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10 Best Photoshop Alternatives to Try in 2021 (Free and Paid!)

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With the increasing availability of affordable, high-quality photographic equipment, there is a growing need for Photoshop alternatives.

We look at the best photo editing packages, from free online photo editing to Photoshop alternatives with advanced features.

The Best Photoshop Alternatives for Photographers

Adobe Photoshop is the go-to program for all sorts of creative professionals. To fairly compare software, we decided to concentrate on the most common features used by photographers. Although our test image is a portrait, the simple edit uses techniques applied to all kinds of photographs. By performing the same editing tasks in each program, we are asking:

  • Will the software open RAW files?
  • Does the program utilise layers?
  • Can we paint masks for selective editing?
  • Are there effects to apply?
  • Are blend modes available?
  • Can we crop and save our image in a useable format?
  • Are there any special features?

The editing process softens the skin, sharpens the eyes and hair, lightens the eyes and left cheek, applies a colour cast, then crops to 4×5 and saves as a JPEG.

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd edited in Photoshop

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10. Photopea

We were amazed when we first opened Photopea. The layout, the interface, the tools, and the shortcuts were all the same as Photoshop. Everything works and responds to familiar keystrokes, from zooming in and out to inverting masks or changing brush sizes. The layers and blend modes work in just the same way as our original edit.

You can remove the additional advertising panel by purchasing the Premium package, which for a single user is $40.00 for a whole year. You can also save your work as a .PSD, meaning you can share files with Photoshop users. The crop tool is non-destructive, and it snaps centre on the dominant eye, a surefire way to make the eyes follow you around the room. You can export your image in all of your favourite formats.

Although Photopea is an online photo editor, It offers an install option so you can open the program straight from your desktop. The image itself was processed a little darker than Photoshop, but for a free Photoshop alternative, Photopea is superb.

  • RAW Yes
  • Layers Yes
  • Adjustment Layers Yes
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes—with filter gallery, lens correction and liquify
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Yes—Easily modify size, shape, and hardness
  • Cropping Free, Fixed ratio, Fixed size
  • Saving PSD, PNG, JPG, SVG, GIF, PDF
  • Special Features Export Layers option for individual PNGs
  • Cost Free with ads $40 per year for premium
  • Score 5/5
Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Photopea Photoshop alternative
The Photopea Interface Replicates Photoshop

9. Gimp

Gimp or GNU Image Manipulation Program is a well-known free alternative to Photoshop. An online photo editor, Gimp is open-source, meaning its code can be altered and adapted to do just about anything. With that in mind, we were surprised that it was not more intuitive to use. It is possible to find and download user-made scripts that mimic many Photoshop’s plugins and tools, but the program itself is quite basic.

The controls are small and fiddley and the keyboard shortcuts are disabled by default. The lack of adjustment layers and colour controls left us wanting more.

  • RAW No
  • Layers Yes
  • Adjustment Layers No
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes—basic effects for image layers
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Many weird and wonderful brushes
  • Cropping Fixed width, Height, Size, Aspect Ratio
  • Saving PSD, JPG, GIF, TIFF, BMP
  • Special Features Open-Source
  • Cost Free
  • Score 2/5

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in GIMP

8. Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro has a layout similar to the Adobe Lightroom Develop Module. With all adjustment controls in a scrollable panel to the right of the screen. Your layers appear to the left of the screen and share blend modes with Photoshop. Masks can be added with a right-click, and your brush tool, like all other tools, can be altered on the right-hand side.

The intuitive interface lets you add custom LUTs and fine-tune your ‘look’. The effects panel offers a wide variety of image overlays such as lens flares or bokeh. You can even create instant mandalas from your image.

Although it doesn’t use adjustment layers the same way as Photoshop, it can achieve similar results using other photo editing tools. In some cases doing things more creatively by stacking effects.

  • RAW Yes
  • Layers Yes
  • Adjustment Layers No
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes—from basics like Blur and High Pass to complex stacks of image overlays.
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Hundreds to choose from
  • Cropping Yes—with Machine Learning, the software auto crops for you
  • Saving PSD, HEIF, JPG, PNG, TIFF, PDF, BMP, Pixelmator
  • Special Features Stackable effects with overlays and geometric patterns
  • Cost $39.99
  • Score 4/5
Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Pixelmator Pro, an alternative to Photoshop
Tilt-Shift and Bokeh Overlay in Pixelmator Pro

7. Pixlr

A free online photo editing tool, Pixlr is a simple yet effective Photoshop alternative. There are basic exposure and sharpening adjustments and a set of filters that can be applied. It can stack image layers and let you adjust the opacity and blend mode, but there are no adjustment layers or masks.

As free Photoshop alternatives go, Pixlr has simple controls for basic edits but can’t compete with the advanced editing you can achieve in Photoshop.

