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(Last updated on November 2nd, 2022)

How much money do you need to drop on Photoshop? Can you even get away with a one-time purchase for the application? In this article, you’ll find out the options available when it comes to acquiring one of the most powerful graphic design programs on the market.

Photoshop is a program that needs little to no introduction. It has become the jack-of-all-trades used in everything from photo edits to print development to animation asset assembly. From video editing to book publishing, most professions will end up using Photoshop (or Photoshop equal) at some point in the process.

man using photoshop at work

Here’s a brief overview of each version of Photoshop currently available to purchase.

Related: How to Download Adobe Photoshop for Free

Overview of Photoshop CC

Photoshop CC is the current version of Photoshop used by professionals. It exists on Adobe’s Creative Cloud platform and is sold as a service. The program costs a monthly fee of $20.99 or $9.99/monthly under the Photography Plan.

This version of the program has grown from previous versions to hold more features. In addition to its familiar aspects of photography and graphic design, the app is now capable of 3D and animation effects. There are also plenty of plugins to aid in better customizing the app for the best workflow.

Pros

  • The powerful tools of Photoshop CC make it an industry standard.
  • The program can be used for photography, digital illustrations, graphic design, layouts, and animation.
  • Plugins for various automations and brushes allow for the most customizable of graphics editors.

Cons

  • The monthly cost of $20.99 can become expensive over time.
  • There’s a steep learning curve for learning all the many functions of Photoshop CC.
  • The interface is not as intuitive for finding your way around the program.

Overview of Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements is considered the cheaper version of Photoshop with fewer features. While it doesn’t have some of the more advanced effects and tools, it can still perform most essential Photoshop functions. This includes removing backgrounds, changing colors, and even creating animations.

Elements has been targeted at consumers for the easier interface. It differs from Photoshop as it is better suited for novice users. It’s also incredibly cheap with a one-time fee.

Pros

  • The one-time cost of $99.99 is a cheap investment when compared to Photoshop CC’s monthly subscription model.
  • Easy to use program for beginners.
  • Offers much of the same features and effects as Photoshop.

Cons

  • Requires you to purchase the program again if you want to upgrade, albeit at a reduced price.
  • Major limitations for effects and filters that you can’t customize much.
  • No cloud support.

So how does one buy Photoshop to use in their professional work? The payment methods certainly have changed over the years, but you may be surprised at how many options are present. But, first, let’s take a look at the history of Photoshop’s pricing.

Photoshop CS: The Old Payment Model

Before the days of online subscription services, Photoshop could be purchased as a physical copy for a one-time price. You could own a Photoshop CD with a key to activate the program for a few hundred dollars. You could also purchase bundles under Adobe’s Creative Suite packages.

photoshop elements horse

There were a few problems with this method of payment. For starters, it was incredibly spendy for first-timers just starting off in the program. This led to the program being highly pirated with torrent files and keygen crackers to get around the steep prices.

The other problem with the one-time price was that it only gave you access to one version. You paid the price, got the CD and key, and that was it. If you lost the CD for any reason after installing it and wanted it on another system, you were basically out of luck if the previous version was retired.

The only benefit for keeping up to date with the software was that Adobe did offer reduced pricing on the next version in line. This discount, however, wasn’t for very much and you’d still end up spending hundreds of dollars to stay updated with Photoshop.

Of course, the appeal for this classic method is that you could get the most with your money if you only relied on one version. Many artists would do just that, holding out with the first version they purchased for about as long as they could maintain their computers.

Adobe has discontinued this structure and no longer sells previous versions of Photoshop under the Creative Suite physical release model. You may be able to find some old copies somewhere online with developers willing to sell. That’s a hunt you’ll have to take to eBay or swap meets.

Photoshop CC: The Subscription Model

Adobe migrated all their programs into the cloud environment, retitling from Creative Suite into Creative Cloud. Better known as CC, all Adobe applications can now be downloaded directly from Adobe under their new model for constantly keeping their software updated.

photoshop cc man holding glass reading book

While there are a few exceptions, the Creative Cloud platform also operates on a subscription payment basis. Either through a yearly or monthly cost, users can not only gain access to Photoshop but must have access to the latest version for as long as their subscription lasts.

 Photoshop CSPhotoshop CC
AvailabilityDiscontinuedAvailable
Purchased AsPhysical Copy on CDDigitally Downloaded from Adobe
Activates WithCD KeyCreative Cloud Installation Software

How Much Does Photoshop Cost?

Photoshop costs $20.99 per month as a standalone app. You can also get Photoshop for $9.99 per month under the Photography plan, which also includes Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. You can get access to all the Adobe apps for $52.99 per month under the Creative Cloud plan.

 LightroomPhotography PlanCreative Cloud Plan
Price$20.99/monthly$9.99/monthly$52.99/monthly
Discounted PriceCheck hereCheck hereCheck here

Under the Creative Cloud plan, you’ll have access to everything in the Adobe catalog, including Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign, After Effects, and Illustrator.

The subscription model has been quite controversial in treating Photoshop more like software as a service. Despite seeming so small a fee compared to the investments prior, paying monthly for Photoshop can add up depending on the work you’re pursuing.

Photoshop Elements: The One-Time-Fee Alternative

If you’re seeking a more economical approach as the goal for a one-time payment, there is an alternative you can seek out. You don’t even have to go hunting on eBay to find it. Consider looking into Adobe Photoshop Elements as the cheaper option, considering it only costs a one-time fee of $69.99.

photoshop elements mountain range

Like Adobe Premiere Elements’ assembly, Photoshop Elements has been pitched as a consumer version of the software. This means that the interface has been simplified, and a lot of the features have been refined for the more straightforward tasks of the application.

