Photoshop Alternatives: Use These Easy Photo Editing Software for Beginners
Multimedia • Nov.26, 2019
One day you wake up, feeling in the mood to create something interesting with Photoshop. But it turns out to be so much harder than it looks. Trust me – we’ve all been there.
And don’t get us wrong. Photoshop is awesome. It’s without a doubt the best photo editing app that there is out there with more features and flexibility than pros and consumers may ever need.
However, if you’re a beginner, then you may end up finding everything to be a bit overwhelming. Even something as simple as cropping and creating proper layers can prove to be a challenging task for a beginner.
If you truly want to use Photoshop, then be prepared to invest a lot of time into learning how to use it. Not to mention anything about the monthly subscription that it asks.
That’s why you may want to look into Photoshop Alternatives that are both cheaper and easier to use.
Professionals may find most of the alternatives to be a bit lacking in terms of features. But, then again, if you were a professional, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.
In any case, without any further ado, let’s get right into it!
Top alternative: Affinity Photo (Windows/Mac/iPad)
We feel like Affinity Photo is the best Photoshop Alternative not only for all the features that it offers but also due to how easy it is to use for beginners.
The UI makes it very easy to understand where to head in order to do something. And you can find anything in it from basic stuff like cropping and adjusting the brightness to playing with filters and multiple layers. Let’s take a deeper look.
The UI and the overall design is a huge deal. Especially for beginners. After all, what’s the point of having a ton of different features if we can’t even take advantage of them?
Once it’s open, you will be able to click the New Document button on the bottom right-hand corner of the Affinity Photo splash screen to start a new creative document.
Next at the right size of main workspace, there is everything that has been applied to the image. All the different layers, effects, filters, adjustments, etc.
And as we mentioned above, you can freely enable or disable individual adjustments to see how that affects the image live. Furthermore, the app offers a few different samples to work with and that gives beginners a good way to see how they can make a huge difference with nothing but basic adjustments.
If you don’t like getting your hands dirty – even with nothing but basic adjustments – then you’ll probably want to look into the pre-sets. Those of you who are experienced will definitely find them too limiting. But, it’s a nice touch for beginners who don’t like spending too much time on basic adjustments.
At the top and left part of the screen, you’ll find the usual stuff that most editors offer. Cropping tools, selection tools, the healing brush tool, text, paint mixer, and anything like that.
And at the very top, as per usual, you’ll find everything that you may possibly need. File options, edit options, text, document options, ‘Select’ options, Arrange, Filters, View options, Window options, and the ‘Help’ section which you can refer to for tutorials or any questions.
Overall, we’d say that Affinity Photo is pretty easy to use. Some things like correctly handling the filters will take a while to get used to. But, that applies to all editors out there anyway.
Editing and performance
Affinity Photo works with layers, in very similar ways to Photoshop. Is it intuitive? Well, if you’ve ever tried Photoshop without any training or classes – that’s how intuitive Affinity Photo is as well.
Another one of the things that you’ll absolutely love is live editing. With Affinity Photo, you can see how your various edits affect the photo in real-time and that’s definitely a huge plus for beginners.
Do keep in mind that this can be a bit taxing on your system. But, more on that later.
Last, but not least, there is also the very useful option of disabling or enabling any changes that we’ve made to the image live.
Feel like that filter may not be a good fit? Turn it off for the moment. Wanna see how the different adjustments look when combined? Why not? It’s not like there’s no turning back.
And that’s so much better than the traditional CTRL + Z rewind that so many programs are limited to. After all, this gives us the freedom to freely experiment with various adjustments at once.
Other than that, you will probably love about Affinity Photo is the fact that it can be used across multiple operating systems.
To be more specific, according to the official website, you can use it in Windows, Mac, and iPad as well. If you’ve got multiple devices in your house, then that’s definitely something to keep in mind as you won’t have to buy multiple licenses while switching between different operating systems.
The other thing that we wanted to talk about is performance. Affinity mentions that you need a minimum of 2 gigs of RAM – which is true. However, what they don’t mention is the CPU requirements.
