Inkscape VS Illustrator VS CorelDraw | 2019 Comparison

Inkscape vs Illustrator vs. CorelDraw

When it comes to vector design, the big three applications are Inkscape, Illustrator, and CorelDraw. All three are excellent options and are completely capable of handling raw design needs, but the one that you should use depends on you and your own personal needs. In today’s post I’ll be comparing Inkscape vs Illustrator vs CorelDraw — both the pros and cons of each — so you can decide for yourself.


Inkscape screenshot

Inkscape is an open source vectors graphics application available for all major operating systems, and it has been my preferred vector graphics tool since I started back in 2012. Don’t let the fact that it’s free fool you into thinking of it as anything less than professional. This isn’t MS Paint. Inkscape is capable of virtually anything any other vector design software is capable of from a design standpoint. 


Cost: It’s hard to beat free. Inkscape is a great option if you’re just starting out and have no money to invest.

Less CPU Demands: Inkscape is a very lightweight application that will run good enough on low-end computers with outdated hardware.

Intuitiveness: This is just my own opinion, but Inkscape’s UI and functionality seem slightly more intuitive than Illustrator’s. A good example of this would be editing gradients on the canvas. It just functions in a more natural way in Inkscape.

✅ Versatility: Works on all operating systems, including Linux. In fact, it runs best on Linux in my experience.

✅ Community: Inkscape is made by volunteers who are passionate about their work and put principles and values over profit. This makes for a supportive grass roots community that feels good to be a part of. 


Lack of CMYK Support: No ability to output files in a CMYK color format, making Inkscape not a very good choice for designing anything needing to be printed.

Instability: You’ll regularly experience bugs and glitches.

Cross Platform: Since Adobe is the industry standard, Adobe’s proprietary formats tend to be what’s most commonly used by designers and clients. This can pose a problem when someone else wants to send you an Adobe file for you to work on.

Employment: Hardly used by any design studios or agencies, meaning your Inkscape skills probably won’t land you a traditional job.

Who should learn Inkscape?

  • An aspiring freelancer who has no immediate plans to seek traditional employment at a design studio or agency.
  • Online business owners (bloggers, Instagram influencers, YouTubers, Amazaon sellers, etc.) whose focus is not design, but may occasionally need simple DIY graphics to supplement their work.
  • Anyone using a low-end computer that would struggle with more comprehensive applications like Illustrator.
  • Anyone who deals primarily with digital design and will not need to design for print.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is a vector graphics application by Adobe. It is widely recognized as the industry standard tool for vector design and is used by the overwhelming majority of studios, agencies, and professional designers. 


✅ Employment Opportunities: Since Illustrator is the industry standard for vector design, there’s more upside to learning it over any other vector application. It’s what most employers and institutions use. Knowing how to use the Adobe software will put you in a great position to qualify for employment as a graphic designer.

✅ Extensive Features: Although Illustrator doesn’t do anything that the other vector tools can’t also do, it does have some neat features that can automate some of your work and save time that would otherwise be spent doing it manually. A good example of this would be working with multiple art boards — something I always wished Inkscape had. 

✅ Development: Since Adobe is the industry leader, innovative new features and tools tend to debut on Illustrator before they eventually make their way over to the alternatives.

✅ Proprietary Formats: Adobe’s proprietary formats (.ai, .psd, etc.) tend to be what’s most commonly used by designers and requested by clients. Although there’s workarounds for opening and creating Illustrator files with Inkscape, it’s far from perfect because things sometimes get lost in translation. Having access to Adobe software means you’ll be able to work with proprietary files other designers and clients send you without a problem.

✅ Cross Platform Usability: One thing I love about the Adobe suite is how well all of its applications communicate with each other. Vector graphics created with Illustrator can very easily be imported into After Effects, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, etc. and worked with further. 


Price: Adobe software is sold as a service, meaning it’s an ongoing monthly expense. That’s a pretty big pill to swallow if design isn’t a big part of your job or business and you just need occasional graphics.

