While Photoshop might be the gold standard for image editing, it’s also expensive, difficult to learn and probably more powerful than necessary. While professional image editors won’t use anything else, the rest of us can probably get away with a simpler and cheaper image editor. Here are some of the best Photoshop alternatives for Mac.
GIMP – the old standby
GIMP has long served as the go-to Photoshop alternative on macOS. The software has been around for ages, and it replicates much of the functionality of Photoshop.
But the application has more in common with a basic photo editor with bolted-on capabilities than a true peer of Photoshop. Survey serious photographers and designers, and you won’t find GIMP used for much besides opening troublesome files.
Part of this has to do with the limitations of FOSS software development, but GIMP is not a perfect Photoshop replacement. Common tools are in different places, with different names, shortcuts and limitations. Some tools are less effective, and some critical features, like adjustment layers, simply don’t exist. GIMP also has a notably steep learning curve, even for experienced image editors.
While GIMP doesn’t really rate as a true Photoshop replacement, it does provide impressive image-editing tools for a price you can’t beat.
Affinity Photo – a realistic Photoshop alternative
Affinity Photo currently ranks as the best Photoshop alternative for photographers and image editors. It includes the great bulk of the image editing features found in Photoshop with the necessary tools to do some serious work. You won’t get that kind of service for free, but it’s far less expensive than Photoshop; you’ll pay a one-time fee of $50 for the full version.
Affinity Photo comes with crucial tools that competing programs lack, like adjustment layers, precise selection tools, a dedicated RAW engine and professional-grade brush tools. That’s all wrapped up in a beautiful, customizable user interface. It’s not exactly Photoshop, but it comes closer than any of the other apps you’ll find on this list or elsewhere.
Pixelmator – powerful photo editing for hobbyists
Pixelmator doesn’t rank as a professional photo-editing tool; it just doesn’t have all the necessary features. But it’s one of the best photo editors for amateur and hobbyist photographers looking to refine their images digitally. It boasts a broad set of tools for editing things like color and contrast, with decent selection tools. You’ll also find consumer-friendly features like text tools, shape punches and photo filters.
Pixelmator is far easier to use than Photoshop, which might be perfect for photographers who don’t need the capability and expense of an enterprise solution.
At $25, it’s a budget-friendly tool that can get a lot done quickly. Professional photographers have something to look forward to as well, with Pixelmator Pro coming out at the end of November 2017.
Sketch – vectors-based design platform
Sketch actually has more in common with Adobe Illustrator than it does Photoshop, and it is more used for creating vector images. But considering that some folks use Photoshop as a basic user interface design platform, Sketch might fit the bill.
It’s built specifically for web designers, with tools optimized for building websites, apps and desktop programs. It’s far from the Swiss Army knife that Photoshop is, but it makes an excellent Photoshop replacement for vector artists and designers. At $99, they’re marketing more to professional designers looking to replace Illustrator’s limp web-specific toolset.
Krita – free digital painting application
Krita is specifically designed for digital painters and illustrators. The free, open-source application was originally built for Linux and has been ported to Windows and macOS since then. It doesn’t have the powerful image-editing tools that photo editors look for, but it makes up for that with a varied palette of digital illustration tools that digital artists will appreciate.
As useful as GIMP is, it’s not the best Photoshop alternative for macOS. Affinity Photo is the best choice for serious photo editors. Designers can get a lot of use out of Sketch, and illustrators will be at home with Krita.