  • RAW No
  • Layers Yes
  • Adjustment Layers No
  • Masks No
  • Effects Yes, more in Premium
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes One brush, One pen
  • Cropping Select Aspect, Size
  • Saving JPG, PNG, WEBP, PXZ
  • Special Features
  • Cost Free / $29.99 pa
  • Score 2/5

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Pixlr

6. Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo from Serif is a paid desktop application. It is part of the Affinity range, which includes Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher. The layout and control is second nature to Photoshop users, with shortcuts and menus exactly where you’d expect.

One feature Photoshop doesn’t have is Affinity’s Tone Mapping Persona. A space where you can apply a look to your work with localised contrast, detail, and colour adjustments. There is also a dedicated Frequency Separation filter and advanced re-lighting tools in the filter menu.

This is the most similar to Photoshop in terms of photo editing features, layout, and usability.

  • RAW Yes
  • Layers Yes
  • Adjustment Layers Yes
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes—and a space dedicated to Tone Mapping
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Yes
  • Cropping Original Ratio, Custom Ratio, Resample
  • Saving PSD, PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF, PDF
  • Special Features Tone Mapping Persona
  • Cost $47.99
  • Score 5/5
Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Affinity Photo, a great Photoshop alternative
Affinity Tone Mapping giving a grunge look

5. Sumo Photo

Sumo Photo is an online photo editor with a downloadable app. With basic exposure correction, filters, and cropping. Files can be exported and downloaded as Jpeg or PNG. Great for fast adjustments or applying looks, but very basic.

Although this is one of the simpler free Photoshop alternatives, if you subscribe for $9.00 pm, you get access to the full suite of Sumos simple online editors. These are Sumo Paint, Tunes, 3D, Code, Photo, Audio, Video, and Pixel.

  • RAW No
  • Layers No
  • Adjustment Layers No
  • Masks No
  • Effects Yes
  • Blend modes No
  • Brushes No
  • Cropping Square, Instagram Feed, Story, Facebook Post, Story, Cover
  • Saving JPG, PNG
  • Special Features
  • Cost $9 p/m
  • Score 2/5

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Sumo Photo (free Photoshop alternative)

4. Seashore

Another free Photoshop alternative is Seashore. An open-source image editor, Seashore has basic cropping, layering, and text tools. It doesn’t offer exposure adjustment, but it does have some built-in effects such as Sunrays or Mosaic.

The workflow requires you to confirm every change (like brush size) by clicking ‘done’ in the control panel, making it slow to use for anything but straightforward tasks. We can see how this package could help resize images or very simple overlays. Seashore doesn’t have the same depth of control as others on this list.

  • RAW No
  • Layers Yes
  • Masks No
  • Effects Yes
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Yes
  • Cropping Yes
  • Saving JPG, PNG, TIFF, HEIC
  • Special Features
  • Cost Free
  • Score 1/5

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Seashore

3. LuminarAI

Luminar is best known for its AI-enhanced photo editing. This is not a layer-based editor. There is a control panel on the right-hand side where you adjust basic exposure settings to advanced AI enhancements.

Luminar’s ability to automatically detect and mask parts of the image makes it a powerful Photoshop alternative. With functions like ‘Augmented Sky’ and ‘Atmosphere’, it is a creative tool for landscape photographers. With AI tools such as ‘Portrait Bokeh’ and ‘Eye Enhancer,’ it is fantastic for portrait photo editing. The local masking panel lets you add brushed, gradient, and radial masks, just like Adobe Lightroom.

  • RAW Yes
  • Layers No
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes
  • Blend modes No
  • Brushes Yes
  • Cropping Original, Ratio, Facebook Cover, Feed
  • Saving JPG, PNG, TIFF, PSD, PDF
  • Special Features Enhanced AI editing
  • Cost $79
  • Score 4/5

Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in LuminarAI

2. Movavi Picverse

Although not a layer-based editor like Adobe Photoshop, Movavi Picverse offers brushes to apply each tool or effect. The panel on the left-hand side lets you control exposure settings and AI enhancements. One of the advanced features is the Portrait Retouch panel. Here you can adjust skin smoothing, eye colour, and blemish removal. You can even add foundation, blusher, and lipstick. AI controls let you enlarge eyes and thin the face.

If you are looking to beautify portraits, the $39.99 one-time cost could make Movavi Picverse your perfect Photoshop alternative.

  • RAW Yes
  • Layers No
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes
  • Blend modes No
  • Brushes Yes
  • Cropping Aspect Ratio, Freeform
  • Saving JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF
  • Special Features Change Background, Portrait Retouch
  • Cost $39.95
  • Score 3/5
Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Movavi Picverse
Face Reshaping and Makeup Applied By Movavis AI Retouching Panel

1. Colorcinch

For what looks like a simple interface, Colorcinch is a surprisingly fun free Photoshop alternative. There are basic exposure controls, crop and resize tools, then a host of filters, graphics, and artistic effects. The graphic and text tools appear as layers, letting you move, blend and change the opacity. Preset Masks and borders can be scaled to fit, along with a library of overlays. Unlock the full version for under $50 and have access to all of the styles and presets.

