Can Photoshop Be Replaced: The Thrilling Conclusion

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #294

In a February Rants & Raves column I explained my dilemma with Photoshop’s subscription pricing:

I like Photoshop a lot and have become proficient. I’ve used nothing else for my image editing needs for as long as I can remember. That being said, I’ve begun a search for a reasonably-priced image editing app I can buy (not lease). Put another way, I’m looking for an app that can serve all of my image-editing needs, but without monthly payments.

After months testing five contenders — Affinity Photo, Acorn, GraphicConverter, Photoshop Elements, and Pixelmator Pro— I’ve made the decision to terminate my Photoshop subscription, and save $119.88 a year.

The competition was tough. I could probably replace Photoshop with any of the five contenders and be relatively happy. But, after trying them all, I’ve decided the app that best suits my needs is Affinity Photo.

It Was Close…

For a while, I was favoring Pixelmator Pro, which is an awesome graphics app that has all the features I need, a slick user interface, a great online community, and plenty of tutorials.

Then I tried Affinity Photo, which has all that and more.

To reiterate, I’m not a graphic artist in any way, shape, or form. But I am a solopreneur, which means I’m responsible for ads, flyers, business cards, signs, and typesetting, and everything else. I’m also responsible for editing my photos and screenshots for books, articles, and online posts.

Which is to say I don’t need a lot of fancy features. My work consists mostly of improving images, adding text, cropping and recomposing, and combining multiple images with text. Affinity Photo makes those tasks fast and easy.

While Affinity Photo’s user interface differs from Photoshop in many ways and took some getting used to, I’m finding it even better-suited to the handful of things I do again and again.

Affinity Photo’s Inpainting Tool Rocks

One thing I do a lot is remove unwanted objects from photos. Whether it’s a zit on a face or a telephone pole sticking out of a car’s roof, I spend a good deal of time trying to make things in my photos disappear without a trace. All of the contenders include tools for this, but I think Affinity Photo’s Inpainting tool does the best job in the least time. With the other contenders, I had to spend much more time cleaning up after I removed an object. With Affinity Photo’s Inpainting tool, I just paint over that thing and it disappears like magic.

Removing the big brown dog was as easy as painting it with the Inpainting brush.
Removing the big brown dog was as easy as painting over it with the Inpainting brush.

I also like its non-destructive filters and effects, and layer management.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this powerful graphics program but am learning more every day from the more than 200 video tutorials online and the excellent built-in help.

If you’re looking for a powerful graphics program, download the free trial and see why Affinity Photo is an Apple Mac App of the Year winner, an App Store Editor’s Choice, and my new personal favorite image editor.

Affinity Photo. $49.99. Serif Labs.

10 thoughts on “Can Photoshop Be Replaced: The Thrilling Conclusion

  • I agree that there’s great replacements and have played with Affinity Products which, as was said, can do some really cool things Adobe Can’t. I do prefer Adobe’s Workspaces to Affinity’s Personas.. I don’t want more “Personalities” just Custom Workspaces that follow a production workflow.

    The other problem is when your work involves outside people, ad agencies, graphic designers, printers, you need a consistent, stable workflow with no surprises. Like what if Affinity goes bankrupt by only charging $50 a pop! I don’t see how they can survive on that platform.. so then were all back on Adobe or searching for something else like Utopia… as much as i like the alternatives I want sleepless nights when my stuff goes to press and only Adobe can give me that. If you’re not making any money in this business and can’t afford the subscription, (which easily pays for itself if you’re any good at what you do.) Then I would get out… fast. I hear Whole Foods is a nice place to work. Some guy from home complaining about $119.00 a year for Photoshop is probably not a good photographer either.

