Free photo editing software puts professional quality tools within the reach of everyone – regardless of their budget – and there’s something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for a full Photoshop alternative that gives you total manual control over every aspect of your images, or a simple Instagram-style editor that offers a selection of one-click filters, there a free editor that fits the bill.
The sheer number of free photo editors available to download can be overwhelming, so we’ve rounded up the very best options to help you pick the one that’s right for you.
If you have a collection of photos gathering dust on a smartphone or SD card, this is the perfect opportunity to get them looking great before uploading them to Facebook or having them printed professionally.
An exceptional photo editor, GIMP is a worthy rival to premium software and is the most powerful free tool for tweaking every pixel of your photos
If you’ve ever used Photoshop, GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) look be immediately familiar – particularly if you select the single-window mode, which arranges all its toolbars and canvases in an Adobe-style layout.
GIMP is packed with amazing tools that perfectly match those you’d find in premium software, and more are being added all the time.
GIMP’s photo editing toolkit is amazing, and includes layers, masks, curves, and levels. You can erase flaws with the excellent clone stamp and healing tools, create custom brushes, apply perspective changes, and apply changes to isolated areas with intelligent selection tools.
GIMP is open source software and its community of users and developers have created a huge collection of top-quality plugins to extend its capabilities even further. Many of these come pre-installed, and you can download more from the official glossary. If that’s not enough, you can even download and install Photoshop plugins.
Its power and flexibility make GIMP the best free photo editor for Windows. Give it a try – we think you’ll be impressed, even if you’re used to editing your images with premium software.
Review and where to download: GIMP
With layers, filters and plugins, Paint.NET will make your photos shine
Sometimes it’s best if your photo editor isn’t overloaded with bells and whistles. Paint.NET‘s simplicity is one of its key selling points; it’s a fast, easy to operate free photo editor that’s perfect for those little tasks that don’t need the sheer power of GIMP.
Don’t be fooled by the name, though. This isn’t just a clone of Microsoft’s ultra-basic Paint – though it was originally intended to replace it. It’s a proper photo editor, just one that lands on the basic side of the curve.
Interface-wise it’s reminiscent of its namesake, but as it’s grown, Paint.NET has added essential editing tools like layers, an undo history, a raft of filters, numerous community-created plugins, and a brilliant 3D rotate/zoom function that’s useful for recomposing images.
Yes, it’s lacking in certain areas, but if your machine is lacking in power or RAM we can’t think of a better choice.
Review and where to download: Paint.NET
Well designed and easy to use, Photo Pos Pro a superb photo editor that takes many of its design cues from Photoshop
Photo Pos Pro might not be as well known as Paint.net and GIMP, but it’s another top-quality photo editor packed with advanced image-enhancing tools.
Its interface is smarter and more accessible than GIMP’s array of menus and toolbars, with everything arranged in a logical and consistent way. If it’s still too intimidating, there’s also an optional ‘novice’ layout that resembles Fotor’s filter-based approach. The choice is yours.
The expert layout offers both layers and layer masks for sophisticated editing, as well as tools for adjusting curves and levels manually. You can still access the one-click filters via the main menu, but the focus is much more on fine editing.
Photo Pos Pro also includes a clone brush for erasing unwanted blemishes, and there’s extra support for batch-editing and scripts to help you save time when refining a whole folder of photos.
The free edition of Photo Pos Pro only has one drawback: files can only be saved at a maximum resolution of 1,024 x 2,014 pixels, which might be too small if you’re planning to have them printed professionally. If you want to remove this restriction, Photo Pos Pro Premium is available for a license free of £17.67, US$19.90, AU$29.78.
Review and where to download: Photo Pos Pro
PhotoScape boasts an excellent set of powerful photo editing tools and smart filters that even beginners will find easy to master
Take a look at PhotoScape‘s main menu and you’ll find a wealth of photo editing features that wouldn’t be amiss in a premium program: raw conversion, photo splitting and merging, animated GIF creation, and even a rather odd (but useful) function with which you can print lined, graph or sheet music paper.
The meat, of course, is in the photo editing. PhotoScape’s interface is among the most esoteric of all the free image editors we’ve looked at here, with tools grouped into pages in odd configurations. It certainly doesn’t attempt to imitate Photoshop, and includes fewer features.
PhotoScape is a particularly good choice for beginners, but is still capable of delivering amazing results. Its filters are particularly strong, making PhotoScape a good choice if you need to quickly level, sharpen or add subtle artistic effects.
Review and where to download: PhotoScape
A terrific selection of filters for one-click enhancement, plus manual controls
Fotor is an excellent photo editor for making quick enhancements. If you want to do a quick spot of manual retouching with a clone brush or healing tool you’ll need to opt for one of the more powerful tools above, but Fotor’s high-end filters that really do shine.
There’s a foolproof tilt-shift tool, for example, and a raft of vintage and vibrant colour tweaks, all easily accessed through Fotor’s clever menu system. You can manually alter your own curves and levels, too, but without the complexity of high-end tools.
Fotor’s most brilliant function, and one that’s sorely lacking in many photo editing packages, is its batch processing tool – feed it a pile of pics and it’ll filter the lot of them in one go, perfect if you have a memory card full of holiday snaps and need to cover up the results of a dodgy camera or shaky hand.
Review and where to download: Fotor
Note: We are not writer of this article, original source is mentioned below.