The best free photo-editing software

Here are 4 free alternatives to Photoshop for all your editing needs

There’s no argument — Adobe Photoshop remains the best photo-editing application on the market. But it’s a difficult program to master without formal training, and it’s not the cheapest option out there. That’s why we’re taking a look at the best free photo-editing software on the market, each of which provides much of the same functionality as Photoshop but without the associated fees and complexity.

The programs below can perform basic functions, such as letting you resize, crop, and correct exposure with ease, along with offering some semi-advanced tools as well. There are great options for both conventional desktop software and web-based solutions that don’t require installing any software.

The best

GIMP

best free photo editing software gimp screenshot
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

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 MacOS, Windows, and Linux, 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. Making the jump from one to the other will take a little time, but you’ll save yourself a monthly subscription fee if you do.

Windows MacOS Linux

Three good alternatives

Paint.NET

This is a case where the apprentice becomes the master. Paint.NET was created as a 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 more advanced features as well.

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 to be limited to Photoshop and other paid programs. 

Windows

Photoshop Express

best free photo editing software photoshop express
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

If the above options seem too derivative or you want more of that Adobe-experience without the associated price tag, Photoshop Express is another option worth considering. Although pared down compared to the standard Photoshop, the Express variant does have a number of great options for editing photos with a much more gradual learning curve.

With an interface that betrays its mobile roots, Photoshop Express offers quick and easy access to slide bar adjustments and one-touch fixes for photos of all types. Pre-packaged “Effects” make quick and dramatic changes to images to improve coloring and contrast; crop and transform tools let you tweak a photo’s orientation and focus, and “Details” give you control over sharpening and noise.

Its file type support is limited to raw camera files and JPG and PNG files, but Photoshop Express is a freely available app that you can use on your Windows PC, iOS, or Android device without hassle.

Windows iOS Android

Pixlr.com

best free photo editing software pixlr screenshot
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

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.

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 your favorite browser and load up the online version. Note: The download site does require Adobe Flash to run, so you will need to enable that before moving forward.

Pixlr

Product Review

Origin's Chronos PC is no looker, but it plays games with eye-popping detail

The Chronos is Origin’s smallest PC, but while it occupies less space than most A/V receivers, it delivers the power of a much larger desktop. Its dull exterior design does the system a disservice. Once you turn it on, you won’t be…
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Mobile

Text up a storm with the best messaging apps for iOS and Android

These days, most people tend to favor digital messages over phone calls. We have the best messaging apps that allow you to share photos and documents, send text messages, and more with end-to-end encryption.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Gaming

Can't stand keyboard gaming on PC? Here's how to use a PS3 controller instead

Properly connecting a PlayStation 3 Controller to a PC is no easy task, especially when you opt for third-party peripherals. Thankfully, our guide will help you through the process.
Computing

How good are you at spotting phishing scams? Take this quiz to find out

Are you able to discern between a legitimate email and one that's a scam designed to phish for your personal information? Google created an online quiz with tips to help you better understand phishing so you don't become a victim.
Computing

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Computing

Patent application reveals what’s to come after AMD’s Graphics Core Next

A published patent application from AMD has revealed a new type of graphics processor core which could make a big difference to the capabilities of its GPUs if it finds its way into them in the future.
Computing

Microsoft targets Chrome OS with $189 Windows 10 laptops for education

Microsoft announced seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops, all priced under $300 to take on Chromebooks and iPads in the education market, along with a new Microsoft Allora stylus for students using the Surface Go tablet.
Computing

Lenovo patent hints at a future tablet with a folding screen

Folding devices are a new trend, and according to a recent patent, Lenovo is considering a foldable 2-in-1 with a hinge mechanism that would allow consumers to bend back the screen on the device. 
Computing

Wifi Porter is a high-tech block of wood that lets you share your broadband

Tired of manually connecting your guests to your home Wi-Fi network? The latest invention from the folks at Ten One Design, the WifiPorter, allow individuals to connect to your Wi-Fi with the tap of their phone, or by scanning an available…
Computing

Midrange Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics card may be 20 percent faster than GTX 1060

In the freshest development in graphics card rumors, alleged benchmarks are showing that the GTX 1660 Ti graphics card could be as much as 20 percent faster when compared to the older GTX 1060.