Design insights & tutorials.

Blank Canvas: Adobe Or Not?


It goes without saying that Adobe is pretty much the industry leader in professional-level graphics software. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of other options out there.

Go Media Zine wants to know: Adobe or not? If you do use Adobe products, what version(s) are you using, and why? If you haven’t upgraded, is it a financial or a feature reason?

If you’re not an Adobe user, we want to know what software you’re using to edit and manipulate photos, sketch, create vector art and do page layout. What do these software applications offer that you prefer them over the industry leader? Or is it a financial or philosophical choice?

As usual, I’ll start things off:

I am an Adobe user. I use the Creative Suite CS4 Design Premium which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Fireworks and Dreamweaver. As a vector-based illustrator, I primarily use Illustrator as well as Photoshop for my sketching, in conjunction with a Wacom Intuos4 graphics tablet.

I’m a pretty big software geek, so I tend to try just about every graphics software app that comes out. I’ve yet to find a raster or vector editing/creation app that I’d replace Photoshop or Illustrator with, but have found some great alternatives as well as niche tools. InDesign I am a huge fan of, and besides Quark I am not aware of any competing apps out there—at least not on the professional level. I think one reason I stick with Adobe apps is the “industry standard” nature of them. Seems everyone has a copy, even if it’s not their primary tool for the job.

I see many fellow illustrators on Twitter griping about Adobe apps crashing or taking forever to launch, but I don’t have that experience at all. I suspect many who experience these issues may need to upgrade their RAM. If you don’t have at least 2 GB and preferably 4+ GB on your machine, that may be the culprit.

Overall I am pretty pleased as an Adobe customer, however I know that isn’t the case for everyone, and we want to know what your take is on the tools you’ve chosen to use. Please sound off in the comments section below. And let’s try to refrain from bashing any particular software company.


About the Author, George Coghill

George Coghill isa freelance humorous illustrator/cartoonist specializing in mascot cartoon character design & cartoon logos. His cartooning & illustration work can be seen at and at his cartooning and illustration blog. Be sure to follow me on Twitter here!
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We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • mug25

    100% CS4 with some Cinema4D mixed in.

  • Barry

    I'm a fan of Adobe's software but I'm not a fan up their upgrade pricing. At approximately 30% of full price it's extremely high. I end up skipping versions because of the cost. If it were half the price I'd probably upgrade at each update and Adobe would make the same amount of money.

  • Jack Rugile

    I am also an Adobe user. Before I enrolled in school and bought my first Adobe products, I used GIMP and loved it. It is amazing for a free program. I could never go back to it after using Photoshop, but it is still an incredible program.

    I would love to experiment with other programs, but at this point, I simply can't afford to. Maybe one day!

  • TheCosmonaut

    For me, the most painful thing with Adobe products is “buying in” in the first place. However, once that's done, I pretty much upgrade with every new release as soon as it comes out. My workflow has become so inextricably tied to Adobe's products that I really can't imagine doing my work without them. I do a lot of Flash work, so I'm a little concerned with the increased bugginess in the last two versions of Flash, but they've got very ambitious ideas for what they want Flash to be able to do and I'm excited about that (creating iPhone apps in CS5, etc.). All in all, I'm very happy with Adobe – the prices can feel high, but considering they're responsible in part for every cent I make, I think they're reasonable.

  • Darcy Murphy

    I've tried just about everything on both Windows and Mac, and there's many reasons why Photoshop is king of the hill. Despite CS4 being seriously bloated and buggy there's nothing else that comes close to being an ultimate tool for Web Design (well, ok, Fireworks, but it's buggier still).

    That said, Pixelmator is getting very close to becoming a tool I could use full time, and I look forward to the day they add layer effects.

  • Danielle Nelson

    My preferred suite is Inkscape (vectors, web and graphics-intensive document layouts), Gimp (photo manipulation/editing), and Scribus (document layout and CMYK conversion for print work created in Inkscape). It's primarily because I'm a die-hard Linux user (I have a Windows box with CS4 that I use when I need it), but even when I'm working in Windows, I prefer those programs to Adobe's; since Gimp and Inkscape can import and export native Adobe formats, I'm generally only tied to CS4 for InDesign files and Flash.

