Best Biorender Alternatives: Free Tools To Create Scientific Graphics

Need software to create scientific graphics, but Biorender is too expensive? No worries. There are many other options for you.

From the open-source versatility of Inkscape to the drag-and-drop simplicity of Canva and the specialised focus of Chemix on lab diagrams, let’s uncover the power of vector graphics in creating high-resolution scientific visuals. 

Dive into the universe of alternative illustration software that challenges the status quo of BioRender, offering the scientific community a wealth of options that cater to various needs and technical proficiencies—all while balancing functionality, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness.

Best Biorender Alternatives: Free Scientific Illustration Software

Inkscape– Free, customisable vector graphics
– No subscription
– Exports in multiple formats
– Extensive tutorials.
Canva– Easy-to-use with free trial
– Vast template selection
– Integrates with Google Drive
– High-quality images.
SmartDraw– Rich templates for science
– Vector graphics support
– Drag-and-drop design
– Web-based, with Office integration.
Adobe Illustrator– Precision vector tools
– Versatile file export
– Integration with design workflows
PowerPoint– Easy vector diagrams
– No learning curve
– SVG/PNG support
– Part of Microsoft suite
– No attribution needed.
Chemix– Specialised for lab visuals
– Vector-based
– Web-based
– No attribution for use


In the realm of scientific illustration software, Inkscape emerges as a stellar alternative to BioRender, offering a treasure trove of tools for creating intricate scientific visuals.

Unlike BioRender, Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor that doesn’t require a subscription or attribution, making it a hit in the scientific community for those who don’t want to pay for a BioRender account.

With Inkscape, scientists can dive into the world of vector graphics—ideal for creating high resolution: 

  • Crisp diagrams
  • lllustrations, and
  • Graphical abstracts.

Its SVG file format is particularly compatible with stringent journal guidelines, and users can easily export creations in various formats such as PNG, adding to its versatility.

What sets Inkscape apart is its capacity to customize. Users can modify templates, which are abundant and often come with a Creative Commons 4.0 license, providing a free resource for those not inclined to start from scratch.

It’s a design tool equipped with a plethora of drawing tools that enable even the novice to create professional-grade scientific images, rivalling those made in Adobe Illustrator.

The scientific illustrations one can create with Inkscape are not limited to just basic flowcharts or network diagrams. The software allows for complex data visualization akin to tools like:

  • Vectr
  • Chemix
  • SmartDraw or even
  • EdrawMax.

On top of that, its free status does not compromise its utility; it’s designed for use by researchers from prestigious institutions who may have access to, but opt not to use, paid software such as Adobe Illustrator.

The Internet brims with tutorials, often found after a quick search on platforms like Reddit, that can help navigate Inkscape’s capabilities. For instance, scientists can harness these tutorials to:

  • Draw lab diagrams
  • Create posters, or
  • Produce detailed scientific illustrations

You can easily learn and utilize powerful tools within Inkscape that are similar to those in paid programs like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer.

Navigating Inkscape’s interface is a breeze with drag-and-drop functionality, and compatibility with Linux adds a cherry on top for those operating outside the Windows or Mac ecosystems. Plus, the ability to integrate with Google Drive facilitates easy sharing and storage of scientific graphics.


Canva, a design platform hailed as one of the best BioRender alternatives, provides a user-friendly environment for crafting scientific illustrations.

This illustration tool caters to the scientific community with its easy-to-use interface and an extensive library of templates—many of which are vectors that fit perfectly into scientific presentations or posters.

For those in the science, Canva allows the creation of various scientific graphics, from:

  • Flowcharts
  • Lab diagrams
  • Complex network diagrams

You can do all these without the need for the intense learning curve associated with Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

Customisation is a breeze; you can manipulate diagrams and illustrations to match specific requirements or opt to use the platform’s design software to start from scratch.

Its drag-and-drop functionality is a boon for efficiency, enabling researchers to quickly assemble visuals without fuss.

