Building a free and open-source alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud

Before I start – a quick disclaimer. Downloading random bits of software off the internet can be a risky business. When delving into the world of open-source software, take care to download them from their official sites and make sure you have a robust anti-virus installed. Bungee jumping can be fun and exhilarating, but you wouldn’t do it if you weren’t safety attached to that long stretchy cord.

As Adobe Creative Cloud is such a comprehensive collection of specialist apps and services, it’s nigh on impossible to get the same level of usability from open-source applications. It’s a veritable David vs Goliath situation, a small collection of dedicated volunteers vs an army of Adobe developers. This doesn’t mean there isn’t worth in open-source software. I’ve always been an advocate because it lets people learn creative skills while only spending a tiny amount of money (if any at all). These creative skills can then be transferred over to any number of propriety software if/when needed. With that in mind, I’ve collated a big list of free and open source alternatives to Adobe CC that will all work on Windows, Mac OS and Linux!

Photoshop (GIMP)

First up, we have the GIMP. Don’t laugh, it’s an acronym. Otherwise known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, this is a powerful piece of software that is well suited to editing photos. GIMP can also be used to create original artwork and graphic design assets. As with many of the open-source projects in this list, the UI design can be confusing for people making the transition from Adobe products. Luckily, as GIMP is infinitely customizable, there are a number of plugins and themes that make it look more akin to Photoshop.

Illustrator (Inkscape)

Even though Inkscape was released in 2003, at the time of writing it still hasn’t reached version 1.0. While still not being considered “complete”, this vector graphics editor is the go-to program when dealing with SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics). It also has the option to open and save files in .EPS and .AI if something a little more mainstream is needed.

Indesign (Scribus)

One of the more premier free page layout programs available, Scribus offers a stable platform for desktop publishing. It ships with plenty of colour palettes, supporting RGB, CYMK and spot colours. An additional feature helps emulate forms of colour blindness to help inform your design choices. Helpful and ethical!

Premiere Pro (OpenShot)

The Openshot website boasts that this piece of software is “easy to use, quick to learn, and surprisingly powerful video editor.” Very straight to the point. With that said, Openshot is one of the better-looking and sleeker apps on this list. Proving a plethora of features, from curve based keyframe animations to chroma key (green/blue screen), this is a compact and functional video editor.

After Effects (Blender)

As After Effects is a very specific and powerful piece of software, it’s REALLY hard to recommend an open-source alternative. So hard in fact, that I have to offer something slightly different. Instead of a dedicated visual effects program, I can recommend Blender. Blender is an absolute powerhouse that supports the entire 3D pipeline, from modelling to motion tracking. More importantly (in this case), Blender has lots of tools that support visual effects and motion graphics. Time spent learning how to use Blender is time very well spent.

Lightroom (darktable)

According to the website, “darktable is created for photographers, by photographers.” It’s nice to know that the people who have programmed this piece of software have a clear vision of what they are doing. This makes darktable very usable. Plus, i’m really amused by the name. “What’s the opposite of light? Dark, sure, cool. We need something else? Something that’s in a room? A table? Awesome. Let’s call it darktable.”

Dreamweaver (Brackets)

Out of everything on this list, Brackets is my absolute favourite! There is something very satisfying about looking at the clean and modern UI. It lacks the WYSIWYG capabilities of Dreamweaver but does have a live-viewer that shows you a preview of what you are working on. Interestingly, it was actually developed by Adobe as a community project, something that I think does reflect in the way that it looks. Is it ironic that my favourite “alternative” is made by Adobe? Yeah, I think so.

Audition (Audacity)

If Brackets is my absolute favourite, then Audacity is a close second. One of the first pieces of open-source software that I ever discovered, it isn’t the best looking. This drab exterior hides a very practical application. It has the capabilities to edit audio, but it can also record live sound, as long as there is a microphone handy. Perfect for recording podcasts!

Media Encoder (Handbrake)

While a few open-source apps take time to learn, Handbrake has be one of the tougher nuts to crack. The world of transcoding is a murky one, and Handbrake doesn’t take any time to explain any of the many features it has. If you can fight through that learning curve though, this is a very viable choice for your digital video file needs.

Bridge (Digikam)

Do you have an impressively large library of images but don’t want to use Adobe Bridge? If you are in this very specific situation, then let me introduce you to Digikam! Aside from its ability to handle lots of files, it can handle lots of different TYPES of files and edit metadata.


Libre Office – Like Microsoft Office, but free!

OBS Studio – Screen recording and live streaming!

VLC Media Player – The ultimate multimedia player!

Thanks for reading my list of open-source software alternatives to Adobe CC! If you liked it, then please follow this blog for similar updates in the future.

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Published by Jamie Depledge

Digital & Multimedia Designer by day, Geeky Blogger by night.

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