15 Free Alternatives to Adobe Lightroom, Illustrator, and Photoshop

Joel Lee Updated 20-12-2018

There’s a lot to like about Adobe’s suite of creative software, but its chief selling point is that Adobe is the industry standard for creative professionals. If you need the absolute best in terms of features and support, then you need Adobe’s creative suite!


(Exclusive deal: MakeUseOf readers can unlock up to 15% savings when signing up for Adobe Creative Cloud with this link.)

But what if you can’t afford a monthly subscription? For hobbyists and amateurs, even the cheapest Adobe subscription plan might be too much to swallow. The good news is, there are free alternatives available!

The bad news is, they’re mostly unremarkable. They’ll get the job done in a pinch, but have enough quirks and flaws such that we don’t recommend these for professional work. If you’re okay with that, then here are the best free alternatives to Adobe creative software.

The Best Free Adobe Photoshop Alternatives

By now, everyone knows what Photoshop is and how amazingly useful it is even for those who have no real interest in serious image editing. In fact, it’s so popular that you probably know of all the free alternatives already including a few great online Photoshop alternatives 5 Lesser-Known Free Online Image Editing Tools to Replace Photoshop Adobe Photoshop costs a pretty penny. Fortunately, you can get most of its best features for free in a few online tools. Read More . Still, here are the ones we think are best.

GIMP (Windows, Mac, Linux)



You can’t go wrong with GIMP. Next to Blender, it’s one of the most professional-quality open source programs out there, meaning it’s good enough to be used in a professional context (albeit slightly harder to use and not as flexible in terms of available features).

If you want to start using it, check out our introductory tutorial on how to edit images using GIMP An Introduction to GIMP Photo Editing: 9 Things You Need to Know GIMP is the best free photo editing app available. Here's everything you need to know about editing photos in GIMP. Read More , because learning GIMP by trial and error is a pain in the neck.

Paint.NET (Windows)


Paint.NET is excellent if you’re tired of Photoshop’s bloat and you just want something that’ll load up quickly and only handle the most fundamental of features, like layers, plugins, etc. Basically, if you like Microsoft Paint but wish it was more powerful, then you’ll love Paint.NET.


The main downside is that it’s only available for Windows. If you’re on a different operating system, you may want to check out Pinta, which is an open source program that’s modeled after Paint.NET and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Pixlr (Windows, Mac, Web, Mobile)


Pixlr is an awesome cloud-based image editor brought to you by Autodesk, the same folks who maintain products like AutoCAD, Maya, and 3DS Max. Pixlr may not be “industry standard” quality, but it’s packed full of useful features and you can rest assured that it won’t go belly-up anytime soon.

The best thing about Pixlr is you can access it from your browser OR download it to your desktop OR use it in mobile app form. The web and mobile editions are completely free while the Windows and Mac editions have feature-limited free versions (full versions are $15 per year).


The Best Free Adobe Illustrator Alternatives

Vector graphics have one huge advantage over regular graphics: they don’t use pixels. This means you can draw once and export that image to any size and you won’t lose any pixels or gain unnecessary pixelation. It’s used heavily for things like comics, infographics, and logos.

If possible, we highly recommend learning Illustrator Teach Yourself Adobe Illustrator for Free Adobe Illustrator has long been the illustration tool of choice for graphic artists. Ready to bring your designs to life? Here's how you can learn Adobe Illustrator for free. Read More because it’s simply that good. But if you can’t, these free alternatives will work in a pinch.

Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)


Inkscape is to Illustrator as GIMP is to Photoshop. It’s a high-quality bit of software that can pretty much do whatever Illustrator can, but you lose out on some of the polish and refinement that makes Illustrator so revered and beloved among professionals.


DrawPlus (Windows) [No Longer Available]

DrawPlus X8 is a paid solution costs $120 but comes in a Starter Edition that’s 100% free forever. With it you can import and export SVG, use touch-based drawing tablets The Best Graphic Tablets and Graphics Programs for Digital Design We've rounded up the best graphic design tablets and software to use if you want to break into cartoons and other forms of digital art. Read More , animate with keyframes, and have access to all kinds of brushes. It’s a bit limited otherwise, but worth giving a try.

SVG-Edit (Web)


SVG-Edit is an open source vector graphics editor that runs in your browser. If you think that automatically makes this worse than a desktop app, think again. SVG-Edit is packed with features that make it worthwhile and rivals all of its competitors (except Illustrator).

Just download it here and run it in your browser. It works in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Edge.

If you’re willing to pay for extra features, but want a lower price tag than Illustrator, have a look at Affinity Designer for an affordable alternative Why Affinity Designer Is the Best Adobe Illustrator Alternative Adobe Illustrator is excellent, but Affinity Designer is a viable (and cheaper) alternative worth checking out. Read More .

