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Whether you want to design logos or edit photographs, professional graphic design software doesn't come cheap. Or does it?
Photoshop is the first word in graphic design software and like most leading software products, it demands a fee from anyone who wants to use it. In fact, to access Photoshop, you'll need to fork out about $19.99 every month. Personally, I don't have an issue with this given how powerful Photoshop is but there are those who do.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this price problem.
Free alternatives to Photoshop do exist, and they hold their own in terms of quality, too. Here they all are. (Click here for our list of Paid Photoshop alternatives)
Announced to the public in 1995, GIMP is one of the most popular image manipulation programs on the market. It's also likely to be the most powerful graphic design tool on this list. It's free and open source, but packs a professional punch nonetheless.
There are big similarities between Photoshop and GIMP in terms of functionality and user interface, so many find migration from one to the other to be easy.
Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor. Despite being free, Inkscape looks and feels incredibly prestige. Some of it’s features include intelligent drawing tools, the ability to import and export multiple file types, addons, and multi lingual support.
It's also one of the few options on the list compatible with Linux.
Pixlr comes in two distinct flavours. Pixlr Express is ideal for quick fixes and simple edits, while Pixlr Editor is for power users. Both are both free, and both are browser-based web apps, so there's never any need to download the software. This makes it ideal for Chromebook users, too.
Also, if you're looking to edit images from your mobile device, Pixlr has applications available on iOS and Android.
Krita is an open source digital sketching and painting studio that is geared towards concept artists. illustrators, and designers who want to sketch from scratch. So, if you want to edit existing imagery, this one isn't for you.
Krita also offers training material to kickstart your illustration career (or hobby), and can open PSD files, too.
Canva is another browser-based web app that provides everything a graphic designer needs.
Used by over 10 million people, Canva serves up millions of stock images, hundreds of fonts, and a wide range of filters, icons, and shapes. With their resources to hand, you can drag and drop imagees into place before editing them.
Seasoned graphic designers may find Canva to be a little lightweight, though.
Thanks to it’s image based tabs system which makes it easy to work on multiple projects at once, Paint.Net is a great free alternative to Photoshop. Also, the inclusion of layers – a feature normally reserved for expensive professional software – makes Paint.Net tough to beat.
I see it as a halfway house between Microsoft Paint and Photoshop, making it easy for graphic design newbies to grasp. And it's for that reason – among others – that I've personally been using Paint.NET for all my image editing needs over the last few years.
It's bad news for Mac users though, as Paint.NET is available only for Windows.
If you're a dedicated Mac user, Seashore may be for you.
Available only for Mac OS X's Cocoa framework, Seashore takes inspiration from GIMP (number one on this list) by serving up similar functionality and using the same native file format.
However, unlike the GIMP, Seashore is aimed at a broader audience who just want to do some basic image editing.
Last but certainly not least, SumoPaint's slogan is, ‘Photoshopping in your browser' – which is pretty self-explanatory.
It's an incredibly powerful web app with an answer to most if not all of Photoshop's best features. You can use it through your browser and tolerate the ads, or upgrade to SumoPaint Pro to use it without ads. SumoPaint Pro also allows you to download the software so you can use it offline.
Free Graphic Design Software That Doesn't Suck
Photoshop is a powerhouse, but if you're struggling to justify its rather heavy price-tag, then the eight Photoshop alternatives listed above should tide you over.
If you are curious as to what options exist with a price tag, check out our list of Paid Photoshop Alternatives.
Do you know of any other free Photoshop alternatives? Share them with us in the comments section below!