Photos is too weak, and Photoshop is too expensive. Surely there’s a middle-ground Photoshop alternative for macOS! Indeed, there are many Photoshop replacements. Let’s take a look at the best ones.
A quick note before we jump in. For hobbyist photographers and casual image editors, you can find Photoshop replacements from now until the end of time. But if you do true high-end photo editing, you won’t find a Photoshop alternative that gives you what you need. There’s a reason that Photoshop dominates the industry in both cost and use: it’s really good at its job. Professional photographers and retouchers are stuck with Adobe, at least for now.
GIMP – the best free Photoshop alternative
GIMP is the long-hallowed free Photoshop alternative. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, that’s surprising. It’s been available for years, with a steadily expanding feature set and a forward-looking development roadmap. It largely imitates Photoshop’s end goal, working as a take-all-comers photo editing platform that includes tools for deal with other digital art as well.
But it’s not a perfect Photoshop replacement. Things are in different places, with different names, shortcuts and limits. Some tools are a little harder to use, and some critical features, like adjustment layers, simply don’t exist. The learning curve is also know to be a little steep. This has lead some users to shy away from its apparent complexity, and it’s kept GIMP from being a Photoshop killer. But if you’re looking for a Photoshop alternative, your first stop on your journey should absolutely be GIMP. It might be your last as well!
Affinity Photo – a fully-featured photo editor
If you’re willing to drop $50, Affinity Photo is the best Photoshop alternative for photographers right now. It comes with crucial tools that competitors lack, like adjustment layers, precise selection tools, a dedicated RAW engine and professional-grade brush tools. Better still, that’s all wrapped up in a beautiful, customizable user interface. It’s not exactly Photoshop, but it comes closer than any of the other apps you’ll find on this list, or elsewhere for that matter. There’s a ton of customizable keyboard shortcuts for rapid workflows, and it uses macOS system calls like Core Graphics and the native Full Screen engine for an awesome user experience. You’ll even find iCloud support, alongside six extensions for Apple’s anemic Photos app.
Pixelmator – photo editing for enthusiast photographers
Pixelmator is one of the more powerful image editors built exclusively for the Mac. Its tool set is biased towards hobbyist and enthusiast photographers, and professionals won’t find some of the tools they need in the palette. But you will find a huge range of convenient tools, including decent selection tools, text options, shape punches and more. If you primarily use Photoshop to edit images you take as a hobby, Pixelmator is perfect for you – it might even be better than Photoshop. If not, keep a look out for Pixelmator Pro, coming in Fall 2017. It promises to add a range of features targeted and professional photographers look for a cheaper alternative to Photoshop.
Sketch – vectors for digital designers
Sketch is aimed squarely at illustrators and digital designers, with an awesome collection of tools designed specifically for their work. If you design logos, user interfaces, websites or apps, you’ll find a ton to love in Sketch. It’s not the Swiss Army knife that Photoshop is, but it makes an excellent Photoshop replacement for vector artists and designers. At $99, it’s priced more steeply than our other options, specifically targeting professional designers that are sick of Illustrator’s limp web-specific toolset. If that’s you, then welcome to Sketch!
Krita – a free digital painting application
Krita is the perfect Photoshop replacement for digital painters. The open-source drawing program was original build for Linux, and has been ported to macOS’ Unix-based architecture. While it does lack some of the more powerful image editing features of Photoshop or the other programs on this list, it makes up for that with an exceptional palette of painting and drawing tools. You’ll find an intuitive user interface, broad support for drawing tablets and fine-tuned, professional-grade controls.
Inkscape – a free vector editor for illustrators
Like Sketch, Inkscape is a vector editing tool that’s more of an Illustrator alternative than a Photoshop alternative. It’s more rudimentary than Sketch, but it’s also free, open-source and cross-platform, with excellent Windows and Linux distributions available. It does require XQuartz to run, so it’s not the easiest thing to get started with, but it makes a great object manipulation companion for vector editing.
If you’re a serious photographer looking to save some money on Adobe bills, check out Affinity Photo. It’s the most capable Photoshop replacement on our list, and you’ll find a huge percentage of the tools you use reliably replicated. If you like some power when editing your images but don’t need the artillery, check out Pixelmator. Free users should look towards GIMP, and illustrators can find support with Sketch or Krita.
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