Are you looking for the best alternatives to Photoshop? Think the software is expensive and hard to use? Well, you’re not alone. Launched as early as 1990, Adobe Photoshop is one of the oldest and most popular photo editing tools in the market. It’s currently part of Creative Cloud, a recurring cloud-based subscription from Adobe for creative professionals.
Since its inception, Creative Cloud’s pricing model has been controversial. Photoshop alone costs $31.49 a month or $239.88 a year, with no one-time purchase option available.
The idea of having to pay for a monthly subscription doesn’t sit right with many early-career professionals and small businesses, who have been switching to competitors offering more generous pricing plans. Adobe seems to be aware of this issue, as it has started rolling out a "freemium" web browser-based version of the software that allows users to experience Photoshop's "core functions."
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best high-quality photo editing alternatives to Photoshop. Read on to see our top picks after we've tested them on features, pricing, and ease of use.
Adobe Photoshop CC – industry-standard image editing
The alternatives on this page are all great, but Photoshop has been the world's leading image editing tool for over 20 years for good reason. And the latest version is the best yet. It's available via a seven-day free trial via Adobe Creative Cloud before you sign up for the paid version, so you can try before you buy.
The best alternatives to Photoshop of 2023 in full
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Affinity Photo is the best image manipulation tool to rival Photoshop. It comes from Serif, a software company that used to focus primarily on desktop publishing tools. With the Affinity product line, however, Serif has completely outdone itself with multi-platform support, in-depth features, and affordable pricing.
Feature-wise, Affinity Photo comes with best-in-class tools for layering, masking, and retouching images. It boasts real-time rendering capabilities where effects are applied immediately at the press of a button. However, as an advanced raster image editing tool, Affinity Photo is not particularly beginner-friendly. The interface is very similar to Photoshop’s, so there are no instant presets that you can apply in a jiffy and no cataloging tools to make file sorting easier.
At just $24.99 for Windows or Mac and $9.99 for iPad, Affinity Photo is quite easily the most affordable Photoshop alternative. The best part of it is that you can install the software on as many devices as you want, so you will only be paying more than once if you are using it across different platforms.
Read our Affinity Photo 1.5 review for more information.
Capture One Pro is an excellent photo editing tool that’s better described as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom rather than Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop, Capture One is a piece of non-destructive image manipulation software that comes with cataloging tools and built-in presets. However, those wanting more in-depth manipulation can make manual adjustments through layers and masks.
Capture One Pro features seamless RAW processing, meaning that you can add RAW files straight from your camera without having to process it into a PNG or JPEG. Although its RAW support for different camera brands isn’t as extensive as Adobe’s, the images produced are sharper and less noisy than in Photoshop. Other features include a modular interface that can be customized to your liking and a keywording tool to help you tag images.
Capture One Pro costs $19 a month for a subscription. This includes support for most camera brands. If you’d rather pay a one-time fee, Capture One also has a $299 plan. It is available for both Windows and macOS operating systems.
Photoshop may be the most advanced image manipulation tool in the market, but the fact remains that most people end up using less than half of the features it offers. Corel Paintshop Pro is a budget-friendly alternative that focuses on the essentials of image editing and offers an assortment of textures, backgrounds, and brushes for you to work with.
Feature-wise, Corel Paintshop Pro doesn’t break new ground. However, it does an excellent job of delivering the essentials in a user-friendly format for beginners. Since 2020, Corel Paintshop Pro now comes with a dedicated photography workspace. This new workspace is completely touchscreen-ready and comes with effects that can be applied with just one click.
Corel Paintshop Pro costs a one-time fee of $79.99 and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. With it, you gain access to a variety of AI-enabled presets, 360-degree photo editing, and the new SmartClone tool, which uses content-aware cloning to seamlessly merge different elements together. You can also buy Corel Paintshop Pro Ultimate for $99.99, which throws in additional tools like AfterShot, Corel Painter Essentials, and PhotoMirage Express.
You can read our Corel Paintshop Pro 2020 review for more information.
While CyberLink started out as a Lightroom alternative, it has since grown to become an all-inclusive replacement for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. The all-in-one image manipulation software features a smooth unified interface and plenty of advanced tools to set you up on your path to photo editing. It comes with a growing collection of animations, stock images, masks, filters, and more.