Hardware Requirements: Requires high performance hardware in order to run well. As I wrote about recently, using Adobe software on a low-end machine is very frustrating. Not only will you need to fork over some dough for the software, but you’ll need to invest in a high performance machine as well.

No Linux support: If you want to use the Adobe suite, you’ll have to do so on Windows or Mac.

Who should learn Illustrator?

  • Anyone who wishes to be employed as a graphic designer at a design studio or agency.
  • Students (Adobe gives discounts to students.)
  • Aspiring freelancers who have money to invest in software and high performance hardware.


CorelDraw screenshot

CorelDraw is a vectors graphics application by the Corel Corporation. Although I have little experience working with it, it does seem to be a nice middle-of-the-road option. 


✅ Price: Although the CorelDraw suite comes with quite a substantial upfront cost (see current prices here,) it eventually becomes a better value than Adobe Creative Cloud if you use it long enough, because you only have to pay for it once and you own it for life (they do offer a subscription plan if you’d prefer that though.)

✅ CMYK Output: Unlike Inkscape, CorelDraw allows you to create print-ready files in CMYK format like Illustrator does, but without its price tag.

✅ Design at Scale: According to some print shop owners I’ve talked to, they tend to prefer CorelDraw because apparently it has a much larger canvas than Illustrator, meaning you can design large signs and banners at scale. 

✅ Employment Opportunities: In my experience CorelDraw is the preferred application used by most sign shops, so becoming proficient with it can help land you a job at a local sign shop.


Employment Opportunities: Yes, this is both a pro and a con. Knowing how to use CorelDraw will qualify you to work at sign shops and the like, but that’s about it. Most everyone else demands proficiency with the Adobe suite.

Windows Only: According to Corel’s website, CorelDraw is currently not on its list of Mac-compatible applications. This is the kiss of death for their hopes of ever taking significant market share from Adobe in my opinion because most creatives prefer Mac.

Cross Platform: Much like Inkscape, you’ll have trouble working with Adobe’s proprietary formats.

Who should learn CorelDraw?

  • Anyone who will work primarily with print and/or would potentially like to work at a sign shop.
  • An aspiring freelancer who has some money to invest but would prefer something a little more economical than Illustrator to keep monthly expenses low.

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38 thoughts on “Inkscape VS Illustrator VS CorelDraw | 2019 Comparison

  1. I am involved in moving an 1892 church about 2 block from its present site. I want to animate the move by having the church moving down the road being pulled by an old steam tractor. I would have an artist create one image for the road and another for the church and tractor. Hopefully, I could place the road on layer 2 and the image on layer 1 and move the image over the road.

    I would need some way to capture the result so that the moving image can be displayed on a web page or within an email.

    Can you recommend a graphics package to do this for me?

    1. Blender will do what you need and it is free. Can be intimidating at first but there are countless tutorials. If you can work with a simple timeline then you’re in business.

  2. Inkscape is a Excellent art software , I am not a professional graphic designer, but I do need to create graphics and make edits for use in my website design projects. Inkscape is fantastic for my needs. I have a XP-Pen Artist 12 Pro display grapics tablet for Vector edits work . I’ve been using Inkscape for a couple of years; I love it, and it just keeps getting better .

  3. Regarding Inkscape, i’ll say the Instability part is not that much bad as one will think of. Also it do save a version of the file just before the crash and you could recover it from there if you’re not saving the file at regular interval.

    About the cross platform inability, i would say the latest variant can open adobe files even though it cannot save back in adobe. The major cross platform isssue related to Inkscape is its inablity to save the file in plain svg but their own kinda properitory format of Inkscape svg which is worthless if you want to load the same in any other editing software. If they can come out with making plain svg as the default this can be overcome. But the ego of some of the designers and the lack of foresight within the team is holding Inkscape back from achieving it’s full potential of cross platform adaptability.

  4. Working with CorelDraw for 12 years by now. The support for Mac and the web app are such big pluses for them. You basically can do anything with corel. Like everything: logos, flyers, signage, website templates, anything the clients need. No client cares if it’s made with Illustrator or Inkscape or any oither software.
    But CorelDraw is a great tools, if you learn to use it at the right potential. It’s easy, it works great with macros and you have a lot of extensions.

