Photoshop is perhaps the most popular photo editing software that has become as ubiquitous a brand as Google and it’s also a verb too.
As popular as the editing software is, there are still worthy open-source and paid contenders that can still get the job done.
For many people, Photoshop’s subscription model may not be affordable, while others may want a different workflow or to support smaller development houses. Alternatively, you may be overwhelmed by the many special features that Photoshop has to offer.
If you’re looking for the best open-source Photoshop alternatives, there’s no shortage of options. We’ve selected 10 alternatives that are feature-rich editing tools, are similar in terms of power, and will deliver super-professional results.
Also Read: Amazing Photoshop Actions For Your Toolkit
Best Open Source Photoshop Alternatives
GNU Image Manipulation Program, commonly referred to as GIMP, is one of the best, freely distributed, open-source Photoshop alternatives for image composition, authoring, and photo retouching.
The fully-featured photo editing software allows you to manage even the most complex tasks without crushing your wallet. This is mainly because of the active developer community that constantly listens to user feedback and requests, thus making GIMP advance even as raster editor technology expands.
While GIMP isn’t as intuitive as Photoshop, its open-source nature makes it a worthy contender. Not only that, but GIMP has several in-depth tutorials for newbie and pro users so they can use its features with little or no pre-existing knowledge of the app.
If you just want the basic features, GIMP may be a little too much as a raster-based graphics editor owing to its many capabilities. However, you can still use it as a simple paint program, online batch processing system, mass production image renderer, and converter for different image formats.
GIMP is also extensible and expandable, and you can augment it with extensions or plugins to do just about anything. Its advanced scripting interface lets you easily script simple or very complex image manipulation.
The software is available in almost 20 languages for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, and recognizes most of the file formats you’d expect from Photoshop and other paid editors. Such formats include JPEG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF among others plus partial support for PSD files.
GIMP has a few limitations though. The UI is cluttered and has annoying floating windows, there’s limited support for macros, layers and custom shapes, and it has a steep learning curve.
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Paint.NET is another open-source Photoshop alternative though it only works with Windows 7 through to version 10 of the operating system. The interface is reminiscent of the age-old Paint application, which has been available since Windows 95 and built into PCs worldwide.
The tool has grown over time by leaps and bounds such that it’s almost comparable in some ways to more advanced software like Photoshop and others. However, it’s freely available, unlike Photoshop, whose pricing is not accessible for everyone.
With Paint.NET, you can use multiple layers and blending, and it still maintains a simple interface that’s useful even to the most novice of users. If you’re not sure what to do, Paint.NET has useful forums that offer invaluable assistance, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
The software’s website also has several tutorials that you can use to learn more about the features and how to use them.
While Paint.NET doesn’t provide some high-end features that you’d find in Photoshop, you can still use external plugins to expand on them. For instance, there’s no native support for PSD files, which Photoshop has, but if you install a PSD plugin, you can open Photoshop documents.
Paint.NET is a fast image editor that can run in over 20 languages and can be used for free for commercial and business use without any restrictions. However, the UI lacks a tool for plugin management, and you can’t edit text once you deselect it.
Also Read: Learn To Create Camera Lens In Photoshop
Krita’s feature set has expanded over the years, which is a huge plus for this open-source application. You can use the tool to edit and paint, thanks to its nifty palette and multiple brush customizations that you can stabilize even if your hands aren’t steady.
The software offers advanced layer management and supports most PSD files. Not only that, but it also uses OpenGL, which lets you author and manipulate high-definition resolution images.
Krita offers panels and dockers that you can move and customize for your specific workflow. Once your setup is ready, you can save it as your workspace, and even create shortcuts for the tools you use the most.
Beautiful professionally made brushes are preloaded with Krita, which offer a good range of effects so you can see them clearly. You also get brush stabilizers to your brush to smoothen it out in three different ways, plus a Dynamic Brush tool where you can add drag and mass.
Native vector tools are included to help you create comic panels, brush engines to customize your brushes each with a large number of settings for customization, and a wrap-around mode to create seamless textures and patterns.
Krita also offers a simple and powerful 2D animation so you can change your workspace and bring your drawings to life by layering animations and exporting them to share with others.
Other features include customizable onion skinning, audio import support, productivity features, drawing assistants, layer management, OpenGL enhancement, full-color management, and HDR painting among others.
The regularly updated desktop application is free to download, available for major operating systems including Windows, Mac, and Linux, and boasts a fairly active forum with sample artwork from its user community.
Krita is also optimized for touchscreen PCs, ultrabooks, and Steam platforms. The software is easier to use than Photoshop even though the latter has a better flow. Plus, Krita is creator-friendly and has impressive and customizable brushes for digital painters.
