Free Open Source Alternatives for Adobe Creative Suite

Originally posted by SurfPark back in 2008.

''I found that throughout my college years and early in my career, I did not have the funds to obtain the Adobe software. Even purchasing the educational version of the software was beyond my reach. Adobe’s monopoly in the creative software market has always bothered me. While their products have always remained strong, the lack of competition has created high price points. I also thought it was well beyond the reach of most artists or children that simply wanted to dabble with digital art.

Here is my master list. Feel free to distribute as you wish.

Replace Photoshop/Photoshop Elements with…
GIMP (Windows, Mac, Unix)
GIMP stands for GNU Image Manuipulation Program. The program has the ability to edit bitmap images and photos. It saves files in formats that will work with other bitmap editors, including Photoshop (jpeg, tiff, gif…). There is also a modified version of the client for Windows called GIMPshop, which “skins” the interface to emulate Photoshop.

Replace Illustrator with…
Inkscape (Windows, Mac, Linux)
This program creates scalable vector artwork. It can import and export SVG, Illustrator (.ai), PDF files, and also handle many common raster format files (jpeg, png, gif…).

Replace InDesign or Quark Xpress with…
Scribus (Windows, Mac, Linux)
This open source program is designed for desktop publishing. This program supports PDF/X-3 standards and comes with a limited amount of vector tools. It supports SVG importing and Open Type fonts.

Designer Note: If you plan on using software on a semi-professional or professional manner, it is best to ask your printer first. Unlike the other programs on this list, your printer will want to be able to access your native Scribus file. Ask your printer in advance to install the software before sending out a print job.

Replace Flash with…
Synfig (Windows, Mac, Linux)
When looking to replace Flash I had to consider the usage. Flash serves a dual purpose for designers, as a means to animate/present content or to use as an interface. Synfig is a little more confusing than Flash, espcially if you’re a novice user. It can export to a variety of video formats, including Flash (.swf), mpeg, and SVG. This program also supports ActionScript.

Designer Note: While you may be creating with an open source tool, you might want to save your work in a widely-used format (SVG or SWF). Most of the audience will view your work with Adobe’s Flash Player, which is free to download. If you goal is to avoid all proprietary software, then check out Gnash, a free open source Flash player.

Replace Director with…
libavg (Windows, Mac, Ubuntu)
While this may not be the ultimate solution, its one of the few products that allow users to develop rich-media interfaces. Perfect for a kiosks and presentations. The interface is nothing like Director, so be prepared to learn a little bit.

Replace Dreamweaver with…
Nvu (Windows, Mac, Linux)
This HTML editor allows code view and WYSIWYG design view, similar to the way Dreamweaver does it. It also allows users to handle their files neatly, integrate forms, and more. This is a great program for those learning web design. It also offers a clean source code view for the people that like to create their HTML from scratch.

Replace Soundbooth with…
Audacity (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Imagine a stripped down version of Soundbooth with the same amount of power. Don’t worry though, because you’ll be able to download all the sound filters you want through the web site. Handles all the major audio file formats (wav, mp3, aiff, ogg vorbis).

Replace Premiere with…
Avidemux (Windows, Mac, Linux)
While this doesn’t have all the features of Premiere, its great for simple linear editing and encoding. This allows you to input MPEG, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, images, H.263 format, and more. Output your work into AVI, MPEG, MP4, or OMG. While an advanced user might need more control, this will do the trick for the majority of users.

Replace Encore with…
DVDStyler (Windows, Linux)
If you’ve created and edited your film, and want to share it, you’ll need to burn it to disc. Encore no longer exists as a stand-alone program, since it was rolled into Premiere in CS3. Open source solutions have yet combine editing suites and DVD authoring into one. Adobe has jumped into the format war and have given Encore the ability to burn Bluray discs. Until the format war is over (and Bluray drives become standard) most people, including the open source community, are sticking with DVDs.

DVDStyler is a great tool that allows the user create simple and beautiful menus for DVDs. Although this program doesn’t give advanced control over video playback, it is great to learn the DVD menu structure.

Replace After Effects with…
Jahshaka (Windows, Mac, Linux)
This is very similar to After Effects. The one thing missing is the After Effects library. Not to gret though, since Jahshaka comes with a slew of their own effects. It even lets you import projects from Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, Lightwave, Maya, 3DS Max, and more. It lets you export your projects into many formats too.

So that is my list. Obviously, this list can change and grow with time. Please add your links and suggestions to this thread and share it with the aspiring artists in your life.’’

Adding Blender to the list
Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation.


Really? Shouldn’t the advantage of a modern layout/design program be, that you do not need to share open files with all issues that come with it, technically and legally? In the 90’s that was necessary in many cases, but in the 2010’s?

I think a good layout/design app should export “neutral” PDF that can be printed on any device. So ideally a late-binding workflow, creating a composite PDF/X-4 with unflattened transparency in RGB. Or at least a good PDF/X-1a that also does not need any open files to be distributed.



