Adobe products are the industry standard for photographers all around the world. But what about Adobe Photoshop alternatives?
Let’s look at what Photoshop is all about. You upload a single image to its platform, where it presents you with your work area. On the borders of this area, you have three zones that offer you all the tools and settings you need.
These areas are the Tools on the left, the Tool Options on the top and the Panels on the right. They all work together, allowing you to get the best from your images.
Using these, you can do pretty much anything. From frequency separation to luminescence masks.
Don’t misunderstand me, you can make very simple adjustments to your images too. The histogram gives you information on where your image could find improvement.
From there, you can work with levels and curves to even out exposures, contrast, tones and colours.
As mentioned before, Photoshop has a side program called Camera RAW. This lets you deal with RAW files. This can be tedious with some editing software. Meaning that you need a RAW converter before using the alternatives.
What makes Photoshop special is that it works well with other Adobe products. At the click of a button, images from Lightroom slide into Photoshop for extra editing.
There are tools that let you create panoramas, merge images, and focus stack. You can even create HDR imaging.
Photoshop is a great program. Even if you aren’t the most sophisticated editor.
It does come at a monthly subscription fee, and can be more than you need.
For many, Lightroom gives the tools for all editing, but that also comes at a cost.
For more information on choosing between Lightroom or Photoshop, read our article here.
Paint.net is an open source free Photoshop alternative. Open source means that the operating code can be changed, edited and manipulated. This allows anyone to create plugins and other helpful tools.
It started life as a substitute for Microsoft Paint, but over the years it’s grown into a powerful photo editor.
Like GIMP, our number one spot, Paint.NET offers an amazing range of automatic filters. There are even manual editing tools for the finest adjustments.
This photo editor supports layers, and by installing a plug-in, you have the capacity to use masks.
Another great area about Paint.net is that batch editing is included as standard. Its clone stamp makes it easy to erase annoying spots or blemishes.
It doesn’t have quite as many features as GIMP though.
Its small community of volunteer coders gives you a great interface. It’s both consistent and easy to use.
This is one of the particularly good Photoshop alternatives. Especially for working with multiple photos.
There are quick-access tabs that use thumbnails to represent each open image at a glance. Photoshop doesn’t have the thumbnails. Yet it does have the quick-access tabs that allow you to pull images or elements from one tab to another.
Like Photoshop, it’s also fast. But better than the alternative, it even runs well even on low-powered PCs.
There are no limits to the size of saved images, but it takes a far place due to its smaller range of options and tools.
Did I mention it is free and saves you at least $10 a month?
Pixlr Editor is no ordinary photographic editor and Photoshop alternative. It is the work of AutoDesk. They are one of the biggest names in computer-aided design and 3D modelling software. This marks them as Adobe competitors.
There are several versions available. These include web, desktop and mobile apps. This is perfect for editing on the road. Especially for all those travel, documentary and wedding photographers.
The one thing we don’t like is that the web app is the only one that supports the use of layers.
Another thing we don’t like is the distracting ad on the right-hand side.
It limits the size of your working space, even if it is understandable. Pixlr Editor is free, so they need to make money somehow.
With the Pixel Editor, you get all of the tools you get with Photoshop. we are talking about sharpening, unsharp mask, blur, noise, levels and curves to name just a few.
You can find the artistic filters you’d expect. As well as automatic optimization options.
Like GIMP, Pixlr Editor gives you a toolbox filled with brushes, fills, selection tools. And healing and clone stamp tools.
All of these are customisable. Pixlr Editor can’t edit pictures in batches. But there is support for both layers and masks.
Like Photoshop, it will easily handle multiple images in different tabs. Autodesk is working on an HTML5 version of its lightweight program Pixlr Express.
Right now, it is a worthy adversary of Photoshop, but it may not last. Flash was the program used to build Pixlr Editor.
And since they have yet to announce an HTML5 replacement, its days are numbered.
Affinity Photo calls itself the future of photo editing. It has a huge toolset, designed for creative and professional photographers alike.
It gives you the ability to make local adjustments. But it also allows you to create full-blown multi-layered compositions.
This makes it sound like a Photoshop and Lightroom alternative.
Like Photoshop, you correct and enhance images. You can use Levels, Curves, Blacks and Whites, White Balance, HSL, Shadows and Highlights.
Unlike Photoshop, the edits you make in Affinity Photo are non-destructive. You can return to the original whenever you wish.
What makes this a great software choice are its extras, where others on this list fall behind. HDR merging, Panorama Stitching, focus stacking and batch processing are all possible. There is nothing you can’t do.
The only negative point I came across was the import time. Photoshop imports your images fast, depending on their size. Affinity Photo takes a long time to process hundreds of images.
This means you can’t do anything until it’s finished. At least it can handle multiple images.
Available for OSX and Windows here. And there is a free trial allowing you to test drive the software beforehand.
Overall : ★★★★☆
Affinity Photo was slow compared to Photoshop. But in other areas, it is one of Photoshop’s biggest competitors.
The Sketchapp is a professional vector graphics app for those in creative fields. We aren’t just talking about photographers here.
Product designers, layout teams and anyone who works with graphics on a daily basis uses this.
Photoshop can create many elements for projects that incorporate graphic design. But this editor does quite a few things better.
We know that the majority of you reading this aren’t interested in such elements. But this is a huge reason why some photographers use Photoshop.
you may be a product photographer who also has a background in graphic design. Together, they make you a one-man team.
Photoshop does not only cover the photo components. It also shows how you create the client interface. The problem is, Photoshop wasn’t built for product design.
With the Sketchapp, you have better and more control over layers. And over their style and how they connect with each other.
Some of us know how long it takes to put together strong layers and other components. What happens when you need to change them?
Well, Photoshop is less responsive, ensuring that you need to change the layers one by one.
In its alternative, you change one layer and its responsive concept fixes the rest. In short, it does the work for you.
This equals more time spent working on other projects.
It might utilise a simple UI, yet Sketch has many features similar to Photoshop and Illustrator. These including layers, gradients, colour picker and style presets.
There are also plenty of community-created Sketch plugins for extended uses.
You may not think this is impressive. But for those photographers who seek more than just simple photo adjustments, Sketch provides a great editing program.
It isn’t cheap. But it is $20 cheaper than Photoshop when looking at a whole year. You might get Lightroom or Illustrator with the Photoshop package.
GIMP has already been mentioned a few times in this article. Its reputation precedes the program.
As GIMP is powerful and adaptable, GIMP is the best of the free Photoshop alternatives in my opinion.
It comes with layers, masks, advanced filters, colour adjustment tools and transformations.
These are customisable, which already makes it better than Photoshop. Photoshop has customisability in its panels, but there lies its limitations.
One of the features we like about GIMP is its huge array of user-created scripts and plugins. These are all pre-installed and ready to go. Plug in and play. Some of these even replicate the most popular Photoshop tools, such as Liquify.
On top of this, there’s a package of animation tools for bringing your photos to life via blending. If all that isn’t enough for you, and you feel attached to Photoshop, you can even add Photoshop plugins to GIMP. Boom. Game changer.
One thing that GIMP has that its competitor doesn’t, is a kick-ass user manual. It includes step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting guides to get you started.
Photoshop has these, but they aren’t as good. They are confusing, bulky and great for holding open doors.
The latest version of GIMP offers a new interface. This puts its toolboxes, palettes and menus together in one window. This gives it a professional, Photoshop-like appearance.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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