Adobe Illustrator is often considered to be the gold standard of vector software for Mac. But it's also expensive. Fortunately, you can use cheaper alternatives to create crisp graphics and beautiful charts. There are many Illustrator alternatives out there, and they give you some compelling options when you are tight on cash.
If you're looking for a Mac vector editor for your next project, be sure to try one of these free vector editors or inexpensive Adobe Illustrator alternatives first.
These are the best vector apps for macOS that you can use for free or buy on a budget.
Inkscape is probably the most versatile free vector editor for Mac out there. With a long history of development and an enthusiastic fan base, Inkscape works on all three major operating systems and costs nothing.
Inkscape uses an open source development model (like these other free, open source Mac apps), and as such, its technological advancement is often slower than that of its commercial competitors. Inkscape prides itself on its full compatibility with the open W3C SVG standard and strives to become one of the most user-friendly SVG editors for Mac.
Despite this ease of use, newbies can feel a little overwhelmed when trying out. To help you, the Inkscape forums have extensive documentation and answers to your questions.
Mac users may need to download XQuartz to run Inkscape. So, if you're not a fan of extra downloads, this isn't the best option.
Download: Inkscape (free)
Vectr is a free vector editor based on web technology. You can download Vectr for Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS, or run the browser version over macOS.
The app promises to be "forever free" and its tools mainly focus on creative vector drawings like logos, brochures and posters.
The best? Vectr comes with a comprehensive user manual and tutorials so you will learn how to use it effectively in no time.
Visit: Vector (Free)
LibreOffice is a popular open source alternative to Microsoft Office and comes with its own vector drawing program called Draw. Unfortunately, LibreOffice Draw isn't as feature-rich as some of the other programs on this list, but it does offer a few options.
The free vector editor seems to be aimed at users who want to create flowcharts or diagrams. It also has the ability to produce technical drawings and brochures. LibreOffice Draw is also a great Mac vector editor for anyone looking to create network diagrams – all without a high level of artistic skill.
LibreOffice Draw lacks the glitz of some other programs, but if you've used LibreOffice before you may already have it installed.
Download: LibreOffice Draw (free)
Boxy is a kind of vector graphics software for Mac with functionality similar to Inkscape. In addition to a web version, it has its own Mac app available through the App Store and can import and support SVG file extensions. It can also support PNG, JPEG and GIF files.
When using Boxy, transform tools, grouping tools, and painting tools are all supported with preset shapes, as well as gradients and patterns.
Boxy is a nice introduction to the vector graphics category, which is based on web technology. It is also light and invites you to play.
Download: Box-Shaped SVG ($ 9.99)
Autodesk Graphic, formerly known as iDraw, is a great lightweight vector editor for Mac. It's more expensive than it used to be, but still has a robust set of features with full support for SVG, PDF, and AI (Adobe Illustrator) formats. It also has layered PSD imports and exports for Photoshop users.
With a good selection of tools for drawing and sketching, Autodesk Graphic is a great choice for an SVG editor if you are a designer on a budget.
You can also download Autodesk Graphic on your iPad, which is using iCloud to sync. This way, you can access your designs on the go.
Download: Autodesk Graphics ($ 29.99)
Pixelmator is one of our favorite Adobe Illustrator alternatives on this list for editing vector images. The app has great support for drawing vectors with shapes and lines.
Pixelmator has a number of built-in shapes and tools for mapping vectors, although professional users who are used to Illustrator's advanced features will likely want more.
Still, it's a great app that can do a lot of common tasks.
Download: Pixelmator Pro ($ 39.99)
After receiving the raster editor Affinity Photo enthusiastically, Serif Labs introduced Affinity Designer to enter the vector editor market. It specifically targets the Adobe Illustrator subscription model by offering the program for a one-time fee instead of a monthly fee.
Affinity claims to have the best PSD import engine out there. While we're not sure Adobe would agree, Affinity supports PSD, PDF, SVG, AI, Freehand, and EPS file formats.
There's 16-bit editing per channel, support for slices, real-time masks, adjustment layers, and support for graphics tablets.
All of this comes along with the usual features you'd expect from a program like this – a great pen tool, curve editing, smart shapes, flexible text, and multiple workspace templates for web and print. You can also use halftone effects to get the best of both worlds.
Download: Affinity Designer ($ 49.99)
The most expensive SVG editor for Mac on this list, Sketch calls itself a professional designer vector tool. Sketch is designed for ease of use and aims to produce high quality vector drawings. There's even a Sketch Mirror companion app that lets you view your designs live on your device as you work.
As you'd expect from such a professional app, Sketch has all the basics covered: an advanced user interface, great text rendering, and a range of grids and guides to help you design to your heart's content.
You can learn about the specifics of the program on the Sketch support pages. You can also support your project by downloading community resources ranging from iOS development kits to icon templates.
Sketch is offering a 15-day free trial so you can try this vector editor beforehand. The only disadvantage? You have to renew your license annually. While this annual renewal is still cheaper than Adobe's subscription model, it can definitely get expensive if you're on a budget.
Download: Sketch ($ 99 / year)
Should you stay with Illustrator?
If you are already using Adobe Illustrator, there is a good chance that you are a professional designer. In that case, these cheaper vector programs may save you some money, but you will also likely lose some of the features that you rely on. For example, you may know how to trace an image in Illustrator, but find that this feature is missing in other apps.
If you've never used Illustrator or really need to save some cash, one of the vector apps we looked at here might be ideal.
How To Create Vector Art: 5 Online Tools
You can use these online tools to convert pixelated raster images into smooth, scalable vector graphics.
About the author
(136 articles published)
Shianne has a bachelor's degree in design and a background in podcasting. Today she works as a senior writer and 2D illustrator. It covers creative technology, entertainment, and productivity for MakeUseOf.
By Shianne Edelmayer
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