Which free design software is the best?

There is a plethora of free design software available online, but who has the time to explore each of them to see which is right for you? Well, we do!

Canva is arguably the more popular choice between the two design platforms, but is there a real reason for that, or has Pixlr fallen under the radar when it should be the number one choice? ?

At the end of this article, you’ll know whether you should use Canva or Pixlr for your designs and which one is better for what.

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Screenshot of the Canva homepage

The Canva interface

Canva offers an intuitive interface that shows you the media you can design in the software on the first page. You can find its menu at the very top, where you can access design and template options, different features, a learning tool, and pricing details.

With an easy-to-use search bar in the middle of the homepage, plus a thumbnail display of ways you can use Canva designs, the app shows you what you can do before you even have to. scroll down.

Once on the workspace, Canva’s menu choices are easy to understand with word-based labels rather than potentially confusing icons you might not understand.

Canva Premium Plans and Pricing

There are a surprising number of things you can do in the free version of Canva. You can easily continue using the free version without too many limitations.

The free version of Canva gives you access to over 250,000 templates for over 100 different types of design uses, such as different types of social media, posters, presentation styles, and more. It also gives you access to thousands of photos, graphics, animations and offers. 5 GB of cloud storage.

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Canva offers two premium options in addition to its free version. The standard premium option is Canva Pro which costs $12.99 per month and gives unlimited access to templates and graphics, 100GB of cloud storage, and other tools not available in the free version. The second premium option is for corporate team use.

Canva Editing Features


Canva screenshot showing editing elements

Canva’s editing workspace is intuitive, although different from other more popular editing software. It’s easy to modify pre-made templates or create your own from scratch using shapes, text, and images provided by Canva’s extensive library.

Changing the colors of shapes and text is easy by selecting the object and clicking the color option at the top of the workspace menu. It is more difficult to change the colors of raster images, photos, etc., but you can adjust the colors using filters or adjustments, although this is not quite the same as changing the color directly.

You can even use and modify the elements provided by Canva, of which there are thousands to choose from. This alone opens up the design options to huge potential now that you can recolor the pre-made graphics to suit your designs.

Canva Animation Options

Although many pre-made animation options come with the templates provided by Canva, you can also modify or create your own animation styles on your designs. Premade templates will display a Play symbol if they already have animated components, and those without the Play symbol will have a static design.

Once in the workspace, to animate any aspect of your design, select it and choose the Animate option from the menu. Canva’s element animation options are divided into four categories (Basic, Scale, Exaggerate, and Slide In and Out) and its page animation options into five categories. Apart from the additional category – Photo Motion – the options are all the same for page and element choice.

You can find plenty of free options in Animation Settings, but if you’re a Canva Pro or Enterprise subscriber, there are a small handful of additional choices. The choice of separate element animations allows you to fully customize your design or isolate an animated element.

Unique elements in Canva


Canva's video and audio options

It is possible to add audio and video to your Canva creations. Given that Canva bills itself as graphic design software, it’s surprising that you can add audio and video directly to your designs. Since many people use Canva for social media posts, it’s a great add-on that can boost your posts. however, most audio files on Canva are for premium users.

Pixlr: Photo editor, animation and design


Screenshot of the Pixlr homepage

The Pixlr interface

Pixlr’s interface is a dark, moody contrast to Canva’s light tones, giving it a more professional edge. The homepage is simple in its offerings, giving you the choice between Pixlr X for design and Pixlr E for photo editing.

The tagline in the center of Pixlr’s landing page suggests that you can animate using this tool; however, between Pixlr X and Pixlr E, it’s not so obvious where you’ll find the animation tools.

Only by clicking on Pixlr X or Pixlr E will you find recommended template options for various uses (Instagram Story, YouTube Thumb, Pinterest Pin, etc.)

Pixlr Premium Plans and Pricing

Pixlr has a three-tier pricing plan, with the free version supported by ads. Its free version lets you use both Pixlr E and X, but with a limited number of overlay images and stickers to use and offers basic editing tools.

Pixlr offers a 30-day free trial for its Premium plan and charges $7.99 per month thereafter. The Premium subscription provides thousands of additional overlays, templates, and font choices while being ad-free.

The third pricing option offers all of the above plus 24/7 tech support, unlimited access to stored content, even more templates, overlays, fonts, and even a legal warranty for $29.99 $ per month. Pixlr calls it the Creative Pack.

Pixlr Editing Features


Screenshot showing a sample Pixlr workspace

Pixlr’s editing workspace is reminiscent of Photoshop – in color scheme and layout – and follows a typical workspace layout of toolbars on the left and window panels on the right. Although the appearance resembles popular editing programs, its editing capabilities are not.

To use most of the tools like fill tool, liquify, gradient tool, etc. you need to rasterize your working layer. Yes, that means you can’t change the color of a vector shape without rasterizing it first. this leaves little flexibility in your workflow if you can’t switch and edit vector or text layers.

Pixlr Animation Options

Although the animation options are basic and don’t allow for much customization, Pixlr offers a handful of animation options that can enhance your designs. You can choose between animating the entire design or animating individual layers in the free version.

Design options are minimal, with only five free options and three more with Pixlr Premium. As suggested, this option will animate the entire page based on the animation choice: Fade, Rise, Tumble, Soothe, or Action.

Layer animation choices are more substantial and, due to the ability to animate each separate layer, allow for more global customization throughout your animated design. You can also change the speed settings, animation duration, and set a delay for the animation to start.

The layer option also offers different animation options for the start of your animation, the “scene” of the animation, and the end of the animation. Within these three options, the animation types also differ. Overall, the layer animation options are vast, and even for the free version of Pixlr, you have plenty of ways to animate your design.

Unique elements in Pixlr


Pixlr screenshot showing adding a URL layer

It seems that Pixlr is trying too hard to be Photoshop, which isn’t a bad thing for a free editing tool. However, this indicates that there are not many unique aspects to this program that you might not find elsewhere.

However, a unique advantage is that Pixlr’s filter options have preset filters that create effects usually only achieved by long-winded tutorials, such as various types of glitches.

A useful unique tool in Pixlr is that you can paste an image’s URL, and the image will appear as a layer. This can be useful for web design or saving your own storage so you don’t have to keep all the images you use.

Pixlr vs. Canva: Which is better?

With the various tools offered with both freeware, it looks like Canva might have the upper hand. Canva’s interface is more informative, intuitive, and inviting to use, while Pixlr’s dark, moody colors and Photoshop-esque vibe throw it into the abyss of other Photoshop replicating software.


While we love Pixlr’s filtering options and layer animation options, these are only minor perks that are not lacking when using Canva. Perhaps using Pixlr for image editing has its advantages, while Canva is more of a layout design software.

However, if the choice is to use freeware, Canva’s use of pre-made graphics and an extensive library of templates makes saving money on any subscription more attractive than Pixlr’s offerings.


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