There are a wide range of very capable alternatives to Photoshop, as you will discover, but our list of the best photo editors is going to begin with with the ubiquitous Adobe application.
01. Affinity Photo
We’re big fans of Affinity Photo, one of the best Mac alternatives to Photoshop around.
Although there’s no subscription fee for Affinity Photo – just a one-off fee – Serif had previously promised to release regular free updates to the app for at least the first couple of years.
02. Photoshop CC
The replacement for Photoshop CS6 surprised everyone by not being the expected Photoshop CS7 but ‘Photoshop CC‘. And surprise turned to consternation when it was revealed that the software would be solely available via the Creative Cloudsubscription service.
Time has passed and anger has subsided. Photoshop CC is head-bangingly brilliant, and has too many features to summarise in this small space – but here you can read a run-down of its 15 top features.
There’s no doubt that the latest Photoshop is a hugely impressive photo editing application; probably the best out there. But it comes at a cost.
- Platform: iOS, Android
- Price: Free
Pixlr claims to be “the most popular online photo editor in the world”, which may have something to do with the fact that it’s free. But it also boasts more than 600 effects, overlays, and borders and lets you do all the main things you’d expect from a photo editor, from cropping and re-sizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.
And if you’re used to using Photoshop, then you’ll find Pixlr’s user interface easy to pick up quickly, as it’s very similar.
Whilst Serif make inroads into the world of Mac photo editing with its Affinity Photo, this is for all things PC.
Of all the tools featured in this list, PhotoPlus X8 is perhaps the most direct competitor to Photoshop in terms of trying to replicate the different tools in Adobe’s software for the PC at a lower price.
It’s definitely a case of getting what you pay for. To be frank, the tool can be tricky for beginners to use, and lacks the slickness and reliability of its big-bucks competitor. But in the right hands it’s possible to create quality work with PhotoPlus X8.
Image editing software Acorn debuted back in 2007 and has provided hobbyists and artists on a budget with a great, affordable piece of photo editing software. Features include layer styles, non-destructive filters, curves and levels, blending modes and much more.
The latest version, Acorn 5, added improved speed, an enhanced UI and more. One of the most sought-after improvements was the addition of non-destructive filters, which includes includes a great interface to chain filters together to create unique effects. You can even save and modify your filters after you’ve closed and re-opened your Acorn image.
- Platform: Linux/Windows/Mac
- Price: Free
An open-source photo editor that debuted on Unix-based platforms, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it’s available in versions for Linux, Windows, and Mac. GIMP offers a wide toolset – everything you’re accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.
The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you’ll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You’ll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe’s Bridge.
This is the basic alternative to Photoshop Creative Cloud (or CS), as reflected in its great Quick and Guided Edit modes, but don’t think that means it lacks power under the hood. Also, unlike Photoshop CC, Elements doesn’t require a subscription.
It’s now in its fourteenth iteration, and new features include an easier way to merge photos together, a new crop suggestion tool, extra effects and a way to create a combined Facebook profile and cover photo.
08. Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom allows you to have all your photography in one place, and organise, edit and share it from anywhere. Many creatives opt to use Lightroom as it can tackle the complex image management jobs Photoshop is not designed for, making light work of day-to-day enhancements and RAW files.
With Lightroom you can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices and even have photos from your phone go directly into Lightroom as you shoot them. Syncing takes care of itself, so when you make an edit or flag a favorite in one place, it’s automatically updated everywhere else.
09. DxO OpticsPro 10
Things get a bit specific with Optics Pro 10, but what it does, it does very well. Its results are spectacular, but it’s a specialised and sometimes complex tool to use. It’s arguably the best raw converter of all, but that’s just about all it does.
DxO Optics Pro automatically compensates for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting common to practically all digital camera lenses.
It’s also a raw converter, and DxO has applied just as much scientific rigour to this process as its lens corrections. You can browse the images on your computer, folder by folder, then select an image and choose from the default conversion/correction setting or a range of presets
The results are excellent. However, it would never be your one and only image-editing tool
10. PaintShop Pro X8
Brought to you by the same software house that produces Painter, Paintshop Pro is a long-standing application that offers a huge range of photo-editing and graphics creation tools.
Naturally there’s support for layers here, and a complete suite of tools for editing, colour correcting, cloning and ‘makeover’ of photos, but you’ll also find sophisticated art media tools with realistic brush effects and a range of vector options.
Additionally, Paintshop Pro supports Photoshop brushes, allowing you to considerably extend the built-in library of tools. There’s also an Ultimate version which costs an extra few pounds, but bundles in additional filters, brushes, and royalty-free images.