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10 Best Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

Interesting Piece of Trivia
Before Adobe Systems took over Photoshop by purchasing it in 1989, the author of this phenomenal software, Thomas Knoll, wanted to name it ImagePro. However, that name was already registered, and so, instead, the name Photoshop was selected for it.
Adobe Photoshop literally needs no introduction. The use of this incredible photo-editing software has slowly crept down from the elite likes of graphic designers and photographers, to everyday application at the hands of the layman, so much so that its name is now commonly used as a verb that’s synonymous to the very act of photo manipulation!
When such a powerful, versatile tool that is capable of manipulating images to an unbelievable extent is available at one’s disposal, one can’t help but wonder what is the need at all to look for a replacement? Even so, here are some reasons.
Firstly, although Photoshop is the ultimate right hand of any graphic artist, 80% of the features it provides would be redundant to those who just use it to create the perfect profile/display picture. What they would actually need is a good photo-correction tool that comes with a handful of Instagram-esque filters.
Secondly, being aware of the indispensability of this software in many industries, Adobe Systems has recently changed the distribution strategy of Photoshop from purchase to subscription, with the introduction of their Creative Cloud program.
Paying an exorbitant monthly or yearly subscription fee to use it would work out to be quite expensive, not to mention wasteful, for a person who wants to use Photoshop merely to edit a couple of photographs before posting them on social media websites.
Therefore, it is time for majority of the users of Photoshop (especially those who are merely enthusiasts and do not actually need to use this software as part of their professional work) to jump ship to a different photo-editing solution, unless they want to burn a deep hole in their pockets.
Fortunately, a number of software are available, of which some are either reasonably priced or even free, while others are completely web-based, so they do not need to be downloaded. Here is a list of our picks, sorted into categories.
Alternatives to Adobe
Photoshop Elements 13
Developer Adobe Systems
Type of Distribution Download (purchase)
OS Requirements Windows 7 and above, OS X 10.8 and above
Price Photoshop Elements 13 Only
To download: USD 99.99
To upgrade from a previous version: USD 79.99

Photoshop Elements 13 and Premiere Elements 13 (Software Bundle)
To download: USD 149.99

Description and Key Features Thankfully for Photoshop addicts who find it difficult getting out of their Photoshop comfort zone, Adobe has provided a solution to the problem in the form of a stripped-down, lightweight version of their flagship photo-editing software, called Photoshop Elements.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a one-time purchase, and it contains enough features to gladden the heart of any amateur.

What’s new in Photoshop Elements 13:-

  • A tool especially designed to create profile, and cover pictures for the most widespread social network today, Facebook.
  • A tool that suggests ways to crop a picture.
  • Photomerge Compose: A tool with the ability to pull elements from various pictures and put them together in a different picture, in a simple, copy-paste style, to create new, realistic-looking photographs.
  • Guided Edits: A tool that allows users to very easily create grayscale (black and white) images that have a single color popping out.
  • A tool that can remove unnecessary objects from photographs, and then fills in the background intelligently, based on other elements in the image.
  • The availability of a number of filters (effects).
  • Support for the new Retina HD monitors for Mac, and access to online Help resources.
Links Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 for either OS platform
Photoshop Lightroom 5
Developer Adobe Systems
Type of Distribution Download upgrade only (purchase), subscription through Adobe CC
OS Requirements Windows 7 and above, OS X 10.7 and above

For Lightroom Mobile, iOS 7 and above (syncs only with Photoshop Lightroom 5.4)

Price Photoshop Lightroom 5
To upgrade from a previous version: USD 79.99
Monthly subscription (Photography pack): USD 9.99
Yearly subscription (Photography pack): USD 119.88

Lightroom Mobile

Description and KeyFeatures Unlike Photoshop and its little sister, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom works as a powerful image manipulator rather than like a complete graphic designing solution. It is an answer to the prayers of any aspiring, or even professional photographer, and is ideal for those looking for a software to use to doctor the photographs they post online.

Photoshop Lightroom is a part of Adobe’s Creative Suite of software, and therefore, in order to use it (just like in the case of Photoshop) one needs to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, and pay a monthly or annual subscription fee.

