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Alternatives to Adobe's Creative Cloud

Duncan Evans | June 18, 2013
Discover the software alternatives when you unplug the Creative Suite drip

If you are one of the people outraged by Creative Suite moving to a software-leasing model, it may be time to start looking at the alternatives. In order to have the latest versions of Adobe software you will need to pay £46.88pm as a new customer, £27.34pm if upgrading and £17.58pm if you only use one app. The complaints have come in thick and fast from those who don't want to be held hostage to a monthly fee and the consequences of stopping paying, so in this feature we'll take a look at what else you can be spending your money on to get a similar, Adobe free, level of software.

Photoshop photo-editing
The current version of Photoshop is something of a sprawling epic, covering a variety of fields, but at heart it is an image-editor.

The most affordable alternative is of course, GIMP (, which is entirely free. It also most closely resembles Photoshop with a good RAW import engine, layers, brushes, and a host of image correction tools. The basics of Levels and Curves plus colour correction are all handled well and there are also a large number of filters for creative effects. The interface is somewhat piecemeal and takes getting used to, but for most photo-editing tasks, it's very capable.

Note that it doesn't support CMYK, just RGB, Grayscale and Indexed. On the plus side, there's also a Bezier Curve pen tool and layers can have masks and alpha channels. It can be slow to do the more intensive processing tasks, but otherwise it's quite slick and smooth.

One thing that Photoshop now offers is 3D, so if you want to consider that then DAZ Studio 4.6 offers a free route into basic rendering. Alternatives to GIMP are less serious, but Acorn 4 (£20.99) features non-destructive filters, layers styles, curves and levels and a range of simple editing tools.

The Clone tool though is limited. For pure painting options you really can't do better than Corel's Painter (£190) which features natural media painting, paints that actually mix and run and brushes that Photoshop can only dream about. For a more creative aspect, replicating Photoshop filters, rather than Photoshop itself, then FX Photo Pro (£16.81) supports RAW files, has a good set of editing tools and supports images up to 40Mp.

Photographic workflow with Lightroom
While a busy design studio will make use of most of the features of Photoshop, a photographer tends not to, meaning that Lightroom actually does most of what they usually need.

The clear rival to this is Apple's Aperture (£54.99) which now has a unified library with iPhoto. Photos can be searched by location, which is handy, and by face recognition, which is a little more gimmicky. There is also integration with Photo Stream in iCloud, with either a manual import or a rolling, automatic flow of the last 1000 images. The heart of the package though is the ability to process your RAW files without having to reach for Photoshop, or if you're Adobe-free, GIMP.


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