Photoshop Alternatives

With all of the industry bluster, it's easy to feel like there are no (software) alternatives for designers who are just getting started in the business and might not have the budget to jump right into Photoshop (or Illustrator, etc). What follows are a few notes on some of the better alternatives, as well as a bit on who ACTUALLY needs Photoshop to begin with ...


Long the "black sheep" of the graphic design world, Corel makes some great software at a MUCH better price point than anything Adobe offers. At only $349 for the entire CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 (which includes programs similar to both Photoshop AND Illustrator, as well as a few others), Corel offers a very attractive alternative to paying around $750 for Photoshop alone. Designer's may take a bit of razzing for admitting to using it, but it offers a professional feature set, and produce the same types of press-ready files as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.


My favorite recommendation for educators, non-profits and starving designers everywhere. Borrowing a bit of description from their website,

"GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages."

Not only is GIMP 100% free (no ads either), if you have a restrictive IT policy you can get a portable version of GIMP that will run directly from a flash drive.

GIMP doesn't have the "spit and polish" of some of the other programs, but it's a worthy alternative at any price.

ONLINE: Aviary

Web-based applications have become increasingly powerful, and Aviary is a perfect example. The Aviary suite of tools is not only diverse (it contains software for raster image editing, vector creation, audio editing, and more! Uploading and saving is sometimes a bit slow, but the applications themselves are powerful and responsive. Best of all, they're completely free! Like GIMP, Aviary doesn't require installation (though GIMP requires the portable version for this) so it's perfect for places with restrictive IT policies.