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Best alternative to photoshop of 2021: Free and paid, for Windows, Mac, Linux, and online

Adobe Photoshop running on MacBook Pro 2021
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best Photoshop alternatives offer advanced photo editing solutions similar to Photoshop, but without the need to take out an expensive subscription with Adobe.

Photoshop is definitely the most well-known photo editing software, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one for you or your business. There are a few reasons that you may want to opt for alternative software, including price, special features, or a different workflow.

There’s no shortage of options, so we’ve put together this list to help you find the best Photoshop alternatives to meet your needs. We’ve selected what we think is the best software based on four main criteria: ease of use, features and functionality, performance, and compatibility. 

After reading, you should have a good idea of which is the best Photoshop alternative for you or your business.

We've also highlighted the best PC for photo editing.

(Image credit: GIMP)


The best open-source photo editing suite

Reasons to buy
+Highly customizable interface+Huge number of features, easily extensible+Raw and PSD compatible+Free and open source
Reasons to avoid
-Complex interface-Steep learning curve-No CMYK color mode (add-on available)

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source photography powerhouse that works on Linux, Windows, and macOS. 

GIMP boasts a huge number of features and functions that rival Photoshop. There’s also a huge community of developers and artists who have created a wide array of plugins, making this a highly adaptable program. If you desire a specific feature, there’s probably an add-on for it. 

The interface is highly customizable, so you can pare things back or leverage multiple windows and toolbars as needed. For this reason, GIMP has a similarly steep learning curve as Photoshop, but once you’ve made your way through a few tutorials, it’s quite comfortable. 

In our experience, GIMP was slightly less responsive and used a few more resources than its proprietary counterpart, but this can be easily forgiven on the basis that GIMP always has been and always will be free and open source.

Read our full Gimp review.


(Image credit: Pixlr)

2. Pixlr X

A powerful HTML 5 free online photo editor

Reasons to buy
+Layer support+Web-app, available from any browser+Clean design+Intuitive workflow experience
Reasons to avoid
-Missing some features (e.g., custom brushes)-Limited filetype compatibility (no PSD)-Online only

Pixlr X is another free photo editor, available as a web app. This HTML 5 photo editing software can give native apps a run for their money. 

The Pixlr X interface is more spartan than either Photoshop or GIMP, but that’s not a bad thing. The workflow is streamlined and intuitive: you can drag-and-drop a photo from your computer or add a URL, and then get to work adjusting images with familiar one-click filters and sliders. 

Given that it’s a web app, Pixlr X has surprisingly robust layer support. However, important features are still missing. Custom brushes, for example, are slated for development in the future but don’t exist yet.

Overall, Pixlr X gives you a super clean and intuitive interface for basic to medium-complexity photo editing. 

Read our full Pixlr X review.


(Image credit: Photos Pos)

3. Photos Pos Pro

A lighter alternative to Photoshop that still has many features

Reasons to buy
+Customizable interface+Many functions and one-click editing tools+Support for scripts and batch editing+Raw and PSD compatible
Reasons to avoid
-Limited set of filters-Limited keyboard shortcuts

Photos Pos Pro is a Photoshop alternative known for being feature-rich, with tools for editing images, web design, and document creation.

While it lacks the deep customization that professional photographers rely on, it’s still an excellent program for making adjustments to photos for presentations, marketing campaigns, or personal enjoyment.

One interesting feature is the customizable interface, which enables users to select either Novice or Pro layouts. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but essentially, the novice layout sacrifices power for usability, while the pro layout is feature-rich, albeit with a steep learning curve. Even if it’s not executed perfectly, this flexibility is commendable and practical.

With layers, masking, brushes, scripts, and batch editing, Photos Pos Pro is a feature-rich alternative to Photoshop. 

Read our full Photo Pos Pro review.


(Image credit: Krita)

4. Krita

A clean, intuitive, and customizable interface

Reasons to buy
+Excellent tablet support for drawing+Highly customizable brush engine+Vector and raster capabilities+Large community
Reasons to avoid
-Some photo editing features missing

Krita is open-source and free, backed by a huge community of developers and talented artists who share artwork and methods. If you’re looking for an active user base that’s invested in discussing and sharing art, Krita is a great Photoshop alternative.

Beyond the community, Krita is an incredibly powerful photo editing software, with hundreds of brushes and a brush customization engine, vector and text capabilities for comic strips, a wrap-around mode for seamless repeating images and patterns, and a powerful resource manager for importing tools from other artists.

We found the interface intuitive and familiar, with minor functions like being able to scroll sliders with the trackpad and having helpful tooltips that let us know to find the right tool. 

Krita is more of a drawing tool than a photo editing tool, so certain features are missing: fewer photo filters, no automatic heal tool, etc. It does, however, support opening and saving PSD files.

Also, Krita has fantastic tablet support with custom sensitivity settings, so for artists looking to combine drawing and photos, it’s hard to beat. 


(Image credit: Skylum)

5. Luminar

Powerful photo editing software that leverages AI

Reasons to buy
+Leverages AI for impressive features+Available as standalone or Adobe/Apple plug-in+Sync AI edits across photos +Download new skies or upload your own
Reasons to avoid
-Can be heavy on system resources-No mobile version or web app

Luminar isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it’s a powerful photo editing software that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to help artists create amazing photos in just a few clicks. 

Luminar is available as a standalone editor or a plug-in for Adobe products, so this is an alternative that you can actually use in tandem with Photoshop. 

Its impressive features include instant AI sky replacement, AI portrait and skin enhancer, sunrays, advanced AI structure and lighting filters, a smart contrast tool for preserving color and texture, and object removal brushes, some of the best we’ve used.

The layout is clean and intuitive, with most functions available in the sidebar. Clicking on one brings up sliders for customizing effects, with advanced settings available. From start to finish, the Luminar photo editing workflow is smooth and speedy. 

We've also featured the best drawing and painting software.

Christian Rigg

Christian is a freelance writer and content project manager with 6+ years' experience writing and leading teams in finance and technology for some of the world's largest online publishers, including TechRadar and Tom's Guide.