We’ve been using this on a mid-range Ryzen 5 2600 build with 6 cores, 12 threads, and let us tell you – depending on the image, live editing can prove to be extremely demanding.
Even something as simple as adjusting the shadows and highlights almost maxed out our CPU usage – but only while tweaking with the different values. And again, the performance impact largely depends on the image and how many layers are open as well.
Chances are that you’ll be able to use it on a lower-end machine. But, don’t expect to get the most fluid experience out of the app.
Unlike Photoshop editor, Affinity Photo doesn’t ask for a subscription. It’s a one-time payment of 54,99 euros in the EU.
But, with that being said, do keep in mind that pricing may vary from region to region. Not to mention the discounts that may come up every now and then.
At the end of the day, Affinity offers a free trial. So, the least that you can do is give it a try and see if it works well enough for your machine or not.
Also great: Luminar (Windows/Mac)
Affinity Photo may be our best pick – but that doesn’t mean that it has to be yours as well. If you need something that in our opinion is even easier to use, then Luminar AI may be the ideal option.
Due to the overly simplistic design, it feels rather restrictive compared to other options. So, those of you who need to perform some detailed work will most likely prefer sticking with Affinity or Photoshop instead.
Needless to say that the same thing applies to professionals. But, then again, if you were a pro, chances are that you wouldn’t be interested to read this article in the first place.
In any case, let’s take a deeper look at Luminar.
Features and offerings are only half of what is needed to make a decent editor. If the UI is not easy enough to use, then you may as well ditch the graphical element and go back to the days of command lines.
This may easily be the best UI that we’ve seen on an image editor so far. At least as far as beginner editors are concerned.
The right side of the screen has most of the stuff that you’ll need. Layers, effects, image adjustment options, your library, everything.
The top has some options as well. But, generally, most of you will want to stick with the right part.
Another thing that you may particularly love is the option of looking at how the image looks before and after editing while you’re working on it.
And while we’re on topic, let us mention that just like with Affinity Photo, all editing is being done live. And that greatly affects the demand for CPU power.
Editing and performance
We’ve tried a few different editors. And, honestly, Luminar is quite possibly the most beginner-friendly photo editor that we’ve seen so far.
There are so many pre-sets to choose from that you can vastly improve the look of an image without having to adjust any values. Of course, if you wish to do so, the option is always there.
Do keep in mind that these are not your average cheap pre-sets that are commonly found on cheap/free apps. Luminar relies on AI (Artificial Intelligence) to separate the background from the background and recognize what exactly needs to be adjusted.
[ Related: Luminar AI vs. Luminar Neo – The Race for a Modern, Faster & Simple Photo Editor ]
So, again, if you’re someone who just needs to get some basic stuff done, like giving a more vibrant look to his image, then this is quite possibly your best bet.
There are a ton of different categories to choose from with each one of them being best suited for specific kinds of photos. For example, the ‘Landscape’ category is best suited for landscape shots, ‘Portrait’ is the best for selfies or close-up pictures of people, etc.
You can’t expect to replace a professional editor with nothing but pre-sets. But, hey, for the most part, it gets the job done nice and easy.
And if you feel like getting your hands dirty? Well, nobody is gonna stop you. As you can see, there are a ton of custom adjustments that you can make.
Some of them are basic, like simply adjusting color values, brightness, contrast, etc – while others are a bit more creative.
To be more specific, you’re free to do things like adding Film Grain, Sunrays, effects such as Mystical, Dramatic, Glow, and more.
Photo editing programs are generally not nearly as demanding as video editors, but that’s not to say that they don’t need a decent PC either. Both Luminar and Affinity Photo managed to stress our 6-core Ryzen 2600 CPU quite a bit while editing live.
And while Luminar isn’t as demanding as Affinity Photo, it still manages to bring low-end computers to their knees.
For us, everything felt pretty snappy and smooth. But, that’s only because we’re rocking a somewhat modern 6-core build. Luminar never managed to bring out CPU above 90% usage.
That being said, those of you who are stuck with a weaker system may experience a few slowdowns every now and then – depending on how heavy your editing is.
In terms of pricing, well, we’ve got both bad news and good news.
