ACDSee Gemstone 12 Editor Is an Affordable Adobe Alternative, but Does It Work for You?

When I started photography, one of the hardest things for me was choosing which editing software to use. Indeed, many photographers are faced with the same problem on a daily basis. Beyond the classic choices, there is arguably a much better software you can choose: ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12. It combines the features of several Adobe products into one affordable and intuitive software.

Finding software that both offers lots of features and is easy to learn and navigate can be difficult. Although I have my own preferences when it comes to editing software, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a beginner photographer. Instead, I will lean towards software aimed at beginner photographers, while having the ability to develop and grow with the challenges these photographers will encounter as they progress through their careers. On start-up, the raw editor is more than sufficient to perform most basic adjustments, while after a while more complex tools such as layers and local adjustments will be needed. Software that can do both, be cheap and intuitive to use, probably won’t be Lightroom or Photoshop. Lightroom still lacks layers functionality, while Photoshop is not designed for batch editing. At the same time, both are subscription-based, with no option to purchase a one-time license. If you want to use software that combines the functionality of Lightroom and Photoshop, while being considerably less expensive, check out ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12.

Raw Edition

ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12’s raw editor deserves a separate article because there’s a lot to unpack. In summary, there are dozens of tools to use, from the most basic adjustments, such as exposure and contract, to sophisticated curves and selective color tools. ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 supports over 600 different raw formats. There are similar tools to Adobe Camera Raw which means you won’t miss a thing, but what makes it better than Adobe are the extras you get on top of the RAW processing capabilities. They will be unboxed later in the room. In the RAW editor, you get everything from local adjustments to lens corrections and even clone tools. Here is an image I edited using ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12:


Let’s move on to the features that I think make ACDSee Gemstone 12 better than Adobe. The first is layers. One of the things that blew my mind on becoming a photographer was the ability to use layers. Whenever I coach photographers, they are usually unfamiliar with layers and find it amazing that parts of the image can be changed. Layers go way beyond that. In ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12, you can use layers to manipulate your photos so they look the way you want. The best thing is that the capabilities extend beyond what Adobe or Capture One can offer. You basically have the layering capability of Photoshop mixed in with the raw processing of Lightroom and Capture One.

The software is designed in a way to encourage the use of layers. This is particularly interesting for non-destructive editing of photographs. Indeed, the whole concept of non-destructiveness is at the heart of ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12. Layers are what makes ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 so great, at least in my opinion. Let’s talk about the features of layers.

The reason I left Lightroom a while ago was that I didn’t like the lack of layers. What they allow me to do is make local adjustments to various parts of the photograph, add healing layers, etc. Layers are a necessity no matter what genre you do. In Capture One, I use layers for everything from gradient masks to custom selections, to healing and adding color layers on top of each other. It’s fair to say that layers are an integral part of the workflow. When I switch to Photoshop, I continue to use layers, but this time I take advantage of the blending options available in layers. ACDSee blends, pardon the pun, the layering capabilities of Capture One as well as Photoshop, making it a very capable piece of software.

Blending options let you change how layers interact with each other. This is very useful for making color adjustments and blending multiple photos together. Blending Modes are an advanced color grading tool that I use to create truly unique notes on my images. Below is an image I edited using basic curves and level adjustments, but mixed in the blending modes I used. This is a re-edit of an image I posted previously. Looking back, I prefer this one. Above all, there is no editing.

AI-based selection tools

Selecting subjects and then editing them manually can be a nightmare, which is why ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 has added its AI-enabled selection tools. Their quick actions provide AI-powered automated tasks. They automatically select the subject or the background. This is done using tools such as Remove Background, Select Subject, Blur Background, and Black and White Background. Most of the time, these tools provide an excellent result and can isolate the subject in certain rather difficult situations.

Skin setting

Retouching is by far the most intimidating part of photography. Having an AI-powered quick editing tool that will take care of retouching the skin is fantastic. The Gemstone Editor has a Skin Tune Tool which provides access to easy to understand tools that modify the skin. If used correctly, it can give great results in no time. Although Capture One has a skin editing tool, it’s not as advanced with layer capabilities. At the same time, Photoshop is far too complex when it comes to skin retouching. Also, they don’t have a quick skin retouching tool that does a good job. Here’s a before/after of a portrait I edited using ACDSee’s skin retouch tool.

Multi-document interface

If you’ve used Photoshop before, this isn’t new to you. ACDSee Gemstone 12’s multi-document interface allowed me to work on multiple images, which is especially useful when trying to compose a few shots together. Another thing the multi-document interface has allowed me to do is take a mental break from one image while switching to a new one.

Ease of use

The best thing I found about ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 is that it’s designed to be easy to use. I remember when I downloaded my first editing software. The number of controls blew me away. To be completely honest with you, I haven’t learned them all yet and have asked my retoucher for help a lot. ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 is designed to be intuitive and simple to use. It’s ideal for people who are just starting to take photos and just want easy-to-use software with the potential to be used at a very high level similar to Photoshop. ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12’s graphical interface is similar to Photoshop, with tools on the left, image tabs on the top, and layers and other adjustments on the right, at the same time it has features that newbies will find Photoshop useful and lacking features. Overall, these features make ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 beginner-friendly software, unlike some more complex Adobe products.


Let’s talk money for a moment. Unlike other editing software, ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 comes at an affordable price. What’s better is that ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 is a one-time purchase, which means there is no monthly subscription like with Adobe. If you buy ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 once, you can keep it forever and get updates for free. When a new version is released, you can choose to purchase it using the special upgrade price or just continue using the old version if you wish. Either way, you can get your copy of ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 for $79.99. If you don’t like it, you can tell the team behind ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12, and they’ll refund you 100% of the price.

Last word

I understand that ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 was not your first choice for editing software. To be honest, I wish I had known that when I started because it would have been a much better choice. Just think about it: you get a full raw processor, on top of which you have a full arsenal of layers and AI-powered tools, the icing on the cake being a very affordable price. ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12 is a pretty good product on the market, so I strongly suggest you give it a try and see how you can integrate it into your photography workflow. It combines Adobe products into a very viable alternative to them. And remember, use layers because they are one of the best things about ACDSee Gemstone Photo Editor 12.

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