You can quickly improve a selfie nowadays using numerous camera apps and filters. Sometimes, the basic features are not enough, and you need something more to give photos a better look. On the other hand, maybe you want a career in photo editing.
Adobe Photoshop is the world’s most famous photo editing software, but it costs a lot of money. Fortunately, you can find many free alternatives that are great for beginners. You could train with the free stuff first to build towards more professional tools later.
This article will elaborate on eight free photo editing tools for first-time and experienced users. You could download some of these for offline use, while the other free photo editors require an internet connection. Then, we will discuss how to find the best options yourself.
- Adobe Photoshop Express
- Photos for Mac
- Adobe Lightroom
Expected features for free photo editing software
You might be wondering why you would need new editing software. However, some folks want to do more than add the usual filter and general effects.
These free photo editors let you do more unconventional stuff with your images. For example, you could add scenery from a foreign country or look as if you are flying.
You probably would not use these effects for your next Zoom meeting! Yet, these image manipulation methods are usual for magazines or other visual media.
The following software can help you hone your photo editing skills, so your photos can transcend regular selfies. As you get used to the editing process, perhaps you will find a new hobby or career path.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
This program earned the top spot because it suits both newbies and professionals. Canva is an online photo editor that lets you collaborate with a team.
Doesn’t the always-online requirement limit its functionality? Believe it or not, that is an essential feature nowadays due to the rising popularity of remote work.
More businesses are working from home, so they need tools that let them coordinate teamwork online. Besides, most people spend a lot of time on the internet nowadays! Here are a few examples of Canva’s features:
- Combine images – You can create a visual story with a few clicks and pictures. Canva provides a collage template or preset grid as an image combiner. All you have to do is drag your photos into the frames.
- Add text – You could include captions to your videos to make them more attractive. What’s more, you could apply text animations and effects.
- Crop photos – Canva lets you focus on specific elements by excluding stuff you do not need.
- Brighten pictures – This program can make your images stand out even if you do not have advanced editing skills. Its beginner-friendly tools can help you improve the overall look of your photos in minutes.
- Mirror images – This photo editing software lets you edit a picture to look as if there is a mirror nearby.
- Monochrome filter – You can turn your images black and white for that oldies photo look.
- Image enhancer – Canva offers essential editing tools to adjust your photo’s focus, sharpness, lighting, and more.
These features are only a sample of what the free version can do. Canva Pro starts at $119.99 a month, and it lets you access premium features like allowing team collaboration and providing templates.
2. Adobe Photoshop Express
Available on: Android and iOS
If we only discuss the best photo editing software, then Adobe Photoshop would dominate this list. It has all the advanced editing tools, and every new version offers more features.
This article is about free photo editors, but Photoshop costs a few hundred bucks. Fortunately, Adobe released a free version of its top-tier computer program. Here is a list of what it can do:
- Themes – Photoshop Express offers a wide range of themes to give your images some style.
- Looks – This free photo editing software enables users to apply instant filters called Looks.
- Crop – You can crop, straighten, rotate, and flip images with Adobe Photoshop Express Editor.
- Perspective correction – Adobe Photoshop Express Editor allows you to fix where your image is facing. It lets you choose the following options: Full Auto, Balanced Auto, Horizontal Skew, and Vertical Skew.
- Resize – You can scale down photos while preserving their crop ratio. In other words, you can change image sizes without your photo looking stretched.
- Cutout objects – One of the most popular advanced features of Adobe Photoshop is the Quick Selection Tool. It allows you to select specific elements of your image to exclude the other parts. Fortunately, you can try it out with the Express app.
- Transfer makeup – Adobe seems to follow the selfie trend, so Photoshop Express enables users to digitally adjust makeup in their photos.
- Add text – Like other photo editing apps, you can add captions with different styles.
Adobe Photoshop Express Editor has more advanced features that we cannot cover in this article. Check it out if you want a clear choice for the best free photo editor.
3. Photos on Mac
Available on: Mac
We can now discuss the best free photo editing software for Apple users. If you have a Mac, you have access to Photos. Let us take a look at its features:
- Highlights – The Photos app shows the best images in your library while hiding duplicates. Also, this photo editing software lets you see essential moments like anniversaries, trips, and birthdays.
- Memories – This free photo editor can turn your best pictures and clips into a single memorable video. Moreover, that movie is complete with theme music and cinematic transitions. If you use iCloud Photos, editing a Memory syncs it to other devices.
- Powerful search tool – This free photo editing software can find pictures based on their elements. For example, put the word “sunset” in the search bar to see a photo you had at the beach.
