Top 5 Free Photo Editing Software of 2016

All tech hobbyists have a use for photo editing software. Whether for fun or professional use, there are many programs out there that let us transform a photograph. The first program that comes to mind is Adobe’s Photoshop. While it is a great a program, it’s definitely not on the cheap side. If you don’t mind the cost, it can be purchased here for $9.99 per month.

“There are 3 key things for good photography: the camera,lighting and… Photoshop”
This new pay-per-month model adds up in what can turn out to be anywhere from $120-$240 per year. For businesses this may not be much, but for the rest of us it’s a little daunting. So, are there cheaper options? Of course! And a lot of them have similar features that are included in the most recent version of Photoshop CC. Here is a list and review of the 5 best free photo editors of 2016:

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Before the top 5: Photoshop CC Trial

Available for: Windows, Mac

Download: Trial on Adobe.com

While the photo editing programs below are free and have a lot of the necessary tools, they don’t compare to the ease of use and features of Photoshop. If you’re not sure if it’s something you want to spend $10 a month on, try out the 30 day free trial.

5 Best Free Photo Editors:

1. GIMP

GIMP_2.8

Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux

DownloadGIMP.com

Complete overview and tutorial: Learn GIMP

GIMP is one the most well known photo editors out there. I’ll even say it’s the best free photo editor. It’s simple to use and includes most of Photoshop’s features. Missing something? GIMP also has great support for plugins. Here is a list from BeeBom of some the best plugins. I did find GIMP to be a little more rough around than edges than Photoshop. Missing were the advanced layer styles that I used so often in Photoshop. Still, this software has some powerful tools that any non-professional will be happy with.

2. Pixlr

pxilr

Available for: Windows, Mac, Mobile (Android and iOS)

Download: Online Desktop Editor; Mobile App

Complete overview and tutorial: Pixlr Power: How to use the Pixlr Editor

If you’re already familiar with photoshop, Pixlr will be a quick and easy platform to use. The layouts of the two programs are almost identical (I see Pixlr as a watered-down version of Photoshop). Pixlr is online, so no need for a download. It is also available as an app on Android and iOS, making it a superb photo editor on the go. Your images can be saved in Pixlr’s own format, which allows easy transfer/editing between mobile and desktop. Pixlr does not offer as many export formats (jpeg, png, tiff, and bmp) as one may hope from a photo editor, but it’ll do the job.

3. Paint.NET

pdn40_kirkland

Available for: Windows

Download: getpaint.NET

Used to the old school editor that comes with all Windows operating systems? Paint.NET will feel familiar to you. However, this packs in a lot more features. Layers, ‘special effects’, and unlimited history makes this free editor a great beginner program. I’ve also found this to be very quick, even on older systems. It is missing some more of the advanced tools, but still allows for simple editing. And sorry Mac users, Paint.NET is only available for Windows.

4. Serif Photoplus Starter Edition

sf02

Available for: Windows

Download: Serif.com

Serif’s paid version of Photoplus (at $100) is one of the best editors of 2016. This free ‘Starter Edition’ is just a stripped down version of this program. It is another Photoshop look-alike, with many of the expected editing tools. One noticeable feature left out is keyboard shortcuts, making quick, repetitive tasks a little annoying. Still, this editor has a lot packed into it, and competes with the best free programs.

5. Photoscape

photoscape

Available for: Windows, Mac

Download: Photoscape.org

Compared to the other programs, Photoscape is a much simpler editor. While it may not have a lot of the advanced editing tools, the software is great for a quick edit. Apply filters, crop, frame, add text, draw, clone, and more basic tools are included. There is also a nice gif creator that will animate multiple photos that are added. This is probably not the program to use if you’re looking for Photoshop-like tools, but it has its uses.

Any other free photo editors that you’d recommend? Let us know your best free photo editor in the comments below!
  • John Hotkins

    So is the GIMP the best one out there? I’ve used it the most and not sure if I should switch to something else.

  • One thing to note about Serif products (including PhotoPlus) is that once you are a customer, you will be able to purchase all their apps and next edition for $50.

  • sona

    You didnt mention PicMonkey or Ipiccy. Both very useful to the beginner. Also how do you learn some of these mentioned?

    • Those both are not bad programs, but I found these 5 to be better overall. I will be posting tutorials on some of these programs soon. Until then, you can feel free to ask any questions here and I’m sure I or someone else here will be able to help out!

  • Lori A

    It’s almost unfair to compare Photoscape with the rest… I see it as a great tool with a slightly different purpose. With very good basic (and easy-to-use/find) tools, I start there with all my photos – hit an autoadjust once (sometimes, I change their settings, but not usually) then backlight once for most photos. I also use the arbitrary rotate tool – which can rotate your photo that half degree that you notice, but many free programs only allow you to rotate by 90 degrees, which is unsatisfying.

    AFTER I’m done with Photoscape, I then like to use a different, more artistic program to do more detailed or artistic renders of the image. Though if you want lettering or a frame, it’s easiest to go back to Photoscape again. Okay, so it’s a little clunky to go back and forth between programs, but Photoscape is so good at what it does, that it’s worth the extra hassle to swap around. I’ve been using this program for many years now… and *always* recommend it to people.