Canva’s vector graphics editor is versatile, allowing users to produce high-resolution images essential for publication or eLearning materials.

The platform offers a free trial version, giving users a taste of premium features, which include an array of free medical templates and scientific illustration tools, much like those found in similar websites like SmartDraw or EdrawMax. 

Unique to Canva are the integrations with applications like Google Drive and the ability to directly create and export illustrations in various file formats like PNG or SVG, similar to BioRender.

Canva also stands out as a free tool that doesn’t always require attribution, especially for images under the Creative Commons 4.0 license.

While Canva is not exclusively a scientific illustration software, its offerings are robust enough to make it a go-to for those not wishing to delve into the complexities of programs like Photoshop or Affinity Designer.

Users can easily create professional, scientifically accurate visuals, affirming Canva’s position as a powerful, free alternative in the world of science illustration.


SmartDraw is becoming a go-to design tool for creating scientific illustrations, standing as a strong alternative to BioRender and other similar websites.

It’s designed to make the process of generating complex diagrams and illustrations less intimidating, offering a rich gallery of templates that users can customise to their needs.

These templates cater to a wide array of scientific graphics, including flowcharts, lab diagrams, and network diagrams, streamlining the creation of graphical abstracts that are pivotal in the scientific community.

Notably, SmartDraw is not an open-source platform like Inkscape, but it provides powerful tools that enable users to create vector graphics, akin to those you’d craft with Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer.

It supports various file formats such as SVG, PNG, and allows integration with office tools like PowerPoint, enhancing the versatility of sharing and presenting scientific work.

Additionally, the software boasts a drag-and-drop interface, which makes it accessible even to those who might be new to scientific illustration software.

While SmartDraw isn’t a free tool, it does offer a free trial, giving users a chance to test its capabilities.

For those in the eLearning sector or needing to create professional-looking scientific illustrations without the steep learning curve of tools like Adobe Illustrator or the cost associated with them, SmartDraw provides a practical solution.

The platform is web-based, meaning it can be accessed from various operating systems including Windows and Linux, and it also allows saving directly to Google Drive, ensuring ease of access and collaboration.

SmartDraw doesn’t require attribution for its use, unlike other free alternatives which may operate under a Creative Commons 4.0 license. For the privacy-conscious, its privacy policy ensures user data is handled with care, a detail often overlooked in reviews.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is widely revered in the scientific community for its robust capabilities in crafting high-resolution scientific illustrations.

This vector graphics editor eclipses basic drawing tools, offering a precision that caters to the meticulous demands of scientific visuals without compromising quality.

Adobe Illustrator allows researchers to create vector graphics—scalable images that ensure clarity at any size, making them ideal for publishing.

Unlike raster images from tools like Photoshop, vectors in Illustrator or alternative open-source software like Inkscape, retain their crispness.

The ability to export in various file formats such as SVG, PNG, and even template files opens a realm of possibilities for scientific image creation.

In the realm of scientific illustration software, Illustrator stands out with its intricate drawing tools that enable users to create diagrams and illustrations from scratch.

Its affinity with other design software and the ability to integrate into workflows, such as placing illustrations into PowerPoint presentations or Google Drive documents, amplifies its utility.

Furthermore, Illustrator’s compatibility extends beyond Windows, as it also caters to Mac and Linux users—making it a versatile tool in various scientific settings.

While it may not be a free tool like Vectr or Inkscape, it often justifies its cost with powerful tools, free trial versions, and a plethora of free templates—some even under Creative Commons 4.0 license, requiring no attribution for use.

For those looking for an alternative to BioRender or similar websites, Illustrator empowers the customization of scientific graphics. From flowcharts to complex biological diagrams akin to what one might create in Chemix or Servier Medical Art, Illustrator’s toolkit is extensive.

Its advanced tutorial resources also help bridge the gap for newcomers who want to create professional, publication-ready graphics.

