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When Adobe announced it was switching every product to the Creative Cloud, the Internet went nuts but now has mostly moved on to the next thing. While I think Creative Cloud is a good value for me personally and makes sense for my business, some of you (a small but very vocal minority) seem to think it’s not such a good deal. I can respect that. As long as the reasoning behind not liking the CC move is not based on any of the many FUDs floating around the Web, it doesn’t bother me a bit if people think it’s too expensive or want to switch. I think people should use whatever they like.

As I mentioned, unfortunately there’s a great deal of misinformation about the move on the Internet. I’ve debunked most myths about Creative Cloud, but I understand that some very small percentage of you actually cannot afford to subscribe to CC. A smaller percentage still will actually switch because of this or just because you want to show your dislike of Adobe’s policy. Lucky for you there are alternatives.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of Photoshop/Creative Cloud alternatives. All these programs perform some of the features you’d get in Creative Cloud. This list doesn’t include stand alone plug ins like Nik Software, Topaz Labs, onOne or many others. You could use those types of programs to accomplish much of what you do in Photoshop as well.

I don’t think any of these is as good as Photoshop or Creative Cloud, but if you don’t want to pay you don’t get to play. If you’re willing to settle for less, (and many of you could successfully do so without really incurring much penalty) there are options here that range from low to no-cost.

Send email to [email protected] if you think I missed anything and I will update this post as needed. If you’re just sending email to complain about Adobe don’t waste your time. My staff is screening it out. Helpful submissions relating to Photoshop alternatives are welcome and we will post them here. This is about alternatives and a solution that involves something productive rather than just complaining.

If you want alternatives to Photoshop/CC here they are. In no particular order…

(NOTE: An appearance on this list does not constitute an endorsement of any of these programs. It’s merely informational. Also – this list is the reason I spit out my drink when I read the Tweets from people saying the Justice Dept. should step in with Anti-Trust legislation against Adobe. Yeah – like two dozen alternatives isn’t competition enough – right.)

1. Splash up – a photo editor and photo manager.
2. Inkscape – an open source vector graphics editor.
3. – Windows only free photo editor.
4. iPhoto11 – Basic photo editing, organizing and sharing for Macs.
5. Acdsee Pro 6 – low-cost Windows only photo editing.
6. Sumpopaint – web-based photo editing.
7. Paintshop Pro X5 Ultimate – Windows photo editing/effects
8. Seashore – – Open source photo editor for Mac
9. Photo Plus Starter Edition – Free photo editor
10. Picasa – organize, edit and share your photos for free
11. DXO Optics Pro – custom photo effects
12. Aperture – Apple’s pro-level photo editor/organizer
13. Adobe Lightroom 4.4 – edit and organize your photos
14. Gimp – Free, open source, GNU image manipulation program.
15. Editor by Pixlr – free online image editor
16. Pixelmator  – Mac photo editor
17. Acdsee Photo Editor  – Windows photo editor
18. Capture One Pro 7  – raw converter and photo management software
19. Photoshop Elements 11 – stripped down version of Photoshop with the features 99% of amateur photographers need
20. Acorn – Mac photo editor with curves, layers, filters
21. Sketch –  Mac vector graphics app
22. Pixia – Windows-only free photo editor from Japan with English versions. Supports layers, masks, and some basic tools of Photoshop.
23. Xtreme  – UNIX photo editor.

Reader supplied additions:

24. Darktable – open source photography workflow application and RAW developer
25. Picture Window Pro – Older (but still supported) photo editing application with some of the features of Photoshop
26. Photoline – cross-platform, German made Photoshop clone
27. Thumbs Plus – Windows photo editing
28. ACDSEE for Mac – Mac version of ACDSEE photo editing

I am sure I missed something. These programs do some or most of the same things you can do with Photoshop. Many of them open/edit PSD or DNG files. Almost all open Jpeg or Tiff files. The notion that you would ever be left high and dry if you stopped using Photoshop is hereby proven bunk. If you don’t want to pay Adobe for CC or if you can’t afford to pay Adobe for CC you have lots of other choices. In my opinion, the best alternative then is to use Lightroom with Photoshop Elements. This gives most photographers all the editing and organizing they will ever need. Ultimately, Photoshop is king of the hill and will be tough to replace, but it is possible to get close.


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