Adobe Illustrator is often considered the gold standard of vector software for Mac. However, you can use alternatives to create crisp artwork and beautiful diagrams. Illustrator alternatives exist, and they give you some compelling options when you’re short on cash.
If you’re looking for a Mac vector editor to use in your next project you should try one of these free vector editors or cheap Adobe Illustrator alternatives first. This is the best vector software for macOS that you can use for free or buy on a budget.
What Are Vector Graphics?
For those who are still new to the concept, Vector graphics use mathematical equations along a 2D axis to draw lines and shapes inside a fixed space. This differs from raster images, which are pixel-based. When you scale a raster image past its max resolution, it “stretches” and becomes blurry. With vector graphics, you can scale up and down infinitely.
This flexibility means that vector graphics are incredibly useful for design purposes. They are great for creating icons, logos, diagrams, charts, posters, magazines, and other scalable artwork.
Inkscape is probably the most versatile free vector editor for Mac. With a long history of development and a keen fanbase, Inkscape works on all three major operating systems and costs nothing.
Inkscape uses an open-source development model (like these other free open-source mac apps), and as a result its technological progress is often slower than that of its commercial rivals. Inkscape prides itself on its full compatibility with the W3C open standard SVG, and strives to make itself one of the most user-friendly SVG editors for Mac on the market.
Despite this user accessibility, newcomers may feel a little out of their depth when trying it out. To help, there’s extensive documentation and answers to your questions within the Inkscape forums.
Note: Mac users may need to download XQuartz in order to run Inkscape. So if you’re not a fan of additional downloads, this might be a hassle.
Verdict: Inkscape is the best open-source vector graphics software for Mac, and the closest you’ll come to Adobe Illustrator if your budget is zero.
Download: Inkscape (Free)
Vectr is a free vector editor built on web technology. You can download Vectr for Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS, or run the browser version through macOS.
The app comes with a promise of being “free forever,” and its tools are mostly focused on creative vector drawings, such as logos, brochures, and posters.
Best of all? Vectr includes a comprehensive user guide and tutorials, so you can learn how to use it effectively in very little time.
Verdict: A free, web-based tool with excellent customer support via online tutorials.
Download: Vectr (Free)
LibreOffice is a popular open-source alternative to Microsoft Office, and it comes with its own vector drawing program called “Draw”. Unfortunately LibreOffice Draw isn’t as feature-rich as some of the other programs on this list, but it does have a few accessories.
The free vector editor seems to be aimed at users who want to create flowcharts or diagrams. It also has the ability to create technical drawings and brochures. LibreOffice Draw is also a great Mac vector editor for those looking to create network diagrams—all without a high degree of artistic skill.
Note: If you’re looking to create artwork, then Inkscape might be a better choice.
Verdict: Lacks the polish of some other programs. If you were previously using LibreOffice, you might already have it installed.
Download: LibreOffice (Free)
DrawBerry won’t “wow” you with its features or extensive help documentation, but it still works on the latest version of macOS, so it may be worth a shot.
This free vector editor for Mac is very lightweight, and although it lacks the features of more advanced programs, its simplicity is key to its appeal. While seasoned graphic designers will be pining for more advanced features, if you need a logo for your low-to-no-budget project, you can do a lot worse than DrawBerry.
Verdict: Despite being ancient and lacking in features, it still works. It’s also still free, and it might do the job if you don’t need a hefty vector editor.
Download: DrawBerry (Free)
Boxy is a type of vector graphics software for Mac with similar functionality to Inkscape. It has its own Mac app available through the App Store, and can import and support SVG file extensions. It can also support PNG, JPEG, and GIF.
When you’re using Boxy, transform tools, grouping tools, and painting tools are all supported with preset shapes, along with support for gradients and patterns.
Verdict: Boxy is a nice entry to the vector graphics category built on web technology. It’s lightweight and begging to be played with.
Download: Boxy SVG ($9.99)
Previously known as iDraw, Autodesk Graphic is a great lightweight vector editor for Mac. It’s more expensive than it used to be, but it still maintains a robust feature set with full support for SVG, PDF, and AI (Illustrator) formats. It also has layered PSD imports and exports for photoshop users.
Featuring a good range of tools for drawing and sketching, Autodesk Graphic makes for a great choice for a SVG editor when you’re a designer on a budget. You can also download Autodesk Graphic for iPad, which uses iCloud to sync. This way you can access your designs on the go.
Verdict: A proper vector editor above all else.
Download: Autodesk Graphic ($29.99)
Pixelmator is one of our favorite vector editor alternatives on this list. The app provides limited support for vector drawing with shape and lines.
Pixelmator has a range of in-built shapes and tools for mapping out vectors, though professional users who are used to the advanced features in Illustrator will probably be left wanting more.
Verdict: A great app that can perform many common tasks.
Download: Pixelmator ($39.99)
After the glowing reception it received for the raster editor “Affinity Photo”, Serif Labs introduced Affinity Design to take on the vector editor market. It specifically targets Adobe Illustrator’s subscription model by offering the program for a one-time fee instead of a monthly cost.
Affinity claims to have the best PSD import engine around. While we’re not sure Adobe would agree with this, Affinity does support PSD, PDF, SVG, AI, Freehand and EPS file formats.
There’s 16-bit per channel editing, support for slices, realtime masks, adjustment layers, and graphics tablet support.
All of this comes alongside the usual features that you would expect from such a program—a great pen tool, curve editing, smart shapes, flexible text, and several workspace templates designed for web and print. You can also use raster-style effects for the best of both worlds.
Verdict: A serious vector editor alternative to Illustrator, with no subscription fees.
Download: Affinity Designer ($49.99)
The most expensive of the SVG editors for Mac on this list, Sketch bills itself as a professional vector program for designers.
Built for ease of use, Sketch aims to produce high quality vector drawings. There’s even a Sketch Mirror companion app that allows you to preview your designs live on your device as you work.
As you’d expect from a professional app, Sketch has all the bases covered: an advanced UI, excellent text rendering and a slew of grids and guides to help you design to your heart’s content. You can learn the ins and outs of the program with the Sketch support pages.
You can also get a helping hand with your project by downloading community resources, ranging from iOS development kits to icon templates.
Sketch offers a 15-day free trial, so you can try this vector editor out beforehand. The only downside? You’ll need to renew your license on a yearly basis.
While this yearly renewal is still less expensive than Adobe’s subscription model, it can definitely get pricey if you’re on a budget.
Verdict: Sketch is up there with the best of the best when it comes to vector software for Mac. Unfortunately it also has a price tag to match.
Download: Sketch ($99)
Vector Software That Didn’t Make the Cut
If you’re thinking “there must be more out there!” then you’d be right. There are a lot of apps that didn’t make the cut, and here’s a few so you can dismiss them entirely:
- Xara Xtreme: A free, open-source version of the premium Windows project, the mac version of Xara Xtreme was previously in development. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the project has had an update since 2008.
- Skencil: A free vector drawing program for Linux that will run on macOS. Unfortunately there have been no updates since 2010.
- Karbon: A great free package that’s open-source, but it requires the whole Calligra Suite to be installed to use it. We guess it’s worth a try if you’re unsatisfied with Inkscape or Boxy SVG.
What’s Your Favourite Vector Software for Mac?
Did we miss any great vector packages for macOS? If so, let us know about your favorite vector software in the comments below. And then take a look at why it’s important to know how to change the DPI of an image, especially if you’re a designer.