Most designers on a tight budget can get an uncontrolled rapid heartbeat by considering what an investment in a Photoshop license will do to their economy.
While it is difficult to argue against Photoshop being the top pick for nearly any photo manipulation, non vector design job etc. there are actually some pretty OK alternatives you can use without spending a single dollar. Question is of course which alternative to use and to help you out I have collected a set of Open Source Photoshop Alternatives you need to be aware of.
One of the serious disadvantages you face when not using Photoshop is that you can’t learn and self study using the huge number of excellent free tutorials you can find for Photoshop online. Depending on what alternative you pick there may be some tutorials available, but it will never really match Photoshop. Another thing to be aware of is file formats. Adobe PSD, the Photoshop file type is almost an industry standard for exchanging layered designs e.g. in the web design niche. In GIMP, one of the tools covered below it is possible to save layered files to PSD in stead of the GIMP native format XCF which is useful. Make sure you consider stuff like this when you evaluate your free Open Source Photoshop Alternatives.
While Photoshop alternatives may be usefil you have to accept that you will miss the many Photoshop web design tutorials, cool Photoshop effects, Photoshop text effects. Basically the internet is flooded with tips and tricks for creating Photoshop effects and I guess you can use them for inspiration even though they cannot be used directly with an Photoshop alternative
If you like Photoshop assets, make sure to also check out the hundreds of fully-licensed premium Photoshop Assets found over at Envato Market.
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Open Source Photoshop Alternative Solutions
Gimp is probably the most feature rich and well known open source Photoshop alternative that will not make you feel broke. Photoshop may be a bit ahead in terms of bleeding edge features, but most of what Photoshop is capable of can be done somehow in Gimp. GIMP is cross platform and supported by a large community. However the GIMP team doesn’t officially provide any Windows binaries. You can, however, install GIMP easily using the Windows installers by Jernej Simon?i?.
GIMPshop is a modification of the free/open source GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), intended to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop. Its primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP. It shares all GIMP’s advantages, including the long feature list and customisability, while addressing some common criticisms regarding the program’s interface: GIMPshop modifies the menu structure to closely match Photoshop’s, adjusts the program’s terminology to match Adobe’s. GIMPshop does not support Photoshop plugins, all GIMP’s own plugins, filters, brushes, etc. However it is a great open source Photoshop alternative.
This is a web-based photo editor with a layout that looks a bit like Photoshop CS. It has good an amazing interface and arsenal of features considering that it is a free web application e.g. layers, filters, magic wand, styling, texting, editing and a lot of effects. It does not require signup or anything and you can start editing a file in seconds.
Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. An active and growing online community provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins.
ChocoFlop is a pure Mac application and it has been optimized to run efficient on Mac. It allows you to edit your photos or design stuff using Apple’s CoreImage technology. It takes advantage of the power of your graphics card (GPU).
ChocoFlop is in Beta version but still very feature rich and well structured. It is not going to be free for ever so if you want to give it a try the right time is now.
Splashup is designed to give you a feeling of working in Photoshop. It is integrated with Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, and more and even support layers. Being a free tool this application offers many features, filters and is really worth trying out. I don’t consider it as strong as Pixlr listed above.
Krita is a creative sketching and painting application based on KOffice technology for Linux. Whether you want to create art paintings, cartoons, concept art or textures, Krita supports most graphics tablets out of the box. Krita comes with some unique and useful features but it is not as powerful as GIMP.
Pixia was originally a Japanese editor, but English versions are available for Windows now. It is a pretty OK and feature rich editor and it may be worth trying it out.
Photoshop Express Editor has been built on the pattern of Photoshop itself but comes with a lot less capabilities and minus all the technicalities. It is good for the amateur photographers who don’t want to get indulged into the tricky tools of the Photoshop. Having these superb features the loopholes are there. The printing options are lacking. Also, it doesn’t support photos from higher mega pixel camera.
PhotoPlus (starter edition) is a photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance digital photos, create stunning bitmap graphics and even web animations. Far from being as powerful as Photoshop but if you only have basic needs this is perfect.
Aviary offers a suite of tools for editing images, vectors etc. Phoenix is the Aviary image/photo editor and it offers layers and compositing. It is integrated with Flickr, Facebook and Picasa allowing you to import images from these popular services. This is another very interesting free tool to check out before investing in commercial packages like Photoshop.
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Lars started tripwire magazine back in January 2009. He is really passionate about web design, web development and loves to look into new technologies, techniques, tools etc. and to write articles for his readers.