Most of you are probably aware that Adobe’s Photoshop is the 500 lb gorilla of image editing software. I’ve been a graphic designer for 20+ years now and I’ve used Photoshop for most of that time. I can honestly say that it is one of the best, most useful and well designed software packages I know. But not everyone has access to, or needs the power, of Photoshop. I get asked regularly, “Is there something else I can use?” Here’s my short list (and very short reviews):
1. Microsoft Paint (Windows – free)
It’s very, very basic. But, if you have Windows, you have Paint. If all you need to do is crop, rotate or resize an image, Paint will get the job done. If you want to do anything much more complicated than that, I suggest you move on.
2. Paint.net (Windows – free)
Paint.net is a pretty decent Windows image editor. It supports “layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools.” The user interface is a little too window oriented for my taste, but you can beat the price. I’ve used Paint.net on jobs where I didn’t have Photoshop access. If you need simple image editing + free, this would be my go to option.
3. The GIMP (Linux, OS X, Windows – free)
The GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” No, it’s not for painting antelope. To be fair, it’s been a long time since I tried GIMP. When I did, I was really put off by the user interface. It was hard to use, understand and manipulate anything. Since then, according to Wikipedia, “The user interface of GIMP is designed by a dedicated design and usability team. This team was formed after the developers of GIMP signed up to join the OpenUsability project.” I’m guessing it’s much improved, but I’ve never gone back. My understanding is that the GIMP offers a more professional tool set than Paint.net. But also a greater level of complexity. If you’re looking for something Paint.net can’t provide, give the GIMP a try.
4. Pixlr (Online – free)
Pixlr is arguably the most powerful online image editing web site available. It’s remarkable what you can do online these days! Pixlr offers a free online image editor called Pixler Editor as well as Pixler Express; a mobile app that offers “More than 600 effects, overlays, and borders to personalize any image, free! Pixlr Express is a fun and free photo editor that lets you quickly crop, re-size, and fix any picture, remove red-eye, and whiten teeth.” Pixlr Editor allows you to upload an image and manipulate it using very Photoshop-like tools. There’s loads of filters, adjustments and it even supports layers. If you’ve got a Chromebook, or you are otherwise restricted to online photo editing, you’re definitely going to want to bookmark Pixler.
Finally, Wikipedia offers One chart to rule them all. There’s loads of image editors listed here, both free and proprietary. Feel like I missed something? Send me an email and let me know!