Web Designers: Why You Must Ditch Photoshop

I’ve been a professional web designer for twenty years, and a heavyweight Photoshop user for eighteen years.

But two months ago my PC’s hard disk failed. While it was at the shop getting fixed, I used only my Macbook Air. Most of the apps I use are on the cloud, but the big difference was the laptop didn’t have Photoshop installed.

For weeks I couldn’t use Photoshop. And you know what? I got on just fine. In fact, better than fine.

So, when the PC came back last week, I didn’t bother to renew my Adobe subscription.

I quit using Photoshop — for good — and I haven’t looked back.

And, no, I haven’t replaced it with GIMP, or any other comparable graphics package. I’ve practically quit designing custom graphics!

Yes, I’m still a professional web designer. In fact, I’m confident I’m a more effective web designer than I’ve ever been.

If you’re a web designer, I’m about to give you six powerful arguments why you should ditch Photoshop for good.

Aside from the obvious fact that the old way of designing websites (in Photoshop first, then hacked together in HTML/CSS) has been mostly replaced by high-quality platforms and themes, there are many other great reasons why you should seriously consider going Photoshop-free…

  1. It’s expensive.
  2. Most graphics today are assembled, not handcrafted.
  3. We have more free assets than we could ever need.
  4. Today’s tools deliver outstanding results quickly, easily, and for free.
  5. You have a support army.
  6. Going Photoshop-free helps you focus.

1. It’s expensive

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way. Photoshop is high-end software, and it’s not cheap.

Adobe will currently lease you the software for £8.57 per month (or $9.99 in the US) and that’s only if you sign up for a full year.


Sure, it’s a small price to pay, and far more affordable than it used to be, but if it’s for something you don’t need, it’s just another cost.

And, frankly my friend, you don’t need it. In fact, owning Photoshop — the most powerful and capable raster graphics software on the market — could actually cost you more than the ticket price.

Let me explain…

2. Most graphics today are assembled, not handcrafted

Infographics, Facebook posts, theme backgrounds, blog illustrations… most of the graphics that are produced today don’t need to be crafted in Photoshop from scratch.

I know this because I’ve just gone two months without it. You can too.

Think about it… If you use Photoshop today, how often do you use it to assemble and modify a bunch of existing assets: a background image, some text, maybe a few icons? And how often do you use it to do heavyweight edits?

Using Photoshop for graphics assembly is like buying a Ferrari to do the school run. Sure, it’ll work just dandy, but it’s far more power than you’re really using.

Now, a few years ago, there really weren’t many serious alternatives. But — as we’ll see — that’s all changed.

A few years ago, if you wanted a particular graphic, you’d be lucky if you could find the raw materials lying around (on Google Images), and that could mean hours tweaking pixels or splines in Photoshop, possibly following a tutorial.

From http://spyrestudios.com/32-photoshop-tutorials-creating-web-mobile-graphics/

But not today, because…

3. We have more free assets than we could ever need

Highly recommended – a great insight into the new economic models that the Internet is making possible!

We live in a new Free economy today (see Chris Anderson’s excellent book “Free” for a great analysis >>>).

And the web is just awash with free stuff!

  • Free graphics
  • Free stock photographs
  • Free tools
  • Free fonts
  • Free everything!

I won’t even try to start to list everything that’s out there, because there’s just too much, but here’s just one gorgeous — and totally FREE — image you can get off StockSnap.io.


If you’re honest with yourself, how often can you find the stuff you need with a quick search, and how often do you have to build it from scratch?

(And, you know, that’s really the key question.)

4. Today’s tools deliver outstanding results quickly, easily, and for free

Not only do you have all the Free raw materials you could ever need, but you also have tools that will let you do the assembly incredibly easily.

I’m a recent convert to Canva, and I’m just one of a huge number of fans.

Here’s an image that a blogger over at HubSpot made in ONE FREAKING MINUTE using Canva.


Here’s a quick overview of how easy it is to use Canva, and on a freaking iPad!!! (See more of Canva’s videos on YouTube.)

So now you don’t even need your super-duper Mac desktop! Sure, if you’re going to be “airbrushing” high-res photos of models to strip off three dress sizes, you’ll need the processing power and RAM, but today you don’t even need installed software. You can do this stuff in your browser!

