As easy as it is to think that Adobe’s Photoshop program has the market cornered, there are indeed other image editing programs available. Depending on your specific needs, switching to one of Photoshop’s competitors may even save you money or simplify the design process. The best way to know for sure is to test them yourself, starting with these alternatives.
A relative newcomer, Affinity Photo by Serif earned the distinction of Best Mac App of 2015 (as chosen by Apple). This powerful program includes a dedicated RAW editing workspace, advanced layering capabilities, and sophisticated algorithms for selection and stitching. Each tool was designed for real-time speed and accuracy, with performance that is further enhanced by an intuitive interface. The app costs $49.99, and a free trial is available. Although Affinity is only offered for Mac, Serif does offer separate programs for Windows, called PhotoPlus Starter (free) or the full PhotoPlus X8 for $99.99.
Corel AfterShot Pro
Corel also offers a few potential replacements for Photoshop, including AfterShot Pro, which is currently available for $54.99 with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The self-described “world’s fastest RAW converter and photo manager” allows for non-destructive photo editing on Windows, Mac, or Linux. It offers 64-bit power, compatibility with over 250 camera profiles and all major camera manufacturers, and an array of High Dynamic Range (HDR) tools.
CyberLink PhotoDirector works with Windows or Mac and even offers a free cloud service (up to 40 GB), as well as free mobile apps for Android and iOS. The latest edition comes in three versions, each of which offers a free trial: the $59.99 Deluxe for simple photo editing, the $49.99 Ultra for photo adjustment and design, and the $89.99 suite for total photo adjustment and video color grading. Edit in layers, easily adjust filters and effects, and take advantage of face beautification tools. The software also brings 64-bit power and OpenCL support to RAW image importing and processing.
If you are looking for a free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Program) may be your best bet. This open-source app was designed to replicate Photoshop for GNU, Linux, and UNIX users and is now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. GIMP is similar to Photoshop in the tools it offers, including a built-in file manager. Though its usual interface may not be quite as appealing, there is another version available for those who prefer the Adobe setup. Best of all, GIMP is constantly improving and, again, entirely free.
Of course, these are not the only programs available. Other popular Mac-only apps include Pixelmator, Acorn, and Sketch. Paint.net offers a free, open-source alternative to Microsoft Paint that can be surprisingly handy for Windows photo editing. For a little more range, the free desktop, web, and mobile app known as Pixlr allows you to take a solid suite of tools with you anywhere.
Wherever you stand on Photoshop and whatever your reasons, it’s always good to know your options. With so many alternatives offering free trial periods, there is no excuse to stick blindly with Photoshop. Give a few of these a chance, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how well they compare.