First real alternative to Photoshop launched... and it's free

A high-end rival to Photoshop for Mac users, Affinity Photo launches today in free beta. Will this become your new favourite graphic design tool?

We're big fans of Affinity Designer, a low-price but high-end Mac alternative to Adobe Illustrator launched last June. And we're not alone: Apple, for example, awarded it the number 2 Mac app of 2014, and designers have generally given it the thumbs up.

So we're excited to see that the company behind it, Serif, is today launching a rival to Photoshop, Affinity Photo, in free beta.

What's more, Serif isn't aiming to just replicate Photoshop, or create a cut-down version. It's actively aiming to steal Adobe's market by creating a product that they claim is better than Photoshop in a number of ways.

Faster codebase

Built on a new codebase, Affinity Photo can take advantage of modern hardware capabilities

For a start, it's fast; very fast. That's for a good reason, says Serif's managing director Ashley Hewson. "Photoshop is an amazing piece of software," he says. "But the problem is, it's built on 25-year-old architecture. When that architecture was being created, Adobe couldn't have anticipated the incredible developments we've seen in computers since. Which means that they're now struggling to adapt Photoshop to take advantage of modern computing power."

In contrast, Serif has built Affinity Photo, like Affinity Designer, on an entirely new codebase, which allows the software to take advantage of the latest hardware; and the speed boost is palpable. It means, most notably, that all the edits you make happen in real-time, with no lag or scrolling wheels of death.

Also striking is the way the software remembers every single change you make, and lets you retrace your steps if necessary. So you'll never get prompted 'Are you sure you want to make this edit?' because you can always undo it.

Feature rich

The Mac-only tool is squarely aimed at professionals

Squarely aimed at professionals, the beta version of Affinity Photo is already feature-rich, with pro photography adjustments including Frequency Separation editing, live blend modes, Inpainting, and advanced retouching.

Unlike other Photoshop rivals, it includes end-to-end CMYK, 16-bits per channel editing, LAB colour, RAW processing, ICC colour management, and Photoshop PSD and 64-bit plug-in compatibility.

Compatible with OS X Lion 10.7.5 and newer on Intel 64 Macs, it's available in English, German, Spanish and French. And users of Affinity Designer will be pleased to know that moving assets between the two tools is smooth and intuitive.

Next page: how to get hold of Affinity Photo for free