CorelDRAW vs. Adobe Illustrator

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Adobe Illustrator

If you are working in the graphic design industry, I guess you’re pretty familiar with CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator, the two most popular design software. Both programs are good for creating drawings and vector graphics. 

But what’s the difference? Which one is better? These are the questions that many designers (just like you and I) have when the free trial ends. 

I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for nine years now, and this year I decided to give CorelDRAW a try because finally, the Mac version is available. So, I tested it for a couple of months and you can read my full CorelDraw review for more details. 

In this article, I’ll share with you some of my thoughts about CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator.

If you are a Mac user just like me, I assume you’re already pretty familiar with what Adobe Illustrator is, right? In short, is design software for creating vector graphics, drawings, posters, logos, typefaces, presentations, and other artworks. This vector-based program is made for graphic designers. 

CorelDRAW, on the other hand, is a suite of design and image editing software that designers use to create online or digital ads, illustrations, design products, design architectural layout, etc. 

Read on to find out which one wins where.

Quick Comparison Table

Here’s a quick comparison table that shows the basic information about each of the two software.

CorelDRAW vs Adobe Illustrator: Detailed Comparison

In the comparison review below, you will see the differences and similarities in features, compatibility, pricing, user interface, learning curve, and support between Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. 

Note: CorelDRAW has several different versions. In this review, I’m referring to CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2021

1. Features 

Adobe Illustrator is widely used by graphic design professionals. CorelDRAW is also a popular design program that many designers use for print design, drawings, and even industrial design. 

Both software allows you to create freehand drawings and vector graphics using its powerful tools. In CorelDRAW, the Live Sketch Tool with the help of a drawing tablet really creates a realistic freehand drawing that almost looks like drawing by hand with pen and paper. 

In Adobe Illustrator, using the combination of the pen tool, pencil, smooth tool, and brush, it’s also possible to create freehand drawings. In this case, CorelDRAW wins because it’s one tool vs four in Illustrator. 

However, for vector graphics, and Illustrations Adobe Illustrator is a better choice. You can do so much with shapes, fonts, and colors. 

The Shape Builder Tool and Pen Tool are my favorites for creating icons. You can easily edit objects in Illustrator, while I feel like CorelDRAW is more standard which doesn’t give much freedom to explore creativity.

Winner: Tie. Both software programs have amazing features for design creation. For freehand drawing, maybe you’ll like CorelDRAW more. If you work more with branding and logos, Adobe Illustrator is the go-to. 

2. Compatibility & Integration

Finally, CorelDRAW has made it available for Mac users. Good news! So now both Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW work on Windows and Mac. Actually, CorelDRAW is available on Linux as well. 

CorelDRAW has an online web version where you can comment and edit on projects, which is a pretty cool function for simple edits. Illustrator has launched a simplified iPad version that allows you to work even when you’re on holiday without your laptop.  

As for App integration, there’s no doubt that Adobe Illustrator wins. If you are using the Illustrator CC version, you can work on your projects in different software like InDesign, Photoshop, and After Effects easily. You can also open and edit PDF files in Adobe Illustrator. 

There are more than 20 apps in the Creative Cloud, and they are all compatible with each other. And you know what? Illustrator CC integrates with Behance, the world’s famous creative networking platform, so you can share your awesome work easily. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. Although CorelDRAW is compatible with Linux devices as well, Adobe Illustrator still has the advantage of app integration. 

3. Pricing 

Professional graphic design programs are not cheap, and you’re expected to spend a couple of hundred dollars per year. 

Adobe Illustrator has several pricing options, but they are all subscription-based plans. You can get it for as low as $19.99/month (All CC Apps) or the regular prepaid annual plan of $239.88/year. 

CorelDRAW also has the annual plan option, which is $249/year or $20.75/month. It’s actually more expensive than Adobe Illustrator if you decide to use the annual subscription plan. 

But it offers a One-Time Purchase ($499) option that can be a great deal. Because you only need to pay once, and you can use the program FOREVER.

Still struggling? Well, you can always give them a try before pulling out your wallet. 

