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If we did a quick survey about the most common problems designers, especially new designers have to face, we would find that the expensive price of graphic design tools and applications top the list of these complaints. Even when companies like Adobe  provide Creative Suites for more saving opportunities, they are still expensive for many designers around the world. Some designers try to overcome this problem by relying on free graphic design tools that allow them to reduce their software budget and minimize their need for the paid software.

But the question is, can free softwares provide a substitution for comprehensive and expensive softwares? In this poll article we will try to shed light on this topic and discuss the different pros and cons of free and paid graphic design applications.

Free Graphic Design Applications

Free graphic design applications are open-source applications that you can download free of charge and use both in your personal and commercial projects. Although the free tools do not provide the complex features and capabilities that paid softwares do, they still give you the basic tools that enable you to build your design or artwork.

Pros and Cons of Free Graphic Design softwares

While a free graphic design software gives you the advantage of creating your design without having to pay for those expensive applications, it has some pros and cons you have to consider before choosing these applications.

The pros of using free software includes the following:

  • They are free and help you do your design project without having to pay high costs for paid applications.
  • You can simply download and use them without any license or shipment complications.
  • You can share them with anyone in your team and install them on any number of computers.
  • You can re-install your operating system or change it without worrying about losing serial numbers.

The cons of using free softwares include the following:

  • Many of these applications are not compatible with common graphic design extensions, such as PSD, AI, etc.
  • Most of the features in these applications are limited and not as comprehensive as those of the paid softwares.
  • They do not integrate with other graphic design applications. For example, Adobe Photoshop can integrate well with After Effects and you can transfer the files between them. You cannot do this with free applications.
  • These are open-source softwares, so you will find that they are not updated and tested as often as the paid applications.
  • Most free graphic design softwares do not provide customer support for users.
  • There is a lack of tutorials and training for free softwares.
  • You cannot share your work effectively with other designners who use professional and paid applications.

As you can see from the list above, there are a number of pros and cons of free graphic design softwares. While you will get these applications for free, you have to keep in mind the disadvantages of using these applications in your future projects.

Examples of Free Graphic Design Softwares

There are popular free graphic design applications that you can download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Here are some examples of these applications:

Gimp

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Gimp  is a free image manipulation program that allows you to do design and artwork in an environment similar to Adobe Photoshop.  It creates raster graphics similar to Photoshop but it is small in size.

While it includes the basic design tools, it does not include advanced features and does not support CMYK or LAB color systems. Also, it has limited compatibility with PSD files.

Inkspace

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Inkscape is a vector-based application in which you can create resizable artwork and designs. Similarly to Gimp, it is lightweight and small in size. Similar to Gimp, it is lightweight and small in size. Inkscape supports SVG scalable extenuation. Inkscape supports SVG scalable extenuation. On the other hand, its interface is messy and is not organized. Also, it does not include gradient meshes or effective filters.

MyPaint

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MyPaint is an open-source graphic design application that is mainly aimed towards digital painting.Unlike the other applications, this tool is more directed towards digital artists and allows them to use it for creating concepts and digital artwork.

MyPaint is small in size, simple and user friendly, and its only disadvantage is that it concentrates on digital painting rather than graphic design.

Paid Graphic Design Softwares

Graphic design applications such as Adobe products, CorelDraw products and other paid applications are usually made by huge teams who have spent years developing these applications and getting feedback from the community to improve it and add comprehensive features that help the designers to achieve their tasks much easier.

While the free applications are limited, paid applications have a greater variety for designers to choose from based on their career and project needs. For example, graphic designers who work in image editing or general design can use Adobe Photoshop. Also, designers who work with vector-based illustrations can use Illustrator and CorelDraw. If you are a digital artist, you can depend on Photoshop, Painter, ArtRage, and other digital painting applications.

Pros and Cons of Paid Graphic Design software

Although the paid applications are very expensive, they have a lot of advantages that make them the first choice for most designers, as we will see below from the pros and cons of paid graphic design applications.

