The answer to the often asked question, “Can you replace Photoshop?” is easy, if not multi-faceted. The answer(s): Yes. And, No. And, the almighty It Depends. Photoshop has become the de facto standard app for graphic designers and professional photographers so it needs little introduction.
Likewise, Photoshop has become enormously expensive and remarkably complex and complicated for the non-professional graphic designer and photographer, a situation which has helped to create a cottage industry of Photoshop-like apps, Photoshop-wannabes, and professional level photo enhancement apps that do much, for less.
If you have and use Photoshop, why would you look for something else? If you don’t have Photoshop, why not? And, what are you using instead? As it turns out, the answers are many and varied. Personal experience tells me that Photoshop is a complicated beast and more suited to those who use its features every day of the week. It’s also expensive as Adobe prefers to charge you by the month with a subscription package that could go on forever, which makes Photoshop very expensive over time, and leaves a soft underbelly for competitive apps and suites.
Are there Photoshop alternatives?
The answer is a qualified ‘yes.’ Qualified because there are few graphic apps or suites which harness all that Photoshop can do, but then there’s that learning curve and ongoing expense to contend with, so a qualification is in order. I’ve used nearly every Photoshop-wannabe app and searching around will give you more affordable options without the same monthly expense.
GraphicConverter – This utility cut its teeth on simply converting one file format to another but GraphicConverter is also used by almost everyone I know who uses Photoshop (they’re pros, so they can afford it). GC is packed with many Photoshop-like tools; effects, filters, and even plugins, and at half the price of Photoshop Elements it’s a value that can– entry level– be used to replace Photoshop.
Pixelmator – What’s not to like? Fast, friendly, affordable, and very Photoshop-like with a nice set of charcoal (which is another way of saying ‘professional looking) floating tool palettes, this could be one app to replace Photoshop, but if not, Pixelmator might be the best entry-level Mac graphics design and photo enhancement app you can buy. There’s even an iPhone and iPad version.
Affinity Photo – Most Photoshop-like replacement apps have a price tag well under $100 and Affinity Designer is no exception at half that threshold. Again, there’s this Photoshop look but with a difference. Affinity Photo can keep all the tools on a single page (vs. a gazillion floating palettes scattered all over the place) and it’s the toolset that makes the app shine. Photoshop often is used in tandem with Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Photo’s big brother app, Affinity Designer, makes the duo a must-have for entry-level graphic designers who can’t spring for the lifetime subscription required by Adobe.
GIMP – Let’s assume you’re really on a budget and can barely afford to use a Mac, let alone cough up lunch money for Photoshop or one of the wannabe apps. You’re in luck when you’re down on your luck thanks to the free GIMP. GIMP has been around forever and there are multiple versions floating across the interwebs, so choose wisely. GIMP for Mac OS X is the one I use occasionally and recommend to those who are cash challenged, so give this one a try first. It really does look and work much like Photoshop Lite, and by Lite, I mean White.
Yes, there are many but only a few worth mentioning, including the highly acclaimed Acorn. Nearly everything else is a reincarnation of MacPaint or an also-ran.