Adobe appears to have upset a number of users with another price increase for its app subscriptions. While the hit only appears to be targeting specific countries at this point—you’re spared, North American users—there’s no reason to think that you won’t have to pay more to subscribe to an Adobe app (or its whole suite of creative apps) at some future point. That’s business, folks.
As you can imagine, Adobe’s price increase has set off a flurry of activity on the internet, with many annoyed users jumping onto Twitter threads and blog posts to suggest alternatives to Adobe’s ever-more-expensive subscription apps.
I ran through @burgerdrome’s Twitter thread, as well as an excellent software-recommendations thread started by @TubOfCoolWhip and this handy image of recommendations from “Cullen,” who I would link to if I knew who they were. From there, I created this list of 27 good alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps based on what people appeared to be excited about (or recommend in droves).
I haven’t tried out all of these apps myself, nor am I the target audience for them—as I don’t really dabble in 3D animation, alas. While we normally recommend apps we’ve used at Lifehacker, in this case, I’ve included recommendations from the various Twitter users who have suggested them when applicable. (It’s tough, as some apps just got called out by name, which is great for making a list, but not very helpful when describing an app’s features.)
If you don’t like any of these picks, you can always try befriending an educator (or a student) to score that sweet $20/month pricing for Adobe’s full subscription. A word of caution, however: That only works for the first year. After that, you’ll get charged the full, standard rate.
Apps for painting, graphic design, or photo editing
Krita (Windows / Mac)
“I can personally recommend Krita as a viable open illustration program. On the commercial side, I’ve heard good things of Clip Studio Paint and Paint Tool SAI. Krita also has re-editable file layers, filter/effect layers and layer styles.” —@AwrySquare
Sketchbook (Windows / Mac)
“I use Sketchbook with my pen display and I can recommend it. It has a decently easy-to-navigate UI and allows you to save in a .psd format for an easy transfer. The only thing it really needs is clipping groups.” — @xx_unsung_xx
MediBang Paint (Windows / Mac / Mobile)
“a really good free ipad app for art is Medibang paint. It’s just as simple to use as procreate, and has all the features and more :)!!!” — @1lonelyegg
“Getpaint.net is a great free Photoshop alternative and @inkscape is a great free Illustrator alternative. Been using those for years, and I have all the Adobe products, but those are still my go to’s. I basically only use my Adobe subscription for Premiere and AE.” — @alexcchichester
Pixlr X (Web)
“Pixlr is a personal favorite! I believe they just added a paid option to get rid of ads but there’s still a fully functioning free version” — @notjoykeenan
GIMP (Windows / Mac)
“For photo editing,GIMP is pretty much Photoshop but free ! While the UI may be less user-friendly,it can give out nice results !” — @FarowlHd
Photoscape X (Windows / Mac)
“Photoscape is free and provides a pretty basic photo editing software! you can do a lot with it like make gifs and batch-edit photos in addition to your basics. been using it for 5+ years and have rarely needed something more” — @trisk_philia
FireAlpaca (Windows / Mac)
“well now im glad i stick to sai and firealpaca. at least they arent laggy as shit and confusing to look at” — @finnifinite
If you need a little more than that to consider FireAlpaca for your setup, the app comes with plenty of standard and quirky brushes for digitally painting your next great masterpiece (or comic). You can even make your own, if you’re feeling especially creative. For those looking to draw some comics, built-in templates make it easy to create specific layouts for a strip. The app’s “Onion Skin” mode also makes it easy to draw animations, as you’ll be creating new layers, or frames, while viewing the previous frame as a reference point.
Apps for creating storyboards
Storyboarder (Windows / Mac)
“The features on this are pretty good, and you DO NOT have to be able to render/draw well to use this! It can create shot types from key words, which is…. wild. :o” — @TubOfCoolWhip
Apps for editing videos or creating video effects
HitFilm Express (Windows / Mac)
“Somone may have already mentioned these two but VSDC Editor and Hitflim are neat free editing softwares.” — @NotQueenly
If I’m correct, Hitfilm Express an excellent tool for creating special effects—much more so than your standard video editing app, which might not be quite as fully featured for this kind of work. If you’re just looking to edit and trim videos, and maybe add a simple text overlay, other video apps on this list might be a better fit.
Shotcut (Windows / Mac)
“I found [Shotcut] to be a very good free editor for video editing. It’s worked very well for me and i still use it for smaller things.” — @Monkeygameal
If you’re trying to get crazy, like edit 360-degree videos—as PCMag notes—this might not be the app for you. But for basic video editing with a reasonably uncluttered interface, you can’t go wrong with this free app.
