Best alternatives to Adobe Photoshop for iOS and Mac

in General Discussion edited June 2019
Adobe Photoshop has been the number one app for most photographers and digital artists for decades. But with a plethora of other apps available it may not be the best one for you -- and we have suggestions.

Adobe Photoshop alternatives
Adobe Photoshop alternatives

When people use Photoshop, they're usually in one of two camps: photographers or artists. Photographers have relied on Photoshop for color correction, air brushing, stitching, straightening, cloning, masking-- basically anything you'd need to make your photography stand out.

Artists, on the other hand, have taken the program out of its wheelhouse and used it to create impressive digital works with Photoshop's somewhat limited brush tools. While Adobe has sought to expand some of these features to accommodate for these uses, there's always a better tool for the job.

Procreate (iOS - $10)

Procreate is hands down the best app we've found if you're looking to create digital art that mimics traditional media. Anyone who has used Photoshop to create art is going to have no issue navigating the interface, but will be delighted when they find that all the useless bits of fluff in Photoshop have been pared down.


There's also an incredible secondary market for ProCreate brushes to be found online as well, with brushes to suit just about whatever project you're working on. We suggest checking out CreativeMarket to see what you can find.

In addition to a sleek interface, Procreate has features you won't find in Photoshop, such as drawing assist, allowing artists to quickly create perspective and isometric drawings. Procreate also has a feature called StreamLine, which that allows the program to stabilize any pen strokes you make. To get the most out of it, you're going to want to use the Apple Pencil, as Procreate has been designed with it in mind.

Perspective drawing example

Affinity Photo (MacOS - $50)

Photographers looking to step away from Adobe's subscription fees would do well to check out Affinity Photo. This app exists both on MacOS and iOS, and boasts many of the same features as Photoshop, including liquefy, color correction, red eye removal, and RAW editing. This is all packed into an efficient UI that is fairly self-explanatory.

Affinity has also recently upgraded their desktop apps, adding support for HDR and EDR displays and multiple GPU/eGPU setups.

Affinity's iOS app turns your iPad into a serious powerhouse of photo editing, giving you all the features you would want while still giving you an adequate amount of work space. This also means that photo editing has become much more portable, allowing you to edit anywhere you can take an iPad. In addition to buying from Serif directly, B&H Photo is accepting orders for Affinity Photo.

While not required, Affinity has also created a hardcover workbook to help new users become familiar with their program. It helps users understand the interface and helps to walk them through example projects. We think that anyone coming from Photoshop or Lightroom could skip this purchase if they don't want to spend the money, but it is handy once you have it.

Affinity Photo Workbook
Affinity Photo Workbook

Autodesk SketchBook (macOS Free - $85/year, iOS - Free)

Autodesk SketchBook
Autodesk SketchBook

SketchBook is somewhere between a digital art program like Procreate and a drafting program, such as AutoCAD LT. Its primary use has been by architects, product designers, and industrial designers to quickly jot down ideas for projects.

However, that doesn't make SketchBook a one trick pony, either. It features plenty of brush options, drawing tools like rulers and symmetry features, and ample layers to give artists enough tools to create digital artwork. There have been many artists who have made the switch solely to SketchBook and haven't looked back.

The simple UI is one of the biggest selling points for SketchBook. It's fast and focuses entirely on whatever the user is creating.

Autodesk SketchBook UI
Autodesk SketchBook

While we personally prefer Procreate for digital art, SketchBook does an excellent job of allowing design industry professionals the ability to create technical drawings much faster than they would be able to with something like Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or Procreate.

If a user is an individual, they can get SketchBook for free, both on macOS and iOS. Businesses can opt into multi-user licenses for $85 per year.

Pixelmator Pro (MacOS - $40)

Pixelmator is actually a whole range of apps across the Mac and OS. The most powerful and the most Photoshop-like one is Pixelmator Pro for Mac which is more than capable of handling the giant majority of jobs that the Adobe app can. It does have fewer options with layers, that mainstay of complex illustration and photography work, for instance. Overall, though, it's not only capable but it's also enjoyable to use, with much more streamlined and simplified tools.

There is currently no Pixelmator Pro specifically for iPad, but there is Pixelmator for iOS, which is an equivalent of a more basic Pixelmator app that's still available on the Mac and good for general use. The company has recently added Pixelmator Photo for iOS to the range, which brings more of the controls that will most benefit photographers, such as Machine Learning-based automatic adjustments and cropping.

Gimp - (macOS - free)


GIMP has been around since 1995 and has been a fan favorite among hobbyists and professionals ever since. GIMP is a raster-based photo editing software, very similar to Adobe Photoshop in types of features. It is a great jumping off point for users who are new to photo editing and aren't quite ready to spend money on a piece of software.

