The best free and premium photo editing software to get rid of your Adobe fix. After all, there's more out there than Photoshop CC.
Believe it or not but not every artist and designer uses Adobe Photoshop. The reasons range from having doubts about a yearly subscription to being irked by Adobe's recent claims that using older versions of Creative Cloud could get you sued by third-party app makers.
There's also the plain fact that not everyone will need every feature touted by Adobe, instead needing something simpler than Photoshop but not as simple as Photoshop Elements.
As such we've created a list of the most popular and reliable photo editing apps for professionals.Whether you need to carry out basic lighting adjustments and corrections, or you want to create more stylised photography artwork, we’ve got you covered with this best of feature.
Some of the apps like GIMP and Google Snapseed are free, and others can be bought as a one-off purchase (such as Affinity Photo and the less expensive options Touch Retouch.)
Here are 6 of the best Photoshop alternatives for both Mac and Windows - and none of them require a subscription.
Alternatives to Photoshop for Windows and Mac
With no software needed, no subscriptions, and no specific devices, Photopea is hands down the best brower-based option for anyone without Photoshop. In fact, it's probably the only browser-based photo editor worth knowing.
This free online editor supports PSD, XCF, Sketch, XD and CDR formats, all ready to work on within a workspace that looks and works like Adobe PS.
Despite being a free tool, Photopea was designed for pros, offering all the tools you know and need for your practice such as Layers and layer masks, Blend modes, Brush, Selections and Procedural adjustments.
2. Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo is truly one of the best professional photo editing tools out there.
Like Photoshop it offers full support for unlimited layers, layer groups filter layers and masks, resizing layers, editing live filters, effects, blend modes and masks without destroying your image – as well as professional image processing.
This includes uploading raw images, adjusting corrections such as exposure and highlights, recovering details by editing in an unbounded linear colour space, advanced lens correction, Focus Merge, HDR Merge and Tone mapping, and of course, a massive selection of effects.
Retouch faces, hair, skin and bodies with selection brushes, plus remove unwanted objects and red eye, apply single-plane and dual-plane perspective correction.
In terms of brushes, you can choose from a huge library including paint, mixer, pixel, sharpen and undo brushes, or create your own custom brushes. You can work with all standard formats across multiple platforms, such as iOS, macOS and Windows.
As of 2020, Affinity Photo now has full compatibility with the latest Nik Collection plug-ins, following a collaboration between Affinity developers and Nik owner DxO.
You can buy Affinity Photo at the current sale price of £38.99/$39.99 for Windows and Mac with no subscription.
Gimp may be as old as time - and a free download for the whole of that duration - but do get off your high horse for it's not an app to sniff at.
Available not just for OS and Windows but also GNU/Linux, Gimp (or GIMP to use its official name) gives you all the basic features of Photoshop including a few brushes.
Less of a designer's choice and more for an artist or studio creative dabbling in quick photo correction, Gimp continues to be updated and its website remains simple to use without looking old-fashion, packed with tutorials and even a Wiki to help guide you.
Photoshop alternatives for Mac only
With a software company behind it known as Flying Meat, you'd think Acorn is a mediocre Photoshop clone from a crappy start-up.
Think again, as Acorn has been a reliable photo editing app for a dozen years and counting.
With non-destructive filters, curves and levels, Acorn also has a Path Text Tool, letting you wrap and warp text anywhere you'd like. We also like its clone tool which lets you clone across different images, layers, and to even clone from group or shape layers.
Finally, export options are great: with Web Export you can zoom, pan, and use shortcuts to change the scale of your image and find pixels that are out of range of sRGB. You can also preview your changes prior to exporting and compare to the original.
Acorn's Smart Layer Export meanwhile is similar to slicing. With it you can adjust the movable frame that represents the export bounds of your image, name your file, and even choose to have your layer automatically export as @1x, @2x, @[email protected] sizes.
Buy Acorn on the iTunes store for $29.99/£29.99 with no subcription.
2. ADVA Soft TouchRetouch
Although this app isn't your traditional photo editing software, TouchRetouch is perfect for solving one specific problem – removing that unwanted object from your photo.
TouchRetouch will enable you to remove powerlines, surface breaks and scratches, photo bombers, skin blemishes, and human-made objects like street signs – basically, it’ll let you remove whatever you wish from your photo.
Download TouchRetouch for £14.99/$14.99 from the iTunes App Store with no subscription.
Pixelmator is great for someone who may not have time to correct images manually.
Photo editing using Pixelmator includes improving your photos with single-tap colour correction presets, and pre-designed templates. You can also choose from a tonal range, repair tool for smoothing over skin, and a number of effects.
Download Pixelmator for £4.99/$4.99 from the iTunes App Store with no subscription.
Photoshop alternatives for Windows only
1. Google Snapseed
Moving away from entirely creative software based names like Adobe and Affinity, Google's professional photo editing offering is its free product dubbed Snapseed.
Snapseed offers all the basic tools and filters whilst using JPEG and raw files, and even a few helpful tips about how the app works and general photography.
With Snapseed, open and modify native camera files and save and export as JPEGs. Also adjust exposure and colour manually or automatically, crop, rotate, transform and play around with filters, frames, brushes, white balance, text and tones.
2. Corel PaintShop Pro
We all know Corel for its Draw and Painter applications, but the creative giant also has five photo-editing software programs of which PaintShop Pro is the best.
As one can guess from the name, PaintShop shares many of the same elements as Adobe Photoshop but with a few added nuts and bolts.
Image presets powered by Artificial Intelligence are one example, along with one-click photo fixes screenshot tools which you won't yet find in Photoshop. There's also the new SmartClone tool in the app's 2020 update; using content-aware cloning technology, the tool easily merges elements like faces and other complex elements from multiple images, seamlessly integrating them into one.
Ideal for creatives is the dual monitor mode, giving you a multi-device flexibility and customisability missing from Adobe.
Your best best is to download Paintshop Pro on its own; there is a misleading Ultimate edition which is simply a bundle of this app and a few of those other Corel photo brands, plus extra brushes.
Buy Corel PaintShop Pro 2020 for £69.99/$69.99 here with no subscription.
Read next: Photoshop vs. Photoshop Elements