The Best Free Adobe Lightroom Alternatives

A lot of people think Photoshop is meant for editing photos, and while you can use it for that, it turns out that most people would actually be better off using Lightroom instead of Photoshop. Indeed, with a bit of practice and knowledge, it can be quite amazing.

As you might expect, these alternatives are okay but they don’t live up to the full power and flexibility of Adobe Lightroom. But if you’re fine with something simple for standard edits, these Lightroom alternatives The 10 Best Lightroom Alternatives (Free and Paid) What are the best Lightroom alternatives if you don't want to use Adobe Lightroom? Here are your best options. Read More will be more than enough.

Raw Therapee (Windows, Mac, Linux)


Despite its not-so-catchy name, Raw Therapee is surprisingly good and arguably the best alternative to Lightroom. The interface is a bit clunkier to use but it’s feature complete and receives regular updates (the latest version is only a week old at the time of this writing).

One downside is that it’s a bit slow to support newer camera models, but considering how infrequently new cameras are released—and how infrequently DSLRs are upgraded—this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for hobbyists.

Darktable (Windows, Mac, Linux)


Ask anyone about the best alternative to Lightroom and if they don’t say Raw Therapee then it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll say Darktable. This open source RAW developer not only has a ton of incredible features, but also has a clean and easy-to-navigate interface. Read our Darktable guide How to Use Darktable, the Free Adobe Lightroom Alternative If you shoot photos in RAW, you need the right program to open and edit them. Darktable is a free Adobe Lightroom alternative. Read More  to get started with it.

The only reason why we have it listed after Raw Therapee is that Darktable doesn’t provide Windows binaries. You can try building it from source yourself but that’s an advanced procedure so we don’t recommend it. Update: Windows binaries are now available for Darktable!

Photoscape (Windows, Mac)


If you don’t like either Raw Therapee or Darktable for some reason, then there aren’t many other options out there. Photoscape can fill the gap if you absolutely need something, but it’s more of a last resort than a viable alternative. The latest version was released in 2014.

The Best Free Adobe Premiere Pro Alternatives

Here’s yet another industry standard in Adobe Premiere Pro, a timeline-based video editor that has been used by networks like BBC and CNN and has also been used to cut feature films like Gone Girl. Here’s what you can use instead.

Davinci Resolve (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Davinci Resolve is easily the best free alternative to Premiere Pro. While Davinci Resolve launched in 2004 as a professional color grading solution, it evolved over time into a full-featured non-liner editing solution for videos with a proper timeline system.

To be clear, Davinci Resolve’s best feature remains its advanced color grading tools, and the timeline editing isn’t as smooth as what you’d find in, say, Premiere Pro or even Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. The learning curve can be a bit steep, so be prepared to give it your all if you’re going to learn it.

However, considering Davinci Resolve can be used for free, it’s definitely worth checking out. Some advanced features (e.g. 3D tools, Resolve FX, multi-user collaboration, etc.) are only available in Davinci Resolve Studio, which costs $299.

Hitfilm Express (Windows, Mac)

Hitfilm Express isn’t as widely used in professional circles as Davinci Resolve, but it’s an excellent free alternative if you don’t like Davinci Resolve for whatever reason.

Hitfilm Express is a complete non-linear editing solution for videos with a proper timeline and plenty of useful video editing features: 2D and 3D compositing, hundreds of effects and presets, unlimited tracks and transitions, and more.

While Hitfilm Express is free to download and use, there are some advanced features that are only available in Hitfilm Pro, which is available for $299.

Lightworks (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Lightworks is professional grade software, evidenced by the fact that it has been used in the editing of several high-profile films including Wolf of Wall Street, The King’s Speech, and Pulp Fiction. All told, it’s a formidable competitor to Premiere Pro.

Unfortunately, the free version is slightly crippled: limited to 720p and lacking in some of the more advanced features. It’s good if those limitations don’t affect you, but if you need the Pro version, it’ll cost a hefty $450.

Shotcut (Windows, Mac, Linux)


For some reason, Shotcut is never really mentioned when open source video editors are discussed, which is strange because it’s phenomenal in terms of quality and functionality. Take a look at what it can do right out of the box and you’ll be just as impressed as I am.

The best part? It receives updates on a regular basis, typically once every one to three months. It’s constantly being improved, so if it isn’t the best alternative yet, it will be soon enough.

OpenShot (Windows, Mac, Linux)

OpenShot is more established than Shotcut, and it’s definitely an excellent bit of software, but development has slowed down considerably over the past few years so I think Shotcut is currently the better choice. Still, OpenShot is feature complete and works well if Shotcut doesn’t cut it.

