Monday, December 31st, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

PhotoLine 17.5: a serious alternative to Photoshop?

The documentation for $75 image-editing tool PhotoLine may be limited (this German-language video was one of the few we could find) – but fans claim that its toolset makes it an increasingly viable alternative to Photoshop.

Love it or loathe it, Photoshop is still the CG industry standard when it comes to 2D work. But the $699 price tag makes it a significant investment for freelancers, while some would prefer a smaller, more focused toolset.

A $75 tool with 32-bit linear workflow
One cheaper alternative that has kept popping up on forums this month is PhotoLine. It’s been around for a while – the current version is 17.5 – but hasn’t had a lot of exposure outside German-language sites.

The application has a standard range of bitmap and vector-editing tools, with a few interesting twists: layer opacity can be set from -200 to +200% and blending modes can be inverted, for example.

There’s even an option to adjust curves for virtual colour channels, or use the HSV color model for editing.

But what makes the latest release a more viable prospect for professional work is the newly added support for full 32-bit linear workflow, and for the OpenEXR file format.

The drawbacks
So is PhotoLine really a serious replacement for Photoshop? This thread on CGTalk summarises its strengths in production, but also its drawbacks – clunky UI, underwhelming website, little documentation.

(You can get a sense of just how true that last point is from the video at the top of this story: we couldn’t find a recent English-language tutorial – at least, not one we could embed.)

But with the new features in version 17.5 bringing PhotoLine to the attention of a wider professional audience, those may be limitations that developer Computerinsel is prompted to address in future releases.

And, at just €59 (around $75), PhotoLine is cheaper than many Photoshop plugins. Even if the latest release doesn’t convince you to switch, its fans would argue that this is an application worth keeping an eye on.

Visit the PhotoLine website

Read a full list of new features in PhotoLine 17.5

Download a 30-day trial version of PhotoLine 17.5
(Windows 2000+ or Mac OS X 10.5+)