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4 affordable alternatives to Photoshop for image buyers

FHHG5R Top vie of a woman designer showing something on desktop monitor to man working graphics tablet and pc. Young graphic designers
Ammentorp Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Are you looking for a photo editing software that won’t break the bank? Check out our review of 4 Photoshop alternatives that could save you hundreds of dollars a year!

We sell thousands of images to a huge range of people every day, so we know better than most that when you buy an image it isn’t always as simple as popping it into your design and away you go. It’ll often need at least some form of editing. You might need to layer text, crop, resize, add text, change colours, include a logo, overlay brand info or optimise for web. All of these are important, but you don’t need a super expensive software like Photoshop to do them. You can carry out most of these by using alternatives that are much cheaper and often even free.

If you need photo editing software but Photoshop is out of your budget or you have no idea how to use it, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives out there that can be much easier to get to grips with.

We’ve had a look around at some affordable alternatives that can deliver what you need to edit your images and get them ready for you to use in a variety of projects. To save you time trying them all out we’ve put together this list of 4 alternatives and given you a breakdown of each, so you can pick the one that’s right for you.

1. Pixelmator Pro (top pick)

http://www.pixelmator.com/pro/

Pixelmator is a great, affordable option for anyone who wants a sophisticated set of tools more in-line with what’s on offer from Photoshop. The latest version (launched Nov 2017) gives you more tools than ever before, so this is a great option for creative projects that involve more than just simple photo editing.

What can you do?

  • Edit your photos – the photo editing tools are good! They could be more extensive but it more than covers the basics
  • Create layouts – you can add layers, text and apply a grid, making designing in the tool simple
  • Add effects – a variety of popular effects are available to help you create the finish you’re looking for

Great things about Pixelmator…

  • It’s easy to use with a simple interface
  • There are a variety of tools on offer including a good selection of image effects
  • It can be used on iPad
  • It allows for fast image processing
  • They provide excellent email support and online guides

What could be better…

  • It could do with more image editing options if it’s going to compete with Photoshop
  • It’s only available on Mac and iPad, you can’t use it on Windows
  • There’s a small one-off fee but we think it’s worth it!

Verdict

Pixelmator does the job of providing an alternative to Photoshop and it does it well! It’s great for creating small individual projects as well as simple and occasional graphic designs. It’s a real competitor for Photoshop and one that comes at a fraction of the cost.

Price

From $29.99

2. GIMP – ‘GNU Image Manipulation Program’

https://www.gimp.org/

GIMP is one of the better-known alternatives to Photoshop and is widely renowned for being a great option for those who don’t want to splash out too much cash. It has a great set of tools that are all fully customisable, but it isn’t the most user friendly and it can be a little difficult to get used to!

What can you do?

  • Pretty much anything – tools include layers, masks, advanced filters, colour adjustment and transformations
  • There are loads of user-created plugins to help you do anything that doesn’t come as a pre-set. You can even add Photoshop plugins.

Great things about GIMP…

  • It’s available on multiple operating systems including Windows and Mac so almost anyone can use it
  • As we’ve already mentioned it has a good set of tools, is highly customisable and is expandable via plugins
  • It supports layers and masks

What could be better…

  • The interface can be a bit confusing as it is different to other similar programmes, so you might need to invest some time understanding where everything is
  • The online help is not great which, paired with a confusing interface, can be quite frustrating
  • It doesn’t support CMYK

Verdict

It’s a good programme and the fact it’s free certainly makes it more appealing so it’s worth a try. But make sure you allow some time to get used to the interface and navigation.

Price

Free

3. Paint.NET

https://www.getpaint.net/

Paint.NET certainly has its uses but it also has its limitations. If you’re looking for a simple photo editing tool, then it could be your winner. But if you’re looking for a tool to create designs or carry out creative tasks then it’s not likely to be the one for you.

What can you do?

  • It has the tools to do some serious photo editing
  • Apply Instagram-style filters to help you get the finish you’re looking for
  • Use community developed plugins to increase functionality

Great things about Paint.NET…

  • It’s simple and easy to use with intuitive navigation
  • It has lots of photo editing options
  • It can support layers so can be used for a range of projects
  • You can use plugins to extend the possibilities of what it can do

What could be better

  • It has limitations and its tools are limited compared to other editing programmes
  • It’s not for design work and has more of a photo editing focus
  • It only works on Windows so if you’re a Mac user then it isn’t an option

Verdict

A great free tool for photo editing but not a programme built for design work or creative projects.

Price

Free

4. Pixlr

https://pixlr.com/

Pixlr has a set of core features which are available with the free edition and there is also the option to upgrade to the pro account for a small fee to access a more diverse set of tools. It has both a web-based and desktop app version so you can choose the one that suits you best.

What can you do?

  • With a free account you can access the majority of photo editing tools
  • Sign up for a free account and get access to Pixlr Express which gives you added effects, overlays and additional tools like double exposure
  • If you subscribe to a Pro account for a small fee you’ll get advanced masking tools and other enhanced features

Great things about Pixlr…

  • It has both a web-based and desktop version for both Windows and Mac
  • In the desktop version you can use your own fonts
  • It’s quick and intuitive to use and has similar features, layouts and keyboard short-cuts to Photoshop
  • It supports layers and masks, so you can use it for a range of projects

What could be better…

  • There’s no batch editing tool so you can only work on one project at a time
  • There are some adverts on the tool which while not too intrusive are still a bit annoying!
  • The web based version can run slow if you add too many layers

Verdict

It’s an easy to use piece of software but as with most of the others it has its limitations. Great for low-end photo editing or some basic design tasks.

Price

Free to $14.99 a year

There’s our roundup! But of course, that’s just our opinion. If you try any of these tools we’d love to hear how you get on. Or if you have any more Photoshop alternatives to recommend then please share them with us and our community of photographers and image buyers in the comments.

  • Matt Ashmore

    How about Serif Affinity?

    • Mikhail Lavrenov

      Yes I wanted to mention that one too; and also Corel Paint Shop Pro

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