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(Last updated on March 12th, 2021)

See this in-depth Adobe Photoshop review to see whether this program is right for you or not.

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most powerful programs on the market, used by graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, and more. The software has a versatile range of capabilities, allowing you to do everything from painting digitally to retouching photographs and artwork.

Adobe Photoshop arrived in the world in 1988 by Thomas and John Knoll. When Thomas developed Photoshop, it was originally intended to display grayscale images on a monochrome display. His brother John persuaded him to turn it into an image editing program.

The program went on to be sold to one company and then the next. Once Adobe took hold, the rest was history.

So, is Adobe Photoshop worth the hype? Is it some overrated program or one of the best ones out there? Let’s find out.

The Pros and Cons of Photoshop

Pros

  • Constant Updates: Adobe offers regular updates, fixing bugs, refining tools, and adding more features. The continuous upgrades keep the application competitive in the market.
  • Wide Usage: Millions of people use Adobe Photoshop, making it an almost universal language among designers and artists, great for collaboration.
  • Seamless Compatibility with Other Adobe Programs: Photoshop works harmoniously with the other Adobe applications, great for creators who need to jump between programs.
    For example, a film editor working in Premiere may need to edit a photo still from a film. They could then jump to Photoshop, retouching, and finishing the photo. Each Adobe application excels in its chosen medium, making the full Creative Cloud suite a toolbox at your disposal.
  • Incredible Range of Features: You can do almost anything in this application, from animation, 3D design, photo retouching, to much more. Photoshop has improved greatly and expanded many tools to the powerhouses they are today.

Cons

  • Expensive: Photoshop must be paid for via an endless subscription. There is no way to purchase the software outright, a huge drain on creators who constantly then have to shell out hundreds of dollars to use software that becomes a vital part of their creative system.
  • Overwhelming Toolset: The number of Photoshop features can be overwhelming at times, especially for beginners learning the application. While the feature list is incredible, there will often be sets of tools that creatives never touch, depending on their niche.
  • Difficult Learning Curve: Bouncing off the latest point, Photoshop is a beast to learn. Even veterans must continue watching tutorials to keep up with the new updates and learn the new features. The constant state of learning can be too much for some users.

Short Verdict

Should I get Photoshop? That depends. If you are looking for professional-grade software and want to work in the professional graphic design space, learn Photoshop.

It’s a great tool that many people in this industry use to create and perfect their designs. Knowing the program will help you learn new programs in the future as well.

If you are a hobbyist, I recommend using GIMP or Krita. Why? Photoshop subscription fees add up very quickly, and free programs can do many of Photoshop’s main features.

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Features

Adobe Photoshop is chock-full of features. As mentioned previously, you can do almost anything with Adobe Photoshop. Let’s go over the capabilities:

