The 7 Best Photoshop Alternatives for Creative Professionals

Adobe Photoshop enjoys strong brand recognition as the leading photo and image editor for creative professionals. However, due to its steep learning curve along with being subscription-only across the Adobe Creative Cloud, many users pine for more accessible alternatives.

In this comprehensive guide tailored for photographers, graphic artists, and casual creators, I analyze the top replacement options to Photoshop available in 2023 based on critical considerations like features, user experience, cost, and platform support.

Quick Comparison:

Affinity PhotoGIMPPixelmator ProPhotopeaKritaProcreatePhoto Pos Pro
Cost$55 one-timeFree$40 one-timeFree/$3.33 monthly subFree$10 one-timeFree
PlatformsWindows, Mac, iPadWindows, Mac, LinuxMac-exclusiveBrowser-basedWindows, Mac, LinuxiPad-exclusiveWindows
Primary Media FocusRaster graphics, photosRaster graphics, photos, digital artRaster graphics, photos, UI/UX designSimple photo edits, graphicsDigital illustration, paintingDrawing, painting, sketchingPhoto enhancement
Learning CurveEasySteepEasyEasyModerateEasyEasy

Evaluating the 7 Leading Photoshop Alternative Options

Below we‘ll analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the top replacements for Adobe‘s industry-standard photo editing software.

1. Affinity Photo: Most Capable Alternative Matching Photoshop‘s Interface

Affinity Photo impresses as the closest match to Photoshop in interface, tools, and overall workflow. This makes transitioning from Adobe software seamless for converting users.

Offering a one-time purchase around $55, Affinity Photo includes:

  • PSD support and file formats matching Photoshop
  • Layers, masks, adjustment layers, and blend modes identical to Photoshop
  • RAW editing, HDR merging, and panoramic stitching
  • Retouching and pixel-perfect selection tools like lasso, polygonal, brush
  • 100+ megapixel photo support and buttery 60 fps panning/zooming
  • Batch export capability

Ideal Users:

  • Photographers wanting excellent RAW processing and retouching without monthly subscriptions
  • Graphic designers seeking robust print, web, and digital design tools
  • Former Photoshop users prioritizing a familiar editing environment over unique features

Stan is professional food photographer shooting high resolution photos for cookbooks and magazines. He loves the editing precision of Photoshop but doesn‘t need niche 3D or animation tools.

Transitioning to Affinity Photo gives Stan the reliable PSD support, layers, masks, and retouching tools essential to his work. One bonus is Affinity‘s speed editing 100 megapixel shots exported quickly in batches. Stan saves over $100 annually going with Affinity over Photoshop.

The biggest downside to Affinity is lack of niche tools like 3D image manipulation and multi-app integration seen in Adobe Creative Cloud. But for most photographers and graphic designers, Affinity Photo delivers all the essential features at a much lower total cost.

2. GIMP: Extremely Capable Free & Open Source Image Editor

Despite its steeper learning curve, GIMP remains a compelling free alternative to Photoshop available across Windows, Mac, and Linux. As an open source application, it offers:

  • Layer-based editing with popular blend modes
  • Drawing tablet pressure sensitivity
  • Scripting/automation to speed up workflows
  • Highly customizable via plugins and add-ons
  • Vibrant community supporting constant development

Ideal users:

  • Hobbyists and casual creators wanting pro-level tools for free
  • Artists/illustrators leveraging GIMP‘s excellent drawing & painting features
  • Tech-savvy pros willing to invest time mastering complex software

Markus is 3D animation student with passion for creating concept art in his spare time. His classes already involve learning complex programs, so investing effort into GIMP to save money fits well. Once getting over the initial learning hump, Markus enjoys robust custom brushes, tablets support, and Python automation unlocking serious creative potential.

Veteran designers may dislike GIMP‘s steeper workflow. But for cash-strapped creators, understanding the app unlocks immensely powerful tools for $0 investment. And being open source, new features launch regularly with community support rather than relying on a single company‘s roadmap.

