After many years of paying for my Adobe subscription, I decided to see what Adobe Creative Suite alternatives were available. The reason I cancelled was mostly due to the fact I wasn’t utilising the applications, the outrageous costs and their products no longer living up to expectations. The cost benefit ratio for using the Adobe Creative suite for a lot of people just isn’t there anymore. After some research, I found there are plenty of cheaper or free alternatives to all the applications I used.
Adobe’s products have become bloated and, at times, unusable. Over the years, I have had constant battles with using these applications. They get in the way of work, not help it. Six months ago I started seriously searching for alternatives and the list below is what I have found as suitable replacements.
I will point out that all of my search is for OSX, although some tools I found are cross-platform and will work on Windows and Linux.
Photoshop to Pixelmator Pro ($39.99 once)
I’ve been a longtime user of Pixelmator on my various iOS devices. When Pixelmator Pro for OS X came along, I didn’t initially buy or use it, as I was still using Photoshop. It popped up on my App Store specials one day and I decided to buy it for $20. Why not, I thought? I should have bought it the day they launched, as it would have pushed me to cancel my adobe subscription sooner.
As a long time Photoshop user, pretty much all the keyboard shortcuts are the same, meaning I was able to quickly assimilate the new interface and system. Along with that, the amazing image tools that come with Pixelmator are just stunning. The AI they use in the product and for the price makes it hard to justify anything else. My favourite recently discovered feature is how easy it is to export to SVG files.
Photoshop to Canva (Free to $9.99/month)
Another good alternative to Photoshop is Canva. A hosted product that will cover 90% of what you need. What I like about Canva is it also really leans itself towards making it easy for you to create your web marketing collateral. Not only does it provide great image editing tools, they have acquired a range of companies to provide a full suite of tools including stock imagery (Pexels, Pixabay), background removal (Remove.bg), mock-ups (Smartmockups), to name a few.
Photoshop to Affinity Photo ($54.95 once)
Affinity Photo is a great alternative to the subscription model of creative suite. Unless you have very specific needs, I would highly recommend this as an option for both Mac and Windows. It’s also coupled with an iPad version, providing a very portable photo editing tool. I know of quite a few people who have switched to Affinity for the iPad version alone. It covers all the photo editing requirements of anything I’ve attempted to do with it as well as support for photoshop import/export allowing you to can continue to work with other stakeholders that use Photoshop.
Photoshop to PhotoPea (Free to $3.99/month)
After publishing this post on Twitter, one of my followers, Brandon, pointed me to PhotoPea. I have heard of this hosted Photoshop replacement before, but I hadn’t used it. I decided to give it a try this morning with a large 250 MB PSD file that holds the menu for my food stall. I was surprised at how quickly it opened the file, and I was able to work. Minus the custom fonts not being picked up, it’s surprisingly easy to use. All the same Photoshop keyboard shortcuts work and the layers UI looks just like PS does. If you are looking for another alternative and want to use a hosted solution, my initial impressions are to PhotoPea this as well.
Lightroom to Dark Table (Free, Open Source)
I’ve used Lightroom since it was in beta and have many multi-10’s of gigabyte catalogues. I have pre-sets setup for all my diving photos and have organised years of photos in this application. A photographer buddy suggested DarkTable as the catalogue sizes are much smaller and with 10s of thousands of photos
Illustrator to Affinity Designer ($54.95 once)
When I need to edit or create vector graphics, my new favourite alternative is another product from Affinity. Their Affinity designer tool, which I feel is a much more robust design, vector tool than Illustrator. I installed the trial version and was able to figure it out quickly to get to work. The interface is nice and clean and being build for m1, it’s crazy fast. If you are just starting out, I’d recommend getting Affinity Designer over illustrator. The iPad app makes this the perfect combo for illustration with the help of the Apple Pencil.
Illustrator to Inkscape (Free, Open Source)
As a long term Linux user, I have used Inkscape for many years and was a tester when they ported it to OSX via X11. This used to be a more advanced tool for those that were capable Linux users and dedicated vector artists. In recent years, the interface has gotten much more usable, and I regularly recommend this to people for a great free alternative to Illustrator for any platform.
InDesign to Affinity Publisher ($54.95 once)
I don’t do much print design work anymore, but if I did, I would have no hesitation in using Affinity publisher for this. I wanted to include this in the round up as there are still a lot of people looking for an alternative to the creative suite trap.
InDesign to QuarkXPress (€188 per year or €596 Once)
I wouldn’t be writing up a fair alternative list if I didn’t include QuarkXpress when it comes to print media. QuarkXpress has been around for 34 years, and beyond price has been a staple in the desktop publishing houses of the world for a long time. I haven’t used QuarkXpress since it was on DOS but from what I can see it’s still an insanely powerful tool.
Premier to DaVinci Resolve (Free – $299)
I haven’t used Adobe Premier for a number of years and as a long term Mac user, I stopped using Final cut when I found DaVinci Resolve 12. I came across resolve when I was looking for an alternative to Final cut to edit and publish my drone footage. It is a complete editing suite that doesn’t require other applications to complete a full edit. Everything from editing, motion graphics, fusion, sound editing and publishing are all built in. No more switching between applications to complete your video edits.
Final thoughts on creative suite alternatives
When it comes to finding Creative Suite Alternatives in 2022, there is a great list of options available. I haven’t covered them all as I haven’t used the others. These might not be for you, but for the use case/frequency of use these applications were close to seamless replacements for me. I have to say, I’m most impressed with my photoshop and Lightroom replacements. When I first started writing this article in the middle of 2021 I hadn’t used the affinity products, but I can now say that this would be a great one-off replacement for the creative suite as it covers everything you’d need. The iPad apps that are awesome and provide a great desktop and mobile creative suite alternative. They’re all available for both Mac and Windows for those out there that are working across multiple platforms, like myself.