• Adobe Photoshop will soon be free for anyone to use on the web
  • Users of the free version may graduate to the paid suite in the future.
  • Current Photoshop subscribers can already create documents and share them to the web version.

Closeup of someone working in Photoshop on the web on a laptop computer.

Adobe’s web version of Photoshop will soon be free for anyone to use. No need to pay a monthly subscription–just load it up and go.

The beta version of Photoshop on the web is currently rolling out and will be accessible via an Adobe login. Users can create documents in the browser and collaborate with others on any image. This makes it ideal for quick edits and creation, and because it runs on Adobe’s servers, you don’t need a powerful computer. But what’s in this for Adobe?

“Adobe’s marketing decision to provide a free browser version of their most popular product is the company’s way of ensuring that 90% of the world’s creative professionals continue to use Adobe Photoshop,” creative director Jessica Althaus told Lifewire via email.

“Adobe is well aware of Canva’s rise to success, which many businesses have shifted to because it has saved them effort/expense while also allowing them to create professional graphic designs without having to study the costly Adobe Photoshop.”

Catch Them Early

In the old days, before web and mobile apps existed, students and other young people would pirate Photoshop and use it without paying hundreds of dollars for the license. The thinking went that Adobe tolerated this because it hooked these users early, and when they became professionals, they'd use what they already knew, and either they or their employer would pay.

The tolerance part of that may or may not be true, but the effect certainly was. And by making Photoshop available to anyone for free, Adobe is sowing seeds among future professionals.

“The advantage of Adobe offering a free version of Photoshop is making it available more easily to schools and young professionals, particularly by opening it up to Chromebooks. People who were not able to access it before can now become proficient and gain an advantage in the workplace, and Adobe can gain a broader customer base. It’s a win-win,” Michael Ayjian, co-founder of 7 Wonders Cinema, told Lifewire via email.

Photo Competition

The other part of this is that Adobe is facing more competition than ever. Canva is an easy-to-use phone and iPad app that had 75 million monthly users at the end of last year. It’s the go-to place for folks who want to create a quick flyer, poster, or any other design piece for print or screen.

The basic version, with 5GB of cloud storage, costs nothing. Pro and enterprise subscriptions start at $10 per month for a yearly plan with added storage and features.

But the biggest features of Canva are its ease of use and its fame. If you start searching for an app to design something, you'll come across Canva pretty fast. And with millions of people opting for Canva, where does that leave Photoshop?

A screenshot from Adobe Photoshop on the web (beta).

Adobe Photoshop is still the most famous photo editing app. We even use its name as a verb, as in, "Those abs are so Photoshopped." But it's a professional tool, and perhaps few of us would even think of it when we're planning on making a quick edit to our pictures or even when we're planning that totally non-problematic office Christmas party prank of putting the boss' head onto some famous person's body.

By making Photoshop an easy-to-access web app, maybe Adobe is trying to regain lost ground at the entry-level? One might also point out that Photoshop for the web is also good for existing pro users to access their own saved images on the go, but that was already taken care of—the existing Photoshop for the web has allowed subscribers to do that since its launch. The change now is that anyone can create the document in the browser, rather than creating it in the app and sharing it to the web version.

Adobe seems to be keeping Photoshop relevant, partly by making it ubiquitous and by integrating it with its other apps. In the end, not much has really changed. For image-editing professionals, it's easier just to pay the Adobe subscription and forget about it. And Adobe's challenge is to keep attracting new, young users in the future.