If you find something you can’t assemble in Canva, you’ve always got Pixlr, which is like Photoshop version 3, but totally Flash-powered in your browser. Oh, and that’s free as well 🙂

Update: August 2015, Check out Visme!

New player in the online rapid graphic design toolkit is Visme. I just spent a few hours playing with it, and it’s very very good!

Currently, it supports presentations, banner ads, and infographics. The presentations, in particular, are excellent! Not just easy to edit, but packed with beautiful templates.

Visme presentation templates

Check out these stunning presentation templates from Visme

It’s important to understand the differences between Canva’s and Visme’s business models.

  • Canva provides some free stuff, then charges you $1 here and there to use “premium” components. (I find myself avoiding using the premium products, not because $1 is much money, but because it’s a hassle.)
  • Visme, on the other hand, has 3 levels of membership, essentially free, standard ($7/m) and complete ($16/m).

I’ve signed up for the Complete option, and that means I have full access to a massive library of icons, shapes, imagery, fonts, all the graphics resources I need.

For me, that means I’ll actually make use of them all! And $16/month is very affordable, comparable to Photoshop, but for most of us, I honestly think we need LESS graphics power, and MORE amazing pre-designed assets.

We need LESS graphics power, and MORE amazing pre-designed assets.

The logic is simple. It’s “DRY” (don’t repeat yourself). We don’t need truly original design style! We need good design style, and original content. That’s the key distinction.

Time spent balancing colours, finding just the right font, and hand-crafting complex layered vectors is time that should be spent on the content!

Yes, Photoshop gives you all that power, and there’s no denying how powerful it is. But you really don’t need it, unless you’re in the business of creating great graphic assets for Visme, Canva etc. That’s the way of the future, people.

5. You have a support army

Want to crank up the stuff-you-don’t-need-Photoshop-for-ometer to the next level?

How about not even doing it yourself?

Because you’ve got literally an army of freelancers out there who are ready, willing, and able to undertake practically any task you need doing.

For example, I recently got this logo designed on oDesk for $5. Could I have done better? Possibly… Could I have done better in $5 worth of time? Including six different variations, like I got? No fucking WAY!


By the way, the designer is my boy Subarna De in India, and you can hire him for $3.50 an hour!

No, that isn’t a typo. Three… Fifty!! (That’s just £2.36 in my money.)

Subarna De

6. Going Photoshop-free helps you focus

A few months ago, I needed to make a 3D version of my book cover.


I did a quick search for “free 3D book cover PSD”, downloaded a few, and in about 20 minutes I had this…

Web Design is Dead

Pretty cool, huh? I guess it is.

I used a free online asset. But I did it myself, and I didn’t need to do that.

Because Rav Singh will do it for $5, delivered inside 24 hours. Here’s his page on Fiverr.com.


Update 28th April, 2015: In fact, I did get someone (New tab) on Fiverr to do just that for my client’s latest book


So did I really need to fire up Photoshop? If I’m being honest, nope.

Let’s say that next week you need a graphic. You’ve now got multiple options, without pulling on your big boy graphic designer pants…

  • You could assemble it yourself, using free assets and a free online editor.
  • Or you could hire someone like Subarna to do it for you, while you put your feet up and plan your next campaign.

And that may be the most beautiful — and compelling — benefit of all!

Because when you’re packing Photoshop, there’s always that temptation isn’t there? The temptation to make something yourself. Why? Because you can.

And, when you assess the options, “because you can” is not a good enough reason.

The fact is, as I explain in “Web Design is Dead” (get it free here) hacking graphics in Photoshop is now a pretty low-end task, and if you’re going to survive in this new economy, you need to be moving up that food chain!

Go on, go Photoshop free!

If professional graphic design is genuinely part of your job, of course you need Photoshop.

But if you’re a web designer, you just don’t! Not any more!

If it’s a quick assembly job, go for it, assemble it — fast. If it’s a time-intensive job, call in the army!

Then you can use the time you save to work on what really matters for your client, your employer, or your website. Like working through the Circuit Questionnaire, and honing your market offering into something that people are going to love.

About the author



Leave a comment: