Illustrator vs Inkscape: Full Comparison Guide

In this article we will do a head to head Illustrator vs Inkscape, comparison to find out which one is best for you. Adobe Illustrator is one of the best and most popular vector-based Graphic design software.

Its top competitors include CorelDraw, Affinity Designer, and Inkscape. As a free vector-based graphic software, Inkscape is very popular. Can it be a new industry replacement for Illustrators?

As a vector illustrator myself, I have had a chance to use both Inkscape and Illustrator. Both of them have their own share of advantages and disadvantages which we will discuss.

What is Inkscape used for?

Inkscape is a free open-source vector-based software. This means that it comes with shape tools and drawing tools just like Adobe Illustrator. It is straightforward and easy to understand especially for beginner artists without background graphic design training.

You will basically be able to do most of what anyone with Adobe Illustrator can do. One key downside of using the free Inkscape application is the lack of CMYK color mode when working.

CMYK color mode is the basis of pigment print production and you need to set it as you work on files intended to print. Although Inkscape will allow you to save a document as CMYK after you finish, the most important part of setting the colors is not after you finish but as you work.

This causes very big color problems and overall color variation. If you however do not intend to use your final files for printing, only digital use, you will have no problems.

What is Adobe Illustrator used for?

online graphic design

Adobe Illustrator is used for similar functions as Inkscape but is more professional and allows more color flexibility. For professional print production, you can easily switch from RGB color mode to CMYK even as you work on the document.

You will be able to create typography designs, banners, posters, flyers, booklets, business cards, and stationery using Adobe Illustrator.

For more information about the software, we have done a full guide on What Adobe Illustrator is and what it is used for.

As a popular choice for graphic designers, Illustrator is recommended by artists and graphic designers. Although it is not free, it is relatively cheap and affordable for beginners and professionals alike.

Using the software is not as easy as Inkscape and you might have to subscribe to a blog like ours to learn how to use it. Alternatively, you can look for a paid course where you can learn the basics.

Differences between inkscape vs illustrator

First of all, Inkscape is free while for Adobe Illustrator, you have to pay a monthly subscription after the free trial expires.

Inkscape is compatible with Windows, Linux, and MAC. Illustrator is also compatible with these three operating systems. Additionally, you can use it with an iPad which is not possible for Inkscape.

Inkscape will be helpful when creating vectors and graphics for digital and online use. However, it is not so helpful when preparing print-intended files.

Illustrator on the other hand is good for both printing and digital use files. Furthermore, it is the most professional application for print production and pre-press.

Inkscape is beginner friendly and can be used by a self-trained beginner without issues. Illustrator is not so complicated but you may need some training from a professional as you start off.

Illustrator is flexible and a modern solution for vector-based graphic production. It comes with many tools for many different functions. Inkscape on the other hand is rigid and not so customisable. It features fewer tools and functionalities.

Comparison between Illustrator and Inkscape

Both Illustrator and Inkscape are intended to perform the same function. That is to produce vector-based graphics. For this reason, some tools are very similar and work in a similar way. 

However, others are different having in mind that Illustrator is a premium tool and has better functionality overall.

Inkscape vs illustrator: Tools Comparison

The Pen, Pencil, and shape tool on both software work in a similar way. You just select the shape you want then click and drag. We have earlier done a shape creation tutorial for Illustrator. Check it out.

The basic ellipse and rectangle shapes are available in both the software. A very important menu that helps you create custom shapes is the Pathfinder panel found in Illustrator. You can get it by going to Window> Pathfinder.

A very similar pathfinder panel is also found in Inkscape for the same function. You can find it under the path tab. The brush tool is however different in the 2 applications. Adobe Illustrator has a very customizable brush with many presets coming with it.

You can use premade settings for chalk, charcoal, watercolor, and many more for your brush strokes.

Inkscape has fewer presets compared to Illustrator. It is also not so customisable and you may not be able to add your own brush. You will however get a decent brush that you can use with your drawing tablet.

Adobe illustrator vs inkscape: User Interface

Illustrator vs Inkscape

Just like any other creative software, the user interface can appear to be very intimidating at first. However, as you use it you slowly get used to it.

Illustrator has a more complex interface for the fact that it has more functionality to go to. Inkscape is old-school and simpler but is also limited in terms of functionality. You can however customize both interfaces to your preferred look and aesthetic.

illustrator vs inkscape Pros and Cons

Here are some pros and cons of Adobe Illustrator.


  • Fully professional vector-based software for both Print and digital production
  • Works with iPad, MAC, and PC
  • Not too expensive
  • The new Illustrator CC allows file recovery if you have power interruptions
  • Supports many file formats including.SVG.
  • Allows cloud storage


  • Not free
  • Not easy to learn without assistance

Inkscape also has its fair share of pros and cons. Here are some of them.


  • Free vector software
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Similar features to premium vector software
  • Supports many file formats including.SVG.


  • Not the best for print graphics
  • Old school interface
  • The text tool is not very user friendly
  • Not very compatible with MAC Os.


Inkscape is a good and free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. However, for professionals, Illustrator is a better pick.

denis maina kamau

Written by: Denis Maina

I am an experienced and skilled graphic designer with a strong focus on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. He specializes in creating a wide range of design materials, such as digital art, business cards, stationery, logos, flyers, posters, banner ads, brochures, PSD templates, and other graphics.

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