Top Photo Editors

For the longest time, people tried to find a free version of Photoshop, preferably online. Until, one day, Adobe finally heard their prayers and launched Adobe Photoshop Express, a trimmed-down online and mobile version of the industry’s leading software.


Unlike its paid counterpart, Adobe Photoshop Express is not aimed at professional photographers and media creators but to beginners or those looking for high-quality software for quick edits. This can be easily noted on the features offered and their accessibility.


With Adobe Photoshop Express you’ll be able to access basic image editing actions, such as contrast, perspective, saturation, exposure, and spot removal, as well as selecting preset dynamic effects. While there are not nearly as many tools as in the professional version, they are polished to perfection and offer a great user experience. The Express version of Adobe’s photo editing software also includes a ‘decorate’ category, which allows users to add text and easily create fully customizable collages.


You can edit images that are saved on your device or share them directly from Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, Facebook, or Google Photos. All edits made on Adobe Photoshop Express are non-destructive, meaning you can go back to the original photo at any time.


Pros : Advanced filters, minimalist interface, professional results


Cons : Only output format available is JPG, runs on Flash, limited tools


Platforms : Web and mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)


Paid version: Complete Adobe Photoshop editor for desktop starts at $9.99/month

GIMP is widely considered the best free photo editor available on the market. The software includes a wide range of tools, ranging from basic actions to professional-quality features. Beginners will highly benefit from its selection and montage tools, cropping, color adjustment, and automatic image enhancement tools. On the other hand, advanced users will find a number of tools catered to them, such as content-aware resizing, face swap, animated gifs, layer masks, curves, and personalizable brushes.


All of these features make GIMP an amazing free Photoshop alternative for those who already know Adobe’s flagship software. On top of that, its interface is fully customizable and there are numerous plugins that can be added for free.


GIMP is an open source software with a large active community behind it. This means the platform is constantly updated and improved, all while users can continue to use it for free.


This photo editing software can be installed on desktop devices running on any operating system, or downloaded as a portable version that can be added into a USB key for usage flexibility.


If you want to give this advanced photo editor a try but are not familiar with the discipline's jargon, you might want to start by taking a look at this photography terms glossary.


Pros : Professional tools and features, open source program, developer support


Cons : Steep learning curve, no mobile version, cluttered interface


Platforms: Desktop only (Linux, OS X, Windows)


Paid version: No

Paint.NET was initially created by a Washington State University student as a replacement for Microsoft Paint. But the original drawing program has developed into an intuitive free photo editing software aimed to those looking for an easy-to-use free image editing software that offers high-quality results.


The software has a clear and straightforward interface that supports hotkeys functions, making it a great option for inexperienced users who don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how the program works. Plus, this simplicity makes it possible to smoothly run Paint.NET on less powerful devices, such as notebooks.


Despite being targeted to novice users, Paint.NET offers a wide arrange of photo editing tools including brightness, contrast, hue, curves, levels, layers, gradients, and unlimited undos. On top of that, the software supports plugins created by its ever growing community of developers on the software’s forum. These plugins can be used to access more advanced features, such as the popular 3D rotate/zoom tool for image recomposition.


Pros : Intuitive interface, great for slow devices, full history access


Cons : Limited tools, not as powerful as other alternatives, no advanced features


Platforms : Desktop only (Windows)


Paid version : No, but you can support the project by purchasing Paint.NET for $6.99

Many see Pixlr Editor as the best free online photo editor, and consider it to be almost as powerful as the top desktop editing software. Its proficient capabilities start the very moment you open an image, as Pixlr Editor allows you to do so from your device, a URL, or even straight from Facebook. This is especially valuable for non-photographers who want to edit existing images for new purposes.


The program’s interface is notably similar to Adobe’s editor, which has led people to consider Pixlr Editor the best online version of Photoshop - yes, even including Photoshop Express itself. The long list of professional features included in the program are unmatched by most of the other free photo editors in the market. Among these, we find exposure, levels, automatic enhancement tools, sophisticated color pickers, customizable brushes, layers, and masks.


The main disadvantage of Pixlr Editor is that it requires Flash, a plugin that Adobe is planning to stop supporting soon. In order to overcome this obstacle, Pixlr has developed an HTML-based paid version of Pixlr Editor that includes advanced editing tools, PSD templates support, premium fonts and stock images, layers, and more.


A free, more simple HTML version of the program is also available online under the name Pixlr X, which we describe in detail below. With the launch of the beta version of Pixlr Editor 2020, it seems like the company might be looking to merge both of its free photo editors into a single platform. Keep on reading to know more about this simplified alternative. The software can also be used on mobile with its native apps for Android and iOS.


Pros : Powerful features, doesn’t require any downloads, numerous uploading options


Cons : No batch editing capabilities, displays ads, runs on Flash


Platforms : Web and mobile (iOS, Android)


Paid version : Pixlr Pro costs $5/month

While Pixlr Editor is seen as the best online photo editor like Photoshop, Pixlr X is considered the best free HTML alternative to Photoshop Express. This software was developed as the successor of Pixlr Editor in hopes to avoid obsolescence once Flash is out of the picture. Unfortunately, moving from a Flash platform to an HTML one required a lot of trimming down on the original editor’s features.


Notwithstanding this feature minimization, Pixlr X has established itself among the best free photo editing software in the market. The program maintains the slick design of its predecessor while focusing on one-click tools that will cover all your basic editing needs, plus some. You’ll be able to edit your images’ colors and saturation, crop and resize, get rid of unwanted elements with the touchup tool, and adjust the white balance. Other more niche tools, such as red-eye removal and fill light will allow you to take your portrait photography to the next level.


Overall, Pixlr X is an outstanding online photo editor for beginners and non-professional photographers, who will see all their media needs covered. Those looking for more advanced tools, such as brushes or layers, might want to stick with Pixlr Editor until Pixlr X evolves to include these features.


Pros : One-click edits, straightforward interface, doesn’t require any downloads


Cons : Limited tools, no advanced features, less powerful than Pixlr Editor


Platforms : Web on desktop


Paid version : No


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