Free Photo Editors Compared
There areÂ a lot of free photo editors out there. Some are tools you use online, and others are programs that you use on your desktop. Most let you make very basic adjustments to your photos. A few allow you to use very advanced and creative techniques. Some are even linked in to popular photo sharing websites, like Flickr, and Facebook.
So, which one is right for you?
I looked at 5 of the most popular free photo editing programs available to show you the differences and help you make the choice. Check out each photo editor’s description, then use the table at the end of the post to compare options, tools, system requirements and more.
All of these programs can handle basic adjustments to brightness, contrast, and color. They can also handle red eye, rotate, crop and re-size photos. Click on each section’s header to go directly to the photo editor’s website.
This online editor has a ton of pre-set image adjustments to make your photos “works of art” fast. It’s integrated with Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Facebook, Photobucket, PhanPhare, and even Yahoo Search. The interface is very intuitive and easy to use.
To give you an idea of what this program can do I first grabbed a photo directly from flickr and applied 8 different effects to it. Then I made this nifty collage right in FotoFlexer. The center of the collage is the original.
The collage could either be a grid of photos or a line of photos. Easy but not very exciting. The layout you choose will dictate how many photos you can add. For instance in this 3×3 grid I used 9 photos. I had 10 that I liked and there wasn’t a layout for 10 photos so I had to sacrifice one.
If you’re into animated effects this may be a fun program for you to check out. FotoFlexer is perfect for adding animated stickers, text, frames, and borders to your photos. MySpace is just the place for animated effects like this:
You can actually get pretty creative here using layers of effects and animation. I used a swirling distortion on the stars under the banner. (I used the same swirl on the daffodil at the top of this post) Because the stars, text and image are each on their own layer, it was easy to manipulate just the stars and not swirl the whole photo.
I really liked FotoFlexer once I started using it. I may even continue using it for the quick effects.
Picnik is also an online application. It’s linked to other photo sharing sites like Flickr, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums, and a lot more. In fact, when you edit a photo inside flickr, you’re actually using Picnik. A Premium Upgrade option unlocks a lot more tools, effects, and stickers. But, this is about free editors so I won’t cover those.
An array of one click effects can dramatically transform your photos. There are frames and borders, stickers and text. I used the effects and made this collage in Picnik.
The options for making a collage for free in Picnik are limited. There are dedicated free photo collage sites that will give you a lot more control. I wouldn’t recommend upgrading Picnik just to get more collage options.
The card and scrapbook templates called “Fancy Collage” were fun to use. I made this recipe card using my own photos of food.
The frames, text, stickers and borders are just as nice if not nicer than FotoFlexer:
When applying a text or sticker you can choose a Blend Mode.» Â I chose one that helped the Text stand out against the varied background. Stickers like these flowers can be resized and moved around.Â But without Layers I couldn’t apply an effect just to the sticker.
I like Picnik. I use it occasionally when I’m in Filckr. There are even Picnik groups on flickr.Â Once you’re done making your photos beautiful you can buy the prints…or mugs or posters, calenders and even books with your own photos. Hey, you saved some money by not buying a photo editor right?
If you’re into animated effects this is another program to check out.Â It’s connected to MySpace, Flickr, and Facebook. I have suspicions that some animated badges and awards people use on flickr may come from LunaPic.
Like FotoFlexer and Picnik there’s an array of easy effects like these:
Here's an "Obama Style Poster" effect.
In this one I've used a Speech Balloon sticker with a text on top.
And here are some of those Animated Effects that would be so cool for MySpace and Flickr badges:
See the cool animated Kaleidoscope effect? No? Me neither. I couldn’t get animation to work after I saved the file. Photos that you save with a LunaPix account would presumably work. But they may be deleted after 90 days of inactivity.
There are more down sides. Some of the effects in LunaPix have no preview and the interface is clumsy. For example, I used the “Cosmetic Surgury” effect that enlarges or shrinks part of an image. You have these options to control the strength of the effect: “Reduce in size a little”, “Reduce some in size” , “Reduce in size a lot”, and “Reduce in size extreme”.Â Couldn’t we just have a slider? And a preview so you know how far the effect will go?
