Adobe Creative Cloud

Tue 5/7/2013

Yesterday Adobe announced that its "Creative Suite" applications (which includes Photoshop) will now be transferred permanently into their Creative Cloud scheme. This means that you will no longer be able to buy Photoshop as a stand-alone product which you buy once, install and use. From now on you will have to subscribe to Photoshop "CC" which will then auto-update to the latest version of Photoshop.

For $50 a month you get access to every program that Adobe makes: Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, AfterEffects, Flash, Premiere, Acrobat, etc. etc. etc. For a single program, it costs $20 a month. There are no other options.

Now from Adobe's perspective, they probably think they are cutting us a deal. This will probably actually save money for their biggest customers (universities, large creative companies) . Let's say that each of those programs I listed above costs about $600 for one copy. So that's $5,000 of software - it's probably more than that because there are another dozen applications included, but I've never used or heard of half of them, so these are the big ones. And if you are a university and you have to replace $5,000 of software every couple of years, than suddenly $600 a year sounds pretty great.

But to pay almost half of that just to get one program is ridiculous. And it doesn't make sense to me that there aren't options for smaller bundles. The list above covers a wide range of disciplines from film to animation to art to design to computer science. I don't know anyone who uses all of those products. Most of us just need a few. For instance I primarily use Photoshop and InDesign. How about $5/month for one program, $20/month for three and $50 for everything?

When I started out as a cartoonist, I pirated copies of Photoshop and InDesign, as did all of my cartoonist friends and colleagues. I'm not proud of the fact, and I began buying legal versions of the software as soon as I could afford it, but in my mind there is a relationship between these products and the comics/illustration industry. By using this software on all of our projects - from illustrations for magazines, to color files for graphic novels, to our own printed minicomics - we help keep Adobe products as the "industry standard." Even when I couldn't afford the software, by using it, I helped reinforce their dominance in these industries. And sadly, it is that dominance that now gives them the confidence to pull a move like this and expect us all to tow the line.

But make no mistake. As cartoonists and illustrators we are hacking Photoshop. It is not designed for us. It is a massively huge, complex program, which is specifically designed for photo retouching. Does anyone else remember in Photoshop 6 (I think it was?) when they removed the Paint Bucket tool? They were like, "Well, this is an outdated tool that no one uses anymore. Besides you can make a selection, and then hit 'Fill' and accomplish the same thing." To me, this was a very telling moment. They had no idea that for a lot of us, the paint bucket tool is the main tool which we use in Photoshop! There was a massive outcry, and the tool was reincorporated, but for me the writing was now on the wall: we are not the intended users of this product.

I taught Photoshop with Jon Chad as part of the year-long Center for Cartoon Studies Publication Workshop class, and let me tell you: we cover everything you need to know to work as a professional cartoonist (scanning, retouching, adding tones/color, preparing files for print, for web) and we probably scratch less than 10% of what Photoshop can do. Every time Adobe lists the new features of the latest version of Photoshop, I read through the list and think "None of this stuff applies to me. Why should I pay for this new version?" I haven't seen an update since the original CS release that actually changes how I do anything in Photoshop.

So, what am I going to do? Well, ironically, part of me thinks I should shell out a bunch of money to buy hard copies of Photoshop/InDesign CS 6 (the last CS releases), with the hope that I can use those for the next four years (about how often I update these programs) and by that time, the dust will have settled and Adobe will have come up with a better pricing plan for their Creative Cloud subscription service.

Another idea is to just drop Photoshop all together. There are alternatives, such as GIMP (Graphics Image Manipulation Program, which is FREE) or programs such as MangaStudio which are actually designed with cartoonists in mind. Some of my students have made this jump, and they all speak very highly of Manga Studio. For only $80 it's tempting to give it a chance. I could have years of productive output, as opposed to four months of Photoshop use.

What do people think of all this? What are you all going to do next month when "Photoshop CC" hits the streets? Does anyone know of any more affordable alternatives to InDesign? Please let me know in the comments!

4 comments on this entry

I just got Manga Studio 5, so I'm still learning how to use it. I like that it's mostly for comics and it's not loaded with a whole mess of junk I'll never use.

There are some great tutorials for the program by Doug Hills on YouTube.

Arlene May07

I'm bummed about this news. There are definitely things that I think Photoshop does better than MangaStudio, like coloring and layer styles (unless I'm not using MangaStudio to the fullest?).

Have you heard that adobe are giving theyre whole cs2 bundle for free now? I just started using photoshop for my minicomics so dont know a whole lot about it, but if what you say is true- that tools for cartoonist havent changed much in the course of the CS then maybe that should suffice? before photoshop I used GIMP and it had everything I needed.

ronel May08

Thanks for the link to the tutorials, Arlene!

I used CS2 for years and years Ronel, and only updated because it is no longer supported on my current iMac (intel processor). But yeah man, if you have a computer that can run that, it'll do everything you need.

Alec May11

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