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Adobe Creative Cloud review for small businesses

Discover some of the best features of Adobe Creative Cloud.

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When it comes to creating slick logos, graphics, flyers, brochures, websites and videos, 15 million professional designers and businesses already use Adobe software. Here's a review of the Creative Cloud suite of apps.

What is Adobe Creative Cloud?

Adobe Creative Cloud is a suite of over twenty desktop and mobile-based apps for Windows, Mac and mobile devices, all designed to cater to the specific needs of different creative professionals. For example, included is the now-famous Adobe Photoshop, a program created to manipulate, edit and tweak photos. It's become so well known, people use the word "photoshop" as a verb to describe the generic editing of images. "Oh, that picture of that celebrity was definitely photoshopped." The app is also used by visual-effects artists and photographers as well as by web designers to prototype websites and create graphics.

Creative Cloud, as its name suggest, is a cloud-based subscription service. You pay monthly or annually and purchase either the entire software collection or just the specific apps you need.

How much is Creative Cloud?

A personal subscription to Creative Cloud, which bags you over 20 creative desktop and mobile apps, costs $76.99 when paid monthly as part of an annual agreement, $871.07 a year paid in full or $114.99 on a month-by-month basis.

Businesses pay $116 per month for each Creative Cloud membership or $48.99 per single app licence. You'll also get Microsoft Teams integration, collaborative video editing abilities, the option to reassign licences, a web-based admin console, centralised deployment, volume discounts on over ten licences, consolidated billing, purchase orders, 24/7 tech support, 1:1 sessions with design experts, onboarding assistance, shared Adobe Stock plans and the ability to post jobs on Adobe Talent for free.

A Creative Cloud subscription will get you the following apps:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Adobe XD
  • Lightroom
  • Acrobat Pro
  • Animate
  • Dreamweaver
  • Premiere Pro
  • Premiere Rush
  • After Effects
  • Dimension
  • Audition
  • InCopy
  • Lightroom Classic
  • Media Encoder
  • Character Animator
  • Prelude
  • Fuse
  • Bridge
  • Adobe Portfolio
  • Adobe Fonts
  • Adobe Spark

Plus, access to all the latest features and updates as well as 100GB of cloud storage. The cloud storage feature makes switching between workstations easy, like when taking a sketch from your iPad to a desktop.

Adobe creative software features and review

The following applications make up the Adobe Creative Cloud service. Prices are inclusive of GST.

Adobe Photoshop - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor, first launched in 1988 by brothers Thomas and John Knoll. Through the years, the program transitioned from CD-based software to something you download via the Creative Cloud app. In Photoshop, you can change everything about a photograph or graphic. There are features that adjust the colours, levels, saturation, exposure, brightness, contrast and more. Photoshop also has tools that enable you to isolate portions of images to work on or manipulate using the Lasso tool or polygonal lasso tool. There's a clone brush for replicating another area of the file (useful for making repairs to or hiding unwanted elements of a photo), the option to add text and shapes and so much more. There are many non-destructive editing tools, like layers and vector masks, that allow you to go back in later and edit your image. Smart adjustment layers preserve your original photo or composition, but allow you to quickly add several dozen filters like blurs or pixilation. You can build up these filters and all layers have blending options that change the way they interact with layers above and below them. Photoshop is also able to create limited animations and 3D effects. It'll also work with RAW file photographs from high-end cameras, giving you the ultimate control over camera settings.

Photoshop can save images out to almost any format, including PSD, JPG, PNG, TIFF, PDF, BMP, GIF, EXR, PICT and even PXR (which is short for Pixar).

Because Photoshop wears so many different hats, you'll find it in use in almost every creative industry, from 3D modelling to CGI art, video game design and everything in-between. It's the staple for many different workflows. There are countless plug-ins and add-ons available for Photoshop to add extra functionality and streamline processes. One of our favourite time-saving features is the actions panel, which records a process, then replicates it for batch processing of files and repetitive workflows.

There's also a Photoshop app for the iPad, which is capable of syncing with the desktop version and is fully compatible with the Apple Pencil.


Adobe Illustrator - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Where Adobe Photoshop creates raster files, images that are laid out physically in a matrix or grid, Illustrator creates vector images (math-based graphics). Instead of storing physical locations based on the screen resolution, a vector file is an equation, separate from the screen. That means you can infinitely scale Illustrator files, making it ideally suited to designing logos, vinyl graphics, infographics, maps, prints for clothing and merchandise as well as designs for print.

