For as long as anyone can remember, Adobe Photoshop has been the go-to app for photographers, graphic artists and just about everyone else. On the Mac, it’s hard to beat, and Photoshop has become part of our lexicon for color correction, cloning, airbrushing, etc. While it’s still considered the gold standard, there are plenty of Photoshop alternatives for the Mac. If you’re on the hunt for a better price tag or interface that’s easier to use, here are some of the best options.
1. Affinity Photo
Available on both Mac and iOS, Affinity Photo does away with all of the headaches caused by Adobe’s Photoshop subscription fees. With a one-time purchase at $49.99, this app is full of features. RAW editing is a breeze, as is color correction, HDR merge, multi-layer composition, digital painting and so much more. The best part? Affinity Photo adds PSD editing so that you can load your Photoshop files. There’s no need to convert – just fire up and go. There’s no question the feature-set here will cater to professionals and beginners alike. This app is as close as you’re going to get to a Photoshop alternative on the Mac. Add in an iOS version as well for editing on the go, and it’s a must-own for Apple fans.
2. Photoscape X
Full of rich features and with a price tag that’s hard to pass up, Photoscape X is a smart choice for photo-editing fans. In lieu of toolbars and palettes, the main editing window is more like a web browser with tabs that run across the top of the window. As each tab correlates to a single task, it’s a unique take on organization and works so well. Once you opt for the pro subscription at $39.99, the feature-set expands to offer a host of editor options. Everything from adjusting blur, white and color balance to a cloning tool is present. There’s so much here to explore, which makes it perfect for all levels of photo editing. Want to create an animated GIF? Photoscape X is your new favorite app.
3. Adobe Lightroom
Don’t let Lightroom’s place on this list confuse you: Adobe Photoshop isn’t the only photo editing tool from the company. Lightroom costs half as much but includes an outstanding feature-set that lets you do nearly anything with your photos. The main focus of Lightroom is the 1TB cloud of sharing between desktop, mobile and the Web that earns it a place on this list. Capable of backing up thousands of photos including RAW images, this is the app for photographers who need immediate access to their image library. Trying it out for the first week is free, so what do you have to lose?
4. Pixelmator Pro
Pixelmator is actually the name of a full suite of apps available on the Mac, but it’s Pixelmator Pro that really rivals Adobe Photoshop. There’s no shortage of professional-grade tools at your disposal, and with an intuitive design, its learning curve is years ahead of Photoshop. Editors will appreciate its single-window interface which includes everything from simple color touchups to more complicated projects. Unsurprisingly, there’s support for RAW photos and cloning tools, as well as creating your own vector graphics. Want to batch-process images with seven different Automator actions? Pixelmator Pro has you covered. Need an app that automatically straightens images using a crop tool with horizon detection? Grab Pixelmator Pro right now.
No list of photo editing apps would be complete without GIMP. It has been a favorite Photoshop alternative for years. If there’s a feature available on Photoshop, it’s likely GIMP has mirrored it. Everything from adjusting contrast, tweaking colors, and cropping help make this a photo manipulation tool that’s easy to recommend. Mac users have long touted GIMP’s “before” and “after” split-screen view of your photo(s) while editing. The non-Mac interface is a bit of a surprise but that’s about the only downside to this free versatile tool. GIMP doesn’t offer some of the Mac-specific hardware acceleration either because of its open-source nature. If free and functional are what you’re after, you won’t do any better.
While not a dedicated Mac app, Pixlr Pro is a browser-based image-editing app that is as good as it gets. Users of Adobe Photoshop should find its interface somewhat familiar while noting that it’s easier to use and navigate. Everything from color correction, layers, adding texts, shapes and healing combine to make it a feature-rich offering. More than 600 effects are available alongside other standard features like cropping, resizing and removing red-eye. Want to whiten teeth in a photo? You can easily do that. Pixlr’s free version and Pro ($8 a month) can quickly open Photoshop files. Add the Pro subscription, and you get access to additional overlays, stickers, video tutorials and more extensive editing tools.
If you live in a world where vector graphics matter most, Sketch is the Mac app for you. The downloadable app includes a bevy of features like vector editing, boolean operations, grids, layouts, OpenType fonts and so much more. Do you need support for infinite zooming? Sketch has that ready for you. The UI is easy to learn, allowing you to pick up layers, style presets, gradients and color pickers in no time. Hundreds of plugins are available at your fingertips to help you find the workflow that works best for you. No matter if you work for yourself, a small team or hundreds of collaborators at Sketch can be personalized in a way that will help bring your ideas to life. The app itself is free to try with a $99 one-time purchase for individuals or $9 monthly for teams.
Once dubbed “lite Photoshop” by the BBC, Fotor is another standout alternative that is easy to use. Do you want to edit a photo? Make a collage? Create a unique design? Fotor very well could be the app for you. Photo editing is one of the app’s strongest points with the ability to adjust color, light, size and more. Need HDR effects for more advanced editing needs? Fotor has them. The app also has hundreds of available fonts, stickers, image shape presets and more. Batch editing is another strong reason to pick up Fotor, allowing you to quickly edit dozens of photos at the same time. Editing multiple images at once can help you make simple changes like resizing or get more complex with scenes, borders and effects. Fotor is free to download while Pro options begin at $8.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
Don’t let the popularity of its name fool you. Photoshop is no longer the undisputed king of the photo-editing hill on a Mac. You can even view Photoshop files without Photoshop. With other programs are easier to learn and less expensive with similar feature-sets, it’s time for the Photoshop faithful to try something new.
Image credit: gimp on mac os x lion
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