Photoshop Tutorial: Buying Photoshop

While this is technically not a tutorial, it’s a considerably important matter that every would-be graphic designer must face. Adobe Photoshop is a “very” expensive program, and rightly so, considering its nearly boundless abilities and its status as the undisputed industry standard in image manipulation software.

The average price for Photoshop is about $600 — which is obviously far out of the reach of most “budding artists” — this struggle often results in these people resorting to illegal copies of software. This is obviously not the right way to go about it, so here we will suggest several legal ways of acquiring Adobe Photoshop at greatly reduced cost which you may not be aware of.

Why should I care?

You might be asking something to the effect of, “Why should I care? Why should I buy Photoshop when I can easily download it for free from a million places on the Internet or get it from my friend… sure it’s illegal, but EVERYONE does it right?”

It’s true that a lot of people resort to illegal software instead of paying for software. Unlike stealing the boxed copy from the local computer store, it doesn’t seem all that wrong to download that same software and use it. I’m not going to give you a reason like “companies lose $X billion dollars a year due to software piracy” because that’s not necessarily true in all cases, nor will it be likely to help change your mind — what IS true though is that stealing is just wrong. If designing graphics is something you are truly and sincerely interested in, then shouldn’t you be willing to invest the necessary funds in that? If you made model airplanes for your hobby or job, you wouldn’t think twice about paying for paint, glue, plastic parts… those are the necessary tools that allow you to enjoy your hobby… Photoshop is your tool — just because this tool is “downloadable” doesn’t make it any different than the tools you must buy for any other hobby. In the end the decision is up to you. If you use an illegal copy of Photoshop now, consider beginning to save up to buy a legal copy soon. Hopefully the cost-cutting suggestions below will help make that a more “reasonable” request.

While it definitely should not be your main reason to refrain from stealing software, another important consideration is the safety and stability of your computer. One of the easiest ways to get your computer infected with viruses is by installing illegal software. It’s even possible for your computer to be completely taken over in this way. After all, you’re installing software which has been modified by “crackers” who in all likelihood do “not” have your best interests in mind. If you are a professional graphic designer and earn a living with your design work, then the stability and security of your computer is mission-critical to your business. Installing illegal software is playing with fire, and you may well get burned at the worst possible moment.

Educational/Academic Discounts

If you’re a student in high school or college, or a teacher/faculty member, you probably qualify to buy software from what is known as Educational/Academic Software Retailers. Contrary to popular belief, almost all software sold by such companies have full retail version licenses, and are absolutely no different then what you might buy at your local computer store (policies may vary though — be certain to make sure before you buy). You will have to prove to the educational software retailer that you are a valid student/teacher - the usual way is by sending in a photocopy of your current student/faculty ID card, a dated copy of your current class schedule, or a letter from your school. If you choose to buy from an educational software retailer, you can expect to pay as low as about $180 for Photoshop, which is a substantial savings.

You might also consider opting for the whole “Creative Suite”, which includes additional programs such as Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, and Acrobat, which can be purchased for around $300 and up (depending on the package you select). Deals are also often available for combined software packages and educational materials such as books and videos.

Also, be sure to check with your own school’s bookstore, as they may have even better pricing. For instance, California State University Fullerton offers students a “personal use only” full Adobe CS5 Master Collection for only $90 (which is jaw-dropping compared to the MSRP of $2,599 for the same package).

Several online academic stores to investigate:

You can locate other such services by searching for academic software on your favorite search engine, such as Google.

Ask for Photoshop as a gift

When it comes time to decide what you’d like for your birthday, Christmas, etc, put Photoshop at the top of your list. For some families (including my own), gifts this expensive are uncommon — however many families are happy to pool together to get a single larger gift.

If your design work is mainly for your church or a non-profit organization, ask them if they’d be willing or able to buy a copy for you. Alternately, you could propose a fund-raiser, bake sale, donation box, or some other way of raising money so that the church/organization can help you attain your goal. Consider explaining the situation to them and that it’s your desire to use legal software in your work for them (in all likelihood they will agree, and may even be strongly against the use of illegal software in any work done for them).

Online Auctions

Another good option you have is to buy Photoshop through online auctions, such as those at eBay. While this method is a bit riskier, it may be the best option if you need the absolute lowest price, or if you don’t qualify for educational discounts. On eBay, you might be able to find a recent version of Photoshop (full retail, unregistered, no box/manual) for as low as $150 — typically the cost is more around $200-$250, but keep a close eye and you may find a great deal. If you are willing to sacrifice various benefits, such as the ability to register for tech support (e.g. if the seller already registered the program themselves), then you may be able to find even better deals.

Auction sites to look at:

Before-you-Buy Tips:

  • Make sure you are buying the full version of the program, not an upgrade CD.
  • Buy from trusted sources only — you could unwittingly be sold a “fake” copy.
  • Check to be sure that you are receiving a “full retail” version, that does not impose any restrictions on how you can use the software (most of the time educational copies have a full retail license, but you should check to be sure). For instance, the above-mentioned $90 CS5 license for CSUF students is for personal use only, and only while you remain a student.
  • There are both PC and Mac versions, and you need to be sure you get the version appropriate for your computer.
  • If possible, make sure the CD comes factory-sealed in plastic, though it doesn’t matter if it comes with a box or not — if it’s not sealed, the seller could have copied or installed it for themselves which, if they register it, could cause problems for you).
  • Be suspicious if you find a deal that seems too good to be true (i.e. “Buy Adobe Photoshop for only $9.99!!!”) because most of the time it “is” too good to be true. One case where it “might” cost significantly less than usual is if it has already been registered — you should ask the seller the reason for the strangely low price before risking it.
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