Free Vs. Paid Graphic Design Tools

Today is Day 7 in the 10-part graphic design for bloggers series, and we’re looking at free and 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 desire to spend the money for professional graphic design software.

The gold industry standard, when it comes to design software, is Adobe, with products like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, however, these programs can be expensive. Fortunately, they’re available on a monthly subscription to spread the costs, but they aren’t cheap, and training to use these professional programs can set you back even more.

Many believe paid pro tools are the only way to go if you want to produce quality graphics. However, there are several open source options that might suit your needs. Keep these considerations in mind when deciding whether to go with free vs. paid graphic design tools.

Free Vs. Paid Graphic Design Tools

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Open Source Software

Free graphic design tools may be the way to go if you’re just starting out. You just download them from your chosen site and install. These types of software cost nothing and offer the basic functionality of the paid versions.

The latest programs have come a long way since early offerings; however, they still have some drawbacks. One of the primary issues is a lack of compatibility between freeware and their pro counterparts. For example, you can’t take a file from Photoshop and edit it in free software. Also, transferring the images between applications for advanced editing is likely not a possibility.

In addition, free tools aren’t usually as comprehensive as the paid ones and may be limited when it comes to advanced design. However, these may not be issues at all for you as a beginner just looking to create simple graphics.

Paid Graphic Design Programs

If you’re excited by graphic design and feel you want to learn advanced techniques in the future, paid design tools may be worth the investment. With the most advanced capabilities, there’s no limit to how far you can go in your pursuit of design mastery.

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 if you wish to hire someone to add finishing touches or complete a larger work.

Beyond the price, one disadvantage may be the intimidation factor involved in learning complex professional software. This can be overcome once you begin experimenting and there are some great online tutorials. Check out this highly affordable Get PhotoShop Friendly course to get started with PhotoShop quickly.

Recommended Free Tools

New software is being developed in the open source realm every day, so there are plenty to choose from. Let’s look at some of the most trusted programs out there to get you started. These options can be used with Windows or Mac.

Canva is a good choice if you’re looking for a free and intuitive photo editing alternative. You can use it to edit pictures, add text and design graphics, using the free templates available or by investing is very affordable pre-made templates. Canva is free but may charge for certain images or elements. You can either choose to only use the free elements, or pay as little as $1 extra to use some of the paid options. There is also a premium version, with a monthly fee, but you almost certainly don’t need this to start with.

There are also sites & apps like Pixlr, Photoscape, and SumoPaint. There is also PicMonkey which was free for many years, but now charges a monthly fee. If you want to try your hand at your own basic illustrations, then consider trying Vectr, or OpenOffice Draw.

There’s no one right answer for all your graphic design needs. A lot will depend on your current goals. If you want to grow as a designer, paying a monthly subscription fee for a premium service is a good option. But free graphic design tools may be your best bet if you just want to be able to produce basic images for your blog. Don’t forget you can always do all your basic design work yourself with free tools, and outsource bigger or more important jobs to a professional designer.


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Featured image by Ivory Mix.

15 thoughts on “Free Vs. Paid Graphic Design Tools

  1. I use the free version of Canva, since I have a low budget for such things. But someday, I’d like to use their paid version. And I may check out Adobe, too, after reading this post. Thanks for your recommendations!

    1. Hi Jeanine. I used the paid version of Canva for a while as a client was paying for it. When my contract ended I went back to the free version. The paid version has a few nice extra bells and whistles, but I find the free version more than adequate for what I’m doing right now.
      Karen recently posted…How to Customize Free Stock ImagesMy Profile

  2. I use Photoshop and Canva. Although I have retired from the web and graphic design business, I still get my hands dirty for a few clients. If I have to make a header or banner for a website, I need to make it for the exact dimensions. Canva, and the other free programs (as far as I know) don’t allow me to do that. I’ve tried Gimp – but that was harder for me to learn than Photoshop. LOL If you know of any other free software that will allow me to create a custom header/graphic to specific dimensions – please let me know. Thanks.

  3. Hi Eydie. I actually omitted Gimp on purpose. It’s so user-unfriendly! I think you’re right in that the free programs don’t allow a custom graphic in specific dimensions. If I needed that I’d outsource to my PhotoShop specialist (also known as my son!). Canva has a lot of templates for banners, headers etc, but I think if it’s not there, it can’t be made. At least not in the free version.
    Karen recently posted…3 Online Courses That Helped Me Start Making Money with My BlogMy Profile

  4. Canva and picmonkey are my go to, because they are small learning curves and are convenient for on the go. You give great resources here. Thank you!

  5. Appreciating the time and effort you put into your site and detailed information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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