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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

Online options

Don’t want to download and install software on your computer? If you have a reliable connection, here are a few Web-based programs that will never see the spinning the disc of your hard drive.

Pixlr.com

editingsoftware_pixlr-640x640

Pixlr.com has a tiered offering that is entirely free. The site separates its photo editing into Pixlr Editor (advanced) and Pixlr Express (efficient). The site also offers a mobile suite so you can edit photos on a smartphone or tablet — both iOS and Android versions are available. 

The Pixlr Editor is more like Photoshop. It’s a straightforward photo-editing tool that lets you crop, size, and tweak the image. It has a red eye tool that eliminates those devil eyes that appear when the flash goes off. Express, on the other hand, lets you put creative overlays on your images — this is really for playing with your photos. You can put a stain on a picture to make it look like you rested a coffee mug on the photo, for example.

Note that Pixlr straddles the line between Web-based and desktop image editors: There are both mobile and desktop versions of the software that you can download. However, it’s usually easier to just pop open a browser tab and load up the online version.

Try it now, courtesy of:

Pixlr

Sumopaint

Sumopaint

Sumopaint is one of those “Photoshop lite” image editors that has sprung up in recent years — but it stands out by being truly good at what it does. This web-based software — there’s a download option as well — has a layout very familiar for Adobe users, a tool set that’s easy enough to understand and use, and a minimalistic feel that concentrates on getting the job done. This option is better suited to more serious photographers who don’t want to give up any editing options…but also don’t want to pay for their editing software.

Try it now, courtesy of:

Sumopaint

iPiccy

iPiccy

If you use Microsoft Paint rather than Photoshop, iPiccy might be for you. The site lets you edit photos with an automated process. Rather than using wands and tools to actively edit photos, the effects are applied to the whole photo in most cases.

Click a button to fix images, resize, crop, rotate, flip, change the exposure, and other settings. While iPiccy may sound like a simplified app, there is complexity in its wide offering of editing options. Many settings have a slide rule that let you adjust brightness, contrast, and other functions. The one complaint might be that there is no undo button.

What we would like to see is a reset-to-zero button on the slide rule, because it’s difficult to get the bar back to the beginning if you decide you want to return to the starting point. Several tools, including a blemish and wrinkle remover, help clean up photos. Then you can do a few cosmetic fixes like apply a sun tan, blush, or mascara.

Try it now, courtesy of:

iPiccy

PicMonkey

Picmonkey

PicMonkey is a favorite editing tool for amateur photographers who want to quickly edit their images and turn them into mini-masterpieces. There are four primary tools in the PicMonkey holster. Editing, Touch Up, Design, and Collage. Editing probably provides the most functionality, allowing you to apply effects, advanced filters, spot correction, and so on. However, Touch Up is also a popular choice for selfies, profile pics, event photos, and so on. As you can see, this suite is designed more for the average person, or those who want the best picture possible for social media or sharing, and aren’t afraid to work on it with more advanced tools.

PicMonkey now operated with a “free trial” version of its full app, but you can still access most photo editing options for free on the website by choosing “Edit a Photo.”

Try it now, courtesy of:

PicMonkey

Easel.ly

Easel.ly

Easel.ly is an info-graphic oriented web app with free registration and a plethora of templates to choose from. If you want to turn your photo into a chart or include it in a report, this one of the best free options you’ll find. The blank template allows you to add a number of objects and effects if you aren’t interested in an infographic, but still want to spruce up your photo and have a little fun with it before posting online.

Try it now, courtesy of:

Easel.ly

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