Merchants know that photos are an important part of ecommerce — whether as product images or just for site design. This makes image editors equally important. Unfortunately, not everyone has the money to spend on expensive graphics suites like Adobe Photoshop. And others don’t want to learn complicated image editing software. Luckily, there are plenty of free — or nearly free — graphics applications that allow you to do many of the things you’d commonly do in Photoshop, but without paying that high price.
The downside to so many free graphics programs is determining which ones are worth your time. I’ve combed through many free image editors to bring you my four favorite Photoshop alternatives that will work for both beginners and seasoned graphic designers.
GIMP is probably the most popular free image editor, and usually the first program you will hear about when looking for Photoshop alternatives. It is available for both Windows and Mac OSX and is intended primarily for image retouching and editing. GIMP has many tools for simple image editing tasks like resizing, cropping, and color correcting. But it also has some of the same tools you would find in Photoshop, such as the clone stamp tool and the burn and dodge tool. This makes it great for editing and retouching product photos. If you’re already used to the layout and feel of Photoshop, GIMP’s workspace is customizable and you can rearrange it to come very close to Photoshop’s default layout.
If you’re completely new to image editors, GIMP does have a slight learning curve to master, especially for some of its more advanced functions. But if you’re familiar with other graphics programs, GIMP should be easy to pick up. Available for Windows and Mac.
What started as a simple replacement for Microsoft’s Paint program — bundled with Windows — grew into Paint.NET, a powerful yet simple image editor. This graphics program comes with all the basics for image editing and retouching in a very intuitive user interface that makes it good for beginners. Paint.NET also has some more advanced tools, like the clone stamp. And hundreds of plugins are available to push Paint.NET even further.
I especially recommend Paint.NET if you’re a Windows user and you are new to image editors – it almost feels like a “super” MS Paint. Or, if you’re familiar with image editors and just want something simple to get the job done, Paint.NET fits the bill. Windows only.
Aviary is a free web-based suite of multimedia applications developed by Worth1000. The Aviary image editor, Phoenix, has some helpful features that are easy to use and make the software simple to learn. Phoenix’s functionality ranges from simple image editing to complex effects. Other programs in the Aviary suite, like Raven, help with more than simple image editing. Becoming familiar with the Aviary’s image editors would also make it easy to pick up other programs in the Aviary suite later on. Because Aviary is a web-based suite, you can access it from any computer with Internet access and save all of your work online.
Having used Photoshop for most of my career, it took me a while to get used to the way Aviary splits things like advanced effects and color picking into separate applications. I’m used to having those features in a single application. But once I got past the separation of features, I now know that Aviary’s image suite stacks up against any other image editor. Online application for Windows and Mac.
Photoshop Express is Adobe’s free online image editor that offers some basic tools for editing and retouching. It’s an effective way to adjust product images and other photos. You won’t find the clone stamp tool or a long list of advanced effects here, but you will find some great beginner tools to edit and fine-tune a photo. Photoshop Express supports only JPG images, but the application is still being developed and more features will likely be added in the future.
If all you’re looking for is a simple image editor that you can access from anywhere — or if you’ve never used an image editor before — Photoshop Express could be a good fit. It can also help you learn the basics about image editing. Online application for Windows and Mac.
Pixelmator is not free, it costs $30, which is much cheaper than Adobe Photoshop. Also, because this is a Mac-only program and because I do not have access to a Mac, I haven’t tested it. I’ve watched several YouTube videos demonstrating its features and I’ve heard good things about it, as a very powerful and very clean image editor that is similar to Photoshop. Download a free 30-day trial at Pixelmator.com. Mac OSX only.