This is a question I hear all the time as a graphic designer and Photoshop expert. Many people are eager to try out Photoshop‘s amazing photo editing capabilities, but are daunted by its high price tag.
The short answer is – unfortunately, the full version of Photoshop is not available for free legally. However, you do have some options to access its features without spending a penny. Keep reading as I explain the details and guide you through the possibilities.
Photoshop for Free As a 7-Day Trial
While a perpetual free version is not feasible, Adobe does offer a generous 7-day free trial of the complete Photoshop app so you can test it out before subscribing.
All you need to do is visit Adobe‘s website and sign up for the trial with your email. No credit card details required! You‘ll have unrestricted access to the latest Photoshop CC on desktop and iPad for a week.
I‘d recommend setting up reminders so you can cancel the trial before the 7 days are up, unless you‘d like to continue with a paid subscription. This is a great way to experience Photoshop fully before committing.
Powerful Photoshop Alternatives to Use for Free
The trial period may not be enough if you want to regularly use Photoshop-esque software. In that case, check out these excellent free alternatives that offer similar functions:
1. GIMP – The Closest Option to Photoshop
GIMP is a free open source image editor with a nearly identical interface to Photoshop. As a long time Photoshop user myself, I was able to transition to GIMP seamlessly.
It has extensive tools like layers, masks, selections, brushes, filters and more that can handle complex image manipulation. GIMP lacks some higher end features, but it‘s surprisingly capable for a free program.
Ideal for: Designers, photographers, casual users who want a free Photoshop-like experience. The learning curve for GIMP is steeper but my free GIMP tutorial for beginners helps explain the tools.
2. Paint.NET – For Quick Image Editing
Paint.NET is a simple yet powerful image editing app for Windows, ideal for basic to moderate photo editing tasks. While it isn‘t quite at GIMP or Photoshop‘s level, the toolset is impressive given its free price tag.
It has layers, adjustments, filters, and automatic actions for easy batch editing. My favorite features are the selection tools, magic wand, clone stamp, and customizable brushes. An excellent free tool for quick edits.
Ideal for: Casual hobbyists, students, meme creators. It has just enough features for simple projects, and beginners will find it very easy to learn.
3. Krita – Digital Drawing and Painting
Krita is an open source sketching and painting program built for illustrators and concept artists. Alongside art-specific tools, it has robust photo editing capabilities like GIMP.
The highly customizable brushes, wraparound mode, and perspective assist tools make Krita perfect for creating textures and drawings from imagination. The layers and masks also enable non destructive editing.
Ideal for: Illustrators, comic artists, painters. Krita is ideal if you want to explore your artistic potential through digital drawing and painting alongside image manipulation.
4. Photopea – Browser Based Photoshop Alternative
If you want to use "Photoshop" online without any downloads or sign ups, Photopea is the tool for you. This free web app remarkably replicates Photoshop‘s interface and features right inside the browser.
It retains layer based editing, all the selection, masking and drawing tools, filters, adjustments, and even the ability to open PSD files. I‘m amazed at how closely it mirrors Photoshop despite being free. The online access makes it great for lightweight use.
Ideal for: Beginners, students, casual users who want a quick and easy online image editor. Very easy to pick up and use if you already know Photoshop.
5. Affinity Photo – One Time Payment, No Subscription
Affinity Photo is not free, but provides a low cost Photoshop alternative for a single purchase. Currently priced at $54.99, it does not require any subscriptions. Affinity Photo offers blazing performance too thanks to its modern codebase.
It contains all major tools professionals need like adjustments, live filters, masking, layers, and high end retouching tools alongside RAW editing. Fast batch processing is another huge plus. For less than the cost of a few months of Photoshop, Affinity Photo is great value.
Ideal for: Professionals like photographers, graphic designers who want high capability software at a low perpetual cost. The workflow is very similar to Photoshop.
Free Photoshop Options Compared
|Software||Price||Operating System||Key Features||Skill Level|
|Photoshop 7-day trial||Free||Windows, Mac||Full suite of tools||Advanced|
|GIMP||Free||Windows, Mac, Linux||Layers, filters, brushes||Intermediate|
|Paint.NET||Free||Windows||Simple tools, streamlined interface||Beginner|
|Krita||Free||Windows, Mac, Linux||Artistic brushes and canvases||Beginner/Intermediate|
|Photopea||Free||Online browser||Emulates Photoshop interface||Beginner/Intermediate|
|Affinity Photo||One time payment||Windows, Mac||Very similar to Photoshop||Intermediate/Advanced|
This table summarizes the key differences in capabilities, availability and ease of use. Photoshop still reigns supreme in features but the free alternatives can fit many users‘ needs.
