Photoshop is a piece of software so prolific that it has literally become a verb through which people describe how someone might’ve modified or edited an image.
It’s fascinating how much a simple photo editing program has permeated through the greater human conscious.
So it’s no wonder that everyone has a use for something like it these days. Whether to use professionally or to just touch up or mess around with images.
But not everyone wants to shell out the monthly price that Adobe asks for, regardless of how useful their software might be.
So here’s a list of the best free Photoshop alternatives—and one paid one—you have available.
Why Is It Hard to Find a Good Photoshop Alternative?
I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s quite hard to find a Photoshop alternative.
Everybody recommends different pieces of software for different things but there’s no universal consensus. And there’s a reason for that.
Photoshop is absolutely monolithic. It has had functionality being built into it for over two decades now.
Everything from drawing, illustrating, photo-editing, simple animation, 3d, and so much more are all packed into one package that has been refined for decades.
It’s hard to properly do well one of the many things that Photoshop does, let alone everything that Photoshop does.
So there aren’t that many great options around that can compete with it on all fronts.
Still, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any competition at all.
Photoshop might have a vast variety of tools that you can use and that need some serious performance from your machine, but it’s no use to you if you don’t have a need for them — but still have to pay for them as part of your subscription fee.
That’s where other software shines. Software that hones in on one aspect and refines it to perfection, perhaps even surpassing Photoshop.
Best Free Alternatives to Photoshop
1. Krita – For Drawing
Krita is a free and open-source painting program, originally developed by a team of rag-tag students and later expanded to become a full-scale professional drawing program that rivals, and in my opinion, surpasses Photoshop in its drawing capabilities.
Distributed as a free software since its release in 2005, Krita has been used to create content for all sorts of media from video games, films, newspapers, and magazines, among other fields.
I personally love the compositional tools, brush engine, and the overall ease of use that Krita provides compared to Photoshop. It just feels nice.
Krita is a great program for artists of all levels. It’s user-friendly, well-designed, and packed with features—not to mention that It’s also available for all major operating systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux.
If you want a free and powerful drawing program that you can use without fuss, Krita is the best option out there.
2. Darktable – For Photo Editing
Darktable is a free, open-source photo editing software that is used by photographers and editors and is a wonderful alternative to the likes of Photoshop and Lightroom.
Its non-destructive photo editing functions can help you spruce up your images, but it’s most widely known for its ability to easily develop RAW images.
This makes it an extremely powerful editing and organizing tool, and in my opinion, is far better than Photoshop when it comes to photo editing—as in post-processing.
Granted, Photoshop isn’t Adobe’s intended tool for those tasks, Lightroom is, but still.
If all you’re doing with Photoshop is making post-processing edits on your photos and the like, Darktable can handle all of that.
Unfortunately, that power also makes it a bit of a tricky program to learn, it can especially be difficult to navigate at first due to the very feature-packed UI.
But that being said, if you put in the time and effort, it is definitely worth it and you’ll get a lot of great results.
I use it to catalog and edit most of my personal photography and it hasn’t let me down yet.
3. Gimp – For General Purpose
Gimp is a free and open-source software package for graphics manipulation that is similar to Photoshop in many ways, but it also has a number of unique features that set it apart from the industry standard.
Some of these features are…more useful than others, but all contribute to the Gimp’s unique visual style and overall user experience.
Gimp is frequently advertised as a replacement for Photoshop, though I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. But, when you compare the two, you’ll see that, while they both allow you to perform similar image editing tasks, they generally follow different paradigms when it comes to how you do it.
This is fine if you’re a hobbyist or solo professional, but if you want to use Gimp in a collaborative professional setting, it gets more complicated than is worth—in my opinion, though I hope this changes with Gimp 3.0.
In the end, I think Gimp is an excellent piece of software to consider for your personal needs.
It’s not the best, but it is one of the most complete Photoshop alternatives functionality-wise and has pretty much everything you might need at the unbeatable price of free.