    I generally sketch on paper, scan, and trace with Inkscape, but I also have a Wacom.

  • daxander

    I have been using Adobe for a long time. About 9 years now.
    I never had much money, even now Im pretty much broke.
    So I downloaded all the software I needed. Like CS,CS2,CS3,CS4 and 3Dmax, Maya among others.

    Since 4 years I go to school and use the software that is availleble at school. Still I use downloaded software at home. At school they do not have all software that I need. They still use CS3.

    I am pretty amazing with my downloaded Adobe software and must say that I feel like buying a CS4 master collection.

    So in a few years, when I saved enough money.. I will buy the Adobe software. I even want a tattoo with the Adobe logo.

    I use the software with pleasure, but always think of how I use illegal downloads…. and I am sorry.. but you leave me no choice.

    I cant master Adobe without the software and when I do not master the software I will not be able to find a job.

    My suggestion would be: MASTER COLLECTION 1000 euro MAX !!
    + updates to the next CS version for 250 euro !!.

    I know a lot of people who use the software illegally, because of the price.
    I can tell the names of at least 25 fellow designers, so lower the prices.

  • kira

    ms paint is awesome!

  • Josh

    I am an Adobe user and fan,
    currently at work we are on CS3, we planned on upgrading, but during the tough economic times, we had to cut back, After January we hope to upgrade to CS4. We bought Design Premium (Ai, Ps, Dw, In, Br,)

    One thing that has me nervous is if Adobe ever goes to a subscription based format, i recall reading something about them thinking about that for the whole cloud computing thing. If that ever catches on, Seems like a bad idea.

  • amatatomba

    Adobe. I'm just getting my feet wet when it comes to design and I started out using some free programs, like Paint.NET and Inkscape. They're great programs in their own right and kind of prepared me for the Adobe products, but they can't really compare to Adobe's products. Once I started using Photoshop and Illustrator, I never went back to the old products I used.

  • echoenduring

    Adobe all the way. Years ago, I used Corel, but after making the switch to CS2, I've never looked back. Photoshop is so incredibly flexible and has so many non-destructive techniques. Illustrator took a little bit longer to get the hang of, having come from Draw, but I love it now! Currently running CS4 Design Premium, with a Tablet.
    Photoshop does crash from time to time… maybe I'll look into upgrading my RAM.

  • owenvideo

    I learned Adobe in my senior year of high school in 1999 when I took a design class. Since then, I've been hooked. My Dad worked for a darkroom development company, and they bought into a bunch of licenses (before going under obviously) and so we had it at home for a year or two as well. After that, nothing compared.

    I'm with the other commentors though saying the hardest part is buying in. It really is insane that it often costs more than the computer it's being run on (if you buy the suite).

  • Scott

    I've been running Adobe since CS2. I have played around with Corel, but I feel much more comfortable w/ the Adobe Line. I am currently running CS4, but I am on the fence if i will upgrade to CS5. I have the student license, which doesn't hit the wallet as hard, but can't be used for paying work. I think Adobe should let the student license be more open. Help us starving students get up and running.

  • George Coghill

    I've never used GIMP, but for the price I've heard it's a great alternative.

  • George Coghill

    Have you ever ran into an issue with print services when providing files created via Inkscape or Gimp? Or do you just export to the Adobe native formats? I don't have much experience with open source graphics software.

  • George Coghill


  • Steamfrog

    I have been using Photoshop since it came on 15 floppy dicks. Currently I have cs4 master suite. I have tried others such as Corel, Quark but find Adobe stuff is very tied together now and as a workflow it's great to use and shift from one app to the next.

