Adobe Production Apps Alternatives

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  05 May 2013
Adobe Production Apps Alternatives

Like many people, I use the Adobe CS Suite extensively in my work. Photoshop, After Effects, and Illustrator, and sometimes Premier and Audition. It has been great and convenient.
I don't think Adobe has been particularly innovative over the years, but they more than cover the basics and the interoperability between the apps is in itself, a huge benefit.
As Adobe has announced that they are moving to cloud-based licensing, there are many opinions as the the pros and cons of their approach.
Personally, I don't like the idea of having my software disabled if I don't pay a monthly fee, so I'm starting this thread to list alternative pipelines for the non-3D components of animation production.
---------- List ----------
Permanent License CG Software
Permanent License = After purchase, access to software and license does not expire.
Audio Editing
Acid Family (Win) $59.95-$149.95
Audacity (Open Source) Works great, but saves multiple caches, using a lot of disk space.
AVS Audio Editor Limited capabilities.
Cubase (Win, Mac) $99.99-$499.99
Cyberlink Audio Director - $96
MAGIX Audio Cleaning Lab (Win) 49,99€
Multitrack Studio - $69-$119
NCH Software - Misc Audio Apps (Edit, Mix, Other) Limited capabilities.
Ocean Audio (Win, Mac, Linux) Free?
Pro Tools (Win, Mac) $699-$999
Reaper Phenomenal. I evaluated several audio apps, nothing else comes close - $60 or $225
Sound Forge - $65-$500
Wavosuar - Free, No installer, it just runs. Not multitrack.

Compositing/FX/2D Animation
Apple Motion (Mac)
Blender - Open Source
ButtleFox - Linux - Open Source
Final Cut Pro (Mac) - $299.99
Hitfilm - Compositing/FX/Motion Graphics (Win, Mac version on the way) - $149 - $399
iMovie (Mac,iOS)
Howler - $10-$99
Mamba FX - Compositing (Win) - 239.00€ - 9,900.00€
Mistika - Compositing (Win)
Natron - Compositing (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
Nodebox - Data visualization, fx (Win, Mac,Linux) - Open Source
Picture Window Pro (Win, Mac (older version)) - $89.95
Piranha (Win, Mac,Linux) - Free?
Silhouette FX (Win, Mac,Linux) - $1495
Wax Standalone and Plugin (Win) Free

Flash/Vector Animation
Crazy Talk Animator
Flash ToonBoom
MotionArtist (Animation with HTML5 output, Looks cool) (Win, Mac) - $59.99
Photoline (Win/Mac) - ฃ59
Syngif Studio - 2D bitmap/vector animation (Win, Mac,Linux) - Open Source Looks promising.
Tumult Hype (HTML5 Animation) (Mac) - $29.99
Xara Designer Pro (Win) - $299

Paint/Image Editing/FX
ArtRage(Win, Mac, iPhone, iPad) - $49, iPhone: $1.99
ArtWeaver (Win) - 29€
Black Ink (Win) - 24,99€
Bloom (Win) (Mac) (UNIX) - $49.99
Clip Studio Paint Family (Win, Mac) - $49.99-$219.00
Corel Painter - $69.99-$429
DogWaffle - Free-$49
Easy Paint Tool SAI
FireAlpaca (Win, Mac) - Free, not much info @ website
Gentica (Very Cool Texture Maker) (Win) - $149-$899
Gimp - Open Source
Illuststudio (Win)
InstantMask Pro, InstantPhotoSketch Pro (Mac/Win) - $29.95 each
Manga Studio (Same or similar to Clip Studio) (Mac/Win) - $79.99
Mari (Win/Linux) - $1995
Mischief (Pixel/Vector Hybrid) (Mac/Win) - $65
MyPaint (Win, Linux) - Open Source
OnOne Photo Suite (Win, Mac) - $179.95
openCanvas (Paint) (Win) - $49.90
Ormr (Paint/Vector) (Win, Mac) - $49.99 - (1/2 price during beta)
Paintshop Pro* - Misc Options
Photoline (Win/Mac) - ฃ59
HDR Engine, PhotoEngine - $59, $149
PhotoPlus (Win) - $89.99
Pixelmator (Mac) - $14.99
Open Canvas (Win) - $50
Picture Window Pro (Win, Mac (older version)) - $89.95
Pro Motion (Win) - $78.00
SageLight (Win) - $79.95, special: $39.95 includes lifetime upgrades
Seashore (Mac) - Open Source
SketchBook Pro 6 (Win, Mac) - $59
Snapheal (Mac) - $14.99-$39.99
TVPaint (Win, Linux, Mac) - 495€-1180€
TwistedBrush - looks very full featured(Win) - $99
XaraExtreme (Linux) - Open Source