4. Photopea – Online/For General Purpose
Photopea is Photoshop lite. I mean, look at it.
There might be some differences here and there, but if you’re looking for a free alternative to Photoshop that also shares a lot of its UI theme, Photopea has you covered.
Photopea, for me, is in the perfect middle ground of “I want to edit something but I don’t want to open up a whole program for it.”
It’s online, it’s relatively fast, it’s free (with some ads), and it’s got pretty much everything you might need. It’s the perfect convenient software.
It’s a very powerful and capable little program that I would recommend to anyone that wants the same feel as Photoshop without having to pay the same price as Photoshop.
5. Pixlr – Online/For General Purpose
Pixlr lies in the same realm as Photopea, but it’s definitely a lot more user-friendly and easier on the eyes.
But that also comes with it a cost, as it isn’t as capable as Photopea. It’s not useless by any means, but things such as advanced, customizable, masked filters, and whatnot are missing from Pixlr.
At the same time, Pixlr also has some functionality that Photopea doesn’t have, like Pixlr X, they’re even more cut down and simple to use image editor that you can, for example, use to quickly edit up a photo for Instagram.
I mainly use Pixlr for its simple and easy-to-use filters. Sometimes I just don’t want to be bothered by something with more features than I need at the moment.
Pixlr is also free (with ads) like Photopea, but has a subscription premium tier that gives you access to thousands of templates and cool specialty tools and filters such as dispersion and glitch effects.
6. Affinity Photo – Best Alternative/Paid
Affinity Photo is one of the best pieces of software available to compete with Photoshop.
You might think it’s a bit odd to include a paid piece of software in an article about free alternatives, but Affinity is so good that not talking about it is a disservice to weighing all your alternative options.
Affinity is a complete image-editing package with a focus on efficiency and design that trades blows with Photoshop and does it all at a much more affordable price.
Pricing compared between Affinity Photo and Photoshop:
- 55$ one-time price for Affinity Photo
- at least 120$+ per year for Adobe Photoshop
Affinity Photo can be used as a complement to Affinity Designer and is especially suited for visual edits such as relighting scenes, dramatic post-processing to really make an image pop, and very simple to use but amazing looking filters and effects that can bring your image to the next level.
It is powerful enough to be usable by professionals yet also easy enough to be grasped by amateurs—even with its differences compared to Photoshop.
Not to mention that it’s practically available everywhere from Windows to macOS to Linux and even iPads, so you can use it on the go, at home, on a plane, or anywhere else you can imagine.
It is also very extensible and has a number of free and premium add-ons available to those who want to add even more functionality.
Overall, Affinity is a great all-in-one solution for working with images in a professional way at a very affordable one-time price of 55$.
Are There No Good Alternatives to Photoshop?
There’s sadly no one alternative app that will replace Photoshop completely. But there are many apps that do what Photoshop does, sometimes even better.
If you only need certain parts of Photoshop, you could very well find a good alternative for your specific use case.
Can You Get Photoshop for Free?
No. Adobe provides a free trial that you can use to test out Photoshop. Other than that, you can’t get it for free.
Is Gimp a Good Alternative for Photoshop?
Gimp has come a long way in establishing itself as a viable contender to Photoshop.
It can do practically everything that Photoshop can do—sometimes as or even more efficiently than Photoshop.
And if it doesn’t have some functionality that Photoshop has, the plugins available for it will certainly provide it.
If you’re a professional that needs all the tools and QoL features that Photoshop provides, then perhaps Gimp might not be for you, but if you’re a hobbyist to intermediate creative looking for a good free alternative. Gimp is pretty damn good.
Over to You
Hopefully, that gave you an informed look at what some potential free or cheap alternatives to Photoshop might be.
Unless you want to use Photoshop for some specific reason—learning it to get a job, to be compatible with the rest of the industry, etc—you can get away with using free tools to do pretty much anything you might want to do.
Perhaps not as easily or efficiently, but hey, you can’t beat free.