Colorcinch is a fun interactive photo editing tool for simple adjustments or artistic effects. It didn’t, however, complete the edit to the same degree of control as Photoshop.

  • RAW No
  • Layers No
  • Masks Yes
  • Effects Yes
  • Blend modes Yes
  • Brushes Yes
  • Cropping Aspect Ratio, Freeform
  • Saving JPG, PNG (PDF with premium)
  • Special Features Artistic Effects
  • Cost Free / $47.88 p/a
  • Score 2/5
Portrait of Boxer Jack Shepherd Edited in Colorcinch
Cartoon Filter, Bokeh Overlay, and Moustache added with Colorcinch

The Best Photoshop Alternatives for Digital Artists

Not all Photoshop users are photographers. Some of us need complex brushes that change size or opacity with the pressure of our stylus. Others need to stack layers for animation or create scalable vector art for posters or logos.
Childich Drawing of Charlie the Spaniel made in Sketches

5. Tayasui Sketches

Sketches is a Desktop, iPad, and Android drawing and painting app that is simple to use and produces fantastic results. The collection of brushes and tools are pressure-sensitive. The colours run into each other depending on the paint type and paper texture you choose. The sketches community is a space where users can share their artwork, inspiring new artists and showing off the software’s capability. There is a free version of the app called Sketches School, and you can unlock layers and export to .PNG with an in-app purchase.

We love Sketches as a gateway into the world of digital drawing.

  • Paper Texture Yes
  • Pressure Sensitive Brushes Yes
  • Colour bleeding Yes
  • Transform controls Yes
  • Vector tools No
  • Layers Yes
  • Price $14.90

Childich Drawing of Charlie the Spaniel running made in Krita

4. Krita

With customisable workspaces, hundreds of tools, and powerful vector editing, Krita is one of the best free Photoshop alternatives for artists. Built-in comic and animation templates create multi-layer workspaces designed for creating professional content. The brushes are highly customisable, letting you change more than size and opacity, but shape, weight, and drag. Krita will even temper your shakey hand with brush stabilisers.

For professional level artists and animators.

  • Paper Texture Yes
  • Pressure Sensitive Brushes Yes
  • Colour bleeding Yes
  • Transform controls Yes
  • Vector tools Yes
  • Layers Yes
  • Price Free

Childich Drawing of Charlie the Spaniel Sniffing made in Pixelmator Pro

3. Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator is the only package to appear in both sections of this roundup. The intricate brush control and artistic tools built into this software make it an excellent fit for digital artistry. The brushes feel responsive, and the layout is easy to navigate. Combine this with the retouch, selection, and photo editing tools, Pixelmator Pro is a very powerful program.

Superb for those who combine photography with digital artistry.

  • Paper Texture No
  • Pressure Sensitive Brushes Yes
  • Colour bleeding Yes
  • Transform controls Yes
  • Vector tools Yes
  • Layers Yes
  • Price $39.99

Childich Drawing of Charlie the Spaniel laying down made in MediBangPaintPro

2. Medibang Paint

Medibang Paint is a free illustration software aimed at Manga enthusiasts. That’s not to say it will only make manga. It is a fully featured digital drawing program. The layer-based editing is easy to navigate, but the brush controls seem somewhat spread out. Although Medibang doesn’t animate, there is a host of tutorial videos on the website.

Brilliant for those wanting to learn about creating Manga.

  • Paper Texture No
  • Pressure Sensitive Brushes Yes
  • Colour bleeding Yes
  • Transform controls Yes
  • Vector tools No
  • Layers Yes
  • Price Free

Childich Drawing of Charlie the Spaniel walking made in Clip Studio Paint

1. Clip Studio Paint

The first thing you notice when you start to draw or paint in Clip Studio Paint is the feel of the brushes. There are downloadable materials to work on and a whole host of comic and animation templates. The environment is easy to navigate with well-laid out controls. Brush stabilisation is right there in the control panel with size, hardness, and density.

There are fun specialist brushes like Glitter and Bloodstain and frame tools for building comic layouts. Even more so in the Pro version ‘Clip Studio Paint EX’, which has advanced comic and animation features.

This is the most full-featured drawing and painting alternatives to Photoshop.

  • Paper Texture Yes
  • Pressure Sensitive Brushes Yes
  • Colour bleeding Yes
  • Transform controls Yes
  • Vector tools No
  • Layers Yes
  • Price $49.99 / $219.00

Conclusion

When it comes to Photoshop alternatives, you will find a whole range of software available. A program with the photo editing or drawing features you need doesn’t have to be expensive. Our favourite Photoshop alternatives are free.

The best free Photoshop alternative for photographers is Photopea.

The best free Photoshop alternative for artists is Krita.

The best all-around Photoshop alternative has to be Pixelmator Pro. While not as strong as Affinity or Luminar at photo editing, Pixelmator’s art tools gave it the edge.

Try out our Effortless Editing course to master all the secrets of professional editing in Lightroom.

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