Agreed - this step is uneccessary. Your printer will be perfectly happy with good PDFs (as long as you remember to include bleed).

A good list though :slight_smile:

LOL, I remember that comment about Scribus and replied in much the same fashion in the previous forum. You are really going to ask ME to load your software choice? Do you really want to pay for that time. It isn’t just a matter of loading the software, it’s also involves integrating it into the work flow. You are talking hours of billable time.

Your printer may not necessarily be happy with a “good PDF”
In large format, we hate them.

PDFs are limited in size to under 200" to begin with. The format is just not built with large format in mind (in fact none of the programs themselves are built with large format in mind anyway. PDF just makes it worse.)

A lot of times a designer:

  • doesn’t know how to handle compression for a file being scaled larger.
  • most probably will not have the right output profile for the various media involved on the numerous presses being used.
  • often will do something within the file that does not output correctly at large sizes, with the options being to “fix” it for them or bounce the file and they miss their due date. I have a couple of clients I swear actively look for ways to do things that either do not rip or come out in a way so completely unexpected I end up redoing the proofs.

I also have a list of commercial applications, all with a perpetual license, which can be used as an alternative to the rental suite of Adobe. I tested all of them to make sure that they’ll work.

Of course it is a subjective selection.

Let me know if you are interested…


I was going to ask if you all thought I should delete that part. I just copied it verbatim from SurfPark. :wink:

But, then you all gave good info in regard to it … so I’m leaving it. :smiley:

If anyone has other or more up to date open source alternatives feel free to post them.

This is a thread on Open Source Matthias.
Commercial and Quark don’t qualify.

1 Like

I thought so, that’s why I asked first :wink:

Thanks for sharing this after the forum was upgraded. In honor of the 10th anniversary of this post, I’ve decided to update the list of free and open source software (FOSS) recommendations.

As it has been pointed out previously, these “alternative solutions” could bring some professional workflows to a grinding halt. For anyone currently making a living in the design industry, it is in your best interest to use the software mandated by your client/vendor/employer.

All suggestions are free, open source, and available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux platforms. Happy downloading!


Replace Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements with…

Replace Adobe Illustrator with…

Replace Adobe InDesign with…

Replace Adobe Dimension, 3d Studio, or Maya with…

Replace Adobe Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Illustrator Draw, or Corel Painter with…

Replace Adobe Acrobat DC with…

Replace Adobe Bridge with…


Replace Adobe Dreamweaver with…

Replace Adobe XD with…


Replace Adobe Lightroom with…


Replace Adobe Premiere Pro with…

Replace Adobe Animate with…

Replace Adobe Audition with…

Replace Adobe AfterEffects with…

Replace Adobe Media Encoder with…


SurfPark!!! Helloooooo old friend! Welcome Back!! :beers::taco::taco::beers:

So great to see you and thank you so much for the updates :heart:

1 Like

Nice app! But when it comes to photo filter. I prefer Skylum. It provides dozens of creative ways to enhance photos. What’s important this tool is easy to use. There are filters that beginners can overlay on their photos and tweak further with manual controls for various effects. I think it will be useful for newbies as well as professionals.

@willyflew, Sketchbook is free, but not open source. Thanks for the suggestion though.

@russel_sherman, thank you for the suggestion, but the app you’ve mentioned is not open source (it is a freemium model) and available only on MacOS.

I removed it…

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Define Opensource?Opensource says you may access the code freely. Did you construct a version of this code?

Sorry Rafa this thread has been annoying the crap out of me. I have been running a linux system on my laptop for years…I run a number of opensource shit. more importantly I paid to support the code writers

Sorry if a post bothers you. I just hope someone will find a post useful.

I must say that for the user’s point of view it has little sense to “limit” the list for open source. The point is to have some good free programs to work with. I doubt the vast majority of users will touch the source code ever. The point of asking Open Source on this thread is just that implies “free”.

Some other programs other user posted like Fusion and Davinci are not open source either.

One thing about Linux users is that I think they are a bit more autonomous, so I would think most are used to search from the software themselves if a windows user finds a program useful I don’t see why you complain. But you are free to do so! (but not open source!)

Just as a reminder this thread is for

Free Open Source Alternatives


I haven’t looked up the whole list, I don’t have time … but Sketchup is NOT free is is NOT open source. I also can’t find anything stating that Hit Film Express is open source. Just a free version of the Pro model.

When I have time I’ll go through the list.

Anything posted here that is not Free Open Source Alternatives will be removed.

So let’s all keep in mind the thread you are posting in. If you have some great software you love that you want to talk about … start another thread.

Thanks :slight_smile:

You can delete all threads if you want.

SurfPark posted about Davinci and fusion which are not. Just saying.

And Sketchup has a free version, but nvm. Post deleted.

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