Illustrator is great for anyone who needs to create digital graphics with infinite scalability. The interface is optimised to enable formation of fluid, smooth, free-flowing curves, and elements can be positioned and sized precisely – we've even seen it used to create the layout of small circuit boards. You can also use Illustrator to design your own font or typeface.

Adobe is currently working on an Illustrator app for iPad.


Adobe Lightroom - $14.29 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

The Adobe Creative Cloud Photography pack unlocks Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Photoshop, with 20GB of cloud storage for just $14.29!

Adobe Lightroom is a popular program for organising photos from shoots, batch applying effect presets and creating image styles rapidly with slider controls. Lightroom can also perform simple tasks like cropping as well as editing RAW camera files and search for people with facial recognition. There's also a Lightroom mobile app for smartphones and tablets.


Adobe Premiere Pro - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe pitches Premiere Pro as an industry standard and leading video editor. It can be used to create videos for the web, including YouTube and social media, as well as for TV and film. Some of the feature films edited in Premiere Pro include Gone Girl, Deadpool, Sharknado 2, Terminator: Dark Fate and even the second highest-grossing film of all time, James Cameron's Avatar.

Adobe states that Premiere can work with any camera and any format and has the capability to do the following:

  • Make VR 180-degree videos
  • Reformat videos for sharing on social
  • Manage your media and project assets
  • Sync audio quickly
  • Edit multi-camera footage
  • Add titles and motion graphics

You can also work with the audio of your footage to add sound effects, lower ambient music automatically for voice overs and remove background noise. There are hundreds of different video effects and settings that can be adjusted to change the look of your footage. Plus, Adobe Stock is integrated right into the app, making searching for and downloading assets a breeze.

One of the most often cited benefits of using Premiere Pro is its seamless linking with After Effects and Photoshop. You can import files from either app easily, maintaining their edibility.

Premiere Rush allows editors to work on their phone or device.


Adobe After Effects - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe After Effects is a powerhouse for making motion graphics, animations and VFX shots. After Effects has been used on feature films, including 2009 epic Star Trek (titles), Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (visual effects) and Iron Man 3 (in-suit HUD graphics), as well as the now-iconic Stranger Things titles.

In After Effects, you can do the following:

  • Rig Illustrator or Photoshop files to act as puppets for animation
  • Animate text and graphics
  • Create 3D effects and work with 3D objects (with an included version of Cinema 4D Lite)
  • Rotoscope video for VFX shots
  • Composite video and digital assets
  • Simulate effects using built-in presets, e.g. generate rain, snowfall or camera movements

One cool new feature that many will love is the Content-Aware Fill feature. This feature has been in Photoshop for some time, but it is now available in After Effects. This feature lets you quickly remove elements from your footage without having to hand rotoscope each frame. A neat feature is the ability to use Adobe Expressions language, which is based on JavaScript, to automate and create procedural animations.


Adobe InDesign - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe InDesign is the app for laying out multi-page designs, like books or magazines. It can also be used to create digital magazines, PDFs and ebooks. Like nearly all Adobe apps, the home screen contains some blank document presets to get you started quickly. There's also a template section for Adobe Stock items.

The app makes creating multi-page documents simple. Using frames lets you flow text between multiple connected positions automatically, while the app helps separate content from layout and styles. There's also the option to add internal links for digital files. You'll find all print settings are included in great detail, such as bleeds, slugs, printer's marks and registration marks. The typography is 100% customisable, with detailed attributes, and you edit things using drag and drop. You also have the option to export to the following:

  • HTML & CSS - You can go straight to Dreamweaver, for example, or publish on the web
  • PDF - This is a universal format for creating large, multi-page documents that are independent of software, hardware and operating systems. PDFs can be submitted directly to print companies. InDesign can also produce interactive PDFs
  • EPUB - This is a widely used ebook file format, standing for Electronic Publication. Epubs are the logical choice when you want the option to allow the reader to simply re-size text without breaking the content (called reflowing); however, you can also select fixed layouts
  • Publish online - You can publish your material directly online.
  • INDD - Save as an editable, native INDD source file
  • EPS format - This can be used for editing with Illustrator for example

Another epic feature of InDesign (and most of the Adobe apps) is CC Libraries, which lets you pull in assets created in other Adobe products rapidly, plus you can drag and drop in Illustrator and Photoshop files that retain their edibility (non-destructively).