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thanks for the kind words about the apps. Just to put your mind at ease, Affinity developer Serif has been in the software business for almost 30 years now, so while the apps are new, the company isn’t. We’re also a comparatively small developer, so our sales model is based on economics that work for us – perhaps the question is not why Affinity is so cheap, it’s why others are so expensive!
      In terms of compatability, Affinity apps export in all the common file types including psd from Affinity Photo and all the industry standard vector formats from Designer, which is why plenty of high-profile companies are using them in their professional workflow already with no problems. Affinity Publisher is very new, but as it develops you can be sure it’ll have the needs of pro users at heart, otherwise there’s no point in doing it.
      More than that, though, it’s as much about performance as cost. The Affinity apps aren’t Adobe clones for cheap, they’re built for modern technology and graphics processing power, without the bloat that years of bolt- ons bring. Yes you should be able to afford a subscription if you’re a working pro, but what if you could also do your work 30 or 40 per cent faster, think of the added income that extra time might generate…

      1. Well said… i guess i’m too set in my old school ways.. I love playing with new tools but when i have to get work done .. my vast memorization of most of Adobe’s Keyboard commands, panels, pallets, menus and commands. Not to mention WELL TESTED Pro Workflow extensions such as Pagination and Imposition tools that save me hours of work.. not just a few minutes. i.e. we use a well known extension that automatically puts the ads where they belong in our layouts. When you have 100+ boxes to fill, try doing that manually! I can slap together a whole magazine, book, ad design or Illustration in a couple hours with Adobe Indesign… and send it to the RIP before lunch. Then be on my way to my Customer to get Paid with no phone calls from the Press Guys saying.. ‘Um yea.. dude… your shit is messed up.” Anywho some day after I’m gone everything will be on peoples smart-watches.. maybe even Affinity!

      2. I agree. . . But for me, there are no necessary extensions or plug-ins involved, just retraining muscle memory. And really, for me, Photoshop was overkill. I need maybe 1/3 of its capabilities and could almost certainly be happy with almost any decent image editor. I have to stick with Word for many of the same reason you have to stick with Photoshop. So while our use cases are different, I hear you.

        I’m still pretty happy (and impressed) with Affinity Photo.

  • Love Affinity EXCEPT for one foolish decision: In Designer, they have apparently deliberately left out the feature to flow text around an object. According to a Forum post, they did this so as to not cannibalize sales from the now beta version of Publisher. For people who use Designer for flyers, business cards, etc, that is a crazy choice — and one apparently made to force people into buying another product — which most of us would buy anyway. That has never been a good strategy for any company. Designer is a daily driver for many and replaces Corel Draw on the Mac. Give us “flow around object” for text, please! I don’t think they would lose one sale of Publisher by having this needed feature in Designer. Rethink it boys. Otherwise, glad to have the suite.

    1. Agree, for a poster, flyer or some such one page it is easier to use a vector art app.

      I have Affinity Designer, but feel more comfortable in Graphic.

      I have been using Pages for multi page documents. I will wait to see how Publisher compares before switching.

    2. Hi Mike, thanks for the kind words about the app. Regarding the functionality you mention, one of the key attributes we want the Affinity apps to have is that they don’t have loads of features that would be more appropriate elsewhere, which has meant some tough decisions regardless of how tempting it might be. Ultimately, we feel that the text layout capability you mention should be a function of a desktop publishing app, not a vector design product. Similarly, Photo doesn’t have some of the features in Photoshop, because we felt the rightful place should be a design app, not a photo editor.
      I think this might also make a lot more sense when we turn on the full integration of the apps within Affinity Publisher. If you’ve downloaded the beta, you’ll see the two icons for Affinity Photo and Designer, although they don’t do anything yet.
      Once activated later in the beta, you’ll be able to launch those apps right there in Publisher. So if you have a flyer with photograph on, you can use Photo to edit it there on the layout – you don’t have to open another window, edit the photo, save changes, switch windows, reinsert the image etc. Similarly if you have vector content on your layout. It’s a unique approach and we’re really excited for people to see it.
      It means in effect, those who have the suite will at that point be able to do everything from one starting point, but equally, people who only use one app for its core purpose aren’t having to deal with the sort of extra bloat that eventually weighs things down over longer update periods. Coupled with the low one-off price (the whole suite for around $100 if you bought during the introductory discount periods) we hope users will see why we’ve taken this lean approach.

  • I’ve just started learning Affinity Designer and am very impressed with it.
    I don’t think it’s overstation it to say they may give Adobe a run for their money. At least in the amateur, prosumer, and SOHO markets. Rental software might make sense for big corporations but when you’re living on a tiny margen, a package that does everything you need without a monthly fee makes a lot of sense.

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