Develop a designing tool for your business’ special needs with open source graphic design software.
As a graphic designer, are you feeling restricted with your current proprietary graphic designing software? Do you want to customize the tool as per your requirements while also ensuring data safety? If yes, then open source graphic design software is your answer.
An open source graphic design tool will give you the freedom to optimize the code of the software. It will allow you to develop a graphic design tool with the features that you need and can be sold further. These solutions have an active community of developers who are constantly fixing bugs and making the software secure. Besides, if you’re from a small business and have a tight budget, an open source graphic design tool will the best bet for you as the code is available for free.
To help you pick the right tool for your business, we have highlighted the best three open source graphic design software (listed alphabetically) based on user reviews and ratings. (Read how we selected these products.)
Figma: Converts static designs into interactive ones
Figma is a vector graphics editor and prototyping tool. It allows you to conceptualize, prototype, iterate, and present designs on the web and mobile.
It offers advanced pen tools called vector networks that let you draw in any direction without having to connect and merge points. With its arc tool, you can easily create circular graphics such as clocks or pie charts. You can also utilize advanced font features for brand expression.
The auto-layout feature helps you create responsive designs by resizing buttons, rearranging lists, and stretching design components. This solution lets you automate and augment your designs with plugins such as stock imagery, flow diagrams, charts, and more.
This graphic design tool allows you to turn your static designs into interactive ones by connecting UI elements and adding interactions such as on-click, while hovering, while pressing a button, and more. You can also create advanced transitions and add multiple layers of interactive content.
Figma has open source libraries and offers open source code for free so that you can customize some parts of the software as per your design needs. It offers technical support via FAQs, community, video tutorials, and email. It has a mobile app for Android and iOS.
- Collaboration tool
- Design management
- Software prototyping
- Version control
$12 per user, per month (billed annually)
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program): Comes with a customizable interface
GIMP is an open source cross-platform image editing tool available for GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows, among other operating systems. It offers the source code for free and allows you to make changes to it and distribute the newly developed product.
This photo editing software comes with features such as corrective mode and a channel mixer that allow you to retouch, restore, and do much more to produce high-quality images. You can also use this photo editing tool to produce icons, graphical design elements, and art for user interface components.
You can customize the interface as per your liking or the demands of the project you are working on. You can change colors, widget spacing, icon sizes, or create custom tool sets in the toolbox. You can also use its full-screen feature to not only preview your work but also edit while making the most of your screen size.
GIMP supports various file formats ranging from the common ones such as JPEG, GIP, and PNG to special-use formats such as multi-resolution and multi-color-depth Windows icon files. This image editing tool can also save files with an archive extension such as ZIP, GZ, or BZ2.
GIMP’s support options include FAQs, documentation, and tutorials.
- Design management
- Pattern color and art storage
Inkscape: Supports open standard file format
Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor. It is available for GNU/Linus, Windows, and Mac OS X. This tool is suited to create both artistic and technical illustrations such as cartoons, typography, diagrams, flowcharts, and logo design.
This tool comes with object creation tools such as a pencil tool, pen tool, shapes tool, text tool, and a tool for cloning objects. Using them, you can draw freehand drawings and calligraphic strokes, play around with various shapes, add text, and create patterns.
Inkscape also allows you to manipulate objects by moving, scaling, skewing, and rotating them. You can group various objects together and add layers to form a hierarchical tree.
This vector graphic designing tool supports SVG file format which is also considered an open standard. You can also import and export files in AI, EPS, PDF, PS, and PNG format.
Inkscape’s support options include community, forum, FAQs, tutorials, and manuals.
- 2D drawing
- Data import/export
- Design management
- Image editing
Before you make up your mind, here are some points to consider that can help you find the right open source graphic design software:
- Open source community status: Open source software usually comes with a community wherein experts are constantly sharing updates and fixing bugs. However, some open source software can have an inactive community. Therefore, carefully evaluate the health of the open source graphic design software community. Some of the benchmarks to look for are–how often the code is reviewed, how many contributors there are, and how the code has changed over time.
- Data safety and security: The level of security in open source software can be critical. This can attract hackers and lead to data breaches. Therefore, it's important to consider how well the code has been tested against security attacks. Some vulnerabilities are extremely common and easily identifiable. Finding such vulnerabilities can mean the code is not very well developed.
- Updates and upgrades: Source code is open to all, including hackers. This means that whenever a vulnerability is found and posted on the website listing the code, hackers looking for such information get a chance to exploit it. Therefore, it's important for you to stay on top of all such postings and fix your drawing tool as and when vulnerabilities are found.
You'll find what you're looking for when you know what to ask. To help you, here are a few questions that you should ask your vendor before selecting open source graphic design software for your business:
How reliable is the solution?
Open source code has a lifecycle. It means that over time the number of developers working on the code decreases. This, in turn, leads to a weaker support network. So, before deciding, ask your vendor about the value of their open source drawing tool. Understand how large the user base is, how many contributors there are, and when the last update was released.
How is the open source code classified?
Open source software codes are classified under various licenses. Some of these licenses are GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License, and GNU Affero General Public License. Each of these licenses has its own set of obligations. So, ask your vendor under which license their solution falls and understand whether its obligations can become a hindrance to graphic designers.
Does the open source software come with documentation?
Although available support options and the status of the community indicate stability and usability of the software, the availability of documentation is another factor to consider. If you come across anything unfamiliar in the source code, clear and comprehensive documentation will help you understand it. The availability of such documentation also indicates that the software is of high quality. Therefore, ask your vendor whether their solution has documentation and how comprehensive it is.
To find your ideal software match, you need information you can trust—so you can save time, stay on budget, and focus more energy on growing your business. It’s why we vet and verify all our user reviews and recommend only the tools endorsed by people such as you.
In other words, our product recommendations are never bought or sold, or based on the opinion of a single individual—they’re chosen by your peers, reflecting the views and experiences of our independent base of software reviewers.
At Capterra, we objectively select and rank products based on a methodology developed by our research team. Some vendors pay us when they receive web traffic, but this has no influence on our methodology.
To be considered for this list, products had to:
- Have at least 20 unique product reviews published on Capterra within the past two years, with an average rating of 3.0 or higher (as of March 30, 2022). We selected the three products with the highest ratings to feature in this article.
- Offer an open-source, stand-alone version of the software with the source code freely available that can be modified and redistributed.
- Meet our graphic design software market definition: “Graphic design software provides users with the necessary features to design, edit, and publish graphics or images.”
The “best functionality” tool is identified based on the highest user ratings for functionality that a vendor received based on publicly available reviews (as of March 30, 2022).
Disclaimer: We conducted this analysis based on reviews and ratings data as of March 30, 2022. In order to present the most up-to-date information, the product cards show real-time ratings. Please note that this means the ratings value in the product card may not reflect the ratings value at the time of analysis.
Product research for this article was conducted by Himanshi Arora.