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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Adobe Dumps Creative Suite in Favor of Creative Cloud

Very soon Adobe will stop selling packaged software for a one-time fee. Going forward, designers will need to subscribe to (or “rent”) the software, paying approximately $20.00 to $50.00 per month for various levels of service ranging from access to one Adobe software package to access to all key Adobe applications.

Calling this Adobe Creative Cloud may be somewhat confusing for some. The applications don’t actually reside online, nor are they accessed through a browser. You download the applications and then use them on your desktop. In addition to paying for the annual fee up front ($49.99 x 12 months, for instance), you must verify your subscription online (once a month if you’re subscribing month to month or once every 99 days if you’re subscribing annually).

To be fair, there are true cloud-based elements within this “software as a service” (SaaS) model, which in itself is not new (consider Salesforce, for instance). When you subscribe to Creative Cloud, you get 20GB of online storage, which is a boon for sharing files or collaborating. Other online services are available as well.

“Pros” of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Model

  1. The best thing about Creative Cloud is that you get access to all major Adobe products for custom printing and web-based design. If you were to buy the Creative Suite 6 Master Collection as boxed software, you would pay about $2,600.00 (according to Adobe’s website, unless you’re a teacher or student, in which case you’d pay considerably less). The software package contains Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Premiere Pro, After Effects, etc. Let’s compare this to Creative Cloud. In two years you would pay about $1,200.00 (assuming a $49.99 monthly Creative Cloud fee). Assuming you had bought the packaged software and used it without upgrading for two years (the usual cycle for packaged software), you would have paid $1,400.00 more for boxed software than for the Creative Cloud subscription. (If you need a lot of variety in your custom printing and web design software, you can save a lot of money by subscribing to Creative Cloud.)
  2. You would also get continuous updates to download and install on your computer. Whenever anything is fixed or expanded, you would get a copy. If you had purchased boxed software, the updates alone would have added significantly to your overall cost.
  3. You would get the 20GB online storage and file sharing service.
  4. You could reduce the monthly fee (or annually-paid fee, to be precise) in a number of ways. For instance, if you already have a Creative Suite license (CS3 or above), your monthly cost would be only $29.99. Then there are student/teacher versions at a 60 percent savings. Or you could subscribe to one application for $19.99 a month. (To put this in perspective, I paid $1,200.00 for the boxed set of Creative Suite Design Standard. The suite only includes InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat for custom printing design work. I’ve had the package for 2.5 years. Amortized, that’s $40.00 a month for less software than you would get through Creative Cloud.)
  5. You get more than 30 tools and services, including Muse (for websites) and Typekit fonts. Keep in mind that when you buy packaged software and then buy fonts separately, the extra cost for fonts can quickly add up.

“Cons” of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Model

  1. You don’t have a choice in the matter. Adobe is changing it’s business model to a subscription-only service in June 2013 (next month). If you want to play, you have to pay. Many users don’t like being forced to change from boxed software to software-as-a-service (or subscription-based software).
  2. Some users are concerned that Adobe will raise prices over time.
  3. If you use only one application and you hold onto it for years, then moving to Creative Cloud will increase your overall cost.

Alternatives to Creative Cloud

If you don’t like Adobe’s new business model, there are alternatives. In order to make this worthwhile financially, these alternatives would be aimed primarily at those who need minimal page layout, illustration, and image-editing capabilities for light design work for commercial printing. (For heavy-duty design work, I still think Creative Cloud is very reasonably priced.)

Here are a few options:

  1. You can buy other design software. For instance, my online search yielded several Photoshop alternatives, including the open-source GIMP, which is free, and Paintshop Pro. There are others. I know they are not as comprehensive as Photoshop, but how many of Photoshop’s capabilities do you really use? Check online for more options. (I’m not sure you’d be as successful finding replacements for Illustrator and InDesign, though.)
  2. You could buy older design software. Check out eBay. I’m sure there are other sources as well. I personally use CreativeSuite 5 even though CreativeSuite 6 is out there. For me, CS5 does exactly what I need it to do. You can still buy it, and it’s cheaper than CS6 because CS5 is no longer state of the art. Even after Adobe’s shift to the subscription-only Creative Cloud, there will still be some old boxed sets available if you know where to look.
  3. You can assume that over time other software developers will fill the void. For instance, Adobe’s new pricing model might motivate Quark to expand its offerings. Or maybe a new software package entirely will make its debut.

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