Amethyst 2 - $299
Construct Game maker for multiple platforms (Win) - Free-ฃ259.00
MotionArtist (Animation with HTML5 output, Looks cool) (Win, Mac) - $59.99
SwishMax - $69.95-$174.95
Touch Designer - $2200
vvvv - a multipurpose toolkit - free (non-commericial)-ฃ500

Photography Workflow
ACDSee Pro (Win) - $149.99
AfterShot Pro (Win/Mac/Linux) - $49
Aperture (Mac) - $79.99
Camera Bag (Win/Mac) - $15
Capture One - Misc Versions
DarkTable (Linux/Mac) - Open Source
FaceFilter - $29.99-$79.95
Graphic Converter (Mac) - 34.95€/$39.95
Lightzone (Linux/Win/Mac) - Open Source
Photivo (Win,Linux,Mac) - Open Source
Picasa - Free
PortraitPro (Mac only?) - $39.95-$119.95
Raw Studio (Linux, FreeBSD) - Open Source
Raw Therapee (Linux, Mac, Win) - Open Source
SilkyPix Developer (Win/Mac) - ~$270
Tiffen Dfx Family - Various Options

Print Layout
Coreldraw Graphics Suite - >$469
MultiAd Creator (Win, Mac) - $499
ID2Q (InDesign to Quark) (Win,Mac) - $199
QuarkXPress - $849
Scribus (Linux/UNIX, Mac, OS/2 Warp 4, eComStation, Haiku, Win) - Open Source
Serif PagePlus (Win) - $99.99
iStudioPublisher (Mac) - $17.99
Swiftpublisher (Mac) - $19.99
Viva Designer (Win/Mac/Linux) - Free-$399
Xara Designer Family (Win) - $49.99-$299

Vector Graphics/Illustration

Affinity Designer (Mac) - ฃ34.99
Canvas (Mac/Win) - $599, $799 for GIS version
Corel Draw - Misc Options
DrawPlus (Win)
eazydraw (Mac) - $95.00
Graphic Design Studio (Mac) - $39.99
iDraw (Mac) - $24.99
Intaglio (Mac) - $89.00
Mapdiva Artboard and Ortelius (cartography) (Mac) Artboard - $29.99, Ortelius $29.99-$99.00
OpenOffice Draw (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
Sketch (Mac) - $49.99
Torapp Guilloche Designer (Beta - Chrome)
Vectormator (Part of Pixelmator) (Mac) - $14.99
XaraExtreme (Linux) - Open Source
Vector Magic (Online/Win/Mac) - $7.95/month, $295 for app
ZeusDraw (Mac) - $90.00

Video Editing
avidemux (Win, Linux, BSD, Mac) - Open Source
Cyberlink Power Director Family - $45-$175
DaVinci Resolve (Mac) - Free - $995
EDIUS Pro 6.5 (Win) - $69
Final Cut
NCH Software - Misc Video Apps
Kdenlive (Linux)
MAGIX Video Pro X (Win) - ฃ349
Movie Plus
SpeedEdit (Win)
Sony Vegas - Several Flavors
Corel VideoStudio* - $69.99
VideoPad (Win) - $60.00-$99.00
Virtual Dub (Win) - Open Source
Wondershare Video Editor (Win) - $39.99

