We all know how much Photoshop is loved by designers all over the globe, thanks to its multitude of features and excellent user interface. With that being said, not everyone would be able to afford its monthly subscription plan that costs a whopping $20.99, which could make individuals who are just getting into this field take a step back and think about other available options.
Luckily, there is quite a few professional design software out there on the Internet, which is open-source, meaning you won’t have to pay a single penny to use them. Moreover, the ones on our list would be able to work on Windows, macOS, and even Linux, on which Photoshop doesn’t run anyway (without a virtual machine or Wine, that is). However, before we begin, we’d like to tell you that no design software will indeed be a replacement for all the features provided by Photoshop. Still, they can do quite well when it comes to individual tasks, such as graphic designing, photo editing, and RAW image processing. If we have that clear, let’s cut to the chase and take a look at the best free and open-source Photoshop alternatives for newbies and professionals alike.
Open-Source Photoshop Alternatives
We don’t think anyone would disagree with us on this: GIMP is the Photoshop of the open-source world. Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, this software comes with a plethora of useful features, courtesy of which it can almost do anything that Photoshop can. As per the makers themselves, the software truly shines because of its photo retouching, image authoring, image composition, and layer management features. However, there is much more to GIMP in that the tool can be used for painting, online batch processing, mass production image rendering, and even image format conversion. Plus, GIMP supports a wide variety of extensions and plug-ins, with which it can do almost anything.
If it’s the similar features that you’re looking for, then you can’t go wrong by opting for GIMP. It is just as powerful as Photoshop; in fact, some people consider it even to outdo Photoshop in a few departments. Its user interface might not be able to impress everyone and could also confuse those making the shift from Photoshop. On the bright side, the software is cross-platform, so you can run it whether you use Linux, Windows, or macOS.
Now, this is an application that’s best suited for those who need the paint emulation abilities of Photoshop. With Krita, you will be able to create jaw-dropping digital paintings, anime, concept art, textures, and cartoons. Not only that, but it has a beautiful set of brushes, all thanks to which sketching or painting would become a real delight for users. As for its features, the software provides layer management, mirroring tools, several brush engines with over a hundred brushes, and transform tools. Besides, you might also want to have a look at its warp around feature if making seamless textures is your thing. Moreover, Krita can be installed on machines running on macOS, Windows, or Linux.
Not to mention, the user interface of Krita is also pretty clean and intuitive, but there will still be a learning curve involved for those new to the platform. However, before you go for this software, you need to keep in mind that it might not be your cup of tea if it’s photo manipulation that you’re looking for. If that’s the case, you are much better off using GIMP.
If you’re into photography and could use a completely free photo-enhancing tool, then Darktable would be an excellent choice. Using this application, you can quickly work with your RAW images and enhance them with the help of its various features, including GPU-accelerated image processing, professional color management, exposure controls, base curve, white balance, and tons more. Plus, image post-processing would also be possible since it allows users to apply watermark, split-toning, and artistic grain on your images.
You should note that its workflow could take a while for you to get the hang of, but you’ll love it once you do. Photographers themselves have made the software, so you should know you’re in safe hands by opting for Darktable. And, as for supported platforms, this application can run on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Although one might think of Inkscape to be a better replacement of Adobe Illustrator, its wide variety of features shouldn’t be doubted, which are on the same level as that of Photoshop. The application sells itself as a professional vector graphics editor, so you know it’s more suited for designers than photographers. When it comes to its features, layer management support, object creation tools, and transformation tools are what’s in store for you. Another thing that you’ll love about Inkscape is the multitude of file formats that it supports.
All in all, Inkscape can make the best out of your creative abilities and allow you to create beautiful artworks. And, just like the other entries on this list, this application is also cross-platform.
Although RawTherapee isn’t the most popular open-source Photoshop alternative out there, it does have its niche fanbase that loves its raw image processing capabilities. What gives this software an edge over the others is its non-destructive, 32-bit (floating point) processing engine, advanced color+detail editing tools, and modern demosaicing algorithms. Other than that, the software not only also offers top-notch support for RAW, DNG, JPEG, TIFF, and PNG formats, but also works well with film negatives and monochrome cameras. On the downside, RawTherapee doesn’t have enough features to be considered by graphic designers interested in sketching or painting.
