Best Alternative to Photoshop by Allister Jenks

Hello fellow NosillaCastaways. Allister here again, from New Zealand with perhaps a surprising answer to a common question. The problem to be solved? Numerous times in the last few years I have heard podcasters addressing the question “What software should I use instead of Photoshop?”

The usual answers include The GiMP, Acorn and Pixelmator. Certainly all three of these apps are powerful and functional for many purposes. The GiMP, in particular, is aimed squarely at taking on Photoshop although it lacks some finesse in the interface, being open source and cross platform. Acorn has been improving in leaps and bounds as has Pixelmator which recently added yet another Photoshop-inspired feature with layer styles. Both of these have great interfaces.

All three of the apps I have mentioned address the typical use case of Photoshop – general graphics processing. If you’re simply looking to fix your photo exposure, maybe do a crop and clone out some dust specks, then iPhoto, Aperture or perhaps Adobe Lightroom are frequent, and great, suggestions. But I have one more suggestion which you may not have thought of. If you’re thinking you need something “Photoshop-like,” how about… Photoshop?

The primary, perhaps only, reason the question arises is the high cost of Photoshop. Everyone seems to think of it as both “the best of breed” and “the most expensive.” But it doesn’t have to be. Right now, Adobe have a limited time offer. I can’t tell you when it runs out, but I took advantage of it as soon as it appeared and it’s still available 6 months later, so it’s not fleeting. Still, if you’re interested, it’s best you get along there soonest in case it is about to go away.

The deal is called the Photoshop Photography Program and costs only $9.99 per month if you commit to a year of membership. Yes, it’s one of those Creative Cloud subscription things. Now I bet the first thing you’re going to think is “Wait a minute, 10 bucks a month for a year, that’s 120 bucks for just one year!” Or perhaps if you’re an engineer you’ll at least admit it is only $119.88. Sounds expensive, right? Well, yes and no.

Have you ever stopped before buying your daily cup of coffee and thought “Hey, a coffee a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year – holy cow! That’s $500 for coffee! And I don’t even have anything left at the end of the year!” Yeah, I didn’t think so. What about your favourite alcoholic drink? Or cigarettes? Or chocolate bars?

Still think it’s expensive? Did I mention that for your money you also get to use Lightroom? I used to be a Lightroom user until I made the decision to switch to Aperture. If the act of switching (in either direction) wasn’t such a tear, I’d have no issues going back to Lightroom. To quote my brother – amateur photographer and professional Photoshop user – “Lightroom is one seriously sorted piece of software.”

Oh, and you’ll also get 20GB of cloud storage and a Behance ProSite thrown in – a photo portfolio offering from Adobe. You’ll also get all software updates for free – much like with Apple. The software does ‘phone home’ to check on your subscription but only does so once a month and it has been flawless for me. And although you have to commit to a year, Adobe bill you monthly, so there’s no big initial outlay.

Have you ever looked for Pixelmator tutorials and resources? They’re out there and there are some great ones. I’m sure there are Acorn ones too. Want a Photoshop tutorial? OK, there’s one downside – you’ll have to hunt for the best out of thousands and thousands of them. Or join one of the many communities that have grown around this genre-defining piece of software. There’s even a pretty good chance you know someone who has Photoshop skills – this software has been maturing for over 20 years and has become an industry standard tool in visual arts.

You know how you’ve been trying to find the best software that measures up to Photoshop? Well, hey, Photoshop measures up really well on that scale. Perfect score!

5 thoughts on “Best Alternative to Photoshop by Allister Jenks

  1. Bob DeGrande - June 7, 2014

    Not my cup of tea at all. I actually like Adobe moving to the licensing model, for most it will lower the cost and it eliminates your having to jump through Adobe’s licensing hoops, a big plus, for me their software is still big, slow, bloated, very slow to react to new hardware/operating systems,and a big security risk. Pixelmator or Acorn may not do everything Photoshop does, but they will do the vast majority of what Photoshop does, and often far more simply and efficiently. I have tried to like their software (I own an older version of CS, Premiere Elements, and Audition) and have never liked the user experience on any of them.

  2. Allister - June 7, 2014

    Fair enough, Bob. I was just wanting to make the case that many people discount Photoshop because it has always been out of reach on cost and that is no longer true.

    It’s understandable that different software works well for different people. I’ve been using Photoshop on and off since CS1 and got used to some of the features it offers including layer styles and smart objects. So much so that it’s rare I do anything significant these days that doesn’t involve smart objects. I’ve never found it slow except when I was using it on an underpowered PC. The latest release runs plenty fast on my 2011 MacBook Pro.

  3. podfeet - June 7, 2014

    What about Photoshop Elements as an alternative? I FINALLY upgraded, and 2 weeks later they came out with an App Store version which irritated the daylights out of me,and Adobe refused to honor my previous purchase to get the App Store version.

  4. Philip From Australia - June 17, 2014

    The FAQ says it’s available until June 30th (at least here in Oz).

    Tempted to take them up on it. But will they not loose control of me credit card this time?

  5. Philip From Australia - June 17, 2014

    My credit card, rather.

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