In the last years, photography has rapidly grown into a mass phenomenon. Photography evolution has brought the evolution of photo editing software. Today, photo editors can be downloaded and installed instantly. There’s a wide range of products, from free software to very specialized and expensive applications. But you need to know on which photo editor you can rely to accomplish your artistic vision based on your skills and requirements.
When Adobe released Photoshop it seemed that no other editing tool will reach the same level of expertise. Photoshop appeared to be a revolutionary instrument for editing photos, creating new styles, and transforming images in accordance with users’ preferences and tastes. It was appealing for both amateurs and professional photographers and designers.
However, Photoshop is expensive. Today it requires monthly paid subscriptions and its additional plugins are also costly. Moreover, the editor may seem a bit too complicated for beginners and you can easily spend hours with tutorials and books trying to figure it out how to make a selection. And tutorials aren’t always free.
People are looking for more affordable or even free photo editors that are a good alternative to Photoshop. And these days they can find amazing photo editors, available for Mac, Windows, Linux, and mobile operating systems. Here are the best alternatives to Photoshop.
Luminar is a professional photo editor that provides all the essential tools you need to create outstanding photos with maximum flexibility. Luminar is one of the best Photoshop alternatives for Mac and Windows because it gives you endless possibilities to mix presets, filters, and styles. It also offers user-friendly photo manipulation and management.
Luminar provides more than 70 default Looks and sliders to control them. They are grouped in categories and cover many photography styles such as aerial, street, landscape, and portraiture. It’s extremely easy to improve the appearance of an image with Luminar. It’s compatible with Mac from 2010 version and newer and with Windows from Win7 and newer.
2. Aurora HDR
Aurora is an awesome HDR editor and a Photoshop alternative able to analyze millions of pixels and transform them into stunning photographs. Using Aurora you can combine photos and bracketed images into seamless HDR images. This alternative to Photoshop allows you to create photos with high dynamic range.
Aurora also provides layers and masks, image radiance adjustments, feathering and density features, and color temperature control. You can edit RAW images and convert them to JPEG. Aurora HDR 2018 has received Apple’s Best App of the Year Award. It’s available for Windows and Mac.
Photolemur is one of the best Photoshop alternatives for Mac. It provides exquisite technology such as portrait enhancement with face recognition, which gives you smart tools for smoothing skin, eliminating imperfections, enhancing eye color, and whitening teeth.
Photolemur is a great photo manipulation option for those with no Photoshop experience. It uses Artificial Intelligence to make complex adjustments automatically and saves you a lot of time. Photolemur offers a one-time-only payment, no subscriptions required.
4. Capture One
Capture One is one of the best Photoshop software for Mac as it provides tools that are usually associated with high-end photo editors. It’s designed to mimic Adobe Lightroom and among its features are color, contrast, and exposure adjustments that add depth and nuance to your photos.
Just like Lightroom, you can pay for additional style packs. Styles save you a lot of time because they apply sets of adjustments in a single action. Capture One offers a wide range of styles such as matte, film, black and white, and cinematic. They give your photos that little something that pushes them over the edge. You can mix several styles to create your unique artistic vision.
ON1’s goal is to be a one-stop-shop for all photographers. ON1 is available as a standalone application and as a Photoshop plugin. Its frequent updates make sure you have access to top-of-the-line photo editing capabilities.
Some of ON1’s recent technology updates include HDR merging, panorama stitching, and feathering masks. ON1 is designed to do pretty much anything you might need. It provides image management tools, RAW support, fast image browsing, and the possibility to work with multiple layers.
DxO Photo Lab is one of the best Photoshop alternatives for photographers who are interested in getting high quality RAW images. Many photographers argue that DxO is better than Adobe Lightroom for RAW manipulation because it creates photographs with low noise, wide tonal range, and excellent sharpness. It offers add-ons that expand the functionalities. For example, DxO Optics Pro makes global and local edits and ViewPoint and FilmPack add-ons are available for special effects and features.
Affinity is a Photoshop alternative for professional photographers. It offers RAW editing, HDR merging, professional retouching, panorama stitching, focus stacking, PSD editing, batch processing, digital painting, 360-degree rotation, and multi-layered compositions.
Affinity also offers many of the tools usually associated with Adobe Photoshop, such as levels, curves, black and white conversion, and white balance adjustments. It has advanced and refined selection algorithms that allow precise selections and selective adjustments. Affinity provides customizable toolbars and graphic interface and allows you to create your own keyboard shortcuts.
