When it comes to photo editing and graphics design software, Photoshop is still widely regarded as the benchmark, most ‘complete’ solution but it’s certainly not perfect by anyone’s standard.
For instance, Photoshop as a standalone software, or as a part of Adobe Creative Suite, is (very) expensive. Also, it might be overkill for those looking for just a quick image editing for their social media posts, and other day-to-day graphic design needs.
With that being said, here are five best Photoshop alternatives that are available today.
In recent years there has been a wave of various cloud-based software replacing—or at least competing with— their ‘traditional’ counterparts. The easiest example, Google Docs ‘against’ Microsoft Word.
With that being said, Canva is one of the cloud-based solutions aiming to compete with Photoshop with three unique selling points:
First, it is free to use with optional premium plans. The free version is sufficient for the most basic photo and graphic editing needs, and the Pro plan is very affordable, starting from $9.95/month.
Second, as a cloud-based solution, we wouldn’t need to download and install anything with Canva, and we can even use Canva right away on iOS and Android phones—with very minor differences between the web and mobile apps—.
Third, Canva is very easy to use, among the easiest of all the similar cloud-based Photoshop alternatives available. The interface is very intuitive, and almost everything can be done with a drag and drop approach. Yet, even with its ease of use, it doesn’t sacrifice too much in versatility and depth.
Pros of Canva:
- Very easy to use with its intuitive interface
- Cloud-based app with no installation (for web app)
- The mobile app (iOS/Android) is small in size and won’t need a lot of processing power
- Free and paid stock photos, illustrations, and elements that are ready to use right away. The paid stock elements are fairly affordable
- Great free version of the software, and fairly affordable pro and enterprise plans
Cons of Canva:
- Template-based, so your design might not be 100% unique
- Reliance on an internet connection so the templates and layout can load quickly
- The mobile app is still a little clunky
Conclusion: Canva is indeed not as ‘advanced’ as Photoshop and many other Photoshop alternatives. For instance, it can’t process 3D designs. However, Canva’s key highlight is its ease of use and is among the best Photoshop alternatives for beginners and those who want simplicity.
Platform: Mac, Windows (web app), iOS, Android (mobile app)
- 1GB storage (for photos and other assets)
- 8,000+ templates
- Upload your own images
- Stock photo library (free and paid), paid photos start from $1
- Two included “folders”
- Canva Pro ($12.95/month or $9.95/month when paid annually per team member)
- 100GB storage (for photos and other assets)
- Exclusive access to 4 million+ free stock photos, illustrations, and icons
- Team functionalities
- One-click to resize designs into custom dimensions
- Brand Kit—upload custom fonts and set color palettes for your brand—
- Search functionality to easily find your designs
- Save templates functionality
- Download designs into custom dimensions
- Export animated gifs
- Priority customer support
- Canva for Enterprise ($30/month per team member)
- All features of the Pro plan
- More controls to the Brand Kit function, multiple Brand KIts, can control colors, fonts, assets, and logos
- Review and approval function for team collaboration
- Lock elements on Brand Kit
- Team space with customizable header
- 99.5% uptime SLA
- Enterprise customer support, single Sign-On support
2. CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2019
Corel is probably one of the oldest ‘rivals’ to Photoshop (and Illustrator), and has recently launched its latest product: the CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2019.
It is worth noting that as the name suggests, it is a full-fledged Graphics Suite rather than a standalone software, including within it:
- PhotoPAINT (a raster graphics editor, similar to Photoshop)
- CorelDRAW (versatile vector-drawing tool, similar to Adobe Illustrator)
- AfterSHOT (raw image processing software, similar to Adobe Lightroom)
- PowerTRACE (a tool to convert a bitmap into vector image)
- FontManager (self-explanatory, manages your font)
Since we are mainly discussing Photoshop alternatives, our focus of discussion will be the PhotoPAINT as the direct competitor of Photoshop. PhotoPaint offers several unique features not offered by Photoshop, such as:
- Artistic brush, can be used to repaint an object with various imaginative effects
- Layer effects— can manipulate and add various graphic elements—, like adding shadows to design objects
- Can export to PDF (for website usage or print usage)
- Support Photoshop (and other software’s) files
- Pixel Perfect control, keeping your design as sharp as possible when converting from vector back to bitmap
CorelDRAW is also a highly versatile vector drawing tool capable of handling multiple documents and can be an additional tool to assist your graphics design needs. Also, worth noting that after 20+ years of Windows-exclusivity, the 2019 iteration of Corel GraphicsSuite is now available again on Mac.
Pros of CorelDraw Graphics Suite:
- Several very powerful solutions including in the package
- Great set of features, comparable to Photoshop and Adobe Creative Cloud as a whole
- The $198/year fee is more affordable than Adobe Creative Cloud yearly subscription fee
Cons of CorelDraw Graphics Suite:
- The Mac version is a little laggy, but is getting better
- More expensive than the other options in this list
Conclusion: a full-featured graphics suite that is on par with Photoshop and Adobe Creative Cloud Suite in almost every way—in some areas, even better than Photoshop—. The annual subscription is more affordable dan Adobe Creative Suite, so it’s a worthy contender if you are looking for the complete package.
Pricing: $602 one-time purchase, $198/year annual subscription
3. Luminar 4
Luminar is a very unique Photoshop alternative due to is AI-based technology. In fact, we can almost say that Luminar 4 is a totally different type of software deserving of its own niche.
With Luminar 4, the AI does most of the editing work automatically. As you begin to use the tool, you can customize all the different aspects to personalize the Luminar 4 according to your personal needs.