DaVinci Resolve (Windows / Mac)
“Because of Davinci resolve I only have the photoshop/ light room bundle. Once I can find a better alternative to photoshop and light room. Im going to ditch that too.” — @Breonnick_5
Kdenlive (Windows / Mac—sort-of)
Although this multi-track video editor is mainly for Linux users, you’ll still find some slightly older Windows and Mac builds to experiment with. Since the app uses FFmpeg libraries, you can import any video or audio file you want—pretty much. You also get a healthy number of transformations and effects to play with, which you can keyframe for greater precision.
Apps for 3D modeling, animation, or vector graphics
Blender (Windows / Mac)
“I hate Maya for similar reasons and stick to blender whenever I can.” — @IRBlayne
Blender is the big-guns 3D modeling tool that you dabble with when you don’t want to pay for something like 3DS or Maya. The learning curb is steep, but it’s worth mastering if you’re serious about exploring the space. Once you get good, you can do a lot of amazing things with this free app:
Lumion (Windows, free for students)
“If you are a student, the student version of Lumion is FREE. It is an architecture program that renders reeaal fast and does all kinds of neat stuff such as automatic sites, insertable animations of people doing stuff, you can set things on fire, weather settings, and more.” — @samanthagiford8
Synfig (Windows / Mac)
“Synfig for animation! it’s vector-based and works similar to Flash, it can’t do interactive stuff but Flash games are kind of dying anyway” — @ljamesart
Anything that’s similar to Adobe Flash, but isn’t Adobe Flash, is a win in our book.
You’ll find this recommendation on the aforementioned “Cullen” list, which indicates it’s a great program for basic 3D modeling. Since it’s (now) completely web-based, you can use it right in your favorite browser on Windows or Mac—or on a Chromebook, I suppose. And, yes, everything you do automatically saves to the cloud, don’t worry.
MagicaVoxel (Windows / Mac)
Here’s another entry on the “Cullen” list—this time, their recommendation for a voxel/brick 3D modeling program. I’m not much of an artist, nor am I a Minecraft wizard (but I do love amazing pixel art), so I’ll instead leave you with a comment from this inspiring 2015 blog post: “I started with [MagicaVoxel]5 months ago and feel like I have really mastered the tool. I saw a Tweet of voxel art image made on Magica Voxel from Ephtracy. That was when I just finished Monument Valley, which I loved. I had to try that tool and fell in love with it right away.”
MakeHuman (Windows / Mac)
The mysterious “Cullen” also recommends MakeHuman if you want to fiddle around with creating digital characters in three dimensions. If I’m correct, you can import your creations into another app on our list—Blender—to animate them, which is as close as you’ll get to full-featured rendering software like 3DS or Maya without plunking down a ton of change.
Inkscape (Windows / Mac)
“The vector program Inkscape is a wonderful free alternative to Adobe Illustrator” — @GrimdorkDesign
I consistently see Inkscape mentioned as an alternative to Adobe Illustrator around the web. I don’t use Illustrator myself, but if I did, this would be the first app I installed to escape Adobe’s subscription fees.
Apps for editing audio and creating music
LMMS (Windows / Mac)
“If we’re including music/audio editing software, LMMS and Cakewalk by BandLab are both good free DAWs!” — @MystSaphyr
“DAWs,” for those not in the know, is short for “Digital Audio Workstations.” If you’re making music, go with LMMS (or Cakewalk, below.) If you need to cut audio or convert something to an MP3, you’ll want an app like Audacity.
(See previous recommendation. Thanks, @MystSaphyr!)
ocenaudio (Windows / Mac)
“I’d like to add Ocean Audio [sic] as a simple audio editor as well as REAPER as an inexpensive & extremely powerful DAW (with infinite trial period)“ — @fuzzblob
Audacity (Windows / Mac)
I almost shouldn’t need to say anything about Audacity at this point, as it’s been one of the best free audio editors around for years. It’s my go-to app whenever I need to cut and rearrange audio super-quick.
Apps for desktop publishing
Scribus (Windows / Mac)
In response to a question about InDesign alternatives: “Affinity has one coming/out already. But yeah, only other thing I’ve found is Scribus.” — @dukiswa
“Pixlr was a really great place to start as an alternative to Photoshop and Canva works well as an alternative to InDesign !!” — @lexgts
27 Free Alternatives to Adobe’s Expensive App Subscriptions