Adobe XD - $14.29 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe XD is a UI and UX prototyping tool that is suitable for rapidly laying out and designing desktop programs, websites and mobile apps.

XD performs well, even with heaps of artboards. It has a component library, can add automation in seconds, generates text/content population and boasts co-editing features, so a team can work on the same document all at once. There's even a device preview app available, letting you test it on actual real-world phones or tablets.


Adobe Audition - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe Audition is an audio recording and editing app, with effects, presets, restoration tools and mixing settings. It works well with other Adobe apps to edit audio when the in-built presets in those programs aren't advanced enough to achieve the desired effect. You can use Audition to mix multi-tracks, record podcasts and generally improve or manipulate sound.

Also, we've gotta give a shout out to Adobe's inclusion of a "No to all" button when exiting the program.

Key features include the following:

  • DeReverb and DeNoise let you reduce and remove reverb from background audio
  • Up to 128 track playback
  • Real-time waveform scaling and gain control
  • Native Premiere Pro project support enables you to focus on audio for video sequences
  • Track panel for efficient multi-track editing and navigating
  • Ability to work on broadcast MXF files
  • Add album art to MP3s, also useful for podcasts
  • Auto-duck music, saving time so that background music volume drops around voice over and dialogue
  • Input monitoring
  • Automated loudness correction and copying of media assets
  • Generally improved playback, recording, multi-track and audio effects

See the full Audition feature list here.


Adobe Acrobat Pro - $21.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe Acrobat DC is reportedly used by over five million businesses and organisations worldwide. This app lets you make, modify, sign and read PDFs.

Some of the notable features of Acrobat DC include the following:

  • Convert Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs to PDF
  • Convert webpages to PDF
  • Convert many file types to PDF
  • Merge files into one
  • Split a PDF
  • Convert existing forms to fillable ones
  • Compare versions
  • Rearrange documents
  • Share files
  • Collect reviews and comments
  • Accept digital signatures and sign your documents
  • Store PDFs online

PDFs are widely supported across various operating systems and devices, making them ideal for sharing with customers or suppliers alike without having to worry about compatibility issues.


Adobe Dreamweaver - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

A desktop app for creating responsive websites, it has a variety of templates to get you started, including some Bootstrap 4.41 framework pages.

Dreamweaver has some really useful features, like split view, which shows the results of changes you make to your code in real time. Those who don't want to learn HTML and CSS can drag and drop elements around, using the intuitive and minimal GUI.

You can work with HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and many other languages in Dreamweaver. It also has a real-time browser preview function that lets you pick which browser to test your site in.


Adobe Dimension - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe Dimension was launched in October 2018 and is a relative newcomer to the Creative Cloud family. Dimension is an app for combining 3D models and meshes with 2D graphics. It doesn't actually make 3D models itself, you need to import those from a 3D program or asset. But you can then add 2D graphics to your 3D mesh using Dimension's tools.

Product and graphic designers will love the ability to apply graphics to objects as a way to showcase or demo them, for example, when producing a larger brand identity. Ready-made included assets let you show your client what their logo looks like on everything from a coffee cup to a notepad.


Adobe Bridge - Part of Creative Cloud membership

Adobe Bridge is the brand's asset manager. Using Bridge, you can add keywords to files, compare assets, attach labels to them, rate assets, organise them, preview media and search using advanced filters. It's also possible to adjust metadata right from Bridge.

Bridge can also be customised like many other Adobe apps using JavaScript as well as by installing plug-ins. There are some pretty cool ones like Snap Art, which turns your photos into stylised pieces of art (kind of like Photoshop filters, but more authentic), and others that can convert your image to appear as though it has been engraved or to assist with the making of digital barcodes.

For other plug-ins, check out the Adobe Bridge plug-ins page.


Adobe Animate - $29.99 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

As the name suggests, Animate is centred around making animations and is a modern replacement for Flash Professional. You can use Animate to create graphics for the web, rich media like Flash, HTML5 canvas animations and also assets for games. You can publish to any platform, including WebGL, Flash/Adobe AIR and SVG.