Since I couldn’t get the animations to work properly, I feel like I’m missing out on the strong suit of this program. The clumsy interface makes this a program I would not personally use.
If you have experience with LunaPix please let me know! If I can get saved animations to work, I will gladly update this post.
It’s true. You can only use iPhoto if you have a Mac. But it’s a great free option for those of you that do. In fact, it’s the program I first started editing my photos with.
iPhoto is primarily for photo sharing but you can still edit your photos with it. It’s got all of the basic editing tools. You use it on your desk top and you can export directly to Facebook, Flickr or Mobile Me. There are only 9 one-click-effects. Think, sepia and black and white. They’re pretty “vanilla” so I didn’t make a collage of the effects.
You can create books, cards, and calendars out of your photos which can be purchased and professionally printed or saved as a free PDF.Â Here are some examples.
This book cover was nice with my photo of persimmons.
This is the front and back of a card. Roll over it to see the inside.
I love that you can use your own images on the calander's dates.
If you just need to make minor touch ups and you don’t want to get too crazy with your digital art, iPhoto works well. And it certainly works well if you want to buy prints, books, and cards.
(The above links to the Picasa for PC page. Picasa for Mac and for Linux can be accessed from links at the bottom of that page.)
Picasa is kind of like iPhoto, except anyone can use it. It’s a desktop application and it’s primarily for photo sharing. You can still make basic adjustments and you get 12 one-click-effects. Like iPhoto, the effects are pretty “vanilla”.Â You can upload to a Picasa Web Album, YouTube, or BloggerÂ directly from the application.
I made this collage:
A Day in Santa Monica
I felt like I had much more control over the collage than in any other program I’ve mentioned here. But I still think I would want to open this up in either GIMP or PhotoShop to add captions to the “Polaroids”. There’s also a “Multiple Exposure” option that superimposes one picture over anther. The effect is cool but you get no options for how the photos blend together.Â Ces’t la vie.
I thought iPhoto and Picasa were comparable. I like and would recommend both for light editing.
If you want instant gratification and no-brainer options one of the above editors will suit you just fine. Still need some help deciding? Lemme Break it down for you:
|online or desktop?||online||online||online||online||desktop||desktop||online||online
|layers/masks/blend modes?||layers, no msks or blend modes||yes all||no||yes all||no||no||layers, no masks, yes blend modes||layers, no masks (!), yes blend modes
|fliters/one click edits||yes/how many?? 25||yes 36-ish and for a faster photo fix there’s pixlr express||yes||filters 7||yes||yes||yes||yes, 30 ish, some 3d options
|white balance/color balance||hue/saturation gives some control||hue/saturation gives some control||saturation, temperature, and a nutral picker controls||hue/saturation||color temp (warm cool only. no magenta green adjustment) nutral picker and auto color fix.||color temp (warm cool and magenta green)||hue/saturation so sort of...||color balance and color temperature
|selection tools||“cut tools” smart scissors like polygon select tool, smart cut tool like magic wand. only option is to cut, can’t just select, stroke, or fill. Rectangle select...doesn’t work well and there are no options.||yes/which ones?? rectangle and elyptical marquis, lasso, magic wand. No option to constrain proportions of marquis tool.||marquis-eliptical and rectangle with feather options control or command constrains proportions 9for a square or circle) lasso an dpolygonal lasso, and magic wand tools||no||no||rectangle and eliptical marquis, lasso, no feathering, no constrained proportions||rectangle and eliptical marquis with feathering option magic wand, lasso and polygonal laso tools,
|clone/healing tool||there is a “copy region” option. copy a rectangle region of the photo it becomes a new layer. there are no edge options. There’s a blemish tool that seems to blur the selected area, kindof like iPhoto healing tool.||both||clone is premium, healing “blemish fix” tool is free, healing tool works like iPhoto||clone...having a hard time using it check out the “help” ok, help suggests that I use selection tools, copy, and paste to a new layer. Then what’s the clone tool for?||healing brush works kind of like clone tool||healing that works by blurring||no, no||yes, great options
