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Fixing a photo is quick and easy with these photo-editing apps

There’s no argument about it — Adobe Photoshop remains, hands down, the best photo-editing software on the market. But unless you’ve undergone formal training, Photoshop proves a difficult program to master, and is expensive to use.

More: Adobe brings new Lightroom features to Android in version 2.0

For the home user, Photoshop isn’t necessary for basic and semi-advanced tasks, such as resizing, cropping, and exposure correction. Downloadable photo-editing tools have advanced way past MS Paint, and you can do almost anything you could do in Photoshop — and sometimes more. The best part? Many of them are free. Below are some of our favorites, whether you’re in the market for a desktop or mobile solution.

Desktop options

GIMP

editingsoftware_gimp-640x640

Often heralded as the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source application that relies on a community of volunteer developers who maintain and improve the product. Available for Mac and PC, you get a lot of professional-level editing and retouching tools — perfect for designers who can’t or won’t shell out hundreds of dollars to Adobe.

Once you launch the program, you’ll find a dedicated window that displays the image, and separate windows to organize the toolbox and layers. When using a large display, or two displays, you have a nice, big workspace to play with your images. Icons in the toolbox represent actions such as the crop, lasso, paint and brush tools, and you can apply various effects to your photos. It may seem like Photoshop, but GIMP has its own look and feel.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS Linux

PhotoScape

Photoscape

Apart from basic image editing, PhotoScape also lets you create slideshows and animated GIFs, capture screenshots, and combine and split images. You can customize your toolbar, so you can organize the features you use most, and then revert to the default toolbar when you want to dig deeper into the software’s offerings.

PhotoScape software is free to download. But it’s part of the Open Candy network, and runs ads for other “recommended” software. This is isolated to PhotoScape, and won’t infiltrate the rest of your computer with adware, but it’s worth noting.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

The Nik Collection

Nik Collection

The Nik Collection is a full image-editing suite offered by Google, and it’s now totally free. This is one of the most powerful and complete online photo tools at the moment, and Google providing it all for free was pretty big news. The Collection includes seven total plugins, each with a different focus. Analog Efex Pro focuses on effects that produce vintage looks or make digital photos appear more natural, while Color Efex Pro provides a ton of filters. Silver Efex Pro, on the other hand, is tailored for black-and-white images, while Viveza allows you to alter specific colors in the photo without using filters. Sharpener Pro allows you to improve clarity and Dfine gives you noise reduction capabilities, and so on.

This allows you to either download whatever tool you need at the time, or download them all and use them interchangeably. The tools may take a little time to learn, but by separating out the different functions, the software makes it easier for people to pick and choose what they need in any given moment.

The only downside here is that the Nik Collection is basically one-and-done. It doesn’t look like Google will be offering patches or updates to these tools, so they may not have much longevity. Get them while they still work!

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

Paint.NET

Paint.net

This is a case where the apprentice becomes the master. Paint.NET was created as an college undergraduate senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and it continues to be maintained by alumni of the program. It was originally developed as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, which comes as part of Windows. Paint.NET has surpassed Microsoft Paint in functionality and has some advanced features.

Paint.NET features an intuitive user interface that supports layers, an “unlimited undo” to back out of any mistake no matter how disastrous, various special effects, and other tools. Where Microsoft Paint was able to do little more than resize images, Paint.NET is able to handle more advanced photo editing that you’d expect from Photoshop and other paid programs. 

Download it now for:

Windows

HitFilm Express

HitFilm

HitFilm Express is a free video editing service that specializes in digital effects — which makes it ideal for creating more imaginative photo effects as well. With both 2D and 3D compositing, more than 180 visual effects to choose from, and a community with plenty of ideas, you can make nearly image that you can dream of. From putting a headshot into an Ironman-like HUD, to turning your best friend into a Jedi, this is the app to try if you’re aiming for the stars.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

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