Framing Elements as the consumer-friendly version of Photoshop may make it sound like it’s a more restricted version of the program. The truth is that the application is rather powerful in how it embodies many essential functions that rise above other consumer photo-editing programs.

Photoshop Elements can pull off a lot of complex features of easy background removal and facial adjustments. Photos can be given life with motion added to create the illusion of movement. Faces can be adjusted slightly to make it appear that everyone is looking in the same direction.

For those seeking to restore old photos, Elements has built-in filters for adding color to black-and-white images with solid results. Photos with washed-out colors can be made brighter and bolder with editing tools for everything from altering the sky’s hue to whitening up teeth.

 Photoshop CCPhotoshop Elements
Price$20.99/monthly$99.99
Skill LevelExpertNovice
PluginsManyLimited
Best Suited ForIndustry-level photo editing, digital illustrations, professional graphic design, animationEditing family photos, making slideshows, fixing portraits.

What’s The Difference Between Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements?

Of course, the big question that many will have is what Photoshop Elements cannot do. The bulk of Elements’ limitations is that it’s not as well suited for anything that isn’t photo-related. So if you’re seeking to use Photoshop within the realms of book production or animation, this may not be the app for you.

The other important thing that should be mentioned about Photoshop Elements is how greatly it differs from Photoshop CC in terms of the interface. Unlike Photoshop CC, Elements tucks simplify so much of the look of the workspace that it’s almost unrecognizable from its industry-standard counterpart.

Verdict

Photoshop Elements is your best bet for buying Photoshop at a one-time price. It’s not as feature-heavy and is thus more of an economical choice. For strictly photographer purposes, however, it is an application that is more than capable of getting the job done of photo adjustments.

photoshop animal eye

If you know you’re going to be using the program for far more than just making photo edits, then you have two options. You either go with Adobe’s subscription plan for Photoshop CC or venture online to track down a classic copy of Photoshop CS, with CS6 being the last physical version before Adobe’s products were strictly cloud-based.

If you’re seeking a comparison in the pricing of the Elements versus CC, the math adds to Elements being the better value. Given how much Photoshop CC costs a month, Photoshop Elements will only cost you about the same as it would cost using CC for four months.

So if you know that Photoshop will be a program that’ll mostly be for your photography career, you can save quite a bit of money if you intend to use Photoshop Elements for more than a year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the Photoshop app free?

Photoshop requires either a monthly/annual subscription fee or a one-time purchase fee, depending on the version you buy. Photoshop CC can be used for $20.99/monthly and Photoshop Elements will cost you $99.99. You can download Photoshop CC for free as a trial version but will have to pay for it after seven days.

How much does it cost for Photoshop?

Photoshop CC costs a monthly fee of $20.99 to use the application on the Adobe Creative Cloud. You can save some money if you buy it under the Photography Plan at $9.99/monthly, which includes Lightroom and Lightroom Classic as well.

What is a free version of Photoshop?

One of Photoshop’s competitors has been GIMP, also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The program is open-sourced and free, meaning you can use it professionally without paying a dime. There are also a number of free browser-based apps to use for photo editing and graphic design, such as Canva.

How can I buy Photoshop without a subscription?

The only way to buy Photoshop without a subscription is to purchase Photoshop Elements. This consumer-grade version of the software only costs you an upfront cost of $99.99 and that version of the program is yours for life. You will have to pay in the future if you wish to upgrade the software but there’s no monthly subscription required to keep using that particular version of Elements.

Is Photoshop Elements the same as Photoshop?

Photoshop Elements differs from Photoshop CC in a few ways. The most apparent is the cost, where Elements doesn’t require a monthly subscription fee the way Photoshop CC does. Elements is easier to use but also has less features that it’s best recommended for beginners instead of professionals.

Is Adobe Photoshop Elements free?

Photoshop Elements can be downloaded for free in a trial version. You can use the program and all its features for a week without paying. When that week ends, you’ll have to pay the one-time fee of $99.99.

7 thoughts on “Is Photoshop Available for One Time Purchase? (Explained)”

  1. It is a disgusting racketeering plan for users to be mandated to have to purchase a monthly subscription. What if I only use photoshop very seldom like four or five times a year or twice a month, why do I have to be paying for months when I don’t use it? It is a disgusting filthy rip off from Adobe. There is no excuse not to have a one time purchase, those bastard thieves
    Thousands of software are sold via CD and they have no problem.

    1. Well, wouldn’t your license go dormant until next usage, which is when you’ll just pay for the current month and let it sleep again starting next month? What’s forcing you to keep paying every month. Freeze or cancel subscription and reactivate when needed. PS is an expensive piece of software and unless you’re using a pirated copy you’re paying a very steep price for only occasional use. I’m afraid I have difficulty believing your argument.

  2. i agree with the statement above. I’ve always paid a one time fee but now I can’t so i will have to do without photoshop on my new pc.

  3. @craig, i believe you can transfer your 1-time license of CS to your new computer… I dont remember how i did it but i believe you have to deactivate current one and then reinstall on new PC. I still have my Adobe Design Standard CS5 from back when I went to school in 2008 and I have been through several computers since then

  4. I want to buy, not rent the software. I only need InDesign & Photoshop. I bought a new computer & my old Creative Suites don’t work on it. I do a newsletter for a non-profit group that come out every other month. I’m 74, & these prices are exorbitant. These are more along the lines of what a company would be paying, not an individual.

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