Apple's free Mac apps: Photos and Preview can get the basics of touching up an image or photograph, but if you want to do anything more advanced you'll need a dedicated image editing app. Adobe's Photoshop is the industry standard, due to its wide range of features and capabilities. Here's how to get a copy of Photoshop on your Mac, or, failing that, the next best thing.

How to get Photoshop free on a Mac

A lot of people will be wondering if there is a way to get Photoshop for free on a Mac. First a warning: if you find Photoshop on a file sharing site don't download it. First of all, it's very unlikely to be a legitimate version of the app because of the way that Adobe distributes is, and second, it will almost definitely cause you problems - this is how viruses spread.

There's no completely free version of Adobe Photoshop, but there are a couple of options that could get you a copy of Photoshop free for a limited time, or on a short term subscription.

The first option is a Photoshop trial. There is a 7-day free trial that gives you access to the full program, with no restrictions.

While Adobe advertises the free 7-day trial, you actually get 14-days free, because you can cancel within 14-days of your initial order and get fully refunded. So, you could, theoretically, get 21 days free if you had the trial and then cancelled your subscritption after 13 days.

The second option is signing up for a monthly subscirption on a monthly rather than an annual basis. We'll run through the various subscription options in the sections below, but this option would allow you to subscribe to Adobe Photoshop on a temporary basis.

To explain how it works we need to explain the difference between Adobe's two monthly subscription packages:

There are two monthly subscription packages: one is cheaper (£19.97/$20.99/AU$29.99 a month) because it is part of an annual plan; the other is a more expensive option (£30.34/$31.49/AU$45.99 a month), but you can cancel without having to pay Adobe anything.

Adobe explains the legal terms of the various contracts here. Basically, if you sign up for the cheaper 'annual contract, paid monthly' and then choose to end your subscription you will be able to do so, but if you end the contract after the first 14 days "you'll be charged a lump sum amount of 50% of your remaining contract obligation and your service will continue until the end of that month’s billing period."

This is a slightly better scenario than if you were paying annually - in that case your contract will continue to the end of the term. You wouldn't get any money back.

Which is why the best option in this case is to sign up for the month-to-month contract. In this case the contract will automatically renew every month, but should you choose to cancel you will be able to use Photoshop until the end of that month, at which point your contract will cease.

If you need Photoshop but you don't want to tie yourself into a contract with Adobe this could be the best option for you. However, you should note that you will lose access to anything you have saved in Adobe's cloud after 90 days.

Sign up on Adobe's website.

How to cancel a Photoshop plan:

  1. Sign in to the Adobe web page where plans are managed.
  2. Sign in to your Adobe account.
  3. Under the My Plans tab find Manage Plan (or View plan) and click on that.
  4. Now click on Cancel plan.
  5. Give your reason for cancellation.
  6. Click on Continue.

Photoshop for Mac price

The ease with which you can end your Photoshop contract is a benefit of Adobe's decision to switch from selling copies of Photoshop outright to a subscription model.

However, there are lots of Mac users who are disappointed that Adobe doesn't sell a 'perpetual license' for Photoshop and its other apps. Many years ago professional Mac users might have owned a version of Adobe CS, but the slow rate at which companies updated probably lead Adobe to switch to a subscription model. The subscription model forces companies to keep paying Adobe, rather than pay Adobe once every three to five years. Adobe would argue that companies are better off with up to date software.

Whether you love or hate the subscription model, there are a few options to choose from if you want to get a copy of Photoshop:

As we discussed above, if you just want the single Photoshop app you can have that for £19.97/$20.99/AU$29.99 a month if you sign up for a year, or £30.34/$31.49/AU$45.99 a month if you just pay on a monthly basis. Sign up on Adobe's website.

However, the Photography Plan is actually the best deal. It include Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC (for web and mobile), and Lightroom Classic CC (for desktop). That bundle costs £9.98/$9.99/AU$14.29 a month, but you will be on a contract for a year. You get 20GB storage included (there's a 1TB storage option that costs about £10/$10/AU$14 more a month). Sign up on Adobe's website.

If you are a business user you ought to sign up for the Business option where you can get a single Photoshop licence for £25.28 (ex VAT)/$33.99/AU$48.99 a month (inc GST). It's worth noting that all the Adobe CC apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat, cost £59 (ex VAT)/$79.99/AU$116 a month. Sign up on Adobe's website

How to get photoshop on Mac: Pricing

Is there an education discount for Photoshop?

Yes, there is. While you can't sign up for a reduced price on the Photoshop-only tier, you can get the entire Creative Cloud collection, which obviously includes Photoshop, for quite a hefty reduction.

At the time of writing, Students and Teachers pay £16.24/US$19.99/AU$21.99 a month, which is around 70% less than the normal subscription rate.

Can you buy a copy of Photoshop outright? 

It's bad news for those wondering whether there is a way to buy Photoshop without a subscription. Adobe doesn't offer the full version of Photoshop as a standalone program anymore, as it wants people to use the subscription model. While there are advantages to this, in that you'll always be on the latest version of the software, it does mean you're tied to a subscription if you want to use the program.

However there is a version of Photoshop that you can buy without a subscription: Photoshop Elements. 

Photoshop Elements is a designed for amature rather than pro photographers, but it does offer a number of photo editing features that might be sufficient for your needs.

You can buy a copy of Photoshop Elements directly from Adobe's website for £86.56/US$99.99/AU$145.19: Buy Photoshop Elements 2021 from Adobe.

You can also buy Photoshop Elements or on the Mac App Store, but it actually costs more if you buy from Apple (£99/$99/AU$159.99).

The benefit of Photoshop Elements is that you can buy it outright and install it on your Mac. You will have access to features like masks, layers, colourisation, image manipulation and other useful, more consumer-level effects with Elements.

If you're a creative professional though, or are used to the full-blown version of Photoshop, then you may find too many tools missing from the box.

If you want to take a look there's also a 7-day free trial so you can take the software for a test run.

What about older copies of Photoshop?

If you really don't want to go down the subscription route, and Elements isn't quite enough, then you might be tempted to track down older versions of the full package on eBay or other second-hand markets. While these can be good options, you'll want to do your homework before hitting the Buy button.

Adobe doesn't support all older versions in terms of updates, so the ones you find might not be compatible with later iterations of macOS. Be sure to Google whether it will work or not before making a purchase. You'll also need to confirm that the software license hasn't already been used, as usually these are non-transferrable.

Another problem with older versions of Photoshop is that they may not run on newer versions of macOS. And newer Macs may not run the version of macOS you need.

For help with this read: What version of macOS can my Mac run?

Best alternatives to Photoshop on Mac?

There is plenty of great photo and image manipulation software available on macOS, many of which come with lower price tags than the Adobe products. One of our favourites is Affinity Photo from Serif, which boasts a wide range of powerful tools, friendly interface and costs around £50/US$50. We've seen several promotions on the Serif site that has the program available at half price, which is an absolute steal.

How to get Photoshop on Mac: Affinity Photo

At the time of writing, you could buy Affinity Photo for £23.99/$32.99 in one such offer, and we'd recommend you'd at least take a look if you want a top-quality image editor.

Another popular choice is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is completely free and comes with an incredible range of tools and features. The interface can take a little getting used to, which is not uncommon with open-source software, but once you get to know your way around, you'll be amazed at what you can achieve. There's also a large collection of tutorials for the software on YouTube, so if you're willing to put in the time then it's a powerful suite that will cost you nothing at all.

To see which other programs we recommend, read our roundup of the best photo editing software for Mac, best free (or cheap) photo editing software for Mac, as well as best Mac for photo editing.