Maybe once a month I need Photoshop. Since it is rare, the cost seems like a disproportionate amount of money to spend by my startup.

I think the tasks I need to achieve when I'm converting a design to HTML/CSS/images are:

  • opening a PSD that a graphic designer sent me
  • crop some images out of it, generally picking up the layer to have transparent backgrounds
  • measure distances
  • measure colors (RGB)
  • measure font and font sizes
  • maybe more that I'm not aware since I almost never do this kind of task

Is there some cheaper software for MacOSX that can do all of this so we don't have to buy Photoshop?

  • 1
    It's nice to claim software on taxes. Might not be possible depending on where you're from, but for anyone else with a startup, these types of things are exactly what you claim on your taxes.
    – o_O
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 5:04

8 Answers 8


If your needs are that simple, you can probably do what you need using the free, web-based and popular http://pixlr.com/ which supports PSD files.

It has a simpler interface and gentler learning curve for people familiar with photoshop than the obvious other free alternative GIMP (which you could always download any time you needed any more features or if you needed to work offline).

Not needing to install and learn the many quirks of GIMP would give you more time for motorized desk shopping ;-)

If you wanted a more photoshop-like offline option, Photoshop Elements might1 cover your needs and in the past I've found it's enough for basic web design work. It sometimes comes free with handy - and ergonomic ;-) - products such as some Wacom Bamboo drawing tablets.

1 It can't turn individual layers on and off if they are inside a group though.

  • I'm interested in Elements now that two people mention it. I knew it was a simplified photoshop but I thought it had only the tools needed to re-touch photograph, not to work with the usual web graphic design PSDs. I'll give it a try next time I have to process a PSD... for 80£ it's affordable. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:20
  • 1
    UK eh? I got a UK wacom bamboo tablet a few years ago with free Elements and I think it was less than £80... My experience of elements vs photoshop is that elements lacks pro photo editing tools (dealbreaker for pro photographers) and lacks the ability to customise keyboard shortcuts, workflow, etc (dealbreaker for pro designers), but has all the fundamental tools we use 95% of the time: in some cases with more intuitive and arguably better designed interfaces (makes sense since Elements customers are less resistent to UI changes than Photoshop customers) Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:30
  • Interesting... I wanted to play around with a bamboo tablet, so I'll look into one. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 16:01
  • 1
    Elements is an amazingly powerful subset of PS, well worth the investment. (My path into design software: bought a scanner, came with free Elements and a coupon for full Photoshop @ 50%; bought Photoshop; upgrade to Creative Suite from Photoshop @ big discount. Saved >$500 overall, and got a free scanner in the bargain.) Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 23:17
  • @J. Pablo: Getting it free with a Bamboo might be a better deal, but I was able to find PE8 for $35.98 (including tax + S&H) on Google Product Search. Perhaps it'd be more expensive to ship to the UK, but you definitely don't need to spend 80£ (which is $125.92USD). Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 2:50

A good OSX alternative to Photoshop is Pixelmator.

It supports PSD files but the picture might be a little different because it doesn't support all features (like layer styles).

  • What are these layer styles? Are they common? I think I'll ask graphic designers to send me a screenshot so I can compare what I see with what they see. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 10:25
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    @J.PabloFernández Layer styles are very, very common. tutorial9.net/tutorials/photoshop-tutorials/… Layers styles can be rasterized into single or separate layers, but it's very manual work.
    – Joonas
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 10:33
  • I wouldn't expect to have a compatible workflow with designers using Photoshop if your app doesn't support layer styles. You can get Photoshop Elements 8 for OS X for $30. That's probably a better fit if you want to actually be able to work with designers using Photoshop. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 11:12
  • layer styles are to photoshop what toasters are to toast
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 14:43
  • I've been using Pixelmator for about a year now. It's a nice app. And great if you have no need to interact with PSD files, but if you do, it's no replacement for PhotoShop, unfortunately.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 16:14

As mentioned in my comment, I think Photoshop Elements 8 is a good investment for any cash-strapped company that needs to edit/view PSD files and work with designers who use Photoshop. However, Gimp and Paint.NET also support PSD files.

I'm not sure the extent to which they support them, but I think Gimp's support could be better than Pixelmator since Gimp is often treated as the primary FOSS alternative to Photoshop. Paint.NET is only for Windows, but if you have access to a Windows machine, it could give you superior PSD support (after installing this free plugin), and it's also free.

AlternativeTo also lists a lot of other alternatives to Photoshop.


I'd give Pixelmator a try



Adobe is coming out with a creative suite subscription plan very soon that may be easier to swallow up front. Of course, subscriptions suck in the long run.


Why don't you try this page? http://www.alternato.de/produkt/Pixelmator/630

He're you get a good overview about all graphics-programms...

greets mark


Adobe are releasing a monthly subscription plan with CS6 that aims to cator to the likes of yourself and the tens of thousands of others that can't afford the massive outlay of £2k+ for software.

More info and pricing here.


My favorite free image editing program on OSX is Seashore. It doesn't open .psd however; I'm just listing it here for anyone else searching for OSX image tools.

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