When it comes to photo editing and image processing, Adobe’s Photoshop is the ultimate champion in both features and functionality (the interface isn’t very intuitive, though, because of all the features and actions bunched up together in the menus).
If you’re into any kind of picture editing, whether for your personal needs or work related, you’ve probably already had a lot of people say you should get Photoshop, or better yet the full Adobe Master Collection Suite.
That would be cool and all, but the thing is that this kind of software costs a lot of money. And if you just need it to edit and retouch a couple of pictures per week, it may not be the best investment, especially when there are other alternatives that are fully capable to do what you need and are completely free.
Here are the best free alternatives to Photoshop, which will save you a lot of money in the long run (money you would’ve used on buying newer versions of Photoshop).
You have most probably heard about GIMP by now. It is the most popular alternative to Photoshop, and it can rival it on the features front. You’ve got everything you need to do basic and advanced editing, from simple effects to layers and complex color management schemes. The only thing that is bad about GIMP is its very unusual (you could say awful) interface, where the features are bunched up together into the wrong menus (I know that’s subjective, but most people find GIMP very counter-intuitive, especially after using other photo editors). However, things have changed dramatically on that front since the release of GIMPShop, which modifies the interface of GIMP to resemble that of Photoshop. Installing them both practically gives you a free clone of Photoshop!
This is a relatively new editing application, which has quickly become a hit with millions of users. It was originally intended as a replacement for Microsoft’s Paint (which hasn’t improved much even in Windows 7, except for the new ribbon interface), but has evolved into a free and powerful standalone photo editor. The interface is nice, intuitive and it has a great set of features (including layers, unlimited undo and special effects) that will be enough for 90% of all people out there.
Picasa is a great photo viewer from Google that comes bundled with a small, basic photo editing and retouching app (or is it the other way around?). If you haven’t tried it, you definitely should: aside from looking pretty and working fast (much faster than Windows Photo Viewer and the controls are much more intuitive), it has the most basic editing tools one might need: cropping, resizing, adding text, modifying colors and adding special effects. That’s truly everything one needs to be able to quickly edit their photos and post them on social networks or share with other people. Plus, it’s easier to use its uncluttered interface for those tasks than fire up Paint.NET or GIMP.
PhotoScape is a nice free photo editing app that is very similar to Picasa (except for the integrated Viewer). It allows you to quickly edit and fix photos and post them online or send them by email. Aside from the basic features like cropping, resizing, adjusting colors, drawing, and others it has a very useful batch editor, which you can use to quickly resize or otherwise modify tens or even hundreds of photos.
Although a bit dated, Vicman’s Photo Editor is still a pretty good picture editing application. It has the same basic features as Picasa and PhotoScape, but the interface looks a bit old (especially compared to Picasa and Paint.NET). If you don’t like the above 2 apps, you can easily go for this one.
Picnik is an interesting photo editing solution in that it is an online service. I’m sure you’ve seen other similar services like image conversion, resizing and applying special effects. Well, Picnik takes it a bit further and gives you a basic toolset similar to that of Paint.NET and Picasa, which you can use to edit your photos. The bad thing about it is that it uses bandwidth, and if your Internet connection is slow or your photos are big (7 megapixels or more), it can be pretty slow. The cool thing about Picnik is the range of special effects, which are pretty good.
Although not technically an editing service, Photofunia deserves a mention, because the special effects are pretty darn good. You basically select one of the many special effects (like putting yourself on city posters, inside famous pictures, on dollar bills, that sort of thing), upload a photo and download it back with the effects applied. Then you can print it and show it to everyone.
There aren’t that many other good alternatives to Photoshop and the above bunch of programs are the only ones, but fortunately, they are fully capable to do most of the basic editing tasks, which is what most people do with Photoshop anyway. You can save quite a lot of money if you just take a few hours to learn how these free alternative programs work and use them instead of buying Adobe’s Photoshop