3. Pixelmator Pro: Gorgeous Image Editor Exclusive to Mac

For Apple loyalists, Pixelmator Pro delivers a gorgeous native Mac app supporting iCloud, Photos, and much more. At only a $40 one-time payment, it‘s extremely capable for full-time image work despite some limitations editing Windows-created content.

Competitive features include:

  • ML Enhance for intelligent one click photo corrections
  • Custom brushes and painting tools
  • Nondestructive, GPU-powered image editing
  • Integrates with Photos and iCloud libraries
  • Can even edit iPhone images with Photos for iOS extension

Ideal users:

  • Mac enthusiasts wanting seamless ecosystem integration
  • Photographers who edit on the go thanks to iOS extensions
  • Beginner to intermediate creators seeking accessible tools

Lisa is an aspiring nature photographer with 2021 M1 iMac. Having little graphics experience, she desires user-friendly software tightly integrated with MacOS. After hitting limitations with Apple‘s default Photos app, she tries Pixelmator Pro. Lisa loves ML Enhance instantly perfecting tricky lighting. And with Pixelmator‘s iOS extension, Lisa can even fine tune iPhone shots on her iPad while out in the field before exporting final files seamlessly back to her Mac.

Thanks to its Apple-centric design, Pixelmator Pro just feels right at home for Mac users. While not having extremely advanced capabilities of Affinity or GIMP, it helps novices bootstrap photography and graphic design skills through friendly tools.

4. Photopea: Browser-Based Image Editor Requiring No Downloads

Photopea earns a nod by providing robust image editing entirely within your web browser. It excels at accelerating simple yet essential tasks like:

  • Copying and pasting web images to instantly edit
  • Cropping, resizing, formatting changes
  • Exporting tweaked images to PNG, JPG, SVG etc
  • Basic photo corrections and touch ups
  • Creating rough draft composites fast

Ideal users:

  • Students and office workers needing to edit web images quickly without full design software
  • Social media managers mocking up posts on the go from various devices
  • Casual hobbyists wanting accessible tools available 24/7 with no installs

Camille is college student running a plant appreciation Instagram for fun on the side. When she wants to quickly add text quotes to photos before sharing them, Photopea allows instantly editing images copied from web pages without even owning Photoshop. She enjoys the $3.33 monthly subscription to remove ads and enable simple edits regularly for her social media.

While no match for large scale production, Photopea opens image editing to anyone with a browser. And by focusing on fundamental features, it makes the most common tasks quick and painless.

5. Krita: Leading Drawing & Painting Program for Digital Artists

Krita shines as a free and open source painting tool for illustrators and concept artists. With over 100 preloaded brush presets and unmatched customization, Krita gives endless options for digital illustration.

Core highlights include:

  • Customizable brush engine for any drawing or painting style
  • Intuitive pop-up control panels supporting left or right hand use
  • Innovative features like wrap-around painting for textures/patterns
  • Comic book & animation specialty tools
  • Constant open source development from engaged community

Ideal users:

  • Illustrators and concept artists wanting robust specialized tools
  • Comic creators needing panel/lettering features
  • Casual doodlers benefiting from expansive brushes

Michael is an animator who loves sketching characters during his commute. For his iPad he mainly uses Procreate, but wants a Windows/Mac program for desktop use with his graphics tablet. Testing leading free alternatives, he chooses Krita for its unmatched brushes resembling actual pens/pencils. The infinite canvas and perspective tools also help Michael capture ideas faster regarding backgrounds and scenery to enhance his animations.

For digital media purposes, Krita delivers best-in-class drawing capabilities for free. While image and photo editing takes a backseat, no rival creates a superior focused experience for illustrators and painters.

6. Procreate: Best Photoshop Alternative for iPad + Apple Pencil

iPad owners wanting advanced mobile creation capabilities should try Procreate. At only $10, its 125+ customizable brushes paired with Apple Pencil support empower stunning digital art.

