Is Photoshop Available for One Time Purchase? (Explained) (2023)

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(Last updated on May 25th, 2022)

How much money do you need to drop on Photoshop? Can you even get away with a one-time purchase for the application? In this article, you’ll find out the options available when it comes to acquiring one of the most powerful graphic design programs on the market.

Table Of Contents

  1. Overview of Photoshop CC
  2. Overview of Photoshop Elements
  3. Photoshop CS: The Old Payment Model
  4. Photoshop CC: The Subscription Model
  5. How Much Does Photoshop Cost?
  6. Photoshop Elements: The One-Time-Fee Alternative
  7. What’s The Difference Between Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements?
  8. Verdict
  9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Photoshop is a program that needs little to no introduction. It has become the jack-of-all-trades used in everything from photo edits to print development to animation asset assembly. From video editing to book publishing, most professions will end up using Photoshop (or Photoshop equal) at some point in the process.

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Here’s a brief overview of each version of Photoshop currently available to purchase.

Related: How to Download Adobe Photoshop for Free

Overview of Photoshop CC

Photoshop CC is the current version of Photoshop used by professionals. It exists on Adobe’s Creative Cloud platform and is sold as a service. The program costs a monthly fee of $20.99 or $9.99/monthly under the Photography Plan.

This version of the program has grown from previous versions to hold more features. In addition to its familiar aspects of photography and graphic design, the app is now capable of 3D and animation effects. There are also plenty of plugins to aid in better customizing the app for the best workflow.


  • The powerful tools of Photoshop CC make it an industry standard.
  • The program can be used for photography, digital illustrations, graphic design, layouts, and animation.
  • Plugins for various automations and brushes allow for the most customizable of graphics editors.


  • The monthly cost of $20.99 can become expensive over time.
  • There’s a steep learning curve for learning all the many functions of Photoshop CC.
  • The interface is not as intuitive for finding your way around the program.

Overview of Photoshop Elements

Photoshop Elements is considered the cheaper version of Photoshop with fewer features. While it doesn’t have some of the more advanced effects and tools, it can still perform most essential Photoshop functions. This includes removing backgrounds, changing colors, and even creating animations.

Elements has been targeted at consumers for the easier interface. It differs from Photoshop as it is better suited for novice users. It’s also incredibly cheap with a one-time fee.


  • The one-time cost of $99.99 is a cheap investment when compared to Photoshop CC’s monthly subscription model.
  • Easy to use program for beginners.
  • Offers much of the same features and effects as Photoshop.


  • Requires you to purchase the program again if you want to upgrade, albeit at a reduced price.
  • Major limitations for effects and filters that you can’t customize much.
  • No cloud support.

So how does one buy Photoshop to use in their professional work? The payment methods certainly have changed over the years, but you may be surprised at how many options are present. But, first, let’s take a look at the history of Photoshop’s pricing.

Photoshop CS: The Old Payment Model

Before the days of online subscription services, Photoshop could be purchased as a physical copy for a one-time price. You could own a Photoshop CD with a key to activate the program for a few hundred dollars. You could also purchase bundles under Adobe’s Creative Suite packages.

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There were a few problems with this method of payment. For starters, it was incredibly spendy for first-timers just starting off in the program. This led to the program being highly pirated with torrent files and keygen crackers to get around the steep prices.

The other problem with the one-time price was that it only gave you access to one version. You paid the price, got the CD and key, and that was it. If you lost the CD for any reason after installing it and wanted it on another system, you were basically out of luck if the previous version was retired.

The only benefit for keeping up to date with the software was that Adobe did offer reduced pricing on the next version in line. This discount, however, wasn’t for very much and you’d still end up spending hundreds of dollars to stay updated with Photoshop.

Of course, the appeal for this classic method is that you could get the most with your money if you only relied on one version. Many artists would do just that, holding out with the first version they purchased for about as long as they could maintain their computers.

Adobe has discontinued this structure and no longer sells previous versions of Photoshop under the Creative Suite physical release model. You may be able to find some old copies somewhere online with developers willing to sell. That’s a hunt you’ll have to take to eBay or swap meets.

Photoshop CC: The Subscription Model

Adobe migrated all their programs into the cloud environment, retitling from Creative Suite into Creative Cloud. Better known as CC, all Adobe applications can now be downloaded directly from Adobe under their new model for constantly keeping their software updated.