- Cloud storage – The Photos app is a free online photo editor that can store your pictures in iCloud. As a result, you do not have to worry about filling your internal storage with too many images.
- Editing tools – The Photos app has the expected photo editing features like resize, zoom, warp, and crop. Also, you can even make GIFs if you like making memes!
- Filters – What best free photo editor would earn its reputation without offering filters? The Photos app lets you choose nine options inspired by professional photography styles.
- Share – You can easily send images via AirDrop and Shared Albums. Moreover, the Photos app helps you turn them into social media posts.
- Extensions – This free photo editor offers third-party extensions like Wix, Sparkle, GoodTimes, and PrestoPhoto. As a result, users can conveniently turn their photos into useful projects like photo books or gallery prints.
4. Adobe Lightroom
Available on: Android and iOS
Here is another free photo editing software from Adobe. What makes it different from Photoshop? Lightroom focuses on photo processing, while Photoshop concentrates on image creation and manipulation.
In other words, the Adobe Lightroom app does not have many of Photoshop’s advanced features. As a result, it is a more suitable photo editor for first-time or casual users. Let us look at some of its features:
- Premium Presets – Lightroom offers more than 200 exclusive filters from professional photographers. Also, you could allow Adobe’s AI to suggest the most suitable preset for your picture.
- Auto Editor – With Adobe Lightroom’s auto editor, users can enhance their photos with a single tap.
- Precision sliders – You can adjust the light settings like shadows, exposure, contrast, and highlights. Also, you have other slider options like grain, dehaze, clarity, and texture.
- Crop – This free photo editor also lets you crop and rotate images.
- Curves – Adobe Lightroom has advanced tools that let you edit midtones, colors, highlights, and shadows.
- Versions – This free photo editor keeps copies of your image at each stage of the editing process. As a result, you can compare them and check the improvements.
- Capture modes – One of Lightroom’s advanced tools enables you to take detailed shots. These include professional, raw, and HDR modes.
Another great thing about Lightroom is its premium version starting at $9.99 monthly. The basic package gives you 1TB of cloud storage and these advanced features, such as a healing brush, masks, and web galleries.
These features provide some of the functions of Photoshop. What’s more, the starter Lightroom plan offers video editing features. Yet, you can use this app without a subscription if you focus on editing photos.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android
Let us turn to a free photo editing software for aspiring digital artists. Perhaps you would like to do more than swipe sliders and choose filters to improve your images.
Krita lets you go beyond by letting you draw on your photos. You can even go so far as draw entirely new images from scratch. More importantly, you can use it with a graphic tablet.
It is a flat device with a stylus that lets you control the mouse cursor like a pencil. As a result, you can draw digital images on your computer naturally. Here are some of Krita’s premium features:
- Brushes – You can choose from over a hundred brushes that let you simulate strokes from a paintbrush, pen, spray can, and pencil.
- Stabilizers – Krita can steady the brush pointer if you have shaky hands. As a result, you can keep drawing for more extended periods.
- Text & vector – You can add comic book panels with Krita’s vector tools. Then, you can include captions within speech bubbles.
- Brush engines – The advanced photo editing tools let you fine-tune the brushes. For example, Krita can simulate the slight smudges and streaks from real-life brush strokes.
- Resource manager – You can import texture and brush packs from other artists to expand your repertoire. This feature is excellent if you want to adopt a specific style from your favorite artists.
Krita works best as a desktop editing software, especially if you have a graphic tablet. A PC has a larger screen than Android tablets, so you may find it easier to adjust images.
Available on: Windows and Mac
This next entry is one of the most well-known photo editing software, but you may have never heard of it. Its name is GIMP, an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program.
The name might not sound cool, but it is a surprisingly robust photo editor. Experienced users may recognize it as a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Here are some of its features:
- Customizable interface – You can change the elements in your user interface, such as the widgets, icons, and tools. Also, you could go so far as to change their size and color. You would only expect this feature from the best free photo editing software.
- Image enhancement – GIMP has several tools that can solve various issues. For example, corrective mode lets you straighten the tilt of your photos. Also, the channel mixer enables you to turn your subject’s surroundings black and white.
- Digital retouching – You can remove unnecessary elements with the clone tool and fix minor details with the healing tool.
- Hardware support – GIMP supports touch tablets and their pressure and tilt sensitivities. Moreover, you can modify your brushes’ size, opacity, and angle.
- File formats – This app is one of the best free photo editors because it can support multiple image formats. These include common ones like JPEG, GIF, and PNG and obscure ones that you can check on the GIMP plugin registry. Also, this editing software can compress your files to save disk space.
