Whether you’re looking for a robust alternative to Adobe or you’ve already made the switch, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate should be a strong consideration.  The complete tool offers a digital asset manager to keep your images organized, a raw conversion program to decode and develop raw files, as well as a robust, layered image editor. The package is GPU accelerated and I found it very fast for editing and browsing as well as adjusting images. The software is available with a perpetual license (no monthly fees) or a monthly subscription.


What’s New?

This is a big release for ACDSee… the new Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 offers a rich suite of tools.  Photographers on the PC platform can easily import and manage their photo libraries as well as take advantage of complete control over layered images.  This new release focusses both on speed and productivity as well as more precise control.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 new features (also known as what I liked after two weeks of editing with it).

Smart Erase

This new tool is a welcome addition that makes it easy to select unwanted areas of a photo and have Photo Studio Ultimate intelligently replace and blend the pixels.  It goes well beyond simple clone and heal operations.  Simply brush over the areas of the image you want to remove and the application analyzes areas of the photo and comes up with blended pixels.  This works great on both organic and man-made elements to create a cleaner image.  If the results aren’t quite perfect, a few followup strokes over the area will keep blending in new pixels.

ACDSee Mobile Sync

These days mobile photography has increasingly become a part of a photographers toolbox.  Thanks to the new ACDSee Mobile Sync app for Android and iOS, photos and video can be sent directly to your ACDSee Photo Studio library.

This feature is perhaps my favorite as it simply works so well.  As long as your phone and computer are on the same WiFi network, the app can simply see your desktop or laptop.  Photos transfer extremely fast and you have complete control over options for raw files and live photos or video on your mobile device.

Syncing images and metadata from phone to archive couldn’t be easier. You can even customize the destination and folder structure as well as rename files.  Consider using the ACDSee Camera Pro for iOS if you want to easily shot raw.

Pixel Targeting Tool

The Pixel targeting tool is a great way to select part of a photo for editing.  By using a series of color and luminance sliders, an accurate selection can be quickly made.  There’s even the option to choose skin tones.  This is similar to one of my favorite commands in Photoshop, the Select Color Range command.  This is a fast and easy way to precisely adjust an image.


The Liquify tool makes it easy to push pixels around in an image.  While most commonly used for portraits, you can easily manipulate any kind of image.  There are 3 liquify tools to change from.

  • Shift – Move pixels in the direction that you push
  • Pinch – Shrinks the surrounding pixels around the brush.
  • Bulge – Expands the pixels near the brush.

Additionally, you can use the Restore tool to revert any areas selectively.


Actions Browser

If you’re looking to save time, Actions are the way to go. The update includes more than 125 actions that you can work with or to learn more about how the application can be used.  But you can easily record a series of commands or an effects recipe.

While Photoshop has had actions for a long time, ACDSee blows Adobe away here with ease of use and controls.

  • Use the Action Browser to see 15 categories of presets and browse them visually
  • Choose to run an action with options and control what type of new file is created
  • Create a list of multiple images (like a music playlist) and run an action multiple images.

Improved Import

The import dialog makes it easy to quickly add photos.  While traveling I frequently import images each day (but don’t wipe the memory cards).  The ACDSee import dialog is now able to compare what’s on a card versus what’s already imported.

ACDSee won’t let you import photos again that have already been added to your library. If you’re new to ACDSee, the import dialog also offers precise controls over file naming and destinations.  It makes it quite easy to completely control your media.

Chromatic Aberration in Edit Mode

In high contrast areas of an image, it’s often possible to see chromatic aberration.  This tends to show as unwanted colors at the intersection of bright and dark areas.

You can easily remove this color by targeting the hue and adjusting the defringe command. this makes it much easier to clean up an image quickly.

Grain Tool

If you want to age an image or add some grit, you’ll find a versatile grain engine.  This works both in the Develop module for raw files and in the Edit module for layered images.  The controls are fairly standard, but give pleasant results that look organic.

Frequency Separation

This feature is perfect for those needing the retouch.  You can easily split any image into two layers for touchup.  Just right click on any layer and choose Frequency Separation or press Ctrl + Shift + F.

The low-frequency layer contains all of the tones colors and shadows.  The low-frequency layer will look blurry when viewed on its own. Use tools like the Detail Brush or the Blur tool to bring out certain areas or remove splotchiness in the skin.

The high-frequency layer offers the texture and details.  Try using the Repair tool to remove blemishes or flaws. This makes it easy to remove things like acne, cuts, and more without having to worry about the smoothness of the skin or signs of obvious cloning.

Upload to Facebook in the Background

Joining the other upload modules (Email, FTP, Flickr, SmugMug, and Zenfolio) is Facebook.  It’s very easy to connect your account (you’ll only need to do this once per machine).  Then any selected images in the Manage or Photos view can be uploaded.  Simply click the Send button in the top toolbar and choose Facebook.

Images are optimized for the web and you can target an existing album or make a new album.  The upload happens in the background and there are no files to manage, resizing or color space conversions.

The Bottom Line

The complete offering in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 is quite compelling.  As a longtime Adobe user, I found that I was able to accomplish virtually all the tasks I regularly use Photoshop and Lightroom for (the notable omissions being HDR and panoramic merging).  I found the organization tools for the library fast and easy to use.  The Develop module actually outperforms Lightroom with more choices and welcome additions. Once I moved an image into the Edit module for advanced options, I found a wealth of adjustments, presets, and advanced image repair tools.

If you’re an experienced Lightroom and Photoshop user, this is an easy switch for new editing.  If you’re a new user, the tool offers many guided workflows and a lot of free tutorials on their site.  ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 is highly recommended for PC users.  Mac users can check out their beta as well which doesn’t offer feature parity (yet) but is still a useful tool.  Highly recommended.