The software is designed for use beyond simple diagrams, extending to elaborate scientific posters and detailed network diagrams. For instance, users can easily drag-and-drop different elements in their work, a feature reminiscent of user-friendly design programs like Canva.

Whether it’s a comprehensive design tool or a platform for creating scientific illustrations, Illustrator’s nuanced control and detailed customization options make it a staple in scientific figure preparation and a respected peer in the pantheon of illustration software.


PowerPoint, typically perceived as the go-to for presentations, is carving a niche as an accessible scientific illustration tool in 2023, rivalling the likes of BioRender and its alternatives.

With PowerPoint, researchers can bypass the learning curve of Adobe Illustrator or the need to navigate open-source vector graphics editors like Inkscape.

It’s an illustration software that allows the creation of detailed scientific diagrams using vector-based drawing tools—crucial for maintaining high resolution in scientific posters.

A deep dive into niche forums like Reddit reveals that scientists are deploying PowerPoint to construct many scientific illustrations, such as:

  • DNA helix diagrams
  • Brain
  • Viruses
  • and more.

For example, for the DNA helix diagrams, user can draw it on PowerPoint through a sophisticated manipulation of anchor points and handles within a grid framework. Using that, users can create a parallelogram that serves as the base for the helix.

Such features, traditionally associated with dedicated design software like Photoshop or Affinity Designer, show PowerPoint’s versatility.

The platform’s array of templates, often compatible with SVG and PNG formats, can be customised to generate network diagrams, lab diagrams, and more, all without the need for attribution—unlike some Creative Commons-licensed tools.

Its drag-and-drop functionality is similar to design programs like Canva and Google Drawing, which facilitates the creation of graphical abstracts quickly.

Free alternatives such as Vectr, SmartDraw, and EdrawMax also offer vector graphics editor capabilities; however, they may not integrate as seamlessly with the Microsoft ecosystem, which many in the scientific community already rely on.

Privacy policy and eLearning resources offered by platforms like Servier Medical Art or free tools like Chemix may be attractive. However the convenience of PowerPoint’s design features and the lack of a required free trial version or attribution, makes it a powerful option.


Chemix stands out in the realm of scientific illustration software as a robust, web-based tool specifically designed for creating lab diagrams and scientific images.

Emerging as a formidable alternative to BioRender and similar websites, Chemix has been tailored for the scientific community, facilitating the visualisation of intricate scientific concepts through a user-friendly interface.

Equipped with a library of templates, Chemix enables users to effortlessly create professional-quality scientific graphics without the steep learning curve associated with vector graphics editors like Adobe Illustrator or open-source alternatives like Inkscape.

The tool is based on vector graphics, ensuring that illustrations, from flowcharts to network diagrams, maintain high resolution when scaled for various uses such as scientific posters or presentations.

Chemix’s drag-and-drop functionality makes it akin to other design tools like SmartDraw, Vectr, or even PowerPoint, yet it’s distinct in its specialisation for lab diagrams and science illustration.

This dedication to science allows researchers to quickly assemble visuals, employing a suite of powerful tools that enable even a novice to create science-themed drawings and illustrations.

Moreover, for those in the Linux ecosystem or without access to Google Drive-integrated apps like Google Drawing, Chemix offers a platform-agnostic, free tool that doesn’t require attribution. This is unlike creations under the Creative Commons 4.0 license.

While it does offer free templates, users looking for enhanced features without wanting to pay can access many free, advanced capabilities typically reserved for paid versions of popular design software like Adobe.

Wrapping Up: Free Science Illustration Tool Similar To Biorender

In conclusion, the landscape of scientific illustration is rich with diverse tools, each offering unique strengths. Whether you prefer Inkscape’s open-source flexibility, Canva’s user-friendly design, or Chemix’s lab-focused capabilities, there’s a solution to suit every scientist’s needs.

As we navigate through vector graphics, templates, and drag-and-drop interfaces, these tools collectively empower the scientific community to visualise complex data with precision and creativity, without being tethered to a single software or steep learning curves.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.