners in 2023, including ratings, a comparison chart, pros and cons, and key features. We also give you step-by-step directions on how to use our choice of the best free graphic design software, PhotoDirector, to create and edit digital media.

Top 3 Free Graphic Design Software Snapshot

PowerDirector Logo

1. PhotoDirector – Best Overall

PhotoDirector is our pick for the best free graphic design software. This excellent program offers thousands of advanced tools and design features for aspiring artists and designers. Detailed Review >

Figma Logo

2. Figma - Best for Web Design

Figma is one of the best free graphic design software for web design and product prototypes. It offers collaboration features for teams and has beginner-friendly drag-and-drop tools. Detailed Review >

Vectornator Logo

3. Vectornator - Best for Typography

Vectornator is a vector illustrator and UI designer available on Mac. It is one of the best free graphic design software because of its many customizable brushes, pressure-sensitive pen tools, and typography options. Detailed Review >

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is a genre of visual art and content that communicates a message to its audience. You can see graphic design examples daily in advertisements, company logos, book covers, and more. As a massive aspect of modern life, graphic design is critical for brands and companies to connect with a target audience.

Nine of the most common forms of graphic design are:

  1. Advertising and marketing design
  2. Brand identity design
  3. Product design
  4. Packaging design
  5. User interface design
  6. Illustrative design
  7. Typeface and typography design
  8. Publication design
  9. Animation design

No matter what kind of graphic design you are interested in, our eleven picks for the best free graphic design software have the tools you need to start creating.

How to Choose a Free Graphic Design Software

The most important thing to consider when choosing the best free graphic design software, is your current skill level. If you are brand new to graphic design, you should choose free design software with easy-to-use drag-and-drop templates. If you are a more seasoned user, you might want the option to create designs from scratch. 

The next thing to consider is whether your designs will be photos/images or mostly vector art/illustrations. Some of the best free graphic design software on our list have amazing drawing tools and brushes for illustrators but lack photo editing tools and stock image libraries (and vice versa). 

And finally, you need to decide if you prefer using downloadable software, or web-based free design software. If you live in a spotty internet area or do a lot of your work while traveling, you should consider getting downloadable software that does not require Wi-Fi. 

Read on to find the best free graphic design software for your needs and expertise.  

11 Best Free Graphic Design Software for Beginners [2023 Updated]

1. PhotoDirector – Best Overall

PhotoDirector Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

TechRadar Rating: 5/5

Graphic Design Tools: 5/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $3.33/month

Key Features

  • Millions of stock images from Shutterstock and iStock
  • Photo filters
  • 1,900+ effects and templates
  • New features added regularly

PhotoDirector has the tools to accomplish your creative vision regardless of your skill level with graphic design. It's our top overall pick for the best free graphic design software and is perfect for artists of all skill levels, from the novice to the seasoned.

With PhotoDirector, you have a world of tools at your disposal, from the fundamentals of graphic design to AI-powered features like sky removal, color gradients, color correction, masking, and layer editing. As a result, it becomes simple to create logos, branding materials, illustrations, and simple animations.

Another great feature of this free design software is its ease of use and rapid speed in advanced editing tools like layering and masking. In addition, its popular photo workflow and image editing tools make it an ideal alternative to the prohibitively expensive Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Whether you focus on typography, branding, marketing, animation, or any other graphic design genre, this free design software has you covered. Its user interface is smooth and offers intuitive editing with guided tools and express mode editing.

You can choose from thousands of features, templates, design packs, and tools for editing images. So if you want to try the best free graphic design software, get PhotoDirector.

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Advanced graphic design tools
  • Sophisticated layer editing
  • Need a subscription to access royalty-free stock libraries

Download PhotoDirector for free and get started with all the tools you need for advanced graphic design.

