A few Adobe alternatives

I doubt any of these can do as much as the Adobe option (except Quark), but they might do as much as you need, and it’s something I’m asked about now and again.

Adobe CC Photoshop
Image via Fstoppers

Photoshop alternatives

Acorn (OS X, $49.99)
Pixelmator (OS X, £20.99)
GIMP (OS X, Windows, Linux, free)

Illustrator alternatives

Sketch (OS X, £54.99)
Inkscape (OS X, Windows, Linux, free)
iDraw (OS X, £17.49)

InDesign alternatives

Quark (OS X, Windows, £799)
Scribus (OS X, Windows, Linux, free)
Lucidpress (browser-based, free while in beta, subscription to follow)

These and a few others mentioned elsewhere:
Anthony Colangelo of Happy Cog reviews Sketch, on A List Apart
Jon Hicks uses Acorn and Sketch
Khoi Vinh on Sketch
Alternative apps to everything in Adobe Creative Cloud, on Mac.Appstorm
15+ alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud, on Web Designer Depot

If you’ve used any alternatives it’d be great to know what you think.

← Older post

Newer post →

18 comments

  1. Shrimati

    Hi David,

    Would you not ever consider Serif PagePlus, PhotoPlus or DrawPlus as viable options?

  2. Paper Acrobat

    I’ve been using iDraw for the last few months and find it really good.
    Not quite the feature set of Illustrator but the interface is a lot less bloated – and most of the tools are supplied.

  3. Thanks for sharing these! On the webdesign spectrum, Brackets, by Adobe, is a MARVELOUS open-source Dreamweaver alternative!

    http://brackets.io/

  4. Great list!

    In a pinch (when I didn’t have my computer on me) I’ve used Pixlr Editor as a Photoshop alternative and found it to be great for simple edits. (The only real downside is I don’t believe you can edit images over 96 DPI so it’s not good for print work). Also you need a live internet connection as it’s browser based.

    http://pixlr.com/

  5. I’m not sure, Shrimati. Any good?

    Thanks for the tips, Ashley, Eric, and the feedback, PA.

  6. Shrimati

    Hi David,

    For the money, it is. It cannot do everything as the Adobe CS, but it delivers quite a lot, suitable for a freelance designer. I don’t think it should be the software of choice though for a design agency or someone whose portfolio includes full scale magazines and the like. Since, at the moment, that’s all I can afford anyway, it works for me!

  7. Hey, I have tried DrawPlus and Inkscape. I think these two are better choices. DrawPlus is even much more optimized for resources than Inkscape, but both of them are perfecto. I liked them. As Adobe is increasing its price, I think for freelancers like me, it’s time to search for alternatives. BTW nice sharing and thanks for your lists.

  8. Thanks for sharing these! But I am still a die hard fan of Adobe. I am using CS for the last 6 years & I won’t move to any other software just because Adobe CS is expensive.

  9. Chris Hadley

    GIMP may be sufficient for those that only occasionally need simple images, but for someone working with web graphics full time – especially if you have experience with Adobe CS – it is a nightmare to use. Photoshop surely isn’t the answer for everyone, but for creative professionals it’s absolutely worth spending some money to not have to use GIMP.

  10. Hi David

    I use Adobe InDesign, DPS, Muse & Lightroom, so in my case there’s no alternative.

  11. For those unable to stand GIMP’s UI there is also a Photoshop “clone” based on GIMP called Gimpshop that is available for free at http://www.gimpshop.com/

    I’m not claiming it’s better than Photoshop in any way (other than price). However for students, small business owners, nonprofits and others on tight budgets open source software can be really helpful…

    That being said if you can make the investment Adobe clearly makes the best design software (which is why they are pretty much the industry standard).

  12. We used Fireworks to design our website, although I’ve been frustrated with the lack of ongoing support for this program from Adobe. I prefer the Fireworks UI to Photoshop or Illustrator. Any recommendations for a free program that resembles Fireworks?

  13. Thanks for the post. I think Adobe needs some real competition now that they are forcing everyone onto Creative Cloud with really exorbitant subscription pricing. I have always been a supportive user of Adobe products* and kept my licensing up to date.

    However, they are now making it impossible to buy licenses for CS6. I’d buy those licenses for new hires if I could. Instead, they are creating a situation where you are basically forced to steal the software if you don’t want to use the subscription model.

    I’m definitely going to try some of these solutions and see if my company can use them as alternatives.

    *I actually learned digital layout on Aldus Pagemaker back in the 1980’s. I have almost every version of Adobe in CD format, boxes and all, from the 1980’s through present time!

  14. Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. Susan, I remember those Pagemaker days. It was the first layout software I used, going from it to Quark to InDesign.

  15. Herbert van der Wegen

    And the best professional alternative is once again left out: Photoline. Although it misses the 3d and video fluff of Photoshop, its image editing is on par with Photoshop, and Photoline’s layer system arguably much of an improvement over its counterpart.

    – Full 8/16/32bpc Lab, RGB, CMYK per layer(!) is supported. Full adjustment layers and layer effects (and the most common ones are even imported correctly from a psd file).

    – layers’ opacity can be set from -200(!) to +200(!) for increased flexibility over Photoshop’s limited 0-200% opacity setting.

    – full (true) vector layers, with pixel snapping

    – multipage documents, with pdf import and export

    – non-destructive RAW editing

    – as many layer masks as you want/need per layer. Layer masks can consist of any number of other layers, both vector and bitmap based.

    – layers and layer groups (including layer masks!) can be cloned and be edited in place. When edited, the cloned layers update in realtime. Again arguably much of an improvement over Photoshop’s awkward “smart” objects.

    – curves can be edited for Lab, HSV, and HIS without having to switch image mode!