Like After Effects, you can use Animate to create virtual cameras for your animations and support native files from Adobe family programs like Illustrator or Fresco. It's even possible to create games entirely in Animate.


Adobe Character Animator - Part of Creative Cloud membership

This Emmy-award winning app is pretty revolutionary in that it has been used to create live segments of The Simpsons, a pretty impressive technical feat. The app enables animators to use their webcam and microphone as a motion-capturing system, so they can talk and move while bringing the artwork to life. It's kind of like Apple's Memoji. We tried it, it's very quick to set up and we can see why it has won such high acclaim and found use on big TV shows.


Adobe InCopy - $7.69 per month for personal and business use

Adobe InCopy enables production teams to work on content together, while the designers are still putting together the layouts in InDesign. It works without overwriting other team members' adjustments and inputs. It can also be used as a professional word processor.


Adobe Fuse CC Beta - Part of Creative Cloud membership

Adobe Fuse is a human 3D-modelling app that is currently in beta. The app promises to help designers create human characters in minutes, without any previous experience. You can then export them to Photoshop for posing, compositing and animating. You tweak the look of your character with sliders, somewhat like you would in a video game character maker and the Adobe created models already have body-pose presets. There are 28 attributes you can customise on your character.

We were able to make a custom 3D character in a few minutes, without ever having used the app before. It could be really useful if you wanted to create different characters for games or animations for example.


Adobe Media Encoder - Included with relevant apps

Adobe Media Encoder is sold as a media processing application. It's the tool that lets you export audio and video files to various formats. You can use the app by itself or make use of it as the in-built rendering tool for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Adobe Audition, Character Animator and Prelude. Media Encoder is useful as it allows you to specify where your content will be published, for example on YouTube or Facebook, as well as rendering out multiple files simultaneously, automating processes and saving presets to speed up your workflow.


Adobe Camera Raw - Part of Creative Cloud membership

If you shoot with a high-end still camera, like a DSLR, you may have noticed the option to shoot RAW photos. When in this mode, the DSLR carries out minimal processing in-camera, like compression, to meet a particular file format's requirements. RAW files are, as their name suggests, purer and less uncompressed. There's no loss of data, so when you pull the file into Adobe Camera Raw, you have a higher degree of control over the exposure, white balance, noise and sharpness. It even has calibrated presets to correct for specific lenses, allowing you to remove aberrations, distortion, vignette and other characteristics.

Adobe Camera Raw lets you import the unprocessed images directly into Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Bridge and Lightroom. It supports many cameras from almost 30 different manufacturers.


Adobe Prelude - Part of Creative Cloud membership

Prelude is a media injestor, letting you create rough cuts, tag sections of footage and import them into Premiere Pro.

Here's Adobe Evangelist, Jason Levine giving a quick introduction to the tool.


Adobe Fresco - Part of Creative Cloud membership

When you want to turn your tablet device, like the iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface, into a powerful drawing and painting tool, Fresco will help you do that.

You'll want a touch-enabled or stylus-equipped tablet to get the most from the app. The app allows you to take some seriously creative tools with you wherever you go. It's designed to be as easy and organic to use as possible, just like drawing or painting on paper. It integrates with other Adobe apps, allowing you to seamlessly send your artwork over to Photoshop or Illustrator, preserving layers in the process.

Fresco can use pixel or vector brushes, has an eyedropper and fill bucket tool as well as live brushes that realistically simulate the blending of watercolours and oil paints. The colour wheel retains recently used colours so you can create and dip into a palette when painting. You can also export to JPG, PSD, PNG, PDF and straight to Behance or email. It's also possible to see a time-lapse video of your painting.


Adobe Spark - $14.29 per month for personal use/$48.99 per month for business use

Adobe Spark is an online service that makes up part of the Creative Cloud. The interface is super easy to use, and more than 20,000 pre-made templates are available on the site for you to use to make graphics, web pages and videos. If you can use an Internet browser, you'll be able to make any of the following:

Social account users can make the following:

  • Instagram posts
  • Facebook covers
  • Facebook posts
  • Pinterest posts
  • YouTube thumbnails
  • Twitter posts
  • Teaser videos

Business owners can make the following:

  • Flyers
  • Newsletters
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram stories
  • Explainer videos
  • Menus
  • Presentation web pages

Educators and tutors can make the following:

  • Photo collages
  • Report covers
  • Lesson plan videos
  • Reports web pages
  • Posters
  • Infographics
  • Flyers