The Best Free Adobe InDesign Alternatives

Not many people know about InDesign, but those who do know how useful the app can be for designing magazines, flyers, eBooks, brochures, PDFs, and more—especially with the abundant availability of free Adobe InDesign templates.

If you’re thinking of doing anything related to desktop publishing, InDesign is well worth learning if you can afford it Teach Yourself Adobe InDesign for Free Adobe InDesign is an industry-level tool for professional graphic designers to create single or multiple page documents. Here are 7 places you can learn it for free. Read More . Alternatives exist but they’re nowhere close to being equal in any sense. The only one worth mentioning is…

Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Scribus is an open source desktop publisher—and it’s okay. Neither amazing nor terrible. It’s been used to make all sorts of stuff, including infographics, magazine covers, posters, and even tabletop RPGs. What’s nice is that it has a fairly well-documented wiki to help you out.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Scribus is that its formats aren’t interchangeable with other programs like InDesign, but if that doesn’t bother you, give it a shot.

Which Free Adobe Alternatives Are You Using?

If you’re just a hobbyist, these free alternatives will probably be more than enough. Try them all out and pick the one that feels most comfortable to use.

But if you’re planning to go professional at some point—or even semi-professional—then we highly recommend getting a full Creative Cloud subscription, which gives you access to amazing apps that are must-haves for illustration and graphic design 7 Essential Tools, Software, and Services for Illustrators Working as an illustrator can be a daunting task. However, these essential tools for illustrators will help keep you on track. Read More .

Related topics: Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Freebies, GIMP.

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  1. devi
    August 5, 2019 at 9:22 am

    > No KRITA
    > No MyPaint

    Oi! Grandpa! It's time to catch up instead of multiplying same old lists that are around since, like, 2010...

  2. Cassie
    March 20, 2019 at 4:50 am

    Kdenlive is a great video editor! Very powerful, and almost comparable to Adobe Premiere. I'd also give Krita a look for illustration.

    It would be great to expand this article to include animation (After Effects vs Blender) and music production/audio editing apps (Audacity, LMMS, etc.)

    January 7, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    As a design professional with decades of design experience with Adobe PageMaker, Adobe InDesign, Quark, F3, Ventura Publisher, etc. I can tell you Scribus is less capable than Express Publisher from 20 years ago. I do not mean to put down the developers. They are working with no pay. Design software is very complex. I would love to see inexpensive software that was able to do even 75% of what InDesign can do (especially on Linux). The reality is right now it just doesn't exist.

  4. Vasyl Tretiakov
    December 25, 2018 at 8:19 am

    As of mid 2018 darktable provides an official Windows build which is fully supported by the community.

  5. Osman
    December 24, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you. Good post.

  6. A
    December 22, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Krita art/photo software
    Is totally amazing and totally free!

  7. Lian Langlois
    December 22, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Thank you very much for this good article, and yes there are other very good software that are made by other companies than Adobe, and which are free or very cheap. But when you're used to working with certain types of software, it's not always easy to change the way you get used to another ... I work mainly with Autodesk software, and as soon as I try to adapt to French software, I am lost ... Because all orders are different software made by large multi-national world and even Dassault who is a French company follows his compatriots with Solid Works. For this reason and for a question of speed of execution, I no longer use French software, even if there are very good software. I want to believe that each software can not be the same, but there should be a standardization between the companies, so that at least it is common ground between all the software, which would oblige somehow to everyone to learn in a smarter way to work in the same way, and at the same time to acquire the knowledge to work with expensive software when they will be able to afford it! I'm not the best, but I'm an architectural draftsman, and I work with Autocad and Revit mainly, and I use rendering engines, in addition to doing image processing, and for me it's important that everything is compatible .... So those who work with Sketch up, can work with Vray, and do some treatment with paint. net, and it will arrive at a good result. But for the final, there is software for professionals and amateurs, which does not mean that amateurs are not talented ....

  8. devi
    December 21, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Krita, MyPaint... Why weren't they mentioned?

  9. Zoe
    May 22, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Not even a mention for IPICCY

  10. ned
    October 7, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    How about Affinity Photo and Affinity Design, how do they compare to Photoshop (other than much less cost)?

  11. ayy
    September 10, 2017 at 12:36 am

    As a person from third-world country who can't afford expensive software and or who want to avoid pirated (paid) software (as possible), this article helped me a lot. Thank you!

  12. Keith
    April 11, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you very much for this article. Well written and very informative. I am glad I stumbled onto this site!

  13. IyzMyk
    February 21, 2017 at 12:01 am

    As far as digital drawing goes, I've found Medibang Paint to be loosely creative. I use GIMP for most photo edits though.