2. Figma - Best for Web Design

Figma Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

Capterra Rating: 4.7/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.5/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscriptions available for $12/month for Professional and $45/month for Organization

Key Features

  • Create plug-ins and widgets
  • Auto button resize and stretch to fill
  • Asset libraries
  • Drag-and-drop design elements

Figma is used by many major brands to design their websites. We agree that Figma is one of the best free graphic design software for web design due to its collaborative design platform. Features such as live chat and comments make it easy to design a site with your whole team. Before launching the site, test it out with live prototypes. You can test drive every feature and can even send it to shareholders before the site is live. 

This free design software has vector networks that allow you to draw in any direction, without connecting to the path’s original point. There’s also an arc tool to help designers make perfect circles and arcs, and advanced font features to match any brand’s typography.   

Figma has a free version, granting it a spot on our “best free graphic design software” list, however, the free version is very limiting, and you have to pay big bucks for the best collaboration features. We highly recommend Figma to design your company’s website, but only if the company is paying for a subscription. If you want free design software for personal use, try one of the other options on our list. 

  • Excellent collaboration features
  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Limited free version
  • Expensive premium versions

3. Vectornator - Best for Typography

Vectornator Interface

Image from AppStore.

Compatibility: Mac

G2 Rating: 4.6/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.5/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Unlimited and saved undo history
  • Edit and sign PDF documents
  • Social media templates
  • Custom brushes

Vectornator is free design software for vector illustration, UI design, and print available on Apple devices. We found it to be the best free graphic design software for lettering and typography. With Vectornator, you can import custom fonts and convert any text into vector shapes. It has path guides for perfectly framing text and text outlines. We loved that using your Apple Pencil with this free design software feels just like a pen on paper, thanks to built-in pressure sensitivity. 

If you like to create videos of your illustrations coming to life, Vectornator has automatic time-lapse recording that will capture your process from start to finish. This free design software also comes with Auto Trace technology, which automatically converts your images and drawings into vector illustrations with one click - no manual tracing required. 

Vectornator is one of the best free graphic design software for vector graphics, vector illustrations, and vector typography. However, if you need to create designs with photographs or images, you should try PhotoDirector, because Vectornator lacks image manipulation tools. 

  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Touch, pen, mouse, keyboard, and Wacom Pad support
  • Only available on Mac/iOS
  • No animation features

4. Vectr – Best for Collaboration

Vectr Interface

Image from Linux addicted.

Compatibility: Web Browser

G2 Rating: 4.5/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.3/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • AI-Powered tools
  • Watermark creator
  • Image manipulation
  • Create YouTube graphics

Vectr is a free design software for making vector graphic designs and is ideal for people who want to work directly within their web browser. We think Vectr is one of the best free graphic design software because it features a live collaboration tool, which lets anyone view a project in real-time through their browser while someone else is designing. There’s also a chat feature, so collaborators can chime in while you are designing, and you don’t have to deal with tons of notes after-the-fact. 

Beginners will appreciate the welcome tutorial and walkthrough when they first open this free design software and the customizable editing interface. This is the best free graphic design software for quick, web-based designing and supports SVG, PNG, and JPEG file formats. In addition, Vectr's layer editing is user-friendly, and the software doesn't take up hard drive space.

The fact that Vectr is an entirely free design software makes up for many of its shortcomings. First, working on Vectr always requires an internet connection, meaning that offline work is out of the question. Also, you can expect to see a lot of advertisements when working, which may cause performance lags. Although Vectr and Krita have the same rating, we put Vectr at #4 because it has image manipulation tools, while Krita does not. 

  • User-friendly interface
  • Live collaboration feature
  • Has too many advertisements
  • Requires a Wi-Fi connection

5. Krita – Best for Illustrators

Krita Interface

Image from The Web Factor.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

Capterra Rating: 4.5/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.3/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Layer editing
  • Brush stabilizers
  • Wrap-Around mode
  • Onion skinning

Krita is a free, open-source, cross-platform graphic design software ideal for artists who love to create from scratch. It's the best free graphic design software if you want to create concept art, illustrations, comics, matte paintings, and 2D animations. Krita has numerous tools for digital painting and graphic illustrations, such as a massive selection of brushes for fine detail work. 

