Adobe Alternatives

Oliver Peters recently posted an article about building a non-Adobe suite of tools. It showed up in the regular email newsletters I get and my colleague, Joe Dull, had some thoughts about it as well. I get where Oliver is coming from by keeping the list of Adobe alternatives to a single suggested suite, but there are a lot more options out there. My students asked for a list a while back so I came up with this (Mac-centric with a sprinkle of Linux). BTW, I do not list products from The Foundry or any of the other great color grading apps because they are generally very expensive – Smoke just barely made the list at $195/month subscription:

Picture Editing

Motion Graphics – Visual Effects

  • Apple Motion – perpetual with free upgrades. Better at motion graphics than visual effects
  • Autodesk Smoke – quick effects and node-based effects editor
  • Hit Film – similar to After Effects in UI layout
  • Blender – FOSS. node-based effects editor

Color Correction and Grading

Sound Editing

2D Graphics

  • Pixelmator – perpetual. Raster and vector graphics and photo editing
  • GIMP – FOSS. Most Photoshop-like in terms of features
  • Inkscape – FOSS. Vector graphics. Most like Illustrator
  • Corel Painter – perpetual. Raster painting with some effect filters
  • Krita – FOSS. Strong painting tools and photo editing filters
  • MyPaint – FOSS. Raster painting only. Don’t be fooled by the cheesy name – great painting tools
  • Sketch – perpetual. Vector and raster. Often used for UI design for apps and web
  • iDraw – perpetual. Vector illustration
  • Lots of others and some are even online and run in a browser. Blender fits here too, but limited in painting tools ATM and effects are done through the node compositor


  • Apple Compressor
  • Red Giant BulletProof and PluralEyes
  • Apple Automator
  • Roxio Toast for DVD authoring
  • Various plugins and helper apps as needed

There are lots of options to build a “suite.” Consider some of the reasons to pick your applications here. Oliver Peter’s suggested suite is good overall and could be enhanced by BulletProof if you shoot with a DSLR and/or GoPro. If you need to truly author DVDs then there is Toast or DVD Styler or an old copy of iDVD or DVD Studio Pro (assuming you already had a license). So much depends on your budget, what you expect from a UX, interoperability, and what features in applications you really use.

An all-FOSS suite is a little tough on the picture editor and the FOSS community knows it. I think KDEnlive is the most like commercial editing apps. If you want to build a Linux ecosystem, but are ok with paying for some software then Lightworks is your editor.

Personally, I long for an uber-app rather than a suite. See Smoke, Hit Film, and the upcoming Nuke Studio for examples. Blender is one, but like most of these integrated apps, it does not feature strong audio editing tools.