Though we find the UI a little daunting at times, GIMP is still an approachable program. While you certainly can do digital art and some basic graphic design in GIMP, much like Photoshop, GIMPs main priority is still photo editing and manipulation.


  • Reply 1 of 12
    MicDorseyMicDorsey Posts: 100member
    The latest Mac OS update killed Photoshop for me (CS 6). Illustrator was painfully slow and wonky, as well. The new Affinity Photo and Designer apps for Mac, both v. 1.7, appear to be mature, well-thought-out alternatives to Greedy Adobe products. Affinity has them discounted right now for $40 each. Considering the quality of the software (in some cases with superior features to PS and AI), the price is a steal. FWIW, I'm a graphic designer and have used PS and AI since the early 90s. Is there a learning curve with the Affinity products? Absolutely. Their free video tutorials are outstanding, however, and help the process along. Yeah, it's equal parts invigorating and PITA, but ultimately worth it to give the one-finger salute to Adobe.
    chiafotoformatoseametoysandmelorin schultzpslicedocno42
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Umm, Corel Painter has been a standard and rival to Photoshop for decades...
  • Reply 3 of 12
    Pixelmator has both MacOS and iOS versions and is excellent.
    mazda 3smacpluspluslolliverdavgreg
  • Reply 4 of 12
    kfagankfagan Posts: 1member
    ProCreate is a great app for sure, and especially for the price and feel for a traditionally trained artist.  It's usually my go to when getting any of my artist buddy's in to the fold. GIMP is just outright crappy, unless you like the feel of UNIX X Window system built apps or old style Windows Apps.  The fact that you can even mention it while leaving out a great app such as Pixelmator/Pixelmator Pro shows a lack of hands on research.  Or even Inkscape for Illustrators if you're planning on ditching the Adobe blood-sucking machine.  While Adobe dragged their proverbial asses on native system support for the Mac/iOS Pixelmator was one of the first to use native core OS integration on the Mac and iOS.  Inkscape so far as an Illustrator replacement has far outpaced GIMP improvements on the Photoshop front, which left me and many others to find other alternatives.  Affinity is another great one, although breaking up features into different apps seems a little greedy, as Illustration and Paint features should be cooked in to one delicious app (of course the price for development would reflect the feature set, it could never be as painful as Adobe's model).  If you're going to make a MacOS app or iOS app, start by using core system so you don't end up with either the glut of Adobe products, or the annoying use of such add-ons as X Windows. Just my opinion, as I thought progress was what we all look for.
    edited June 2019 macpluspluslolliver
  • Reply 5 of 12
    borpsborps Posts: 28member
    Ever since Adobe went with a subscription model I stopped using it. For UI design I use Sketch, for Photo retouching either Acorn for quick jobs, or Affinity Photo for the complex stuff. For Illustrations Affinity Designer rules. And also Procreate on my iPad for drawing with the Apple Pencil. You don’t need Adobe these days. Their software isn’t best of breed. Hasn’t been for quite a while. 
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Pixelmator has both MacOS and iOS versions and is excellent.
    Acorn and Pixelmator. 

    Friends don’t let friends use Gimp.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    dougddougd Posts: 292member
    Unless I can use my Photoshop actions and scripts it's a no go
  • Reply 8 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Anyone looking for an alternative to the program called Painter (from Corel) on Mac can get a very respectable version on iOS called “Art Set”. It really has some very impressive painterly effects and it’s fast, one of the things Painter was never known for.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 1,039member
    Pixelmator has both MacOS and iOS versions and is excellent.
    I was wondering why Pixelmator was not mentioned.

  • Reply 10 of 12
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,869administrator
    davgreg said:
    Pixelmator has both MacOS and iOS versions and is excellent.
    I was wondering why Pixelmator was not mentioned.

    It was, but there was something messed up with the post. Fixed this morning.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,342member
    Adobe has said that they are bringing full Photoshop to the iPad (Pro) at some point, so this article (a very fine roundup of your present options) will have to be revisited at some point. Although not available for iOS, I will say that I didn’t find the $10/month for Photoshop (and that other thing) on the Mac to be an extremely good deal. This was before Affinity had matured and before Pixelmator Pro was out, mind you, but $10/month to have all your PS plug-ins, actions, and scripts “just work”? It’s an insane bargain compared to buying PS outright (not that you can anymore).

    My graphics needs aren’t as heavy as they once were, so now I primarily use Luminar for photo-editing (which I love) on the Mac, and Pixelmator or a combo of speciality apps (like TouchRetouch or Snapseed, et al) for iOS photo editing.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,771member
    scotts1 said:
    Umm, Corel Painter has been a standard and rival to Photoshop for decades...
    You owe it to yourself to compare identical tasks in both Painter and Photoshop. You may find, as I did, that both apps having similar features does not necessarily translate to said features producing similar results.
Sign In or Register to comment.