Vector Drawing Software
If you need to create your own diagrams, illustrations, logos or other graphics, there are a number of programs to choose from. This document looks at the main applications as well as some more specialist programs. It also highlights the main points to consider when choosing software.
- Considerations when choosing vector drawing software
- A selection of vector drawing applications
- Other specialist vector programs
If you are unfamiliar with vector graphics, take a look at JISC Digital Media's Introduction to the Vector Image Format.
Before taking the plunge and spending money on one of the dedicated drawing applications aimed at graphic designers, it is worth asking yourself what exactly you need from the software.
Basic drawings can be created using the office software you may already have. The drawing tools and chart wizards in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Apple iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) are more than capable of producing basic graphics, and it is worth exploring these if you are unfamiliar with them.
OpenOffice.org produces free open source office software that is compatible with all major office suites. It includes a dedicated vector drawing program (Draw) that provides many of the features you would find in the more expensive graphics applications.
If you already use a bitmap/raster image editing application (such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro), you will find a number of vector drawing tools. Again, it is worth looking at these before deciding whether you need a dedicated drawing program.
Basic considerations such as cost, hardware requirements and usability will need to be looked at, along with a careful evaluation of the specific features and functionality on offer.
In addition to the cost of the application itself, which can range from free of charge to several thousand pounds (depending on the number of licenses required), remember to budget for: future upgrades; training costs and/or time to become familiar with the package (check costs and availability of online support material/tutorials); and additional hardware requirements.
Software publishers provide details of the minimum system/hardware requirements for running their products. They usually specify platform, operating system, processor, RAM, hard-disk space, and display requirements. Minimum requirements are often accompanied by Recommended requirements - try and make sure your system matches the recommended requirements rather than the bare minimum: the minimum might mean the program runs, but it is unlikely to perform to its full capability.
It is always a good idea to try out software before purchasing it. It is usually possible to download or request a demo/evaluation version to help you ascertain:
- How easy it is to use
- How good the Help files are
- Whether a manual is provided
- Whether the software publisher offers any technical support or online training
- Whether any third party guides or tutorials are available
- Whether there are any online user forums or newsgroups
Some of the features likely to be of most use are listed below. It is worth remembering that some applications offer advanced features that may be surplus to your requirements:
- File format support - will it import and export the image file formats you will be using?
- Raster/bitmap tools - if you're importing bitmaps into a vector image, can they be edited within the program? (e.g. colour adjustment, sharpen, re-size, crop, rotate, flip, retouch)
- Multiple 'undo' levels
- Text tool - comes as standard, but how flexible do you need it to be? (e.g. paragraph controls, kerning, leading, text on a path, etc.)
- Animation tools - are you likely to want to produce any animated graphics?
- Ability to save workspace settings - useful if you need different set-ups for different users or for different types of work
- Vectorising/tracing tools - ability to convert rasters into vectors
- Range of drawing tools - lines, curves, rectangles, ellipses, pens, pencils, brushes, polygons
- Extent of editing tools - ability to edit points, and/remove points, rotate, 3D rotate, perspective, extrude, scale, reflect, skew
- Integration with Microsoft Office - useful if you will be creating graphics to use in Word, PowerPoint, etc
Illustrator is one of the most popular professional illustration applications
Corel DRAW (part of the Corel DRAW Graphics Suite)
Alongside Adobe Illustrator, Corel DRAW is one of the industry standards in illustration software
Drawing software aimed at business, science and engineering professionals. A GIS mapping module is also available
Since Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia, FreeHand is no longer developed and has not been updated since 2004, though Adobe still sell and support it
Lower-budget vector graphics software
Microsft Expression Design
Microsoft's relatively recent entry into the graphic design market
Software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint all include a number of basic drawing tools
Pages, Numbers and Keynote all include a number of basic drawing tools
Free open source office software suite that includes Draw, a dedicated graphics program
Industry standard software for creating interactive 'rich media' content for the web. Can be used for vector drawings, but more suited to vector animation and web video. There are a number of third party applications that can create Flash animations, or export to the Flash format. Some of these concentrate on specific areas e.g. animated web menus, Flash web templates, simple animations. Shareware (free or trial versions) can be found at Download.com or Tucows.com; or search the web for 'flash software'.
Free open source drawing tool using SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) as its native file format
Cross-platform vector drawing program using SVG as its native file format
One of the leading names in Computer Aided Design (CAD) software for design, technology, and engineering professionals
Windows software for converting raster images into editable vector files (SVG, PS or EPS)
Corel PowerTRACE (part of the Corel DRAW Graphics Suite)
Raster to vector conversion software
Raster to vector conversion software, aimed mainly at CAD software users
GraPL - Charts and Graphs
Charting software for producing graphs for use in print or over the Internet in VML or SVG format as well as conventional images
SVG Wiki - Design Tools
List of SVG editors (graphical drawing tools and text editors)