When it comes to designing online, the possibilities are plenty, with lots of online tools now able to perform almost everything that, until not so long ago, only well-established, traditional, paid software could do.
We’ve put together a list of 5 free, online design tools that can help any designer cover the entire design process from sketching, vector graphics, photo retouching, 3D modeling and collaboration on layouts. These tools are all that you need to complete any design task such as a hero image, infographics for complex projects, and more.
With no install required, all you do is just sign in and start designing instantly, from anywhere and at your own pace. Although quite easy to use, these tools are robust enough to also perform complex tasks. The fact that they’re online has other major benefits. All your work is saved in the cloud, software versions are updated regularly and the sharing of projects is very simple.
Here’s the list of design tools we believe to be some of the best available right now on the internet:
Photopea - the online “Photoshop”
If you’re thinking of an online alternative to Photoshop, there’s probably no one better than Photopea. It is a free online image editor that allows you to load, edit and save PSD, XCF and Sketch files without having to use any plugins.
This makes it great for editing files created with photo editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Gimp or Sketch. For those of you who don’t have a licensed copy or if your version of these tools has expired, Photopea can easily come to the rescue.
Some of the tool’s main features also reveal its main advantages: drag and drop images into the browser to import them and being able to work with both raster and vector graphics. There are adjustments for Brightness, Levels, Contrast, Vibrance, Curves, Hue and Saturation. Photopea also enables you to work with layer styles, masks, smart objects or text layers.
You can use this tool for simple tasks like image resizing as well as complex ones such as photo processing or web page design. The interface and the editing are very similar to Photoshop, so if you’re already used to Adobe’s tool, you’ll find Photopea very easy to get around.
Gravit Designer - online vector designer
A full-featured, free vector graphics design solution, Gravit provides designers of all levels with tools like precision, structure, vector, layout, text or style. This powerful design tool works online (and on major operating systems) and it is completely free.
You can use it for screen design, creating high quality icons and logos, presentations, illustrations, print or app design. One of the great things about Gravit Designer is that it really simplifies the design process so that you can focus more on creating rather than spending time trying to figure out how the software works. Getting started is also very easy to do, with lots of free design templates available for use.
Although free, Gravit Designer has some very solid features comparable to Fireworks, Sketch and even Illustrator. The vector tools available are Pen, Bezigon, Text, Line and Auto shapes- rectangle, triangle, polygon and star. Working with vectors is actually more intuitive than Fireworks or Illustrator.
You can also perform basic bitmap manipulation like clipping, masking, adjusting blending modes, resizing and adding live filters. Another main advantage of Gravit Designer is that it can both export to SVG and import SVG files. Other formats available for saving are PNG and JPG.
Canva - 2D digital design tool
Canva is a free web design tool that focuses on a drag-and-drop approach to design. This makes adding, editing or removing graphic elements on canvas very easy to do even if you’re new to design. If you’re a professional designer, you would be equally pleased with Canva as it will help you design even faster.
It has a big repository of fonts, templates and images - most images cost $1 per piece, but you can easily add your own. Canva also comes with many functions to assist you in your work, such as text, background, grids, lines, shapes and illustrations.
Among Canva’s main features are the photo straightener, image cropper, text, speech bubble maker, design grids, web wireframes and more. You can take advantage of these and build designs from scratch or you can create customized designs from existing templates. You can also comment on your work, which makes this tool great for collaboration and communication.
The free version offers a solid 1GB storage for photos and assets, up to 10 team members, two folders to organize designs and access to over 8000 templates.
Vectary - collaborative 3D design tool
Vectary is a free, browser-based 3D design tool that was built specifically for graphic designers and visual artists who want to get into 3D. You can use it to create and customize 3D models for 3D printing, visual art, graphic design, product design, game design, AR and VR projects, or just for fun. If you want more advanced features and more storage space, you can also opt for very accessible paid plans which start at only $19 per month.
You’ll find its user interface simple and intuitive, helping you to quickly transition to 3D modeling and obtain professional-looking results. The workflow is easy: you search for a 3D model in the Objects library, and drag and drop it wherever you want on the scene. You can also quickly edit it by entering Edit Mode. When you’re familiar enough with the 3D tool, you can start creating your own designs from scratch.
Exporting 3D designs can be done in the most used file formats such as OBJ, STL, DAE, glTF, GLB (Facebook 3D posts format) or USDZ (VR format), while importing 3D files and 2D images is as easy as drag and drop. Vectary has integrated lots of 3D repositories such as Google Poly, MyMiniFactory, Sketchfab or Thingiverse so that makes it very easy for you to find inspiration or share your work with the world and start selling.
Vectary features real-time collaboration which enables you to work together on the same 3D scene with other designers or clients. It’s like sharing one design canvas with your colleagues - everyone can see what it’s being worked on in real time. You can share your design with a link, just as you would share a Google doc, for people to view it or edit it. You can also add comments right in the 3D space, which makes it much easier to know what and where you need to add changes.
Figma - UI design collaboration tool
Figma is a browser-based interface design tool which provides real-time collaboration. It is free for individuals, with its Starter Team plan comprising of free features like up to 2 editors working, unlimited files and viewers, up to 3 projects, version history up to 30 days as well as commenting and redlining.
For those of you familiar with Sketch, Figma will feel very much the same, with its UI and main design tools replicated from the macOS editor. The biggest advantages over Sketch are the real-time collaboration and multi-platform support.
The real-time collaboration feature fits perfectly to projects on which more designers have to work together. You can invite others to edit or view-only the designs in progress, all without the need to own an expensive Mac or install anything. With advanced features for giving feedback and commenting, it saves precious time in communication.
Along with its powerful editing tools, Figma brings something new to the table: vector networks - a great feature which allows you to move the lines instead of vector points - , and version history, which actually seems to be faster than in Sketch. All of this can help you try out different ideas or directions in design, making it the “one tool” for design, prototyping and communication.
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