GIMP is one of the best image editing software and probably the most well-known free Photoshop alternative. GIMP offers the same features as Photoshop and can be extended with plugins. You can find hundreds of plugins in GIMP’s registry. It’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
GIMP offers basic and advanced image editing and retouching tools. Among its features are brushes, drawing and selection tools, masks, color adjustments, layers, filters, and special effects. It opens and exports a wide variety of file formats, works with metadata, and does color management.
darktable is another free Photoshop alternative, available for Mac and Windows. It’s a great alternative to Adobe Lightroom as it has all functionalities of Adobe Lightroom and offers quick sliders to manipulate contrast, highlights, curves, etc. darktable is user-friendly and easy to use even for beginners. It’s also appealing to film photographers because it allows them to store digital copies of negatives and view them on a virtual light table.
darktable allows you to work with tabs to display history, masks, and image info. It provides an easy to learn interface and a fast workflow.
Raw Therapee is a free photo editor dedicated to RAW manipulation. It offers many exciting tools such as unique wavelets and Retinex tools. The wavelet tool uses a mathematical function that splits the image into various levels of detail. This allows you to work only on specific levels. Retinex (Retina + Cortex) is an algorithm that mimics the eye mechanism of seeing colors in the fog. It’s helpful for editing images with haze, mist, and fog, and applying special effects like tone mapping.
Raw Therapee has other interesting features such as post-resize sharpening, which preserves the crispness of an image after resizing, and luminance and perceptual tones, which affect exposure tone curves.
Raw Therapee is compatible with Mac and Windows.
11. Topaz Studio
Topaz Studio is a complex image editor that supports RAW files. It’s available for Windows and Mac and once you’ve bought it you have the following updates for free. You can use it as standalone software or as a Photoshop plugin.
Topaz Studio has a free version that includes ten adjustment settings and a variety of effects covering simple functions such as color and red-eye correction. However, the full version has 24 adjustments and over 400 effects and it can be used for free for 30 days.
PhotoDirector offers professional tools for creative photo editing. It provides templates and style packs that use Artificial Intelligence to deliver unique results. PhotoDirector allows you to extract photos from a video, edit panoramas and 360-degrees photos, manage photo collection based on face recognition, and retouch photos.
PhotoDirector is a useful Photoshop alternative for photographers. It has smart tools for face retouching, advanced layer editing, tethered shooting, simulated printing, and image enhancing. It also offers creative presets and effects that transform your photos in seconds.
PhotoDirector is available for Windows and Mac and requires a monthly subscription.
13. Photo Pos Pro
Photo Pos Pro may have an outdated looking interface, but don’t let that fool you. It’s user-friendly and intuitive, and it gives you information about each feature so you can continue to learn and grow.
Photo Pos Pro has a variety of keyboard shortcuts that make the photo editing process fast and efficient. The user can hide or show toolbars and palettes, which gives more control over the appearance of the interface and a cleaner look.
14. Pixelmator Pro
Pixelmator Pro is one of the best Photoshop alternatives for Mac and, unfortunately, it’s available just for Mac. Pixelmator Pro provides layers management, drawing tools, image restoration tools, and RAW editing. It works with Apple’s framework and features functionalities such as automatic horizon detection, image recognition, layer names, and quick selection.
Pixelmator Pro integrates machine learning algorithms and is able to detect patterns and use previous actions to take better decisions. It provides that AI effect many photo editors are reaching for these days.
Corel PaintShop X6 can be a more affordable version of Adobe Photoshop. It provides manual and automatic photo editing, drawing tools, RAW processing, and a customizable interface. It has many tools for designers and photographers and, unlike Photoshop, Corel PaintShop X6 is easy to learn and master.
Beginners can use a more simplistic interface and move on to a more advanced one when they are ready for it. This encourages a stress-free learning process and allows you to progress at your own pace.
Photoshop Elements offers a wide variety of image enhancing tools, geo-tagging capabilities, and image management. It provides auto-tagging and powerful search tools. Advanced photo editing techniques benefit from a well-structured guidance.
Photoshop Elements features an awesome organizer application that allows you to import, group, tag, and export photos. It also has powerful search options, auto curation, and share capabilities.
You can benefit from a 30-day free trial before deciding to invest in this Photoshop alternative.