Web Authoring
Amaya (Last update was Jan, 2012) (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
Aptana (Mac/Linux/Win Standalone or Eclipse Plugin) - Open Source
BlueGriffon (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
Bluefish (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
Coda (Coda) - $75
Eclipse (Win) - Open Source
Espresso (Mac) - $75
Flux (Mac) - $129.99
Freeway Express/Pro - $49.99/$149.99
Komodo (Win, Mac, Linux) - $382
Kompozer - Open Source
MotionArtist (Animation with HTML5 Output, Looks cool) (Win, Mac) - $59.99
NetBeans IDE (Win, Mac, Linux) - Open Source
NetObjects Fusion (Win?) - $129.95
RapidWeaver (Mac) - $79.95
Sandvox (Mac) - $79.99
Serif WebPlus (Win) - $99.99
Stylizer (Win, Mac) - $79
Sublime Text Editor (Win) - $70
Tumult Hype (HTML5 Animation) (Mac) - $29.99
Tumult HyperEdit (Mac) - $25
Viva Designer (Win/Mac/Linux) - Free-$399
Xara Designer Family (Win) - $49.99-$299

ADOView - Reads and displays InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator and more. (Mac) - $9.99
XnView will read and write Photoshop .PSD files, also opens Adobe Illustrator .AI files."]XnView (Win) - Free

*Regarding "Ultimate" versions of PaintShopPro and VideoStudio. The "Ultimate" simply comes from the fact that they bundle some add-ons. However, nothing about the apps themselves change.

Also be aware that there is a 2D VFX plugin standard, so if you have a favorite plugin or app that doesn't support the standard, consider requesting them to do so.
If animation couldn't change the world, it wouldn't be such a Micky-Mouse place.

Last edited by EightBit : 06 June 2015 at 06:54 PM. Reason: Update
  05 May 2013
Here is the list I have compiled from the adobe Master thread in the News section:

Keep listing apps and I will add them.

Here is an update for the list:

Motion Graphics:

• Touch Designer

After Effects:
•Silhouette FX
(Windows, Mac,Linux)
• Hitfilm
(Windows, Mac version on the way)
• Fusion
• Nuke
• Blender
• Apple Motion


• QuarkXPress

• Scribus
(Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4, eComStation, Haiku and Windows)
Open Source

Serif PagePlus Starter Edition

Swiftpublisher (Mac)


• DaVinci Resolve


• MAGIX Video Pro X


• Grass Valley EDIUS Pro 6.5
(Windows 7-8,)
USD $699.00
• Sony Vegas
• Final Cut
• Avid
• Lightworks
• Smoke
Movie Plus


•Corel Painter 12


(Windows and GNU/Linux)
•Open Canvas

• TVPaint
(Windows, Linux and Mac)
495€ - 1180€

• ArtRage
(Windows and Mac)
$50.00 DEMO

• ArtWeaver
29 €

• Autodesk SketchBook Pro 6
(Windows, Mac)
USD $59
• Gimp
• Paintshop Pro (I still use PSP 7...Great little program)

• Corel Draw
• Krita
• DogWaffle
• Acorn 4 -
• Pixelmator 2.1-
•Manga Studio 5

• Autodesk Sketchbook Designer

• CorelDRAWฎ X6
• Inkscape
• Xara

• Apache OpenOffice Draw
(Windows, Mac, and Linux)



(Mac, $24.99)

(Mac, $49.99)

• ToonBoom (fantastic program)
• Unity
• AnimeStudio
• Crazy Talk Animator

• Darktable
• Corel AfterShoot Pro:

• DXO:

• Capture One Pro 7:

ACDSee Pro
(Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8)
:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
This message does not reflect the opinions of the US Government

Last edited by RobertoOrtiz : 05 May 2013 at 08:12 PM.
  05 May 2013
There's Howler.

