Is Photoshop Too Complex and You a Need Similar Software With Easier Controls? Here are 5 Great Photoshop Alternatives You Can Try Out
Photoshop is a term that has gotten so popular that it has become a verb in the English Language. To say you have “photoshopped” an image is to say that you have retouched that image to suit a target look that wouldn’t have been attainable from the original production from the camera that took said photo without adjustments. And it is understandable why this should be; since it first rolled into the market on February 19, 1990, it has since become an industry staple and household go-to for all things photo editing.
Photoshop (professionally, “Adobe Photoshop”) is a raster graphics editor, digital arts creating, and graphics designing software developed by Adobe Inc. Photoshop users typically are magazine photo editors, fan art designers, movie and music cover art designers, and product designers. The range of practical uses of the software runs through image editing, photo retouching, composites creation, mockups creation, and adding effects to images.
Photoshop can definitely be used for more than these, as it can be used to create logos, design document pages, create illustrations, design UI interfaces, et cetera, but it was not primarily made for these functions — as most of these are vector-based — and as such, will fall short in producing things that software like Adobe Illustrator (logo design and illustrations), Adobe XD (UX/UI design) and/or Adobe InDesign (digital text design and book/paper print designs) would have done (this is me sticking to Adobe products for this example).
I won’t go into differentiating between raster graphics and vector graphics in detail here. You can check this great article by Geeks for Geeks to learn more. For now, know that raster graphics depends on colourations (and the intensity and lightness of those colourations) of individual pixels, while vector graphics depend on mathematical calculations (re-drawings) for each new action taken on a design. Vector graphics can be expanded to fit the size of the Empire State Building and will still look crisp; Raster graphics on the other hand might require a drawing on a canvas so big that the file size for one image might be up to 50GB large.
Photoshop, however, gives you pause as a beginner the moment you encounter its interface. There are a lot of buttons, and a lot of menus, and if you’re the type afraid to wreck something on your software by experimenting, your immediate reaction is to close the program and go to sleep, or find a much simpler alternative. On the other hand, if you’re a Photoshop expert who suddenly finds himself or herself so boggled down with deliverables, you just wish another software could deliver without depending on so many manual controls as Photoshop does, you too will go on to a hunt for alternatives. There are so many reasons why people seek Photoshop alternatives today, even though it remains the industry-leading photo-editing software. A few of those reasons are:
1. A desire for something simpler
2. A desire for something more “intelligent” (Built much more with A.I. focus than manual controls)
3. A desire for something more specific to a niche (Specific to social media, or specific to magazines, or specific to product design)
4. A desire for something that performs a specific function better than Photoshop does (even though it may fail in every other similar function with Photoshop).
5. A desire for software with lesser demand on system requirements to run smoothly.
6. A desire for software that can run on devices that you have with you on the go (phone, tablet), rather than devices that require you to set up a table.
If any of these reasons resonate with you, continue reading. If they don’t, continue reading still. Who knows? The knowledge might come in handy.
Here are 5 excellent Photoshop alternatives that can serve your photo-editing needs to satisfaction.
2. Paintshop Pro
4. Capture One
5. Adobe Lightroom
· AI Photo Enhancements: Sky Replacement, Haze Addition, Auto-Dynamic Range, Smart Depth of Field, Smart Human Subject Detection
· 4 editing modes for different needs: Essentials, Creative, Portrait, Professional
· Use of sliders and painted masks only for most edits
· Edit photos as layers and can be easily managed
· All AI processes can be done offline
· Share and export photos in 6 formats
· Takes up large space
· Subject detection is limited to humans
· Cannot create smart masks
· Limited to photo editing and photo retouching. Very limited composites and effects creation.
Luminar is a universal photo editing software application developed by Skylum available for Windows and macOS. Luminar works as a standalone application and as a plugin for Adobe and Apple products. It integrates with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom Classic, and Photos for macOS (Wikipedia, Aug. 2021).
Luminar was first released for public use on November 17, 2016, and in 4 years, it is quickly becoming the best AI-based photo-editing software. The brilliance of Luminar lies in the fact that it operates like Adobe Lightroom or the camera raw filter for Adobe Photoshop, but does much more than adjust values for RAW images. (Learn more about RAW images here). Its AI-driven infrastructure makes it fantastic in handling Sky Replacements, Creating Bokeh Effects, and Retouching Skin, all with only sliders and painted masks alone. That is a big sigh of relief for designers who do not want to go into the hassle of creating depth maps and alpha channels for a bokeh effect or using 3D (more or less, 2.5D) effects to execute sky replacements with reflections or handle frequency separation layers for skin retouching. With sliders alone, Luminar does all that in real-time, without an internet connection for you…even as a plugin for Photoshop.
