We all know that Adobe Photoshop is the best choice for image composition and photo retouching purposes, but not everyone wants to pay that much for a single software. In this article, we collected 9 alternatives that can save you a decent amount of money while still providing you with decent quality tools for your work. You don’t have to use Photoshop to achieve a great success as a professional illustrator or designer, since there are plenty of professional software out there that are suitable to your needs. Now, let’s investigate each of the following Photoshop alternatives with a few sentences.
Although GIMP can’t really be a perfect substitute for Photoshop, it’s definitely a good alternative even for serious artists. GIMP is a pretty simple name for a software, but its full name is actually GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s completely free, so you can download and install it straight away on your Windows, Linux or Mac based machine.
The earlier versions of GIMP were quite promising, but if you take a look at version 2.8, you will see an impressive, firm application you can rely upon. GIMP comes with a modern interface where you can find the most required tools for your photo retouching and image composition tasks, and many more.
It also has some useful features like Single-Window Mode and the Text tool, so you can work with text on the primary canvas rather than using a secondary window. There are dozens of plugins and extensions available for GIMP as well, making it an even more diverse tool.
When you look for programs that can help you in editing your pictures, Windows Paint can’t really do the job since it has quite a limited set of tools. However, there is a more advanced version available with better appearance, and a bunch of additional features: Paint.NET.
It’s not as complex and flawless as Photoshop, but it guarantees a user-friendly experience and you can easily accomplish most of your image editing tasks. If you feel like something is missing, you can improve Paint.NET’s functionality by downloading a few useful plugins created solely for this platform.
The user-interface is almost as simple as in Windows Paint, so if you prefer this kind of self-explanatory interface instead of the more rigorous ones, you should give it a try. Paint.NET is compatible with Windows 7 and later and you can download and install it right away.
If you need a photo editor but you own a Mac, we have good news for you as Seashore is a nice Photoshop alternative only for Mac OS X users. It’s similar to GIMP and it uses the same native file format as well, except that it’s created for beginners and less experienced photographers with no advanced options included.
Therefore, Seashore is not recommended for those users who just want a substitute for a professional software. It allows you to work with multiple layers and anti-aliasing while using features such as gradients, strokes and textures. Every tool is neatly arranged in Seashore’s user-friendly Cocoa UI, which is quite minimalistic, but you can get used to it in minutes and edit your photos even faster.
You can download the latest stable version on their website where they shared detailed information about the changes they’ve made on Seashore and also attached an extensive guide.
Pixlr is a browser-based application, so you can use it instantly just by opening your browser and typing in the URL. In fact, if you need a tool for image composition or photo retouching, Pixlr is one of the best tools on the web that doesn’t even need to be installed. Although it’s not as powerful as Photoshop, it can definitely do the job for smaller tasks or as long as you don’t want to buy a professional software.
If you are familiar with Photoshop’s features, you will surely get along well with Pixlr’s keyboard short-cuts, layouts and other functions. However, don’t forget that if you use several layers, things can get really ugly at one point so use them carefully. You can use it on iOS and Android devices as well, allowing you to edit your photos on the go whenever you want.
Pixlr also has step-by-step tutorials explaining a few important tricks, so you can start using it almost as effectively as Photoshop.
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You can get the free version of SumoPaint by downloading it to your Chrome and running it via the browser. It’s right there at the Chrome Webstore and you don’t even need to pay for it unless if you want to use it on your computer. It’s without doubt a high-level image editor with plenty of awesome tools, and with a bunch of options for each of them.
Pictures can be imported from their URL, by uploading or even from the SumoPaint community and you can start editing them straight away. However, if you start a blank canvas, you can start creating your own art with the many paint brushes and shape tools available as well. There are really no limits in SumoPaint, so it’s definitely a platform that can help you to express your creativity.
SumoPaint pretty much has all Photoshop’s advanced capabilities, so if you want to work like a professional, you can always find the required set of tools in this application.
Krita is a fine app for image manipulation and it comes bundled with the KOffice suite. It has many positive feedbacks being almost as good as Photoshop and GIMP, so it can undoubtedly satisfy all your needs in sketching, painting and image editing. With Krita, you can do pretty much anything you want in a neat interface which is very similar to Photoshop’s. Every button, tool and bit of information is on the right place and it has quite impressive capabilities despite being a free editor.
The developer team behind it always works on adding new features and improving the software in general, thus making it an even more diverse and reliable application. In fact, you won’t lose much in terms of quality if you decide to use Krita instead of Photoshop and with further development, it will become an even better substitute.
Krita is available for Linux, Unix, Windows and BSD and it supports any Windows-compatible format.
Paintshop Pro X9
The Paintshop Pro series are all extensive photo manipulating tools developed by the well-known graphics processing company, Corel. Although the software had its flaws in the past, they greatly improved the performance in the X9 version. You can work on your own graphics, image composites and designs seamlessly with the set of brushes and tools Paintshop Pro offers.
It’s not just a neat graphic design and image composition software, but Paintshop Pro X9 also has an outstanding 64-bit architecture and additional photo management capabilities. Unfortunately, you need to pay a $69.99 price for the experience, but it’s completely worth it if you consider its robust features, not to mention how cost-effective it actually is compared to Photoshop.
Although you get a decent amount of brushes and tools, you can extend the repertoire by downloading a few plug-ins. Paintshop Pro X9 has a pretty much appealing and user-friendly interface, while you can accomplish all of your complex ideas exactly in the way you want.
Pixelmator is a comprehensive image editing tool with advanced technology and it’s recommended for beginners and professional designers as well. It supports only Mac-based systems as a cost-effective alternative to Photoshop, costing only $29.99, which is a pretty low price for a full-featured platform like this one.
In Pixelmator, you can use the same keyboard shortcuts and tools as in Photoshop and sometimes they are even faster and more accurate. At first glance, the user-interface is simple and elegant, while everything is cleverly arranged and built up with proper care.
The clean, straightforward appearance is very important not just for starters, but for professionals as well, since it guarantees a faster workflow and a much better user-experience. On the other hand, Pixelmator makes you able to share your photos or even whole albums on Flickr and Facebook, or compose an email with your collection without even closing it. There are also a few useful tutorials on their website, so feel free to check them out.
CinePaint is basically an open source version of GIMP and you can use it to retouch films or bitmap frames, and even for painting. This tool is famous for its animation and visual effects capabilities, as Hollywood studios used it back in the day to create their animated feature films. It supports higher bit depths, so you can work with 32-bit images, and it’s absolutely free.
The interface looks a little bit old, but you can choose from a great variety to work with. It surely needs a little practice to utilize all its features, but once you learn how to handle it, CinePaint will be a great tool for most of your video or image editing tasks. Although it’s quite an impressive tool, you can only download it to Unix, Mac OS X, Linux and BSD systems. If you work on one of those, you should definitely install it at least to try out what is it like to work on a Hollywood movie.
So if you can’t afford buying Photoshop and looking for a free or low cost alternative, the above enumerated tools and software will definitely be handy for you. I’m sure there are a multitude of tools out there that has not been included in the list, however we would be happy if you could share any of those missing software from the list, in the comments below.