Everyone has heard of Adobe Photoshop, however the heavy price tag makes it less than ideal for individuals or small businesses on a budget. Aside from Photoshop there are several other options for image editing in the form free web apps and open source software.
Free web apps are just what the name implies, free programs identical to Photoshop. There is no need to download any software because the application is run through your web browser. If you are on the go, these web based Photoshop alternatives are perfect because you can access them anywhere on any computer without having to install any software. The free price tag has a nice ring to it as well.
Open source software image editors must be downloaded and installed on your computer. Once installed these image editors will run faster and more reliably than free web based image editors. Open source applications are always free and are developed by the community all over the world. Often times they equally comparable to there costly counterparts.
Each of the following apps are 100% free Photoshop alternatives for image editing. Every app in the roundup has a full list of features and tools comparable to Photoshop for DIY image editing.
Pixelr, my favorite of the group, is a very robust image editor with several features of Photoshop including, layers, filter effects, red eye removal and several others. You can open up images from your desktop, edit them in the free image editor, and save them back to your computer for printing or using on your website. The tools palate, Navigator, Layers, and History, all being displayed by default. Over 20 different image filters are available, try out the Kaleidoscope filter for a cool effect. Several image adjustment options are also available including hue/saturation, levels, curves and many more. Of all the programs reviewed in this writeup I was most impressed with Pixlr. The user interface is almost identical to Photoshop, it includes all of the major features, and is easy to get started with immediately. Give Pixelr a try for yourself here.
Phoenix is part of a collection of online editing software software by Aviary. Aviary’s collection also includes a free vector editor, free audio editing software, and a few others. For now we will stick to reviewing Phoenix, the image editor. The user interface is very streamlined with all of the image editing tools neatly lined uo to the left hand of the screen. The right hand side, like Photoshop, offers the layers palate, along with blend modes and transparency. Phoenix also also includes a few image filters, not nearly as many as Pixlr, but it does have the added feature allowing you to import custom filters. You also have the option of importing images from flickr, facebook, and Picasa For a beginner Phoenix is a great place to start for photo editing because of it simplicity and ease of use.
Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is one of the original free competitors to Photoshop. Originally developed for Unix based computers, this image editor is also available on Windows, and OSX. As far as functionality goes it is very comparable to Photoshop. Gimp includes features for photo enhancement, image distortion. The advantage with gimp unlike the other software in this list is that it is a traditional application that you can downlod run on your computer offline. You can read more about GIMP and download the software for free here.
Upon first glance I was liked the look of the Splashup image editor. The user interface is nicely laid out, the tools palates are in similar fashion to Photoshop and has the additional options of filters and adjustments. However, upon using the program it was very slow to respond on my Macbook, almost to the point of un-usability. I am curious to see if anyone else has experienced similar problems as this seems to be a promising program.
The last option in the roundup is Paint.net. Originally started as a college development project it now has a large community of users and helpful tutorials. The only drawback is this software is only available for Windows, Mac users will have to stick with Gimp or one of the online editors. Paint.net has a full feature set and I would recommend giving it a spin if you are on a Windows PC. As I didn’t have a chance to test this software personally let me know in the comments if you found Paint.net useful.
Time to put away your wallet and give these a free photoshop comparable image editor a try. If you are looking to touch up a few photos for facebook, make a postcard to send to Grandma, or even an ad for your start-up, these internet applications will definitely get you started with out having to drop a few hundred dollars on Adobe Photoshop. I am interested to see what people have come up with, so feel free to post links to any work you do with these editors, and be sure to let me know which one you used.