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Adobe Buying Guide: Creative Cloud (CC) or CS6 - Which to Get?

[UPDATE (Jan. 2017) – Adobe just stopped selling CS6 entirely – here’s why.]

When Creative Suite 6 arrived in 2012, there came with it a new way to buy Adobe software that the world had not seen before: the Creative Cloud.  Traditionally, most Adobe products had only been sold with “perpetual” licensing that doesn’t expire. The flip side is that these best-in-class tools often come with a steep price tag that is out of reach for many folks – though there have always been substantial discounts when upgrading from recent older releases, plus much lower pricing for some market segments like students and teachers

Trying to Decide Between? Read the Reviews Creative Cloud Has Been Getting from Customers

When Creative Cloud first entered the scene, there was (and still is) some uncertainty about what it meant and where it was going… But despite that skepticism, the Cloud has since gained strong adoption to become the company’s dominant product line with most customers choosing it over CS6, which Adobe still continues to sell for people who want it.  With Creative Cloud you receive the newer “CC” release that succeeds CS6 as the latest and greatest toolset, and generally gets high ratings from users.

Related: Compare Features – What’s New in Adobe CC vs. CS6?

Adobe CC is available only via a subscription model which, yes, is cloud-based in some ways – but the name has been called confusing and misconceptions abound because in fact the major applications are not online or web-based, but still run locally on your computer as before.  What’s more, the company has been clear that powerful tools like Photoshop may add some online capabilities but will never run completely in the cloud.

So at its core, this is primarily a different way of buying and using all the Adobe products you know and love (plus more). Creative Cloud membership is served as an “all-you-can-eat buffet” of the best software out there for any creative purpose, for one affordable monthly price ($29-$49/month standard in the US). The central premise is you can continue to use the same applications and services you always have – plus many more available at your disposal – with a term-based membership that includes ongoing product upgrades and new feature additions over the period.

What’s in Creative Cloud?

Creative Cloud Is Growing Fast – How Many Millions of Paid Subscribers?

Creative Cloud contains new CC versions of all applications that were part of Creative Suite 6 (effectively the entire Master Collection), as well as others like Lightroom, Adobe Muse, Adobe Edge, plus a host of professional publishing services for getting your work out there.  As noted, most of these components do not run over the network – they download and install on your system desktop just like normal, and only need to be connected to the Internet once every 99 days for annual membership revalidation.

That said, however, there is an online collaborative Cloud component envelop­ing it all which allows easy web-based file storage, sharing, browsing, and syncing between computers and devices. For those who don’t have a paid subscription, there is a free level of Creative Cloud membership that provides the same commu­nity features but with 2GB of free storage instead of 20GB… The best part about this cloud storage is that your colleagues or clients do not need to have any of the actual Adobe tools installed to view or comment on the files you upload.

Special: Legally download dozens of free Adobe books for a limited time!

CC or CS6 – Which Is Right for You?

So there have been a lot of changes in recent years – and with all these developments in mind, how do you decide which one to buy?  The answer depends to a large extent on how you use the software, with these questions to ask:

  • How long will you be using the products?
  • How frequently do you usually [like to] upgrade?
  • Which Adobe programs do you want or need to use now?
  • Which tools would you like to expand to using in the future?
  • How nice is it to always have the latest releases and best features?
  • Do you own a prior product you can upgrade from, or would you buy full?
  • What will your regular annual costs be when comparing the two different options?
  • How important is it for the software that you use to be supported long into the future?

Before we get to some cost comparisons, it’s important to note that it’s not just about price. Adobe says they are supporting CS6 on the current releases of Windows and Mac OS, but do not have plans to support it on the next releases coming out from Microsoft and Apple… In other words, within less than a year it’s likely that CS6 will not be supported to run on newer operating systems. By contrast, Creative Cloud is a service as much as a product and will always be supported and updated for the latest platforms, devices, and technologies.

See Hundreds of Customer Ratings & Reviews for Adobe CC

The cost of Creative Cloud is $US49.99/month for a yearly plan, or $74.99 when purchased month-to-month with the ability to turn it on and off as needed. It’s $29.99 per month for the first year for those upgrading from a prior Creative Suite product with Adobe’s introductory offer, and $19.99/month for current students and teachers. Doing the math that’s about $600/year for regular customers, $360 for CS upgraders, and $240 for education customers… In sum it’s around $1-$2 a day. So when you look at these plans versus the tradi­tional CS6 price sheet or the cost of upgrading your current tools, which is more attractive?

Well, if you’re a solid user of Creative Suite and a happy upgrader, then the Creative Cloud could be a good deal for you. The CS6 Master suite, for example, sells for $2,600 full, or $1,050 to upgrade from CS5 – and that is for an older static version that will never evolve or improve.  So paying $1,200 spread over two years for CC (and $240 less for upgraders) could work out well considering that all upgrades and future support are included, and you can run the latest releases of all the top tools Adobe makes.

