I have been using Photoshop for several years to create basic web graphics and page layouts. I really love Photoshop, it has everything that I need and then some. I only know a small portion of it. Photoshop is really massive and I just do basic stuff with it. The best part is that anyone can use Photoshop, not just graphic designers. I come from a web development background and picked up what I needed to know to get things done. Photoshop gave me an opportunity to learn a new skill and basically wear another hat. Speaking of hats, I am not really into caps but do fancy beanies during winter and bandanas in the summer. Anyway, enough about me, back to Photoshop. Long story short, Photoshop is great and served me well over the years. Now, I am looking for something free. I mean are we all not looking for something that costs nothing? I randomly came across a replacement for Photoshop and was amazingly impressed.
I was thinking, “Why have I not found this sooner”? I was really surprised that there was something out there that was not only free, but good. I mean really, really, good. This alternative looked and did everything nearly exactly the same as Photoshop. I used this new photo editor and pretty much had not a single problem adjusting to it. So what is this miracle product? I know, too good to be true right? I have used this new program for awhile and just wanted to share my thoughts and opinions on it.
Photopea: Is it Really That Good?
Here it is, it is called Photopea. This is a photo editing program that runs off your web browser. You just go to https://www.photopea.com and it just works. I really cannot stop complimenting how astounded I was to see something that good was free. I am still amazed, I sound like a broken record. I was wondering too, how is this program free? Turns out that you will notice ads and Photopea does suggest you make donations. The advertisements are located way to the right of the screen. So the ads are definitely not obtrusive. I really do not even notice them when I am working because I enjoy using Photopea so much. I have only received the donation message every now and then. Mostly, if I am in the program for quite awhile, then I will be asked to make a donation. Do the ads and donations impact my work? Not at all. I do want to talk about what I like about Photopea though.
What Do You Like So Much About Photopea?
I would like to talk more about the cost. Photopea being free is interesting. This blog is all about information. You wonder how free information is. Photopea is yet another piece of information. It is something that used to create graphics, which is visual information. I mainly brought up information because Photopea is very accessible to anyone. You do not need to pay to use it. This gives people an opportunity to learn some basic graphic design with Photopea. Photoshop with its paywall, is obviously more daunting because not everything is willing to pay to climb over that wall. Giving as many people a chance to learn new skills is how society grows as a whole. This is about the web giving information out for “free”. I have another post where I introduce myself and talk about the cost of information. The summary of that part of the article is that nothing in life is truly free, even information found online. But we have to realize that everything has a cost. Our goal is trying to minimize excessive cost. This makes us more efficient when we consume and utilize information.
I like how super lightweight Photopea is. I almost thought you would at the very least have to install a Chrome extension or sign up for an account. I have come to always expect that free has some strings attached to it. I started to use Photopea in the browser expecting some slowdown, but experienced none. Saving changes were really fast and still no need to install anything or sign up after using it over and over. I thought that maybe you would have to pay after using Photopea so many times in a short period. Pretty impressive to build something so complex that runs completely off the browser. Having such a program work just as good as a program that has been installed on a computer.
Another thing that I like is how Photopea uses the PSD file format like Photoshop does. So I think that you might be able to share PSD files between Photopea and Photoshop and have them “work” just fine. Since they are different programs, not everything would convert 100%. I am just taking this with a grain of salt, of course. Being a software engineer, I would expect to see some issues arise from switching between the two with PSD files. I would say try it, if not then keep the PSD files to whichever program you started with. Chances are, if you are using one program or the other, then you would just stick with what you are already using. The neat thing is that if you start with Photopea and send a PSD from it to someone else, that person can use Photopea too even if that person has Photoshop. This might not work the other way around. If that person has Photoshop and creates a PSD file and sends it to you, you might or might not have Photoshop so that could be an issue.
I also like how Photopea supports the two most popular web image formats, JPG and PNG. JPGs are for your photos and PNGs are for your transparency (no background colors) graphics, like logos. Sometimes you still see GIFs if there are not as many colors used but I would say this is the third most popular format. I am just glad to be able to export whatever image format I need without having to pay for anything. That is something that I want to bring up now. Sometimes you use a program and there are certain features that are locked behind payment. For example, if you wanted to export a JPG of your design, then you might have to pay for it. I keep expecting Photopea to ask for payment the more that I use it. I have not seen it yet so we might be good. 100% free!
Photopea has the same basic features like Photoshop like:
- Blending Options
Every single one of these features, I used them just like in Photoshop and everything worked just fine. All of the features were very intuitive and nothing was awkward. There was not a single thing that worked differently in Photopea compared to Photoshop. This is just another reason why I was so impressed with Photopea.
I also like how you can drag drop layers from one PSD to another. That is a really good feature because many times, you want to reuse assets from one project to another. You can simply just copy the layer and drag and drop it over from one PSD to another. This makes it so easy when you are creating pages and need to use a consistent look across all of them quickly and easily.