The pros of using paid softwares includes the following:

  • They provide more advanced features than the applications.
  • Paid applications support a large and wide variety of professional extension formats.
  • Adobe applications integrate with each other so you can open your files in multiple applications with maximum compatibility.
  • Companies provide specialized customer support for paid applications.
  • You can find a lot of tutorials and training for these applications.
  • Paid applications are well- tested and compatible with your operating system without causing any troubles.
  • Behind these applications there are many experts and engineers who seek to provide a user-friendly interface and features that you really need in your work.
  • You can share work and interact with other designers inside your team or from other companies, because you will work with similar formats and applications that most companies use in their projects.

The cons of using paid softwares includes the following:

  • Their price is very high and is not affordable for many young designers.
  • If you purchase a Windows license of the application and want to move to another operating system, such as Mac, you will need to purchase a new copy for your Mac.
  • The advanced features and interface may look complex, especially for new designers.
  • You need to learn how to use these applications in order to use them professionally.

As opposed to free applications, you will find that the paid design applications have more advantages and their most important disadvantage is their price.

Examples of Paid Graphic Design Applications

Many software companies provide different graphic design applications in different packages or solutions that meet each designer’s need and industry. In the following examples we will take Adobe applications as an example for these applications.

Adobe Photoshop

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Photoshop is the most well-known design application that every designer relies on in one way or another. While it is initially an image editing application, it also allows you to create designs for web, printing, desktop, mobile devices, and video production. Also, it allows you to create 3D designs and animations as you can see in How to Create a 3D Spaceship Scene in Photoshop.

Adobe provides different versions of Photoshop. For example, the Photoshop CS6 Extended version includes all the available features and you can get it for US $ 999.00. You can get Photoshop CS6 for US $ 699.00. Also, you can get Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 for US $149, which is directed for photographers.

Adobe Illustrator

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Adobe Illustrator  is a very famous vector-based application that allows you to create vector graphics and includes comprehensive features that let you create complex artwork and add effects to your artwork in a professional way. You can use Illustrator to create artworks for web, printing, and animation. You can get Adobe Illustrator with a full license for US $ 599.00.

Adobe Flash

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Flash  is an animation and interactive application that allows you to create animations and interactive applications for web, desktop, and mobile devices. You can use it to create applications for Android and iOS using the Adobe AIR technology. Also, you can use it to create cartoon animations for video and TV production. You can get Adobe Flash for $699.00 U.S.

Adobe Dreamweaver

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It is an old and famous application that allows web designers and developers to build professional websites using up-to-date technologies, such as HTML5 and CSS3. Adobe Dreamweaver can be purchased from Adobe for $399.00 U.S.

As you can see from the list of paid graphic applications above, they are very expensive, especially because most designers use a bundle of applications to create their artwork. For example, web designers rely on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks. Thus, Adobe provides bundles of these applications instead of offering them individually. Adobe provides the Creative Suite 6 bundle that includes several versions that are biased to each design profession. For example, the Production Premium Creative Suite 6 includes the applications required by video experts, such as Photopshop, Illustator, Premiere, After Effects, and Audition.

While the price of these applications exceeds US $ 4000 in total, you can get this bundle for around US $ 1.899.  This is much less than purchasing the individual applications. Adobe provides the following Adobe Creative Suites:

1. Adobe Creative Suite Design & Web Premium, this package includes web design tools such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash.
2. Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium, this package includes video production applications such as After Effects and Premier.
3. Adobe Creative Suite Design Standards, this package is aimed at print designers and includes applications such as InDesign, Acrobat, and Photoshop.
4. Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection, this package includes all Adobe products in one package and it costs $2,599.00 U.S.

Adobe also provides another way to save money through the Adobe Creative Cloud Membership, with which you can access all Adobe products for a monthly or yearly payment plan. You can find more information about these plans in another poll article The New Creative Cloud Membership: Is it Really Worth it?

In addition to Adobe products, you can find other paid graphic design software such as CorelDraw, which provides the CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6 for $499.00 U.S and Painter 12 for $429.00 U.S.

Based on the above comparison, you will find that it is hard to choose between free and paid graphic design applications, especially when companies are trying to provide solutions to overcome the price issues. But do you really think these solutions will help putting an end to the debate about using either free or paid design applications?

Poll Questions

FYI – This poll closes at midnight Pacific Time on December 12th. The results of the poll will remain hidden until then so we can reveal the results in a follow up post early next week! Thanks for voting and all your comments!