Activists and promoters can make the following:

  • Posters
  • Case studies
  • Proposal covers
  • Flyers
  • Statistic graphics
  • Campaign videos
  • Brochures

Brand builders can make the following:

  • Instagram ads
  • Brand banners
  • Promo videos
  • Blog graphics
  • Portfolio web pages
  • Business cards
  • Twitter cover pictures

Events organisers can make the following:

  • Invitations
  • Announcements
  • Eventbrite covers
  • Cards
  • Posters
  • Info pages
  • Recap videos

Personal users can make the following:

  • Photojournals
  • Cards
  • Intro videos
  • Instagram posts
  • Playlist covers
  • Facebook posts
  • Photo collages

Adobe Stock - From $39.59 per month for personal use/$109.99 per month for 40 images for business use

Adobe Stock is updated with new content daily. When buying a Creative Cloud subscription, you get ten free Adobe Stock images.

There aren't just photos on there either – you'll find graphics, templates, 3D assets and motion graphics as well. There are creative and editorial licences available and Adobe says there are millions of items listed.

One of the most unique features of Adobe Stock is the ability to search for images with "Copy Space" – a place ready for you to drop in your own text to make quick hero images or mock-ups. You can also search by colour, content and even composition.


Adobe Fonts - Part of full Creative Cloud subscription

Adobe Fonts gives you access to an "unlimited" library of fonts. These are included as part of the Creative Cloud subscription service. Everything is pre-licensed, so it's ready for personal or commercial use.

You simply browse through the fonts site or use the in-app window to find, test and sync the typefaces to your workstation. There are fonts of all different styles, broken down into easy-to-navigate categories. You can also use the fonts on the web, giving your website or brand that extra bit of dazzle. Adobe hosts the fonts for you, which can help with performance.


Adobe Behance - Free

Adobe bought the creative work social media platform Behance in 2012. It's an ideal place to gather inspiration, track new design trends and show off your work. The site also lists jobs, freelance gigs and internships – there are currently over a thousand on there.


Adobe Aero- Free on iOS

Adobe Aero is an app for iOS devices that creates augmented-reality experiences, using assets you made in other Adobe software. You can include assets from Photoshop and Illustrator as well as directly from Adobe Dimension, Substance and Cinema 4D.

Some of the suggested use cases by Adobe are the ability to make a museum piece come to life, send virtual rockets around your classroom, bring interest into your retail store or even use a location as a storytelling space.

You can add triggers, actions, behaviours, pathways and other elements into the scenes, bringing extra dimensions to your PSD files. There's currently a private beta running for a desktop version of Aero.


Mixamo - Free

Mixamo is an online service Adobe owns that lets you animate 3D characters for use in films, games and videos. There are loads of animation presets and characters. You can turn down the amount the characters move, alter how much space they use, how dramatic they are and more. It's a huge time saver, as rigging something like this manually and then animating can take hours.

Still confused? This video describes the differences between the over fifty different Adobe products.

Is Adobe Creative Cloud any good?

There are rivals to most of the Adobe apps individually, but very few (if any) competitors can offer so many professional-grade pieces of software in one subscription.

  • One of the best things about using the incredibly popular Adobe products is the countless number of free tutorials and training material out there as well as lessons on online-course websites.
  • You're also buying into getting regular software updates, a central app to manage your installs and the very polished Adobe features, which in some cases are a result of 30 or more years of development.
  • Because so many creatives and designers use Adobe products, it is reliable and there are numerous forums dedicated to the programs for help and questions.
  • It also means you're able to collaborate with other freelancers and designers because they too will likely be using Adobe products.
  • Add to that, you can use it on Mac OSX or Windows, which is useful for teams running both operating systems.

Is Adobe Creative Cloud good value for money?

Yes, you get over 20 professional-grade apps, some of which enable you to meet your own design needs without much experience, which could save your business heaps of money. The option to buy single apps is also useful, for example, if you only want to use Premiere Pro or Photoshop. One of the best value offerings is Adobe's Photography bundle, with Photoshop, Lightroom Classic and Lightroom.

The products are polished, frequently updated, easier to use than ever and boast more features. If you need to make something to promote your business, the chances are you would benefit from a Creative Cloud membership. It's also highly rated by reviewers, with many glowing recommendations.

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