What’s new in Photoshop Lightroom 5:-

  • The tool for image correction has been transformed into a brush, and the area within which image manipulation can be done is no longer limited to a circle.
  • Synchronizes with the iOS application, Lightroom Mobile, which allows users to edit and organize photographs on the move.
  • Upright: A tool that allows photographs to be straightened easily.
  • Tools for highlight and shadow recovery, spot removal, noise reduction, and much more.
  • Users can even develop their own preset effects or filters that can be applied to photographs.
Links Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 for either OS platform
Lightroom Mobile for iOS
Free, Open Source, and/or Web-based Alternatives
Gimp 2.8
Developer Original authors – Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis
Now being developed by the GIMP Development Team
Type of Distribution Download (freeware)
OS Requirements Windows XP and above, Mac OS X 10.6 and above, Linux or any Unix-compatible OS
Price Free
Description and Key Features Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a surprisingly powerful (surprising, because of its simplicity) image editing software, which joins the ranks of iconic image processors like Photoshop, solely because of its sheer versatility and ease of use. This raster graphics editor is a crucial component of any graphic designer’s software toolkit.

The best part―it is completely free of charge, being part of GNU’s suite of free, open-source suite of software resources meant for developers.

What’s new in Gimp 2.8:-

  • A new UI design with a single window, that allows a multi-column view of various tool bars, along with a multi-tabbed file mechanism to view files.
  • The various tools available can be easily located by searching for the tags associated with them.
  • A tool to lock pixels, with which certain portions of the image can remain immune to editing.
  • Improved support for shortcut keys.
  • New filters, features, and support for a wide variety of plug-ins.
  • The ability to port features that were available in previous versions of Gimp to the present one.
Links Gimp 2.8 for any OS platform
Paint.NET 4
Developer Original author – Rick Brewster
Now being developed by dotPDN LLC
Type of Distribution Download (freeware)
OS Requirements Windows 7 and above (.NET Framework 4.5 or higher is required)
Price Free
Description and Key Features If a raster graphics editor is your preferred kind of image manipulator, Paint.NET is an amazing option. It is built on the Microsoft .NET framework, and is exclusively designed for Windows users.

It is also lightweight, completely free of cost, and also, some of its previous versions are open-source, which means that aspiring application developers can modify the software itself.

What’s new in Paint.NET 4:-

  • A completely revamped UI, in a light gray color scheme with a gray canvas background.
  • Copy Merged: A tool that allows users to copy pixels from one selection archive and paste them in another without much ado, unlike in previous versions where more steps needed to be taken.
  • The Color Picker tool has been improved, and it can be used to sample even just the current layer.
  • The option to alternate between Normal, and any layer blend mode.
  • The various layers can be reordered using simple drag-and-drop.
  • Clipping of sections can be done in collaboration with anti-aliasing.
Links Paint.NET 4 for Windows
Developer Original authors – Brian Terry and Justin Huff
Type of Distribution Web (browser-based freemium)
Price Free online access with limited features

PicMonkey Royale
Free trial for 30 days
Monthly subscription: USD 4.99
Annual subscription: USD 33

Description and Key Features PicMonkey is a web-based photo-editing service that serves as the perfect answer to those who wish to make quick edits to their photos on the go, especially for the purpose of posting them on social media sites.

Developed by former employees of Google who had designed the Google-acquired, popular, yesteryear online image editing service (which Google then went on to shut down in 2012), namely, Piknik, PicMonkey works on the ‘freemium’ model, meaning, while its services can be employed at no cost; those who register as members, at a price, are given access to special features, including ad-free use.

Amazing Features Available in PicMonkey:-

  • The ability to make picture collages.
  • A tool to add text to images in a wide range of fonts.
  • The availability of a whole host of tools to touch up portraits and other photographs, from airbrushing and spot clearing to teeth whitening and superimposing a spray-tan on the skin.
  • A number of filters and effects, which even allow used to modify the texture of the image.
  • The ability to add interesting photo frames to pictures, and superimpose stickers.
Links PicMonkey website
Developer Original author – Ola Sevandersson
Acquired by Autodesk Inc.
Type of Distribution Web apps (browser-based), Download
OS Requirements For Pixlr Desktop, Windows 7 and above, Mac OS X 10.9 and above

For Pixlr Web Apps, Adobe Flash plug-in required

For Pixlr Express, iOS, as well Android version requirements vary with device

Price Free download of desktop and mobile app, web apps are also free to use

Signing up for a free Pixlr account gives access to more features

Premium yearly subscription at USD 14.99 to unlock full desktop software

Description and Key Features From browser-based photo-editing, desktop software, to a mobile application- Pixlr provides an image-editing solution for users no matter what platform they use.

Moreover, it is essentially free to use, except in the case of users wishing to sign up for a Pro membership in order to access advanced features.

