Photo$hop Is Great, But My Budget Is Not

I’ve been doing a lot of research this week on alternatives to Photoshop.  We recently bought five new Mac Minis with OS 10.5 and were installing our applications and what do you know – Photoshop 7.0 is not compatable with 10.5!

I’ve known that we would have to update soon, but was putting it off to try to buy other software titles.  Bought Final Cut Express 4 this year and was hoping to buy Dreamweaver next year, but can’t now.

I’ve also been in a discussion about using open source apps in place of commercial applications with another teacher (leebert).

So, I started doing some research on what I can do to replace my aging PS7 with next year.  The choices are Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, Gimp, and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

The pricing ranges from:  Adobe Photoshop CS4 ($299), Adobe Lightroom ($89), Apple Aperture ($179), Gimp (free), and Adobe Photoshop Elements ($89).

So, my next project was to see which apps had free trial versions (nearly all of them did) and check out their capabilities.  I needed them to do some specific things for our publications: tone photos, crop photos to specific dpi in picas and pixels, change image size, work in layers, create and handle TIF, JPG, PNG, GIF images, output in grayscale, RGB and CMYK formats and be able to do specific effects like cutouts.

Lightroom and Aperture were the first to fail.  They are limited to organization and toning of photos, they do not do advanced image manipulation.

Gimp and Photoshop Elements were next to fail because they can not output as CMYK files.  This is a must for color printing of yearbooks and newspapers.

Thus I am left with the only product that can meet our needs being Photoshop CS4.  The only good news is that we will not need to buy any new machines to accomodate CS4.  Someone needs to create a competitive product to Photoshop that can handle CMYK images.



  1. Will Gimp open a CMYK file?

    • I doubt it. Gimp only has three modes Grayscale, RGB and Indexed Color.

  2. We upgraded to CS3 last year because our publisher did. Unfortunately, we had problems all year with plugins, etc. We also had to upgrades from 2GB RAM to 4GB so the computers could easily handle the files. Things seem to be working pretty well this year. Interestingly, our photo teacher discussed with me just last week her decision to go with PhotoShop CS4 in addition to purchasing new computers that will run it. She has some arts monies that can help with the purchase.

    • Yeah, that is always a problem with upgrading is that a lot of your favorite legacy plugins will have trouble or just won’t work at all. It’s basically all a scam by the computer makers and software companies to keep us buying more new stuff, plus making us go to more training to keep up to date.

  3. I hardly recognized you, you redecorated. Thought I was in the wrong room!

    Since I am still running Panther, my Macs for yearbook handle CS2 very well and I hope to hang in there until I leave in 2010 and let someone else worry about it. You are right, it is very expensive to update a whole computer lab with new software. I am doing multimedia classes in a PC lab that still has Photoshop 7 and PageMaker 7 in them. This cannot continue, but I don’t know how we will get money for new machines or software for that room. The grant mechanism that has been in place for our district has been shuttered for this year and probably next.

    • Yeah, I got tired of the old look. Kind of like my office at school, I change it up every so often – but not too often.

      Yeah, I’m very concerned about how we are going to afford new hardware/software in the next 1-2 years or longer depending on how long this economy is like this. I’m hoping Apple comes up with a replacement for the Mac mini with more horsepower at less cost. And I wish there was a competitor for Photoshop – we need something that can do CMYK for yearbook/newspaper though.

  4. Yes, full CMYK support is a much-wanted feature in GIMP. Scribus has had it from the get-go & it was no small feat.

    So for serious publishing support I believe PS is your only option.

    I’m curious where else you might find GIMP to fall short. GIMP’s not a full PS equivalent (we can always wish…. ;-). In some respects it’s better for novice users, but it’s not a silk purse or a sow’s ear.

    So… now that you’re shopping, maybe think about getting GIMP in the lab as a take-home tool for the kids to keep handy when they aren’t in the lab?


  5. Hi Bob,

    I just checked via google for CMYK import.

    Of the free tools out there, IrfanView, XnView & OpenOffice Draw can all import CMYK colorspace data (PSD — no layes) & then convert it.

    Lots of little steps, though, in making full circuit. Lossless? I doubt it. OTOH… it’d be an interesting test of what could be done well w/ free tools.

    • Yeah, you need your image editor to be able to edit in CMYK, not a complex workaround.

      The other issues I had with GIMP are:

      1) The windows-like keyboard shortcuts due to the X11 interface on a Mac.
      2) The lack of multiple lasso tools. I really like the polygonal lasso in Photoshop and would miss it greatly.
      3) The windows for things like history and layers are too big and can’t be used simultaneously.

      But all that being said. It is very robust for an Open Source product and I would recommend it to any beginner who needs an image editor (especially for free.)

  6. Photoshop comes with our CS3 Indesign program, so this is what we must use. We really don’t need much beyond that, and I’m pretty sure we’re not using the program up to its full potential. BTW, don’t forget Sx3. Please drop by today if you have time!

    • You must have one of Adobe’s packages with more than one title combined together. You might try doing some simple cut outs and effects with photoshop. Don’t try to do too much, but learn one or two new photoshop tricks each year. Look at magazines for cool things done with photos for ideas.

  7. For many users extra process steps become too much of a distraction in getting work done. If I had to do it as a pro or in a serious lab, I’d go ahead & get PS. The difference between CMYK vs. RGB are definitely noticeable even when working with Glicee print services like CafePress, etc. I myself have a couple of pro-hobby projects waiting that might just require PS if the deep paint capabilities of CinePaint (Linux-only) don’t meet up, but I’m hoping that CinePaint will cut it, it appears to be “good enough” for big movie studios to do the editing on LoTR, Scooby Doo, etc.

    I just downloaded GrafPup Linux, a CD-bootable Puppy Linux variant that has CinePaint pre-installed. It’ll boot off the CD for a trial run:

  8. Woot! I just installed Graphic Converter – free – on my lovely new Mac laptop. I haven’t messed with it much yet (I downloaded it like… five minutes ago!) but it does have RGB/CMYK conversion. Yay. So even if that’s ALL I use it for, that’ll be fine. If it has a magic wand and some other basic editing features, I’ll be even happier.

    But teamed up with GIMP, we should be able to do just about anything we’d want to in Photoshop. I’ll let you know more once I’ve worked with it a little more.

    • I have used Graphic Converter before. It does cost a small amount of money. But I just don’t feel that GIMP/Graphic Converter solution is a very good workflow. I have enough difficulty teaching my kids to use Photoshop correctly.

  9. Uhoh. It does?! Crap! I hope I didn’t download from a pirate site without noticing… stinko! Maybe I got like some kinda 30-day trial… hm.

    • Actually you can “use” it almost indefinitely without paying, but as shareware you are supposed to pay the fee to use it legally. And if you are using it on school computers, then you have all the more reason to keep it on the up and up. The software is made by lemkesoft and is only for the Mac. It is 30 € or $35 US.

      I also learned how to type Euro on the Mac (Option-Shift-2 here in the US)

  10. […] Image Editing Alternatives – aka No Budget Photoshop A couple of weeks back I discussed my research into alternatives for Photoshop CS4 for my yearbook program.  So far, no alternative really exists if you need to create quality CMYK […]

  11. Have you checked into Paint.Net?

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