Just Buy Photo Editing Software Already

Don’t try to get away with free programs you find online. It’s better to spend time and money learning to use the industry standard.

I “live” in Photoshop all day long, but I often hear from customers, especially newbies, that they haven’t invested in photo-editing software, or they purchased it and don’t know how to use it. I hear this almost daily.

There are a many opinions about whether you need a photo-editing program like Photoshop, but typically those who say you don’t are people trying to sell you plugins for other programs.

For shops whose everyday bread and butter is simple, one-color jobs, you don’t need photo-editing software. Or, if you do a lot of hard-edge, vector graphics, you don’t need it. But the minute you get a low-quality JPG image, a photograph or anything more complex, then you need the software. And, if you want to build a full-color image with a variety of graphics from the web, Photoshop is the program of choice. You simply bring images onto a “layer” and start creating (as pictured). It’s much easier than you think.

Members of decorator Facebook groups sometimes suggest free photo-editing programs. But it’s better just to make the investment in higher-quality image software and learn how to use it by taking online courses or watching YouTube videos. The learning curve for the program is not as bad as you think it will be, since you’ll be using about 10% of its capabilities 90% of the time.

In my world of doing color separations every day, more than half of what I get are Photoshop files. I also get messages from customers who say, “My customer gave me this, but I can’t open it.” Or, when I send the color separations back, they say, “I can’t open your seps – I don’t have Photoshop.”

Other than the learning curve, the issue many decorators have is the idea of a “software as a service” model, which many developers are switching to. Instead of purchasing the software outright, you pay a monthly fee for access to a program and all of its upgrades. In the case of Photoshop, the fee gets you access to 20 other Adobe programs, plus lets you use the software on two computers. I don’t see the downside. When Adobe came out with the latest version of its Creative Cloud in October, I was able to download it and have it running in 20 minutes. The upgrade was free and there were a lot of new features and goodies.

If you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars for a new printing press, $50 a month for industry-standard software should be a no-brainer.

Over the years, I’ve heard thousands of variations of the comment: “Thanks for forcing me to learn Photoshop.” You’re welcome.


Scott Fresener has been in the industry since 1970 and is the co-author of How To Print T-shirts For Fun And Profit. He created two automated separation programs, T-Seps and FastFilms, and is considered a pioneer in the direct-to-garment printing segment. Fresener is the director of T-Biz Network and is a popular speaker at trade shows. Fresener is also past Chairman of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology and was on the Board of Directors of SGIA. He runs the website www.T-BizNetwork.com. Reach him at scott@tbiznetwork.com.