  • Cat Womack

    Until recently, I'd been using a bootlegged copy of Adobe CS I got during school. Upgrading wasn't an option, due to the cost. But, last month, I lucked into getting CS4 at deep discount though my employer. I'm glad to have it, but most of the new features have been rather anti-climatic (the Blob brush in particular).

    Upgrading with each new version doesn't seem worthwhile expense to me. There's nothing so new about CS4 that will significantly change the workflow I developed in CS (except that I no longer need Freehand MX to do a bitmap trace).

  • meira

    I like Adobe, Painter 11, CSS edit and i think i just became a fan of Cinema 4D.

  • OverIthisWire

    Adobe user and fan. I've tried other stuff- it's just not for me. I've been using adobe since 8th grade, so even if i found another software that could compare I'd feel like I'd be letting down my best friend! I'm also a vector based illustrator using a wacom tablet for both programs(ps ai). I do my sketches in photoshop, then ink in illustrator with my tablet as well(depending on the project) Most times I'm using my wacom in both programs regardless, and it's vital to me that the tablet works to it's fullest capability within the software.
    I feel that adobe and wacom are like peas in a pod. They work together the best. My tablet is a plays a very big role in my creative work-flow and for me it seems to work best in the adobe software.

    I'm currently using Illustrator cs4 and photoshop cs3 extended, and indesign cs3. I didn't have to upgrade illustrator because i didn't have it on my current machine so i ended up just buying cs4.

    Although when i bought illustrator i was still a student, so i only paid $200.00 They have a really great student discount price. it's actually amazing.

    I will upgrade photoshop soon- i honestly just haven't gotten the chance to actually do it.

  • Danielle Nelson

    It's never been an issue for me. I usually provide files in EPS or PDF format for print – whatever the print shop requests. Inkscape's default format is SVG, which is in fairly wide use — the local sign printer I work with accepts SVGs, which is awesome. I don't think I've ever run across anyone using Gimp's native XCF format.

  • facebook-544195966

    i'm still on CS2. really dont mind at all.

  • Bearpig

    I use CS4 and Cinema4D and must admit, i've tried other pieces of software (painter, quark and gimp) but what i love most about the adobe range is that fact. It's a range, that shares GUI and shortcuts so you can easily transistion from one program to next *almost* seemlessly. I think a big part of what makes Adobe products work so well is that they realised that usually you'd be coming out of one program, and into another, and then maybe back again (think Premiere for editing, then After Effects, then back to Premiere then to Encore) and they've made this workflow really easy – which equates to faster and quicker work, which is almost always a good thing!

  • tjohnson4

    Currently using CS4 (Mainly Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, Soundbooth) for developing device applications in Flash lite 3.1 along with TextMate to write in AS2. Flex builder for AS3 development. I find these are the best in the biz.

  • Mike Shoaf

    Your last sentence pretty much nailed my view on this.

  • bnonn

    I'm a GIMP and Inkscape user. Several reasons:

    1. I haven't come across a feature yet that I need which they don't provide.

    2. I'm philosophically and technically opposed to both Windows and OSX, which basically leaves me with Linux and its accompanying applications.

    3. They're free instead of heinously over-priced.

    4. They fast. And I don't have to invest in a super-computer to use them. To give you an idea, I get by just fine on my Dell Latitude D510 laptop with a P3 1 GHz and 512 MB RAM. Sure, it's a bit slow sometimes, and I'm planning to upgrade soon—but GIMP and Inkscape load quickly and run okay.

    That's basically it.

  • unwrittenmike

    I work on CS4 Master Collection at work. No complaints! Hopefully we have the budget to upgrade when CS5 is released. I have tried a few open source programs but never thought any of them come close Adobe stuff… I hope one day they release some 3d software (basic like Sketch Up) that integrates with all the rest of their software.

