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Free/Cheap Alternatives to Photoshop


Retired Forum Moderator
To help those who cannot afford the £500+ ($800) for Photoshop or just want something lighter in size, but would like to enjoy the freedom of Graphic design I've concocted a list of free and cheaper alternatives to Photoshop that work pretty much the same ;)

Here are some free and cheap alternatives to the full Photoshop Package:


1) GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

Current Version: 2.8

Price: Free

"One of the most powerful general-purpose image editors around...Extremely powerful and easy to work with, GIMP is ideal for both amateur and pro photographers, Web designers, or anyone who wants to create and edit professional-quality digital images on a budget."
(from CNET)

Compatibility: Windows 7/Vista/XP, MacOSX, Linux.

Personal Experience: When I started to do graphic design as a true Hobby/Commitment. I was told by Mum to start off with GIMP to be sure that I wanted to keep at the endeavours before she made a move to get photoshop for me to use. Overall, it is a decent program! I still use it today if I just need to edit something REALLY quick, as photoshop takes some time to load up especially compared to this. Some photoshop (.8bi) Plugins work on GIMP, you can open .psd (photoshop) files AND Photoshop Brushes (.abr) work as well. It's great if you are starting out, or if you are on a budget. I will say the interface is a bit in the way at times, but, you get used to it ;)

Link To Download

If you use Ubuntu, Go to your software centre and search "GIMP"

2) Photoshop Express

Price: Free, Web based.

"Adobe Photoshop Express is an online version of the popular digital image-editing software. Crop, rotate, tweak, twirl and show off your photos. Sign up for a free account to upload and save up to 2GB of digital images for free. Display your photos to friends and family in various galleries such as grids or with 3D navigation."

Compatibility: Any Operating System with a browser that supports the latest Flash Version.

Personal experience: I only recently discovered this for research purposes and I have to say although it's basic, it gives you a real good taster of what photoshop is like, I haven't used it much, but it loads very quickly, no registration required it's click and go. There are no effects such as the glows and the stroke, that I can see, generally the filters. At the moment, Photoshop Express only supports JPEG files Up to an effective load of 16 MegaPixels, this may be subject to change but I am not sure.

Link to Website

3) Paint.NET

Current Version: 3.5.10

Price: Free

"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."

Only Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP. There is a Linux alternative known as Pinta available directly from the software centre for free

Personal Experience: I used to use this A LOT when I got my old design tablet in 2008, I used it quite a lot for drawing and I THINK don't quote me it had pressure controlled brush size. Again it had filters photoshop still doesn't have built in, such as a sketch filter and a soften filter (which I ADORED) It was originally built as a more Complex version of microsoft's Paint program available for free. however due to a long time of not using it due to moving to Linux an using GIMP and then, Photoshop I do not know how to use it any more :(

There is a Linux Version of this program available through the software centre, but it was not very stable on my Ubuntu, I am not sure if this is the case for later versions.

Link to Download

4) Aviary Phoenix

Price: Free, Web based

From basic image retouching to complex effects, Phoenix delivers the key features of a desktop image editor with the simplicity and accessibility of a web-based application.

Compatability: Any Operating System with a browser that supports the latest Flash Version.

5) Inkscape

Price: Free.

An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format.
Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. We also aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development.

Compatability: Windows, Mac Linux


6) My Paint

Price: Free.

MyPaint is a fast and easy open-source graphics application for digital painters. It lets you focus on the art instead of the program. You work on your canvas with minimum distractions, bringing up the interface only when you need it.

Compatability: Windows, Mac, Linux


7) Picpick free photo editing software (Personal HOME use version)

Price: Free.

Specially designed for the home user and aiming at giving as much flexibility as possible during the work. Besides being a very easy to use image editor, the application also has graphic Screen Capture options and a set of hotkeys and options enabling you to grab an image on your computer screen, save, print. You can create text, arrows, shapes and more with the built-in Image Editor that includes the latest Ribbon style menu. It even includes some featuresnot found in Photoshop.

