CorelDRAW vs. Adobe Illustrator

IllustratorHow presents



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 again! 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, custom fonts, 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, architectural layouts, 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 both software.

CorelDrawAdobe Illustrator
Common UsesPerspective drawing, graphic design, packaging design, product design, and industrial designBranding design, vector logo, digital illustrations, digital and print marketing materials
Compatibility Windows, macOS Sierra (10.12) or later, and LinuxWindows, Mac, and iPad
Pricing15 days free trial
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite: $16.58/month or $399 one-time purchase
CorelDRAW Standard: $299 one-time purchase
Live Chat, Phone, Help Center/Adobe Communities
Learning CurveMediumSteep
User InterfaceClean and simpleMore tools handy to use
SupportEmail, Live Chat, Phone, and Help centerLive Chat, Phone, Help center/Adobe Communities

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 the CorelDRAW Standard version

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 allow you to create freehand drawings and vector graphics using their powerful tools. In CorelDRAW, the Live Sketch Tool with the help of a drawing tablet 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 on and edit 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 Apps) if you’re a student, or the regular prepaid annual plan of Illustrator itself for $22.99/month

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite also has the annual plan option – $16.58/month. Or you can get the One-Time Purchase option for $399.

But it offers a One-Time Purchase ($299) option for the 2021 version 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-day free trial but you can get a 15-day 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, not 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 also helps. The program makes it easier for you to learn. 

IWinner: TIE. 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. Adobe Illustrator can be challenging and you’ll need a lot of patience and dedication. But 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). 

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 FAQ 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 would 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 them 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 the 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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  • Marc

    Great site!
    We like your comparisons but it’s not possible to compare your $-prices towards our local currency: which $ do you use? Canadian, Australian, Jamaican, Liberian, US,…? And we find no indication where you’re from either so that this does not give us a clue either.
    We find some weird prices if we exchange from US$.

    • June Escalada

      Hi Marc,

      The currency we use is USD 🙂

    • Onyema One

      You haven’t spent time with CorelDraw yet. In CorelDraw you can change your interface to look like Illustor. You can also customise your panels to make you more comfortable. Simple actions in Corel become complex in Adobe. You can import PDF in corel as well. You can export vector as SWF and import in Adobe Animate or AE which I find super useful. What more? You can export Corel Files as Illustor files and even import Illustor files into Corel. Corel lags behind all other aspects of design except for Vector. In the world of vector manipulation I crown Corel the King, Adobe softwares are way better in Bitmap manipulation, Video Editing and beyond.

      • wha wha

        Wrong. Illustrator rocks corel draw. The main (only) thing Corel has Illustrator doesnt is unlimited scaling. But use a plugin and your set 😉

    • June Escalada

      Hey there,

      Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Muhammad Ahmad

    Hello, i read your article, interesting
    well, i am using corel draw since 3 years, in this period i have been used illustrator, My experience is that it is not friendly used, u have pick any tool on the tool bar there are nothing shortcut keys for quick selection,
    Now you can use corel draw 2022, full of advanced commands, like you can make any logos very very easily and friendly, brochures, tracing images logos and etc, even you can edit images as well
    By the way everyone has own experience
    This is my experience where i share you
    Corel draw is my best friend
    Thanks Alot, many greetings from Pakistan

    • June Escalada

      Hi Muhammad,

      Thanks for sharing!

  • websimulador

    Eres un fiera. Muchas gracias Saludos

    • June Escalada

      De nada. Me alegra!

  • kk

    Corel Draw supporting file more on the laser cut machine also.

    • June Escalada

      Thanks for the info.

  • Rodrigo Pascual Lugod Jr.

    The learning curve for CorelDraw make it best for beginners. I have been using CorelDraw for 2 decades now. Did all my desisgns in CorelDraw, from Logo, Brochures, Cards, etc. for Sticker Printing, Packaging, Infographics, Tarps, etc. But when it coms to raster graphics, I sometimes use PhotoPaint, but mostly used PhotoShop.

