9 Best Cheap Alternatives for Photoshop
Photoshop is one of the most popular tools in the world. You couldn’t think of a bigger player in photo editing software and you’d be amazed to find out that Photoshop has started to lose its luster due to changes in pricing.
This software package has always had a hefty price tag, but it also offered the opportunity to pay once and own it outright. For the last several years, a new payment system requires customers to essentially rent the package. It’s true that basic applications like Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC only cost $9.99US per month, but still, requires a one year commitment. The change has spurred other providers to jump in with affordable alternatives that offer many or most of what’s available in Photoshop. Here are some of the better choices that worth checking out.
Gimp is recognized as a valuable alternative to Photoshop in terms of its capabilities that include image filters, color adjustment tools, layers, and the indispensable alpha channel. It’s also popular because its price tag is exactly zero. Be aware that learning how to utilize its features will take a bit more time than it would for Photoshop, although you could simplify things with an add-on that gives it a Photoshop-like interface. Both Gimp and Photoshop download on the computer for offline use, but Photoshop shuts off if a payment is missed. As open source software, Gimp doesn’t have the support offered by Photoshop, but it does provide a means of creating scripts to perform repetitive chores and there are plenty online that have been created by Gimp enthusiasts.
This software is the product of AutoDesk and comes in two popular versions. Pixlr Editor is a free online suite that does the usual image manipulation work like cropping, color level adjustment, and noise. It also performs more sophisticated operations like layers and masks. The tools are laid out in an intuitive manner that makes work easy even for amateur designers. If you prefer a less sophisticated interface, Pixlr Express allows users to carry out basic photo alteration jobs with single commands. Both online packages are provided free by including an advertisement as part of the layout.
Lunapic is a free online site that focuses on image editing. It features basic retouching tools like color adjustment, red eye reduction, contrast, and even dehazing. You can also play with filters, effects, and even artistic rendering styles for images, a basic drawing tool is available. One of the more interesting additions to Lunapic is the ability to add animations to both pictures and video.
This free program is built using Microsoft’s .NET framework, which means it’s only available for Windows OS. Beyond that restriction, Paint.NET has many features, such as filters and layers. Also, a plugin is available to provide alpha channel masking to its toolkit. While Paint.NET doesn’t have an array of filters and effects as extensive as that of Photoshop, it does offer Photoshop-like non-destructive layers that retain the original information for an image. The latest version has been praised for its intuitive new interface. Once it’s loaded into a computer, it’s ready to use offline and it works quickly.
Sumopaint is capable of all the normal image editing functions like a selection tool, color enhancement, and sharpening. It also has more advanced features like layers that can be mixed and blended. SumoPaint also includes design features like adjustable brushes and a huge variety of symbols that can be stamped on the image. An upscale version is also available that emphasizes design capabilities like adding a reflection to a piece of digital artwork. While the free introductory software can only be used online with a browser equipped with Flash, the high-end package, SumoPaint Pro, is downloadable for offline use with an annual subscription of $19US.
Affinity ranks as one of the most powerful challengers to Photoshop. Along with features like layers, filters, and channels found in Gimp and other rivals, Affinity matches Photoshop in its power to directly handle RAW files used by professional photographers while Gimp cannot. The package lacks the cataloging features of Lightroom CC, but it can handle high-dynamic range or HDR images. Affinity, available for Mac and Windows, also contains an easy-to-understand user interface similar to Photoshop. The Affinity package currently sells for $49.99US but new upgrades are provided for free.
Another heavy duty editor designed to run only on Windows 7 through Windows 10 operating systems is Corel PaintShop Pro. Like Affinity, this package offers some design capabilities similar to Illustrator. There’s also the ability to work with RAW files much like Photoshop does. In addition, PaintShop Pro can handle depth aware photos that allow the operator to single out individual elements in a picture without resorting to masks or the cutting tool. For a one-time purchase of $79.99US, it’s still well below the roughly $120 for a year’s usage of basic Photoshop.
There are two flavors of Photo Pos Pro with both versions designed as standalone programs for Windows OS. The free basic offering includes the usual tools for sharpening, brightening, adjusting colors, and airbrushing away unwanted components. It also provides layers, masks, filters, brushes, and assorted effects. Photo Pos Pro Premium sells for $24.90US and offers features like RAW file handling along with batch processing.
Exclusively for the Mac OS, Pixelmator is another of the more powerful programs for photo editing that includes everything from retouching to blending layers. It also incorporates a clone stamp tool along with vector-based icons that can be scaled without any distortions. Additionally, it includes text capabilities like those found in most of these alternatives along with brush tools for design work. Selling for $29.99US, Pixelmator can even perform operations usually found only on Photoshop like import RAW files and do CMYK color proofing for printing jobs.
While there are others to choose from, this group stands out for their combination of capabilities and affordability. Some might be more complex than others, but all of them succeed by concentrating on what the user really needs without loading up on the rarely used tools found in Photoshop. With many available online for free, it should easy to take them out for a test run.
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