Adobe Illustrator offers a 7 days free trial but you can get a 15 days free trial from CorelDRAW which allows you to explore the software even more.

Winner: CorelDRAW. If you’re looking at the Annual plan, that’s right, no much difference. But the One-Time Purchase option from CorelDRAW is a great option if you plan to keep the software for long-term use. 

4. Learning Curve 

Adobe Illustrator, known as a mature professional design program, has a steep learning curve. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to use the program easily. And to be honest, most of the tools are easy to learn, you’ll just have to practice a lot to be good at them. 

CorelDRAW is comparatively more beginner-friendly, that’s why some people recommend it for graphic designer beginners. Many tools have preset or are by default, and the in-app tutorial on the hint panel helps as well. The program makes it easier for you to learn. 

Illustrator, on the other hand, there aren’t tutorials in the document window, and the tools are not as ready to use as CorelDRAW. So you’ll have to create everything from scratch. Actually, it’s not a bad thing, because you can explore your creativity and productivity even more this way. 

Winner: CorelDRAW. If you are a graphic designer newbie, doing graphic design as a hobby, CorelDRAW is not a bad option because it has a lesser learning curve and you can manage it quicker. Although Illustrator is not mission impossible but can be challenging and you’ll need a lot of patience and dedication. And the newer versions are simplifying the tools.

5. User Interface 

Many designers love CorelDRAW’s simple and clean user interface because it’s comfortable to work on, just as if working on a white paper. I can’t say no to that, but I find it confusing to find the tools to use.

And if you’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for years like me, you’ll be even more confused, because the tools are named and located differently, and the UI is quite different. For example, it took me a while to find the color panel (which is on the right border). 

And I find it less convenient to make quick edits in CorelDRAW because many tools and settings are hidden. Unlike in Adobe Illustrator, the panel windows are just so convenient for editing graphics and text. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. It’s true that CorelDRAW has a cleaner user interface, but I have to say that Adobe Illustrator is more efficient for editing artwork, and the corresponding panel shows when you click on the object. And you can always set what panels to show.

6. Support

Both programs have the standard Live Chat and basic FAQs sections in their help/support centers. 

CorelDRAW does offer Email support, but actually, you would submit a question online, receive a ticket number, and someone will contact you via email. They will ask for your ticket number for further assistance. And the average reply takes three days. 

The Email Support teams are quite consistent though, they are good at follow-up and want to make sure your problem is solved. 

To be honest, you’ll get faster help from the community center/FAQs or other online resources than the Live Chat. Unless you’re lucky, you barely get immediate assistance using Live Chat. 

The virtual assistant from Adobe Illustrator will send you a bunch of automatic questions, if you still don’t get help, you can click No, and it will connect you to an actual person, and you’ll be talking to an agent. 

I also tried to contact through Live Chat, but I needed to wait in the queue. If you are lucky, you can get assistance right away. If not, you can either wait or type in the question and wait for someone to contact you by email, which I think is very inefficient. 

Winner: Adobe Illustrator. I almost gave it a tie because I found both non-automatic support quite a hassle, but the Adobe Support Community really helped me solve many problems. And Ok, the Live Chat support from Illustrator is slightly better than CorelDRAW. 

Final Verdict

Overall the winner is Adobe Illustrator, it has better compatibility, user interface, and support. But it all depends on you. What’s your daily workflow? What’s your budget? Do you prefer to work on a clean UI or have tools handy? 

If you are new to graphic design, CorelDRAW is easier to get started with because of less learning curve, and the program itself is more intuitive. You can do most of the basic graphic design tasks and schematic drawings in CorelDRAW. 

Adobe Illustrator is great for graphic design professionals creating vectors, complex designs, or illustrations. And if you’re working a lot with branding, logos, etc. Illustrator is your go-to. 

Both programs have the annual plan option, but CorelDRAW also offers a one-time purchase option which is a great deal if you plan to keep the program for long-term use. 

Still can’t decide? Try out the free trials and see which one you like better. I hope you find the right tool for your creative work. 

Good luck!

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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