    CorelDraw is great in handling nodes (which I always use in my designing).

    • June Escalada

      Hi Rodrigo,

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Makki

    I think it’s a biased article. Like iPhone, illustrator is over-rated. Illustrator is most complicated software and consumes lots of your time for just a simple task, like making a box transparent you need many steps in illustrator, on the other hand in corel draw you just pick transparency tool and its dragged and done. Using more tools for a simple task does not make sense, its not exploring creativity. Creativity should be explored in objects you are creating, not in tools. It affects your productivity. Playing with curves is easy in corel draw. Double click the object and you are ready to play with curves. In terms of user interface again corel is also easy. You can have all the things like illustrator UI in it. Corel has wide range of output formats. Conclusion is that the corel draw is simple yet powerful tool for every designing task.

    • June Escalada

      Hi Makki,

      I think both software is great for graphic design and it’s really more of a personal preference which one people like to use. I simply shared my opinion of the programs based on my own experience 🙂

      • Frank

        Hi June,

        I’m afraid I aggree with Makki. I also have worked with both programmes and I was always amazed how Illustrator makes simple tasks difficult. Take key commands for starters: Ctrl/Alt/Shift +× is like a typical Adobe key command. Ridiculous! Tools shoud be designed to be effective and make the work as easy to execute as possible. Why should I have to go around the block to press a button if I can do it right here??
        Kind regard, Frank

        • June Escalada

          Hi Frank,

          Yeah, some shortcuts can be hard to remember, but you can always customize your shortcut 🙂

    • Frank

      Totally agree with you!!

    • gilberto

      That’s an absolute true

  • Geoffrey

    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.

    CORELDRAW also have a community where insights are shared, helps gotten, etc. In terms of variety of tools, I want to remind you that until now illustrator is yet to integrate a simple barcode into the program, so when you are working on a product label you need external program or web services to insert a barcode, the list continues…
    Your inexperience with corel really affected your judgement, and you need to revisit that in order to arrive at a more verifiable points.

  • Mark

    Your understandable bias to Illustrator is showing and understandable. I have been using CorelDraw since Microsoft brought out the first Microsoft Mouse…..I have used the complete Creative Suite from Adobe and find that the Adobe products are as good and better in some areas …but the tools within Corel are equivalent for the most part and better in some cases… personal preference and ease of use over time has won me over to Corel…but it really comes down to personal choice in my opinion……and ease of use……

  • Dale

    Coreldraw actually handles color better. That is why it is used by screen printers. You can Google in the color management engine and Corel is superior. When you zoom right in to vectors adobe has issues.

  • Tayyab

    I’ve learned Corel Draw from a university. I’m not a pro, can design basic. After completing my course from the University one of my friend told me about illustrator. I gave a try to Illustrator as I’m reading much compliments about illustrator everywhere on internet. But I’m facing very dificulty in learning illustrator so what should I do continue mastering in Corel Draw or continue leaning Illustrator with patience?

    • June Escalada


      Actually, it’s totally up to you. I’d say go for the one that you feel most comfortable. Personally, I started with Adobe Illustrator so for me it’s easier to use and I like how it integrates with other Adobe apps. But if it’s taking too much effort to learn in your case, and you need to get work done, perhaps stick with CorelDraw, and if you have time, learn Adobe Illustrator on the side.

  • Deiby

    Corel Draws has the worst customer service ever, over 10 emails and they still cant figure it out and a phone call? forget about it! they like to hang up on you over and over.

