The 10 best free design tools
May 7, 2018

The 10 Best Free Design Tools That You Can’t Live Without

If you work with, or on, creative teams, you’re probably like us – always on the lookout for new tools and apps to help complete your various projects. The good news? There is no shortage of choices when it comes to purpose-built tools for creative teams. The bad news? The vast majority are prohibitively expensive, and it’s not clear that their value will exceed the cost and time required to get the expense approved.  No problem! We’ve got you covered.  We’ve polled members of our community and came up with a quick list of 10 best free design tools for you to review, and hopefully add to your toolbox.

In honor of David Letterman’s impending retirement, we decided to keep it to a Top 10 List, but there were quite a few others we were looking to include as well.

The Top 10 Free Design Tools That You Can’t Live Without 

1. Adobe Color CC

adobe color cc

Adobe Color CC enables designers to create, save and import color schemes across your Adobe products. If you’re not an Adobe user, you can get the RGB and HEX color codes for each individual color. This is huge for designers – no more worrying about your tool’s color limitations. In addition, Adobe Color CC has an “explore” tab feature which allows you to upload images and choose colors similar to the ones in your images. Genius.

  1. Canva


Canva is as much of a designer’s friend as it is to marketers. It allows you to create images through its drag-and-drop feature, making simple things such as basic email creatives, blog post images, social display images and more extremely easy to create. Whether you’re a marketer with little design experience or a design vet looking to quickly create some design work, Canva is a must have.



There was no way that we could create this post without talking about vector icons, and has a whole lot of those – for free. The supposed largest directory of free icons, consisting of over 70,000, allows designers and the like to find any kind of icon for even the most obscure design projects.

  1. Pixlr


Pixlr is an online photo editor that allows you to edit your photos with over an astounding 600 overlays, effects and borders. It’s available on iOS and Android and it’s a must-have for those looking to gain the most out of their photo editing work while not spending a dime.

  1. Gimp


Gimp is a free alternative to Photoshop. It’s certainly not the same tool as Photoshop, but it’s free. And it’s really, really comprehensive. Gimp is great for those who are not willing and cannot invest in Photoshop yet or simply prefer Gimp’s interface over Photoshop’s and are comfortable with some limitations.

6. Skitch


The creator’s of Evernote didn’t stop at creating just one amazing product in Evernote. They also created Skitch, a screenshot tool that allows you to annotate screenshots to enable a more effective visual communication through email, blog posts, social, etc.

It’s a simple, effective tool for anyone.

7. Inkscape


Inkscape is an open-source vector graphic editor built specifically for designers. It uses scalable vector graphics as its native format, making it ideal for logos and illustrations that require high scalability.

8. Pantone Sample

Pantone Sample allows you to showcase color schemes to your teammates and clients in a professional and aesthetically pleasing way. This is ideal for when you’re working with a client who has a very specific color scheme that they would like to or need to meet.

9. WhatTheFont


Ever wonder what kind of font something is when you’re reading it? Well, with WhatTheFont you can upload a picture of that font and it will automatically identify exactly what type it is. This is extremely handy when you’ve found the perfect font and need it for an upcoming project, so it’s always good to have around.

10 Sketch Measure Master

Sketch Measure is a tool that lays at the intersection of the design and developer community. Traditionally, it’s been difficult for designers and developers to find a happy medium when it comes to communication – with Sketch Measure, it’s quite natural.

Picks From Our Friends

We’ve dedicated a good amount of time lately researching free design tools. Luckily, we have some great community members who continually curate their ‘go-to’ list of free design tools, so we decided to reach out to a few designers whose work and opinion we respect to ask, “what’s your favorite free design tool and why?” This list is the product of those conversations.

Samuel Hulick, Founder of UserOnboard: “I love Keynote. If I had to pick only one non-browser piece of software to use for the rest of my life, it would be Keynote and I wouldn’t even have to think that long about it. I use it for creating teardowns. I use it for creating presentations. I use it for wireframing/prototyping software. I use it as a sketchpad. Heck, I even used it to create the entire user onboarding book, adding new slides one by one like how you’d feed pages into a typewriter. I do not know how I would do what I do without it.”

Mark Bunker, Creative Director and Partner at Effin’ Amazing: “We use Sketch Measure Master quite frequently which allows us to mark up designs for devs. It’s an open-source tool that allows us to keep our design and tech team moving quickly on sketches.”


While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive, we wanted to share some tools that we’ve found helpful, as well as some that have helped our community members. With all of that being said, what tools did we miss? Jump in to conversation via the comments below. If we start to see multiple comments and votes around certain tools, we’ll post an update and let everyone know that the community has spoken!

Note: If you want to check our more examples of free design software, serif has a handful of free design products that are high-quality.

P.S. We’ll be at How Design Live in Chicago next week from May 4th-8th. If you’re heading there, stop by booth #508 and come chat about design with us!

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