Compatability: Windows


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Here are free online photo image editors:


1) Pixlr


A relatively advanced and powerful free online and fully fledged pixel based image editor that run in a web browser with with a number of attractive features. Anyone who has ever used Adobe Photoshop will feel very comfortable using Pixlr Editor.




This is yet another powerful on-line version very popular among many users. It has a simplified look and feel of Adobe Photoshop including gif animation capabilities.


Thanks to @sonicute for the link to ToolPic!
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Here are some cheap alternatives to the full Photoshop Package:


Photoshop Elements

Current version: 10

"Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 — the newest version of the #1 consumer photo editing software — helps you turn everyday memories into sensational photos you'll cherish forever. Easily edit photos and make photo creations using automated options, share photos with your social network, and find and view all your photos and video clips. Award winning for 10 years!"

Price: Around £60 ($95)

Compatibility: Windows Vista / 7 / XP, Mac OS X.

2) Corel PhotoImpact X3

Price: $69.99 (not currently available on Amazon.co.uk.)

"Ulead PhotoImpact X3 is sophisticated photo editing software and basic web page design software in one. This product comes with royalty free images, web elements, templates and bonus software. Language is technical and effects are professional—be prepared to refer to the tutorial frequently. With better support, this product could challenge much more highly ranked products."

Compatibility: Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac.

Personal Experience: We were given PhotoImpact 12.0 Free with a Packard Bell Imedia PC from Currys in 2006. I didn't use it much, as I was never interested at the time, but it wasn't that long after I started to feel the need for it as I started to use a camera more, and I used it a little more to edit photos, (admittedly I wasn't very good at it) until windows got it's final boot on my laptop 2 years ago. from what I can remember it was brilliant, it had plenty of effects photoshop still doesn't have (various lighting effects) it was a bit clunky, but I think that was more it's age than anything.

3) Paint Shop Pro X4

Price:around £45/$70

"Enjoy the ultimate freedom to create your best images! Corel PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate gives you all the photo-editing power of PaintShop Pro X4, along with award-winning Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 photographic filters, your choice of 21 high-quality images from Fotolia and free Picture Tubes. With easy-to-use editing tools, a streamlined workspace and exciting pro-level effects, this is the powerful photo editor you need to get the look you want, every time."

Compatability: Windows 7/Vista/XP.

Do not be ashamed about using a free program, graphic design is very much like Photography, it's not the equipment you use that makes the image look good and professional, it's the person using it. Although Photoshop is an Absolutely AMAZING program and, to me, the best graphic design program available, I have seen so many amazing Graphic Artists using free programs like GIMP and Paint.NET.

And if you do end up starting out with GIMP, as a fellow user I will be more than happy to provide advice for you ;) All in all, don't under estimate the power of GIMP, it might surprise you ;)

Thanks to mattattack347 for the links to Aviary Phoenix and Inkscape!
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternatives to Photoshop

Photoshop Express, online version, edit a photo with online... :rolleyes:
Btw thanks for the list bro.. :naughty:
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Re: Free/Cheap Alternatives to Photoshop

Great Zee; thank you very much for supplying this list. And thanks dv8 for putting a sticky on it.

Good reference material.
Re: Free/Cheap Alternatives to Photoshop

And now in Photobucket....A full featured advanced editor with layers and all sorts of goodies. seems like a clone of Elements.....
Re: Free/Cheap Alternatives to Photoshop

Sumopaint aswell. You can chose to use the free web based one or get the premium one and download it for on the go. :)
Tried the above, the hands-down winner for me is Pixbuilder Studio, a totally free program that (except for the most esoteric features) looks, feels and works identical to photoshop. Can't post links yet, sorry, but you can get it through download.com
That is bad! Jump on this guys! Especially you who have pirated versions and are newbies. You don't need all the fancy fandangos when you're starting out. I used PS6 for years and still have it installed on my iMac. You can always upgrade when you need to. Nothing like being legitimate and able to take care of bugs with Adobe, ey?