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While there are a few exceptions, the Creative Cloud platform also operates on a subscription payment basis. Either through a yearly or monthly cost, users can not only gain access to Photoshop but must have access to the latest version for as long as their subscription lasts.

Photoshop CSPhotoshop CC
Purchased AsPhysical Copy on CDDigitally Downloaded from Adobe
Activates WithCD KeyCreative Cloud Installation Software

How Much Does Photoshop Cost?

Photoshop costs $20.99 per month as a standalone app. You can also get Photoshop for $9.99 per month under the Photography plan, which also includes Lightroom and Lightroom Classic. You can get access to all the Adobe apps for $52.99 per month under the Creative Cloud plan.

LightroomPhotography PlanCreative Cloud Plan
Discounted PriceCheck hereCheck hereCheck here

Under the Creative Cloud plan, you’ll have access to everything in the Adobe catalog, including Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign, After Effects, and Illustrator.

The subscription model has been quite controversial in treating Photoshop more like software as a service. Despite seeming so small a fee compared to the investments prior, paying monthly for Photoshop can add up depending on the work you’re pursuing.

Photoshop Elements: The One-Time-Fee Alternative

If you’re seeking a more economical approach as the goal for a one-time payment, there is an alternative you can seek out. You don’t even have to go hunting on eBay to find it. Consider looking into Adobe Photoshop Elements as the cheaper option, considering it only costs a one-time fee of $69.99.

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Like Adobe Premiere Elements’ assembly, Photoshop Elements has been pitched as a consumer version of the software. This means that the interface has been simplified, and a lot of the features have been refined for the more straightforward tasks of the application.

Framing Elements as the consumer-friendly version of Photoshop may make it sound like it’s a more restricted version of the program. The truth is that the application is rather powerful in how it embodies many essential functions that rise above other consumer photo-editing programs.

Photoshop Elements can pull off a lot of complex features of easy background removal and facial adjustments. Photos can be given life with motion added to create the illusion of movement. Faces can be adjusted slightly to make it appear that everyone is looking in the same direction.

For those seeking to restore old photos, Elements has built-in filters for adding color to black-and-white images with solid results. Photos with washed-out colors can be made brighter and bolder with editing tools for everything from altering the sky’s hue to whitening up teeth.

Photoshop CCPhotoshop Elements
Skill LevelExpertNovice
Best Suited ForIndustry-level photo editing, digital illustrations, professional graphic design, animationEditing family photos, making slideshows, fixing portraits.

What’s The Difference Between Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements?

Of course, the big question that many will have is what Photoshop Elements cannot do. The bulk of Elements’ limitations is that it’s not as well suited for anything that isn’t photo-related. So if you’re seeking to use Photoshop within the realms of book production or animation, this may not be the app for you.

The other important thing that should be mentioned about Photoshop Elements is how greatly it differs from Photoshop CC in terms of the interface. Unlike Photoshop CC, Elements tucks simplify so much of the look of the workspace that it’s almost unrecognizable from its industry-standard counterpart.

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Photoshop Elements is your best bet for buying Photoshop at a one-time price. It’s not as feature-heavy and is thus more of an economical choice. For strictly photographer purposes, however, it is an application that is more than capable of getting the job done of photo adjustments.

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If you know you’re going to be using the program for far more than just making photo edits, then you have two options. You either go with Adobe’s subscription plan for Photoshop CC or venture online to track down a classic copy of Photoshop CS, with CS6 being the last physical version before Adobe’s products were strictly cloud-based.

If you’re seeking a comparison in the pricing of the Elements versus CC, the math adds to Elements being the better value. Given how much Photoshop CC costs a month, Photoshop Elements will only cost you about the same as it would cost using CC for four months.

So if you know that Photoshop will be a program that’ll mostly be for your photography career, you can save quite a bit of money if you intend to use Photoshop Elements for more than a year.

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Is Photoshop Available for One Time Purchase? (Explained) (7)

Adobe Photoshop

The world’s most powerful image editing and graphic design software.


Is Photoshop Available for One Time Purchase? (Explained) (8)

Photoshop Elements

A simpler version of Photoshop CC. Great for beginners and photo hobbyists

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the Photoshop app free?

Photoshop requires either a monthly/annual subscription fee or a one-time purchase fee, depending on the version you buy. Photoshop CC can be used for $20.99/monthly and Photoshop Elements will cost you $99.99. You can download Photoshop CC for free as a trial version but will have to pay for it after seven days.

How much does it cost for Photoshop?

