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Lesson 2: Buying Photoshop



If you're thinking about purchasing or upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, there are some important things you'll need to consider before you buy. For example, you'll need to learn more about the different purchasing options and choose the version of Photoshop that's right for you.

Photoshop purchasing options

If you're interested in buying Photoshop, you have several different options to choose from:

  • Photoshop CC: If you want to buy the full version of Photoshop (Photoshop CC), you'll need to pay a monthly subscription fee for Adobe Creative Cloud. Photoshop CC is available for both Windows and Mac.
  • Photoshop Elements: If you don't need all of the features of the full version of Photoshop, you might consider buying Photoshop Elements instead. Photoshop Elements is available for both Windows and Mac.
  • Mobile apps: If you want to edit photos on the go, there are a few different Photoshop mobile apps available for iOS and Android. However, these apps will be less powerful and offer less control than the full desktop software.
  • Alternative software: If you don't need all of Photoshop's features—or if you're trying to save money—there are many other image editing applications you can use. You can check our our lesson on Photoshop Alternatives to learn more about some free and low-cost applications you might be able to use instead.

Adobe Creative Cloud and Photoshop CC

Unlike many other applications you may have used, you cannot buy a boxed copy of Photoshop CC. Instead, you'll need a subscription plan through Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe's cloud-based software service. Then, you'll download Photoshop CC to your computer. A Creative Cloud subscription includes other benefits, such as cloud-based storage for your Photoshop projects. You'll also receive the newest version of Photoshop whenever it's made available, so you'll never have to worry about upgrading to the most recent version.

You can subscribe to Creative Cloud for about $10 per month (or about $120 per year). Previously, you could purchase a boxed copy of Photoshop without a subscription, but it would typically cost more than $700. While this means the cost of entry for using Photoshop is much lower than it was in the past, keep in mind that this subscription fee will add up over time, especially if you plan to keep the subscription for several years.

screenshot of Adobe Creative Cloud

You can also buy other Adobe applications through Creative Cloud, such as Lightroom, Illustrator, and InDesign. There are different plans and pricing options available, depending on your needs. Go to this page on the Adobe website to learn more about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription. If you still have questions about how Creative Cloud works, you can visit Adobe's Creative Cloud FAQ page.

Photoshop Elements

If you don't need all of Photoshop's features, you might consider purchasing Photoshop Elements instead. You can think of Photoshop Elements as "Photoshop Light"—it gives you access to some of the most popular features from the full version, but it usually costs less than $100 and does not require a subscription. If you don't have a lot of previous experience with image editing, Photoshop Elements may be a good option for you.

screenshot of photoshop elements

Missing features in Photoshop Elements

Below, you'll find a list of some of the main limitations of Photoshop Elements. These are somewhat advanced features, which is why they're not included in Elements. If you've never heard about some of the things we mention below, don't worry—we'll talk more about many of these features later in this tutorial.

  • Adjustment layers: Elements has a limited selection of adjustment layers. For example, you won't be able to create a Curves adjustment layer, though it does have a similar feature you can use.
  • Layer masks: Elements does not allow you to create layer masks. However, you will be able to edit layer masks for adjustment layers. You'll also be able to edit existing layer masks when working with files created in the full version of Photoshop.
  • Layer groups: Elements does not allow you to create new layer groups. However, you will be able to view existing groups when working with files created in the full version of Photoshop.
  • Color options: Elements does not include as many advanced options for fine-tuning color, such as the Channels panel. It also has limited support for working with different color profiles and color spaces (such as CMYK).
  • Drawing tools: Elements does not include several of the commonly used vector-based drawing tools found in Photoshop, such as the Pen tool or the Paths panel.
  • 8-bit mode: Elements is mostly limited to photos that use 8-bit mode; it offers very little support for 16- and 32-bit modes, which many photographers use to get even higher-quality photos. However, 8-bit mode still offers a high level of quality—it's actually the mode that most digital cameras use—so for many people this will not be a major limitation.

Photoshop for mobile devices

If you want to edit photos on the go, Adobe offers a few different mobile apps. While these apps don't include nearly as many features as the desktop software, they may be a good option for making quick edits on a mobile device:

  • Photoshop Express: Available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, this free app allows you to make quick changes to your photos, such as cropping and applying simple filters. You can also purchase additional feature packs for a small price.
  • Photoshop Touch: Available for iOS and Android, this paid app includes many of the basic features from the desktop version of Photoshop, such as layers and selection tools. While it certainly has more features than Photoshop Express, keep in mind that it will still be very limited compared with the full desktop version.