I've been doing quite a bit of searching, but I'm only turning up commercially licensed packages. I don't need something as fully-featured as Photoshop, but something in that genre is sufficient. These features are of most importance to me:

  • Basic photo editing
  • Some filters
  • Layering
  • Text tool

I want to be able to make simple posters/flyers by combining multiple images and text.

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    What features of Photoshop are you looking for? – jaberg Mar 19 '12 at 21:07
  • Basic photo editing, some filters, layering, text tool. I want to be able to make simple posters/flyers by combining multiple images and text. – AJ. Mar 19 '12 at 21:09
  • You could also check out Photoshop Elements. It is a scaled back and less expensive version. – bassplayer7 Mar 19 '12 at 21:11
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    You might find Pages to be a better than you'd expect tool for making posters and flyers. – jaberg Mar 19 '12 at 21:19
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    There's a similar question over on the graphic design SE site: Lower cost alternative to Photoshop Loads of answers, I think all the suggestions work on a Mac. – user56reinstatemonica8 Jan 25 '13 at 11:55

GIMP is widely recognised as a quality free alternative to Photoshop in many regards.

enter image description here

...but it's not considered to be particularly successful in it's approach to embracing Mac OS X application design ;)

If you want something that isn't necessarily free but is at least inexpensive, then there are a number of other programs including Acorn and Pixelmator available in the Mac App Store. You could always try the cut down Photoshop Elements.

For a good roundup, see this wonderful blog post from the Ask Different Community Blog for more info:

GIMP vs Photoshop vs Pixelmator – Graphics Editor Shootout

  • Forgot about the Blogpost. Nice link! – jaberg Mar 19 '12 at 21:17
  • I was thinking to myself the interface to GIMP has improved a lot since the last time I opened it until I noticed that 90% of the screenshot is Aperture. – jaberg Mar 20 '12 at 15:07
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    Yes, and a proper screen shot is seemingly hard to find, but I am working on it! It's worth noting that GIMP relies on the X Windows subsystem that Mac OS X provides to work properly, something that will be deprecated in Mountain Lion. If you want Free, GIMP is a good go to for now, but it you want value, I vote for Pixelmator – stuffe Mar 20 '12 at 15:11
  • When you can't find a proper screenshot, you encourage your friends to create one. ;) – jaberg Mar 20 '12 at 15:57
  • @stuffe It's been updated now. :) "Since the 2.8.2 version GIMP runs on OSX natively. No X11 environment is required." – tjmcewan Sep 6 '12 at 13:50

The only free alternatives I know of is GIMP. I don't like it. I don't use it, and I can't tell you anything about it. Ugly is as ugly does—and I don't find GIMP's interface conducive to creative work.

If we change free to low-cost my first choice is Pixelmator. It has a clean and (relatively) intuitive interface, supports layers and, most important to me, has a content aware fill feature. Lots more info and some great tutorials on the website.

image of Pixelmator interface

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    Funny thing... GIMP and Audacity were made for Linux/Unix, and both don't have an "interface conducive to creative work." :D – CoffeeRain Mar 19 '12 at 21:23
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    Some of it is highly subjective, but I think you've nailed the causality. My observation (subject to the corrections soon to be hurled at me) is that the open source tools tend to gain features without achieving beauty or usability. – jaberg Mar 19 '12 at 21:29
  • I think it’s more that GIMP is made for users who want to heavily customise their tools. That ranges from rearranging windows and reassigning keys to writing scripts for automating mundane work. It’s not the easiest software for beginners to pick up, but (like Blender) it’s designed mainly for high productivity when you already know how to use it. That’s why GIMP’s defaults suck: they’re designed to be temporary. – Jon Purdy Mar 20 '12 at 12:36
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    The screenshot really sold me on this answer – Kyle Cronin Mar 20 '12 at 13:40
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    I realize I'm speaking about me and not everyone, but my workflow is designed without heavy customization as much as possible. I bounce between machines too often and want to be productive on any Mac, not just the one running my own hooks. Different strokes—but I appreciate your comment. – jaberg Mar 20 '12 at 13:45

You can also try Seashore which is a scaled down version of gimp.

You can have a look at this chart they have created which compares the features of GIMP, Acorn, Photoshop Elements, Pixelmator and Seashore. Using this you will be able to find what features you need from the editor and make an informed decision whether to stick with a free solution or buy a low cost solution.

  • The chart can definitely help you choose contenders, but the proof is in the usin' and a chart won't tell you anything about the feel of the various products. Use the free trials and decide which is best for you. – jaberg Mar 19 '12 at 21:35
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    Seashore rocks! – daviesgeek Mar 20 '12 at 21:10
  • Seashore seems to have matured quite a lot in the last years but unfortunately when I tried loading some jpeg files it made them all look pale, even after saving the files the paleness stayed. I looked around for color management but clicking colorsync didn't do anything. I then opted for GIMP which felt a complete overkill for my minimal requirements, but produced flawless results. – Stefan Schmidt Nov 26 '13 at 21:15

My favourite photo editor is online Pixlr.

Even looks like Photoshop :)

  • I have to admit, though I am biased towards local apps, this is impressive. I've added a bookmark for it—I'll still be doing most of my work in Pixelmator, but Pixlr has a couple of features I may use occasionally. – jaberg Mar 20 '12 at 1:11

I think you'll find Pixelmator a good alternative to Photoshop. You can get it on the Mac App Store for $14.99.


Okay, mark me down for ignoring the "free" part of the question, but I'm really quite fond of Aperture for the combination of editing and organizing that it does. It fills about 95% of what I used to use Photoshop for, plus I can keyword photos, maintain versions of edits, label faces and search for similar ones, and much more. It's become the centre of my photo organizing and editing activities.

Together with Apple Pages, I can do just about anything I want to do regarding photo editing, organization, and end use.

It won't do "flaming text" or other "graphic arts" sorts of things that Photoshop does, though. I don't miss that.

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    I'll give you your first points ;) – stuffe Mar 22 '12 at 20:22
  • I strongly agree that Aperture has replaced 95% of my photographic Photoshop needs. Pixelmator is used as a design tool, and occasionally to airbrush something out of a photo, but adjustments stay in Aperture. – jaberg Apr 4 '12 at 18:07

There's another free, browser based, alternative: Photoshop Online.

  • +1 for this. Seems like an awesome alternative. Only if it could be a native app. – Mohit Apr 12 '13 at 7:23

LazPaint is free software, very light but with many more basic features, including :

  • antialiasing
  • multiple undo
  • alpha blending
  • BGRABitmap
  • selection of any shape
  • rotation
  • filters
  • update checker

Photoshop 6 Beta is free on http://labs.adobe.com/

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    And once the beta expires, be prepared to pay dearly. ;) – jaberg Apr 4 '12 at 17:16
  • @timpone This isn't really a good answer: the beta will only be free until the final version is released, then (as jaberg says) you'll pay dearly. This is also a temporally localized answer, as the beta will not be available once the full version is released. – Cajunluke Apr 5 '12 at 5:51
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    i disagree - if I were asking for a FREE alternative to photoshop and there was a FREE beta of it, I'd want to know. Presumably he knows Photoshop and would seem to be up his alley. Maybe he gets a job in 2 months and has full access to Photoshop then. Having used GIMP on several occasions, I feel I would rather use something else. Pixelmator is IMHO the correct answer but also isn't free; hence PS6 is my suggestion. – timpone Apr 7 '12 at 5:05

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