Mac users who are looking for a more affordable alternative to Photoshop Elements might take a look at two very nice options: Acorn [$49.99] and Pixelmator [$59.99 but currently on sale for $14.99]. Both are very capable editors with a full spectrum of features, but they are both quite different from what you may be use to with Photoshop Elements.
The Acorn workspace is deceptively simple. In addition to the basic toolset, there are a large number of filters available through the Filter menu to both enhance your photo and to add a number of artistic effects. There are also vector drawing tools giving you Illustrator-style capabilities. You can use these tools not only to draw, but to arrange text along a curve and add other interesting effects. For those of you who enjoy Photoshop’s custom brush feature, you’ll be right at home with Acorn. Not only can you add those same brushes to Acorn, there is a built-in brush designer so you can make your own.
How Acorn works – and the terms used to discuss features – are often quite different than those used by Photoshop so it will take some time to adjust. They do offer an extensive user guide and support page full of information. Take an Acorn test drive first and see if it fits your photo-editing style.
The Pixelmator workspace is a beautiful place. The various panels look quite familiar to a Photoshop user, but you’ll find them floating on your desktop rather than confined in a single work area. This app also has an amazing toolset of features and filters including vector drawing tools and a huge number of “instant” filters. You can quickly turn a photo into a sketch or painting and the Effects Browser makes it easy to find and apply them. One tool I enjoy when using Pixelmator for creating scrapbook-style collages is the alignment tool. It’s similar to what you’d find in Keynote or PowerPoint for making sure things are lined up correctly and quite handy.
Pixelmator supports Photoshop brushes and takes advantage of OS X’s Automator to perform some amazing tasks for you. The latest version supports both the Retina display and iCloud storage.
This app is probably an easier transition for Photoshop users, but there will still be an adjustment period while you learn how things work. They provide a complete support facility with in-app help, video tutorials and blog to help you make the most of the app. You can take a test drive before you buy to see if it fits your workstyle.
Both of these apps are quite affordable and very capable alternatives to Photoshop Elements. Yes, there is an adjustment period and yes, you may not find either suits the way you work. However, if you are tired of re-purchasing your photo-editor every time there’s an update, one of these apps could make the change worth the effort. It won’t cost you a thing to try them and see.
And, if you’re wondering . . . this photograph is the inside of one of the glass bottom boats found at Silver Springs in the 1950s. The three adorable bathing beauties in the back right corner are my cousin, my sister and I. The boats have been refurbished a few times since then, but they still sail the springs and provide an amazing look into the depths of one of Florida’s biggest springs.