  • lonetraceur

    Big fan of CS4 and love the new added features it brings (Content-aware scaling and 3D Surfaces anyone?). My primary tools are Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver but i have a few gripes with a couple of features and products that the master collection brings. Namely 'Adobe Version Cue'. I'm really trying to get into versioning my work but I don't like version cue very much at all… it's a poor product compared to pixelnovel for photoshop and plain old subversion for dreamweaver.
    Other than that, I've always wanted to see a feature that allows you to group guides on photoshop that you can switch on or off… but I guess that's for another topic. :)
    Saying that, you can't beat some of the added interoperability between the products (smart-objects) and their more advanced features which I'm yet to see in other software (Illustrator's LiveTrace?).

  • dev

    I got Creative Suite CS4 web Premium for only $1++(student price) and no complaint at all, and i also dont has those crash, lag experiment and i dont think there has any software can beat adobe.
    but i only use on window, at mac i use pixelmotor for editing, quick good but hope can wait & get CS5 to install on my baby MacBookPro

  • kristof

    I had the great opportunity to attend an art based high school where I live in europe. Beside tradional arts, engravings, cuttings, paintings etc we had the opportunity to take more technical classes like photography, where I basically started using photoshop. We moved from building our own cameras, to b/w and then color darkroom work, to using Photoshop.

    At the time, I wasn't able to buy license but as I learned the basics with Adobe products, it wasn't really an option to switch to alternatives. To do that I would have needed a stronger understanding of the concepts behind digital image creation, which I was learning with Adobe products at school.

    Moving on, I am very happy that the company I'm working with keeps their Adobe products upgraded – as web and cross-media designer, I think there are few programs of the Master Collection I don't use. So to me, it is essential software: as one project involving webdesign, identity, content and Ad production often requires Ps, Ai, Dw, Fl, Ae, Pr, Id & Sd all working together. I know that there are alternatives, but my workflow is dramatically increased using Adobe Software out-of-the-box.

    For the pricing, I think people are making too much noise about it. When I was younger I thought it's incredibly overpriced, but thinking about it:

    - If you are seriously working full time with those products, if you need the applications working together, you'll most likely be able to afford them based on your or your companys income. If you still feel it's overpriced for a professional, then maybe you should ask yourself if it's ok for you to charge 60-120$ for an hour of your work in turn.

    - If you need them for aside-work like transforming a picture here and there, cutting clips shorter, etc… then you won't feel resricted using cheaper or free alternatives.

    - If you're not making money with your work, if you're using all those programs for learning, It won't be very hard to qualify for a student edition which is significantly cheaper – still not very affordable for students, but it's still an investition.

  • rl_creative

    I use Adobe at work and it's really a great product, but I agree about some thoughts upgrade program. It's really really expensive. We always skip one version of CS just because of a price. It's not affordable to pay so much for just a year license. For example – Solid Works, that I used on another workd for 3D engineering is almost as expensive as Adobe Creative Suite Master Edition, but year license cost only 700$ and if you have a support-program, that is 1000$ a year, they send a new license for free.

    So, Adobe really could be cheaper in upgrading. But it's awesome product. Adobe team really does a good job. And you always think, that already everything is done, what can be upgraded more? But no…they still find something to upgrade, to add more functions and make designing process more interesting and easy :)

  • aj4art

    All Adobe, all current, all the time. It's just the best.

  • Donn

    I'm a long time somewhat reluctant Adobe user, currently using CS4 Design Premium. My issues with Adobe are more to do with them as a company as opposed to the products themselves. Although their software has plenty of bugs, what software doesn't.

    I have tried various other alternatives in the past Gimp, Inkscape etc. although they do look very good, I'm not sure they are quite up to scratch but more than anything else for me it's just that I can't invest the time into learning a whole new suite of applications.

    The problems I have with Adobe are things like the fact that CS4 cost 1000 euros more in Ireland than it does in the US and for what? There is no translation issues, it was a digital download so no import duty etc. On top of that it took a month from the time of paying to actually receiving the download link with the majority of their staff having no idea what was taking so long to process the order. Upgrade costs are far too high and not proportional to the amount of improvements or inline with purchasing the original product. Their customer support is useless and seemingly can cost an extra fee on top of the fortune already paid for the product.

