Adobe Photoshop’s established position as the number one image editing and photo-editing program for Windows and Mac is so strong that many people don’t even bother searching for alternative options. It is Photoshop or nothing. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Many Photoshop features are pro-level features, which means many of us will never know or understand how to use them. Furthermore, there are plenty of alternative photo editing programs out there that can do all the basic editing you need to do.
It isn’t just about getting simplified versions of Photoshop neither. There are great alternative programs out there that can offer comparable tool sets to that offered by the Adobe program. Oh yeah, we forgot to mention. A lot of these alternatives to Photoshop won’t cost you a penny. They’re completely free. Let’s not waste any more time then, these are the best free alternatives to Photoshop.
Free alternatives for Photoshop
We’re starting off with a big dog here. GIMP, which stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program is the most fully formed and arguably most well-known Photoshop alternative there is. GIMP is like an open source Photoshop developed by a global team of volunteer developers to work on Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Apple Mac. It has an extensive set of features to rival what even Photoshop has to offer and can edit a wide range of file formats including RAW files. This means GIMP is a pro-friendly alternative to Photoshop with features like layer masks and filters enabling photographers and graphic designers to get their work done. GIMP is also a customizable photo editing software as users can download add-on packs to add the extra features they need.
The PIXLR editor is an interesting photo editor because it is browser based, which means you can use in on all platforms via a modern web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Impressively, despite this PIXLR offers a photo editing experience that rivals and indeed betters many of the downloadable alternatives. The PIXLR image editor also has a very similar layout to Photoshop meaning you’ll likely pick it up quickly, if you’re used to using the Adobe program. PIXLR also comes as a mobile app for Android and iOS iPhones and iPads.
Squoosh is another browser-based photo editing program, although it offers a much more limited set of features than PIXLR or Gimp. Designed by the Google Chrome Labs team, Squoosh is designed to help you convert and optimize your images for publication across a wide variety digital platforms. If all you need to do is resize your image or make basic changes to the color palette then Squoosh is a good option that won’t intimidate you with a huge number of unknown features and buttons.
Another good free alternative to Photoshop that isn’t overly complicated is Paint.NET. If you’re an amateur photographer or if you’re looking for an image manipulation tool for a one-off project, then Paint.NET could be the option you’re looking for. That is unless you have a MAC as Paint.NET is only available on Windows. Paint.NET has a much gentler learning curve than GIMP while still offering, via plugins, access to a wide range of features including filters, masks, and layers.
Like GIMP, Krita is another piece of open-source editing software. Krita works on Linux, Windows, and Mac but offers a lighter experience than GIMP even though it has received a lot of new features in recent years. Krita features include the ability to create and edit HDR images, which is a rather advanced feature and a wide array of brush customizations. This makes Krita a great program for digital illustrators.
SumoPaint is a very popular and very capable alternative to Photoshop. One limitation, however, is that it can’t work with the standard Photoshop PSD file. SumoPaint has all the usual features including text gradients, brushes, and whatnot and works with many different types of images including JPEG, BMP, GIF, and TIFF.
PicMonkey is another online photo editor that aims for the more socially-minded users. The interface is very simple and makes it very easy to perform basic edits and add text overlay and filters. PicMonkey isn’t going to rival Photoshop but it does offer simple editing mechanics and so isn’t too hard to get into. You can download it as an app on Android or iPhone and it also has a Google Chrome extension too.
A much more professionally minded piece of software built with graphic designers in mind is Inkscape. Inkscape is great for illustrators as it is optimized to work with vector images. Inkscape provides a great way to transform photos into vector images but it also has a range of more customary features like cropping and cutting and pasting. Technically, Inkscape is more of an alternative to Adobe Illustrator rather than Photoshop but it is still worth a mention.
Our final entry into this list is Photopea, which is another online photo-editing tool. Photopea looks very similar to Photoshop and even works with the standard Photoshop PSD file meaning you could work across the two platforms if needs be. Photopea also has many advanced features like vector graphics support and advanced layering meaning it is a credible alternative to Adobe Photoshop. The main problem, however, is that the program is funded by ads. This means you’ll either see a lot of ads that will encroach on your work surface or you’ll have to pay a $9 per month subscription to get rid of them.
There you have 9 great free alternatives to Photoshop. The important thing here is to consider what type of photo editing project you need to work on. If you’re looking for a program to perform basic image editing for social media then a program like Squoosh, PicMonkey, or Paint.NET could be all you need. If, however, you need a more rounded experience that you could use professionally, you should definitely look into the likes of GIMP, Krita or PIXLR.