Or as Bloomberg Businessweek says, “One benefit is not having to lay out $2,500 every few years. It would take more than four years of monthly $50 subscription fees to reach the cost of an all-at-once software purchase, and the programs will always be up to date.”

But what if you don’t want the complete package? If you only use Photoshop (normally US$700-$1000 full, $200 upgrade) and Lightroom ($150 full, $80 upgrade) and don’t see yourself ever growing into other tools like Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Muse, or Acrobat, then there’s another choice: the new Photoshop Photography Bundle which includes both PS + LR for US$9.99 a month.  And if you need any other single standalone application (like, say, After Effects CC), then see the next section below for a final possibility.

The Creative Cloud FAQ: See Your Top 90 Burning Questions Answered

It goes without saying that the Cloud option is absolutely ideal for situa­tional and tempo­rary needs like project-based work, contract employment, freelancing, and so on – you only pay when you need it. It’s even possible to start out with a month-to-month membership if you want to see how you like it, after your 30-day free trial is up.

Single-App Membership – The Lesser-Known Option

If the complete Creative Cloud is too much, there’s an additional choice that many people aren’t aware of – Adobe also offers subscriptions for just a single tool like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Premiere, and others for only $14-$19/month, and that low pricing is available to everybody… The sign-up and download is all online so you can get going right away – and all upgrades are included, so you’re always running the latest version.

Any of the new CC tools are available on an annual as well as month-to-month basis (start-and-stop) in all languages for both Windows and Mac together, so pretty flexible. And if you happen to decide later that you want to upgrade to the complete Creative Cloud package to access all applications (at any time), then Adobe will credit back your account for the remaining amount due on your existing membership.

So when you compare that pricing of $19/month versus $1,000 to buy (say) After Effects CS6, it’s definitely worth considering – and you’ll find all the details here:

  » Don’t Need the Full Cloud? Get Any Adobe Product for $9-$19 a Month

Creative Cloud vs. Creative Suite 6 – Pros & Cons

For a complete side-by-side analysis, check out our detailed Adobe CC vs. CS6 Comparison Chart with all the pros and cons to consider for each option.

Do you have any further questions about the comparison or your decision? Just ask them below and we’ll get you answers fast!

See Also

Get the New Creative Cloud 2024 Direct Download Links

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295 thoughts on “Adobe Buying Guide: Creative Cloud (CC) or CS6 - Which to Get?”

  1. I’ve worked with Adobe products for over 20 years, specifically Photoshop and Illustrator. There is no question that the software is outstanding.

    Over the years there have been a small handful of upgrades that have been useful for my needs. The latest version that I’ve worked on is CS2 and it does everything that I need. I’ve never reached a point where I felt like the software held me back. That being said, it doesn’t make sense for me to get a CC subscription with all the “latest and greatest” updates. However, it seems like a CC subscription is your only option if you plan on using Adobe software. I would very gladly purchase CS6, fully aware that there will be no upgrades/tech support/bug fixes, but it sounds like CS6 will not work with future OS upgrades rendering it obsolete. I completely get Adobe focusing on growth, and moving forward with new software and I know there is a massive market demand for it. I just wish OS upgrades didn’t kick earlier Adobe software to the curb.

    • There’s no way around it Chris, because the previous CS programs were written long before the newer operating systems came out… Older system functions and APIs are often deprecated or become unsupported, especially on the Mac (which is notorious for suddenly dropping support in new OS versions).

      As for moving forward, there are countless new time-saving features and performance improvements added to later versions of CS and then now CC. For most professionals, it doesn’t make sense to use 5+ year old software when the latest products do so much more – and better/faster. Time is money, after all.

  2. Graphiste/maquettiste freelance je suis abonné à Créative Cloud annuel depuis 2014(59,99€/mois) après avoir abandonné CS2 à CS5 design Standard. CC est un coût un peu élevé pour n’utiliser que Photoshop/InDesign/illustrator/Acrobat – Une formule d’abonnement pour ce package n’existe pas, c’est bien dommage. Un grand nombre de freelance seraient sûrement intéressés par une telle formule normalement moins onéreuse. Mais le “business” passe par là ! pas le choix.

    Certes, d’après vos indications, adopter la formule CS6 Design Standard ne serait pas forcément plus intéressante.
    Votre étude comparative CC ou CS6 est intéressante et m’incite à poursuivre mon abonnement à CC et à “ramer” pour chaque mises à jour du fait de ma situation dans un pays ou mon débit internet n’est que de 4MO !

    • Hi Michael, you can still download the CS6 Master Collection from the old direct download links here, but that is the free trial version and after 30 days will request the serial number or license key…

      However, Adobe stopped selling Creative Suite 6 standalone on their website last year… The reason is because CS6 is almost 5 years old now (from spring 2012) and increasingly unsupported; they stopped releasing updates for it last summer as the newer CC rapidly grew and took over.

      With the CS6 software EOL and end of support, there are no updates, no bug fixes, and no guarantees it will run on the latest or future operating systems. So at this point we’ve stopped recommending it as a good or viable option going forward.

      So really the only path forward for Adobe is CC, which are considered better tools anyway, or downgrade that to use CS6 instead – because Creative Cloud subscribers can choose either or both versions.

      With Creative Cloud, all ongoing upgrades, compatibility updates and product additions are always included – so becoming obsolete will never happen. The monthly payments are also more budget-friendly in the new model than in the old CS model – where the software used to cost many hundreds or often thousands of dollars upfront, and never evolved.

  3. @ProDesignTools

    Just thought I’d chime in here from my perch in the future. It’s obvious that many Adobe customers weren’t drinking the Kool Aid. Too bad the “professionals” we rely on to give us good advice tend to be so myopic.

    • Snarky! At the time we wrote that, Adobe said they would continue to develop and sell CS products… That was in January 2012, which was well over a year before the CS product line stopped and the first release of CC came out.

      Here is what Adobe said publicly at the time (in early 2012, when CS5.5 was still the current version):

      Is Creative Cloud a replacement for Adobe’s traditional Creative Suite products?

      Adobe believes that Creative Cloud is a better way to get your desktop tools because you get access to the latest updates and features as soon as they’re available, plus services that tie the new publishing workflows together. Adobe will continue to develop and sell individual CS products — with new releases planned in 2012 — and customers can purchase them through the Adobe online stores and select retail establishments.

      Customers opting to subscribe to Creative Cloud will receive additional benefits with their membership compared to traditional desktop software purchases. You’ll not only get all your favorite traditional CS tools, but also new features, products, and services as soon as Adobe releases them. Rather than wait 12, 18, or 24 months for the latest advancements from Adobe, you can access and use new releases the minute they are available.

      Adobe then released CS6 in May 2012 and continued to update it until 2015 – and in fact continued to sell CS6 until last month:

      Update: You Can No Longer Buy CS6 from Adobe – Here’s Why

      As for “Kool-Aid,” arguably the adoption of Creative Cloud has been very strong, surprising skeptics and even the company itself… Many millions of customers have already signed on, and the subscriber numbers continue to grow rapidly.

  4. Like Chris, I am so happy with CS2, and am really distressed that I have to change everything just to continue to use this one program when I upgrade my computer, which is dying. Does anyone have any suggestions for s/w that does the basic things CS2 does but will function on Win10? I really resent paying for the rest of my life to use a piece of software. I’m not a super-techie and just need the basic layout things that CS2 does.

  5. I really, really hate the very idea of CC. (I also hate the fact that MS Office is doing the same thing. ) I don’t want to work in the cloud. I like to have my stuff on my computer, personal and private and no one else having access to it unless I show it to them.

    I get it that they need continuing income, but I detest the idea that Adobe or any other company would have access to my work and my work flow (research to make it better and no personal id and fuagh, faugh, faugh -yeah right) just because I want to use their product. It is also not a savings to me, because the cost of the CC access over a year is as much as one would pay for the program. And you have to keep paying it over and over. And if you stop, then you don’t have anything. It’s like renting a house rather than buying one. Yes, you get to live there, but you don’t build any equity and the landlord can kick you out if they take a dislike to you.

    At least if I have a stand alone program, it’s a one time cost and I have it forever. Something of value.
    I am not working on anything untoward, I just value my privacy. The idea that my work, if not saved in a way that is probably more inconvenient than just storing it in their cloud will become inaccessible to me if I miss a payment or choose to stop the service altogether is also distasteful and smacks of blackmail and that rankles.

    All that said, it’s Adobe’s business and they can do what they want with it. I just hope someone decides to re-invent the wheel on this one and give back our privacy. In the meantime, I will continue to look for ways to get CS6 that do not require sharing my digital life with adobe or paying them ransom in perpetuity.

  6. @Call Me Mom

    Your work, the software, and everything you do remains as it was under CS6, installed on your computer and private. The only tangible difference is that in CC the software is paid as a subscription. It will connect with the cloud from time to time to verify your license is up to date. The advantages are plenty, the sole objection being the product will eventually cost more than if you had bought the stand-alone product.

    • Right. The first part is definitely true. There are some included Cloud services you can use (like CC Libraries for easy asset sharing, or Typekit for free fonts, or Adobe Portfolio for building your own website), but they are not required – and the CC desktop software like Photoshop will work and run without them.

      As for the cost of subscription vs. perpetual, it depends on how long you need the tools, as well as the upfront price, plus cost of regular upgrades… Many users of the Adobe Photography Plan find that CC subscription is significantly less expensive than standalone, especially for customers who would normally upgrade every 1-2 releases. (All ongoing updates and upgrades are included with Creative Cloud at no additional cost.)

      The pricing is low enough on the CC Photography bundle that you’ve got longtime Adobe users calling it a “no-brainer”… like here:

      But when all is said and done, if you only use Photoshop and Lightroom, the Photography Plan is an unbelievable bargain. A total no-brainer, and I can’t, for the life of me, see why people grumble about it.

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