Are you looking for the best alternatives to Photoshop? Think the software is expensive and hard to use? Well, you’re not alone. Launched as early as 1990, Adobe Photoshop is one of the oldest and most popular photo editing tools in the market. It’s currently part of Creative Cloud, a recurring cloud-based subscription from Adobe for creative professionals.
Since its inception, Creative Cloud’s pricing model has been controversial. Photoshop alone costs $31.49 a month or $239.88 a year, with no one-time purchase option available. The idea of having to pay for a monthly subscription doesn’t sit right with many early-career professionals and small businesses, who have been switching to competitors offering more generous pricing plans.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best high-quality photo editing alternatives to Photoshop. Read on to see our top picks!
What are the best alternatives to Photoshop?
We think that Affinity Photo is the best overall alternative to Photoshop. It costs significantly less without sacrificing any of the advanced functionality. It is also developed by Serif, the company responsible for the highly popular Adobe Illustrator alternative, Affinity Designer.
Users who are open to a cheaper—but still subscription-based—option may also consider Capture One Pro. Meanwhile, Corel Paintshop Pro is an excellent tool that allows you to switch between vector and raster workspaces, and Cyberlink PhotoDirector is an Adobe Lightroom-alternative with features akin to Photoshop.
Finally, Luminar AI is a great photo editing tool that uses artificial intelligence to make the process as beginner-friendly as possible.
The best alternatives to Photoshop you can buy today
Affinity Photo is the best image manipulation tool to rival Photoshop. It comes from Serif, a software company that used to focus primarily on desktop publishing tools. With the Affinity product line, however, Serif has completely outdone itself with multi-platform support, in-depth features, and affordable pricing.
Feature-wise, Affinity Photo comes with best-in-class tools for layering, masking, and retouching images. It boasts real-time rendering capabilities where effects are applied immediately at the press of a button. However, as an advanced raster image editing tool, Affinity Photo is not particularly beginner-friendly. The interface is very similar to Photoshop’s, so there are no instant presets that you can apply in a jiffy and no cataloguing tools to make file sorting easier.
At just $24.99 for Windows or Mac and $9.99 for iPad, Affinity Photo is quite easily the most affordable Photoshop alternative. The best part of it is that you can install the software on as many devices as you want, so you will only be paying more than once if you are using it across different platforms.
Read our Affinity Photo 1.5 review for more information.
Capture One Pro is an excellent photo editing tool that’s better described as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom rather than Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop, Capture One is a piece of non-destructive image manipulation software that comes with cataloguing tools and built-in presets. However, those wanting more in-depth manipulation can make manual adjustments through layers and masks.
Capture One Pro features seamless RAW processing, meaning that you can add RAW files straight from your camera without having to process it into a PNG or JPEG. Although its RAW support for different camera brands isn’t as extensive as Adobe’s, the images produced are sharper and less noisy than in Photoshop. Other features include a modular interface that can be customized to your liking, and a keywording tool to help you tag images.
Capture One Pro costs $19 a month for a subscription. This includes support for most camera brands. If you’d rather pay a one-time fee, Capture One also has a $299 plan. It is available for both Windows and macOS operating systems.
Photoshop may be the most advanced image manipulation tool in the market, but the fact remains that most people end up using less than half of the features it offers. Corel Paintshop Pro is a budget-friendly alternative that focuses on the essentials of image editing and offers an assortment of textures, backgrounds, and brushes for you to work with.
Feature-wise, Corel Paintshop Pro doesn’t break new ground. However, it does an excellent job of delivering the essentials in a user-friendly format for beginners. Since 2020, Corel Paintshop Pro now comes with a dedicated photography workspace. This new workspace is completely touchscreen-ready, and comes with effects that can be applied with just one click.
Corel Paintshop Pro costs a one-time fee of $79.99, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. With it, you gain access to a variety of AI-enabled presets, 360-degree photo editing, and the new SmartClone tool, which uses content-aware cloning to seamlessly merge different elements together. You can also buy Corel Paintshop Pro Ultimate for $99.99, which throws in additional tools like AfterShot, Corel Painter Essentials, and PhotoMirage Express.
You can read our Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 review for more information.
While CyberLink started out as a Lightroom alternative, it has since grown to become an all-inclusive replacement for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. The all-in-one image manipulation software features a smooth unified interface and plenty of advanced tools to set you up on your path to photo editing. It comes with a growing collection of animations, stock images, masks, filters, and more.
A very useful feature worth considering for beginners is guided edits. Those new to the software can take advantage of an array of interactive built-in tutorials to get better acquainted with the system. If purchased as a subscription, PhotoDirector also includes access to Shutterstock’s library of stock images and other creative assets. However, users who purchase with a one-time fee will not be able to take advantage of the stock library.
CyberLink PhotoDirector costs $99.99 one-time to buy. If you want more features and active support, you can also buy into the subscription-based PhotoDirector 365 for the price of $54.99 a year, which also includes additional assets. If you’d like to try before you buy, a one-month free trial is available in exchange for your email address.
For more on this platform, you can read our CyberLink PhotoDirector 12 Ultra review.
Luminar AI is an application designed for those who require more in-depth customization than what’s offered by basic image editing tools, but who don’t have the technical expertise to make it happen. As the world’s first and only photo editor powered entirely by artificial intelligence (AI), it bridges the gap between basic image editing apps like Photoshop Elements and advanced image manipulation software like Photoshop.
If you’re looking for features that offer maximum flexibility and manual customization, you’re out of luck. However, Luminar AI does offer an extensive collection of automatic effects that can turn any ordinary image into a cover photo. You can do things like replace the sky, change the weather, fix skin blemishes, adjust color balance, and more—all with the power of AI. You can even apply an automated overall fix to make your image look more professional.
The AI effects blend in seamlessly, but Luminar AI does have its downsides: it suffers from a complete lack of cataloguing options, and the rendering performance could be better.
The software comes in three packages: Master, Expert, and Guru. You can go for a one or two-computer license. Prices range between $79 and $202 for one device and $99 to $222 for two devices. All packages come with a lifetime license, 30-day money back guarantee, and 24/7 technical support.
How to choose the best alternative to Photoshop for you?
Photoshop is an image manipulation tool that allows you to edit and enhance raster images using a series of manual and automatic techniques. If you are looking for an all-encompassing Photoshop alternative with the exact same features and a better price range, Affinity Photo is probably the best choice for you.
Otherwise, the best alternative will depend largely on your specific requirements. For example, Capture One is an excellent choice for those looking for a Lightroom-esque photo editor, whereas those requiring touch support and the ability to switch between raster and vector formats may choose Corel Paintshop Pro. CyberLink PhotoDirector is a good choice for beginners thanks to its guided edits feature, while Luminar AI is for those who want a completely automated workflow.