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This Free Photoshop Clone May Have You Canceling Your Adobe Subscription

This Free Photoshop Clone May Have You Canceling Your Adobe Subscription

A free piece of software that looks and runs like Photoshop sounds too good to be true, right? Here's what you need to know about this potential "Photoshop killer".

For many photographers, Photoshop is a crucial component of the image-making process. It can also be quite an expense for those on a tight budget. Enter stage left is Photopea, a completely free Photoshop clone that does almost everything the original editor does.

A typical layout of Photoshop

A typical layout of Photopea

The first thing to note regarding this clone is that Photopea is browser-based. This means you'll have to fire up your web browser of choice and navigate to their website to use the program. At first glance, you could easily mistake this web-based editor for Photoshop. This makes a possible transition to Photopea for existing Photoshop users an easy one as most keyboard shortcuts and menus are in the same place. I know when I first tried Photopea I quickly forgot I was not actually on Photoshop editing. You'll also be pleased to know the program can read all the major image files that photographers use day-to-day. It can even open and save Photoshop files which are going to come in handy for those who may straddle both programs or if you want to edit old files you made on Photoshop.

Similarities and Differences of the Programs

Photopea has many of the main tools that most photographers use on their images. Spot healing, clone stamp, dodge and burn, and curve adjustment layers are just a few of those familiar staples. I know if I had to use this program to edit my work there wouldn't be anything missing from my usual workflow. One feature of note that I did notice that wasn't present was being able to batch process images out. This won't be a deal-breaker for many users and for those that it might be, there is still the option to record and play actions in Photopea which means some degree of automation is still at your disposal.

Picture used to test both programs content aware tool

It will come as no surprise to learn that both programs do not use the same computational engines that power tools like the patch tool and content-aware. The sole creator of Photopea, Ivan Kutskir, claims to have spent over 7,000 hours creating and developing everything under the hood of this editor from scratch. When you compare that to the decades of development by the large teams at Adobe, it's hard not to be impressed with what Kutskir has created. In my tests, both computational engines performed similarly when removing objects although results were not identical. If I had to hang my hat on which did better, I would have to say Photoshop was superior. Photopea still did a rather good job of removing objects in most circumstances.

Photopea's attempt at removing the tree from the hill

Photoshop's attempt at removing the tree from the hill

One downside of using a web-based editor is the speed and response of the program. At times, you'll have to wait while Photopea "thinks". This isn't the end of the world but if you are used to instant responses from your programs you may find the fractions of a second waiting for things like content-aware to work may begin to frustrate you. It is worth noting that the program does seem to do a good job at handling large files. I was pleasantly surprised to see the editor had no issue dealing with files that were a few gigabytes in size.  

In Conclusion

All-in-all, I think Photopea is a great addition to the landscape of programs out there for Photographers to use. Of course, it comes with some limitations but I think many users will find they can do all the usual things they do to their images on this free program. If you're the type of light use photographer who does mostly basic edits to their work, you could easily transition over without noticing much of a change. If your workflow is a little heavier in volume, or you rely on some of the more specialist tools, then you may want to stay with Photoshop.

It is also worth mentioning that while Photopea is free, it does come with an advert banner to the right of the program screen. If this is something you'd rather not see, then you can pay to go ad-free for $9 every 30 days or $40 for the whole year. For those that haven't used either editing program before and are on a tight budget, then I would recommend Photopea to get you started in the world of photo editing. The great thing about the two programs being so similar is that if you ever decide to "upgrade" to Photoshop you will be able to transition over with ease. The same can't be said for users of other free image editing programs such as GIMP that are drastically different in terms of layout and menus. Another good thing about using a Photoshop clone is that you'll be able to tap into the already massive resource of Photoshop tutorials that are already out there. This isn't something you can say about some of the other free editors who have tutorials on the like of YouTube, but not nearly in the same volumes or quality.

For those firmly rooted in Photoshop, I still think it's worth knowing that Photopea exists so you can take advantage of it from time to time. The fact it will work on any web browser is a game-changer and opens up a whole world of possibilities for working remotely on any device with an internet connection. I can also see the potential of handing Photoshop files over to clients or customers so they can edit files on their own machines without Photoshop. I'm not suggesting these people edit our photos for us, but there may be occasions when a file with a few layers in it could be edited by them instead of the annoying back and forth you sometimes get with people.

Things I Liked

  • It's a powerful piece of free software
  • Will be familiar to those who use Photoshop
  • Browser-based so can be run on any device
  • The program regularly gets new features and improvements

Things I Don't Like

  • The program can lag at times#
  • Batch processing files isn't as easy to do
  • Cloning another companies program feels a little unfair to the hard work of the original creators

If you'd like to give Photopea a try you can head over to PhotoPea.com on your web browser of choice.

Over to You

What do you think of Photopea? Could this program cause you to cancel your Adobe subscription? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Lead image by Pexels and the tree picture featured is by Susnpics, both used under Creative Commons.

