To be fair about it, competing with Photoshop is a fool’s errand. Adobe’s flagship application is the standard of the professional graphics and design industry and priced accordingly. There’s little Photoshop cannot do except save you money. Today’s Photoshop is a rent-by-the-month proposition, so casual designers on a budget need not apply.
Can you get similar quality and productivity for less? The answer lies in Acorn, a Mac image editor that’s been around a few years, and does not have a monthly rental fee.
Any Mac user who’s visited Photoshop will be at home in Acorn. Familiar graphic tools grace the floating palettes. Tools? Plenty of image editing tools like curves and levels and filters and layers. But there are vector tools built-in, too.
Acorn has its own brush designer, multi-stop gradients, curves and even Boolean shapes, all of which look terrific on any of Apple’s MacBook Pro Retina displays.
Of course, Acorn also imports PSD files and can export as layered Photoshop files so compatibility is preserved. It even takes layered screenshots of your Mac’s screen, and exports files as JPEG, GIF, Google’s new WebP format, plus optimized PNGs.
Is Acorn sufficiently comprehensive to replace Adobe’s Photoshop? That depends upon your needs and experience. Photoshop is the graphic industry standard bearer for a reason. It’s also expensive and complex.
If you’re more of a casual user and don’t live, eat, breathe, and sleep with Photoshop, Acorn becomes an affordable substitute that is surprisingly robust. The latest version on the Mac App Store has dozens of five star reviews. And nothing else. Also highly recommended, but a bit more Photoshop-like is the popular Pixelmator, which actually costs a bit less than Acorn.