I use Luminar interchangeably with Photoshop, and I’ll recommend Luminar to people who have a lot of work on their plate and need to drop deliverables like hot potato every day. But not for retouching editors for global magazines. Some manual control is still needed for such high-profile jobs.
Want to try Luminar out, you can go to the downloads page on their website and get it, starting from $79.
2. PaintShop Pro
· Photoshop-like features at a lower price
· Powerful effects and editing tools
· Lets one edit both raster and vector images
· Good assortment of vector drawing tools
· Automatic noise removal
· Miss out on more intelligent photo-editing auto-features like automatic subject selection, 3D modeling, detailed typography, camera shake reduction, and face liquefy
· Has an Inconsistent interface
· No macOS version
· Some operations repeatedly slow
PaintShop Pro is a raster and vector graphics editor for Microsoft Windows. It was originally published by Jasc Software. In October 2004, Corel purchased Jasc Software and the distribution rights to Paint Shop Pro. PSP functionality can be extended by Photoshop-compatible plugins. It was first released in August 1990 and faced obscurity with various design communities until the purchase from Corel. It is now taken as Corel’s answer to Photoshop, merging some of the features of CorelDraw (vector graphics creation) and CorelPaint.
Supporting more than 40 file formats, including the most common formats such as RAW, JPG, PSD, PNG, GIF, and TIFF, PaintShop Pro establishes itself as a worthy alternative, as far as file exportation is concerned. But it far from ends there. Popular SaaS Comparison and Product Review website, CompareCamp, has this to say about the software’s benefits:
“The main benefits of PaintShop Pro are optimizing photos for web use, providing face detection technology, and being user-friendly for beginners. It allows users to edit and transform their dull images into stunning pictures. The software features an intuitive and simple interface that’s separated into two different tabs–the manage and the edit. The manage tab has the search for faces, rate images, and view EXIF data and geotags features while the edit tab includes the complete editing options.
“Its interface cuts this software down to basic options such as crop images, fix red-eye, remove a zit, and add texts. PaintShop Pro includes all editing tools with adjustable design feature available, giving you an ideal working environment where you can foster creativity, speed, and productivity. It also has face detection technology so you can cluster images automatically depending on the subject presented. It makes it easy for you to store photos on CDs and DVDs as well.”
I don’t use Corel products…or rather, I have not used Corel products in a long while, so, my recommendations for PaintShop Pro will be for photo-editing beginners whose jobs also require a whole lot of graphics design and illustrations. These will be cartoonists or art creators for various entertainment projects. I wish it was available for Mac users too.
To download a trial or purchase PaintShop Pro (starting at $82.25), you can visit their website here.
· GIMP provides all essential editing features and tools.
· Has a pretty small learning curve, it’s easy for beginners to get the hang of.
· Completely free of charge and open-source.
· You can use GIMP to create GIFs using many layers.
· Allows you to edit images of various formats
· GIMP’s selection tool isn’t very precise.
· Has lower features than other paid software.
· Lack of customer support, since it’s open-source software.
· Limitations on the number of layers that can be used.
· Cropping is also a bit difficult to use.
· Download time is slow since it’s a large file.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image manipulation and image editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between different image file formats, and more specialized tasks. It is developed by the GIMP Development Team, and its first release was on 2nd June, 1998. Think of GIMP as the graphics editing version of Github. From its name alone, one can figure out that it was originally designed for the GNU/Linux Operating System, and then versions for Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu rolled out eventually.
GIMP is known to be the best free alternative to Photoshop, and having a large number of tools for manipulating any type of image and exporting in any necessary format establishes it as so. It does not stop there. It also does a great job of making everything intuitive so that even a new user can layer images or make an image transparent in little time. Given its open-source nature, its source codes can be edited, giving even more manipulative (creative) freedom to its users. (One would need to be versed in the C and GTK+ Programming languages though).
