Adobe Photoshop is the standard photo editing software in the industry, but it is not the only way to give your images a new life: there are many free alternatives that put a wide variety of powerful tools to improve images at your disposal.
Simple photo enhancement software has its place, but a genuine Photoshop alternative needs more than just red-eye correction and lots of retro filters; It has to offer layers and masks, batch editing and a wide variety of automatic and manual editing tools. You also need add-ons to fill in the gaps in your characteristics and that you can work in the most efficient way possible.
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Powerful and adaptable, GIMP is the best free alternative for Photoshop. With layers, masks, advanced filters, color adjustments and transformations, all fully customizable, its characteristics make it unbeatable.
One of the best features of GIMP is its large number of add-ons and scripts created by the user, many of which are pre-installed and ready to use. Some of these replicate popular Photoshop tools (such as Liquify), and there is a package of animation tools to make your photos come to life through mixing and transformation. If all that is not enough, you can even add Photoshop add-ons to GIMP.
If all this sounds a little intimidating, do not worry: the excellent GIMP user manual includes step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting guides so you can get started.
The latest version of GIMP offers a new interface that brings together all your toolboxes, palettes and menus in a single window. This gives it an elegant appearance, similar to Photoshop, although its wide mosaic of tools created by the user means that you will have to spend a little time experimenting and reading carefully the documentation to learn to obtain the best results of each one.
Photo Pos Pro
If you have not heard of Photo Pos Pro, a gift awaits you. This alternative of Photoshop aims to offer the best of both worlds, offering interfaces for both novice and advanced users. The novice option puts first-click filters and automatic adjustments in the foreground, while the second one closely resembles Photoshop. Both are well designed and more intuitive than GIMP lists and infinite menus.
Like Photoshop, Photo Pos Pro offers layers and layer masks, as well as magnificent clones and healing brushes. All the expected color refining tools are present and correct. There is support for edition of batches and scripts to save time in routine tasks, you can import images directly from a scanner or camera.
Photo Pos Pro offers add-ons in the form of additional frames and templates, and you can create and save your own filters to use in the future.
Its main drawback is the limit on the size of the saved files (1,024 x 2,014 pixels), but if you like the basic version and you want to update, Photo Pos Pro Premium will always be available to you.
The open source Photoshop alternative Paint.NET started as a substitute for Microsoft Paint, but over the years it has become a powerful photo editor in its own right.
Like GIMP and Photo Pos Pro, Paint.NET offers an excellent selection of automatic filters, as well as manual editing tools for fine adjustments. It also supports layers, although you must install a mask add-on. The batch edition is included by default, and its cloned stamp facilitates the elimination of imperfections and distractions.
Paint.NET is not as full of features as GIMP, but its smaller community of voluntary coders means that its interface is more consistent and easier to use in general (though not as sophisticated as Photo Pos Pro).
Paint.NET is a particularly good Photoshop alternative for working with multiple photos thanks to the quick access tabs that use thumbnails to represent each open image at a glance.
It is also very fast and works well even on low power PCs. There is no limit on the size of the saved images, but it ranks third due to its smaller range of options and customizable tools.
Pixlr Editor is not a normal and free alternative to Photoshop: it is the work of AutoDesk, one of the most important names in computer-aided design and 3D modelling software, and it is as impressive as its pedigree implies.
There are several versions available, including web, desktop and mobile applications. Here we are looking at the Pixlr Editor web application, which is the only one that supports layers.
Pixlr Editor presents a prominent ad on the right side that limits the size of your workspace, but that is its main drawback. You get all the tools you expect from Photoshop style (including sharpness, focus mask, blur, noise, levels and curves, to name just a few), as well as artistic filters and automatic optimization options. Nothing is hidden behind a payment wall.
Pixlr Editor also offers a toolbox very similar to GIMP, with brushes, fills, selection, healing and clone stamp tools, all customizable through a ribbon on the work area. There is support for layers and masks, and although Pixlr Editor can not edit images in batches, it will gladly handle multiple images at once in different tabs.
Pixlr Editor is also built in Flash, but no HTML5 replacement has been announced.
For now, however, it is an excellent alternative for Photoshop, especially if you do not have time or permission to download a desktop application.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Photoshop Express is a lightweight version of the industry standard photo editor available for free to your browser and as a downloadable application for Windows, iOS and Android.
Photoshop Express is the simplest tool here, but Adobe’s experience in photo editing means it is far superior to other quick repair software. It contains the most elegant and minimalist interface that enhances Photoshop images, especially suitable for touch screens. The sliders allow you to adjust the contrast, exposure and white balance of your photo dynamically, and there are automatic options for adjustments with a single click. Once you are satisfied with the results, you can save the edited photo on your PC or share it through Facebook.
The main attraction of Photoshop Express is its simplicity, but this is also its biggest drawback. There are no layers, add-ons or brush tools, and you can not crop or resize your images.
If you are looking for a powerful image editor for your smartphone or tablet, Photoshop Fix (to restore and correct images) and Photoshop Mix (to combine and mix images) are also worth investigating. Photoshop Mix even supports layers, and both applications are integrated with Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, which makes it an excellent counterpart to the desktop version of Photoshop, as well as an excellent tool in itself.
With this we finalize this list of alternatives to Photoshop, we recommend you to look at each of the recommendations of this list and taking into account your needs to opt for one of them. If you know any other tool that you use that is not on this list, share it with us below in the comments.