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Ammentorp Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

3 affordable alternatives to Photoshop

It’s been a while since Adobe Creative Suite switched to a subscription-based model, but it still hurts thinking about the ongoing expenditure to run it.

There’s no doubt that it helps a lot of people though; anyone remember the eye-watering cost to have the full Adobe suite where you could get it all on a single fee? And it’s good to know that you’re always going to have access to the latest features. But there are large parts of Adobe Photoshop that many of us never use and at great cost.

Fortunately, there are loads of alternatives out there that have more focus on image editing and are therefore easier to use for less-experienced users. The workflow is often quicker too. So if you’re adding text, cropping, resizing, compositing, compressing or anything else to do with editing images, here are three affordable alternatives to Photoshop.

1.      Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator is a great, affordable option for anyone who wants a sophisticated set of tools with similar functionality to Photoshop. The latest version 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 it do?

  • Edit your photos – the photo editing tools are good! They are surprisingly comprehensive for the price and cover the vast majority of needs.
  • Create layouts – you can add layers, text, apply a grid which makes designing in Pixelmator quick and 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.
  • They provide excellent email support and online guides.

What could be better

  • It’s only available on Mac and iPad, you can’t use it on Windows.

Verdict

Pixelmator can do many of the things that Photoshop does. It’s great for creating small individual projects as well as simple graphic designs. It’s a decent alternative to Photoshop and comes at a fraction of the cost.

Price

From $39.99

2.      GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program

GIMP has been around almost as long as Photoshop; over 25 years! It was the original alternative to Photoshop because it boasts much of the same tools but it’s completely free. You might think it’s lacking in features and tools but it’s not. Thanks to being open source, it’s had a lot of development over the years and there really isn’t much it can’t do. Where it does fall down is on looks and user-friendliness, but these issues do not hinder your ability to edit which is the most important thing. And let’s be honest, Photoshop isn’t particularly user-friendly anyway, we’re just used it.

What can it 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 standard. You can even add Photoshop plugins.

Great things about GIMP

  • It’s completely free and open source!
  • It’s available on multiple operating systems including Windows, MacOS and Linux so anyone can use it.
  • It has a comprehensive set of tools.
  • It’s highly customisable and expandable via plugins.

What could be better

  • The interface can be a bit confusing and not as user-friendly as other alternatives, but in fairness, it can be difficult to cram in so much functionality without hindering the user interface.
  • It doesn’t support CMYK which I know is a dealbreaker for many, but it’s on their development roadmap at least.

Verdict

It’s incredibly comprehensive and has been around for a while now so there’s experience there too. If you have needs beyond just simple editing, GIMP will likely perform better than the other alternatives here. The fact that it’s completely free certainly makes worth a try as there’s nothing to lose.

Price

Free

3.      Pixlr

Pixlr has a set of core features which are available with the free edition, but you can 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 one that suits you best.

What can it do?

  • With a free account, you can access the majority of photo editing tools.
  • Pixlr Express gives you added effects, overlays, and additional tools like double exposure effects.
  • 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 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 easy to use and we expect most users to get to grips with it quite quickly, even if you’re less experienced with editing software. It has some limitations compared to Photoshop but that’s not surprising seeing as Photoshop has been around since the 90s.

Price

Free to $14.99 a year

Besides being affordable, most of these options are also more user-friendly than Photoshop. When you’re doing relatively light editing work, it can be annoying dealing with the multitude of features on Photoshop that simply clog up the user interface. So for some of you, these are not only cheaper options, but they could be better options overall based on your needs.

If you do end up using one of these, we’d love to hear how you got on. You can always have a chat with us on any of our social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube.

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