A very useful feature worth considering for beginners is guided edits. Those new to the software can take advantage of an array of interactive built-in tutorials to get better acquainted with the system. If purchased as a subscription, PhotoDirector also includes access to Shutterstock’s library of stock images and other creative assets. However, users who purchase with a one-time fee will not be able to take advantage of the stock library.
CyberLink PhotoDirector costs $99.99 one-time to buy. If you want more features and active support, you can also buy the subscription-based PhotoDirector 365 for the price of $54.99 a year, which also includes additional assets. If you’d like to try before you buy, a one-month free trial is available in exchange for your email address.
For more on this platform, you can read our CyberLink PhotoDirector 12 Ultra review.
Luminar AI is an application designed for those who require more in-depth customization than what’s offered by basic image editing tools, but who don’t have the technical expertise to make it happen. As the world’s first and only photo editor powered entirely by artificial intelligence (AI), it bridges the gap between basic image editing apps like Photoshop Elements and advanced image manipulation software like Photoshop.
If you’re looking for features that offer maximum flexibility and manual customization, you’re out of luck. However, Luminar AI does offer an extensive collection of automatic effects that can turn any ordinary image into a cover photo. You can do things like replace the sky, change the weather, fix skin blemishes, adjust color balance, and more—all with the power of AI. You can even apply an automated overall fix to make your image look more professional.
The AI effects blend in seamlessly, but Luminar AI does have its downsides: it suffers from a complete lack of cataloging options, and the rendering performance could be better.
The software comes in three packages: Master, Expert, and Guru. You can go for a one or two-computer license. Prices range between $79 and $202 for one device and $99 to $222 for two devices. All packages come with a lifetime license, 30-day money-back guarantee, and 24/7 technical support.
|Alternative to Photoshop||Platform||Developer||Price|
|Affinity Photo||Windows, macOS, iOS (iPad only)||Serif||$24.99 (Windows/Mac) / $9.99 (iPad)|
|Capture One Pro||Windows, macOS||Capture One||$19 a month or $299 one-time|
|Corel Paintshop Pro||Windows 10, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 7||Corel||$79.99 / $99.99 one-time|
|CyberLink PhotoDirector||Windows 7+, macOS Mojave+||CyberLink||$99.99 one-time or $54.99 a year|
|Luminar AI||Windows, macOS||Skylum||$79.99+|
How to choose the best alternative to Photoshop for you
Photoshop is an image manipulation tool that allows you to edit and enhance raster images using a series of manual and automatic techniques. If you are looking for an all-encompassing Photoshop alternative with the exact same features and a better price range, Affinity Photo is probably the best choice for you.
Otherwise, the best alternative will depend largely on your specific requirements. For example, Capture One is an excellent choice for those looking for a Lightroom-esque photo editor, whereas those requiring touch support and the ability to switch between raster and vector formats may choose Corel Paintshop Pro. CyberLink PhotoDirector is a good choice for beginners thanks to its guided edits feature, while Luminar AI is for those who want a completely automated workflow.
How we review the best alternatives to Photoshop
At Tom's Guide, we frequently evaluate software products as part of our mission to help guide people in choosing the best tools for their needs. Regarding photo-editing tools, we understand that Adobe Photoshop is the established industry standard, but it requires a steep learning curve and is expensive, and some people may look for an alternative.
The first step in the evaluation process is installing each software and checking for compatibility with the different operating systems and devices. We examine the software's features and interface, testing how user-friendly it is and how easy it is to navigate.
One of the critical aspects we examine is how the software performs as a Photoshop alternative. As such, we test how similar it is to Photoshop in functionality and features. We also note its ability to open and adjust various file types, such as PSD files, to make workflow easier for Photoshop users transitioning from the original tool to its alternative.
We also check how well the alternative software performs different tasks, such as cropping, layer adjustment, and image resizing, among others. These are the features that people care about, and we capture what is vital in photo editing software.
Another important aspect we evaluate is the pricing of the software. We compare the prices of different alternatives and note the features available at the particular price point to determine which ones represent a good value for money spent.
When it comes to support, we test the customer service of each software, including the availability of tutorials and technical support, to ensure that users can get the necessary help they require.
Overall, we test software products to ensure that we recommend only high-quality alternatives to Photoshop. We gauge their features and interface, abilities to perform the critical tasks and compatibility, among other things, to create an informed opinion on which software offers the best solutions.
See our testing methodology page for more information.
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