Regardless of whether you have a macOS, Windows, or Linux-based system, this application is cross-compatible and can run on all of them. Moreover, you can couple RawTherapee with GIMP as the former is a better fit for working with RAW images, while the latter has extensive features that you can use for final touch-ups.
This open-source software makes painting a whole lot simpler. However, it would help if you didn’t mistake its simplicity for lack of advanced features since Pinta has them as well. Apart from that, you can also use this application for editing images. When it comes to what this software is capable of, Pinta comes with easy-to-use drawing tools, 35+ effects/adjustments, layers support, and pixel grid view. Not only that, but the application also allows users to experiment with its tools as they can undo their changes as many times as they want. Plus, there are several add-ins as well, which you can get right from its add-in manager.
Although there’s a lot that you can do with Pinta, it still falls short when compared to the advanced features that GIMP and Krita have to bring to the table. Pinta can be used to intermediate-level graphic design and image editing. And, in addition to supporting mainstream operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux, this application can also be installed on BSD-based systems.
As its name suggests, this app has been made for digital painting so that it would be a viable option for all graphic designers. This software is a better fit for those who are just getting started with drawing and painting since it doesn’t come with many advanced features that you’ll find in GIMP or Krita. Moreover, MyPaint doesn’t consume a lot of hardware resources either, so even older systems will be able to provide top-notch speed and response time when you’re painting.
Since this software doesn’t have many sophisticated features, even beginners won’t have a hard time to get the hang of it. However, photographers won’t be able to benefit from this tool, because it mainly just allows you to paint. On the bright side, MyPaint is available on all platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
For those who have a hard time managing their photos, digiKam is worth a shot. Using this application, it would become possible to import, manage, and share photos and raw photographs and videos. Its other advanced features allow users to assign labels, tags, and ratings to raw files and filter them later according to your given criteria. Other than that, users can also do basic image editing using digiKam as it comes with color management support and functionalities such as free cropping, flipping, and rotation. Not to mention, digiKam also covers some aspects of post-processing that include geolocation editor, panorama creation, and metadata editing.
However, as a stand-alone app, digiKam won’t be able to suffice for more advanced image editing needs. Accordingly, your best bet is to use this application for photo management and use another open-source software for image editing. Lastly, digiKam doesn’t fall short in providing cross-platform support since macOS, Windows, and Linux users can easily install it on their systems.
If anyone of our readers is having a hard time moving from Photoshop to GIMP, this application here could prove to be quite handy. PhotoGIMP is based on GIMP, but the catch is that the user interface has been modified to a significant degree, all for the sake of making things more user-friendly. Some of the elements, such as predefined docks layout and predefined keyboard shortcuts have been made to look and work just like Adobe Photoshop. The developers aren’t trying to make this a Photoshop clone; instead, they want to help Photoshop users get quickly accustomed to GIMP.
Although PhotoGIMP is only available as a GitHub repository, you can easily find ways on the Internet to install this application on your Linux, Windows, or macOS-based systems.
10. Glimpse Image Editor
Although this software is only available on Windows and Linux (a bummer for macOS users), Glimpse Image Editor is still worthy of being a part of our list and not to mention, free and open-source as well. Since it’s based on GIMP, this software will inevitably be quite powerful when it comes to features. However, what makes Glimpse even better is the fact that it sports a cleaner user interface and provides users with a more enterprise-ready look and feel.
On the downside, many users complain about Glimpse missing various features found in GIMP. So, if you want to have a full-fledged GIMP experience, then you might want to reconsider opting for Glimpse.
The open-source world doesn’t lack in providing a bunch of secondary options for image-editing needs. Although one might argue that Photoshop is one of its kind and provides functionalities like no other software out there, it is to be kept in mind that the image editing and graphic design tools mentioned in this list are free. You’d have to make a bit of a sacrifice when jumping ships to open-source software. And, if possible, don’t forget to tell us about your experience of using any of our mentioned Photoshop alternatives. Or do you know of an app that didn’t make into this list but is promising? Do let us know in the comments below.