With the AI capability, there are various features not offered by other tools including Photoshop. For instance, the ‘sky replacement’ tool is a really unique and interesting feature of Luminar 4. You can indeed do this in Photoshop and other ‘traditional’ photo editing tools by manually masking and replacing the sky, and adjusting the lighting manually—often a very long and painful process—. Yet, with Luminar 4, this is just a single click, and you can even upload your own sky images and use them instantly.
This is certainly not the only AI-enhanced feature, as there are also various features like skin enhancer, advanced masking, and so on.
Also, the most expensive package (Max Edition) includes the popular Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 (worth $99), an easy to use tone mapping software that can add value to this overall package.
- Powerful AI-enhanced features
- Quick and easy to use shortcuts
- Sky replacement tool
- Portrait-enhancer tool with a single click
- Advanced layering and masking capabilities
- Very versatile tool, useful for both portrait and landscape photos
- Not a graphic editing tool, so can’t replace Photoshop fully
- Not offering too many stock photos
- A little slow and laggy at times
Conclusion: not a traditional Photoshop alternative, but we can probably consider Luminar 4 as one of the solutions representing the possible future of AI-driven software. Relatively affordable, and a great option if you just want a tool to quickly enhance your photos without too much work.
- Inspiration edition: $89 one-time
- Luminar 4 licenses for 2 computers
- “Inspiration Looks” photo styles library
- Plus edition: $99 one-time
- Everything from the Inspiration edition
- California Sunsets collection of sunset skies photos (worth $25)
- Max edition: $169 one-time
- Everything from the Plus edition
- Aurora HDR advanced HDR photo editor (worth $99)
Pixlr is quite similar to Canva—which we have discussed above— in various ways, but mainly because both of them are cloud-based SaaS graphics and photo editing solutions as Photoshop alternatives.
There are, however, several important differences to note between Pixlr and Canva. First, Pixlr Pro is more affordable than Canva at ‘only’ $5/month—which might be a huge selling point for some—. Second, the Pixlr is more focused on photo editing function, while Canva slightly emphasizes more on graphics editing.
In the past, (up until late 2018), Canva offered three different solutions in their free package: Pixlr Editor, Pixlr Express , and Pixlr O’Matic along with the paid Pixlr Pro, which was one of its main downside back in the day (for us) since these three products offering tend to confuse new users. However, Pixlr now essentially combines Pixlr Editor and Express into one software called the Pixlr X (Pixlr Editor and Express are still offered but will be discontinued) while Pixlr O’Matic still exists as a Google Chrome Extension.
The Pixlr X, however, is more geared towards simplicity and ease of use, so it’s now a lot closer to Canva in functionalities and interface. Also, the Pixlr Pro is updated to resemble the X’s interface and overall experience.
- The Pixlr X offers a very deep set of editing tools available in just one place
- Great layering functions, even on the free plan
- Very stable and reliable
- Relatively easy to work around with intuitive interface
- The Pro plan is very affordable and will unlock advanced editing features
- Displayed ads (on the free version) might occupy the screen
- The interface is sometimes a bit confusing to work in
Conclusion: a decent Photoshop alternative if you want something similar to Canva but with more versatility in photo editing tools. Pro version is very affordable at just $5/month.
- Complete access to Pixlr Editor, Pixlr Express, and Pixlr X
- Pro: $5/month
- Access to 1 million+ stock photos
- 10,000+ templates+200 premium fonts
PicMonkey is another cloud-based SaaS design tool, much like Canva and Pixlr. So, they share many similarities between each other.
The key difference between PicMonkey and the other two, however, is the fact that PicMonkey doesn’t offer any free version. The starter, ‘Basic’ plan, however, costs just $7.99/month, or $72.00 if you pay annually.
In exchange for this premium, however, we get access to some advanced features not available with Canva, for example, the ability to apply multiple effects—and filters—, masking and blend modes, drop-shadow text, and many more. Layer functions, however, is also available with Pixlr, but not masking and blend functionalities.
The Canva’s interface, however, is in general, more intuitive and easier to use. It’s not saying PicMonkey’s interface is clunky, however, as it is still fairly intuitive considering its advanced set of features.
- Advanced photo editing features like masking, layer functions, and blending
- Access to premium templates and fonts with its basic plan
- Apply multiple effects and filters, can apply effects from one image to another
- Collaboration functions
- Easy text editing (curve your text, drop shadow, etc.)
- No free plan offered (7-day free trial available), but the monthly Basic plan is fairly affordable at $7.99/month
- Image size limitations
Conclusion: no free plan, but is a fairly affordable tool starting from $72/year with an advanced set of photo editing features. Still a cost-effective Photoshop alternative if you are looking for a cloud-based solution with full-fledged photo editing features.
- No free plan (7-day free trial available)
- $72/year ($7.99/month)
- 1 GB hub storage
- Export image as JPG and PNG
- Can’t upload custom fonts
- $120year ($12.99/month)
- Unlimited hub storage
- Export image as JPG, PNG, PDF
- Upload custom fonts
End Words: Our Verdict
Choosing a one-size-fits-all software to answer the question, “what’s the best Photoshop alternative?” is very difficult, since there are plenty of solutions that can fill the criteria with various set of features, various price ranges,and even various pricing models.
However, for the sake of this guide, here are our picks:
Best for (Almost) Everyone: Canva
Easy to use, the free version is sufficient for most basic photo editing and graphics design needs, and you can easily purchase very affordable premium templates and design elements when needed—or upgrade to the premium plans—. A great overall choice for its simplicity and sleek interface.
Best for Power Users: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 2019
Essentially Adobe CreativeCloud at a significantly more affordable price. A complete package with various advanced features. Can open Adobe file formats (while Adobe software can’t open Corel formats). A Great, cost-effective choice for those looking for an all-in-one design suite with advanced functionalities.