If you're passionate about taking your photography to the next level but aren't sure where to dive in, check out the Well-Rounded Photographer tutorial where you can learn eight different genres of photography in one place. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 


Paul Parker's picture

Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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The same crowd that hates Adobe's subscription policies will hate Photopea's info gathering policies.
When the product is free you are the product.

I also think the legal team at Adobe may already be readying their considerable legal might for copyright infringement.

Adobe is a bit more than Photoshop! How is this software at cataloguing? Desktop-cloud integration? Vector graphics? Pro video? Desktop publishing?

Yea I am sure people are going to send large files bi-directionally across the internet. #sarcasm

SMH this isn't a Photoshop killer in any way. It won't even leave a bruise.

I won't subscribe to software. I don't want any more accounts, passwords, or two factor logins. I won't give a CC number to any more online merchants. Done. Finis. Not happening.

"I won't subscribe to software..."

Summary: "I don't need any of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps. If I did, I would subscribe."

As for two-factor authentication, you're going to see more and more of it. You may reach the point where you are unable to use the Internet if you can't accept the added security.

Strong passwords and two-factor logons are fine - for something that matters, like my bank. And I'm not adding any more sites to the list that have to be updated every time I get a new CC number - because someone grabbed the old one from a poorly secured server.

Sounds like 2FA would really have come in handy there.

Or, some employee just grabbed the number at a restaurant. My wife and I have been around this loop several times already and I've spent enough time "updating my payment information" on tedious web sites. I'm now using 2 cards and treat one as a disposable number. I use it online for a few sites that matter. Not handing it over to some new online software company that will obviously hang on to it for a monthly charge.

Like I said - done with this. YMMV.

Had to replace a card earlier this year, it really is annoying updating everything because I definitely forgot a few things until they quit working.

Actually that's my new strategy: when I get a new number, do nothing- just wait for the emails about failed charges and fix those accounts one by one.

Except you said someone took it from a poorly secured server so what are we talking about here? 2FA helps online security. Obviously it's not going to help you with someone at a restaurant writing down your card number, but that's neither here nor there.

In my brief (like 10 mins) of usage, it's pretty dang impressive, actually. Amazing how fast and responsive it is given it's off a browser without the need to install anything.

If you've been locked out your PSD files due to expired Adobe subscription, this app could be one solution as you can open with layers intact (from what I can tell) and can edit/export and such.

If you're paranoid, you don't need to create an account. Just go to the site and start using it.

If you're super paranoid and afraid of your own shadows, open in a private or incognito window/tab and use there.

While you do occasionally come across a ‘free lunch’ Blender for example, I do wonder about the web based model this alleged Photoshop killer uses, what is he hiding? For me lag or any kind of slow or sluggish performance would be a deal breaker. What about creating smart objects? Does it have this non destructive ability? Or the ability to take plugins. Like it or not the Lightroom, Camera Raw, Photoshop combo works and works well, though far from perfect. Agree with the poster who said Adobe lawyers will be all over this like a rash.......and for good reason.....if it looks and feels like Photoshop.....all smells a bit fishy to me.

A quick and easy alternative on computers which have not installed a picture editor. What I don't like are the bugs of Photopea which I experienced over time e.g. copy/paste problems.

I'd certainly use it if I found myself at a computer where proper Photoshop wasn't installed but as an alternative, I think I'll pass.

As for it being a Photoshop killer, it won't even inflict a minor injury.

its hard to get off the adobe teet. I would like to, and switch to 3rd party photoshop, mixed with capture one. But i also used illustrator sometimes, and adobe portfolio is pretty sweet for easy websites. I guess im not going anywhere for a while

Affinity Photo and Designer will cover your needs. There are lots of website options. It's not hard to abandon Adobe. Adobe abandoned its users and its users' wishes over a decade now. Time to return the favour.

I guess this is nice for someone who is absolutely broke and using a hand me down camera but Adobe is already ridiculously cheap in my eyes.

$10/month gets you Photoshop, Lightroom, 20Gb cloud storage, files sync between mobile and desktop, plus an online portfolio.

“Photopea's attempt at removing the tree from the hill”

The photopea’s AI has not been properly instructed how to correctly use a chainsaw…

I just tried it and it won't import a Canon raw file. Said it was an invalid file format. Pass.

I don't think it's easy to make people cancel their subscription to anything because there are free trials for users to see if the program is worth paying for. If users decide to pay it means they know what they pay for and want to pay for it. That said, Photopea is a decent software but I wouldn't quit Photoworks because of it as it doesn't seem convenient, plus why get the clone when you already obtain an original? And clickbait promises certainly don't help here.

I've had use of Adobe and CS in every job I've had and had it installed on my PC's (until it went online). But now I'm unemployed and can't pay a subscription out of benefits, not matter how cheap they are. The alternative's are a pain, I have to do some work in one, then open the file in another to achieve the next task, GIMP especially is a nightmare to use because it's UI is abysmal. This looks like it might do as a tidy over for me in the interim until I get a job, but like some of the other posters, I'd like to know what the hidden costs are and what is being taken from me in the background. After all 'free' is never really free, a business will recoup its costs one way or another.