Free Photoshop and Software Alternatives

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It can be difficult for graphic artists to afford a $600 program when budgets are tight. Adobe’s photo editing software, Photoshop, is essential to keep portfolios current and contend with colleagues in the highly competitive market of design. But it’s not always feasible to fork out that kind of money on a limited income. Student versions have limited licenses, trial versions have short-lived availability and pirated software is never a good idea especially when it comes to professional use. So students and freelancers are forced to get creative when it comes to getting hold of the tools they need to get the job done without breaking the bank.


If it’s the real deal or nothing, there are a couple of options to obtain a legit copy of Photoshop for free. The Computer History Museum has recently released the open source code free for everyone who wants to go old school and use Adobe’s initial 1989 version of Photoshop v1.0.1. Of course this version doesn’t have most of the tools present in more recent releases. It doesn’t even have layers.


A version of the popular software developed in this century is available directly from Adobe. The CS2 creative suite has recently been made available to Adobe account holders directly from their website. If it sounds too good to be true, consider the following statement the company made, “Adobe has disabled the activation server for CS2 products, including Acrobat 7, because of a technical issue. These products were released more than seven years ago, do not run on many modern operating systems, and are no longer supported. Adobe strongly advises against running unsupported and outdated software.” This doesn’t mean that it won’t work, it just means don’t call them and complain if it doesn’t.


Brand names are great but for folks where function comes first there are alternative software titles available for free that can still get the job done. One of the most popular options that works across platforms is a program called GIMP. According to their site “GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.” And guess what, it has layers.


Design weblog, Hongkiat cites several free Photoshop alternative installs including programs for:








Keeping up with the competition requires talent and ingenuity especially when funds are limited. Top-of-the-line software might be too expensive for some small businesses and designers just starting out, but that doesn’t have to stop them from accessing acceptable alternatives and producing quality products.


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos


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  • Stephanie C
    Stephanie C
    Thank you, Heather! I found this article to be very informative and helpful.
  • Heather Fairchild
    Heather Fairchild
    Thanks for the heads up, Mark. You can download Pixia here: and read about it here: ChocoFlop here:
  • Mark W
    Mark W
    Good article with some good suggestions.   Some links have expired or changed.   The links to Pixia ChocoFlopThanks.   
  • Brian S
    Brian S
    Great article.  I prefer Xara on the Windows platform as well. Its fast and very powerful.
  • Heather Fairchild
    Heather Fairchild
    Thanks for the nods and additional resources!!
  • Joel K
    Joel K
    For Linux, you left out Xpaint. For Linux and Windows, you left off mtPaint. And you should mention the Free Software
  • Lonnie B
    Lonnie B
    Thank you so much! This article is wonderful....
  • Robert H
    Robert H
    Excellent. I have another photoshop freeware called GIMP; since I'm strictly a techwriter (among other hats) I don't have to have 'Shop as such, just something to manipulate photos and produce a usable result.
  • Renga S
    Renga S
    Very useful information.
  • Victoria D
    Victoria D
    This is good information as I will be assisting a neophyte startup business that will benefit from graphics. Passing the information to others. Thanks
  • Miller S
    Miller S
    I started the new Adobe subscription model and now have access to all the suite of photoshop apps and more for about $30/month. I love the latest versions and I get all of Adobe's tutorials and what looks to me like most of the other common suite of apps.
  • Heather Fairchild
    Heather Fairchild
    I wasn't implying it was ancient, I just quoted what Adobe said about CS2. Personally upgraded from CS2 to CS5 last year but for my son uses Gimp which IMO is better than any bootleg copy of Photoshop.
  • Rick C
    Rick C
    Excellent but a tad misleading. CS2 is not carved in ancient rock, it just preceeds multicore  chips. I still use Photoshop 7 and have never had a problem with it so CS2 should be just fine.I bought a 'student' copy of PS CS3 and when I tried to activate it, Adobe informed me it was a bootleg copy and I had just paid $150 to China. Buying a valid copy FROM Adobe is THE way to go!

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