One glaring problem with GIMP is that you might not like the UI. It looks bland even when compared to free photo editing apps. Also, it does not have a mobile app. You can find GIMP apps for Android and Apple, but the official website does not link to them.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
Think of this next app as Canva, except that it does not require an account. Just open this online photo editor and start enhancing photos using the following features:
- Photo collages – You can turn your images into galleries using presets, grid styles, backgrounds, and customized ratios.
- Auto Fix – Pixlr can instantly adjust your images with one click or tap.
- Photo effects – The Stylize feature lets you apply visual touches like posters, watercolors, and pencil sketches.
- Double Exposure – This feature allows you to create photo effects by adjusting transparency and layers.
- Overlays – You can change the color tone of your images. For example, you could choose a cool tone or apply surreal shades.
- Favorites – Pixlr enables you to save your favorite overlays and effects for your following projects.
Pixlr also has the basic editing features you expect from the best free photo editing apps. For example, it lets you crop and resize multiple photos.
You can remove blemishes by smoothening skin or whitening teeth. Moreover, you can fix red-eye, the glow that reflects in someone’s eyes due to a camera flash.
Pixlr is one of the best free photo editing software because it also has a downloadable program for PC and Mac. More importantly, it has features not present in the web application.
For example, you can view images in their original quality. Also, the desktop app tracks metadata, so you can track specific details of a photo.
You may appreciate this feature if you are a professional photographer or a graphic designer. Moreover, you can add effects and fonts that Pixlr does not offer.
Gain more features by paying for the Premium plan and the Creative Pack. The former costs $4.90 monthly, while the latter is worth $14.99 a month.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS
This app is on the list because its tools let you create specific projects. Let us take a look at Fotor’s most exciting features:
- Mood Board Creator – A mood board contains pictures and words that express your current feelings. Some artists use them to gain new ideas for their next projects. Fortunately, Fotor can help you make one by providing backgrounds, templates, graphics, and other elements.
- Profile Picture Maker – Fotor can help you create photos for your resume. You may need this if you want a job because it can help you promote your LinkedIn profile.
- Brand Kit – You can create presets using your company logo and colors. As a result, you can facilitate creating marketing materials for your business.
- Batch photo editor – Fotor offers batch image processing so that you can apply a set of edits to multiple images at once.
- NFT Creator – Non-fungible tokens are digital artworks that have ownership registered in cryptocurrency networks. Now, you can upload images to this Fotor tool and create your first NFT.
Of course, Fotor offers the expected features of an online photo editor. Learn more about them below:
- Crop & resize – You can make basic edits by excluding unwanted objects from your picture or changing their size.
- Background remover – Fotor enables you to remove your subject’s background so you can make creative edits.
- Blemish remover – This online editing tool can remove unwanted marks on the picture of someone’s face. For example, it can remove wrinkles from your next Instagram story.
- Photo enhancer – You can skip the steep learning curve with this tool. Fotor can apply several edits on your behalf with a single click or tap.
Choosing a free photo editor
You can find so many photo editing tools online. If you did not like the options on the list, feel free to look for alternatives. However, you may want to follow these steps to find the best ones:
- Determine why you want to have a photo editing program. If you are a casual user who wants to edit images for social media, your answer will determine features.
- Next, look for options that may fit your needs. Novice users may stick to the free software included on PCs, such as Microsoft Paint. Meanwhile, advanced users may want AI tools, customizable brushes, or a minimalist interface.
- You may skip this part if you want a mobile app. If you want a desktop program, ensure you have enough RAM or random access memory. Otherwise, your app may lag or crash.
- Check how often the software company provides updates. You will need consistent ones because the app has to follow digital trends.
- Afterward, look at the supported file formats. You will not be able to enhance photos if they are incompatible with your program.
- See if the program provides active and responsive customer support.
- Then, check how much training material it has. A beginner would want an app that has several video tutorials.
- Finally, verify if the program has a paid version. You might want to upgrade if you grow bored of making quick edits.
We covered some of the most popular free photo editors. They offer features not found in your typical camera app, such as background removal.
Some let you download an app, while others only work on your browser. You can find other options online, such as Google Photos and Photo Pos Pro.
Note that the best photo editor is the one that fits your needs. You might not need something expensive like Adobe Photoshop if you only need a collage maker with numerous filters.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best free photo editor?
At the time of writing, the best free photo editing software is Canva. It lets you access many features for beginners and professionals without spending a dime.
How can I edit pictures on my computer for free?
You could use the photo app already on your computer or smartphone. Otherwise, you can download numerous free photo apps online.
How can I edit photos without Photoshop?
You can download Photoshop Express to access some of the desktop version’s features for free. Moreover, you can try other third-party apps or pre-installed ones.