The best free photo-editing software

Here are 5 free alternatives to Photoshop for all your photo-editing needs

There’s no argument about it — Adobe Photoshop remains the best photo-editing software on the market. But unless you’ve undergone formal training, it’s a difficult program to master, and it’s not the cheapest of options 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.

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

For those who would prefer to do their photo-editing on your phone, here are some great photo-editing apps for Android.

The best

GIMP

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.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS Linux

The rest

The Nik Collection

best free photo editing software nikcollection01

The Nik Collection is an image-editing suite that was originally released under the Google banner and it’s entirely free. This is one of the most powerful online tools available, and Google providing it for free was pretty big news when it broke in 2016. The Collection includes seven plugins, each with a different focus. Analog Efex Pro focuses on effects that produce a vintage aesthetic 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 toward black-and-white images, while Viveza allows you to alter specific colors in a photo without using filters. The last two plugins, Sharpener Pro and Dfine, allow you to improve clarity and reduce noise reduction, among other things.

Since it’s been taken on by DxoO, the plugins have been updated to support the latest version of Windows and MacOS, as well as adding support for Adobe Creative Cloud software.

You can download the collection at its new home at DXO. The original Google server links are no longer valid.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

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 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 to be limited to Photoshop and other paid programs. 

Download it now for:

Windows

Photoshop Express

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.

Download it now for:

Windows iOS Android

Pixlr.com

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 a browser tab 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.

Try it now, courtesy of:

Pixlr