Hi! I’m Kennedy.

I’m an artist, designer, and animator in Austin, TX. For the past 8 years or so I’ve worked in mobile games, animation, advertising, web design and more. This is some general stuff about art, design, and marketing that I’ve picked up along the way.

Cheap (Or Free) Alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator

by | Feb 25, 2022 | Resources, Tips and Tutorials

Adobe has long been the industry standard for graphic designers, artists, photographers, and small business owners that do their own design work. However, their apps also come with a high price tag and aren’t always the most user-friendly. Many creatives were put off by Adobe’s move to a subscription-based service a few years ago. It can now cost up to $10 a month for just Photoshop, or over $50 a month for the full Creative Suite. Not exactly ideal for a budding student or someone just getting started in their field! Here’s a list of the most affordable alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator, Adobe’s most popular apps.

Alternatives to Photoshop 

1. Affinity Photo

alternatives to photoshop and illustrator

This is one I have the most experience with. I switched to Affinity a couple of years after I graduated from college (and lost my free student version of the Creative Suite). Photo is Affinity’s answer to Adobe Photoshop, and has very nearly all of the same functions. Much of my design portfolio was created in Affinity Photo and Illustrator. The iPad version retails for just over $20, and the desktop version goes for $55.

2. Clip Studio Paint

I created the header for the Sleepless Muse homepage entirely in CSP.

This one is my favorite for drawing and sketching. It’s geared towards drawing comics specifically (it was originally called Manga Studio), but it’s a great all-around drawing program. The UI is pretty similar to Photoshop so it’s pretty easy to get the hang of for Adobe users. It starts at $50.

3. Krita (FREE)

I’ll admit I haven’t used Krita myself, but I have been impressed by a lot of the work I’ve seen created using it. Much like Clip Studio, this one is geared towards drawing and painting. Best of all, it’s completely free! A good choice if you’re just getting your feet wet with creating digital art.


This one’s been around probably the longest. It’s a great all-around image editor that’s also completely free. This is a great choice if you only need Photoshop for basic image editing and don’t need all the bells and whistles.

Alternatives to Illustrator

1. Affinity Designer

Like Affinity Photo, this is a great affordable alternative to Adobe Illustrator. It also retails for about $55, $20 for the iPad version. I’ve created all sorts of logo designs, layouts, and cover designs in Affinity. For print design, Affinity Publisher is also a great dupe of Adobe InDesign.

2. Inkscape (FREE)

This one is by the same creators of GIMP. It doesn’t quite have all the functionalities that Illustrator has, such as the Pathfinder or some options for warping text. But it’s still a solid vector graphics software, and definitely a good option for those just starting out.

3. Vectornator (FREE)

I haven’t personally used this one, but it looks pretty comprehensive (and free). It has features like automatically recording timelapses and Auto Trace. It’s strictly for Mac OS and iOS, however. This looks like a great option if you create a lot of content for social media channels due to its video capabilities.

There you go! If this article was useful to you, be sure to sign up for my newsletter at the left to get more like it in your inbox.