I use GIMP mostly for GIF creation, and because it is such a light and easy to navigate and use software, I can churn out more than 3 times the volume than I would have with Photoshop. I recommend GIMP for persons who want nearly all the creative freedom Photoshop can offer, but free. Given the limitations on its preciseness and “smartness” however, GIMP best serves persons who want to edit photos for more lightweight causes (like school projects, or digital arts practice) than with projects for serious businesses.
· Made for professional photographers with advanced tools and functions
· Designed to improve your productivity and workflow
· Custom lens profiles for specific camera brands
· Multiple methods of color correction and color editing
· Lots of ways to organize, group, and categorize your batch photos
· OpenCL graphics acceleration provides faster software performance
· The smaller community offers fewer presets to download
· Unusual and slightly inconvenient pricing plans
· Has a relatively steep learning curve and is more suitable for experienced users
Capture One is a photo editing software, developed by Phase One. In addition to image editing, it performs image cataloguing, raw image file processing, and tethered photography. Capture One works with raw files from many different digital cameras as well as TIFF, PSD, and JPEG image files. Its first release was in December 2007.
Capture One is more like the alternative to Adobe Lightroom (more on Lightroom in a minute) than Adobe Photoshop, as it is built with photographers and RAW file handling in mind, rather than direct photo editing, compositing, and creating effects. It decidedly is more complex than Adobe Lightroom, as lightroom works more like a support software for photographers who use photoshop than a stand-alone software that should suit every photographer’s needs…which is exactly what CaptureOne is. Another beauty of capture one which is not as celebrated is that, like Lightroom and Luminar, its usage is more intelligent and less manual, depending more on sliders and painted masks.
I have a photographer friend who does not use Lightroom at all. Capture One is his everything for photography, and because of this, I recommend it as an alternative for Photoshop if all you care to do as far as photo editing is concerned revolves around adjusting dynamic range, adjusting white balance, adjusting warmth/coolness, adjusting noise, adjusting focal points, and adjusting exposure post-capture.
You can buy Capture One for every camera here at their website, starting from $24/mo, or go for the software designed more specifically for specific types of cameras (Fujifilm, Sony, and Nikon for now) starting from $19/mo.
5. Adobe Lightroom
· Built-in file management/catalouging system
· Organization with collections and galleries
· Fast and easy photo books, slide shows, and web galleries
· Non-destructive editing that preserves file data
· Easy and fast syncing of editing steps
· Snapshots and Virtual Copies are perfect for exploring editing options
· Adjustment brush, gradient, and radial adjustments allow you to adjust multiple effects on one mask
· Fairly decent cloning and healing abilities for minor image manipulation
· Easier to learn than Photoshop
· No layers or blend modes
· Minimal graphic design elements like adding text elements or making advanced collages
- Limited editing options
Adobe Lightroom is a creative image organization and image manipulation software developed by Adobe Inc. as part of the Creative Cloud subscription family. It is supported on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and tvOS. It was first released on September 19, 2017. Out of all the software we’ve looked at, Lightroom alone runs smoothly on PC, Mac, and Mobile devices. The other software fails tremendously in being mobile-friendly.
A lot has been said about Lightroom’s distinguishing features already, but what one must have in mind is that it is made for photographers first since the Camera Raw filter of Photoshop is literally a cut-and-paste of Adobe Lightroom’s image manipulation features.
Being a continuous and dedicated user of Adobe products, you can already imagine I use Lightroom to organize my photos and add final touch filters (Camera Raw) on my composites, inasmuch as I am not a photographer. Its mobile-friendly versions make Lightroom the best pal for on-the-go photographers. If you want better features than what your regular mobile-first built photo editing apps (like Google’s Snapseed) can offer, have Adobe Lightroom as your companion. This is my recommendation.
You can get a 7 free trial here, or purchase Adobe Lightroom from the Adobe website, starting from $9.99/mo. Or you can get the Creative Cloud (CC) collection for photographers, starting from $19.99.
There are a ton of creative photo editing software and mobile applications out there. Many are built with very specific things or people in mind. The key to the best experience is to realize what you want out of photo editing and do the appropriate research needed to find the app that does the work for you at the shortest possible time, with the least possible inconvenience, creating the best possible result. It is all about how you optimize.
This article does not in any way, suggest what the best software out there is, but it ensures you know what the best alternatives to Adobe Photoshop is, given popular demand, critical review, and an analysis of each of their features, where they win and where they don’t.
The rest is up to you. Choose wisely.