  • Photo Retouching: Perhaps one of Photoshop’s best features is the photo retouching capabilities. Photoshop has powerful retouching tools, an example being the Clone Stamp, which will paint with pixels from another part of an image.
    Another is Healing Brush, a quick tool that can remove marks and blemishes, analyzing the surrounding area of the marked area to create a smooth cover. Editorial photography uses Photoshop to clean up and perfect work.
  • Pen Tool: The pen tool is a powerful feature that lets you trace the outline of an image precisely, utilizing Bezier curves to fit smooth lines seamlessly. The Pen Tool is great for separating a subject from the background or removing specific parts of an image. You can use the Pen Tool to create paths, shapes, or selections.
  • Filters: There are many filters in Photoshop, from Lens flares to Liquify and more. Liquify is a powerful filter that can turn your image into a water consistency, allowing you to push/pull/swell/pinch your image until you reach the desired effect. You can also add stylistic elements, such as lens flares, noise, mosaic effect, and blurs.
adobe photoshop crystal images
  • Layering: Photoshop lets you edit projects in layers, meaning you can make edits on one layer without disturbing the other layers.
    You can also do things such as copying your original layer, hiding it, and create different versions of the same photo within the same project. Layering is a powerful feature and represents one of the biggest advantages of creating digital projects.
  • Text: Photoshop connects to the vast library of Adobe Fonts, Adobe’s online collection with thousands of fonts for you to choose from. Downloading and offloading is as easy as toggling them on and off.
    In Photoshop, you have many tools to manipulate your text in the Character panel, allowing you to choose all caps, thicken, adjust kerning, leading, size, color, etc.
  • Smart Objects: Smart objects, such as a vector shape or image, retain the original information of the object. For example, if an image is a smart object, resizing won’t cause pixelation.
  • Workspaces: Adobe Photoshop will let you organize your space into different workspaces. You have six to choose from, Essentials, 3D, Graphics and Web, Motion, Painting, and Photography.
    Each of these spaces is designed specifically to fit your workflow for those types of projects. You can also move panels, dragging them to place them in your workspace.
  • Animation: Adobe has the timeline panel for animation, best for creating short animations such as GIFS. If you are looking to make longer animated films, I suggest using software such as After Effects.
  • Selection Tools: Adobe has many different selection tools for you to choose from. You can use the Lasso tool, dragging the area you want to choose, or smart tools like the Quick Selection Tool, which will automatically detect objects and shapes in a photograph, letting you quickly select your subject.

New Features from the October 2020 Release

Adobe routinely releases new features and upgrades to their software, keeping the program ahead of the pack. Let’s see what October 2020 has in store for us:

  • Neural Filters: Powered by the AI tool, Adobe Sensei, Neural Filters allow you to make quick changes to a photo using powerful filters. You change an expression, colorize a scene, zoom in on parts of an image, and more.
    Adding tools like this can speed up the full editing process, adding automation to an edit that would normally be done manually.
adobe photoshop filter image
  • In-App Discover Panel: Adobe has added a more robust learning feature into the program. There are tutorials and a powerful search function in-app. The program has added more context-aware learning, giving you recommendations based on your work and skills.
  • Sky Replacement: Now, you can change an image’s sky with a click of a button. Photoshop automatically recognizes the sky in the original image, letting you switch them out quickly.
  • Pattern Preview: Make your patterns in real-time. As you design the pattern, Photoshop will automatically copy the design into a pattern using Pattern Preview.
  • Reset Smart Objects: Resets smart objects back to their original form.
  • Content-Aware Tracing Tool: This tool lets you easily draw a path around an object. All you have to do is hover over the edges and click on the object you want. This tool is under the Pen Tool. 
  • Live Shapes: There are new controls available for creating lines, triangles, rectangles, and more. The controls have been updated, new features added.
  • Content-Aware Fill Improvements: Increased accessibility to this tool.
  • Japanese Supported: Japanese Text is now supported. Photoshop uses the World-Ready Text Layout Engine.
  • Actual Size: Now, view your document quickly in its actual physical size.
  • Line Tool Changes: You can now change the line thickness using the Stroke option instead of the weight option.
  • Enhanced Cloud Documents: In the new Version History panel, you can access previously saved versions of your work.
  • Select & Mask Improvements: These tools have been refined, with more features added such as Refine Hair, Color Aware, and Object Aware.
  • Using Cloud Documents Offline: You can now make Cloud documents available offline, great for editing on the go when you don’t have an internet connection.
  • Better Plug-ins: There are new, better third-party plug-ins available to you in the Creative Cloud app, including Slack and Trello plug-ins for collaboration.
  • Preset Search: A Search feature has been added to Swatches, Gradients, Styles, Shapes, Patterns, and Brushes to make finding your specific option faster.

In addition to these improvements, there have been bug fixes and more lenses and cameras supported in Photoshop.

