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Photoshop Alternatives


As I’ve been blogging about Photoshop recently, I found that a common question that’s come up has been the price, while others have asked about the learning curve. I can understand how some may be a bit apprehensive at first, particularly when learning something new. I’ve been there, back in the day, when I first dabbled with Photoshop.



About Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is perhaps the most recognized software out today when it comes to image editing, with some advanced tools and filters at your fingertips. It’s been around since 1988 before being added to Adobe’s Creative Suite in 2002, and then the Creative Cloud in June 2013.


Though I was big follower of Photoshop since the early 2000s and purchased some older, standalone versions when it was still available on CD-ROM. Back then, I hadn’t taken any interest in photography yet, but I was still a young artist and illustrator who had an interest in other areas such as design, 3D, vectors, matte painting, digital art, and photo manipulation.

Things were a bit different years ago when purchasing Photoshop. First – it was available on CD, which means you basically purchased the license to the application one time and that was it (in contrast to today, where the subscription is a continual monthly fee). Just install the software on my windows laptop and that’s it. Other versions would come out in later years, like CS4, CS5, CS6, etc. with added features and improvements – but I personally didn’t feel any immediate pressure to upgrade.

Being in school at the time paid off for me too. Since I was a student, I was able to get the customary “student discount” on software back then, which meant purchasing it a lower price. I was even able to get discounts on any additional resources, like books, to help me get started. The internet wasn’t like it was today, with online videos and tutorials available everywhere. YouTube was still in its infancy, and hardly a place for instructional videos in the early days.

Monthly Subscription

Today, Photoshop is only available through a subscription through Creative Cloud – a set of applications that gives users access to the collection of software such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, After Effects, and other powerful applications. Most of these applications have been available in the past when the Creative Cloud.

But today, it’s only available as a software as a service model, where it’s only licensed as a subscription basis and centrally hosted by Adobe. In short, you pay a monthly subscription, install the Creative Cloud desktop app, which allows you to download, install and update your Creative Cloud applications on your personal device.




But why is Photoshop so expensive?

Now personally – I’d rather just purchase an application at a one-time cost and not worry about anything else. But in today’s age of Cloud storage, I can understand why Adobe would switch to a cloud service. If you think about it, when I purchase photoshop at a one time fee, Adobe can’t make anymore money off of me until the next release (assuming I’m going to upgrade at purchase that next release) So instead, they use the recurring revenue model, which allows them to relase regular updates while still making a few dollars off of me.


Fortunately, Adobe understands that we’re not all professionals here. As popular as Photoshop is in the design and photography industry, there are some of us out there who are just amateurs using it recreationally as a hobby. For those individuals, Adobe will offer Photoshop and Lightroom for as low as $9.99, without paying for the entire Creative Cloud.


Even though this is much cheaper than paying for the entire Creative Cloud, I understand that $9.99 can add up over the course of 12 months. So I did a little homework and came up with a few alternatives below.



Alternatives to using Photoshop


COST: $99/year for single license; Volume licenses starting at $89/year

A vector graphics editor used primarily for designing UI and UX of mobile apps and web

Pixlr Pro

COST: $5/month

Online HTML5 editor supporting PSD templates, sketch formats, and premium fonts and stocks to help maximize your output






COST: $5.99/month

An online photo editing and design service for creating images, logos and graphics through a variety of tools, filters and other effects.

Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

Fortunately, for those individuals who are either on a tight budget there are some affordable alternatives that can start you off on the right track below.





GNU Image Manipulation Program

A cross-platform image editor that’s available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

It’s free software with open-source code that you can change and distribute.

  • High Quality Photo Manipulation
    • GIMP Provides different tools such from retouching to restoring to creating composites
  • Original Artwork Creation
    • GIMP gives artists the power and flexibility to transform images into truly unique creations
  • Graphic Design Elements
    • GIMP can be used for producing icons, graphical design elements, and art for user interface components and mock ups.


Website: https://www.gimp.org




  • Photo Editing
    • Includes basic features like cropping, scaling, background remover, including a wide range of photo filters and photo effects
  • Make a Collage
    • Tell a story with a well-designed collage with special features like collage maker, photo stitching and funky collage
  • Graphic Design
    • Fotor provide you with many design options, such as covers, wallpapers, business cards, banners and many more options.


Website: The App Store



Pixlr is a web based photo editor that contains a set of image tools and utilities. Although designed for non-professionals, the apps can range from simple to advanced photo editing techniques.

  • Pixlr X
    • Designed with essential photo editing tools to help you achieve professional level enhancements
  • Pixlr Pro
    • Online HTML5 editor supporting PSD templates, sketch formats, and premium fonts and stocks to help maximize your outputs
  • Pixlr Editor
    • Provides full control over your images, with layers and effects for replacing color, transforming objects from within your browser
  • Pixlr Express
    • Apply quick fixes, overlays, filters, and special effects to improve your photos

COST: Pixlr X, Editor & Express – FREE;

Pixlr Pro – $5/month

Website: https://pixlr.com



Photoshop Express Editor


A browser based image editor – an online, lightweight version of Adobe Photoshop – but with fewer options. You can apply instant filters called Looks, choose from an array of adjustment and correction options to touch up your photos, and share them on social media.

  • Apply Looks
    • Looks are instant filters in Photoshop Express. You can choose from a variety of different amazing effects and also create your own customized Looks.
  • Transform your photos
    • Crop, straighten, rotate, flip, and resize
  • Other adjustments
    • Exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpen, add text, watermarks, and others
  • Work with other Adobe Apps
    • Connect to Creative Cloud, Lightroom and Creative Cloud Library form within Photoshop Express


Website: Available on App Store, Google Play, and Microsoft Store







Image and photo editing software for PC’s that run on Windows.

  • a user interface with support for layers, effects and different tools
  • An online community where you will receive help, tutorials and plugins
  • There are more free plugins available from the forum that can add new effects and file types
  • Store Release version is easier to install on any device

COST: Classic Version is Free; Paid Version is $8.99

Website: Download from Windows Store




This list very subjective from some apps that I’ve personally tried or researched, and I’m sure there are others out there. Canva is another application that comes to my mind, which has some photo editing, but is primarily used for design. But it is definitely another alternative, as I’m sure there are other applications.

What are your thoughts on these alternatives, or any others that I may have overlooked?





  1. Enrique M Sept 14 7 S. Broadway

    Hi, Isaiah,
    Excellent post! You really gave me more insight into several photo programs out there. I’m starting out in photography and your article is going to be really useful. I used Photoshop just a little bit in the past. I don’t know if it has changed a lot or not. And yeah, the trend is making us pay monthly/yearly subscriptions instead of just purchasing a one-time license.
    Anyway, I will be looking into the different options you mention. Thanks for sharing.


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