    I think if they made their prices substantially cheaper they would have a huge amount more people willing to buy it and over all their profits would increase as so many people wouldn't even consider buying it as it is, even for a business it's a large expense.

    If someone was to ask me the advantages of buying a copy over using a crack I'm not sure I could give them any, sure you're entitled to software updates but I have never visibly noticed that making any of their products more stable.

    As far as I can see Adobe like to punish their customers as oppossed to reward them for their loyalty. It really is a shame because their products are obviously great but they are their own biggest enemy.

  • thumper71

    Well, to be honest, I'm a videographer, but since I get caught having to do everything, I've learned to love CS3. On my own netbook I use paint shop pro from corel. Still consider myself a newbie but I love the options. I'd love to upgrade but can't convince my employers to pay for it! Oh well…

  • blackflme

    All adobe, only adobe. It seems like everyone uses it and it helps to be on the same page as everyone else(like printers and other designers). I have had printers say they haven't upgraded from quark to indesign and it causes problems and thats why I try to stay as up to date as I can. Right now I'm on CS3 and I usually end up skipping every other update because of cost.

    As far as crashing that was mentioned…On my mac with 4gb of RAM it crashed all the time. On my PC with vista and 2gb of RAM it crashes but not nearly as much.

  • Haley Saner

    Kind of a no-brainer. If you aren't using adobe applications for whatever reason you are the minority in the industry. Where ever you go (post house, design shop, print shop etc..) you will find adobe as the standard. In my experience it's VERY rare to see any free apps(blender, gimp) being used in shops. Sure adobe has it's issues and a lot of the updates are bloated – but the fact remains.. it is very powerful software. If it wasn't the most powerful, we'd all be using blender, gimp, Motion, etc..

  • Stephanie

    I have CS1 at home (purchased for $475 on a student license shortly before I graduated college in 2005) and CS3 Extended at work. I love Photoshop, have used it since version 5.5 and could not imagine doing my work without it, but I have been reduced to obtaining CS3/4 at home through alternative means because I simply cannot afford to “buy in”.

    Sometimes I'll bring a work project home over the weekend to tinker with and I have run into several compatibility issues between CS1 and CS3/4. That's what caused me to get my CS4 off of a torrent–the compatibility issues were too much of a headache. A file I had created in InDesign CS3 refused to open in CS1 at all.

    I sincerely believe that if Adobe would reduce the cost of their suite (it is SEVERELY overpriced) they wouldn't have as big a problem of pirating. I love Adobe and CS and will continue to use their products–even though I hate obtaining it the way I did. $1400+ for a design suite is ridiculous.

  • Adam_Wagner

    I'm kind of surprised that no one has mentioned Aviary. They've got a great vibe. I also feel that their web-based design tools are “one of those things” that become really big when the world is ready to accept them.

  • jonesima

    big photoshop CS fan, haven't had a real need to upgrade yet.

  • Maluni

    I really love Adobe Cs4 and I use Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, flash and Indesign as my primary tools! I only design and do not build webapp. but do originals for it to go witjh my concepts etcas .svg .swf for web etc.I really dont need dreamv. and those pgms, so I wouldnt mind to get rid of them to get a lower price on the upgrades. I also agree on the issue Stephanie above brings up. I educate graphic students and see that they really want to be able to upgrade their student versions as real versions, but simply cant afford. I think Adobe would do bigger proffit in lowering the price and do a print and web pack with atleast half the price that you can upgrade from a student version.
    Love Maluni

  • Theresa

    I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Corel Painter x and a Wcom Intros 3 which I received as gifts. I would love to have all of the adobesuite or even upgrades but cannot afford it. I have a perm. disability from a spinal injury. I found out that Adobe does not offer any discounts for persons with disability's but they offer it for students. I contacted Corel and asked them and they said for me to provide doc of my disability so I sent my copies of from Canada pension disability and they offered such a low price I was in shock ! I was so happy and cannot stop thanking them. I did contact Adobe and they would not comment at all. I want to have some enjoyment in my life instead of watching tv all day and graphic art is it is my passion. I maybe slower than you all but at least I acomplish a piece of art that many of my friends are very impressed with and I even surprize myself. They keep saying it is to bad that I am disabled because they say I am very good. There are many of disabled persons that are like me and this is such a great pasttime. My only dissapointment is Adobe seems greedy on their prices because they have no competition.