You can also create your own brushes and share them with other Krita users. Besides brush packs, this free design software has a resource center with various texture packs, vector libraries, and beginner-friendly templates. 

Krita is the best free graphic design software for graphic illustrators who want to do free-hand digital painting. Krita caters to illustrators, comic artists, and digital painting but needs improvement to its photo editing and image manipulation tools. Some users also reported that fast brush movements cause lagging in Krita's performance.

  • Clean and customizable interface
  • Numerous brush tools
  • Lacks photo manipulation tools
  • Needs more design features

6. Sketch - Best for Mac Users

Sketch Interface

Image from Sketch.

Compatibility: Mac

G2 Rating: 4.5/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4/5

Price: 30-day free trial, then $99/year

Key Features

  • Shorthand and math operators for instant resizing
  • Pixel-Level zoom
  • Smart Layout instantly resizes symbols to fit
  • Boolean operations

Sketch is the best free graphic design software for Mac users. Sketch has done its best to look and feel like a natural extension of macOS, so longtime Mac users will have no trouble navigating the software. Sketch offers full support for Retina and non-Retina displays, dark and light UI, Touch Bar support, built-in spellcheck, and native fonts and emojis. A clever workaround has made it possible for users to collaborate and share their work with non-Mac users. Designers can send teammates a web-based version for feedback or developer handoff. 

Sketch has kept its user interface clean and beginner-friendly by only keeping necessary tools front-and-center. However, this free design software also comes with over 700 extensions to cover any possible graphic design need. It also has excellent organizational tools to keep your styles, presets, and templates in one place. 

At one time, Sketch was roundly considered the best free graphic design software for UI design, but that day has passed. Figma surpasses Sketch on almost every level, especially where prototypes are concerned. And while Figma is cross-compatible, Sketch is only for Mac users, and sharing with teammates can prove difficult. 

  • Excellent resizing tools
  • Beginner-Friendly
  • Only for Mac users
  • Weak prototyping tools

7. GIMP - Best for Aspiring Professionals

RawTherapee Interface

Image from Davies Media Design on Youtube.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

G2 Rating: 4.3/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.1/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Photo retouching
  • Create icons from scratch
  • Diverse hardware support
  • Customizable brushes

GIMP is a free, open-source photo editor with advanced design tools. It is one of the best free graphic design software for beginners who want to become professional designers. The free price will help beginners get their feet wet with no monetary commitment. Anyone who puts in the effort to learn GIMP will be rewarded with high-quality, professional output. 

This free design software is one of the oldest open-source photo editors, with a dedicated community of developers who keep it bug-free. GIMP has excellent brush-based tools for free-hand illustration and an entire library of plugins for customizing your interface. GIMP also offers RAW support and CMYK colors for printing, both valuable features for graphic designers.

While GIMP is an impressive free design software with a massive library of free plugins, it's not without its shortcomings. For example, we noticed that some users find the interface a bit cluttered, and it has a steep learning curve. It also lacks tutorials and a "Welcome" screen to introduce new users to the basics. Our top pick for best free graphic design software, PhotoDirector, offers guided edits and tutorials to help beginners find their footing.  

  • Customizable interface
  • Large plugin library
  • No built-in tutorials
  • Cluttered interface

8. Mega Creator - Best for Non-Designers

Mega Creator Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

App Sumo Rating: 4.3/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4/5

Price: Free
*Premium subscription available for $29/month

Key Features

  • SVG design elements from icons8
  • Customize any element
  • Share directly to most social media platforms
  • Change orientation with one click

Mega Creator is an online DIY graphic editor for building designs from pre-made elements. We think it is the best free graphic design software for non-designers because it offers millions of design elements such as icons, illustrations, photos, backgrounds, and text that you can easily drag and drop onto pre-made templates. 