Price

ProductRegular PriceDiscounted Price
Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99/monthCheck here
Adobe Photoshop$20.99/monthCheck here

Adobe offers several different plans to subscribe to Photoshop. The company uses a subscription-only plan for most of its applications. Here are the options offered:

  • $9.99/month or $119.88/year for the Photography bundle (20GB), including Photoshop and Lightroom with 20GB of cloud storage. You must commit to the plan on a yearly basis. There is no monthly option.
  • $19.99/month or $239.88/year for the Photography bundle (1TB), including Photoshop and Lightroom with 1TB of cloud storage. You must commit to the plan on a yearly basis. There is no monthly option.
  • Just the Photoshop application has two subscription plans, monthly and yearly. The monthly-commitment plan Is $31.49/month (adding up to 377.88/yearly). The yearly-commitment can be paid monthly or annually, at $20.99/month or $239.88/year. There is a small additional discount if you pay this commitment annually.
  • All Apps Plan also offers monthly and yearly subscription plans. The monthly-commitment plan is $79.49/month (adding up to $953.88/year). The yearly-commitment can be paid monthly or annually, at $52.99/month or $599.88/year. There is a significant discount for the yearly commitment if you pay annually, saving you $36.00.
  • Student and Teacher All Apps Plan is the best plan offered by Adobe, giving you all of the applications for $19.99/month. The catch is you must be a current teacher or student, and you can only commit yearly, not monthly. You can pay this yearly-commitment monthly at $19.99 or $239.88/year.
adobe photoshop creative cloud plan

The price is a real stickler for Adobe, which used to have Photoshop available as a one-time purchase. The high cost has caused many people to leave the Adobe family, searching for affordable or even free alternatives.

Many feel stuck because Adobe is the standard program for many businesses, so they have to have the program for work or be up to date to be competitive in the job market.

The only benefit to the subscription-based pricing strategy is that you are also getting the latest and greatest software at all times, a problem that would occur with one-time purchase software.

The market is constantly changing, requiring Photoshop tools to adapt to the present and continuously improve rapidly. So, for some people, this aspect makes the extra cost worth it.

If you want to learn more about Photoshop’s subscription plans, see our in-depth guide on Photoshop pricing.

Photo Editing Capabilities

From the beginning, Photoshop was designed to manipulate and edit photographs, one of the program’s best capabilities. 

  • Adjustment Layers: A powerful feature in Photoshop are the adjustment layer options. Using these tools, you can adjust the hue, saturation, light levels with precision, altering the photographs to fit your creative vision.
  • Retouching: The program has many retouching capabilities, allowing you to smooth out wrinkles, erase blemishes, remove stray hairs, and more.
    You can even erase background noise like cars or people from a photograph or switch out the background with ease using the Sky Replacement tool. Great tools that support retouching are the Clone Stamp Tool, the Spot Healing Brush Tool, the Quick Selection Tool, and the Liquify Filter.
adobe photoshop properties 1
  • Camera Raw: Photoshop also supports Camera Raw, allowing you to work with raw camera files. You can adjust raw photos extensively, fix perspective issues vertically and horizontally, and fix color grading for shadows, midtones, and highlights.
    You can create presets based on ISO settings, do panorama merges, and set how Photoshop converts the raw file into viewable images.
  • Camera-Shake Reduction: This tool will analyze your photo, adjusting shifted pixels to match the motion line, reducing the movement-blur in your image. You can select specific regions of the photo to apply the tool.
  • Integration with Lightroom: Photoshop seamlessly works with Lightroom, the sister app that focuses on Photography. Lightroom is great for batch-editing and organizing. Often, you will batch-edit your photos in Lightroom, bringing in photos for retouching in Photoshop.
  • Adobe Stock: Adobe Stock is an online library with millions of assets at your disposal. For an additional membership, you can get Adobe Stock credits, fees that can get expensive fast.

Photoshop is a powerful image-editing tool. You can adjust images with precision, achieving your final visions.

Illustration Capabilities

Many artists use Photoshop for digital illustration. You can paint, sketch, ink, and more, creating everything from traditional painting to comic book design.