  • Janne Gylling

    Adobe Master Collection CS4. Just because everyone is using it.

    Just like “TheCosmonaut” wrote:
    “I'm very happy with Adobe – the prices can feel high, but considering they're responsible in part for every cent I make, I think they're reasonable.”

    The price could be high, but we make over 10k per user every month with Adobe products.

  • Simon H.

    Adobe CS3, looking forward to CS5 when it'll come out (I'll skip CS4 I think).

    And like a lot of people: awesome soft, too pricy.

  • mark

    Another company that started out with a better approach and customer service that seems to have steamrolled into a repetitive juggernaut (Apple anyone?). They suffer from monopolistic bloat (as most near monopolies eventually do) My main issues are: extreme cost for very few 'game changing' additions to the useful functionality, and the 'suite' system when you can't actually buy each stand alone product.

    By that, I mean that new filters, plugins, and 'hot new functions' are nice, but compared to the incredible differences past versions had (Photoshop 2 to 3 was VASTLY different, etc), they seem like an excuse to put that corporate hand in your wallet one more time. If you're gonna charge me $900 to upgrade, wait another few months to make a breakthrough or something, folks. The last major impact was the inclusion of Flash, and they bought it from other programmers!

    Like a lot of us who use Adobe products daily by necessity, it has become much more of a love/hate relationship, and fewer people seem to be buying into the 'gotta have the new version' mentality. Google apps will eat them up soon enough. Probably free, too.

  • cblair7

    I love Adobe software, am running CS3 Design Premium. My only issue with Adobe is that I want to change platforms, from PC to Mac, and upgrade to CS4 without purchasing the entire $1600 pkg. Normally it would cost me $600 just to upgrade (PC to PC). If I buy a Mac I have to purchase the full program, which sucks. Yes, I contacted Adobe support last year on the issue. Keeps me stuck in PC land!

  • Chris Johnston

    I use Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom 2.5. Like others, I have tried other products for my photography and I just can't make the switch. I have been using Photoshop since version 4 and have yet to find another product like it.

  • KuttyJoe

    I do agree that Adobe is more or less the only game in town and for good reason. It wasn't always the case, but in recent years Adobe seems to have kicked into high gear. I came up using Adobe products as well as what had been a strong competitor, Corel, a decade ago. Corel apparently ran out of steam or got out of the game, either way, their focus seems to have shifted to primarily consumer level products while they still sell their underdeveloped Corel Draw package. But Draw was so strong, that year after year Adobe continues to draw “inspiration” from it, and yet there's still more inspiration that can be drawn.

    I'm currently using CS3. I use CS4 for a living, but for my personal and freelance work, I decided to stay at CS3. Simply, changes made to the CS4 interface were a show stopper for me. Not so much on the Mac, but on the PC, it seems that Adobe wishes to punish us for not going along with the tabbed windows scheme. Using non-tabbed windows should be the same as it was in CS3, but it is anything but that. So I'll see what happens at CS5. I'm a big fan of Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, etc. I also still use Corel Draw for the things that Illustrator can't do.

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  • Lenin

    '15 floppy dicks' LOLOLOLOL…. hope those typos don't emerge in porfolios ;)

  • Lenin

    @Theresa… it is true that for 'evil to thrive, good men need to do nothing.'

    Of course, I am not calling Adobe evil or something here.. but it is surely touching to see Corel understand your situation. However, the market still will be dominated by Adobe until someone with a CONSCIENCE decides to provide a better or a same level suite with not only lower pricings, but a HEART!

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

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  • Photoshop Clipping Path

    lot's of thanks