    – external file layers are available in the latest betas

    Most of the workflow in photoline is non-destructive. For example, the liquify tool is applied to any layer without the need for that layer to be converted to a “smart” object. This also holds true for the many other adjustments. Vector objects remember their parameters as well.

    Photoline runs rock-solid, is available for Mac and Windows, and amazingly the download is less than 30mb. You get a full perpetual license for 59 euros, and a full version update is a mere 29 euros. And it can be run off a usb stick, if required.

    Please add Photoline to your list of image editors, since it outperforms every single other image editor, and is mostly on par with Photoshop (some things better, some things not as good).

  16. DK Jones

    I intend to be a freelancer (I’ve picked up some small gigs) and I’m currently taking the VisCom Graphic Design curriculum at Ivy Tech Community College and purchased CS 5.5 Web & Design Premium (student discount) a couple of years ago. I’ve also been exploring CC alternatives and have been very pleased with iDraw to replace Illustrator for many small, quick projects; it imports/exports to .PSD, .SVG, .PDF, and other photo formats. I’ve also been impressed with Pixelmator and the prices for these can’t be beat! $25.00 and $30.00 (USD) respectively from the Mac App Store. Since both use Apple’s native color picker, you can chose RGB, CMYK, or other colorspaces. For an InDesign alt app, I’m looking at Swift Publisher but haven’t had a lot of time to get into it. If someone can suggest apps for web design / website creation that would be terrific! I think we Mac users are fortunate to have a wide choice of native apps as alternatives to Adobe CC.

    Most of my schoolwork is presently focused on print media. I began doing Art & Design with rulers, compasses and french curves; I went back to school to learn the software. I’m about to be 60, and school projects can sometimes be a beast.

  17. David Miller

    Like many others here, I too am looking for alternatives to Adobe’s offerings. Their decision to go subscription-only is not acceptable. I do not like the idea of having to pay forever and, if I stop payment for some reason or another, I am then left with nothing application-wise (i.e. the software won’t run any longer) and I also have no access to any files I’ve created that are still in Adobe’s proprietary file formats.

    Elsewhere in this comment area, someone mentioned an English company called Serif and asked whether their products called PagePlus, PhotoPlus or DrawPlus would be viable options. I cannot answer that directly since those programs are Windows-only and I am on the Macintosh platform. Serif characterizes their Windows offerings as being used by “hobbyists rather than creative agencies”, so I’m guessing that they would not be viable in a pro environment.

    However, a new development has occurred from that same company which has the potential of making Serif a real player in the graphic design industry.

    Serif has decided to develop a professional-level line of applications, and they are aiming that effort directly at the Macintosh platform. They did not want to have any possibility of confusion between their hobbyist-level offering on the Windows platform and their new pro-level offerings on the Mac platform, so they decided to name their new line under the umbrella name of “Affinity”.

    They are intending to release 3 pro-level applications. One will be for vector drawing, one for photo raster editing, and one for page layout. They will be OS X native, and are not ports of their Windows products. The product names will be as follows:

    Affinity Designer — vector drawing program to compete with Adobe Illustrator. Designer is due to be released as a Version 1 product this coming October 2014.

    Affinity Photo — raster editing program to compete with Adobe Photoshop. Photo is due to be released late in 2014.

    Affinity Publisher — page layout program to compete with Adobe InDesign. Publisher is expected to be released sometime in 2015.

    Affinity Designer is now in Beta, and is currently being made available free to anyone who wants to test it out. You can go to their website at affinity.serif.com to download it.

    Here are two other write-ups about the upcoming Serif releases:

    http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/photo-editing/1400759/serif-explains-how-its-taking-on-adobe-creative-cloud
    (this is the article that first clued me in on the existence of this new application development)

    http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/photo-editing/1400718/serif-affinity-designer-revealed-as-adobe-illustrator-rival-free-beta

    Keep in mind that they are starting from scratch with these programs, so their first offering, Designer, is very much a work in progress….it hasn’t even gotten to Version 1 yet. So, if you do decide to participate in their Beta testing, be aware that the program in its current form is lacking a lot of bells and whistles that might be expected from something like Illustrator. Never fear….these things will come in time I’m sure. You have to start somewhere, and so they are at the beginning of this great adventure.

    I am hopeful that they will be very successful in their efforts. Of all the Adobe products that I was worried about having to replace, Illustrator was the most bothersome. About the only thing somewhat close to Illustrator would likely be CorelDraw, but it is Windows-only. Hopefully Serif will be able to come through with their new Affinity line of products.

    PS: No, I do not work for Serif or have any connection with them other than being someone who hopes that they succeed in helping to break the Adobe hegemony.

  18. David Miller

    A follow-up to my previous post:

    I just received an email from Serif/Affinity. They have announced the launch date for their new vector program Affinity Designer!

    Affinity Designer (AD) will be available for purchase from the Mac App Store on Thursday, October 2. So, presumably, AD will then be an official “Version 1.0″ product.

    As mentioned previously, after AD gets released for sale, Serif/Affinity will then begin the beta testing for the 2nd of their planned 3 products, Affinity Photo (raster editor). That should come around Christmas time in December. The 3rd product, Affinity Publisher (page layout), is apparently slated to go into beta in the 2nd half of 2015.

    The email I received about the release of Affinity Designer on October 2 indicated that there would be a 20% discount at launch (from October 2 through October 9). I don’t know if that 20% discount on price is for those who were part of beta testing, or if it’s available to anyone who purchases it.

    If everyone gets the 20% off, then the price will be £27.99 / $39.99.

    If not, then the price will be £34.99 / $49.99.

    At either price, it’s still a bargain!

    Spread the word!

Leave a Reply