If you like a little more creative control, you can create a design from scratch instead of using a template. You are also free to upload your own photos as backdrops for your designs. This free design software has templates for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, and more. 

Mega Creator makes it easy for non-designers to make stunning designs in minutes. Getting started is easy - simply click on the site and start designing. The issues arise when you want to export your project - free exports are low resolution with a watermark. You can pay $3 per design or fork out for the costly subscription. PhotoDirector is another pick for the best free graphic design software for non-designers and also allows you to upload your photos to use in designs. However, PhotoDirector’s subscription is a much cheaper than Mega Creator’s. 

  • Incredibly easy for first-time users
  • Millions of customizable assets
  • Free version exports in low resolution with watermark
  • Expensive paid version

9. Corel Vector - Best for Colors

Corel Vector Interface

Compatibility: Web Browser

G2 Rating: 4.2/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4.5/5

Price: 15-day free trial, then $69.99/year

Key Features

  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Compatible with pen devices like Apple Pencil
  • Full Google Fonts library
  • Live Boolean operations

Corel Vector (formerly Gravit Designer) is web-based vector graphics software with exceptional color tools. Our pick for best free graphic design software for colors has an intuitive color picker with HEX color input and output, RGB, HSB, and CMYK modes, and a live color palette that updates as you design. With Corel Vector, you can grab the 8 most dominant colors in any design and create a palette to use in future designs. 

Powerful vector manipulation gives you complete control over every design aspect. This free design software offers non-destructive object styling with adjustable transparency and blending modes, and various types of borders, fills, and effects. There are also powerful controls for paragraphs, fonts, and characters. 

Corel Vector offers tons of precise adjustments and multiple tools for creating beautiful illustrations, typography, geometric shapes, and much more. Unfortunately, when Gravit became Corel Vector, its beloved free version was swapped for a 15-day free trial. Designers who want to continue using the program after 2 weeks will need to pay for the privilege. So although Corel Vector has a higher Graphic Design Tools rating than others higher on our list, its lack of a free version keeps it at #9.

  • Advanced tools that are easy-to-use
  • Manual adjustments for full control over designs
  • No longer has a dedicated free version
  • Needs Wi-Fi to operate

10. Inkscape – Best for Vector Graphics

Inkscape Interface

Image from Software Advice.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

TechRadar Rating: 4/5

Graphic Design Tools: 4/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Supports Creative Commons metadata
  • Node editor
  • Bitmap tracing
  • Path-Based text

Inkscape is another open-source, free design software, ideal for beginners with serious graphic design aspirations. Inkscape is also a vector graphic editor, which means you can create scalable vector graphics, or SVG, using its streamlined user interface. Many users agree that Inkscape is a decent free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. For example, you can use Inkscape to create a business card, website, user interface, poster, flyer, or just to practice your skills.

If you're a novice and want to learn the basic principles of vector design, Inkscape is an excellent place to start. Try experimenting and practicing the fundamentals of digital drawing with the pencil tool, transform tool, ellipses tool, and many more. This free design software has been around for more than 15 years and has an extensive community of developers and professional users happy to answer questions and help beginners.

Inkscape's perfect for budding graphic designers and intermediate-level artists who want to create SVG images. However, it only offers one-page editing, so multiple-page projects take a lot of time. Also, Inkscape has a complex interface and the docked layer editing menus are clunky and confusing. Both Inkscape and GIMP are filled with advanced features and have a high learning curve. GIMP placed higher on our list of best free graphic design software, however, because it offers a bigger variety of tools, including photo manipulation. GIMP and Inkscape have a supportive workflow, so it is possible to use them both for their different feature sets. 

