Adobe Photoshop is the professional image editor. It’s name is now a verb for image editing (which is something that Adobe absolutely hates). Photoshop though, isn’t the only editor in town. Over the last few years, new image editing apps have come along that are almost as good as Photoshop, for a fraction of the price. Let’s have a look at some of them.
GIMP (Free on Windows, Mac, Linux)
I’ll be honest up front: I’m not personally a fan of GIMP. I think it’s a god-awful piece of software that embodies everything that can be bad about open source projects. Teaching myself how to use it was a huge hassle, and there are a lot of things in GIMP that are more convoluted than they should be.
But there’s no doubt it’s a powerful program, and it’s 100% free.
In fact, it’s so powerful, that there’s not a lot you can do in Photoshop that you can’t also do in GIMP. You just have to do those things in a less intuitive, roundabout way. If price is your only consideration (or you’re running Linux), check out GIMP. But if you want your life to be easy, try one of the paid (but relatively inexpensive) alternatives below.
Affinity Photo ($50 on Windows and Mac)
Affinity Photo is one of the first apps to even make me consider switching from Photoshop. It’s available on Windows and macOS for only $49.99.
Affinity Photo is a great alternative to Photoshop, and like with GIMP, it can do almost anything Photoshop can. The only thing you really miss out on is Adobe’s ecosystem, and a bit of Photoshop’s extra polish and more advanced features.
For everyday users and amateur photographers, it does pretty much everything you need. $49.99 may seem steep for some, but compared to Photoshop, it’s a steal, and a big step up from GIMP.
Pixelmator ($30 on Mac)
Pixelmator is a Mac only image editor. It’s not as fully featured as Photoshop, but it can still do a lot. At $29.99, it’s the cheapest great app you can get.
Like Affinity Photo, Pixelmator is a worthy Photoshop alternative that’s a massive step up from GIMP. The biggest problem is that the workflow can be very unintuitive, especially if you’re coming from Photoshop, or Photoshop-like apps. There is a learning curve if you want to switch.
What sets Pixelmator apart from Affinity Photo is that you can do a lot more design and vector work. Affinity Photo can replace Photoshop for photographers, but Pixelmator can do it for everyone.
Photoshop—Yes, the Photoshop ($10 a Month on Windows and Mac)
Okay, I tricked you a little bit. Yes, I’m putting Photoshop itself on this list, and here’s why: its current pricing scheme is, depending on your situation, cheaper than it used to be. So if you haven’t looked into Photoshop for a few years because of it’s $700 price tag, I recommend looking again.
Instead of having to remortgage your house, you can now pay $9.99 a month to sign up for the Adobe Creative Cloud Photographers plan. Your ten dollars per month gets you Photoshop, Lightroom, the Photoshop and Lightroom mobile apps, a hosted website, a subscription to the portfolio site Behance and a few other small features.
As good as the other apps on this list are, they still aren’t Photoshop. And at ten bucks a month, it’s still not cheap, but arguably less expensive than paying $700 up front—especially if you used to pay $700 each time a new version came out. Plus, Lightroom is a good program for photographers, so if that’s something you would have also bought, you’re getting an even better deal.
There have never been more great, non-Photoshop image editors available. Affinity Photo and Pixelmator are fantastic and GIMP…well, GIMP works when you need it to. Even still, with Photoshop’s current subscription pricing, it might be the best for you.