    1. After using CoreldRAW for over 22 years now, I can confirm, you can do everything a graphic designer, sign designer needs.

      I think of it as the swiss army knife of Graphic Design. You can replace many other Adobe programs with just this one graphics suite. But you will not go ‘deeper’ in each field. Each Adobe program that Corel can compete with are much more ‘complete’ but also much more complex. It’s practically impossible to learn, even just the basics , as self-taught. Corel’s terms are easier to understand and their behavior when trying the computer designing for the first time at all.

      Shamanu, you mention clients don’t care if work is made from any software available. It depends on the clients. From a freelance designer’s point of view, it’s very different and I might ad problematic. The clients hiring freelance designers must consider the software used. If, for any reason, they need slight changes to be done, unsatisfying service from the designer or any reason whatsoever, they have to rely on the easiest way to have changes done to their files/projects. That’s where Corel gets a kick right in the gut!

      I’ve lost many job and career opportunities due to the fact that I only use CorelDRAW. Many clients or employers have sadly refused my candidacy for that one and only reason.

      On the upside though, since Corel isn’t so wide spread, it has protected me too. Funny situation that has happened more than once! Unloyal clients with the purpose of attempting to not pay me, trying to get print jobs done (with low resolution preview files that printers don’t agree to with) have no choice but to ask for native files. So I send them CDR files. They have again, another trap that they head right into. They end up paying me for either the high resolution PDF production files or converted to Adobe files.

  5. Nick, I’ve been printing decals for model railroading on an HP laser printer from Inkscape on my PC. I’ve had much success in modifying fonts to match the real railroads with Inkscape. However, I’m having problems with the toner chipping, especially black, upon model application. I’ve used about every paper type setting and printer density setting without solution. I’ve spoken to a decal professional who said my problem was printing with Inkscape. He uses Corel Draw. He didn’t say it had anything to do with the RGB/CMYK issue but stated that printing was just not Inkscape’s strong suit. I feel it has more to do with the HP settings selections. I’ve spoken with HP and the person that I spoke with didn’t even know what a decal was! Plesase advise. Thank you.

  6. Coreldraw is a User and Machine plug-ins Friendly. It can run most complicated machines than other designing software. It can run, Laser Cutter and engraver, CNC Machines, Cutter Plotter, and more. So Learning it is not only for Sign Companies, but Learning it is an enterprise 🙂

  7. Inkscsape gives some possibilities to export in CMYK. Look at this of course this is not prefect, but this is feasible…so it push up Inkscape 🙂

  8. hi nick.
    can u upload your inkscape course to please.
    i don’t have any methode for pay,
    but with, i can pay with pulse methode.

    1. I initially looked into putting my courses on Udemy but I decided I didn’t want to do business with them. Sorry. If you’d like to pay any other way just send me an email and I’ll see if it’s something I can do. Thanks for your interest.

  9. I just recently downloaded Inkscape and then discovered your videos!! SOOOO greatful for people who are so knowledgeable and willing to share their knowledge. I purchased a vinyl cutter a little over a year ago and it came with LXI software which I have used and enjoyed but I think learning Inkscape will make many things much easier. Once again a BIG thanks!!

  10. Thank you for the information. I’m looking into starting a home based t-shirt business with no clue on any of the programs. Which do you think would be best for me to start out?

    1. Well Illustrator wouldn’t be necessary because you’re just designing t shirts and not looking to to do extensive client work or gain employment as a designer. You’ll want CMYK output since you’re designing for print, so I would recommend CorelDraw or even look into Affinity Designer. Last I checked Affinity is only $50 and would have everything you need. I don’t have any experience with it personally but I plan to try it out very soon. Good luck.

