I Tried Some Photoshop Alternatives But I Came Running Back

I love Photoshop, but since I’m currently in a tough spot, with almost no income, I had to cut down on expenses. Especially when Photoshop in my region is €11.89/mo ($14.09), not $9.99/mo.

So, since I don’t use Photoshop at a professional level, to make money off of it directly, I wanted to search for a free or one-time payment alternative.

I said “Hell, I don’t need Photoshop just to crop some images, add some arrows, shapes, drop-shadows, and other basic stuff. Any decent graphics editor should be able to do that.”.

I was wrong.

I got extremely annoyed and frustrated. And I normally like learning new things, trying different software, and all that.

I know that learning something new can be frustrating, but I never felt like this before when trying out new stuff.

Everything I tried just pissed me off and made me miss Photoshop so much. I missed those simple things, those intuitive details that make your work easier and pleasant.

Please note that I haven’t used these tools in-depth. I might be wrong at some points, so I recommend trying them yourself as well.

I Tried GIMP

GIMP has been around for over 20 years, and it’s usually the first recommended alternative to Photoshop.

GIMP is complex, and you can do A LOT with it. Some say you can do almost everything you do in Photoshop. I don’t know because I haven’t used it much.

But it’s not necessarily about what you can do, it’s also about how you can do it.

What pissed me off at GIMP 😡

The UI

The UI isn’t beginner-friendly.

For example, I didn’t have a Toolbox and Layers list out of the box, as Photoshop has on the left and right. I had to search for them, then add them, then add more tools to the toolbox…

I mean, it’s customizable, which is good, but I don’t want to spend an hour figuring out how to set up this stuff.

Text scaling

I added some text, and I wanted to click and drag to enlarge it.

Well, it seems that you can’t do it like that.

If you scale it, the Text layer becomes another type of layer, and the text gets blurry, as it does when trying to enlarge an image.

Lack of non-destructive editing (deal-breaker)

This is what made me uninstall it immediately.

Even though it’s over 20 years old, GIMP still doesn’t have non-destructive editing.

For example, if you add a filter, such as a drop-shadow, you can’t edit or remove it because it’s added to the main layer. It doesn’t add it in a separate filter layer.

So, if you want to remove or edit it, you’ll have to delete your layer and start over.

Sure, you can use some workarounds, such as copying/saving your layers every time you add a filter, but that’s really annoying and takes a lot more time and knowledge.

They did say that this feature is on the 3.2 roadmap, but I’ll die of old age by then.

I Tried Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is pretty neat. Initially, I thought “This is it!”.

Its UI and many features are pretty similar to Photoshop’s, so the transition is pretty smooth.

Affinity Photo also has a one-time payment system. You pay $49.99 and you can use the copy as long as you want.

But, if you want the next major update, which is released every several years, you have to purchase a copy again.

They also offer a free trial.

What I didn’t like at Affinity Photo 🙁

Unlike GIMP, Affinity Photo didn’t piss me off. It just upset me. 🙂

Can’t scroll through fonts like in Photoshop

In Photoshop, you select your Text layer, then click in the Fonts box and start scrolling through fonts while watching your text change.

In Affinity Photo, you have to bring down the font list first, then scroll on it. The list being long in my case, it dropped down over a part of the text, covering it.

Can’t drag layers over document tabs

In Photoshop, you can click and drag layers to another document’s tab, and it’s pasted there automatically. You don’t have to use Copy and Paste. It’s quick, simple, and easy.

In Affinity Photo, you can’t.

From what I’ve read, you have to enable an option called “Separated Mode”. I didn’t even try it because I was already annoyed. I stuck with Copy/Paste.

Pixel vs Image layer (deal-breaker)

This is where I snapped and called it quits.

If you open an image file like you normally would in Photoshop (CTRL-O), it adds it as a Pixel layer.

That didn’t work as I expected, and it drove me mad until I found out that I actually needed to use an Image layer.

If you want to add it as an Image layer, you have to use the Place feature, which doesn’t work if you don’t have a layer to put it on already. It’s grayed out.

Or you have to use Copy and Paste to add it as an Image layer. And the keyboard shortcuts didn’t work either.

In Photoshop, I can just take a screenshot, then CTRL-V, and boom! I can start working on it.

I Tried Krita

This is the last tool I tried.

Krita is a free graphics editor which is more for digital painting, but it could’ve worked for what I needed as well.

I read good things about it, and I was sold when I read that it has non-destructive editing, meaning that I can edit/remove filters.

What I didn’t like at Krita 🙁

Can’t scroll through fonts like in Photoshop

When you add or edit the text in Krita, you do it in a pop-up box, then save it and check it on your layer.

It sounds awful, but it didn’t bother me much.

What did bother me is that while it lets you scroll through fonts to see changes in real-time, you can only see them in that pop-up box, not on your actual text. So, you won’t be able to see the big picture.

Could there be another way? It could, but I didn’t spend time looking for it.

Can’t drag layers over document tabs

You can’t simply drag layers from one document tab to another, as you do in Photoshop.

I don’t know if there are workarounds because I didn’t bother to check. I was already getting annoyed again.

No alignment feature for layers (deal-breaker)

Krita is also vector-based. When working with vectors, you have a feature called Arrange, which allows you to align the items just like you would in Photoshop.

Great! But about layers that aren’t vectors?

Well, you can’t align those using Arrange. You’ll have to figure out a workaround using the Snapping feature, and then snap the items based on grid, rulers, or other stuff.

Of course, that’s annoying and not optimal.

This is what made me quit Krita.

So, Back to Photoshop 🥰

In a way, I’m happy that I didn’t like any of those Photoshop alternatives because now I can say “Hey, I tried, it’s not my fault.” 🙂 and go back to using Photoshop, which I really, really like.

There might be several other graphics editors out there, but I’m sure I won’t like them half as much.

Those little details make Photoshop stand on top of others.

I’d like to quote a user who was complaining on the Affinity forums about the lack of a simple feature to drag layers over other document tabs, as I mentioned above.

Unfortunately, it’s these little frustrations that have prevented me from making the switch permanently to Affinity products.

That’s exactly right! They are all great graphics editors, but those “little frustrations” that they cause are dragging them down.

They spend so much time implementing complex features that they miss the small things that make a very big difference.

Take GIMP for example.

It was so powerful, even many, many years ago, that it was used by someone to reconstruct a face based on a skull, which was matched to a missing person, as you can see in this Forensic Files episode.

Yet, there’s no simple way to remove or modify a filter that you added, which is virtually what everyone needs.

I needed that in, like, 5 minutes, and I’m just editing images for sites and my guides.

That’s a Wrap

If you think that you found a great Photoshop alternative that doesn’t cause those “little frustrations”, feel free to let me and others know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “I Tried Some Photoshop Alternatives But I Came Running Back”

    • Heya! Thanks for mentioning those tools.

      I actually tried Photopea a bit, too, but didn’t mention it in the post. It’s good, especially when it feels and looks similar to Photoshop, but I prefer having a full-blown software that runs on my computer for this type of work. It might sound silly, but I just couldn’t use a browser app everyday for editing images and stuff like that.

      As for Photoshop CS2 – I prefer taking advantage of the latest features, which come in handy.

      Nevertheless, these two resources will definitely be useful for other visitors.

      Reply

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