Is there an alternative to Photoshop?

Again a dumb question of a Mac newbie: How do you work with images, photos, graphics etc. on a Mac? Or: Is there an alternative to Photoshop?

I have gathered a lot of lot of free or cheap image processing applications - Iris, ImageWell, PhotoArtist, PhotoStudio, Seashore… -, but they are all very limited in what they can do and how they do it. And some simply break down after a while (Iris, particularly). Whenever I need to trim a photo, put text on it or the like, I have to go through several applications. So, the sad realization: Up to now, I had better image manipulation tools on the PC than I have on the Mac! :open_mouth:

Is it that maybe I misunderstood the saying that “Macs are great on image manipulation” should in reality be pronounced more precisely “Photoshop is great on image manipulation”?

Then again, in my dictionary “Photoshop” is an synonym for “expensive software”… :frowning:

What would the seasoned Mac professionels gathered here recommend?

First, the 1st disclamer: I’m not an expert.

Second, the other disclamer: I tend to protect my Macs from Adobe.

Have you tried Gimp (GNU license) or Pixelmator? I use Pixelmator and am quite happy with it. (My other image maker of choice is DrawIt.)

Another hypothesis may be the Photoshop Elements. I heard a new version came out for Mac recently.

In the end it all depends on your workflow and how hardcore are your image manipulation needs. :slight_smile:

I like Pixelmator a lot. It’s pleasant to use, while remaining very powerful. Some features show how it was conceived in more recent years, and with an agile mind compared to Photoshop. I’m forced to use Photoshop at work, but Pixelmator is the first one I open when a quick edit is required.


There’s also Compositor, which is designed to be a lightweight version of Photoshop.

Like it or not, Photoshop is the industry standard. And I do like it, a lot. But it is expensive and it’s got a depth and a width that can be intimidating if you’re not an image pro or dedicated enthusiast.

However, for serious image editing, nothing that I’ve seen so far beats adjustment layers and layer masks.

Have you tried Photoshop Elements? It’s a pared down Photoshop, but with most of the important functions and presented in a way that can be more readily approachable. There’s a downloadable 30 day demo from Adobe as well.

I haven’t used Pixelmator – good tip, thanks! I’ll download it and try it out. If nothing else, the readers of the photo magazine I work for might be interested!

Anyway, why not try Photoshop Elements? In fact, there’s a clever ‘can opener’ called Elements+ by Andrei Doubrovski <> which unlocks a lot of ‘hidden’ Elements functions, such as layer masks and a curves tool.



I suck at all thing graphic (and most other things if you consider the evidence) but the graphics guys at work point to Gimp and Pixelmator. They do use photoshop, but suggest the other two as “just as good”.

If you are only doing fairly simple things… try GraphicConverter. I have used is since the early 90’s and it is still my go to first on lots of jobs.


from the people who brought you VoodooPad. Some people claim that Acorn’s UI is a little bit more user-friendly than Pixelmator’s.

Gimp is free and seems to be in active development, but it’s cross platform, so has some disquieting un-Mac-like features. Nonetheless, it does just about everything I’ve done with trial versions of Pixelmator and PSElements.


There truly is no competition to Photoshop out there. And you are basically right, the old stereotype that says Macs are great at image processing really means, Macs are great at running Photoshop. :slight_smile: It used to be that Adobe and Apple worked very closely together to keep Photoshop optimised with Mac OS. Photoshop on Windows just couldn’t compete. That relationship isn’t nearly so strong today, and there probably isn’t a really solid speed advantage between the two platforms, other than the general superiority of Mac Hardware for the price-point and the better OS.

Anyway, I’m rambling.

That said, I second the votes for Gimp, if you need power. It is the OpenOffice of the graphics world; cross-platform, slightly more clunky, and geeky than the major industry offerings, but nearly just as powerful and capable of inter-operating with industry standard formats (though it cannot handle all of Photoshop’s new layer and effect types).

I’d also second the vote for Acorn, if you want a complete tool that isn’t so intimidating to learn. I have Photoshop, but sometimes I just want to do a quick crop or something and Acorn is great for small edits like that. It’s no Photoshop competitor, but it has a fairly complete set of tools and feels nicely lightweight despite that. The developer is also very committed to the Apple platform and his software, you’ll see constant minor and major updates.

Second the recommendation for GraphicConverter. It excels at file conversions, but is also good for basic editing functions. It can probably handle just about anything that a non-graphics person (like me!) needs.

For heavier stuff, you’ll need heavier tools, as already suggested by other posters.


May I ask why? :open_mouth:

Thanks for all hints. It’s really not so much a question of price (although the full blown Photoshop suite is out of question) but of functionality. As I don’t want to have to have one application for writing text and another for formatting headlines and a third one for setting sentences in italics and a fourth that is able to create tables, but unfortunately is not compatible with application nr.2, but want to have one text processor that is able to do “all” I need, I want to have one image processor that is able to do “all” I need.

Depends on what I need, of course. :unamused:

And what is all you need? :slight_smile:


Yeah, that’s the question. Sometimes you have to see something before you know that you need it. So I’ll spend some time now with the demos of Pixelmator (looks powerful indeed) and Photoshop Elements… :open_mouth:

I just spent several hours helping some people get started with image editing. They had the new Elements 8. Its feature set is now much closer to Photoshop than earlier versions. I was impressed.


how about a combination of Aperture and Graphicconverter ?

If it’s down to a choice of RAW converters, I’d earnestly recommend Adobe Lightroom over Aperture. I’ve worked/am working with both and I definitely prefer Lightroom, which is much lighter on the CPU, has a smoother work flow (IMO) with an incomparable undo/redo function and, of course, much tighter integration with Photoshop.


How do you feel about the quality of the image reproduction though? Camera has always felt a bit “plastic” to me, as if it isn’t pulling enough dynamic range out of the image, and at actual pixels, the level of subtle detail and texturing is richer in Aperture, especially in shadow and highlight areas. Both of those aside, I’ve always felt Capture One blew both away. I’ll agree that as far as integration goes, in an Adobe workflow Camera is easier, but I’ve always preferred to sacrifice everything for the highest quality conversion when it comes to RAW.


Not to hijack this thread into a specialist discussion about RAW developers, but I know some photographers like what Aperture does to an image better than CR and I certainly won’t argue about that. To some extent, I feel it’s a matter of personal taste and I’ve fiddled with the settings in CR and LR so that I’m well satisfied with how my CRW:s turn out; also I’m into Photoshop on a daily basis for almost 20 years, so obviously workflow is an important consideration for me.

That said, Capture One is very nice, especially if working with medium format digital backs or cameras with 24x36 format sensors. I was impressed when I reviewed it for a photo magazine quite a few years ago and I understand it’s been developed to new heights since then.

Now back to the regularly scheduled program… :wink:

Oh, and while I have your attention, your focused mind would be most welcome in the Aeon Timeline discussion…