An Alternative to Adobe: Aviary’s Free Design Tools


If you’re looking for the image editing power of Photoshop or Illustrator without the hefty price tag you may want to consider trying the Aviary Suite.  It’s a free web 2.0 technology with a pro version available for $24.99 a year. Aviary is not only an image editing tool but it’s also a visual social network.

Users maintain a profile, contacts, favorites, access to chat boards, tutorials and more. Images created in the Aviary Suite can be shared with the community or kept private in a user account, and then saved in a variety of formats or downloaded to your computer.

Plus, users can import images from a URL, Aviary Library, Flickr, Picasa or Facebook directly into any of Aviary’s five programs – Phoenix, Falcon, Peacock, Toucan and Raven.

Phoenix does image editing and has tools like layers, masks, effects, undo history, and more. Peacock is what Aviary calls their “visual laboratory”. It features toolaviary-toolss like generators, effects and controllers. Toucan is their color swatches and palettes. It features many of the usual color palette tools but what really was interesting to me was their color deficiency preview tool. It allows you to choose from a list of color vision deficiencies and see how someone who is color blind would distinguish your color palette. It would be a great way to teach students how other people see the world. Toucan is a simple tool, but in conjunction with the other programs in the Aviary Suite you can create some amazing images. Raven is their vector editor program and the first of its kind on the web.  It allows you not only to create complex vector art but to carefully scale and create logos, clip-art, large print ready graphics, and t-shirt and clothing designs.

The newest program is an image markup tool called Falcon. It allows you to capture images from your desktop or a web page and edit them in your browser. It is similar to Skitch or Jing but with additional capabilities since it can be used in conjunction with Aviary’s other programs. Just install Talon, a Firefox extension for Aviary, and you can quickly annotate, mark, crop and resize your captured images. Or you can transfer the images to any of the other Aviary programs for more in-depth editing. Falcon would be a great tool to have students critique an image of their own, a classmates or from a pool of stock photos.

If you teach a computer graphics program at a middle or high school and are looking for an exceptional resource or additional tools to extend beyond the classroom lab, Aviary might be a solution for your program.  Students don’t have to stop creating once they leave the lab since they can log on and design anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Below are two videos featuring Aviary’s Raven and Falcon programs.

(Trouble viewing this video? Try this link.)

(Trouble viewing this video? Try this link.)

Hillary Andrlik

Hillary has been teaching art in the Chicago area since 2002 and was named Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year in 2012 by the Illinois Art Education Association. She received her art education degree from Illinois State University and masters from National Louis University. She is the co-founder and co-author of The Teaching Palette, a blog authored by art educators for art educators, and the digital editor for Illinois Art Education Association. Hillary's teaching strategies and lessons have been featured in numerous media, including School Arts magazine, and she has made several presentations on art education and technology in front of the Illinois Art Education Association and the National Art Education Association. Follow her on Twitter @hilland


  • July 19, 2009

    Chan Bliss

    Very cool resource. Now I have to check and see if it is or isn’t blocked by our school district.

  • […] An Alternative to Adobe: Avery’s Free Design Tools – No funds available to purchase Photoshop or Illustrator?  This online tool can help! […]

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