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.
Free graphic design software is the answer to simply add 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 from basic to complex image editing at no cost.
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.
Shutterstock Editor –by stock photo agency Shutterstock-– 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.
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.
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 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 Adobe Spark'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 Adobe Spark 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 Spark in Adobe Creative Cloud. You can do so individually for this single app, or get a Photography or All Apps membership. Additionally, Adobe Spark is included if you subscribe to Photoshop CC.
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 to handle from basic to more complex graphic design 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.
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.
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 like layering and color retouch, you can process your images fast and smartly with this application.
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.
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.
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.
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?