image editing/graphic design software

Some of the most popular image editing and graphic design programs are commercial and high-cost. For example, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign are very popular Adobe products. However, there are some free/open source alternatives:

GNU Image Manipulation Program/GIMP (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Free and open source image editing software. (Similar to Photoshop.)

Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Free and open source vector graphics software. (Similar to Illustrator.)

Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Free and open source desktop publishing/graphic design software. (Similar to InDesign.)

Adobe Spark (Browser-based, also available via apps)
Spark is a free and web-based graphic design tool from Adobe. There are three main components to Spark: Post, Page, and Video. Each can be used in your browser or via an installed app. Page offers templates and allows you to create dynamic webpages. Post offers templates for creating graphics to share or embed online. Video offers templates for generating animated videos.

If the above options don’t work for you and you’re looking for a lower cost alternative to the Adobe CS, check out the Affinity suite of design software. Their software averages $40-60:

Affinity Designer (Windows, Mac)
Vector graphics design software. (Similar to Illustrator.)

Affinity Photo (Windows, Mac)
Image editing software. (Similar to Photoshop.)

Many colleges and universities offer students, faculty, and staff access to the Adobe Creative Suite and other design software at reduced rates. These discounts can vary depending on your department or position in the institution. In my own experience, I’ve found that university-wide versus program-specific discounts can vary dramatically. Sometimes this discount is minimal, other times it will be a significant cost reduction.

Information about discounts and where/how to access them can be hard to track down.

  • If you’re a student, ask your school’s Information Technology Services department if the school offers software discounts to students. If you’re in a media/communications program, check with your department too. Sometimes the department will have different/additional discounts for its students.
  • If you’re faculty/staff, I suggest following a similar protocol. Don’t just check with one place about discounts. Contact both ITS and your department/program’s more local IT contact.


Are there other tools you can recommend? Let me know and I’ll add them!