Be it a few tweaks to turn them into social media posts, or full-blown retouching for a polished digital ad, you need graphic design software to edit your stock images into finished designs.
World-class tools like Photoshop and Illustrator are great, but not everyone can go through the paid membership threshold –in Adobe Creative Cloud– to access them. If you have a very tight budget or the few images you process each month don’t justify paying for it, you need to come up with another idea.
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The premium version of the service gives you full access to all features –including an image editor, an automatic background remover, and more– at very affordable rates.
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Free graphic design software is the answer to simply adding text to an image or further, simple image editing. While you’ll find plenty of options to choose from, here we give you our list of the best free design software apps to handle basic to complex image editing at no cost.
Simply want to remove the background of your image? Check out our complete list of free background removal tools.
Best Free Graphic Design Software Online: All Browsers
These are image editors you can access on the web, without installing anything. All you need is an Internet connection and a browser.
You can test-edit images from Shutterstock’s library, and if you decide to license them, your edits are automatically applied. You can upload your own images, too! It’s very easy to use, perfect for those who are not graphic designers. It launches right from the agency’s website, and it’s free.
Shutterstock Editor is a simple-yet-effective image editor that is perfect to design quick social media images. Equipped with templates, preset image sizes, fonts, and filters, it makes it very easy to create visuals for your channels.
iStock Editor is stock photo agency iStock‘s built-in image editor that can handle all the typical, basic editing tasks: crop, resize, add a filter, fonts, icons, etc. It comes with templates and preset popular sizes to make it even faster.
iStock Editor is accessible from any image on iStock’s library, and you can work on the image preview before deciding to license and download the finished, un-watermarked design.
The editing tool is free.
Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Adobe Creative Cloud Express (formerly Adobe Spark) is a multi-purpose, user-friendly image editing app, thought of as the non-designer version of Adobe's most popular, professional tools.
With Creative Cloud Express's free image editor you can easily create images –from memes to beautiful social media graphics–, as well as videos and even simple web pages. It's simple to use, has powerful features, and comes with a large selection of free images, free templates, and more graphic resources.
You can use Creative Cloud Express for free and forever, as long as you don't mind your designs being branded with their logo. But you can get rid of their watermark and unlock a whole set of premium content and features, by subscribing to the premium, paid version of Adobe Creative Cloud Express in Adobe Creative Cloud. You can do so individually for this single app, or get a Photography or All Apps membership. Additionally, Express is included if you subscribe to Photoshop CC.
All this and more can be found in our Adobe Creative Cloud Express (Adobe Spark) review. And we saved the best for last: you can also get a great Creative Cloud Express Premium Free Trial as well as more discounts for Creative Cloud apps!
Canva & Canva Pro
Additionally: iOS, Android
Canva is the go-to image editor for non-designers. With a user-friendly and very intuitive interface based on drag-and-drop functionality, free stock photos and vector images, templates, and many more features, it’s ideal for handling from basic to more complex graphic design —like presentations, for example— easily.
Canva is free to all, and if you want extra oomph, Canva Pro is a more powerful solution for businesses at a very affordable price. Get it on your browser, and if you use mobile you can find its app on iOS and Android.
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Visme is a design tool to create presentations, infographics, social media content, and more. It does not only offer a large selection of templates, photos, fonts, and icons but also lets you include videos, audio, maps, and more to create interactive designs. You can use Visme in your browser of choice.
Regarding cost, Visme has an unlimited free trial: you can sign up and design as much as you want, for free and for as long as you wish. You are only required to upgrade to a paid subscription if you decide to download your designs, in which case you can opt for one of their very affordable plans.
Crowdspring Brand Studio
Crowdspring is a platform that connects graphic designers with customers in a way that simplifies the design process and lets you focus on results. But as part of their services, they include online graphic design tools for brands and businesses that don't require creative skills and are rather useful.
One said tool is their Brand Studio solution. This is a free, web-based tool that provides branded templates for various digital and print marketing and branding purposes, ready to download, customize and use.
It's very simple: you sign up (it's completely free), enter your company website and logo, complete a quick form with some design selections (fonts, colors, style) and that's it! The system will automatically create a series of templates for different uses (like a newsletter, a brochure, a social media post, etc.) that you can download and use. You may also add different brands to your Brand Studio account and manage them all from one place.
Best of all, this is completely free.
