Whether you’re an aspiring designer or an experienced professional, the idea of a robust design program you can run entirely in your browser is sure to be intriguing. Add in the bonuses of real-time collaboration features and a starting price of $0, and things get even more interesting. 

We’re talking about Figma, a free and widely used design tool you can access through your browser, on your desktop or even on your phone. At first glance, the program can look intimidating, especially if you’re a Figma beginner. But once you learn what it’s capable of, you’ll be raring to learn how to use it. 

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What Is Figma and What Is It Used For? 

The main page of Figma’s website, with the tagline “nothing great is made alone” prominently displayed.
Screenshot of Figma’s homepage

First released in 2016, Figma can best be summed up as a web-based design tool. In other words, you don’t need any software in order to use Figma (although you can download their free app if you want to). Instead, you need only open your web browser. 

But what truly sets Figma apart are its team and community-based features. For example, you can invite as many people as you want to view and comment on your creations, any viewer can inspect your design file’s code and exporting in your preferred format is a breeze. 

You don’t have to be on a design team to enjoy Figma’s collaborative perks, though. With its extensive library of community-made templates, widgets and plugins, you’ll always have a fresh supply of help and inspiration. 

Curious about what you can create with Figma? It can be used for a surprisingly broad array of applications. 

Graphic Designs 

Figma can be used to create a nearly unlimited variety of graphic designs. These can include: 

  • Simple shape arrangements
  • Brand logos
  • Header images 
  • Charts and graphs 
  • Portfolios and resumes
  • Invoices and memos
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Brand kits
  • Individual web pages
  • Entire websites 

From complete beginners looking to sketch out a simple graphic to professional designers crafting complex websites, Figma’s design tools are capable of helping you create almost anything. 

Website Wireframes

In addition to complete web pages and sites, Figma can also be used to create website wireframes

If you’re not familiar with wireframes, they’re essentially illustrations that map out a site’s features, navigation and interface: 

A sample site wirefraem including a headline, button, text boxes, and featured links

And with the Figma community’s wealth of readily available wireframe files, creating your own wireframes in Figma can be as easy as filling in the blanks. 

UI Prototypes

Ever wanted to create a functional web page mockup without having to write a single line of code? With Figma’s prototyping capabilities, you can. 

From clicking buttons to hovering over links, you can use Figma’s intuitive tools to define a slew of user interface (UI) elements, no coding necessary. 

And if you want to see how your prototypes perform on a mobile device, you can quickly do so with the help of Figma’s mobile app

Digital Whiteboards

More interested in whipping up diagrams, mood boards and brainstorms than you are in creating graphic designs or website wireframes? Then Figma’s whiteboarding tool FigJam will be right up your alley. 

With straightforward ways to create and fill out diagrams, import images, add stickers and stamps, insert comments and more, this tool is ideal for both solo and team-based projects. 

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How to Download Figma

While you don’t need to download or purchase anything in order to use Figma, you can make it even easier to use by taking advantage of its free downloads.

Desktop App

Want to unlock the ability to use Figma outside of your web browser? Its desktop app is the solution you’re looking for.

But before you start downloading it, ensure your system is capable of running it. The app may be lightweight (i.e., only uses a small amount of your computer’s memory), but it still has some basic minimum requirements. 

If you’re on Mac, your computer needs to be running version 10.12 (macOS Sierra) or later. It doesn’t matter whether your Mac is equipped with an Intel or Apple Silicon processor—Figma supports both. 

If you’re on PC, your computer needs to be running Windows 8 or later in a 64-bit environment. Most modern computers are 64-bit, but if you’re unsure about yours then you can quickly check via your PC settings

Once you’ve confirmed your computer meets Figma’s minimum requirements, you’re ready to start downloading. For more information about installation, accessing the beta version and more, check out Figma’s desktop app guide

Mobile App

Figma’s app for mobile devices isn’t as fully featured as its desktop counterpart, but it will still allow you to: 

  • View files and prototypes
  • Test prototypes for mobile use
  • Mirror frames from your computer to your mobile device
  • See your teams and projects
  • Save files and projects as favorites
  • Edit your FigJam files

Like the desktop app, Figma’s mobile app also has some basic requirements your device will need to meet. 

If you’re on Android, your mobile device needs to be running Android 8.0 (Oreo) or later. 

If you’re on iOS, your device must be running iOS 14 or later. 

Once you’ve ensured your device meets those requirements, you can proceed with downloading Figma from either Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

Have more questions about Figma’s mobile app and how to use it? Take a look at their in-depth guide

Font Installers

Figma comes equipped with a bevy of Google Web Fonts, but if you’re a typography enthusiast or a fan of DaFont, then that’s not going to cut it. 

In that case, you can expand Figma’s font horizons by downloading their font installers. Once you do, you’ll gain access to all the fonts you’ve downloaded to your computer. 

Note that you’ll only need the font installer if you’re using the browser-based version of Figma. If you’re using the desktop app, then there’s no need. 

For more details about Figma’s font installers and how to use them, refer to Figma’s article on the topic.

Figma Alternatives

Although it’s certainly unique, Figma isn’t the only tool of its kind. So before you start researching how to use Figma, check to see if one of its alternatives could be a better fit for you. 

Adobe XD

As the original design program juggernaut, it’s no surprise that Adobe has a product capable of competing with Figma. It’s called Adobe XD, and it’s built to create user experience (UX) designs

When comparing Figma vs. Adobe XD, the two tools’ similarities are easy to spot. Like Figma, Adobe XD lets users create website wireframes and prototypes, and also gives them the ability to share their creations with others. 

But unlike Figma, Adobe XD: 

  • Can’t be used from within a web browser
  • Only offers real-time collaboration on files which users have synced to the cloud
  • Doesn’t have a free version
  • Uses vector paths (as opposed to vector networks)

Note: This information is correct as of publication date. Now that Adobe has acquired Figma (September 2022), some of these similarities and differences may change. If that happens, we’ll update this post.

Sketch

Another viable Figma alternative is Sketch. Started in 2010, it’s a browser- and Mac-based program that combines a desktop app for designing with online features for collaboration. With its detail-driven editing tools, Sketch’s focus is on creative freedom. 

Sketch differs from Figma in that it:

  • Can only be used on Mac computers (with the exception of its online collaboration tools)
  • Doesn’t offer a free version
  • Uses vector paths instead of vector networks

Picmaker

While some Figma competitors (like Adobe XD) focus on UX and UI design specifically, others concentrate on providing users with as many creative possibilities as possible. Graphic design software Picmaker falls into the latter category. 

From social media posts to presentations to blog graphics, you can create (and share) just about any type of design with Picmaker. And just like Figma, Picmaker offers a completely free plan. 

Unlike Figma, Picmaker: 

  • Isn’t designed for creating wireframes or UX/UI
  • Doesn’t provide vector manipulation features
  • Doesn’t have a mobile app 

Killer Design? No Fig Deal 

Whether you’re just starting out creating your own designs or you’re a seasoned designer looking for a new tool with which to hone your skills, Figma has something for you. 

And whether you stick with Figma or end up moving on to another alternative better-suited to your needs, learning what Figma is and what it’s used for can pave the way for your design journey.

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