People have been asking Adobe to make Creative Suite available on Linux for several years now, but Adobe has been adamant about its answer: no. Why not? Most likely because the market share is too small to be worth the effort.
But the demographic is there. The overlap between “Linux users” and “creative users” is larger than many of us would expect, and many of them have been dying for a Linux Creative Suite for years.
The good news is that now, in 2016, viable options do exist.
Between all of the Adobe Creative products currently available, most of them have usable Linux alternatives. And while you won’t be able to use the Creative Cloud mobile apps with them, they’re still worth checking.
For Photoshop: GIMP or Krita
“Photoshop alternatives for Linux” is unsurprisingly one of the most common search queries among first-time Linux users. And while GIMP was the go-to answer for many years, that’s kind of changing now.
Not that there’s anything wrong with GIMP. In fact, as far as needing a “Photoshop clone” on Linux, there’s nothing better. GIMP is powerful and feature-rich straight out of the box, and can be improved with third-party plugins.
So yes, even though GIMP has its flaws — such as the fact that it isn’t as intuitive or polished — it’s definitely the closest thing to Photoshop right now.
But there’s another program out there that’s been turning heads over the past few years. It’s called Krita and users are slowly abandoning GIMP and flocking over to it instead.
Krita is primarily a tool for digital painters and artists, so it’s one of the best alternatives to Photoshop on Linux if that’s the kind of work you do.
For Lightroom: Darktable or RawTherapee
If you’re a photographer, Photoshop may not actually be the best application for your needs — you might want to use Lightroom instead. Unfortunately, neither are available for Linux, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are two free alternatives to Lightroom that are actually quite good. Neither is objectively better than the other, so we’ll recommend both and leave it up to you to decide which one you like more.
The first is Darktable, which is the most oft-recommended program among Linux photographers. The interface is complex but it turns out good results. It’s also relatively light on resource usage, so better for older computers and weaker hardware. If you decide to go with this option, our Darktable guide will help you pick up the basics quickly.
The second is RawTherapee. The interface is simpler to learn and navigate, but lacks some features that you may need (such as selective editing with masks). RawTherapee is also slightly worse at managing large libraries with lots of photos.
For Illustrator: Inkscape
Not many free applications can be considered as good as their paid counterparts, but Inkscape is one of them. In fact, it’s one of the best free alternatives to paid software out there. No need to spend money here.
Inkscape is what you should use if you want to create or edit vector graphics. Vector graphics are mathematical rather than pixel-based, so they can be printed at any resolution. They’re great for creating infographics, for example.
Although Inkscape suffers from a sub-par interface and lack of professional polish, it’s feature complete and certainly usable in a professional environment if needed.
For Premiere Pro: Lightworks or Kdenlive
Professional video editing has often been seen as an activity best suited for Macs, and only in the past decade have viable options come to light on Windows. But for Linux? Video editing can be a pain.
So if you can, we recommend paying for quality Linux software. Lightworks is very good — it was used to edit The Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction, Hugo, and more — but it’s also a bit costly at $438 (or $25 per month). However, you do get what you pay for.
Sure, Lightworks can be used for free, but there are restrictions. You can only export up to 720p and you lose a lot of quality-of-life features, such as timeline rendering, advanced project management, and Boris FX packages.
The paid version unlocks everything and can export up to 4K.
For Animate: Synfig
Animate is the program formerly known as Flash Pro, the vector animation program that was used in the past to create Flash animations. Now that the web has moved from Flash to HTML5, Adobe rebranded as Animate.
Synfig has been the open source alternative to Adobe’s program since 2005, and is still the best choice for those who want to pursue 2D vector animation without handing over cash to Adobe. It’s free and in active development.
Synfig uses its own animation file format, but can export to AVI, MPG, GIF, SVG, PNG, and more. Despite the learning curve, you’ll be able to pick up the ropes quickly enough thanks to the user-contributed documentation and tutorials.
For Audition: Ardour or LMMS
Audition doesn’t get as much time in the limelight as Photoshop or Premiere Pro, but it’s a nifty piece of software that’s worthy of recognition. Formerly known as Cool Edit Pro, Audition is what you’d use to edit digital audio.
Audition is a digital audio workstation in the same line as Logic Pro on OS X. From what I know, Audition is used mainly by professional podcasters, but can be used for so much more, like recording and mixing your own music.
Ardour is the best DAW available on Linux right now. Not only does it have a clean and usable interface, but it’s packed full of advanced features. Very good and highly recommended.
It’s available for free but only produces audio up to 10 minutes long. You can unlock the full feature set by buying the full version, which has a “pay what you want” price tag. Seriously, you can buy it for as low as $1.
LMMS, formerly known as Linux MultiMedia Studio, is another good option. This one is completely free but slightly inferior to Ardour. The interface is a bit harder to grasp and the learning curve is a bit steeper, but it’s still useful.
Check out the LMMS Showcase to see examples of tracks that have been made with LMMS.
For InDesign: Scribus
I don’t know of many people who do desktop publishing on Linux, but if you need an alternative to Adobe InDesign, rest assured that such an alternative does exist. It’s called Scribus.
Scribus can be used to create brochures, newsletters, posters, and even book layouts. It can also be used to create animated and interactive PDFs — the kind of stuff you’d expect from any desktop publishing program worth its salt.
It does have a few downsides though, such as the fact it can’t import or export InDesign files. Also, it’s not entirely polished and free of bugs, which can prove frustrating for heavy users.
The Ultimate Linux Creative Suite
These programs make for a passable Linux Creative Suite:
But if you don’t want to make any sacrifices in terms of features and absolutely need programs that are on par with Adobe, then save yourself the headache. Run a copy of Windows alongside Linux (either in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot setup) and get the Creative Cloud applications.