Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
Given Adobe's shift to an expensive subscription based model, what are some affordable alternatives to Photoshop? What are the pros and cons of various Photoshop alternatives?
Mac Alternatives to Photoshop
Macintosh / Apple users have a number of Photoshop alternatives, from default tools that come with the Mac Operating System to low cost software available on the Apple App Store.
Default Apple Alternatives to Photoshop
The Mac OS has an Image Capture application intended for scanners and digital cameras. This software is more limited than the scanning and image editing capability of Adobe Photoshop, but it comes with the Mac OS. Apple Preview is now installed on every new Macintosh computer. It will not let you create brand new images, but Apple Preview gives you the ability to alter existing options. Apple Preview lets you re-size, crop and make other modest changes to the image.
Apple Aperture is a photo editing software for Mac. It lets you convert color photos into black and white images. It has options to correct color problems due to poor lighting and correct red eye. It has tools to fix shadow areas and “flat” pictures. Apple Aperture has “nondestructive” editing, making it easy to undo multiple changes to an image.
Apple Aperture lets you create multimedia slide shows and share pictures over the internet. Apple Aperture automatically includes your iPhoto library in its photo library.
Pixelmator is a cheap alternative to Photoshop with a similar look and feel. Not only does it let you alter photos, it has many features for artists and illustrators. Pixelmator is available on the Mac App Store for less than $20.
Omni Group has created a number of niche alternatives to Photoshop and Microsoft Office tools. OmniGraffle is a low cost diagramming tool for Macintosh computers. It has 16 template forms such as organizational charts and mind maps. You also have the option to create your own diagram templates. OmniGraphSketcher is specific to creating graphs. Omni's Timeline 3D is a low cost timeline tool.
Open Source Alternatives to Photoshop
There are several open source alternatives to Photoshop. Open-source photo editing software exists for both Windows operating systems, Linux, Unix and more exotic OS like Ubuntu.
Paint.Net is an open-source photo editing software program for Microsoft Windows. Paint.net began as a free alternative to Microsoft Paint before becoming a software app in its own right. In 2010, Lifehacker included Paint.net in its LifeHacker Page of essential Microsoft Windows downloads.
F-Spot, a GNU software application, is primarily used for cataloging and managing images. However, F-spot does let you perform basic edits, such as cropping images and re-sizing them. F-spot has more advanced photo editing capabilities like changing color saturation/balance or adjusting the brightness, and it includes a red-eye removal tool. You can use Picasa with F-spot to load pictures to Facebook and other social networking sites.
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is an open source Photoshop alternative. GIPM uses floating palettes, with each section of the interface getting is own panel. GIMP relies on right-clicking to access menu functions. Unlike F-spot and some limited photo viewing/editing tools, GIMP lets you create brand new artwork and images.
GIMP lets users alter the perspective of the picture, airbrush portions of the image and "heal" irregularities like blemishes or pimples on someone's face. The "Smudge" tool creates a blur that resembles rubbing wet paint. The "Clone" function creates copies of the selected image. "Blend" creates a gradient fill that blends the foreground and background colors.
Shotwell is a photo editing application for Linux. Designed for the GNOME desktop environment, it has standard photo editing features like red eye removal and color balance. It has an auto-enhancement option.
Shotwell is also an image organizer. Shotwell can be used to upload finished photos to social networking sites and photo sharing sites.
KOffice Krita is a free Photoshop alternative for Linux, though it also runs on Ubuntu. KOffice Krita is part of KOffice. Krita is primarily used for drawing, but it can be used for manipulating vector illustrations and bitmap pictures.
Low Cost Alternatives to Photoshop
For those who like to take pictures and do a little editing before sharing, there are several low cost options for Photoshop. This is especially true for those working on smart phones who want an alternative to Photoshop Touch.
DrawPlus from Serif is a nice tool for vector drawing and editing, such as creating technical drawings and customized shapes. DrawPlus can also be used for text manipulation. PhotoPlus by Serif is digital photo editing program. PhotoPlus has standard photo editing features like blemish removal and red eye removal in addition to basic edits like photo cropping. All basic versions of Serif tools are free. Advanced versions like PhotoPlus are reasonably priced.
The Gallery App
Droid Bionic comes with a Gallery app that can be used for editing photos as well as sharing them. You can also install the Gallery App on the Samsung Galaxy smart phone.
To view pictures taken with the Droid, tap the Gallery app's "Camera Roll" button. The thumbnails for all of the pictures stored on the phone come up. The older pictures are above the newer pictures, while videos are shown across the bottom. Touch a thumbnail to see the full-screen image.
The Gallery app lets you create albums to save related photos, tag images for easier searching later and printing. The Gallery app has limited photo editing capabilities. You can use the app to crop images and rotate them. The Gallery application lets you upload images to Picasa, Youtube and other sites through the Share menu.
Photo Editor by Aviary
Photo Editor by Aviary offers basic color balancing, brightness adjustments, color saturation corrections and the standard editing options of cropping and rotating images. Photo Editor comes with a number of photo frames and photo effects to make photo editing and sharing simpler.
- "iMac For Dummies, 7th Edition" by Mark L. Chambers
- "Mac at Work" by David Sparks
- "Droid Bionic For Dummies" by Dan Gookin
- "Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 For Dummies" by Dan Gookin
- "Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Fifth Edition" by Emilio Raggi et al.
- "Web Design All-in-One For Dummies, 2nd Edition" by Sue Jenkins
Olivia de Vos from Alsemberg on September 07, 2020:
Some good ideas, I will go a-hunting...I don't use photoshop often enough to justify the current monthly fee, that's sad.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on October 19, 2017:
Katia De Juan Thank's for the thumbs up.
Katia De Juan from Inverness, UK on July 30, 2013:
Very useful hub. I use GIMP but its interface isn't as intuitive as Photoshop to me and thus I do not like it at all. I didn't knew about the other alternatives you shared, I'll give it a try to one of them. Thanks for this useful hub. Voted up! ^_^