The 10 best alternatives to Photoshop

Photoshop's not the only image editor on the market. We round up the best alternatives to Adobe’s software.

Photoshop has become so pervasive in the last few years that, like Google, it's become a verb: 'to Photoshop' has became shorthand in common parlance for editing an image. Which might give the impression that Adobe's got the market sewn up with its Creative Cloud packages – but that's not actually the case.

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There are a wide range of very capable alternatives to Photoshop just waiting for you to discover. Whether you're looking elsewhere because you can't justify the hefty standalone price tag, or you want to support smaller development houses, or you just don't need all the bells and whistles that come with the latest version of Photoshop, we've got you covered.


Check out our selection below, and let us know in the comments if we've missed your favourite Photoshop alternative!

01. GIMP

GIMP is a popular, free alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac
  • Price: Free

An open-source alternative to Photoshop that debuted on Unix-based platforms, 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. Download it here for free.

For photo editing, free Windows tool is an excellent alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Windows
  • Price: Free is a Windows-based alternative to the Paint editor that Microsoft shipped with versions of Windows. Don't let that put you off, though, as it's a surprisingly capable and useful tool, available completely free of charge. The software started out life as a Microsoft-sponsored undergraduate project, and has become an open source project maintained by some of the alumni.

The focus is on ease of use, and there's a definite tendancy towards photo editing rather than artistic creation. That said, there are a range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend and push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, and so on.

A good range of selection tools, support for layers, and adjustments such as curves and brightness/contrast mean that is a great alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop's toolset. Download it here for free.



03. Pixlr

Pixlr comes with more than 600 effects
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Price: Free

Pixlr claims to be "the most popular online photo editor in the world", which may have something to do with the fact that it's free.

But it also boasts more than 600 effects, overlays, and borders and lets you do all the main things you'd expect from a photo editor, from cropping and re-sizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.

And if you're used to using Photoshop, then you'll find Pixlr's user interface easy to pick up quickly, as it's very similar. This free app is available in both iOS and Android varieties. Download it here for free.

04. Serif PhotoPlus X7

PhotoPlus explicity sets out to recreate Photoshop's functionality
  • Platform: Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP
  • Price: £79.99

Of all the tools featured in this list, PhotoPlus is perhaps the most direct competitor to Photoshop in terms of trying to replicate the different tools in Adobe's software for the PC at a lower price.

It's definitely a case of getting what you pay for. To be frank, the tool can be tricky for beginners to use, and lacks the slickness and reliability of its big-bucks competitor.

But in the right hands it's possible to create quality work with PhotoPlus, and at under £80 it represents a huge saving on buying Photoshop CS6 or subscribing to Photoshop CC.

05. Aperture

If you're a photographer, Aperture is a brilliant, budget alternative to Photoshop
  • Platform: Mac
  • Price: $79.99/£54.99

If you're a photographer, Apple's Aperture is a brilliant alternative to Photoshop. While full of familiar features to Adobe's image editing software, Aperture lacks all the other features – animation, 3D, web, etc – the average photographer never uses, making it much simpler to use.

It's packed with innovative adjustment and enhancement tools to refine images, including Auto White Balance that uses skin tones to correct color casts, and a professional Auto Enhance that applies Exposure, Vibrancy, Curves, and more with a single click.

The software also includes a set of brushes for painting image adjustments on to images and dozens of ready-to-use professional photo effects.

Next page: five more great alternatives to Photoshop


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