11 of the Best Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator Alternatives

Adobe has long established itself as the de facto leader when it comes to design tools and software. In fact, Photoshop has become synonymous with graphic editing and design, and so has Illustrator in the field of vector graphics.

That said, what if you do not wish to use, or cannot use, Adobe products? Maybe you do not wish to spend money on Creative Cloud, or maybe you find Photoshop and Illustrator too complicated for your liking? Should you not look for alternatives to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator?

Whatever the reason might be, if you do not wish to ride the Adobe bandwagon, you do not have to! There are various other equally powerful design tools out there that you can turn to, instead of Photoshop and Illustrator.

In this post, we take a look at some popular free and premium alternatives to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator Alternatives

01. Affinity Photo

Affinity Photois known as one of the most precise, fastest and professional photo editing software for Mac. It meticulously focuses on workflow enhancements, and offers a great variety of tools for enhancing, editing and retouching your images in an incredibly intuitive interface.

Affinity Photo is a professional photography tool to the very core, and not something you can use for logo design or banner editing. It can absorb an entire virtual desktop space for easy maneuvering. You can switch between Affinity Photo and other applications with just a swipe, and tools such as the zoom control can be controlled with a simple pinch.

Affinity Photo also uses the default OS X interface to import images form connected external devices.

Major Features

  • Comprehensive RAW editing
  • Work in any color space: RGB, CMYK, LAB, Grayscale with end-to-end workflow and color management.
  • Unsurpassed file compatibility
  • Always LIVE pan and zoom with live previews and tools.
  • Professional adjustments like exposure, clarity, highlights, etc.
  • Advanced lens corrections
  • Variety of tools such as smudge, crop, burn, paint brush, and much more.

If you are looking to simply edit photographs or something to retouch images, then Affinity Photo is an excellent choice.

Cost: £39.99

02. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is the modern graphic design app for Mac (albeit it is also gonna be available for Windows users soon). It is an incredibly accurate vector illustrator program that feels fast and at home in the hands of creative professionals. The user interface of Affinity Designer for Mac is everything you’d expect from a modern app — more beginner-friendly and very intuitive.

Affinity Designer features dedicated gradient and transparency tools. These allow you to apply multiple gradients within minutes without the need to open any dialog boxes.

Major Features

  • You get multiple personas:
    • Draw persona: This is where all of your vector tools lie for creating your designs.
    • Pixel persona: This is where you get your full pixel preview and you can edit the image using tools which are not limited, which allows you to slice your design and take snapshots of it.
  • Various shape presets, such as tear, heart, pie, donut, star, arrow, and many more.
  • Enhanced zoom capabilities
  • Live preview of effects
  • Live Vector masking

Affinity Designer for Mac brings a fresh breath of air to traditional vector drawing applications.

Cost: $49.99

03. GIMP

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)is a cross platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and many more operating systems. It is a totally free software, no matter how many times you download it or whichever platform you choose to use it on. Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or a scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done.

GIMP provides the tools needed for high quality image manipulation. From retouching to restoring to creative composites.

Major Features

  • It gives users the power and flexibility to transform images into truly unique creations.
  • It can be used for producing icons and other graphical design elements for user interface components.
  • GIMP provides top-notch color management features to ensure high fidelity color reproduction across digital and printed media.
  • GIMP provides extensibility through integration with many programming languages including, Python, Perl and more.

Cost: Free!

04. Inkscape

Inkscape is professional quality vector graphics software which runs on Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. It is used by design professionals and hobbyists worldwide, for creating a wide variety of graphics such as illustrations, icons, logos, diagrams, maps and web graphics. Just like GIMP, it is open source software and free.

Inkscape has a fresh user interface that presents the various tools and features in a very accessible way. It has sophisticated drawing tools with capabilities comparable to Adobe Illustrator. It can import and export various file formats, including SVG, AI, EPS, PDF, PS, and offers multi-lingual support and is designed to be extensible. Users can customize Inkscape’s functionality with addons and plugins.

The Inkscape project has a growing international user community and many learning materials exist to help get you started with your creations and imagination. However, since this is a free software, there might not be one-on-one priority support available.

Cost: Free!

05. Corel DRAW

Corel DRAW is not just an excellent vector graphics editor, but a full-fledged graphics suite that will satisfy industry veterans as well as users just getting into graphic design.

One of the biggest issues with graphics suites is tool overload, as offering various tools can lead to bloated UI. Corel DRAW addresses this with its pre-packaged workspaces. Apply the workspace you need, and the toolbar layout instantly morphs to better suit your needs. Corel DRAW also has powerful font tools for allowing you to set stylistic alternates.

Major Features

  • Workspace selection
  • Quick customization
  • Font playground
  • Multiple document interface
  • Photo-editing tools in Photo-Paint (mentioned below)
  • Built-in content exchange
  • Photo zoom
  • Corel Capture for screen capture and annotation
  • Corel Website Creator for creating simple web pages
  • Vector-illustration and page-layout application

Corel DRAW is a vector editor with a large user base. Whether you’re a first time user or an experienced designer, Corel DRAW makes it easy to get started.