How images can be improved using Pixlr:-

  • A tool that allows effects to be applied only to selected elements as opposed to the whole image.
  • A wide variety of filters (effects), called Masksare available.
  • Basic effects such as sharpening, improving contrast, blurring, softening, or the application of a glow, can be concentrated on certain sections of the image, and the user is given complete control.
  • More than one effect can be blended, and different layers can also be blended using Blending Modes.
  • Gradients and artificial light sources can be added to images to enhance them.
Links Pixlr Web Apps for all OS platforms
Autodesk Pixlr for Android
Pixlr Express for iOS
Pixlr Desktop for either OS platform
Alternatives Exclusive For Mac
Acorn 4
Developer Flying Meat Inc.
Type of Distribution Download (purchase)
Versions of OS X Supported OS X 10.8 and above
Price USD 29.99
Description and Key Features Of course, sometimes graphic designers and photographers need a software that is more suited to the needs of their hardware, which in this case would be their Apple Mac.

Priced reasonably, Acorn 4 is the perfect alternative for those who do not require the infinite functionality of Photoshop, yet need a strong base of powerful tools that can be used in both personal (such as to post pictures on social networking websites) and professional scenarios (like to create graphics for the company website).

What’s possible with Acorn 4:-

  • Non destructive effects, meaning users can layer, substitute, and undo effects as and when they feel, and be rest assured that a back-up of their original photograph is maintained.
  • A layered approach, just like in Adobe Photoshop. More than one layer can be selected and operated on at a time too.
  • Rotation of text and shapes as per the artist’s whims.
  • Vector operations, like union, subtraction, difference, exclusion, curves, and much more can be performed on images.
  • A mind-blowing collection of filters and effects.
  • Creation of PNGs, GIFs, and similar formats is supported.
  • The ability to use Javascript and other programming languages to automate the software.
Links Acorn 4 for Mac OS X
Pixelmator 3.3 Limestone
Developer Pixelmator Team Ltd.
Type of Distribution Download (purchase)
Versions of OS X Supported OS X 10.10 and above
Price Pixelmator 3.3 for Mac
To download: USD 29.95
Free to upgrade from Pixelmator 2.0

Pixelmator iOS app for iPad
To download: USD 9.99

Description and Key Features What began as an image-editing app for the iPad is now a full-featured image processing software that was designed to function optimally in OS X Yosemite (10.10).

In spite of being filled to the brim with features, not to mention the new, revamped UI which makes the software quite aesthetically attractive, Pixelmator 3.3 is easy to use, and is thus more suited for the typical Mac user than the formidable Photoshop.

What’s new in Pixelmator 3.3:-

  • Complete integration with the iPad app, as Handoff is supported.
  • Allows users to store pictures on their iCloud Drive.
  • It allows users to use Pixelmator tools to fix images on other apps too, like Mail.
  • Although not exclusive to this version, the Repairtool is what makes this app stand apart, as like in Photoshop, it enables users to remove certain objects of the image and uses intelligent algorithms to fill in the background.
Links Pixelmator for Mac OS X
Pixelmator for iPad (iOS)
PhotoPlus X7
Developer Serif (Europe) Ltd
Type of Distribution Download (purchase), available at stores
OS Requirements Windows XP and above
Price To download: USD 74.98
Description and Key Features This software is a low-cost alternative to Adobe Photoshop exclusively for Windows, which is capable of providing a number of features characteristic to the legend, for example, raw image editing. It also allows users to manage photos in a very convenient manner, and supports features like batch editing.

What’s new in PhotoPlus X7:-

  • Lens Correction: Corrects camera lens-generated errors like chromatic aberrations, distortions, and vignetting.
  • Easy photo straightening.
  • Effects can be optionally applied to selected sections of the image only, if desired.
  • Can repair creases and tears in photographs.
  • The software comes with a large number of interesting color and light-manipulation-related effects.
Links PhotoPlus X7 for Windows
Paintshop Pro X7 Ultimate
Developer Corel Corporation
Type of Distribution Download (purchase), available at stores
OS Requirements Windows XP and above
Price To download: USD 79.99
To upgrade: USD 63.99
Description and Key Features Corel PaintShop Pro is yet another Windows-exclusive software that parallels a number of Photoshop’s features, but at a price that will not max out your credit card. It contains a number of powerful image processing tools.

What’s new in PaintShop Pro X7:-

  • The tool that allows objects in an image to be deleted, and backgrounds to be filled in by intelligently analyzing surrounding elements.
  • A tool to cut images in the shape of text, or actual geometric shapes.
  • Smart Edge: To make sure that effects lie within certain sections of the image only.
  • A tool that enables drag and drop of layers across images.
  • Support for raw image manipulation and external plug-ins.
  • A wide range of filters (effects), touch-up tools, and other editing possibilities.
Links Paintshop Pro X7 Ultimate for Windows
We hope we were able to help you find the perfect alternative to Adobe Photoshop. If you discover another wonderful software that can truly match up to Photoshop’s caliber, which we have not mentioned, do not hesitate to leave a comment.


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