  • Wide format support
  • Powerful text tools
  • One-Page editing limit
  • Confusing side menus and interface

11. LibreOffice - Best for Businesses

LibreOffice Interface

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux

PCMag Rating: 3/5

Graphic Design Tools: 3/5

Price: Free

Key Features

  • Thumbnail view of slides for presentations
  • Animations and effects
  • Hundreds of document templates
  • Fully customizable charts

LibreOffice is a free and open-source office suite for creating spreadsheets, presentations, and vector graphics. It’s one of the best free graphic design software for businesses because it comes with databases and formula editing so your graphs and spreadsheets will be 100% accurate. 

This free design software also has a variety of slide presentation tools, such as a Presenter Console, which gives you control over every aspect of a presentation and supports multiple monitors. 

The Draw function will let you produce brochures, posters, or complex technical drawings. You can create and manipulate graphic elements, and even use them in 3D. If you need to create charts and diagrams from scratch, Smart Connectors help you create precise, easily repeatable lines. 

LibreOffice gives you a full office suite akin to Microsoft 365 free of charge. It also opens any document, even those made with old or defunct software. However, it has a crowded and old-fashioned interface and doesn’t have collaboration features, which many businesses need. And while this is one of the best free graphic design software for slide presentations, charts, graphs, official documents, and spreadsheets, it is not the tool to use for anything not linked to office work. If you need the free design software for social media, UX/UI design, or photo manipulation, try PhotoDirector or GIMP. 

  • Wide format support
  • Abundant tools for presentations and graphs
  • Crowded, unintuitive interface
  • No collaboration features

Best Free Graphic Design Software Comparison Chart

Software OS Beginner-friendly Layer Editing AI Tools Animation Tools Download
PhotoDirector Windows, Mac Yes Masking, clipping paths, blend modes, graphic images, express templates Yes Yes
Free Download
Secure Download
Figma Web Browser Yes Layering, graphic images No Yes Download
Vectornator Mac Yes Masking, layering, nodes, path editing Yes No Download
Vectr Web Browser Yes Layering, elements, grouping, path editing, backgrounds, etc. Yes No Download
Krita Windows, Mac, Linux No Filters, customizable layers, plugins, blending, cloning. No Yes Download
Sketch Mac Yes Layering, elements, overlay No No Download
GIMP Windows, Mac, Linux No Plugins, masking, layering, blend modes, deep learning, colorization, etc. No Yes Download
Mega Creator Web Browser Yes Layering, elements No No Download
Corel Vector Web Browser Yes Layering, blending modes, layered fills Yes No Download
Inkscape Windows, Mac, Linux No Customizable layer editing, transformation, simplified tools, clipping mask, etc. No No Download
LibreOffice Windows, Mac, Linux Yes Layering, elements No No Download

PhotoDirector vs


Windows, Mac





Layer Editing

Masking, clipping paths, blend modes, graphic images, express templates


AI Tools



Animation Tools



How to Edit Photos With a Free Graphic Design Software

Would you like to learn how to use the best free graphic design software? Download and install PhotoDirector by clicking the link below, then follow these simple steps:

  1. Import an image from your computer, choose an image from PhotoDirector’s stock library, or start with a blank background.
  2. Under the Edit tab, there are many features you can use to create anything you can imagine. Here we use the Gradient feature to give our image some dimension.
  3. PhotoDirector - Edit
  4. Click on the Shape button and choose any shape you want to add your image.
  5. PhotoDirector - Guided
  6. Select the Text Tool on the right, then on the image to type. Under Text Effects, choose a visual design effect to transform your type.
  7. PhotoDirector - Text Tool

    Go back and forth between the Guided, Adjustment, and Edit tabs to give your design the desired look and effect.

  8. Select Save/Share to save your work.

Now, start all over again and practice your skills!

For more PhotoDirector tutorials, click here.

Download the Best Graphic Design Software for Free

Now that we've given you all the information you need about the best free graphic design software, it's time to put your knowledge to use.

Our pick for the best free graphic design software is PhotoDirector, which offers streamlined editing and designing. With thousands of effects, tools, design packs, and millions of stock photos, PhotoDirector makes it easy to learn the fundamentals of graphic design. We also love its intuitive user interface and powerful AI-driven editing tools.