Cost: $669

06. Corel Photo-Paint

Corel Photo-Paint is an advanced image editor with features like professional photo retouching and enhancement, powerful RAW image editing, advanced bitmap creation and digital painting and streamlined web exporting. This application offers professional editing tools and support for the latest PSD files, plus extensive RAW file support for over 300 types of cameras.

The features are great to have especially the Edit Fill tool dialog that makes it easy to work with various textures. The Liquid tools in Corel Photo-Paint can greatly enhance your photos and designs. Corel Photo-Paint, much like Photoshop, offers a plethora of special features such as multi monitor support, 4K and Real-Time Stylus support, new start-up tours, workspace customization options, enhanced editing dialog boxes, blur lens and many more.

Cost: $699 (included within Corel DRAW suite)

07. Paint Shop Pro

Paint Shop Pro was started by Jasc Software, but it has since been acquired by Corel. It comes with features such as enhanced layers, more precise selection tools, faster brushes and extensive productivity-boosting improvements.

Paint Shop Pro is a versatile software meant for photo enthusiasts who want software that can act as a photo manager, editor and adjuster in one easy-to-use-package that won’t break the bank.

Major Features

  • Text wrapping
  • Lens correction
  • Gradient preview
  • Selection tool options
  • Faster and more responsive interface (consumed way less memory)
  • Layer workflow
  • Camera RAW lab

Paint Shop Pro features three applications in one: Manage, Adjust and Edit which gives you access to tools specific for that particular task, keeping the interface clean and making it easier to use and understand.

Cost: $79.99

08. Acorn

Acorn by Flying Meat is a powerful Mac photo editing software. It is user friendly, has various editing tools, provides several ways to share photos and supports a variety of file formats. This Mac photo editor has an interface similar to other photo editing apps, making it recognizable and easy to navigate. It features standard editing tools, including selection, resizing, cropping, and brushes.

Acorn supports the use of layers, which preserves your original photo file during the editing process. You can add text to your photos and even create cool text effects to make the words stand out. The editor has 210 font styles to choose from. With 108 creative filters, you can alter the color, texture and appearance of your photos. The software offers batch processing. You also can create HDR images.

Acorn supports eight common file types, including RAW, JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, PSD and PDF. Plus, using Acorn, you can post your pictures directly to your Flickr account or on online galleries or send them as email attachments.

Cost: $29.99

09. Sketch

Sketch is an innovative and fresh look at vector drawing for the Mac. Sketch gives you the power, flexibility and speed you always wanted in a lightweight and easy-to-use package. It is built for modern graphic designers, and it shows in every fibre of the app. From a flexible workflow with support for multiple pages and Artboards, powerful features like Symbols and Shared Styles, Sketch is what you would use when you wish to work without having to deal with any bloatware.

Sketch features an intentionally minimalist design based upon a drawing space of unlimited size and layers free of palettes, panels, menus, windows, and controls. Though simple to use, it offers powerful vector drawing and text tools like perfect Boolean operations, symbols, and powerful rulers, guides and grids.

Sketch can create complex shapes using vector Boolean operations and its extensive layer styles.

Cost: $99

10. Krita

Krita is an open source sketching and painting program/tool designed for digital artists, illustrators, and texture artists and the VFX industry.

Krita has been in development for over 10 years and has had an explosion in growth recently. It was created with concept art, texture painting as well as comics in mind. It offers many common and innovative features to help the amateur and professional alike.

Major Features

  • An intuitive user interface that stays out of your way. The panels can be moved and customized for your specific workflow.
  • Brush stabilizers, that is, add a stabilizer to your brush to smooth the shakiness of your hand.
  • Pop-Up Palette that you can use to quickly pick your color and brush by right-clicking on the canvas.
  • Brush engines to customize the brush.
  • Add textures by wrap-around mode.

Krita, in spite of being a free tool, comes with unique features such as drawing assistants, mirroring tools, layer management, layer masks and others.

Cost: Free!

11. Figma

Figma is the collaborative interface design tool where you can design, work online, do the editing and can work with others at the same time on the same design. Your designs are constantly saved. It can work on any operating system, because it is an online tool.

Yes, you read that correct. Figma works from the cloud, and does not require anything to be download. It is a relatively newer entrant in this field, and it remains to be seen whether Figma will be able to impress and gain followers or not. It is still in the prefinal stage, and you can reserve your spot as of now for the early release offers.

Over To You

Since Photoshop is such a versatile and widely supported software, it can be a challenge to find an alternative that’s truly worth your time. So try to test different apps and tools to make sure you pick the right one.

Sketch is a widely popular choice among designers and it comes with no shortage of design resources. Another app that deserves your attention is Adobe XD, which is now growing rapidly since its launch as a free app.

If you’re looking for a simple photo editor to edit a photo or design posts for social media, check out our list of best web-based photo editors.

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Writer; published author; coffee-lover.

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