  14. mallory
    January 16, 2017 at 4:43 am

    It seems surprising, but Fotor is a free app for Mac that is a pretty good alternative to Lightroom, especially for someone who is just starting out. It isn't super powerful nor does it have a lot of features but you can do some pretty neat stuff once you get used to it. I started on Lightroom but downloaded Fotor as an alternative to paying for the Creative Cloud and it does the majority of what I need it to do.

  15. Q
    January 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for putting this together. Great guide and clear links.

  16. Logan
    January 10, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I use HitFilm 4 Express as my video editor it's more powerful and polished than Shotcut in my opinion.

  17. Panda
    November 22, 2016 at 8:07 am

    These are all okay alternatives, but they feel like one will eventually give up on them to go buy the adobe suite anyway. So without further ado. Here are some better alternatives:
    *Affinity Photo for Photoshop
    *Affinity Designer for illustrator
    *Davinci Resolve for Premier Pro
    The top two are not free but the price is so cheap that a hobbyist wouldn't mind. University lecturers and professionals have tried it and said it works well. I love both.
    Davinci resolve is free there are pro versions, but the free is not like those free software where features are limited and they make the "free" so infuriating with watermarks and error messsges when trying to use features.

    I'm still looking for a good light room alternative that's free or very cheap. Not found one yet sadly. Rawtherapee grates me with its unusual interface and workflow

    • Md Sayed
      December 23, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you so much for your opinion.

  18. Laulerdi
    September 27, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Photoshop's not the only image editor on the market but it is the best in the market.
    While it is indeed powerful, from an artist's perspective it is difficult to use. And it is too expensive.
    Thanks for all the alternatives to Adobe’s software. They are also useful. But one one great alternative to photoshop is missing in your list - PixelStyle Photo Editor. It is also photoshop killer.

    • Joel Lee
      September 29, 2016 at 12:55 am

      Hey Laulerdi, thanks for mentioning PixelStyle. I haven't heard of that one before! Looks like it's Mac only, which is a bit of a bummer, but it looks interesting enough.

  19. Claudia Reveles
    August 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I just started as an entrepreneur and I need to update Facebook and instagram with some high quality images. I hope I can do it with some of this tools without the need to pay for an Adobe License now. It is not in my budget at this moment.

    • Joel Lee
      August 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      No worries, Claudia. Free software is perfect for cases like yours. :)

  20. Paul Donovan
    April 26, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I didn't see DaVinci's Resolve (currently v12.5) which is free for Mac Users as long as you don't the advanced features of the full studio.
    And the two new apps for Mac - Affinity Photo (low cost to purchase) and Affinity Design (low cost to purchase). I know your story was about "free" but these two apps are pretty close to free.
    Another Video editor which I haven't really tried is HitFilm 3 Express. Again its free, but I don't have any idea what it can and cannot do.

    • Anonymous
      May 9, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      I believe Affinity Photo together with Bloom app could be photoshop competitors sooner then adobe would like. They are not free, but I do not expect the apps I use to be free, i expect them to continue developing. ;)

  21. Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 7:27 am

    There's also Pinta ( for Photoshop alternative that's cross platform for Mac, Windows, Linux. It's the cross-platform version of Paint .NET in a way.

    • Joel Lee
      April 29, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      Thanks David! Pinta was actually mentioned in the section on Paint.NET. :)

  22. tengisu
    April 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    How does kdenlive stack up in terms features and capabilities against the video editors mentioned above?

    • Joel Lee
      April 29, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      Sorry tengisu, I've never used Kdenlive. Hopefully one of our readers can pitch in with their experience and recommendation of it.

  23. Anonymous
    April 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    It has been well established that Adobe products are must for professionals. However, how many home users NEED, as opposed to WANT, all the extra features provided by Adobe products?

    "The only reason why we have it listed after Raw Therapee is that Darktable doesn’t provide Windows binaries."
    That is a shortcoming only if one uses Windows. :-)

    • Joel Lee
      April 29, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      Ha, always quick to point out the "only if you use Windows" angle. You're right about Adobe though. A lot of people don't actually need all of that firepower.

      • Anonymous
        April 29, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        Somebody has to stick up for the non-Windows users. :P

  24. Anonymous
    April 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    No love for Serif PagePlus? or even Microsoft Publisher? No, I guess not. :)

    • Joel Lee
      April 29, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Do you use Serif PagePlus? From what I saw, it wasn't too impressive. As for Publisher, it's good but I don't think it's free. If it is, please let me know. That'd be awesome if it was. :D

      • Anonymous
        April 29, 2016 at 8:42 pm

        No, I don't think either is free, although some versions of Office (which many already have) include Publisher.
        At this point, almost anything would be better than being stuck with an Adobe subscription, unless it's a necessity for your business (in which case it's a deductible expense).