Most Popular Vector Graphics Editing Tools
Image by terriana.
As the vector format overview is behind us, this time we present this small review of the most popular vector image creation and editing tools. Of course, it is hard to measure just how functional a certain tool is without using it first for some time; therefore, we focus more on other things – like price, available formats, how up-to-date it is and which platforms it is supported on.
First in our parade come the costly contestants – the commercial solutions, either available by subscription or purchased separately.
Of course, there's no talking about vector editors without mentioning the historical CorelDRAW, with its latest version of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2017. The solution has two purchase plans, either a complete purchase for a price of €699 (€629 with the 10% discount applied at the time this article was written), and an upgrade from one of the previous version of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite at a reduced cost of €349 (€314 with the 10% discount) as well as annual subscription for €239.40. Naturally, the program is perfectly up-to-date – not only does it support a wide range of fancy modern tools – it also comes with the advanced stylus support. The support for any operating system except Microsoft Windows was dropped around year 2001, so this is the only operating system for it these days. As for formats, Corel supports a wide range of bitmap formats, as well as AutoCAD DWG/DXF, Adobe PDF, PSD and AI formats, with most of other vector formats, such as WMF, SVG, CGM, EPS and of course Corel's own CDR file format.
Next comes – you already know it – the uncompromising giant of industry, Adobe Illustrator. The pricing plans are big and hard to figure out, but one thing is clear – purchasing the program once and for all is not possible – the Adobe products are only available with a subscription. The simplest subscription plans, which include only Illustrator, are Individual and Business plans, which are $19.99 and $29.99 for annual payments; monthly payments are not available for Business plan, but for Individual this increases the price to $29.99. There is no huge difference between any two subsequent Illustrators incarnations (the latest being CC 2018), but the program offers a staggeringly big number of tools and features, which have snowballed over the years into an immensely powerful and functional tool. As it happens, Adobe Illustrator is supported both on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS – though Linux support is something the community has expressed their wish in for quite a long time, however Adobe is quite reluctant to expand their Creative Cloud to Linux platform, which they do not see as profitable endeavor. It was not surprising, that Illustrator supports almost the same formats as its main market competitor, making an impressive list in total: Adobe's own AI, PSD and PDF, Corel CDR (all versions from 5 to 10), WMF, SVG, CGM, EPS (both typical EPS files as well as Illustrator's own kind of EPS), AutoCAD DWG/DXF as well as others.
The next and the last commercial competitor in our list is the Affinity Designer – brought to us by Serif Europe Ltd. It cuts its competitors with low prices, taking the low-cost niche of the market for itself – the Affinity Designer package costs € 54.99, no subscription or anything (which incidentally happens to be their slogan – “No subscription. Only €54.99”). Some users claim, that Affinity Designer's learning curve is very easy for those, who learned Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator – and in truth, some features of Photoshop are available in what is in fact a vector editing program, but for more one should look no further than Affinity Photo. Originally developed for Mac OS, it was recently introduced for Microsoft Windows as well; the situation with Linux remains the same as Adobe's, but it is quite possible that in its market conquest, Affinity Designer will expand there as well, given enough time – after all, Microsoft Windows support was also unavailable before. There are notably less formats than previous entries, however it still makes it as a bare minimum – most Designer projects are saved in their own unique AFDESIGN format, however Adobe's PDF, PSD and AI; SVG and EPS are also supported.
Naturally, this review also gives attention to other programs, but this time the focus is free and open source solutions available to the general public.
One of the most presentable programs among the free ones is the open-source project which goes by the name of Inkscape, which is provided under a GNU General Public License. As such, there are no associated prices – although Inkscape Fund does accept donations, but these are of course not mandatory. More than one review claims that Inkscape is as good a tool as the costly Illustrator – with the single exception of lack of CMYK support, which can be remedied quite easily by the system of extensions Inkscape offers, quite similar to browser extensions in fact. As for platforms, the Inkscape supports almost everything one can think of – Gnu/Linux systems, including Ubuntu, FreeBSD and Solaris, Microsoft Windows, MacOS – even users of other operating systems can simply download the source code and compile Inkscape themselves. For formats, here Inkscape comes short compared to commercial solutions – it is capable of working with Adobe AI and PDF, Corel CDR; but its own preferred format is SVG. It should be noted however, that this list can be expanded dramatically through the use of aforementioned extensions.
Something that has been in works since forever, the sk1 2.0 project (briefly named as “PrintDesign”, renamed back to “sk1” now) is an ambitious project, albeit quite simple. Despite being licensed under „All Rights Reserved‟ license, it is a free and open-source program, run by a bunch of enthusiasts. It is updated frequently, but lacks some features more modern development tools have, such as actual drawing, instead of creating vector shapes; but at least it has layer support. As is true with most open-source programs, it has a wide range of operating systems supported – Debian, Ubuntu, LinuxMint, Fedora and OpenSuse Linux distributives; both 32 bit and 64 versions of Microsoft Windows; for Mac OS there are only compiling instructions, and there is a port for FreeBSD. It should be noted however, that it is possible that the original python source code can be compiled for other systems as well. It all becomes very sad, when we start talking about formats – the projects are saved in SK1 format, and the program can only import a limited number of other formats, most notable being Corel Draw CDR files from versions 6 to X3. This remedied by a tool from same developer, called UniConvertor, which extends supported formats to AI, SVG, CGM, WMF and a bunch of others.
For the last contestant, we decided to take a step away from classic programs and look at the online vector editor solution. Vectr does not allow opening files, at least to unregistered users, and Vecteezy has a very limited number of tools, so the choice was the Janvas online vector editor. This online vector tool is absolutely free, with a license of „All Rights Reserved‟ type. It is a very advanced development tool, with full layer support as well as the ability to draw freehand. As it is in fact online, i. e. works in browser, it can be opened on any platform, so long as browser allows it to work, and integration with Google Drive may help with any filesystem difficulties. It only supports the SVG format, but nobody said this tool can‟t be paired with UniConvertor from previous contestant as well.
As a small afterword, it does not really matter which tool you use, so long as you are comfortable and proficient with it. A master of his craft can create a better drawing with a napkin and a pencil, than one a newbie can make with the most expensive and sophisticated tools available out there.
Cheers, RFclipart Team