We don't cover every possible need you might be able to think of, but we do cover natural media painting, texturing, photo editing, rotoscoping, camera stabilization, animation things like onion skin, lip syncing, frame re-sequencing, retiming of frames using motion prediction, Batch processing and renaming, loading, editing and saving of avis and frame sequences, line cleanup for animation, applying more than 100 filters using a timeline, keyframing objects that can move around on screen, animatable particles and foliage, and even some basic 3d animation such as landscape rendering. We also have some game related features such as support for sprite sheets. Note, creative cloud doesn't do a number of these things.

We're also integrated into a single program, so there's no problem with integration. It all just works together. We support much of the latest hardware features like GPU and threading, and we're designed by someone who's been in the animation trenches. Oh, and we cost a whole lot less.
Project Dogwaffle is the (Un) natural Paint Program!
  05 May 2013
Kdenlive ( is a very capable alternative to Premiere if you're on Linux. Lightworks has severe problems with image sequences which rules it out if you're doing CG stuff.

I'd also second the recommendation for Krita - the only thing I've found lacking is the ability to spin the canvas round.

Both work pretty well in VirtualBox if you don't want to boot into Linux.
  05 May 2013
Hey roberto just make sure you keep updating that post on the first page, that way its much easier for ppl to see the latest updates on it.
  05 May 2013
Well for projects at the office we will continue to uspport Adobe apps, but at home I plan to go cold turkey off adobe products.
I am working on an FX project at home that I needed AE, but I am going to try HitFilm instead.

More soon on my progress.

:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
This message does not reflect the opinions of the US Government

  05 May 2013
I'm setting up a competitive upgrade (upgrade from any Adobe product) to Howler 8.2 for $49. USD.
It's honor system for now, since I don't have a system in place to validate what you're using.
Project Dogwaffle is the (Un) natural Paint Program!
  05 May 2013
Son of a monkey!! I should've waited. I bought Howler just last week. Ah, well.
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.
  05 May 2013
Originally Posted by RobertoOrtiz: Well for projects at the office we will continue to uspport Adobe apps, but at home I plan to go cold turkey off adobe products.

I feel ya'. The flip-flopping with the change to their upgrade policy was the last straw for me. It was somehow simultaneously inconsiderate and indecisive. And now with CC.... As much as I love Adobe products, I've got no room for corporate shenanigans, which is putting it nicely.

Except for one machine here, I'm totally Adobe free. So far, so good. My needs, I would say, are modest.

Concepting ---> ArtRage v4
Texturing & Retouching ---> PaintShop Pro v15
Video Editing ---> Video Studio v16
Vector ---> Inkscape
HTML ---> Kompozer
Compositing ---> Blender

Here are my observations, at least some of them:
  1. ArtRage v4
    I must note that, prior to switching to ArtRage v4, I was a user Autodesk SketchBook Pro. I don't regret making the jump though. RYB color mixing. Movable & kaleidoscopic symmetry. Improved performance. It's very much like a budget friendly Corel Painter.

  2. PaintShop Pro v15
    PRO: Much of Photoshop's core functionality is intact. Customizable keyboard shortcuts. Multiple UI color schemes. Generally fast performance, much more so that Photoshop Elements. None of that cloud or online activation bs. Dirt cheap.
    CON: Like most Photoshop clones, PSD layer support is limited. PSP preserves blending modes, opacity, ordering, visibility and so on, but drops the ball when it comes to non-destructive layer styles. Those simply don't transfer over from Photoshop. PaintShop Pro is, by and large, a RGB oriented program. Those looking to do lots of hardcore CMYK work need not apply. Missing some of the creature comforts of Photoshop like 3D or Content Aware, though you can fake CA without repeated manual stamping.
    BOTTOM LINE: For RGB work, PSP is probably the most Photoshop-like of the clones out there. Of course, its had 24 years to get there. The GUI is a tad messy, but keyboard customization can have you working at PS speeds. Corel PaintShop Pro is less powerful than CS6, but more powerful than Adobe's final pre-CS version (v7). PSP could do with some modernization, but you can't go wrong for an Amazon priced $37.

