Photoshop killers for Mac users: Nine OS X alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

“Now that Adobe has made Photoshop CC the linchpin of its Creative Cloud subscription strategy, photo enthusiasts are more than ever seeking alternatives to the engine that has driven the modern image-editing industry for more than 20 years,” Jackie Dove writes for Macworld.

“Subscriptions to Photoshop via Creative Cloud cost $50 per month and are popular with a certain segment of Adobe users, mostly the cadre of commercial artists, graphic designers, Web developers, and photographers who use multiple apps for high-end professional work,” Dove writes. “But a subscription is still a subscription. And even some Creative Cloud cheerleaders may now be pausing to reconsider this path, especially in light of recent issues with Adobe security. That, added to general consumer opposition to subscription software, may play a role in an accelerated quest for a Photoshop alternative.”

Dove writes, “We poked around and found nine good prospects that would be suitable for most amateurs and photo enthusiasts. Some of those alternatives, not surprisingly, come from Adobe itself, while others emerge from familiar vendors like Apple and Corel, as well as more recent players in the software marketplace.”

Covered int he full article:
• Adobe Photoshop Elements 12
• Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5
• Apple Aperture 3.5
• Apple iPhoto 9.5
• Flying Meat Acorn 4.1
• Pixelmator 3
• Corel AfterShot Pro
• CyberLink PhotoDirector 5
• GIMP 2.8

Read about each in the full article here.


  1. What a stupid article. Even I hate Adobe’s pricing and subscription policy I must admit that there is absolutely no replacement for Photoshop when it comes to high end work. CMYK, 16 bit per channel (or 32), LAB, actions, and so much more are only part of Photoshop. I stick with CS6 which still is great. Well, not really great since it is no real OSX software (no full screen and so on), but by far the best app for real pro users. One day Pixelmator may be the one and only challenger, but it’s still a long way to go.

    1. Did you not read the article? It CLEARLY states that these replacements are NOT for high end professionals, but for consumers who have occasional need for photo editing.

      Try reading a bit before bashing something.

        1. … now, in “retirement”, a teacher, uses Photoshop pretty much the same way I use iPhoto. I’m not going to try to argue that a PRO would get as much out of iPhoto as they would out of Photoshop, but I expect even a PRO would get MOST of their needs from iPhoto. The rest? Wellll … yeah, they need PS for that.
          Thing is, MOST photographers are more like my sons (edit? whats that?) than the Pros. And, while I’m more like the Pros, even I can (almost always) get the job done with iPhoto. So could my brother, had he a Mac. 🙁

            1. … start with “cropping”. Nearly every photo needs cropping. And “rotating”, often needed. Then “straightening”, Many photos need a little straightening. Then there’s adjusting warmth and tint and the like, now we are getting into the stuff the Pros are more concerned about. Exposure, Contrast, Saturation … I gotta admit Photoshop is better here than iPhoto, but iPhoto CAN do it. How about Definition, Highlights, Shadows, Sharpness and Noise. Note that I’ve not mentioned “effects”.
              These are the things that Pros use for the vast majority of their “touching up”. There’s NOTHING they do to over half of their shots that cannot be done by iPhoto. You think there is? Describe it and tell me what percent of your shots required THAT feature.
              I’m not arguing that a Pro may need one feature or another, found in Photoshop but not in iPhoto, for more than half their photos. Nor am I saying you can wrk in as fine a detail in iPhoto as you can in Photoshop. I know better. I just don’t think you know iPhoto as well as you think you do.

      1. whats the point of the article?
        its like how to replace your house with several poorly made tents?
        i hate adobe, but there is no replacement for photoshop
        please apple buy adobe and fix it like you did with logic, sound jam….etc

          1. Been saying that for years. Throw in premiere for video as well. If not, then apple needs to crush adobe. Why oh why does apple fail to be the best in all things? All programs. You have the money and technology. Then make the ‘lite’ version for novice users. Apple gives away market share all the time. Certainly does not help my Aapl.

        1. Apple didn’t buy Logic in order to “fix” it. There was nothing wrong with it in the first place.

          Apple bought Logic in order to stop Microsoft getting all the high-end content creation app companies switching to Windows Media formats. In the same way Apple bought in Final Cut Pro. Avid etc. were all being offered incentives by Redmond to drop the Mac, so Apple decided to build their own competing Mac-only products.

    2. It’s not a stupid article at all! Just like the others who make a post just like yours every time this subject comes up, you miss the point and mistakenly equate ‘alternative’ with ‘replacement’.

      There are millions of people who don’t need CMYK, 16-bit, Lab, actions or most of the advanced functionality in Photoshop that people like you or I need. For all those people, there are really great, legitimate alternatives to Photoshop. That’s who the article is written for.

  2. In all fairness, Adobe has/had a special subscription just for Photoshop users. $9.99 gave you Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5. That’s a pretty good deal if you have to have Photoshop. Saying that you have to spend $50 if you want to get Photoshop is misleading and spreading FUD.

      1. There are few features I have felt have been necessary since Photoshop 3.0 was introduced giving us layers and the rubber stamp tool. My CS 5.5 will do me just fine until Apple changes the system architecture again.

  3. my staple is still CS6 and i rely too much on adobe and illustrator. i have played with pixelmator and it has come a long way, but there are still features in PS that i rely on that that pixel mater either doesn’t have or it takes me too many steps and time to recreate manually in pixelmator. that said. my other gripe is a replacement for illustrator. that is what i want. after that, i would love to dump adobe and never look back.

    1. Same here. I’ve gotten over its learning curve AND it’s added new features like a dirt simply way to crop images. It’s my favorite imaging app after having foresworn nasty Adobe.