  11. just binged watch all of your content on youtube. As a software developer for more than 15 years I used to watch and read lots of online tutorials and without the doubt, you have one of the best methods to deliver the content. I had worked with inkscape and gimp for my projects a lot but I enjoyed even to watch you teaching the things I already knew.
    such a magnificent job man. thank you

  12. Just wanted to let you know that coreldraw 2019 is supported on the Mac, this is big news for Mac users.

    Thanks for your tutorials!

      1. Yes the new CorelDraw 2019 il avable for Mac now. Try to check the recent informations on this feature. Thank you.

          1. Hi,

            Now with the 2020 version of CorelDRAW as well. Seems as though my fellow designers using MAC mention better performance with this new version.

            Sadly because of the migration to MAC, there are many ways of programming that tend to have an huge impact on tool behaviors. Many tools couldn’t work with MAC and have been removed. Trouble is, they’ve also been removed in the PC version.

            Really frustrating. The dev team is working extremely hard to reintegrate these very useful tools.

  13. Hi Nick

    Been watching your Inkscape tutorials and they are a blast! Loads of information and easy to follow.

    From your comparison, I do think Inkscape will be the right fit for me.

    I am mostly a Photoshop/Lightroom user and have been toying with taking the plunge with Illustrator (mostly due to the Adobe family relations) but am not a designer and, as you mention, a bit of a big pill to swallow for occasional use.

    I do have a question though. How transferable would the knowledge gained from using Inkscape be if I did decide to move to Illustrator (waaaayyy down the road)? I do realize that keyboard shortcuts and tools will be different (or at least called different things) but is the general usage similar?

    Thank you for any insight,

    PS. Grabbing your design book!!

    1. Thanks Gary, hope you enjoy the book! Once you have a solid understanding of Inkscape it isn’t very difficult to get the hang of Illustrator. They’re different but similar in a lot of ways. When I started using Illustrator it took me maybe a month before I was comfortable enough to use it regularly if I had to.

  14. I have been using Serif DrawPlus for years for logo work and will be soon working with Affinity Designer (a Serif program). I do also use Adobe Illustrator to save some of the files to give to my logo clients but I do all or almost all of the design work in DrawPlus. I did try Inkscape many years ago but just didn’t care for it over DrawPlus.

    Doesn’t Inkscape save to SVG and can’t you open SVG files with Adobe Illustrator?

    A video on how you work in Inkscape and then save all the required image files would be a nice one to consider making.

    1. Hi Joni, I’ll actually be doing a video about working with Illustrator files in Inkscape pretty soon. I wrote an article about it a couple of years ago:

  15. Thanks for this. Inkscape is a pain when dealing with a print shop. Some things are lost in file format translation (Filters) or just don’t work properly or as expected.

    Most reliable way to send files I’ve found so far is to export the design to a PDF.

    That might be a blog topic/youtube video for you to do some time. How to integrate inkscape into your workflow and make files compatible with print shops, embroidery, etc.

    1. True. I even have problems with PDF format though, especially when dealing with transparency, blurs, clipping paths and masks, etc. I’ve found the best way is to just export a flattened PNG file then open it with GIMP so I can then export it as a JPEG.

      1. For some items that can be processed with raster images yes.

        I think opacity is another feature that gets butchered too. Hopefully the inkscape devs are working on file format compatibility or someone creates a plug-in that solves these problems.

        I use inkscape for volunteer work (non-profit youth sports team) and can’t justify buying CorelDraw or Illustrator.

        Is the SVG file format not standard? Doesn’t seem to be in print and embroidery businesses.

        1. I found my flawless solution to export to PDF from any software. It’s just a small maneuver to get used to but you NEVER have issues after that.

          Prior to exporting I prepare my file. I convert all my elements to one flattened CMYK object/layer to the required resolution. ALL BUT THE TEXT or flat uniform colored vectors. I then convert my text to curves/paths. I then export to PDF to the required settings.

          This ways, you ALWAYS have no issues with any transparencies, layers, etc…

  16. Affinity Designer would deserve to be included in futures comparisons. It is cheap. very elegant and precise. Although it lacks some features now, I am very satisfied with it. I also use Inkscape for some works.

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