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If Photoshop is overkill, this free new Adobe graphics tool is for you

Creative Cloud Express targets hundreds of millions of social media users and business owners who don’t need (or can’t afford) full-blown Creative Cloud.

If Photoshop is overkill, this free new Adobe graphics tool is for you
[Image: courtesy of Adobe]

Adobe has long dominated the market for professional graphics tools: Photoshop for editing images, Illustrator for drawing things like line art and logos, InDesign for laying out printed content, and the rest of its Creative Cloud suite of software for other tasks.

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But while these programs can be remarkably powerful, they also can be intimidating to novice users who are simply looking to touch up a photo for the web, create a nice-looking image of text to share on social media, or make a flyer for an event. Those potential users can be torn between taking the time to study how Adobe’s software works, using lesser-known or more specialized apps including a wide range of mobile-editing software, or hiring a designer to create images for their small businesses or hobbies. And most of them probably aren’t eager to pay the price for a Creative Cloud subscription—up to $53 a month if you want the full suite.

[Image: courtesy of Adobe]
To try to reach that market, Adobe is launching a new product it calls Creative Cloud Express, available in a browser-based version and as native apps for iOS, iPadOS, Android, and Windows. It includes plenty of present templates, fonts, and stock images to let people quickly create nice-looking content for their small businesses, personal social media, or any other purpose without needing to hire or become experts in design, says Scott Belsky, an executive vice president at Adobe and the chief product officer for Creative Cloud.

“This is the age where people take creative expression into their own hands,” he says.

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Creative Cloud Express will make it easy for people to work with existing templates rather than simply starting with a blank page. And Adobe has done work to make powerful but intimidating features of its existing software, like managing layers and removing backgrounds in Photoshop, easier to use with just a few clicks required, Belsky says. The company encouraged designers to come up with a new “design language” for the features targeting a broader audience, rather than professionals who are used to existing methods, and watched users as they tried out early versions of the software, he says.

[Image: courtesy of Adobe]
The product will be available in free and paid versions, with paying users able to access more features and additional media, such as stock images and templates. The paid version will cost $10 per month, much cheaper than most versions of Creative Cloud. Existing Creative Cloud customers will also get access to Creative Cloud Express, and Belsky anticipates some will appreciate its simplicity.

“We actually do think, if you’re a video editor, for example, and you want to take a copy of the video you made and put it on YouTube, and you need a thumbnail,” Belsky says, “you might want to use a template from Creative Cloud Express to do that.”

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Belsky, who says he hopes to see hundreds of millions of people, if not more than a billion ultimately, use the new product, predicts that some users will start using Creative Cloud Express, then upgrade to the full Creative Cloud suite as they become interested in doing more sophisticated work.

“We want to really embrace the top of the funnel, and invite people to be creative, even for free,” he says. “There will always be a percentage of people that want to take it further.”

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About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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