Replacing Adobe

2022-05-08 — Updated: 2023-04-15

Here’s a bunch of reasons why I’m really starting to hate Photoshop and Adobe’s software generally.

The obvious reasons are that it is closed source and uses a parasitic monthly subscription business model. Everyone and their moms already hate Adobe for this, but I genuinely think GIMP is starting to surpass Photoshop, and that the quality of Adobe’s software is tanking. I say this as someone who has grown up using Photoshop since I was 11 years old.


My once beloved Photoshop has taken an absolute nosedive over the last decade. They added an ugly and slow start screen that wastes my time trying to load previews of old projects. Get out of my way. Just let me get to work. Please stop trying to make me watch your stupid tutorials. Stop auto-updating everything so I lose my plugins. Stop pushing your stupid vendor lock-in cloud storage on me. I will not store anything in your cloud.

In Photoshop 2022, the normal save menu is now replaced by a “Save to the cloud” menu, where a gray button in the corner lets you save “On your computer”.

They are pulling a Microsoft, and replacing fully functional and fast menus with slower, bloated versions, that are missing basic functionality. Just like the new Settings menu in Windows. Control Panel is much better, more comprehensive, and faster, but they’re still pushing their awful replacement.

There is now a modern “export” button, and a “Save for Web (Legacy)” button. The modern one is extremely slow to load, and isn’t even 10% as useful as the original, being completely lacking in the ability to save and customize the compression of GIFs. The “Save as” button used to let you save as any file type. Now they’re pushing you to use some modern, slow and unintuitive export menu, or press something called “Save a copy”, which brings up the actual save menu. They say their hand was forced by Apple, but I don’t believe there was no way around the API change, and they certainly didn’t need to break the Windows version in the process.

And to top it all off, Photoshop feels like unfinished beta software when trying to work with 32 bit float images.

Which is my segue to talk about GIMP!

This is one of the main reasons I’ve had to pull out GIMP, because while it has a bunch of usability problems, such as not letting you select multiple layers, at least it almost fully works with 32-bit float images. This became very relevant to me on a fairly major (by my standards, at least) VFX project. Photoshop was absolutely shitting itself trying to make a 32-bit float clean plate of a scene, and so GIMP was the only viable option. It worked great in comparison. And I can compare, because I’ve been using both for many years. Photoshop on Windows and GIMP on Linux.

There are many other things GIMP is better at too, though.
The gradient tool leaves the line you drew on screen, so you can move and manipulate it afterwards, and it lets you change all the color stops along it. You have much greater control of gradients and how they’re rendered generally in GIMP.
The pencil tool (which is a brush tool without anti-aliasing) displays as snapped to pixels. In Photoshop, it floats along with the cursor, being able to be put in-between pixels, even though it can’t draw that way.
Marquee selections can be transformed after making them.
Unique shortcut keys for each tool. If you press R, it selects the rectangular select tool. Every time. Consistently. Unlike Photoshop, where every time you press M, it selects a different version of the marquee tool.
Brushes take effect outside of the image bounds. In Photoshop, a brush stroke just gets abruptly cut off at the edge of the image. This is a consequence of GIMP’s individualized layer-size system. And a vastly superior selection of blending modes, and much better RGB curves, and so much more.

However, GIMP is not perfect, and is lacking a bunch of Photoshop’s nicer features. Such as: Content Aware, non-destructive layer effects, adjustment layers, Save for Web’s GIF compression options, an actual GIF workflow at all… (To do something similar to what Photoshop offers, I suppose you’d need to use Trout’s GIF Optimizer.)

There is another competitor that does have those things, however, and that is Affinity Photo. A commercial software, but very affordable, and they actually let you buy the program.

I’ve been using Affinity Photo since v2.0 came out in November of 2022. It is very good. Definitely faster and more comfy than modern Photoshop. It has its own equivalents for Content Aware, layer effects and adjustment layers. Infact, Affinity’s layers effects and effect layers are way better, because they lean much more heavily into the non-destructive workflow. It actually feels more like After Effects sometimes, where I’ve just got a bunch of live effects stacked on layers and adjustment layers.

For its speed it does make some sacrifices though. Many things seem to render using an estimative heuristic, rather than what the final “render” would use. So unless you’re zoomed in to 100% or more, I never feel like I can trust the final image to look exactly like what is on my screen. The noise effect, for instance, will render a different noise pattern depending on your zoom level. And about 60% of the time, when you paste an image, the 3 columns of pixels at the right-side edge of the image, will be glitched over to the left side of the image. These things will hopefully be ironed out over time, but as of now it is not as robust as GIMP or Photoshop. Still a good option, and much more afforable.

After Effects

If you work in VFX, you should have replaced After Effects with Fusion, Natron, and/or Nuke a long time ago. They are vastly superior for compositing and VFX. And they don’t require god-awful plugin implementations of OpenColorIO to do proper colorspace manipulation. Of the three, I’ve only used Natron and Fusion extensively. Natron is a clone of Nuke, and I find it way more comfortable to work with than Fusion. Fusion has weird names for things, makes a lot of small things really annoying to do, and requires a stupid USB-dongle to be plugged in while using it. Or else it will silently sneak in random frames of noise into your renders, leaving you to wonder whether it’s a bug, or if your GPU is failing. Took me hours of research to figure it out myself. They could’ve chosen to give you a pop-up saying “Please re-insert the USB dongle”, but no. They chose violence. DRM-violence. Apparently it is possible to buy it using a product key, but I couldn’t do that in my region.