Standouts include:

  • Gorgeous fluid brushes with advanced physics and dynamics
  • Multi-step Undo so you can replay your entire drawing process
  • Intuitive selection tools and transformations ideal for touch input
  • Layer support with nondestructive filters and adjustments
  • Shortcut gestures and Apple Pencil integration

Ideal Users:

  • Mobile artists who want to sketch, draw, or paint anywhere with their iPad
  • Creatives seeking to capture ideas quickly at conferences/meetings/events
  • Casual hobbyists benefiting from friendly toolset despite advanced features

Jenny is a botanical artist who travels to exotic gardens worldwide seeking inspiration. Lugging art supplies abroad proved unwieldy. Now with her iPad Pro and Pencil running Procreate, Jenny‘s imagination flourishes crafting colorful plant sketches easiest while the natural lighting is best. Her only complaint is the 4-5 mockups per month she still depends on Photoshop via her laptop for final polish before auctioning works professionally.

Procreate delivers incredible freedom sketching and painting untethered from any desk. Best paired with an iPad and Pencil, it unlocks game-changing mobility for artists without compromising core tools.

7. Photo Pos Pro: Capable Accessible Photo Editor for Windows

Available free for Windows with premium upgrades, Photo Pos Pro impresses for everyday photographers needing quick reliable edits. One click fixes like red eye removal plus manual editing controls rivaling Photoshop cater to casual shooters.

Top attributes include:

  • Intelligent photo corrections automated
  • Hundreds of one click filters and effect presets
  • Manual adjustment of curves, levels, hue, saturation, and more
  • Batch editing queue for applying changes to multiple photos
  • Creating photo collages and layered montages
  • Global and local non-destructive edits

Ideal users:

  • Photo hobbyists wanting great results without learning complexity
  • Creative professionals needing capable accessible secondary editor
  • Budget-focused artists and entrepreneurs

Alicia runs a jewelry Etsy shop and needs quality product photos on a shoestring budget. With GIMP having too steep a learning curve, she tries Photo Pos Pro. The quick fixes and tunings help polish her pictures to better match the vibrance of her crafts. And sticking to free software helps Alicia remain profitable as she slowly builds clientele.

For those focused purely on photos rather than extensive graphic design, Photo Pos Pro packs tremendous value into user-friendly tools. While the interface shows its age, the results speak for themselves balancing power and simplicity.

How to Select the Perfect Photoshop Alternative Solution

With over a half dozen leading replacements for Photoshop reviewed in detail above, you may still feel overwhelmed identifying what best fits your needs and budget.

Let‘s break down the evaluation process into simple steps:

Step 1) Catalog must-have features and typical use patterns

Compile a list of critical functionality like support for drawing tablets, batch export capability, special effects tools, etc. along with primary uses cases such as editing product photos, designing flyers, or painting original digital art.

This creates your unique feature wishlist to compare solutions against.

Step 2) Rank importance of compatibility, cost, complexity

With features cataloged, honestly assess how critical operating system support longevity and total cost rank for you. Also consider your appetite to learn complex software if it saves money.

Building these priorities helps targeting choices as you research options.

Step 3) Read reviews and trial top candidates

Armed with ranked features and preferences, extensively demo your top 2-3 contenders using free trials. Observe how smoothly core tasks and workflows translate compared to past tools.

Do this before purchasing to validate promised capabilities measure up.

Step 4) Select winner delivering the right balance

Finally with research complete, choose the single solution matching the ideal blend of functionality, usability and affordability per your cataloged needs and ranked priorities.

Closing Recommendations

I hope this extensive guide to leading Photoshop alternatives in 2023 proves helpful unlocking affordable tools matching your creative passions. Please reach out via comments below if you have any additional questions as you evaluate options.

If interested exploring other tech recommendations from History Computer, please see:

Finally, be sure trying out some of these capable Photoshop alternatives covered above. Unleash your creative potential at fraction of Adobe‘s pricing!

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