Used by many professional graphic designers and artists, Adobe Illustrator is among the best graphic design software on the market. It can be used to create all sorts of vector graphics, including logos, packaging, billboards, and magazine illustrations.
Illustrator is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of software, and Adobe offers several ways to access and pay for it. It’s not always clear, however, which is the most cost-effective route. So, in this article, we explain how to download Illustrator on a trial basis, then we look at the subscriptions and discounts available and any alternatives you might want to consider.
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By downloading a free trial of Adobe Illustrator, you can test out the company's popular graphic design software to see if it's the right fit for your workflow. If you cancel before the trial is up then you won't have to pay anything. However, you can also upgrade to a paid subscription before the trial ends or even after it's over.
Can I download Illustrator for free?
Adobe offers a seven-day free trial of Illustrator. To claim this, go to the main Illustrator page on Adobe’s website—which is usually the top search result when you google “Adobe Illustrator”—and you’ll see a Free Trial button. You then have the choice of trialing Illustrator on its own or trying out the whole Creative Cloud package.
Adobe will ask you to input your payment details when signing up for the trial, and after the week is over, a paid subscription will automatically begin. If you don’t want to commit to this, remember to cancel the subscription before the end of the trial week, or you may end up with a big cancellation fee to pay.
During the trial week, you can try out all the features of Illustrator and decide whether you want to continue using it. After this, there’s no way to continue using Illustrator for free, so you’ll need to consider the options for buying it.
How do I buy Illustrator?
On Adobe’s main Illustrator webpage, clicking Buy Now takes you to the various pricing plans. All the choices are subscription-based; paying a one-off fee to buy the software outright is not an option.
You can either subscribe to Illustrator on its own or sign up for the Creative Cloud All Apps package. This includes over 20 mobile and desktop apps, including photo-editing program Photoshop, page-design app InDesign, and 3D-imaging software Dimension. The full Creative Cloud subscription is likely to be the more cost-effective option if you’ll use three or more of the included apps.
What's the price of Illustrator?
The standard Illustrator plan costs a monthly fee of $20.99 / £19.97 / AU$29.99, though it requires you to commit to a year’s subscription at a time. If you cancel before the year is complete, you must pay a cancellation fee of 50% of your remaining subscription. A monthly subscription without this yearly commitment is available for $31.49 / £30.34 / AU$45.99 per month. Alternatively, you can buy a year’s subscription for one-time payment of $239.88 / £238.42 / AU$343.07.
If you’re going to be using Illustrator frequently, the annual subscription is the best option. But if you don’t always have projects on the go, it may work out better to sign up for the monthly subscription as and when you need it.
For the Creative Cloud All Apps package, there’s a similar pricing structure: $52.99 / £49.94 / AU$76.99 per month with an annual commitment, $79.49 / £75.85 / AU$114.99 per month with no annual commitment, or $599.88 / £596.33 / AU$871.07 for a full year.
Note that these prices are correct at the time of writing, but prices outside the US fluctuate regularly with the exchange rates. Also, you can cancel any Adobe subscription and get a full refund within the first 14 days.
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Illustrator discounts for teachers and students
Students and teachers can access an Adobe discount scheme through which the whole Creative Cloud suite—Illustrator, all the other desktop and mobile apps, and 100GB of cloud storage—can be subscribed to for the price of one app. This costs $19.99 / £16.24 / AU$21.99 monthly for the first year, then $29.99 / £25.28 / AU$43.99 per month afterward. Like with the standard plans, you’ll need to commit to a year at a time. You can prepay for a full year, but this doesn’t work out cheaper. You need to provide proof that you’re eligible, such as a school-issued email address.
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How can I get started with Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator is a complex, industry-standard piece of software and can be daunting to new users, but plenty of help is available. Adobe’s website has several tutorials to help you learn your way around and build key skills. Many users have also created their own tutorials, which can help you build on those skills and give you inspiration for your projects.
Illustrator: Key info you need to know
Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor and is often seen as the companion app to Adobe Photoshop. While Photoshop is tailored for photo editing and photorealistic illustration, Illustrator is more suited for logo-type graphics and typesetting. It’s one of Adobe’s longest running apps, being first released in 1987. It’s come a long way since then and is now packed with cutting-edge features, such as file syncing to the cloud and AI-powered tracing of hand-drawn sketches.
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Illustrator: Android and iOS apps
Adobe Illustrator was a desktop-only app until October 2020, when a version of it was released for the iPad. This is similar to the desktop version but has tools specifically tailored to the Apple Pencil. Your work can sync to the cloud, so you can design on the go and access your work on your desktop later. The iPad app is included in the same subscription plans as the desktop version.
There’s currently no Android version of Adobe Illustrator. However, a scaled-down version of Illustrator called Adobe Illustrator Draw is available for Android and iOS tablets and phones. This can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.
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If you decide that Illustrator isn’t the right software for you, there are plenty of other options available. A popular one is CorelDRAW, a powerful and feature-packed graphic design app that can be bought for a one-off price of $299.99. Another option is Affinity Designer, which is an effective graphic design program available for the more affordable one-off price of $49.99.
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Kieron Moore is a freelance writer based in Manchester, England. He contributes to Future sites including TechRadar and Creative Bloq, focusing on subjects including creative software, video editing, and streaming services. This work draws on his experience as an independent filmmaker and an independent TV watcher.