Not Up For Creative Cloud? 10 Professional Alternatives to Photoshop CC

Photoshop CC is no longer for sale. You can only rent it and pay a monthly fee to be allowed to use it. This does not appeal to everybody and I personally know more former Photoshop users who reject that licensing model than those who embrace it. As I was a regular updater anyway, the new mode of operation saves me money. But I can understand all those who only updated every three or four versions and would now have to shell out a lot more money than before. All of these will be eager to find a valid alternative to Photoshop CC. We took a look at ten of the best competitors…

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Created by: Adobe Systems Software
Price: 77,00 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: Yes / Yes

The first choice if you want to stay at Adobe’s, but want to avoid the cloud model, is Photoshop Elements – the stripped down version of the bigger brother. A large chunk of Photoshop’s capabilities is available in Elements, too. The biggest turndown for experienced Photoshoppers is the totally different UI, targeted at people with low pixel editing skills.

Elements features a lot of automatisms, such as auto fixes, which enhance a photo or add an effect with one single click. Using Elements is very, very simple. The functionality is solidly based on Photoshop. Pixel editing for the web needs no bigger solution – as a rule, at least…



Created by: Pixelmator Team
Price: 14,99 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: No / Yes

Pixelmator is one of the most beautiful Photoshop alternatives. The UI is pretty, designed with a love for the tiniest details and the feature set is impressive. The biggest disadvantage of Pixelmator is its limitation to the Mac OS platform. Yet, if you’re on there anyway, Pixelmator will impress you with all the important Photoshop features such as layers, filters, masks, styles, brushes, effects and more.

Pixelmator doesn’t make you think and supports various formats. Besides JPG, GIF and TIF, even native PSDs can be opened.



Created by:
Price: Freeware (GNU Project)
Windows / Mac OS / Linux: Yes / Yes / Yes

If you ask the world for a Photoshop alternative, almost without thinking people will cry “GIMP”. It’s true that Gimp is coming closer and closer to Photoshop feature-wise. We have all the selection tools, can easily adjust color and contrast settings and even have a handful of retouching helpers. Channels and layers are there, too. Supported formats include Tiff, JPG, Gif, PNG, PSD and BMP.

The most recent version resembles Photoshop even more. The extension GIMPshop has become redundant. What Gimp still doesn’t natively support is the CMYK. If you are working on print projects, you’ll either install an extension for handling that or stay inside Adobe’s walled garden.


PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate

Created by: Corel
Price: 89,99 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: Yes / No

Just like Photoshop Elements PaintShop Pro X6 aims at private or (at max) semi-professional users. We get automatic correction modes with a strong focus on beauty retouches. A feature named FaceFilter automagically beautifies your portraits. Several automatic selection features and a specialized brush speed up your workflow.

There is even HDR, scripts, third-party plugins and instant effects. To get you up to speed quickly, there are loads of video tutorials. The so-called Retro-Lab allows you to create the nowadays vasty popular effects in the likes of Instagram, Hipstamatic and who else.



Created by: Apple
Price: 69,99 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: No / Yes

No wonder that this software is only available on Mac – it’s made by Apple. First and foremost, Aperture is a tool for the administration of large photo collections. There is face recognition to sort your collection by person, there is GPS tagging to sort your collection by location and more.

After having sorted, rated, tagged, marked and what not, look at the optimization tools. There are effects for that specal look and 15 quick-brushes to losslessly enhance your material pixel by pixel.


DxO Optics Pro

Created by: DxO Labs
Price: 149,00 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: Yes / Yes

If the optimization of photos is what you aim for, DxO Optics Pro might be an interesting alternative. The workflow is tunneled. First you optimize lighting and contrasts, then you care for image sharpness. Picture sharpness is processed from the center of the image to the edges to avoid artifacts in areas outside of the focus.

Afterwards a powerful color management, noise reduction and a special feature by the name of anti-dust cares for your photos. Anti-dust tries to erase dust from your lens or sensor mathematically. Geometric corrections and a RAW converter round off the feature set.

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PhotoPlus X6

Created by: Serif
Price: 89,99 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: Yes / No

PhotoPlus X6 offers you a so-called smart selection to let you select picture elements quickly. This makes it easier to apply one of the available creative effects, such as the selective color correction or the filter oil painting more accurately. A scratch remover promises to work automatically. All the features work non-destructive. Even if you cropped or cut pictures, you can easily revert to before. PhotoPlus X6 also cares for the administrative part and helps you organize and present your pictures with the help of the integrated Organizer.

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ACDSee Pro

Created by: ACD Systems International Inc.
Price: 57,99 EUR (Windows), 37,99 EUR (Mac OS)
Windows / Mac OS: Yes / Yes

Once started as a photo organizer and administration tool, ACDsee grew over the years to become more and more capable. Today the software goes way beyond sorting, viewing and tagging. Take the non-destructive editing brush for example, with which you edit lighting, saturation or sharpness precisely accurate.

This brush is great at correcting perspectives, sharpening, doing away with red eyes and noise reduction, too. Dodge and Burn is realized as a separate dialogue, a batch processor saves time and water marks can be integrated with a single click.


Pixlr Online Photo Editor

Created by: Pixlr
Price: Kostenlose Online-Software
Windows / Mac OS / Linux: Yes / Yes / Yes

Pixlr is or little misfit in this compilation as it is an online photo editor running completely in the browser. There are three iterations of it, with Pixlr Editor being the most capable to rival Photoshop. Pixlr works with a step by step workflow. Correct colors, contrast, add effects and use pixlr-o-matic for one-click editing in the likes of Snapseed, Instagram or any of the other popular photo apps. Pixlr Editor works with layers and saves them to a proprietary format, so you can keep them to add changes later.

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Acorn 4

Created by: Flying Meat Inc.
Price: 49,99 EUR
Windows / Mac OS: No / Yes

Acorn 4 delivers typical Photoshop features, such as layers, non destructive filters, gradation curves, tonal corrections, vector shapes and a load of selection tools. Mask mode makes selections a snap. The way brushes are set resembles Adobe’s flagship closely. You can define batches and scripts to automate your workflow. The fact that you can open PSD directly might help you overcome your inhibitions.



Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

This article is originally published on Jan 31, 2014, and updated on May 11, 2023.

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