If you want to edit your digital photos without editing your budget, choose one of these free photo editing programs. The word “free” doesn’t mean what it once did. How many times have we heard phrases like “Free Gift Offer” or “Free with the purchase of…”? We usually find out that “free” really means you only have a trial version to evaluate a product or it’s just an enticement to buy a low-cost software program.
This is a list of basic photo editing software that is really available for download and use at no cost. Not everyone looks for the same features in a photo program to edit their photos, so this list isn’t in order from best to worst; it’s just in alphabetical order so you know which ones might be best to suit your photo editing needs.
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, and it is the closest to Photoshop among the free apps mentioned here – 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 – it may look like Photoshop, but GIMP has its own look and feel. When using a large 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. Like Photoshop, there is a learning curve. (Users familiar with Photoshop may need to adapt themselves to the GIMP environment.)
IrfanView is one of the longest-serving and most popular freeware image editors available. Fast, compact, and flexible, IrfanView is also packed with features and extras, including TWAIN support, frames and borders, and slideshows, wallpaper, and screenshots. IrfanView plays music and videos, too; in fact, it’s long been prized for its ability to open a huge range of files. It’s also widely customizable, with lots of options.
Pixlr.com has a tiered offering that is entirely free. The site separates its photo editing into Pixlr Editor (advanced); Pixlr Express (efficient); and Pixlr-o-matic (playful). 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 most 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 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-o-matic is well-described as “playful.” This is where you create the Instagram-like, old-looking photos. You can apply borders on your images or give edges a faded or torn look. You can go old-school darkroom: While you’re playing with your photos they have the appearance that they’re in a solution or water bath during the development process.
Paint.NET was originally designed as a free alternative to Microsoft Paint. Many people sing praise for this software, saying it’s better than GIMP and more affordable than Photoshop (considering it can be downloaded at no cost). Paint.NET also has several plug-ins, enhancing the product and providing users with additional features like image layering, unlimited undo, and special photo effects.
Users rate this free and feature-packed photo editor very highly. This very user-intuitive and powerful photo editing software can be downloaded at no cost to private or educational users.
PhotoPlus 6 is Serif’s standard photo editor. Why is it free? They’re hoping you’ll fall in love with their product and upgrade to their enhanced version, PhotoPlus 8.
Excellent features, highly rated, totally free and fun to use.
Picasa is less of a photo editor and more of a slideshow creator and photo organizer, but there are just enough basic editing tools for the layman designer. The Mac and PC program, which Google acquired in 2004, lets you share photos on your Google+ profile. Using Picasa you can easily scoop up all the photos on your computer or drive, and format them to share. You can select a standard upload size and the program will take care of prepping the photos. In addition to Google+, you can sync your albums from Picasa to web albums on other sites.
Yet another totally free photo editor that lest you crop, resize, and rotate digital photos quickly and easily. Picnik is an online editor that works on all Windows, Mac, and Linux systems without any registration required, and nothing to download. Picnik is very functional and highly rated. Click here to see what Picnik has to offer. Unforunately, this service ended April 19, 2012.
Built somewhat as a replacement to Picnik is Ribbet – another free photo editing tool. You can begin editing photos without even signing up. They have basic features that are free to all, and their premium version is free for a limited time.
Due to popular demand, Pixia has been created to support several languages for fixing photos. The original edition is Japanese but different tutorials are offered to help you use the software to edit photos. Cool. Although Pixia’s help files need to be downloaded separately, you’ll find just about all the options you need to edit your photos into professional-grade shots.
VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor
This is an image/photo edit that is not just user friendly with plenty of features, but also lets you skip out on expensive photo editors and create your own works by refining and producing excellent digital photos of your own.