Photoshop CC costs a monthly fee of $20.99 to use the application on the Adobe Creative Cloud. You can save some money if you buy it under the Photography Plan at $9.99/monthly, which includes Lightroom and Lightroom Classic as well.

What is a free version of Photoshop?

One of Photoshop’s competitors has been GIMP, also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The program is open-sourced and free, meaning you can use it professionally without paying a dime. There are also a number of free browser-based apps to use for photo editing and graphic design, such as Canva.

How can I buy Photoshop without a subscription?

The only way to buy Photoshop without a subscription is to purchase Photoshop Elements. This consumer-grade version of the software only costs you an upfront cost of $99.99 and that version of the program is yours for life. You will have to pay in the future if you wish to upgrade the software but there’s no monthly subscription required to keep using that particular version of Elements.

Is Photoshop Elements the same as Photoshop?

Photoshop Elements differs from Photoshop CC in a few ways. The most apparent is the cost, where Elements doesn’t require a monthly subscription fee the way Photoshop CC does. Elements is easier to use but also has less features that it’s best recommended for beginners instead of professionals.

Is Adobe Photoshop Elements free?

Photoshop Elements can be downloaded for free in a trial version. You can use the program and all its features for a week without paying. When that week ends, you’ll have to pay the one-time fee of $99.99.

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Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has been working as a video editor and content writer for over ten years. His background started in animation and video editing before shifting into the realm of web development. He also branched out into content writing for various online publications. Mark is an expert in video editing, content writing, and 2D/3D animation.


Can you get Photoshop with a one time purchase? ›

If you want to be able to perform random edits to photos in the future without paying for a subscription or re-subscribing every time you want to edit photos, you'll need to buy a standalone version of Photoshop. With Photoshop Elements, you pay once and own it forever.

Can you buy just one month of Photoshop? ›

Yes, you can get Photoshop for a single month (or multiple months) rather than a full year – you would choose the Photoshop single-app plan for a Monthly term, rather than for an Annual term. Billing is month-to-month, and you can cancel at any time without a fee.

Can you buy Photoshop or is it only subscription? ›

Can I buy Photoshop outright? No. Photoshop is available only through a Creative Cloud subscription that you pay for either monthly or annually. You can subscribe to Photoshop alone or choose a plan with multlple apps.

How can I use Photoshop without paying? ›

Right now, the top way to use Photoshop while paying nothing is to sign up for the free trial and then cancel before that trial ends (usually seven days). Adobe offers a free seven-day trial of the latest Photoshop version, which you can start whenever you want.

How can I get Photoshop for free forever? ›

Is there any way to get Photoshop free forever instead of just for the trial? There isn't a way to legally get it free forever without the trial. Eventually you'll need to pay. The only alternative is to enrol in an educational institution and use their license during your study years.

Is Photoshop worth buying? ›

Yes, Photoshop is worth it if you are a professional graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer and you earn enough from your work to afford the subscription. Photoshop is irreplaceable if you do a lot of collaboration, file-sharing, and cross-program editing, being the industry-standard software.

How much does Photoshop cost for 1 month? ›

How much does Photoshop cost? There are multiple Adobe Photoshop plans to choose from. You can get an annual plan that's either billed monthly at US$20.99/mo or billed upfront at US$239.88/yr, or you can get a Creative Cloud All Apps or Photography plan that comes with Photoshop plus additional apps.

Is Photoshop free for students? ›

Is Adobe Creative Cloud free for college students? No, Adobe Creative Cloud is not free for college students — but we do offer a seven-day free trial. It provides free access to over 20 apps, including Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat, Illustrator, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro, plus 100GB of cloud storage.

Is Photoshop free for PC? ›

Is there a free version of Photoshop? Yes, you can download a 7-day free trial of Photoshop. The free trial is the official, full version of the app — it includes all the features and updates in the latest version of Photoshop.

How can I get Photoshop 2020 for free? ›

Simply download Photoshop from the Creative Cloud website and install it on your desktop.
  1. Go to the Creative Cloud website, and click Download. If prompted, sign in to your Creative Cloud account. ...
  2. Double-click the downloaded file to begin installation.
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation.
Jun 11, 2020

Can you cancel Photoshop after free trial? ›

You can cancel your subscription anytime via your Adobe Account page or by contacting Customer Support. If you cancel during your trial period, you will not be charged. If you cancel within 14 days of the start of your paid subscription, you'll be fully refunded.

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