  • David

    Personally I prefer Ai like in class I only learned CDR but trained myself on Ai… its more wider and many keyboard shortcuts, Ai is just professional if you have a great go, we need an update for Ai is font manager and that ability to read an image file in editable fomart like CDR…🤏🏿😎

  • Glenn Racoma

    I’ve self evaluated the type of graphic artist I am and gave myself a kind of graphic titled as a sign-designer/graphic artist. Meaning in the sign production business CorelDraw is common software that’s been used for many years in this industry. In the early years CD (CorelDraw) was, and continues being used in Windows format but has eventually crossed over with Apple format. In the sign business CorelDraw is elementary to produce digital text (the word used is lettering in the sign business) to produce signs where the lettering or sign was designed in a PC CorelDraw program. From small real estate signs (12’X24″ panel signs) to large mega billboard signs CD was the choice because there was’nt any other choice. Not until CD made the cross over into Apple format. However, when it comes to really fine hefty elaborate detailed graphics Illustrator in my opinion experimentally speaking is The Boss. I do a lot of mesh drawings with tons of minute details and gradient color blends and AI is the go to. In fact I’ve made the necessary break from my early sign business days using CD and moved forward into Adobe Illustrator. I can do both small to large-scale signs with it’s intricate graphic all inside Illustrator and export into a sign cutting program that goes to either a cutter (CNN) or wide billboard size Roland printer! Everything I do I births inside Illustrator then exported into sign production equipment. Not saying CD is incompetent but rather I think when it comes to really involved graphics the tools are there and the various ways other graphic artists use these tools is up to imagination.This is my opinion. You know the saying – each to his/her own.

  • Marius Sava

    I have been using CorelDraw since 1994 (really) and over the years I tried many times to switch to Illustrator because it is more prevalent in certain countries where we collaborate. Eventually, I gave up, I only use it to open certain files that give me errors when importing into CorelDraw.
    I’m sorry Adobe Illustrator, I know you’ve tried and still trying, but CorelDraw is much more customizable, more intuitive, and friendlier to peripheral machines that use vector graphics. I love your brother from Adobe though, PhotoShop is the best program for raster. Ever.

  • Rob

    I do not mean to say you are wrong in your comparison, but the fact that you have used Illustrator for many years makes it difficult for me to trust that your sense of Illustrator being better in various regards represents a true difference as much as it represents the fact that you are simply much more familiar with Illustrator than you are with Corel Draw. I find it difficult to consider someone who thinks of Adobe Illustrator as their “best friend” the best resource for comparing Illustrator objectively and fairly to something else.

  • Zsolt

    So this article looks like more like an Ai fan.
    The truth is, illustrator colors are far better than corel draw. There no even point to compare this since its like a premium vs cheap category. The edges are far nicer represented.
    I saw someone commentd about the transparency…. Well yea and no… transparency in corel is bugged and doesnt work well when u export it as a svg, eps or other vector format.

    In the other hand CorelDraw is weaker in everything, but he wins the productivity area…. Way way faster than illustrator, you have mentioned ai tools are better, but thats no true. In corel you can give a schorcut to any tool(rotate, line weigh etc.)…. And the macros are just unbeateble by ai, you can assign scorcuts to macro as well… so yea i think this is the main difference between the two

    • June Escalada

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Pankaj

    Please use Corel 23 Then Judge Corel Is more Easy and Creative Software then illustrator. Illustrator is Complected Software, not gud for printing Purpose

  • Pia

    I have to disagree with this. I started using them both more than 15 years ago, but ditched the Illustrator for it’s poor properties. (Have tried it every now and then, but it remains bad) Illustator makes such a messy work beneath the surface and for example is very uncompatible with most of the large scale printing softwares and .ai files have to be run through Corel to make them usable. Also you can never trust .ai to be the size it’s supposed to be, or even supposedly professionals using it to fully understand properties of scalable images. AI makes pretty pictures but that’s all, it can’t create any functional files for any other purposis. It is ridiculous to say that it is “mature software” or what ever it was you said because the truth is that if you can actually use Corel properly, it can do so much more and better than AI. (Also it is apparent that we have to stop calling it AI because it now means Artificial Intelligence)

    • June Escalada

      Hi Pia, thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Venetia

    -I use CorelDRAW for industrial design and Illustrator can’t compare. You’d have to buy CAD-tools to do the simple dimensioning I do. You can change the scale on the fly and have several scales on one page very easily.
    -I can edit pictures in Photo-Paint on the fly from my page in DRAW. I can crop them without having masks which is a plus for my photo overlays
    – I can have up to 100 pages without using a second app like InDesign.
    – I can change the default font style, size, color, etc as well as default nudge sizes and hot keys and all of this takes only seconds.
    These are only of few of the irritations I have with Illustrator though it may be better for print media, it sucks for industrial.