  3. VideoSudio v16
    PRO: Intuitive. Fast. Support for 4K. Outputs to the most popular codecs and disc formats. No online activation. Dirt Cheap
    CON: Can be buggy at times. Supports, iirc, only 4 audio tracks and 24 video tracks - which is less than Premiere (Pro or Elements).
    BOTTOM LINE: If you can't afford Premiere Pro or Vegas then you could certainly do worse than VideoStudio. Though labeled "Corel" this was originally a ULEAD product. As such, it retains some of the quirks and trappings from the old days. Like PaintShop Pro, VideoStudio has been around for ~20 years so you're getting a product that's had time to find its own voice.

  4. Inkscape
    PRO: It's free. Free is good. The UI is clean and logically organized. Solid editing tools.
    CON: AI import, but no export. Inkscape deals primarily in SVG. If you need AI export then you'll need to do it elsewhere. Very basic layer system.
    BOTTOM LINE: I primarily use Inkscape for component elements, as opposed to large scale works. In that capacity, it works very well - provided that you have an app that imports or converts SVG. Honestly, for a free app, you won't find a better Illustrator substitute than Inkscape.

  5. Kompozer
    PRO: WYSIWYG HTML. Clean interface. Fast. Free. FTP.
    CON: Not nearly as advanced as Dreamweaver. Has a habit of bulking up or reformatting your HTML when you're not paying attention. Hasn't been updated since 2010.
    BOTTOM LINE: Dreamweaver is light years head of Kompozer. However, if you already have some decent HTML skills and really only want a WYSIWYG editor to quickly bang out a page of the framework then Kompzer will do the job just fine. More complex modern sites will require you to do more manual coding though.

  6. Blender v2.67
    PRO: It's Blender, the Swiss Army Knife of 3D tools. Logical node-based compositing approach. Solid performance. Constantly evolving. Free.
    CON: It's Blender and it's constantly evolving. You either "get" Blender or you don't. There's not much in-between. Personally, I found learning Maya to be easier, but that's just me. Blender CAN be rough around the edges here & there.
    BOTTOM LINE: It's Blender. That's really all I can say. It's proven its worth time and again. There's no question about that. However, Blender's not an app for the casual user. Like any other suite app, you really have to take the time and make the effort.

Not a bad substitute suite overall. I put it together for $170. However, if you're willing to settle for the previous version of Video Studio (v15), which still works even in Win8, you can shave off a decent chunk of change. Amazon currently has the Corel Photo & Video Pro Suite X5, which includes PaintShop Pro X5 and VideoStudio Pro X5, for a mere $37. Tack on $50 for ArtRage v4... $87. Not too shabby.

BTW: I could have used Adobe's Elements apps (PSE11 and PRE11), but I really have no faith in Adobe. With their move to the cloud, their Elements line could disappear like that. Not a long term position I'd want to be in.

Not sure I would've included Photoshop Elements v11 anyway. Even with customization, the new GUI is just too clumsy; PS10's was better. They really dumbed PSE down for v11. Plus, it lags behind even PSPX5 in some respects. Adobe really stripped away/down some key functionality in making a lite version of Photoshop. Unlike Premiere Elements, PS Elements hasn't made the jump to x64 yet. It's still sluggish at times I've got a six core with a a heft around of RAM. That GUI lag should not happen. Adobe's Elements apps? Thanks, but no thanks.

NB: Beware those more expensive "Ultimate" versions of PaintShopPro and VideoStudio. The "Ultimate" simply comes from the fact that they bundle some add-ons. However, nothing about the apps themselves change. You might as well just go for the non-Ultimate version and save some money.
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.

