What is Adobe Creative Cloud? The subscription service explained

Adobe Creative Cloud

If you're interested in any creative field – as a hobbyist or professional – you'll probably have heard of Adobe Creative Cloud, but you might not be sure exactly what it is, and whether it's worth investing in.

Essentially, Creative Cloud is a subscription service (paid annually or monthly) that gives you access to Adobe's creative apps, and lets you easily move files between desktop, web and mobile apps – but that's not all.

Depending on the bundle you go for, Creative Cloud also gives you access to thousands of Adobe fonts and assets, including photos, videos, audio and video clips. There are also handy collaboration tools that let remote teams work on cloud-based documents, plus a lots of tutorials streaming on Adobe Live.

To get access to the 20+ apps that cover everything from photography to design, you'll need to subscribe to the Creative Cloud All Apps bundle (see below). But as that's overkill for many people, we've also broken down some of the cheaper and more specific Creative Cloud options further down.

All Apps

Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps gives you access to the company's full suite of creative software for desktop and mobile. You get the industry-standard image editor Photoshop, vector graphics editor Illustrator, video editor Premiere Pro, and much more besides.

Not only can you access 20 desktop and mobile apps, an All Apps subscription also includes 100GB cloud storage for your projects, your own portfolio site, premium fonts and social media tools. You can also add a stock photography subscription for an extra fee, which lets you download and use 10 Adobe Stock images per month.

The combination of all these programs is extremely powerful – you can, for example, design email campaigns (using a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator and Adobe XD), or mock up a web page using the same tools. And while it isn't cheap, the All Apps bundle is a hugely versatile set of tools that can tackle pretty much any professional creative task.

Specialist plans

If you're only interested in enhancing your photos, there's a more affordable 'Photography plan' that includes Lightroom (both Classic and CC), Photoshop, Photoshop Express and the fun Photoshop Camera app.

Beyond these two main plans – All Apps and Photography – there are also Creative Cloud plans for different types of users, including individuals, students, teachers, universities, schools, and businesses.

You can also subscribe to individual apps for a monthly fee, if that's all you need. But in some cases, like the Photography plan, subscribing to a single app like Photoshop actually costs more than one of Adobe's bundles.

Is Adobe Creative Cloud worth it?

An Adobe Creative Cloud subscription isn't cheap, but the initial investment is a tiny fraction of buying the full software suite outright, and it's hard to argue with the quality and convenience. 

If you only need one app for a specific use case, for example photo editing, then it's worth looking at rivals that still offer non-subscription plans. Affinity Photo, for example, is available for a one-off download fee, which means you can avoid signing up for another monthly subscription.

But for if you're a serious hobbyist or pro who needs the versatility that Adobe's various tools bring, then a Creative Cloud subscription is well worth considering.

Adobe Creative Cloud: $52.99/mo

Adobe Creative Cloud: $52.99/mo
The Creative Cloud All Apps plan includes Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and over 20 apps from Adobe to use across your devices. This also includes 100GB of cloud storage, alongside Adobe fonts and the latest updates as soon as they're available.

Adobe Creative Cloud: £49.94/mo

Adobe Creative Cloud: £49.94/mo
The Creative Cloud plan includes Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and 20 over apps from Adobe to use across your devices. This also includes 100GB of cloud storage, alongside Adobe fonts and the latest updates as soon as they're available.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)