Whether you have no experience or you're a seasoned graphic designer, PhotoDirector is the best free graphic design software you need to accomplish all your artistic aspirations. It's not just ideal for graphic designing, either. It's also a professional photo editor with the latest RAW format support and endless options for creating and editing content.

If you want an affordable alternative to Adobe or any other expensive graphic design software that offers comparable features, PhotoDirector is the best. Try it for yourself today!

Download PhotoDirector right now and learn how to create visually stunning graphic designs with just a few clicks.

Best Free Graphic Design Software FAQ

1. What is the best free graphic design app?

Our choice of best free graphic design software, PhotoDirector, is also available on Android and iPhone. You can use the app to create social media posts, YouTube Thumbnails, Facebook ads, and so much more. 

2. What features should I look for in the best free graphic design software?

The top ten features you should look for in the best free graphic design software are:

  1. Express templates
  2. Image libraries
  3. Stock photos
  4. Intuitive interface
  5. AI-powered design tools
  6. Digital painting
  7. Brush tools
  8. Text tools
  9. Beginner-friendly
  10. Fast performance

If you're looking for the best free graphic design software that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector. Download it today.

3. What software do most graphic designers use?

The type of software that graphic designers use varies based on personal preference, the type of project, and so on. For example, the most popular graphic design software includes Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for professionals, and PhotoDirector for beginners. 

4. What is the best free graphic design software?

The best free graphic design software is PhotoDirector. It covers all skill levels, from beginner to pro, and offers a fully-featured photo editor as well as graphic design assets. 

5. Which software is best for graphic design for beginners

If you're new at graphic design, we recommend trying beginner-friendly software. Some of the best choices for beginner graphic designers include PhotoDirector and Vectr.

6. How can a beginner start graphic design?

If you want to get started in graphic design, the first step is always learning the basics and principles. Download software like PhotoDirector and start working on projects, which is how you'll gain experience. Practice, practice, practice! Find your best talent and market it.

7. Does Google have a free graphic design program?

Google doesn’t have dedicated graphic design software, however many of Google’s free programs offer templates you can use to create various documents and presentations. Google Forms has templates for anything from party invites to job applications. Google Slides has templates to make slides for work presentations or personal events. Finally, Google Blogger has templates to help you start your own blog.

8. Is Adobe Illustrator free to use?

No, Adobe Illustrator only offers a 7-day free trial, then it is $20.99 per month for a subscription.

9. Is Canva good for graphic design?

Yes, Canva is considered one of the best graphic design software because it has millions of ready-made design assets and templates for beginners. It is a good choice for small businesses, bloggers, and people with no design experience. 

However, anyone who wants to learn graphic design or is already a graphic design professional will find Canva frustrating, as it takes little to no design skills to use. We recommend PhotoDirector as a more comprehensive alternative. 

10. How long does it take to learn graphic design on my own?

Learning graphic design basics can only take a few weeks. However, mastering the craft can take years. It also depends on your skill level going in, and if you have a natural aptitude for design. 

It also depends on why you are learning graphic design. If you intend to become a professional graphic designer, it will take much longer to achieve that level of professionalism than if you are learning so you can make cool social media posts. 

If you want a career in graphic design, a University program can take 4 years, while an online course or boot camp could be several weeks to several months.

11. Is learning graphic design hard?

That depends on the person, and if they have a natural aptitude for art and design. While some parts of graphic design can be taught, such as the Rule of Thirds, where colors land on the color wheel, a lot of it is instinct, and understanding when to break the rules. 

Even if you have a natural design instinct, you need to practice and constantly improve your design skills, and stay in the know on current technology and trends. 

Fortunately, for those who lack the knack, learning graphic design and creating graphic design are 2 separate things. Many of the free design software on our list offer pre-made templates and design assets, so all the aesthetic decisions are made for you.

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