The main downsides with using Krita are that it usually consumes a lot of CPU resources and the updates are often unstable.
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Inkscape is an open-source, web-based vector graphics editing tool that uses a unique native format and has a clean, stable, and consistent interface.
The software uses an open XML-based W3C standard and scalable vector graphics (SVG) and is intended to offer users a usable yet solid product.
For people who prefer to create images from scratch using a digital pen, pencil, or brush, Inkscape is worth considering.
The software has similar capabilities to Adobe’s Illustrator program, but you still get some features that are akin to those in Photoshop, which make it a worthy contender in this space.
However, with Inkscape, you’ll do more image creation compared to editing, but it’s still a powerful tool with other features like clones, markers, and alpha blending. The interface may look dated or old-school, but don’t let that fool you.
Other features you’ll find in Inkscape include node editing and movement, alignment and distribution, object creation, bitmap tracing, Bezier curves, path simplification, insetting, and outsetting.
Like Photoshop, Inkscape also has a steep learning curve, even steeper than GIMP, so you need to be skilled when using the software. However, Inkscape is better in terms of price compared to Photoshop, and better placed for those making the first steps at design and don’t want to pay too much for software.
Inkscape supports formats like PNG, DXF, OpenDocument Drawing, PDF, sk1, PostScript, EPS, and other export formats. You also get command-line options for export and conversions.
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If you prefer photographs, Darktable is the best open-source Photoshop alternative, workflow app, and raw developer for you.
The software offers a virtual light table and darkroom where you can manage your digital negatives and view them through the light table. You can also develop and enhance raw images in Darktable.
The software comes with professional color management, standard image operations like brightness, contrast, saturation, highlights, exposure, curves, crop and rotate, and demosaic.
Plus, you’ll find several color image and tone image operations, effects, correction modules, and artistic image postprocessing.
Darktable is designed with professional photographers in mind and includes DSLR camera support plus DNG files from compatible cameras. The software is also compatible with many high-res image formats and delivers professional-grade image effects and processing.
Unlike Photoshop, you can use Darktable for free and access powerful features, some of which are in Adobe’s editing program. However, Darktable also has something of a learning curve and is fairly exclusive for professional use.
Some of the features you’ll find with Darktable that you can use to improve your digital photography include non-destructive editing, GPU accelerated image processing, and OpenCL support.
You also get filtering and sorting features, image formats, tethered shooting, professional color management, a powerful export system that supports Facebook, Flickr upload, and exporting to multiple formats.
Darktable is available in 21 languages including English, Italian, Catalan, Danish, French, Dutch, Greek, Slovak, Russian, Portuguese, German, Japanese, and more.
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Pinta is a simple, open-source Photoshop alternative that you can use when drawing and editing your images. The main aim of this software is to offer users a simple and powerful way of drawing and manipulating their images on Windows, Mac, Linux, and BSD.
The software isn’t as complex as Photoshop, which makes it even easier and better to use especially for newbies and users who don’t want the steep learning curve of a professional interface.
Regardless of your skill level, you can dive in and create images from scratch or edit pre-existing images. You can also take your images and make them look as though they are sketches.
Among the basic tools you’ll find in Pinta include easy drawing tools to draw lines, freehand, ellipses, and rectangles among other shapes.
You also get over 35 adjustments and effects that help you tweak your images like noise, blurs, distorts, artistic, stylize, and render. You also get adjustments like curves, auto level, brightness, contrast, black and white, and hue and saturation.
If you like, you can translate Pinta into more than 55 languages, albeit partially.
Advanced features include a full history, so you can always undo multiple layers to separate and group elements of your image for easier editing and docked windows.
Unlike Photoshop, Pinta is simple to use and offers basic image editing, but it lacks some power and tools, and it’s not that widely supported.
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RawTherapee is an open-source, cross-platform raw image processing software that is designed for the development of raw files from a wide range of digital cameras.
The software is targeted at users ranging from professional photographers to enthusiast newbies who want to broaden their understanding of digital imaging.
The software offers a powerful suite of tools that you can use for the production of amazing photos to showcase your creativity.
Among its powerful features include high image quality, modern demosaicing algorithms, advanced color and detail, and a non-destructive 32-bit processing engine.
You also get outstanding raw file support, automatic ghost masking, dark frame subtraction, hot/dead pixel, and flat field correction.
RawTherapee can be used wherever you want unlike Photoshop, which is a paid tool so you can only use it if you’ve subscribed to it. Plus, you can use RawTherapee as long as you want provided you abide by the copyleft GPLv3 license.
