When Does It Make Sense To Rent Photoshop?

When Does It Make Sense To Rent Photoshop?

As we noted earlier this morning, Adobe is now offering the option to rent its applications rather than paying full price for them. When does that make sense?

While Lifehacker is always keen to identify free solutions, we’re pretty big fans of Adobe’s design products around here, as was evident in our recent series on learning Photoshop. There’s a bunch of features found in Photoshop (and Creative Suite) which haven’t yet been widely replicated in its rivals, and the products represent pretty much an essential skill set if you want to work professionally in design.

That said, there’s no denying that you pay for the privilege. A brand-new copy of Photoshop CS5 will set you back $1168. If you want the full design premium edition of Creative Suite 5.5 (which includes Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and a bunch of other stuff), you’re looking at $3,175.

That’s what makes the rental option — announced this week and broadly available later this month — potentially appealing. If you’re between jobs, for instance, and get a freelance assignment, paying for a month-by-month subscription is a lot easier on the wallet than stumping up the total price up-front. For Photoshop CS5, the total price is $61.25 a month for a month-to-month subscription. (If you sign up for a year-long subscription, the rate drops to $43.75.) You can drop in and out of using the plan as you need, and you’ll get updates automatically.

If you really do just need Photoshop for a brief period, that’s going to be hard to beat. Even over longer periods, it works out a lot cheaper than buyer the software — but you need remember that the rental software will deactivate as soon as you stop paying, while the older version will largely keep working even if you don’t decide to pay for subsequent upgrades. To make the point clearer, here’s the cost of ownership for Photoshop broken down over various periods up to two-years:

The other thing to remember here is that once you’ve invested in the software, upgrades are generally cheaper. For instance, upgrading from the previous release of Photoshop to CS5 costs $337. If you rent for two years (which is the typical upgrade cycle), you’ll pay at least $1050. Over four years, buying the original version and paying for one upgrade will work out much cheaper than renting continuously. So it isn’t a sensible choice for heavy users, but it might make sense for more casual access.

Are you tempted by renting Photoshop or another Adobe product? Tell us your thinking in the comments.


  • Your spreadsheet incorrectly lists the outright price at $3168. Typo I assume against the $1168 buy price.

    Correct in stating that it takes 4 years of renting before you are behind in $ terms versus owning. But renting gives you the flexibility of adding packs on and off year to year at least.

    Even to a studio that is going to grab new versions every year. Renting Photoshop only costs $188 per year more thank boxed versions. Design Standard costs $137 per year more ($838 upgarde, $975 rental) as a rental which my back of the napkin calculation (based on a box price of $2172) says that’s 15 years of renting before you’re ahead of the boxed product.

      • Actually looking at it more, design standard only costs $502 to upgrade ($838 was from 4 to 5.5, $502 is 5.0 to 5.5), which is a difference of $473 per year which nets off to only 4 1/2 years instead of the 15 I thought.

        The 4 year payoff looks like its there for Design Premium too. Without checking them all, I’d guess that its 4 years across the board give or take.

        Still even for a studio, all it takes is one less employee (or one more) every 4 years to make renting generally cheaper. (Depending on your business setup & computer turnover etc)

  • The subscription option (which has been around for at least a year now)seems to be better IMO.

    It is worth noting that with each subscription (at a cost of $130pm whne you sign up for a year) allows acitavtion on two computers.

    The total yearly cost is $1560 which can be used by two people and you get acces to all the latest versions for free as long as you are subscribed.

    • I suspect that’s the old trial pricing (this was tested in Australia ahead of the global rollout). One computer for $43-odd a month is cheaper than $130 a month for two.

      • Ahh, my bad, I didn’t realise this was new.. just got an email from Adobe announcing the new system..

        The Good news is if I I don’t upgrade to CS 5.5 right away I get my current subscription FREE for the next 6 months! Hooray I get to save $700!

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