      BUT: I also have a slew of further imagine apps as well. I have Acorn, Pixelmator iPhoto, Gimp, Corel Painter and:
      – GIF Creator
      – GIFQuickMaker
      – GraphicDesignStudio
      – Image Smith
      – ImageWell
      – Inkscape
      – Intaglio
      – Paint It
      – PhotoStyler
      – Picturesque
      – Skitch
      – Snapheal Pro
      – And a bunch of more trivial apps for watermarking, gradients, color measurement, slide shows, icon creation, etc.

  4. Please, write the article about Adobe Illustrator. You will see it is much harder to find a good alternative to vector drawing software.

    I think Sketch is the only good alternative and I even bought but it has some bugs. I hope they get better.

    1. How I wish someone would bring back Freehand as an OSX application! Even its last OS9 version had features and fluidity (especially in text handling) that Illustrator has never matched.

  5. I’m a graphic designer and use PS everyday. While I work with photo images all the time, most of my work is constructed elements built in PS. None of the apps listed can even come close to replacing PS. Photoshop’s name is unfortunate. It’s foundation was primarily photo based, but quickly outgrew the simple crop and rotate kind of thing. Even Gimp and Pixelmator are not up to the task as a replacement. I’d love to find an alternative but they don’t exist. Sadly this article is nonsense, no one would pay for PS to rotate their pictures. PS does not belong in the photo editor category, it is a design tool, and for professionals. Clearly it’s cost alone excludes it from the rest.

    1. And clearly, this article is NOT aimed at you because you are a graphic designer who needs PS’ power and features. The article is for the millions of casual photographers who just need to occasionally edit photos.

      1. Wrong. The article’s title says “killers”, implying that somehow these programs annul PhotoShop, when in fact not one of them, except GIMP, has anywhere near the power and flexibility that PS offers – to pros. Pros don’t mind paying for the best tools, and none of these programs are ever going to “kill” Photoshop.

        This reminds me of those dumb arguments I used to hear so-called power users arguing over which was better – PhotoShop or Aperture/Lightroom. Duh.

        May these tools be more appropriate for the scads of users of pirated versions of PS? I hope so, because these ham-fisted amateurs have no business using PS. I doubt they’d pay even the paltry sums required to replace PS with any of these “alternatives”.

        They also missed one other alternative that could possibly replace PhotoShop for some users – one that is always overlooked in these types of article – PhotoLine32. T seems to still be around, and actually is a decent program with many of the features needed by imaging pros like CMYK/spot color abilities as well as compatibility with PS plugins. It gets scant mention, but it may be worth a look if you’re considering a true imaging program.


  6. OK i am a Pro Photographer and while PS is a good program blah blah layers, plug in’s, color calibration etc it does annoy me the Adobe have created this subscription model just to screw the faithful users !
    Adobe such arrogance will eventally be your downfall as I am now looking , hey I have even
    noted and read this article !

    1. They didn’t create the subscription model “just to screw the faithful users”.

      And changing to a subscription model isn’t “arrogance”. Maybe it could be called greedy. Maybe callous. But arrogant just isn’t logically an appropriate word. “Arrogant” seems like the petulant name-calling du jour every time a company does something that somebody doesn’t like. “Those iOS 7 icons… Apple is so arrogant”. “Not paying more dividends… Apple is so arrogant.”

      I don’t need Photoshop. Can’t say I like the model. But for somebody who is actually a professional designer, a few hundred dollars per year cost for a bunch of the best-in-class professional tools seems like peanuts. How many hours of professional graphics work does it take to make that much money? Not a lot.

      1. Exactly, real ‘pros’ who use Adobe software pay for their entire annual subscription with just one job. If you can’t do this, you shouldn’t be using adobe software. Further, if you call yourself a ‘pro’ and think you’re getting fleeced by Adobe, it’s time to look for another profession. Every real ‘pro’ I know thinks that Adobe’s CC subscription model is awesome. The only complainers are the shade-tree graphic ‘artists’ and comic-sans loving soccer moms who have no business designing anything other than their grocery lists.

        1. There is a certain percentage of prosumer types and even professionals like me in Visual Effects who use Photoshop as a tool or means to an end but the software itself does not really make me money directly. And I prefer it to alternatives being as I understand how to use it and it’s power. Not everyone can justify the expense of Photoshop but need it nonetheless. I also wouldn’t be snob about it. If someone desires to use Photoshop more power to them.

  7. CC just passed a million subscribers. Not bad for a greedy arrogant money grubbing company that is only interested in screwing its customers. -_-
    Seriously tho’ Adobe’s (or anyone’s) success depends not on providing good software, but indispensable software to the broadest possible userbase.

  8. I’m just an amateur, and do not require much in terms of tools. For me, most non-Adobe programs were more than enough. For most pros, however, the one-stop-get-all you get from Photoshop is pretty much a killer feature. There’s a wealth of tools all in one place. I don’t need them, though. For me, there’s too much overhead, and it’s nor really a staple of stability.

    That said, my go-to photo editor was Pixelmator. However, my last three projects were a walk through hell. Pixelmator crashed, messed up my images and in one instance, even refused to load it’s own file after a crash. I’m in contact with them, so hopefully they fix the bugs, but until then I go back to PS, despite the overhead.

  9. Simpler: I’ll continue to use my OLD non-subscription Photoshop for projects that require cmyk and Photoshop tools.

    …more and more I’m using GIMP but the older versions of PS work just fine!

  10. Fact is Adobe ruined the crop tool with CS6. Same awful crop tool in the cloud. Many many ssers have complained and Adobe doesn’t care. We just wanted a real classic mode and they refuse to give it.
    An arrogant monopoly is what they are. There is no competition and they know it.

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