|max file size||no, but the larger the file the slower fotoflexer works||?||up to 16 mega pixles (I know that’s not a file size...) if set to Archival settings... will compress if set to Print. Print makes picnik faster||?||
|color management||no||no||no? only supports sRGB||no||no||no||
|layer styles||no||yes/which ones?? drop shadow, inner shadow, bevel, inner glow, outer glow. All have options to customize the effect much like PS||no||nope||no||no||drop shadow, bevel, glow, blur (?) gradient glow, gradient bevel||yes, drop shadow, inner shadow, inner low, outer glow, bevel, color overlay, gradient bevel, gradiens glow
|integrated w/social photo sites||yes photobucket, facebook, myspace, picassa, flickr, phanfare, smugmug, yahoo search.||yes/which ones?? facebok, imm.io their own photo sharing site||yes facebook, flickr, picasa, photobucket, myspace, webs, webshot, google buzz, and twitter||send to myspace, facebook, digg, twitter, stumble upon, tumbler,import from flickr, facebook, picasa and tumblr||yes, picasa web albums||flickr, facebook||facebook, flickr, picasa, smugmug, photobucket,||
|sign up required||no but it opens a fewoptions if you do, like hi-res editing mode||i don’t think so...verify||no||not to edit, but to save login is required||download required||no||no||no
|best for||casual/creative editing every once in a while||learning and experimenting with more professional photo editing tools||casual/creative editing every once in a while creative one time projects, silly gifts (use the wedding stickers and make a mug?||I don’t know||seems like a great paint tool!! I’m excited aout this one!
|file types accepted||jpg, psd, png, gif, -no RAW or Tiff||jpeg, gif, png, tiff, bmp, pdf||jpeg, png, gif||.jpeg, .tif, .tiff, .bmp, .gif, .psd (Photoshop), .png, .tga, and selected RAW formats..jpeg, .tif, .tiff, .bmp, .gif, .psd (Photoshop), .png, .tga, and selected RAW formats.||jpeg, png, gif, no raw, tif, psd, or pdf||jpeg, png, gif, not tiff, psd, or raw
|make something/books, calanders/posters||posters ,collages I dont see an option to print||print from your own printer. No built in book options||books, prints, cards, mugs, lots of stuff with QOOP||no||offer prints from 3 party providers including RITZPIX|
American Greetings PhotoWorks
Walgreens Also cards, gifts and books.
|book, calander, cards||no||no?????
|animated effects||yes/how many?? 63||no||no||no||no||no||no||no
|undo and history||undo yes, history no||yes and yes||undo yes, history no||undo yes, history yes||undo||undo||undo yes, history, no||undo, no history panel?
|save file options||jpeg or png, save to computer, fotoflexer album, or social sharing site.||jpeg, png, bmp, pxd (pixlr document w/layers) save to your computer, facebook, a pixlr library, or their own photo sharing service imm.io ||jpeg, gif, png, tiff, bmp, pdf||png, gif, jpeg, or tiff, must be flattened and exported to save to computer. There are some starnge rights that aviary retains to the work you save with them... they reserve the right to use your work, and it’s derivitives to promote themselves, and for third parties to promote aviary. weird. I wonder if picnik does this too.||saves as jpeg only||export as a jpeg, tiff or png||jpeg, fxo, png, can save to desktop, facebook, picasa, smugmug, flickr, and photobucket||jpg, png, and sumo format, save to computer or sumo account, or email
|Fix Chromatic Aberation!||tehnically you should be able to do this with the smart recolor option. However, it’s pretty buggy. I can’t get it to work properly. Part of the option screen is above the top of my monitor screen and I cant move the window, and the brush isn’t alligning properly with the effected area when I zoom in to the picture. Lame!||use color replace tool, uncheck “match target lightness” box.||none that I can find||none that I can find||nope||nope||cant find anything to use...||can’t find anything...
Want the ultimate in control and flexibility? Download GIMP. It will take a little longer to get some effects, but the level of control is soo worth it.
Want to know more? Think I left something out? Let me know! and while you’re at it, subscribe already, you know you want to!
- Layer Masks in GIMP the Free Photo Editor
- Remove Blemishes with a Free Photo Editor