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How to choose an image editor, or search for a “replacement for Photoshop”

    Last Updated on 07.06.2023

    There are many types of programs for working with images, and all these programs are called differently. Just select the one you want.

    – Image or photo editor? Are you talking about Photoshop?
    – No. There are many photo editors, not just Photoshop. More precisely: there are many types of programs for working with images, and all these programs are called differently. Just select the one you want.

    The dialogue, of course, is fictitious, but in life, with some variations, it has been repeated countless times, in different languages, in different countries, for more than 20 years.

    Since the mid-90s of the last century, Adobe Photoshop has become the undisputed leader in its market segment, and its name has gradually become a household name.

    This program allows you to solve many problems, but even it is not capable of accommodating and providing tools for all the variety of different technologies and work objectives.

    That is why even Adobe has a large number of applications for working with images, and these applications, to the company’s credit, are present in most of the creative and technical or computer graphics industries.

    However, Photoshop, excellent in all respects, has created for many users the illusion of functional homogeneity and complete universality of computer graphics programs. This has created a lot of confusion in the already quite colorful image of this market segment.

    To be honest, few people find their way around this confusion. Therefore, both print editions and site publications often simply call all this variety of software products with some phrase like “programs for working with graphics.”

    We want users to get rid of confusion and discrepancies and know exactly what they need and what programs to work with images in which niche markets they are.

    Of course, in an effort to attract as many users as possible, developers always add additional features to their programs to make them as attractive as possible in the context of competition. But we will focus on the main purpose of the program, realizing that it certainly overlaps with other niches in terms of functionality.

    We will consider them separately – the 5 main areas.

    Here they are (and links to reviews for each of the areas are at the bottom of this post).

    A photo editor is an application to edit photos and nothing more

    Are you a photographer? So you have a camera. Digital.

    Or movie? The author of this post has a working copy of a film camera, which is sometimes even used properly. Then what? Photolaboratory, developing, printing. Film scanner, digitization, photo editor.

    Digital: means going directly to a photo editor, without photo labs.

    There are many things to do in a photo editor.

    For example, you need to take a good look at the footage obtained. It will take a high-quality, easy-to-use zoom.

    It is necessary to configure the white balance and the color balance in general, to adjust the dynamic ranges by channels. It would be a good thing to improve the detail and fidelity of individual objects (artificial intelligence?). Match skin tone on faces and hands, remove unnecessary artifacts.

    And you may also need visual effects. Including those that are not available in the camera, or those that were needed at the time of the shoot, but were forgotten and not activated in time.

    And conversions of photos to black and white, colorization of old black and white photos, scans, frames, vignettes, and everything else that can be done with a photograph.

    This is a photo editor, as we will call it.

    Vector graphics as they are

    We don’t know exactly how difficult it is now to find someone who doesn’t know the names Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator. These legendary programs have not only gone nowhere, but still set the quality standards for working with “vector” and are actively used by design professionals.

    More precisely, a very specific design direction.

    Due to the very specificity of vector images, these applications are used to create high-precision images, such as logos, professional clipart drawings, original font solutions, designs for advertising materials, images for the Internet and mobile applications.

    In general, all kinds of images that need to be scaled in the original vector format without loss of quality.

    Drawing in the future that has already arrived

    People who can draw “with their hands” are special.

    Basically, they don’t need computers or apps. They can paint with charcoal on cardboard, ink on rice paper, or paint in oil on canvas. They can draw cartoons, landscapes, battle scenes, fictional characters, birds and animals. In general, whatever you like.

    But with the advent of computer graphics and after the shock that “machine cannot create art”, these people had even more opportunities.

    Instead of paper and canvas, it is displayed in incredible resolution, allowing you to see and correct details that are visible on canvas only through a microscope. Instead of a palette and tubes, there are millions and billions of colors. Various media textures, the ability to correct and redraw, keeping the original sketches and all variations.

    And there are brushes, pencils, spatulas, crayons, charcoals, leads and other means of applying color to the surface in such abundance that it simply does not exist in real life. Customizable! And all this, with the help of a small flat object called a “drawing tablet” and a plastic digital pen.

    And the ability to print on special plotters and printers! With the highest quality, and not just one version, but as many as you need.

    Never before have artists had the power of drawing apps. If necessary, even with specialization in specific areas.

    Design software

    When we think about it, what more could a designer need? If there are already vector graphics editors and drawing applications. Sit down, design.

    Everything, as usual, is not so simple.

    Design of what? From the interior of a villa, from jewelry, from a user interface, from a magazine issue, from a crankshaft, from a website, from a style of pants?

    Correct answer: design of everything. All that, in principle, can be represented in the form of computer graphics.

    It is clear that there is no software solution for the design of “everything”. There are too many details of their own in every branch of human activity where there is a place for design. Therefore, design applications often have an industrial or functional specialization.

    We will try to cover the most popular ones first and then expand the list.

    Finally: the best image editors!

    Yes, those very notorious “Alternatives to Photoshop”.

    We are talking about a class of applications that are as universal as possible. Those who can work with vector graphics, can adjust photos, create a layout of an advertising brochure, a banner for a site, and draw a picture. Finally, just make the image you want out of what you have.

    If we call things by their name, then such an application is a universal tool. In the hands of a specialist, it can help do wonders, in the hands of an amateur, it can simply cope with work at an acceptable level.

    A gigantic set of tools that can be configured across a wide range of parameters, the ability to rollback and rework on failed actions, and the ability to work in layers make these applications very forgiving of user error and skill.

    All this actually doomed universal graphics editors to success. Many users want to have them in their arsenal at all times; this “swiss army knife” will always help them.

    Of course, a professional in most cases will not consider all these “Photoshop” as the main or only tool. A narrow specialization is not subject to such applications and there are many types of work that, with the help of special tools, can be done much faster, easier and better.

    But the need for universal applications remains enormous and will continue to exist into indefinite time.

    We will consider this class of applications in more attention and detail.

    We hope that everything you have just read has helped clarify the picture. Simply choose the type of app you need for the platform you are using, and you will surely be able to determine which app is best for solving your problems.

    Programs, online services and mobile applications to work with graphic resources

    We haven’t considered applications for creating motion graphics here; there will be a separate series of posts about them.

    We will also separately consider applications for working with “images”: their systematization, storage and search, conversion and resizing, and much more.


    How to choose an image editor, or search for a replacement for Photoshop

    How to choose an image editor, or search for a replacement for Photoshop