Cavalry is the only alternative I know of for motion graphics and that sort of animation work. It is sadly another fucking subscription-based parasite, but at least they give you a free version thats main limitation is a max resolution of 1920x1080, and withholding random features like the 2D physics sim, API access and render management. Without having tested it myself, it seems that its clear focus on graphics and animation (instead of also catering to the VFX-crowd) has given it a massive advantage. They get to do a lot more cool procedural stuff while keeping everything vector-based, and responsive. I’m extremely excited to see where this tool goes in the future, because it already seems to be WAY faster than After Effects.

I have also been wondering if TouchDesigner is a viable alternative, because it does let you render videos. It is a lot faster than every alternative, being that it was created for real-time graphics.


Inkscape has recently started to not suck ass. I’d use it.

Affinity Designer by Serif is also promising. Again, I’ve been using v2.0 since November 2022, and it is very good. Way faster than Illustrator. In fact, it was my saving grace when I had to work with an architectural project that had hundreds of thousands of shapes in it. Inkscape just crashed, Illustrator was completely unusable, and Affinity Designer was just medium slow, which was enough for me to be able to hide some layers and make it manageable. Designer is still lacking a few features, such as image tracing. Inkscape has you covered there, though.

It really is too bad that Affinity software doesn’t run on Linux.


The new Lightroom is terrifyingly big-buttoned and bloated-looking, and pushes the stupid cloud lock-in and up-sell really hard. And the old one is extremely slow.

If you’re a bit technically minded, replacing Lightroom with RawTherapee is easy. It has most of what you need from Lightroom, but a lot of it is exposed in a more raw, math-y way. Instead of a slider labeled “magic bad stuff removal”, you’ll get 4 sliders that can do the same thing, but labeled something like “Delta decorrelation”, “Cyanic phase interlock amount”, “μ-rotation” and “Linear epsilon sync density”. (Note: Not real sliders) Which is just fine by me. It is way faster, produces equally good images, has a fantastic blackframe calibration feature, and I also greatly prefer RawTherapee’s export menu and workflow.

I also don’t think it suffers from the gross Fuji worm-noise problem.

What RawTherapee doesn’t do is organization in the same way that Lightroom does. I really liked how Lightroom would import my pictures into a folder for each year, with folders for individual days inside that. Now, I just do that using ExifTool by Phil Harvey. The command looks like this:

exiftool -r -P -progress "-Directory<DateTimeOriginal" -d D:\Pictures\%Y\%Y-%m-%d\ \Input\Directory\

(Ugly backwards slashes, becuase I do this on Windows. It’s gross, I know.)

And that’ll go ahead and move the files from the SD card, and organize them neatly on my harddrive. ExifTool is also way, way, way more powerful than just a batch organizer, but if you want to look deeper into that rabbit hole, go to their website.

Affinity Photo also has a raw editing module, like Photoshop’s Camera Raw. It has some things RawTherapee doesn’t, and vice versa. It’s notably lacking blackframe calibration/compensation.

Premiere Pro

Usually, all you need is the ability to assemble clips and export them. For this, Kdenlive is enough. They’ve made great strides in speed and stability recently. However, it is still missing fundamental editing tools, like ripple delete, and feels somewhat awkward when coming from a commercial editing suite. If you give it time, and adjust your workflow to its quirks, though, you will have a very capable editior on your hands.

If you’re a professional, maybe try Vegas Pro (I know. I feel weird saying it, but it seems to have gotten better, and you can buy it without a subscription) or DaVinci Resolve. Resolve is the gold standard of color grading software, and as of late it has gotten pretty good for general video editing too. Easily beating Premiere Pro in responsiveness, stability and intuitiveness. It also integrates well with the previously mentioned compositing software Fusion. They’ve even got live collaboration within projects that is almost Google Docs-esque, but local and private.

Currently, I see two problems with Resolve.

  1. Its interface can’t be customized.
  2. It uses an absolutely retarded “database” system instead of letting you save normal project files anywhere you’d like. This is not optional. You have to use this dumb database system. This database system seems to be integral to the collaboration feature, but if you don’t care about that, then you should be allowed to disable it.


Haha, really?

Adobe Fonts

In my opinion, this is the best thing Adobe has made. If you ignore how difficult it is to locate the actual font files on your computer so you can use them outside of Adobe software, the idea of a “Spotify, but for fonts” is really nice. And it’s even better because the price doesn’t start at $2500 pr year. Fonts are expensive, and I’m always looking for new ones, so being able to pick and choose, knowing the licensing is all handled for me is great. The basic set of Futura PT costs 300€. The basic set of Neue Haas Grotesk Display costs 329€. And don’t even get me started on the paneuropean version of Neue Helvetica. I mean HOLY $HIT.

The alternative is: Buy the fonts. Lets be honest, you use 4 of the 68 fonts you picked out from Adobe Fonts. The rest are from DaFont.