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So you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop?

Now that the dust has settled, I’d like to talk about Photoshop, Fireworks, Sketch and potential alternatives to the former.

I just have to get this out of my system and there may be some parts that are highly subjective and a bit of rambling, but nevertheless, here we go:

Boredom.

You’re all bored and thus looking for something new. Everything else changed since I started playing around with Photoshop eight years ago. The internet, mobile phones, browsers. But somehow the program we’re designing stuff in stayed and with Fireworks gone there isn’t even a possibility to change to a “better” alternative anymore.

I’ve got the feeling that many people wish to use something else than Photoshop for the solely reason of using something that’s more fancy and made by guys like “us”. Photoshop only works with several plugins and extensions, you can’t even edit rounded corners without them! Then there is something like Sketch, that allows you to do so right from the start. Neat, isn’t it? Sure.

Everyday Work.

Sketch is a great piece of software. This isn’t a pamphlet against Sketch, or any other programs, it’s more of a love letter to Photoshop.

I don’t know how your average workday looks like, but I’m not just “designing apps”. Sure, the result will be an app, but I have to retouch photos, enlarge backgrounds, build patterns, export assets, handle impressively large and complex files, need a way to see the result directly on a screen of a smartphone, etc.

My point is: I don’t just work on one kind of task, it’s a huge mix of different things and as cluttered and full of options and features Photoshop is, as capable it is to handle what I have to do for the task at hand and nearly every other possible task, that might come in the future.

“Photoshop has so many features I have no use for, it’s absolutely bloated!” is – in my view – not a valid argument to think it’s not the right tool to do your work. I don’t ever use the 3D features, so what? There will be a day I’ll need a bloody three dimensional cube on some kind of wood background. Is Photoshop capable of doing so? Sure it is. Does it hinder my work if there is a feature I rarely if ever use? It sure doesn’t.

Initial effort

It’s not even a bad thing that you need additional software to reach your goal. Sketch allows you to export 2x and normal assets. That’s amazing, but Slicy does the same thing (much better) for Photoshop. The amazing thing here is that there is something that solves this problem. Editing rounded corners? There are several plugins that allow you to do so.

To have to install, manage and remove additional tools is not a weakness, it’s a privilege. There is a slightly higher initial effort, but as soon as you’ve found the right tools, hacks and plugins, you’ll be more productive in Photoshop than in every other software. Not based on one single task but on the greater picture of what our job is about. Photoshop is able to adjust itself to your needs, take a bit of time to make it do what you want.

Photoshop feels kind of messy, there is never a “correct” solution for a problem. I understand it might feel like a relief to switch to software that shows you how to do something and you just don’t have to think about potential other solutions, but here is the thing:

Our job isn’t easy or at least not trivial. This whole pixel pushing thingy is not a clean task, you have to test things, you have to have the possibility to apply quick and dirty solutions and you have to have a better and more “long term” way of doing the same thing for final production.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know there are alternatives and I salute everybody who switches their projects to Sketch or similar solutions. I just wouldn’t recommend it. It’s just so much easier to do these things in Photoshop and Illustrator as long as you invest a bit of time and research to build your work environment as good as possible.

Photoshop is like grandfathers workshop. There may be 20 similar tools and at a first glance most of them feel dispensable and the whole shed looks messy, but your grandfather knows where everything is, what to use first and which version of which tool is best for the task at hand. (What a brilliant metaphor. Good job, Marcel.)

Conclusion

I don’t understand why so many people are keen to switch to premature alternatives but I don’t blame anyone to do so. There might be a new standard in ten years, who knows. I keep testing the alternatives but as long as there is nothing that helps me to be faster and more efficient in every facet of my daily work, I’ll stick with my beloved Photoshop.

Like I said, I think Sketch is pretty good it’s just too early to do efficient work with it. Feel free to bash me on Twitter for this post. You’ll reach me at @UARRR.

PS: Make sure to read “Photoshop is a city for everyone: how Adobe endlessly rebuilds its classic app“. It’s worth your time.

15. May 2013