LightZone was created to be a digital darkroom for JPEG and RAW images. It’s been around for a few years and had the time to mature into one of the best Photoshop alternatives. LightZone is user-friendly and offers a wide variety of special effects such as soft skin tones, bright scene, SLR sharpen, mid-tones sharpening, skin glow, dark scene, bright scene, fill flash, and soft toning.
LightZone also offers tools usually related to photo editing software like hue/saturation, color balance, clone, and spot removing. It works with layers and selections for local edits. LightZone is frequently updated to provide new features and a better customer experience.
ACDSee offers photo management tools, parametric photo editing, and performance-based adjustment layers. This photo editor blends features from Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s much more affordable, which is great for the up-and-coming photographer or the hobbyist. It even has a free version.
ACDSee features face detection and facial recognition, flexible color control, LUTs, black and white editing tools, luminance masks, and support for HEIF files. It allows you to see the adjustments made to your images and copy them onto other images. ACDSee is a great photo editor for those working with a large volume of pictures.
Paint.net started out as a college project designed to replace Microsoft Paint. However, Paint.net has become much more than that. Today, it’s a feature-packed pixel-based photo editor, perfect for day-to-day image enhancements. Paint.net offers a free image editor able to function as a great Photoshop alternative and is capable of creating some pretty creative results.
Paint.net features a logical and straightforward interface, keyboard shortcuts, and a variety of menu options. It offers image enhancing features such as red-eye reduction and a Sepia conversion tool. It has a wide range of image adjustment tools that satisfy almost any requirements.
20. Apple Photos
Photos for macOS is Apple’s dedicated photo editor. It offers photo management tools, intuitive editing tools, and storage on iCloud, which gives you access to your photos from any Apple device. From Photos you can share pictures to your favorite sharing destinations and customize the sharing menu with other compatible sites.
Photos has powerful organizing tools and search engines. It provides face recognition, map localization, and even search by content. It also gives you automatic image enhancement, studio-lighting effects, drawing tools, and image adjustments. You can improve your photos’ lighting, colors, white balance, exposure, clarity, tone, and contrast. You can also edit your photos in Photoshop and Pixelmator and find your changes automatically saved in Photos.
For those looking for a specific style, Photos has nine creative filters: Original, Vivid, Vivid Warm, Vivid Cool, Dramatic, Dramatic Warm, Dramatic Cool, Mono, Silvertone, and Noir.
Photopea is an online photo editor that allows you to edit PSD, XCF, Sketch, XD, and CDR formats along with the usual image formats. It also allows you to export as PSD, JPEG, PNG, and SVG, which makes it ideal for graphic designers and photographers and a great alternative for Photoshop and other native software. Not to mention it’s free and available for all browsers and operating systems.
Photopea has many of Photoshop’s features such as drawing and selection tools, image enhancing and transformation tools, layers and masks, creative filters and special effects. Even the interface looks a lot like Photoshop. You can find online tutorials and learning tools, but if you’re used to Photoshop the learning process will be extremely short.
Don’t worry if your internet connection isn’t very good. Photopea works locally and after you’ve loaded the page you don’t need the internet connection anymore.
Sketch is available only for Mac and isn’t free but is a good alternative for Photoshop especially for digital design. It provides a version for collaborative design, easy ways to share prototypes and receive feedback, vector editing, code and presets export, and hundreds of plugins to extend your workspace.
You can work with layers, create or use existing shapes and symbols, include animation and stock library photos, create prototypes for several types of devices, use predefined templates, and store everything in Sketch Cloud.
Krita is another free Photoshop alternative, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Krita is an open source painting program designed by artists. It provides tools for creating concept art, texture and matte painters, illustration, and comics.
Among Krita’s features are brush stabilizers, a pop-up color palette, brush engines to customize brushes, a wrap-around mode to create seamless textures, and a resource manager to import brushes and textures. It’s fast and flexible and offers a complex set of tools that satisfies any artist’s requirements.
Before choosing the best Photoshop alternative for you, consider your skills, requirements, and budget. Are you looking for more advanced features such as LUTs or batch processing? Are you looking for RAW to JPEG capabilities? Or, do you need basic functionalities like red-eye correction and general image adjustments?
Each Photoshop alternative has its pros and cons and some may be better for your requirements. Doing some research before buying a product can save you time and money.
Photoshop isn’t the only image editor anymore. Moreover, today it has a monthly subscription and many photographers and designers are looking for more affordable alternatives. Among the presented Photoshop alternatives there are several you can use for free, without compromising your photos quality. Others offer free trials and allow you to get to know their features before buying the products. The market of photo editors is full of innovation and excitement.