There’s no question that Photoshop is a powerful and beautiful piece of software. It does pretty much anything and everything you would need when it comes to editing photos and creating art. However, it also comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Many regular users and newcomers to the photography scene cannot afford to drop that much dough on an editing program.
Thankfully, there are many alternatives out there – many of which are free. We’re going to talk today about all of the applications I’ve found and used myself that fit the bill quite nicely. All of my selections work on Windows. I don’t own a Mac, so I cannot review and offer you solutions that will only work on OS X. However, several of these are multi-platform pieces of software.
Paint.NET is likely my favorite piece of software. It’s saved my bacon more times than I can count when needing to edit a screenshot for a post. I will admit that it took me a bit to figure out all of the various tools. However, I’m not a photographer or graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination. This powerful piece of software features support for layers and has a wide variety of special effects. It is only available for Windows users, sadly.
Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. That’s a mouthful, I know, so we will refer to it by its acronym at all times! This free program works on all platforms and can do anything you need. Normal users can retouch their photos with Gimp and experts can complete tasks such as image composition and image authoring.
The coolest part about Gimp in my opinion is the fact that there are several plugins that you can use with the software in order to make it do whatever it is you need. Whether you need a simple painting / drawing program or something that can act as an online batch processing program, Gimp has you covered.
Pixlr is a free online image editor which will work on any platform or browser. This program is seriously powerful – take a look at all of the filter and adjustment options alone. This is definitely good for those of you who are comfortable with advanced graphics editing. For the rest of us, the company also offers Pixlr Express for simple editing and image manipulation. Pixlr-o-matic allows you to add some funky filters to pictures – kind of like what you do with Instagram.
Pixlr Grabber is an extension for Firefox or Chrome that allows you to right click on any image in your browser and automatically load it in Pixlr for editing. It can also be used as a type of full or partial print screen function. Pixlr has apps available for your smartphone or desktop, as well as the online versions!
This program used to run around sixty bucks but is now free! This software has advanced editing tools and functions, the ability to create graphics from scratch, excellent text tools, many special effects and more. You can work with layers and masks, gradients, patterns and textures and even script tools. Batch operations is available to advanced users, as well.
My favorite part of this software is how simple it was to figure out. It’s intuitive for beginners yet comes packed full of advanced options for those of you who are editing gurus. There are several images that come with the software for you to play with and practice on. I ended up spending more than half an hour just playing around with all of the layers and filters!
One word of caution – when you install this software, carefully read the various install screens. You’ll need to UNcheck the boxes wanting to install some toolbar and search page and decline the offer to do so. Once you do that, you’ll have a clean installation without any spyware or problems.
Photoshop! Created by the very same company that brings you the beloved – and expensive – software, Photoshop Express may be just what you’re looking for. You’ll need to sign up for a free account in order to unlock all the possibilities: 2GB of storage, online editing and sharing tools, a profile page with a personal gallery and slideshow templates.
Photoshop Express is the image program both of my daughters use. They love to play with pictures and make fun changes to them. I use it almost as often as Paint.NET – it’s just that simple, clean and fun to use. There are many of the popular functions you’d find inside of the paid version and a LOT of editing options for those moms wishing to share pictures of their kids or the teens (like mine) who want to post everything to Facebook. This is a solid tool and one I highly recommend.
Photo Filtre is another great program – but be careful when choosing your download. The normal setup installer is bundled with the Ask toolbar – a fact the company states outright. I chose to download the .zip file which does not include the added “fun” from Ask. This software only works on Windows but it does include many different language packs.
This program allows you to work on multiple photos at once and has several features that advanced users will love. It comes with a handful of backgrounds and images you can use as layers or starting points for your creations. There are also many different plugins you can download – all of which will add to your experience.
Last – but definitely nowhere near least – we have Google’s Picasa software. Upon opening the software for the first time, Picasa scanned my computer to load all of my saved pictures. Instead of having to manually search for the one I want each time, they’re all already loaded up for me!
You won’t find a large selection of editing tools but the program is more about sharing your work. You can easily add text, tag people, add the location and upload the finished product. I was surprised to find the original camera information attached to each photo – some of the ones I have are pretty old. I took this shot of our old corn crib during sunset about six years ago. It has been edited and saved many times over, yet Picasa can tell me exactly what type of camera I used. Heck, even I didn’t remember that!
Which photo editing software are you using? Why is it your favorite? I’d love to find even more alternatives!