Photopea photo editor is very much like a free version of Adobe Photoshop. Its user interface is very similar and the functionality is also comparable. If you already know your way around Adobe’s flagship editing app, and if you need powerful editing, this is a perfect fit that can take care of simple social media graphics to more complex photo editing. However, if you’re not familiar with Photoshop this tool has a considerable learning curve.
Access it from your browser, or you can also download and install the program if you use a Microsoft Windows-powered device. All completely free.
Pablo is a web-based image editor that, while it has limited features and options, gets the job done effortlessly when it comes to designing simple visuals. You have filters, fonts, resizing, a little color correction, you can even add your logo or icons.
Developed by Buffer and reminiscing of Tumblr, it’s ideal for creating blog images and social media graphics. And it’s totally free to use.
Snappa is a robust graphic design tool with lots of templates, free images, and customization features to put together beautiful visuals in little to no time.
One of the best things is that you can sync your social media accounts and share your designs directly from the tool to your channels. And you don’t have to install anything, or pay anything, to use it.
Additionally: iOS, Android
BeFunky is a complete graphic design tool. It can do image manipulation, graphic alterations, collages, and more. Templates, preset dimensions, free stock images, graphics, and icons, text overlays, are just some of the resources it has.
You can work with this took online on your preferred browser, but if you prefer to edit on the go, there’s an app available for both iOS and Android platforms. All free!
Additionally: iOS, Android
Pixlr is a design tool ideal for photographers, as it allows for quick and fun edits for photos. From unique ones like pixelating to more standard ones like layering and color retouch, you can process your images fast and smartly with this application.
If you use it in-browser you don’t need to install anything, but you have the option to go mobile and use the iOS or Android app. It’s all free.
Additionally: Windows, Mac, Linux
Gravit Designer is a very robust editing tool that works with photos and vector files. It has a very user-friendly interface and straight-to-the-point features to manipulate images without too much effort.
The free version is available online with any browser and has its limitations. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a paid version that is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Additionally: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Fotor offers a very easy-to-use editor and collage maker, with useful templates for social media and other graphics. It processes both photos and vector images and comes with video tutorials for the non-designer to navigate easily.
You can use it in-browser without installing anything, and for free, and you can also download it for your PC or mobile device.
Stencil is a cloud-based design tool that has flexibility and integrations to simplify your workflow. With a very large library of templates, images, fonts, and quotes, all customizable and easy to share to your social media or blog of choice, it’s a solution for those who need to make quick, shareable visuals.
Launch it from any of the supported browsers, it’s completely free!
Draw SVG is a digital drawing tool that can be used in-browser and works well with a pen tool on a touchscreen. It lets you perform basic edits to your drawings as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), as well as converting them to PNG and other file formats.
This is a web-based tool, available on the above-mentioned platforms, and 100% free.
Best Download-And-Install Design Software
The following tools demand you to download and install them on your device. This means verifying them for operating system compatibility, minimum device requirements, and storage space. However, they are very complete graphic design solutions, worth checking out.
GIMP is an open-source, raster graphic design program and image editing software that has been around for almost 25 years, and it’s the closest to a free version of Photoshop: the interface, features, and capabilities are fairly similar to Adobe’s star app, so it’s perfect for photographers and serious designers who want to handle photo retouching and graphic design, and know their way around pro tools.
Available for the three main operating systems out there, GIMP is completely free to download and use.
Inkscape could be dubbed the free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. This open-source, free software takes care of vector editing to a great extent, being capable of basic to complex graphic manipulation in a completely scalable format. It can become slow when handling large files, but Inkscape is perfect for vector graphic editing at a professional level.
Download it for your device on any of the three supported OS, and use it completely free of charge
Krita is an open-source graphic design tool for digital painters, illustrators, and artists. Its very robust feature set is good to work on concept art, matte painting, textures, and more. It’s to be noted that while the factory features, such as brushes, are rich, there is also an active community supplying great add-ons.
To use Krita you need to download the version compatible with your operative system, but it’s 100% free.
Originally a paid tool, Daz 3D is now a completely free 3D rendering software tool that lets you design and polish 3D characters, objects, virtual backgrounds, and much more. The service includes paid elements like fully designed characters you can customize.
But the editor itself is totally free to download and use, for Windows and Mac users.
Create your Best Visual Work with Free Graphic Design Programs
As you can see, you don’t need to spend thousands in order to access professional, capable tools for graphic design.
With any of the options we listed, you can design stunning visuals, from social media images to infographics to 3D environments, without spending a penny.
Which one are you trying first?