  • Brushes: You can import and create custom brushes for Photoshop. Photoshop has downloadable brush packs for you to import. There are also many free and paid ones externally that you can buy to add to your collection. You can adjust everything about the brush in the brush settings panel, including hardness, size, spacing, opacity, and more.
  • Colors: You can choose a primary and secondary color in Photoshop, saving color palettes. In the web app Adobe Color, you can create color palettes for your project, importing themes, and customizing yourself. You can also create a color palette from an image, extracting colors to create a palette.
adobe photoshop color theme
  • Layering: You can create hundreds of layers in Photoshop, a huge plus that lets you do non-destructive editing on your creations.
  • Wacom Support: You can use Wacom and other tablet devices with Photoshop, allowing you to paint with a pen.
  • Mobile Apps: Tablet apps like Photoshop for iPad and Fresco are great tools for illustration. While Photoshop for iPad is still not as powerful as the desktop version, new features are still being added, and it is still a fantastic tool with many features.

Photoshop is great for illustration, providing brushes, features, and more to make your creations look amazing.

Support

Adobe offers an extensive support system, giving you chat features with customer service reps, online community forums, program documentation, and tutorial videos. Photoshop is a difficult program to learn. With the help of online experts, you can find the answers to any question you have.

The customer service is 24/5, available via chat or phone. The wait times can be long. The reps will do everything in their power to answer all questions.

Adobe also has a huge community forum, with experts and fellow creatives answering questions. There are many tutorials and guides to teach you how to use Photoshop. You can watch videos and read the documentation.

adobe photoshop learn and support

Sometimes it can be difficult to find answers to specific questions. The community forums can help with this. The customer service reps will research and get back to you on very specific questions.

Externally, there is a huge tutorial community ready to teach you the ins and outs of Photoshop on YouTube, Lynda.com, and more. Because Photoshop is such a universal program, you can find many resources inside and outside of Adobe.

One difficulty of Adobe is that the software constantly changes as updates and new features are implemented. Constantly learning can be taxing when you have deadlines looming, and you don’t want to be stuck learning the new software.

Thankfully, there are options to turn auto-update off, letting you update and get acquainted with new features on your own time.

Final Verdict

Adobe Photoshop is a powerful program, able to do everything from edit photos to create an illustration.  Is it worth it?

If you are looking for cheap software, use free alternatives such as GIMP or Krita. If you want a drawing app for fun, I suggest Procreate. You can always try a free trial of Photoshop for a week to see if you love it enough to subscribe to it. If you don’t love it, these substitutions can create great results.

If you are looking for the best software in the market and want to work in the professional design industry, get Photoshop. In many ways, the program is worth the expensive price tag.

The software keeps up with the rapidly changing software market, updating the software, and constantly adding new features. Photoshop also integrates seamlessly with the other Adobe programs, making it a great team player.

Frequently asked questions

Is Photoshop worth buying?

If you plan to work professionally in the graphic design space, yes, Photoshop is a worthy investment to get your feet wet. If you need any photo editor for recreational or personal use, I would use a free alternate

What is the best free Photoshop?

GIMP is one of the best alternates out there, still presently updated to add more features and fix bugs. GIMP’s successful mission was to create free software that was accessible to everyone

Is Photoshop CC the same as Photoshop?

No, Photoshop CC is the new and improved version of Photoshop. Photoshop CC continuously updates, giving you the latest and greatest software with new features and bug fixes.

How can I download Adobe Photoshop 2020?

After purchasing a subscription that includes Photoshop, you will download the Creative Cloud desktop application. Creative Cloud will then give you options to download the program.

Can I learn Photoshop on my own?

Yes, you can learn Photoshop on your own, using Adobe resources, learning sites such as Lynda.com, or find YouTube tutorials that teach you everything. There is a wealth of information online, perfect for online, self-taught learning

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