Photoshop is so ubiquitous these days that, like Google, it's become a verb, so 'to Photoshop' has became shorthand for editing an image. This might give the impression that Adobe's got the market sewn up with its Creative Cloud packages – but that's not actually the case.
In fact, the backlash against Adobe's move to the Creative Cloud has helped spur on the wide, and increasingly wider, range of alternatives to Photoshop. Whether you're looking elsewhere because you can't afford the subscription, or you want to support smaller development houses, or you just don't need all the millions of features that come with Photoshop CC, there are a number of options open to you.
Some of these Photoshop alternatives are free, and those that are paid all offer free trials. So what are you waiting for? Check them out, and let us know which you like best in the comments below!
01. Affinity Photo
- Platform: Mac
- Price: £39.99/$49.99/€49.99
Released earlier this month and causing huge buzz within the community, Serif's Affinity Photo is the most serious Photoshop alternative we've seen to date.
Fully compatible with Photoshop and other file formats, it's aimed squarely at professional photographers and designers, and although Affinity Photo is hugely cheaper than Photoshop (with no subscription), its creators argue it's actually better, promising higher speeds, fewer crashes and unlimited undos.
In truth, the amount of improved performance you'll get will probably depend what equipment you're using (it's been specifically designed to take advantage of the latest quad core technology), plus note that it's Mac-only for the time being. But for anyone looking for an alternative to Photoshop, Affinity Photo is definitely worth investigating. (It's also being used by more and more studios as an additional tool, alongside Photoshop.)
You can find out more about the features and capabilities on Affinity Photo here.
- Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac
- Price: Free
A free, open-source alternative to Photoshop that's been around for donkey's years, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it's available in versions for Linux, Windows, and Mac.
GIMP offers a wide toolset, similar to Photoshop in many ways, and is a great alternative if you're looking for a no-cost image editor. The interface differs somewhat from Photoshop, but a version of GIMP is available that mimics Adobe's look and feel, making it easier to migrate over if you're ditching Photoshop.
The full suite of tools is available here – everything you're accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement. The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You'll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe's Bridge.
Overall, this is a great option whether you've either got a limited budget, or want to move away from Photoshop for other reasons.
- Platform: Mac
- Price: $99
A professional vector graphics app for creatives, in recent years Sketch has created enormous buzz within the design community due to approving nods from the likes of Khoi Vinh (read his views on using Sketch instead of Photoshop.)
With a simple UI, Sketch has many features similar to that of Photoshop and Illustrator, including layers, gradients, colour picker and style presets.
Aware of the growing popularity of Retina displays and mobile devices, the development team behind Sketch has made it as flexible as possible, with it supporting infinite zooming and vector shapes that are perfect for multiple resolutions. You can build a new graphic from primitive shapes or start a new one with the vector or pencil tool.
- Platform: Mac, iPhone, iPad
- Price: $29.99/£20.99
Pixelmator uses Mac OS X libraries to create fast, powerful image editing tools. As it's built on Mac and iOS technologies, it allows the software to integrate seamlessly with the likes of iPhoto and Aperture, as well as iCloud.
There are also built-in export tools for Facebook and Flickr. There are a wide range of tools available within Pixelmator that allow you to paint, draw accurately, and retouch images.
Colour correction tools such as Hue/Saturation, Shadows/Highlights and Contrast are all present and correct – so the vast majority of operations you'd use Photoshop for are all possible.
The latest release of Pixelmator, out this month, has made the Repair tool faster and more precise, and includes a new feature called Dynamic Touch, which lets you adjust the brush size of all Retouch tools by painting with your tip or a larger area of their finger.
Next page: five more alternatives to Photoshop