Photoshop is expensive, so here’s the best free photo-editing software

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There’s no argument about it — Adobe Photoshop remains the best photo-editing software on the market. But unless you’ve undergone formal training, it’s a difficult program to master, and an expensive one to use. That’s why we’re taking a look at the best free photo-editing software on the market, which provide much of the same functionality as Photoshop but without the associated fees. Each of the programs below can perform basic and semi-advanced tasks, for instance, allowing you to resize, crop, and correct exposure with ease. Read on for further details, whether you’re in the market for a desktop or mobile solution.

GIMP

editingsoftware_gimp-640x640

Often heralded as the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source application that relies on a community of volunteer developers who maintain and improve the product. Available for Mac and PC, you get a lot of professional-level editing and retouching tools — perfect for designers who can’t or won’t shell out hundreds of dollars to Adobe.

Once you launch the program, you’ll find a dedicated window that displays the image, and separate windows to organize the toolbox and layers. When using a large display, or two displays, you have a nice, big workspace to play with your images. Icons in the toolbox represent actions such as the crop, lasso, paint and brush tools, and you can apply various effects to your photos. It may seem like Photoshop, but GIMP has its own look and feel.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS Linux

PhotoScape

Photoscape

Apart from basic image editing, PhotoScape also lets you create slideshows and animated GIFs, capture screenshots, and combine and split images. You can customize your toolbar, so you can organize the features you use most, and then revert to the default toolbar when you want to dig deeper into the software’s offerings.

PhotoScape software is free to download. But it’s part of the Open Candy network, and runs ads for other “recommended” software. This is isolated to PhotoScape, and won’t infiltrate the rest of your computer with adware, but it’s worth noting.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

The Nik Collection

Nik Collection

The Nik Collection is an image-editing suite that comes courtesy of Google — one that’s now entirely free. This is one of the most powerful online tools available, and Google providing it for free was pretty big news when it broke last year. The Collection includes seven plugins, each with a different focus. Analog Efex Pro focuses on effects that produce a vintage aesthetic or make digital photos appear more natural, while Color Efex Pro provides a ton of filters. Silver Efex Pro, on the other hand, is tailored toward black-and-white images, while Viveza allows you to alter specific colors in a photo without using filters. The last two plugins, Sharpener Pro and Dfine, allow you to improve clarity and reduce noise reduction, among other things.

Best of all, you can either download individual tools or the entire suite at once. The tools may take a little time to learn, but by separating out the different functions, the software makes it easier for people to pick and choose what they need in any given moment. The only downside here is that Google won’t be offering patches or updates to these tools, so they won’t have much longevity. Get them while they still work!

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS

Paint.NET

Paint.net

This is a case where the apprentice becomes the master. Paint.NET was created as a college undergraduate senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and it continues to be maintained by alumni of the program. It was originally developed as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, which comes as part of Windows. Paint.NET has surpassed Microsoft Paint in functionality and has some advanced features.

Paint.NET features an intuitive user interface that supports layers, an “unlimited undo” to back out of any mistake no matter how disastrous, various special effects, and other tools. Where Microsoft Paint was able to do little more than resize images, Paint.NET is able to handle more advanced photo editing that you’d expect from Photoshop and other paid programs. 

Download it now for:

Windows

HitFilm Express

HitFilm

HitFilm Express is a free video editing service that specializes in digital effects — which makes it ideal for creating more imaginative photo effects as well. With both 2D and 3D compositing, more than 180 visual effects from which to choose, and a community with plenty of ideas, you can make nearly any image that you can dream of. From putting a headshot into an Ironman-like HUD, to turning your best friend into a Jedi, this is the app to try if you’re aiming for the stars.

Download it now for:

Windows MacOS