The good news is that there is a trial version and that by the looks of it, there’s no subscription. It’s a one-time purchase.
The bad news is that even the cheapest variant isn’t exactly cheap. 89 euros isn’t a small price to pay and it may even go up depending on your region and time of purchase.
If you’re willing to get the HDR editor along with the full collection of pre-sets, then that would be 169 euros. Still, you know what they say: ‘What you pay is what you get’.
Other alternatives that worth mention
Still don’t feel comfortable with any of our top options? No need to worry. There is something for everyone out there.
Here are some of our top alternatives.
Movavi has long been known for making awesome products. They’ve got video editors, a screen recorder, and amongst other tools; a photo editor as well.
Most of their tools are primarily made with ease of use in mind. So, it’s no surprise that Movavi Photo Editor is very beginner-friendly and a great tool to get started.
It’s available for both Windows and Mac with a free trial and the full version which starts from 30 euros (Pricing may vary depending on region and time of purchase).
Fotophire is brought to you by Wondershare, another big name that’s known for making great tools and editors.
Just like with Movavi’s offering, Fotophire offers both a Windows and a Mac version. There is a free trial and also the full version which costs $50 for a yearly subscription and $80 for a lifetime purchase. But, again, do keep in mind that pricing may vary depending on your region and time of purchase.
In terms of features, you can expect to find anything from the basics, such as the eraser and cutter, to more advanced offerings which are exclusive to Fotophire – such as Fotophire Focus and Fotophire Maximizer.
PaintShop Pro 2020 comes with pros and cons. Starting with the pros, we’re looking at a program that offers a ton of options and room for creativity.
The only downside to that is that the more options that there are, the larger that the learning curve becomes. So, do keep in mind that Corel PaintShop Pro isn’t as beginner-friendly as some of our alternatives.
That’s not to say that you won’t find beginner-friendly tools like AI adjustments. But intermediate editors are likely to have a better time with it – Windows editors – to be more precise. After all, the app isn’t available in Mac.
Just like with most editors, there is both a full version and a free trial to choose from.
Pixelmator Pro offers everything from the basic tools that the most casual editor can use to options that only experienced people can benefit from.
If there’s one big downside, then that’s definitely the fact that the program is only available for Mac. Those of you who rely on Windows will have to pick one of our other options.
Right now, the full version costs $40 – which is definitely very cheap compared to some of the alternatives. And, thankfully, it looks like it’s a one-time purchase – not a subscription.
Free Photoshop alternatives options
Up to this point, all of our options offer a free trial and ask us to pay in order to get the full version. But, that’s not to say that there aren’t some pretty good free editors out there as well. Here are some of our best picks!
GIMP has long been one of the best free options out there and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Since it’s open-source, meaning that anyone has access to the code and can adjust as he sees fit to make his own version or even a whole new program, GIMP is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
It does have a bit of a learning curve. But, once you get used to it, it makes for a great free alternative to Photoshop.
Paint.NET is another open-source program. However, it’s only available for Windows computers.
It’s one of the most ‘Traditional’ editors that one can find. In fact, its UI shares a few similarities with Photoshop’s. So, if you’ve got any experience with it, then transitioning over to Paint.NET shouldn’t be too hard.
Also, it’s one of the most lightweight photo editors that we’ve ever tried. So, low-end/budget users should definitely keep that in mind.
Photos is the built-in app that Mac, iOS, and iPad devices use to display images and perform some basic editing as well. Needless to say that it’s only available for Apple devices.
For the most part, you can only adjust basic stuff such as light, color, contrast levels, white balance, vignette, sharpness, and things like that. Filters are definitely a nice addition as well.
Overall, it’s a decent freebie for Apple users who are not interested in becoming pro editors.
As you probably already witnessed, choosing a photo editor isn’t an easy task. There are a ton of things to keep in mind from features and ease of use all the way down to performance and pricing. And that’s just barely scraping the surface.
The best way to truly discover what’s best for you is by trial and error. Thankfully, most, if not all of the photo editing programs that we’ve mentioned already offer a free trial. So, you best get started!
That’s all we’ve got at the moment. If you liked this article, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family on social media. Thank you for reading!