Free Vs. Paid Graphic Design Tools

If you’re just starting your first blog or even if you’re revamping an established one, you may not have the budget or wish to spend the money for professional graphic design software.

The best design tools in the graphic design industry are published by Adobe. Adobe Creative Suite is a bundled software program which includes products like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. If you only need one program, they can also be purchased individually. No matter whether you choose the bundle or the stand-alone product, Adobe programs can be expensive.

Luckily, the company developed Adobe Creative Cloud several years ago. Creative Cloud is a monthly paid subscription offered as an alternative to shelling out thousands of dollars to own the software. As of this writing, you can only get the latest versions of Adobe products via Creative Cloud.

But monthly subscription costs can still add up. However, there are several open source options that are quite good. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding whether to go with free vs. paid graphic design tools.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Open Source Software

If your budget is limited, free graphic design tools may be the way to go if you’re just starting out. Open source software costs nothing and offer the basic functionality of the paid versions. But they still have some drawbacks.

One of the primary issues you may encounter is a lack of compatibility between freeware and their pro counterparts. For example, Adobe Photoshop has a freeware version of their software but you may not be able to send a version of your latest project to a friend who uses Adobe products to gain her feedback. Transferring the images between applications for advanced editing is also likely not possible. And finally, the functionality of free tools usually aren’t as comprehensive as the paid ones and may be extremely limiting when it comes to advanced design.

All that being said, these may not be issues at all for you as a beginner just looking to create simple graphics.

Paid Graphic Design Tools

If you are excited by graphic design and feel you may wish to learn advanced techniques in the future, paid design tools may be worth the investment. And with the explosion of YouTube in the past several years, mastering these tools no longer requires a college course. There are a ton of free tutorials online to help you learn almost everything you’d want to know about programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Paid graphic design tools also eliminate the barriers that exist with free design tools. Programs by the same company are compatible with each other, making it seamless to take a project from one application and use it in another. You can also send your work to other designers or a virtual assistant if you need to hire someone to add finishing touches or complete a larger work.

Recommended Free Tools


Gimp is a good choice if you’re looking for a good Photoshop alternative. You can use this tool’s basic features to manipulate raster images and artwork to create quality graphics.


Inkscape is a tool that is vector-based, meaning images can be resized and modified without losing visual integrity, similar to Illustrator. A couple specific features missing from this alternative are the ability to create gradient mesh and the use of advanced filters. You can likely do without these as a beginner.


The last five years has seen an explosion in sites & apps like Pixlr, Photoscape, SumoPaint and the ever-popular online program PicMonkey.

One of my favorite online tools is Canva. It’s similar to PicMonkey and offers free and a paid upgrade to offer additional features like auto-resizing.

There is no one right answer as to which option is best for your graphic design use. If you want to grow as a designer, paying a monthly subscription fee for Adobe Creative Cloud may be the wise decision. On the other hand, free graphic design tools like Canva may be your best bet if you just want to be able to produce basic images for your blog. Either way, you can enjoy the fun of creation and customizing your online space.

About the Author:

Quirky and authentic in all her thousand parts, she’s known for calling to sing you silly songs when you’re feeling blue and her infectious smile. She loves listening to people’s stories and always coaxes people to reveal the movie that is their life. A true joy to be around and an inspiration to work with, she always has a smile on her face and a song in her heart (if not on her lips).

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