Believe it or not but not every artist and designer uses Adobe Photoshop. The reasons range from having doubts about a yearly subscription to being irked by Adobe’s recent claims that using older versions of Creative Cloud could get you sued by third-party app makers.
There’s also the plain fact that not everyone will need every feature touted by Adobe, instead needing something simpler than Photoshop but not as simple as Photoshop Elements.
As such we’ve created a list of the most popular and reliable photo editing apps for professionals.Whether you need to carry out basic lighting adjustments and corrections, or you want to create more stylised photography artwork, we’ve got you covered with this best of feature.
Some of the apps like GIMP and Google Snapseed are free, and others can be bought as a one-off purchase (such as Affinity Photo and the less expensive options Touch Retouch.)
Here are 3 of the best Photoshop alternatives for both Mac and Windows – and none of them require a subscription.
Affinity Photo is truly one of the best professional photo editing tools out there.
Like Photoshop it offers full support for unlimited layers, layer groups filter layers and masks, resizing layers, editing live filters, effects, blend modes and masks without destroying your image – as well as professional image processing.
This includes uploading raw images, adjusting corrections such as exposure and highlights, recovering details by editing in an unbounded linear colour space, advanced lens correction, Focus Merge, HDR Merge and Tone mapping, and of course, a massive selection of effects.
Retouch faces, hair, skin and bodies with selection brushes, plus remove unwanted objects and red eye, apply single-plane and dual-plane perspective correction.
In terms of brushes, you can choose from a huge library including paint, mixer, pixel, sharpen and undo brushes, or create your own custom brushes. You can work with all standard formats across multiple platforms, such as iOS, macOS and Windows.
Gimp may be as old as time – and a free download for the whole of that duration – but do get off your high horse for it’s not an app to sniff at.
Available not just for OS and Windows but also GNU/Linux, Gimp (or GIMP to use its official name) gives you all the basic features of Photoshop including a few brushes.
Less of a designer’s choice and more for an artist or studio creative dabbling in quick photo correction, Gimp continues to be updated and its website remains simple to use without looking old-fashion, packed with tutorials and even a Wiki to help guide you.
With a software company behind it known as Flying Meat, you’d think Acorn is a mediocre Photoshop clone from a crappy start-up.
Think again, as Acorn has been a reliable photo editing app for a dozen years and counting.
With non-destructive filters, curves and levels, Acorn also has a Path Text Tool, letting you wrap and warp text anywhere you’d like. We also like its clone tool which lets you clone across different images, layers, and to even clone from group or shape layers.
Finally, export options are great: with Web Export you can zoom, pan, and use shortcuts to change the scale of your image and find pixels that are out of range of sRGB. You can also preview your changes prior to exporting and compare to the original.
Acorn’s Smart Layer Export meanwhile is similar to slicing. With it you can adjust the movable frame that represents the export bounds of your image, name your file, and even choose to have your layer automatically export as @1x, @2x, @3x-@5x. sizes.