    • June Escalada

      Hi Venetia,

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Sam

    I’m from Belgium and have been working for over 20 years in the textile printing industry.
    Screen printing, digital printing and cut- and print solutions.
    I have read quite a few comments about the incompatibility of Illustrator with the various digital large format printers, laser- and regular cutting machines and in my experience this isn’t the case at all (at least not where I live).
    I’ve been working with illustrator since school from about 1994 and that’s my advantage because I hardly think when I’m using it. I’ve used CorelDraw in the past but when you’re used to one program it is very difficult to switch because you need a completely different mindset to use it (I mean the logic behind the way features are organised in the menu’s).
    What I did’nt like about CD was the ‘microsoft issue’: Every time I used a different version it seemed I had to start learning it all over (like Word for example, that’s why I refer to it as the ‘microsoft issue’) because a lot of features seemed to have moved in the menu. This is probably just because of my inexperience whith the program. What I absolutely loved in CD was the in-program link to font recognition software online.
    AI does have it’s pro’s and con’s as well of course, so I’ve seen a lot of beautiful graphic designs made in both programs, so if you’re an CD fan, then please do continue to use and love it, the same goes off course for the AI fans.
    One point I do want to make as a sidenote: I’m not to fond of the autotrace feature in the current versions of AI.
    At the end of the nineties there was a program called Adobe Streamline that did a much better job and was easier to use!

    • June Escalada

      Hi Sam, thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Kuttyjoe

      Hmmm…I definitely remember Adobe Streamline. I don’t remember it being better than when they added it directly into Illustrator. It’s hard to imagine that it was better then than it is now. But, in terms of just how good it is, I find it to be very good but every tracing program has a kind of character. Illustrator tracing likes to round corners so when you need to capture perfect corners, Illustrator is not the right choice. I do a lot of vector tracing so I will generally use either Illustrator or Vector Magic.

      Regarding that font finding system in Coreldraw. I remember when it was implemented, but I think they eventually removed it? Not sure. But now Illustrator has it’s own font recognition system built in. I would say though that Illustrator is probably limited to finding fonts that are within Adobe fonts. I gave it a try and generally, I’m doing better with finding fonts online and not using Illustrator’s new system which is apparently using AI. It’s not great but it’s OK.

  • Kuttyjoe

    I’m not sure how old some of this Illustrator info is, but I guess Illustrator has changed quite a bit since it was written. It says that Illustrator has no tutorials built into the program. Actually, Illustrator has a highly developed and modern help section built right into Illustrator. It’s much more sophisticated than Coreldraw’s. There’s a little Magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the screen where you can watch video tutorials, and ask questions. For example when I type, “pen”. A list of things come up for the pen tool including a bunch of “hands on” tutorials that you can do at your pace. It’s really a lot of help and different kinds of help, right in the program.

    Regarding which software is best. It’s impossible to really say which is best because they are both good at certain things. and not so good at other things. So they both win depending on the task. For my work, I’m definitely preferring Illustrator, although I learned Coreldraw first.

    • June Escalada

      Hi Kuttyjoe,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sure, the latest Adobe Illustrator does have tutorials, it was just not as “easily accessible” as it is now.
      As for which program is best, I agree with you, can’t say 100% as it really depends on the workflow and personal preference.

  • vohn

    Hi, I used CorelDraw since early 2000’s. And I’ve been using it to this day. I tried illustrator but I was having a hard time using it. Maybe I was just used to using coreldraw that the interface and how you use tools in Illustrator is different.

    • June Escalada

      Hi Vohn,

      That’s right, Illustrator and CorelDRAW are quite different, especially if you’re used to one or another. For example, I’m so used to Illustrator, and I found it weird to use CorelDRAW, haha.