If you want the best photo editing software in terms of features and support, Adobe Photoshop leads the pack. However, at around $70 per month for a full subscription and a steep learning curve, it is out of reach for some marketers.
Luckily, if you’re after an affordable and user-friendly photo editing tool, there are plenty of others available. Here are some of the best, budget-friendly alternatives.
This cost-effective tool is one of the most sophisticated, considering it’s a fraction of the cost of Photoshop. It’s packed with features sufficient for any professional or amateur photo editor. The library of tools and brushes can be extended with plugins and there are many online tutorials to help beginners. Unfortunately for Mac users, it’s currently only available for Windows.
Price: Around $70 USD for the full version.
For Mac users only, Pixelmator comes close to Photoshop in terms of functionality, but it doesn’t have the photo organization features. You can touch up photos, sketch, add text and shapes, apply powerful effects and more. There’s support for iPads, so you can start a project on your Mac and then pick up where you left off on your tablet. The advanced software ensures fast image processing and its user-friendly interface makes it a good choice for novices.
Price: $29.99 USD.
Launched in July 2015, Affinity Photo is relatively easy to learn and if you’re used to Photoshop, its interface is reassuringly similar. The many features include advanced retouching tools, panoramic photo stitching and high-end filters. Live editing also means you don’t have to apply changes every time. Its support for RAW files from digital cameras is also something you won’t find on many other Photoshop alternatives. Currently available for Mac, although a Windows version is in development.
Price: $49.99 USD.
If you’re not familiar with photo editing software, Acorn 5 may be a good place to start. It’s quick and easy to use, but also powerful. Despite having fewer features than other programs on this list, it still has the retouching tools, blurring effects and filters most people are looking for. There’s also a huge list of free tutorials on the website.
Price: $29.99 USD for the full version.
And of course, here is a list of free alternatives:
Regarded by many as the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is an open source image editor compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux and other operating systems. The interface and tabbed windows are also similar to Photoshop. As well as retouching, painting, text and color management tools, it also supports plugins for extra functionality. If you need help understanding image and layer manipulation, the website hosts various tutorials.
This web-based image editor is another one of the most powerful free tools. With similar features and layouts to Photoshop, you can access Pixlr without having to download anything or even sign up for an account. Signing up will allow you to save images to your Pixlr library for later editing. The usual tools like blur, sharpen and pencil combine with sophisticated filters, effects, coloring tools and layering options.
This one’s only for Windows users, but Paint.NET has all the standard effects you’d expect from an image editor. It also has a unique 3D rotate and zoom effect, making it easy to add perspective and tilting. There’s also unlimited history, meaning every edit you make can be undone or redone. A growing online community gives you access to lots of advice, tutorials and extra plugins.
For Mac users only, Seashore is another open source tool that offers similar features as GIMP, but it’s not quite as powerful. However, many people find it easier to use and it has all the usual features like brush strokes, gradients, multiple layers and plugin support. It’s still undergoing development, so if you use the latest version, you may encounter some bugs. To avoid this, download an older, stable version.
Finally, if you’re after something that’s a little more fun, without the complexity of other image editors on this list, you might want to try PicMonkey. You can edit images straight from your web browser, and there are various filters and tools like blemish removal and sticky overlays if you want to add funny hats, etc. to your image. The free version is basic, but for around $5 per month, you get access to more advanced features without any ads.
Optimizing Your Images
If you don’t mind paying extra in advance, Photoshop is still one of the most stable and feature-rich image editing tools around. However, as you can see from this list, you don’t have to pay for powerful software. These nine apps are all slightly different, so it’s best to try out each one to determine which one best suits you.