While Photoshop Elements is something of a bargain, and delivers most of what most of us need in Photoshop but with a single price tag and not a monthly payment, there are less expensive but capable alternatives. GIMP suffers from multiple personality syndrome. They are not the same.
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What you get is an entry-level way to learn what Photoshop does but without the commitment to an ongoing price tag. It comes with the standard array of tools on palettes, but each is customizable so you can create your own workflow. The interface, despite customizable options, is an acquired taste. The app opens most PSD files and handles layers with ease.
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The tool palette layout remains somewhat similar to Photoshop and other Mac graphic apps but with plenty of differences, which also means a bit of a learning curve. This version of GIMP has a number of tutorials which makes the app a good one for anyone on a tight budget or just getting started in photo enhancement or graphic design. Sometimes you get what you pay for. GIMP for macOS can be slow to navigate and find files on the Mac, slow to apply various filters to large images, and cumbersome to use— if you have experience elsewhere.
Fully compatible with Photoshop and other file formats, Affinity Photo is aimed squarely at professional photographers and designers, and although it is hugely cheaper than Photoshop with no subscription , its creators argue it's actually better. We think it's perhaps the most serious Photoshop alternative we've seen to date. It comes with a promise of higher speeds, fewer crashes and unlimited undos but in truth, the amount of improved performance you'll get will probably depend what equipment you're using it's been specifically designed to take advantage of the latest quad core technology.
Available for both Mac and Windows, if you're looking for an alternative to Photoshop, Affinity Photo is definitely worth investigating. Sketch is a professional vector graphics app for creatives that has created enormous buzz within the design community, and web designers in particular.
The development team behind Sketch has made it as flexible as possible, with it supporting infinite zooming and vector shapes that are perfect for multiple resolutions. You can build a new graphic from primitive shapes or start a new one with the Vector or Pencil tool.
It has a pleasingly simple UI and has many features similar to that of Photoshop and Illustrator, including layers, gradients, colour picker and style presets. Its popularity means there are also plenty of community-created Sketch plugins you can use to extend its functionality.
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Today it's available in versions for Linux, Windows and Mac. GIMP offers a wide toolset, similar to Photoshop in many ways, and is a great option if you're looking for a no-cost image editor. The interface differs somewhat from Photoshop, but a version of GIMP is available that mimics Adobe's look and feel, making it easier to migrate over if you're ditching Photoshop. The full suite of tools is available here — everything you're accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.
The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You'll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe's Bridge. Overall, this is a great option whether you've either got a limited budget, or want to move away from Photoshop for other reasons. Pixelmator has been around for a while now, but more recently the team released the Pixelmator Pro.
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While the previous tool used floating windows, the Pro version has a more usable single-window UI, and offers non-destructive image editing. The team have pared back the interface, which should make it easy to pick up — and there's a 'hidden interface' option you can activate if you just want to see your image, with no distractions. This Photoshop alternative is geared up especially for use on a Mac, and it supports features like tabs, fullscreen and split view. Pixlr is a free Photoshop alternative that boasts more than effects, overlays and borders.
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It also lets you do all the main things you'd expect from a basic photo editor, from cropping and re-sizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth. And if you're used to using Photoshop, then you'll find Pixlr's user interface easy to pick up quickly, as it's very similar. This free app is available in both iOS and Android varieties, or use can use it as a web app.
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The suite has been updated for to offer a Corel AfterShot 3 HDR support, as well as interactive tools for straightening photos and adjusting perspective. The suite is geared up to work perfectly with Windows 10, offering multi-monitor viewing and support for 4K displays.
Don't let that put you off, though: it's a surprisingly capable and useful tool, available completely free of charge. The software started out life as a Microsoft-sponsored undergraduate project, and has become an open source project maintained by some of the alumni. The focus is on ease of use, and there's a definite tendency towards photo editing rather than artistic creation.