The software can be used on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and is available in more than 15 languages.
RawTherapee may not be as popular as Photoshop, but it has its own niche fanbase that loves its capabilities. Plus, its processing engine and other features, top-notch support, and ability to work with film negative and monochrome cameras are a plus for the software.
However, RawTherapee lacks the powerful features that graphic designers would consider when painting or sketching, including extensive features for final touch-ups.
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MyPaint is another simple Photoshop alternative like Paint.NET. The nimble, easy, and distraction-free tool was created by Martin Renold in 2004, and a 0.4 version released in 2006, which Renold thought was complete.
However, over time, artists who found the tool online found it and began to ask for features that Renold also desired, and since then, many have contributed to its code or told others about it.
MyPaint is useful for digital painting as it supports graphics tablets made by Wacom unlike Photoshop, which works with most major devices and operating systems.
MyPaint also works with other similar devices like it for artistic or digital drawing, and comes with a configurable and versatile brush engine and productive tools.
The tool’s standard brushes are able to emulate pencils, charcoal, ink, paint, and other traditional media, but you’re not limited to using the standard brushes. Plus, you can make artful yet expressive new brushes that don’t respond to anything like conventional brushes.
Other features like fullscreen mode help declutter the MyPaint interface so you’re only left with a brush and your creativity. You can also reveal the tools you need when you want to use them, thus increasing your productivity and focus on your art and not on the tools.
MyPaint doesn’t have a steep learning curve like Photoshop because of its simplicity and you get all the tools you need to create great artwork.
You can find growing user communities of this software on Tumblr and DeviantArt, but it’s also used by notable artists including David Revoy, a digital illustrator and concept artist.
The tool comes from the Linux world, but it has Windows and Mac OS X ports as well, so anyone can pick it up and draw.
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Unlike other open-source Photoshop alternatives listed here, digiKam is advanced and offers a comprehensive set of tools that let you import, manage, edit, and share photos and raw files.
The digital photo management app runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and can be used to transfer photos, raw files, and videos from your camera, USB disks, SD cards, and other external storage devices.
DigiKam allows you to configure import rules and settings for processing and organizing imported items on the fly. You can organize your images, videos, and raw files into albums, but also assign tags, labels, and ratings to your media files.
Also included is a filtering function that helps you find items that match certain criteria very quickly.
In addition, there are powerful search capabilities you can use to search the photo library by a wide range of criteria such as rating, tags, labels, location, data, or specific metadata. If you prefer, you can combine several criteria for advanced searches.
With digiKam, you get basic tools for color adjustment, cropping, and sharpening. However, the tool also offers advanced tools that you can find in Photoshop such as curve adjustment, panorama stitching, and more.
One of its unique tools is based on the Lensfun library permit, which lets you apply lens corrections on images automatically.
A set of tools based on plugins known as digiKam plugins or dPlugins is available for extended functionality in the app. You can write the plugins to import and export content to remove web services, add new features for image editing and batch photo processing.
DigiKam is great for those who struggle with digital photo management, but as a standalone app, it won’t suffice for more advanced image editing needs.
Also Learn: How To Create A Vector Gold Medal In Photoshop
10. Glimpse Image Editor
Glimpse is an open-source, fork, or respin of the GIMP image editor that works with Windows and Linux only, but it’s still worthy of being part of this list. The editor is based on GIMP 2.10.18, and its goal is to experiment with new ideas and expand the use of free software.
It’s quite powerful in terms of features, but it has a cleaner user interface. However, it misses some features you may find in GIMP, which Photoshop has, but it’s still free to use so you still get to use some advanced tools that you’d otherwise have to pay to access in Photoshop.
Future versions of the software will bundle extra third-party plugins and make more tweaks for better accessibility. The software is user-focused, free, and capable of expert-level image editing and manipulation.
Glimpse also has the Glimpse NX version, which uses GNOME technologies for a more lightweight and accessible user interface. This way, you get the same underlying GIMP components on Windows and Mac ports.
The software supports Windows systems running Windows versions 7 or newer, and most modern Linux variants, but it isn’t natively supported on MacOS. In the latter case, you can use virtualization software or stick to the original GIMP.
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While many graphics and design professionals use Photoshop, it has its downsides especially price-related, but there are many open-source and free alternatives you can use on the same platforms.
When picking the best open source Photoshop alternatives, make sure that it’s first fully open-source, easy to use, offers multiple functionalities, and has opportunities for expansion through extension, plugins, presets, and other additions.
These 10 best open-source Photoshop alternatives have tons of features and tools that allow you to create, enhance, or change your photos in any way you can imagine and get just as good results as the expensive Photoshop.
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