Limitations of Pirated/Cracked Photoshop Versions
Some users consider getting Photoshop for "free" via torrents, illegal download sites or cracks. I strongly advise against this. Not only are there legal risks, you open yourself up to malware, compromised security and data loss.
Photoshop cracks also tend to have broken features, crashes and problems opening files later. You won‘t receive any updates with new features either. Plus, Photoshop piracy unfairly impacts Adobe and developers who work hard to create the software.
My recommendation? Avoid the headaches, viruses and legal consequences by sticking to free and low cost alternatives like the ones I‘ve suggested instead. They are safer, more stable and just as capable for most users‘ needs.
Buying an Old Standalone Photoshop License
If you are uncomfortable paying a monthly subscription, one option is to buy an older self-contained version of Photoshop CS6 or earlier.
The benefits are you pay a single flat fee and can use the software indefinitely without needing an internet connection. eBay and second hand sellers often have old Photoshop disc copies for cheap.
Just keep in mind, these legacy versions do not get important updates or any new features. For most professionals, staying current with Photoshop CC via the Creative Cloud is advisable. But casual users may find old licenses very capable for years.
Learning Photoshop as a Beginner
As someone who mentors aspiring designers, I have plenty of tips for picking up Photoshop fundamentals even as a total beginner. Here‘s what I recommend:
Take a structured online course – Follow along video tutorials to build skills methodically. Many experts on Udemy or Skillshare have excellent Photoshop courses for free or under $20.
Practice core techniques extensively – Layers, masking, selections and blending modes are critical to master. Repeat exercises on sample images till they become second nature.
Browse manuals and guides – Adobe‘s own Photoshop documentation contains a wealth of learning resources. The panels and tools section gets you oriented.
Join online Photoshop communities – Reddit, Discord and Facebook Groups let you ask questions when stuck. Getting feedback as you learn is invaluable.
Refer Youtube tutorials – Whenever you want to learn a specific new technique, Youtube tutorials deliver quickly. Search for what you need.
Work on personal projects – Learning takes time, but gets faster when you practice on photos and designs relevant to you for motivation.
With guided learning, you can become adept at Photoshop manipulation techniques within 2-3 months. Mastering the endless tools does takes years, but the fundamentals can absolutely be self-taught using the above approach.
Real World Photoshop Examples From My Work
To give you an idea of what Photoshop can achieve in the hands of professionals, here are some real examples from projects I have worked on:
This is a landscape photo edited in Photoshop. I color graded it to accentuate the lush greens, carefully brought out details in shadows, and enhanced the sharpness of elements like the mountains.
Here I used Photoshop‘s blending modes, masking and brush tools to create a surreal artwork from imagination. The vivid lighting effects and disintegration were achieved by combining stock images.
Using smart objects and adjustments layers, I modified a clothing product mockup with different colors and branding to visualize the design before manufacturing.
This old photo was restored using Photoshop‘s healing and clone stamp tools. I removed scratches, enhanced faded colors, and reconstructed damaged areas to make it look like new again.
As you can see, stellar results are possible with practice and creativity. Photoshop is limited only by your imagination and skill.
Expert Opinions on Learning Photoshop
As a professional designer, I wanted to share some advice from experts in my field on picking up Photoshop:
"My number one tip for beginners is to learn non destructive editing – use adjustment layers and masks rather than changing pixels. This gives you flexibility to tweak edits later on." – Perry, Graphic Designer
"Understand layer blending modes thoroughly – they are fundamental yet so powerful. Most amazing Photoshop techniques rely on creatively combining blend modes." – Jamie, Digital Artist
"Don‘t get overwhelmed learning every tool right away. Master the basics first – selections, adjustments, and masking. The rest will come with time." – Ella, Photographer
"Practice the workflows required for your field of work. A photographer will use Photoshop features very differently from a 3D animation artist." – Noah, Video Editor
Their advice aligns with my own experience – learn fundamentals deeply before diving into more advanced areas. The journey to Photoshop mastery is long but rewarding!
Summarizing If Photoshop is Available Free
Let‘s recap the key points from this guide:
The full version of Photoshop is only available as a paid Creative Cloud subscription. No way to use it free forever.
You can access Photoshop free for 7 days via the trial available on Adobe‘s site to test it out.
Excellent free alternatives exist like GIMP and Paint.NET that offer many similar functions. Some tools differ but core capabilities remain.
For a low one time fee, Affinity Photo provides a Photoshop-esque workspace. Lower cost than monthly payments.
Learning online is the best approach to pick up Photoshop skills from scratch even as a beginner. Classes, tutorials, practice and communities help.
Avoid the legal risks and technical hassles of pirated copies. Stick to legitimate free tools for a smooth experience.
I hope this detailed guide gives you clarity on how to get access to professional level photo editing tools free or on a budget. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!