Designing Web Pages
I would like to talk about my experience with designing web pages with PhotoPea. I created a post about this, how you can create page templates using the Gutenburg block editor. In that article I just state that I create designs in PhotoPea but not actually how to do it. That article focuses on how to leverage reusable blocks so that you can organize your pages into modular page templates. In this section, I want to discuss how I design web pages. If I want to make significant updates to existing web pages, then I first like to take a screenshot of the page that I would like to change. I like this Chrome extension called Awesome Screenshot and Screen Recorder. This is a very good Chrome extension for full web page screenshots because I had issues with other ones where the screenshot did not come out right. When I have my screenshot, I like to open it up in PhotoPea and start making updates to it. If I need more vertical space, I like to increase the canvas height and readjust the page elements as necessary. I like to put page elements on different layers using the keyboard short ctrl+j so that I can move them around. I like to group related layers into folders. Then I proceed to make my design updates and them implement them on the website. The whole process is seamless and quite enjoyable. This is how I use web page screenshots and PhotoPea to update my web page designs.
What is Wrong With Photoshop?
Nothing is really wrong with Photoshop on its own. More that it comes with a lot of baggage that becomes cumbersome when you think about it. Again, the hardcore graphic designers will still flock to Photoshop. Nothing can really beat it because it has been the industry standard for so long. Adobe is Adobe, they are known for everything graphics and design. There are some things that I would like to bring up why most people who need basic graphics, will not really need something as heavyweight as Photoshop.
First, let us talk about the price. As of the writing of this article, the cost of just Photoshop along from Creative Cloud is $22/month. That is a monthly subscription because Adobe adopted a subscription with Creative Cloud. Before, Photoshop used to be part of Creative Suite, which was a one time payment but still pretty expensive. Depending on how many programs you want, you can pay several hundred to about $1,000+ for the full suite. Those are pretty hefty costs for some graphic editing. Photopea is free and you cannot really beat that. If there is something that Photopea lacks that Photoshop has, then go ahead and upgrade. I would really consider if what you need really justifies incurring a cost.
Second, you need to install Photoshop onto your computer and it is a pretty big program. According to this source, installing Photoshop will take 5 gigabytes. It is up to you to know if that is a lot of space or not. Then you have to consider any updates to Photoshop that might take up even more space. Photopea on the other hand, just uses your web browser. We are all on Chrome today right? Most of us are already using a modern browser so there is nothing to install. This was another reason why I could not believe how well Photopea ran in the browser. Save that space on your computer and just use Photopea.
Third, let us talk a bit about how you are paying for a monthly subscription. You are no longer owning any software because you have to keep paying the monthly price to keep using Photoshop. I know, the introduction of DRM (Digital Rights Management) made life a little more complicated on the computer. Back then, you could buy something one time and that was it, it was yours forever. You never had to keep paying to keep using something. Or, you never had to keep paying to keep your stuff updated. This subscription method of payment makes it so that you never really know what the total cost is until you basically stop paying to use the product. If you feel that you are getting your value out of the subscription, sure. I am just saying you truly never own it because there is no longer a single one-time fee. This becomes even more apparent when you compare digital versus physical products, this might be another topic for another post.
These are the three main reasons why Photoshop has strings attached. As I stated earlier, Photoshop is a really good program. None of these reasons are real deal breakers as to why you should not use Photoshop. Again, the majority of users are not graphic designers. We are someone else who needs a little graphic design here and there. I think that we all as humans try to look for something that balances the quality versus the cost. I can tell you that Photopea goes beyond quality for no cost at all.
Going Back to Photoshop?
After comparing both Photopea and Photoshop, I cannot make a good case to return to Photoshop. I mean, why? I would say use Photopea until you really max out the features on it. If Photoshop has something that you need that Photopea is missing, then go ahead and upgrade. Even then, I believe that my thoughts in this post apply to just people who need some basic graphics. The graphic professionals already know a lot more than me on the differences between the two. So they would definitely probably go for Photoshop since it has features that Photopea lacks. When we look at the user base, the large majority of users just need a basic program. So this post applies to most people. The graphic professionals compromise a smaller percentage of users because it requires many years of experience to reach their level.
Much like me as a programmer, only a small subset of people would vouch for paid versus free programs. I do love my open-source stuff. I mean, I still use Notepad++ after so many years. It works and it is free. I think that most people just want something that works, right? I see no need to get a heavy text editor if there is no reason for it. In fact, most of my web development “suite” is free. There is nothing really that I use that is paid. So I say, stick with Photopea. It will get the job done and then some. The best part is that if you ever decide to upgrade to Photoshop, everything that you know in Photopea will easily transfer over. So you will have very little ramp up time transferring from one to another.
So I hope that my perspective on Photopea and a little bit on free stuff gives you an idea on why free programs can be just as good as their paid counterparts. I am always looking for new ways to do things for free. The only time really that I would consider buying something is if there is no free alternative. Paid is the only choice that you have or nothing gets done. Another reason would be that the paid version gets things done faster than the free version. Some programs work that way. The free version only gives you access to a few things and if you want more, then you have to pay for it. Perfectly viable, but in the case of Photopea, not the case.