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It doesn’t always have to be Photoshop – the 9 best alternatives

It doesn’t always have to be Photoshop – the 9 best alternatives

The most expensive tool isn’t necessarily the best one. Read this article to which Photoshop alternatives you can use to create your pixel designs better and more effectively.

You’re trying to come up with creative designs and reach a lot of people. Then suddenly, your graphics design software starts playing up and just isn’t doing what you want it to. We know the struggle. That’s why we’ve taken a closer look at 10 different graphics programs, compiled the pros and cons before describing which kind of tasks they suit.

Especially if you are still at the beginning of your career as a designer, the choice of a graphics program is pretty important. After all, you’re committing to a certain file format, learning the corresponding functions, routines and workflows. It’s not only a financial investment, it’s an investment of your working time as you learn how to use the software. Often it can be a case of ‘less is more’. Depending on what kind of designs you are creating, a simple program with a clear and user-friendly interface may be more suitable than the expensive and complex market leader. The following list will help you find the program that fits you.

Commercial Software und Apps

1. Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is undoubtedly the market leader and virtually the standard program for creating pixel graphics. The range of functions is almost limitless, and it can be used for almost every conceivable purpose. Using it relies on a decent grasp of how it works. Those who aren’t familiar with the program can quickly get a bit lost. However, with an enormous community and countless tutorials, there’s plenty of support around, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. Nevertheless, this program‘s priority remains professional users.

Pro Contra
  • Almost unlimited range of functions
  • Extensive options for automatic image correction
  • Supports all image formats
  • Good support network
  • Large range of tutorials
  • High price
  • Subscription only
  • User interface and range of functions can be overwhelming at the beginning

System: All

Design Skills: Advanced and professional

Link: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop.html

Tutorial: https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/photoshop/tutorials.html

2. Corel Photo Paint

Corel Photo Paint ist der zweite große Player auf dem Markt und orientiert sich in seiner Machart deutlich beim Marktführer. Der Funktionsumfang ist etwas geringer als beim Konkurrenten, kostet dafür als Desktop-Version aber deutlich weniger.

Corel Photo Paint is the second big player on the market and is fairly similar in design to Adobe’s version. The range of functions is somewhat smaller than that of the market leader, but the desktop version is considerably cheaper.

Pro Contra
  • Different software packages based on the users’ skills (for Windows only)
  • Learning content is tailored to users’ previous uses and general know-how
  • For all types of creative work
  • Only the most expensive software package available for Mac
  • Desktop version contains 2021 edition, newer feature only available with subscription
  • Subscription version is expensive

System: All

Design Skills: From beginner to professional

Link: https://www.coreldraw.com/?link=wm

Tutorial: https://www.coreldraw.com/en/learn/tutorials/

3. Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is one of the best alternatives to Photoshop. It does not have the same range of functions but is significantly cheaper and available without a subscription. It is perfect for creating Print-on-Demand designs.

Pro Contra
  • Cheap
  • Many tutorials (in English)
  • Customizable user interface
  • Extensive range of functions
  • Assistance features a little hard to find.
  • No image manager (but not necessary for most users)

System: All

Design Skills: From beginner to professional

Link: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/photo/

Tutorial: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/learn/

4. Procreate (MacOS & iOS)

Procreate is especially interesting for digital artists and illustrators who work with iPads and Apple Pencils or another stylus pens.

Pro Contra
  • Very cheap
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to learn
  • Only available on iPad
  • Only useful in combination with a stylus pen

System: iPad only

Design Skills: From beginner to professional

Link: Available for iPad in app store

5. Pixelmator (MacOS & iOS)

Pixelmator is primarily for editing images, rather than for creating new designs. However, if you use photos or analog, hand-painted drawings as templates for your designs, this iPad app may be just what you need.

Pro Contra
  • Extensive image editing functions
  • Easy to use
  • No CMYK color model
  • Not conceived for the creation of new designs

System: iPad only

Design Skills: From beginner to professional

Link: Im AppStore für iPad erhältlich

Tutorial: https://www.pixelmator.com/tutorials/

6. Luminar AI

Luminar AI is one of the best apps when it comes to editing and making pictures for Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. This also means it is not primarily intended for creating designs. Dafür ist es, anders als Pixelmator, plattformunabhängig. However, unlike Pixelmator it can be used on any system.

Pro Contra
  • Easy to use
  • Very clear user interface
  • Efficient and quick
  • Built-in AI takes over many tasks
  • Primarily designed for bloggers and influencers

System: All

Design Skills: From beginner to professional

Link: https://skylum.com/luminar-ai

7. Clip Studio Paint

This software has been primarily developed for professional illustrators and is therefore ideally suited for the creation of Print-on-Demand designs. An abundance of different brushes as well as drawing and design are on offer. Besonders geeignet für Comics, Mangas, Charakterdesigns und Illustrationen. Clip is particularly suitably for comics, manga, character designs and illustrations

Pro Contra
  • Ideal for PoD designs
  • Extensive brush and drawing tools
  • Good fun to paint and draw around with
  • A bit overwhelming for beginners
  • Use of stylus pen is required

System: All

Design Skills: Advanced and professional

Link: https://www.clipstudio.net/en/

Tutorial: https://tips.clip-studio.com/en-us/official

Free Software

8. Gimp

Gimp is the ultimate free image editing software. When it comes to purely editing images, the program offers a range of functions comparable to Photoshop.

Pro Contra
  • Free
  • Extensive range of functions
  • Many plugins & add ons available
  • Focus is on editing, less on creating designs
  • User interface sometimes unclear and confusing
  • Takes a bit of familiarization

System: All

Design Skills: Advanced

Link: https://www.gimp.org/

Tutorial: https://www.gimp.org/tutorials/

9. Krita

Krita is designed for illustrators, cartoonists, and manga artists – making it ideal for creating Print-on-Demand designs. The free software offers a wide range of functions, but requires a stylus pen.

Pro Contra
  • Free
  • Perfect for comics, illustrations and storyboards
  • Clear and easy user interface
  • Different drawing techniques can be used: Watercolor, oil paint, charcoal drawing, etc.
  • No support
  • Sometimes slow performance

System: All

Design Skills: Beginner to advanced

Link: https://krita.org/en/

Tutorial: https://docs.krita.org/en/tutorials.html#tutorials

10. Photopea (Browser-based)

Photopea is a simple and fast way to edit photos directly in the browser. It’s ideal for preparing photos for your social media posts. It is less suitable for creating your own designs.

Pro Contra
  • Free
  • Very fast
  • Runs directly from your browser, no downloaded required
  • Limited range of functions
  • Less suitable for creating your own designs

System: All (runs from Browser)

Design-Skills: Beginner to advanced

Link: https://www.photopea.com/

Tutorial: https://www.photopea.com/tuts/

In addition: No less important and definitely just as interesting and relevant for you, is our overview of the most important tools for searching keywords. After all, having the right keywords in the metadata for your designs determine whether your designs are easy to find on the marketplace or on Google & Co.

So, there we have it, our top ten software tips for creating pixel graphics. Which app or software do you use? Do you have any insider tips or comments about our list? Let us know in the comments.

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