Why is Photoshop So Expensive? (and Why it’s Worth It!)

First up: Adobe Photoshop is a fantastic piece of software. Back in the day, people could buy it as a once-off purchase. But Nowadays, Photoshop can only be bought as a subscription-based service, which means you have to pay an ongoing regular fee to keep using it. If you are someone who always uses Photoshop, then over the years it is going to add up to some significant money going into Adobe’s pocket. So, at this point, you’re probably wondering, why is Photoshop so expensive?

Adobe Photoshop is expensive because it is a high-quality piece of software that has continuously been one of the best 2d graphics programs on the market. Photoshop is fast, stable and is used by top industry professionals worldwide. A monthly Adobe subscription may seem expensive, but it is definitely worth its price tag.

In this article, we will discuss

  • Why Photoshop is expensive and why it’s worth It
  • That Photoshop is actually cheap in the short term
  • At what point Photoshop becomes expensive
  • The advantages of Photoshop being expensive

And if I haven’t convinced you as to why it’s good to throw your hard earned dollarydoos at Adobe, I will finish off with some fantastic cheap / free alternatives for you!

Let’s begin!

Why is Photoshop Expensive – And Why is it Worth It?

Photoshop is fast, stable and easy to use. Paying an ongoing subscription may seem unfair to us users, but the potential time saved and money you can earn from Photoshop makes it a very cheap investment.

On a personal note, whenever I stop and think about all the money I have thrown at Photoshop over the years, I need to remind myself that Photoshop has helped me make more money than what I have paid for.

Photoshop is Stable

I have been able to create some pretty humungous files (with a truckload of layers thrown in for good measure). Photoshop hardly ever crashes on me, and it (almost!) always does what I tell it to do.

Photoshop is Fast

I have tried other programs that are Photoshop rivals (in particular Affinity Photo) which is a fantastic alternative – AND it’s a one off payment of $49.99 (Everyone’s favourite payment method for anything!)

Photoshop is Like an Old Fortress with a Strong Foundation

The Adobe company was started back in 1982. Eight years later, the first version of Photoshop was released. Think about it – 1990?!  I didn’t realise computers could even handle graphics programs back then. 

Generally, software that lasts this long is obviously good. If Photoshop was just absolute garbage, then it would have had already died out decades ago (or at least be surpassed by another graphics software).

In terms of digital years, Adobe Photoshop is a relatively old piece of software, which mean Adobe has had a whole lotta time (and money) to optimise Photoshop, which naturally results in a high-quality product.

Yes, Photoshop is expensive, but I reckon it is a solid and stable piece of software that is worth the money.

Photoshop is Only Ten Bucks a Month. So, When Does it Become Expensive?

In the Short Term, It’s Actually Cheap…

In 2013, Adobe moved to a subscription-based model, which means instead of paying a once-off US$699 for Adobe Photoshop, you only have to pay US$9.99 a month. Fantastic! Not expensive at all, right?

If you are paying for Photoshop through the monthly Creative Cloud Subscription, then this is a pretty good deal for the humble consumer. After an entire year, you will only be spending 119.88. Even after five years, you’re still under that US$699 price tag.

Ooh Hang On – Am I Getting Ripped Off After Six Years?!

Great question, Malcolm. Thank you for asking. Six years into your subscription, you will quickly start to pay more money than the old once-off price. But surely there must be advantages of paying for the long term, right?

What are The Advantages of Photoshop Being Expensive?

Everyone loves a once-off payment for a product. But hey, all of our favorite companies are moving to subscription models, so let’s look on the bright side…

The great thing about paying for Adobe’s subscription model is that you’ll always be getting the latest version of Photoshop. So long as you have a subscription, Adobe Creative Cloud will continue to give the option to download the latest version. Which means you will stay up to date with the latest features Instead of the previous Creative Suite model where you would have to pay another once-off fee to get the latest version.

Let Them Go to Work For Ya!

Adobe is a massive company with 21,000 employees worldwide. Yes – Photoshop is expensive. Yes, Adobe makes a lot of money – but they also spend a lot of money in order to keep Photoshop and the other Adobe products relevant, up to date and high-quality.

They Are Accountable

Another great thing about a subscription model, is that Adobe is held accountable to the customers. Selling a once-off product is easy enough, but if you want your customers to stick around month after month, you need to have an amazing product and make sure that you keep improving it.

For example, a few years ago I was thinking “Why am I throwing so much money at these guys?”. Shortly after that, Photoshop added the smoothing feature for the brush tool. This was a crazy, next level, game changing feature for my illustrations! I was super happy with this upgrade and I remembered thinking that THIS is how you keep your customers interested.         

How Much Does it Cost to Buy Adobe Photoshop?

The cheapest option for buying Photoshop is US$9.99 per month. This includes 20GB of cloud storage data and a monthly subscription to Adobe Lightroom. The next tier up is US$20.99 per month, which gives you 100GB of cloud storage data and access to Adobe Fresco, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts and Adobe Spark.

If you have just wayyy too much money and are feeling extra wealthy (or just require the entire Adobe suite for your work) you can subscribe to all of the Creative Cloud apps for US$52.99 per month.

Personally, I don’t use the cloud storage, nor do I use the fancy extras like Fresco, Fonts, Portfolio and Spark. So, the best option for me is the US$9.99 plan (cos I just want me some Photoshop!).

Can I get Adobe Photoshop for free?

Photoshop is not a free product, however if you go to the Adobe website, you will be able to get a free seven-day trial.

Haha so technically it is free – just a very, very short-term kind of free. I guess you could keep signing up for free trials under different emails, but come on mate, you’re better than that.

Okay, Malcolm. Stop Fanboying. Photoshop is Effing Expensive – What are My Alternatives?

Still not keen on Photoshop? I get it. Luckily, each year there is more and more competition out there. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Canva is free and is a fantastic way for newcomers to create their graphics. While not as advanced as Photoshop, it definitely does enough cool things for some people to reconsider a Photoshop subscription.
  • GIMP is an open source graphics software – it doesn’t cost a thing and it’s a popular alternative to paying for Photoshop
  • Krita is also free, I tried it once for five minutes, and then went back to my expensive Photoshop
  • Serif Affinity Photo only costs 50 bucks and does a lot of things Photoshop can do. For the work I do, I’d even say that their brush tool is way better. I sometimes jump between Affinity and Photoshop. The only downside is, Photoshop lets me work with very large files, whereas Affinity can become very slow.
  • Procreate is huge on the iPad, and I have seen many illustrators move to drawing straight their tablet.
  • Sketchbook Pro used to have a price tag, but now they have made it free. Not sure why, but that’s awfully decent of them. Their pencil tool is great for digital sketching (one would hope so, with that name of theirs)


Adobe Photoshop is expensive, but I feel that it is definitely worth the ongoing subscription payments. Photoshop is expensive because it’s a high-quality product. It’s stable, it’s fast and over the years it has continued to be one of the best graphics programs in the world.

Paying just US$9.99 a month for access to this great software is basically another Netflix subscription, except instead of watching other people’s creative work, you are making your own. Which I think is better than anything you can find on TV.

Yes, it is expensive, but compared to having to pay the old once-off fee, the monthly fee has made it very affordable in the short term for people getting started with learning digital art.

If you continue to use Photoshop in the long term, I hope that it helps you on your creative journey. I hope that you will no longer see it as expensive, but rather as an investment that brings in some big bucks for your creative business.

And if you get to a point where it’s just too expensive to justify keeping, there are some really good cheaper and free alternatives popping up every year. Do what’s right for you, and keep on creating.

All the best,


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