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Should a Non-Designer, Self-Marketer Pay for an Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription?
To many designers and creators, Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry standard software required for professional services. I started using Adobe products in 1997 – and I have owned Adobe products from that time until today. Without question, it’s been my most important software tool as a professional designer – and in that light, of course I would recommend it.
But the question I’m answering here is for someone who isn’t committed, dabbling in design, and wrestling with software decisions. Adobe is a beast, and it’s a worthwhile question.
If you were to review the list of products available in the full Creative Cloud platform, the list is impressive (if not overwhelming).
- Acrobat Pro
- Premiere Pro
- After Effects
- Adobe XD
- Lightroom Classic
- Character Animator
- Adobe Fresco
- Adobe Express
- Premiere Rush
- Photoshop Express
- Photoshop Camera
- Media Encoder
- Adobe Scan
- Fill & Sign
- Acrobat Reader
Do You Need All of These Applications?
For myself, even though I do work in nearly every aspect of creative services (web, print, video, animation, photography), even I couldn’t tell you what all of these applications do.
For a while the novelty of having access to everything was exciting. I would download them as they were added to the Creative Cloud, just to look around at the new gadget in my creative toolkit. But eventually, I realized they occupied lots of hard drive space, felt more like a distraction, and I likely wasn’t ever going to find time to use them.
There are a handful of programs which are the daily tools of the design team. I am inside Photoshop and Illustrator every work day, for sure. Adobe Acrobat is a nearly daily utility tool too.
I will jump into video editing software like Premiere Pro and After Affects once or twice a week. And the rest? I am sure they have value and a place; but it’s overwhelming even for many professionals.
The real answer is that the tools used will depend on what kind of creative work the individual does. Being Adobe products, I’m sure they’re all fantastic tools.
Are They Easy Enough to Use for a Non-Professional?
Adobe products are not generally known for being beginner level. There is a layer of complexity and a learning curve, which given their depth of features, it makes sense.
The motivation to learn is often driven by necessity. If you want to learn, you will. I am self-taught; there was no one showing me how to use any of the applications. I learned because I needed and wanted to so I could professionally grow. There are endless resources available to learn any of the Adobe products.
The question is whether you have time in between your other daily tasks. It’s one thing if it’s part of your job to learn, and another if you’re under pressure to make graphics right now.
ANY new piece of software, Adobe or alternatives alike, will have a learning curve.
What Alternatives Are Available?
While I don’t have experience with most of these, there are other options. Here are alternatives for a couple core and popular Adobe products.
(Rasterized images, photography editing, high quality digital graphics)
- GIMP – Free, open source, and a longtime well-known alternative.
- Sketch – paid software with solid reputation.
- Canva – Free & Paid. I resisted this tool – earlier versions didn’t impress. It does now. It’s not photoshop, but it’s pretty cool.
- Procreate – iPad software. if you are a digital artist, you must know about Procreate by now. It’s amazing. It’s not apples to apples in terms of ‘design’.
- Photopea – Free. a colleague introduced me to this; I was very very impressed given it was browser based software.
(Vector graphics for print, illustration, iconography, layout design)
- Affinity – cheaper alternative to Illustrator.
- CorelDRAW – longtime Adobe rival. Not cheap, but longevity and reputation as a legitimate tool.
- Vectr – Browser based vector creation tool. Pretty impressive.
- Inkscape – one I recently learn about.
- Sketch – this software apparently does vector graphics too!
Premiere Pro Alternatives:
(Video editing software)
- FinalCut Pro – if you’re a Mac user, this is a great alternative.
- DaVinci Resolve – comes highly recommended by industry people.
- Vegas Pro – highly regarded video editing tool
- Pinnacle Studio – good value for cost. Fairly easy to use.
(Print/Publication Layout design)
- Affinity – highly recommended choice of industry leaders.
- QuarkXpress – at one time, this was the industry standard for layout design
- VistaCreate – Never used it, but an interesting online editor innovation from VistaPrint.
- Canva – Free & Paid
Layout Design Alternatives:
- Microsoft Powerpoint – you can’t necessarily create graphics like in Photoshop or Illustrator. But power point is shockingly capable of layout design. You can even create simple video animations for social posts.
- Microsoft Publisher & Word – these aren’t replacement for Illustrator / Photoshop – but they too offer decent options for layout design. These can be frustrating tools due to limitations, but I’ve made many marketing pieces with them (usually because the client wanted to be able to edit them later – and didn’t have Adobe software).
My Concluding Opinion:
If you can afford Adobe, and you have serious intentions about learning and developing your design skills, then I would 100% opt for Adobe. You can always cancel your subscription if things felt too much, and try other tools.
Also to consider, you don’t have to purchase the full Creative Cloud subscription. You can opt to pay for the specific applications you need. This could be a more affordable option.
It’s also worth exploring the alternatives to see how they feel. If you are not familiar at all with design software, it will be a learning experience worth taking. They might ultimately do what you need, especially if you are only going to be doing desktop publishing and online graphics.
I’ve only used a handful of Adobe alternatives over the years. If I didn’t have such familiarity with Adobe products, I might feel more easily impressed by other options. I know there are legitimate options available – and they are worth checking out.
You learn by trying and practicing – and you should always be willing to experiment, and embrace the tools the work best for your situation.