If you’re a graphic design student or just starting out with a freelance graphic design business, you’ll want to do “free” as much as possible. Graphic design software is expensive in most cases, but you can make do with free software until you save up enough money for more sophisticated tools. Plugins and apps also can enhance your work, adding finishing touches that normally might take hours to complete without those applications. The following list of download sites and articles provide access to free software and apps that any designer might find helpful.
- 1DownLoad1: This free software download and game review site provides users with a wide variety of graphic design software options. Although the emphasis appears to be on the Mac, Windows also is featured, along with other options for the “Best Operating System” with reviews. Users also can suggest software.
- 30+ jQuery Plugins for Web Designers 2012: ULancer takes a look at some of the best and innovative jQuery plugins every few months or so. These plugins are useful, and they also can aid with new technologies such as CSS3 and HTML5. This list includes plugins for forms, videos, maps, typography, galleries, design tricks, and content.
- Adobe Marketplace & Exchange: Use the links at the bottom of this page to find exchanges by product. You can download hundreds of easy-to-install extensions, time-saving functions, code, and more from this site, including tools for After Effects, Director, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Photoshop, and Pixel Bender.
- Best Free Design Collection: For years, CNET has provided reliable, easy-to-download graphic design software. They include Windows, Mac, mobile apps, and web apps in their selections. These tools are predominantly concerned with tasks and projects related to the graphic arts, including programs that let you publish your creations to web sites or other outlets.
- Download Software: A wide selection of graphic design programs are listed here, including photo editing software to layout software, publishing tools, animation tools, typography tools, illustration software, and many other different types of applications. You can search by operating system (OS) or by editor rating.
- Free Art Software: If you’re looking for specific studio software, this site carries 3D, 2D, animation, game design, music-making, web design, and photo- and video-editing software. You can narrow the field by category, and look for freeware, trial, or commercial paid software as well.
- Free Serif Software: If you’re looking for free desktop publishing software, free web site design software, free graphic design software, free photo editing software, free movie editing software & free panoramic photo stitching software, this site contains it all. You’ll find full editions, not trial software; so, once you download them, they’re yours forever.
- Freeware Files: Graphic categories at this freeware site include animation, icon editors, clipart, color pickers, digital photo tools, font tools, and 3D modeling and CAD among other choices.
- Mehdi: This site offers free plugins and some shareware that support Photoshop, RealWorld Pain, Photofiltre Studio, Photo-Paint, Paint Shop Pro, Macromedia Fireworks, and other photo retouching software. All plugins were designed to work with Windows, not for Mac.
- Osalt: This site provides easy access to high quality open source alternatives to well-known commercial products. Open source software is also a freeware alternative. You may not find a lot of open source graphic design alternatives, but this site doesn’t lack categories — including multimedia and audio, and web development.
- Richard Rosenman Filters and Plugins Free Downloads: This page features a growing set of free Adobe Photoshop filters / plugins coded by Rosenman for 3D production, 2D design, and technical research. These downloads also work with many free applications such Gimp, Pixoid, IrfanView, Ultimatepaint, Photo-Editor, and QFX LE.
- SnapFiles: This link leads to this download site’s graphics and photo software section. The freeware offered here includes MWSnap, FastStone Photo Resizer, PhotoFiltre and Pixia. They also carry shareware and a lot of other tools that designers need, including multimedia, audio and video, and web publishing and design tools.
- Soft 32: This site lists over 10,000 choices in photo and design software, all free or free to try. Some examples of totally free software include TSR Watermark Image Software, Picasa, Photoscape, Free DWG Viewer, and Pivot Stickfigure Animator. Although these choices may not be easily recognizable, you might be surprised by their efficiencies.
- The Plugin Site: The Plugin Site offers various resources for Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, Photo-Paint, After Effects, Premiere, and other graphic applications. They also develop products, including Photoshop plugins, external editors for Lightroom and stand-alone applications.
- About.com Free Graphics Software: This list includes apps, plugins, and software for Macs and Windows. This list includes free photo editors, image viewers, photo enhancers, and web galleries.
- AlternativeTo: This site provides users with a new way to find good software, including free tools. Tell them which application you want to replace, and they provide alternatives based upon user recommendations. For instance, if you want to replace Photoshop, type that into the mainstream commercial design program, and the site provides you with free or paid replacements that will match the results that Photoshop gave you.
- Designrfix: Some fantastic collections in this mix, including free HTML templates, free PSD files, wallpapers, and more design eye candy. This is an ongoing blog that features a number of graphic design tools at one time. Great resource.
- Graphic Design Junction Freebies: Enjoy PSD downloads, free fonts, social media icon sets, vector art, and tutorials. This site is expansive, so enjoy logos, photography, and a showcase as well. One of the few sites that really focuses on fonts along with other tools.
- Top 15 Free Mac Apps for Graphic Designers: This guest article points to 15 of the top software tools for graphic designers who use Mac computers. Selections include Gimp, Seashore, Front End Digital Media Workshop, and Comipro Plus. The reviews are short and to the point.
- WordPress Plugins for Graphic Designers and Photographers: WordPress is, hands down, one of the best free ways to manage your own web site. To help maintain and upgrade your graphic skills with WordPress, Design Festival offers plugins and downloads that you can use for free. They broke the tools down into three categories: gallery, share/bookmark, and social media plugins.