Last edited by cookepuss : 05 May 2013 at 05:09 AM.
  05 May 2013
Blender - FREE



VirtualDub - FREE
"Your most creative work is pre-production, once the film is in production, demands on time force you to produce rather than create."
My ArtStation
  05 May 2013
For Raw and HDR editing, quite impressive (see the relight, and Raw editing curves videos), also works as a lightroom plugin :
  05 May 2013

Hey cool list! This whole CC thing kinda sucks, but oh well here's my 2 cents on some other Photoshop alternatives:

Corel Painter:

- Quite a powerful software and has some neat brushes, but is also on the pricey side at $429

Easy Paint Tool SAI:

-Small, light and cheap this is a pretty nice drawing application..while it may not have much editing capabilities, but it really shines when it comes to the painting aspect...since that's what it's primarily designed for.


- Packed with features, this is also a really powerful software. It has many of the capabilities of Photoshop and other Japanese drawing applications such as Manga studio, SAI, OC, etc. Definitely worth a look.


- A free and simple drawing application. It's like a mix of OC 1.1 and SAI, but only it's free.

Opencanvas 1.1:

- The only free version of Open Canvas! It's a simple drawing application that has few tools, but it has paint chat and event replay capabilities.

And that's it from me for now..
Hope this helps!
  05 May 2013
Some caveats here....
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: GIMP - FREE

- Pretty good for being free, but can also be heavily reliant on plugins to achieve any sort of (relative) greatness. Even then, GIMP still lags a fair bit behind PS or even PSP.
- Can be somewhat buggy at times too.
- While you can alter the GUI to appear more PS-like, the default GUI has a somewhat disjointed design that might turn off PS loyalists.

Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: VirtualDub - FREE

- There are a bunch of features under the hood, but the app is fairly limited. I'd really use VD for editing much in the same way I'd use QT, on the fly and really only for quick edits.
- Development on VD is at near glacier speeds, ensuring that progress is rare.
- IIRC, VD is limited to only one A/V track too. You can scrub the track and splice from other files, but there's no real timeline of any note.
- Even with the x64 version, VD tends to hang on larger, raw GB-sized files. Not too hard to choke VD.
- Can be very picky about import/export, often refusing to work on specific files if they don't match its expectations 100%. Other editing apps are a lot more forgiving.
- Sometimes crashes hard. With no recovery system, it's very possible to lose a decently complex edit.

Originally Posted by Noxmoony: here's my 2 cents on some other Photoshop alternatives:
Corel Painter:

It's probably important to keep in mind that apps like Painter, ArtRage, SketchBook, & Dogwaffle aren't designed to replace Photoshop. They're designed to supplement it. As flexible as Photoshop's brush system is, there are certain things that it can't do. The app is still built on a solid, but hardcore photo editing/retouching system.

Natural media apps are designed to fill that gap, allowing you to create more traditional content on a digital canvas. So, while you might be able to partially mimic that stuff in Photoshop, these apps are specifically designed to do it and do it better. (Not saying that PS is a lousy concepting tool. It's awesome. It's just that other apps are built to spec for the task.)

The downside to having this laser-like focus is that they miss the more broad topics. Photoshop is VERY good at covering a wide variety of bases. I simply would not presume to edit a 60 year old photo in any of those natural media apps. They just aren't up to snuff for that task.

IMO, if you're going to get an app like ArtRage or Painter, you still need to pair it up with one dedicated to editing & retouching. Natural media apps are only one side of the coin.
DISCLAIMER: The views presented herein do not necessarily represent those of my brain.

Last edited by cookepuss : 05 May 2013 at 01:20 PM.
  05 May 2013
I would not consider Sketchbook Pro an alternative to Photoshop... if it were combined with an another package perhaps then they could potentially be, but it is far from what Photoshop is capable of.
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  05 May 2013
This might help:

10 Photo Editing Programs (that aren't Photoshop)
:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
This message does not reflect the opinions of the US Government

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