Top Free Design Editing Software for your PC/Laptop or Online
The current king in town remains Adobe Photoshop. It’s the best photo-editing software on the market. But unless you’ve undergone formal training, it’s a difficult program to master, and it’s not the cheapest of options out there.
Each of the programs below can perform basic and semi-advanced tasks, for instance, allowing you to resize, crop, and correct exposure with ease. There are great options for both conventional desktop software and web-based solutions that don’t require installing any software. Check out our list below, in no particular order FYI.
Popularly known 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.
It’s available for Mac, PC and Linux. You would get a lot of professional-level editing and retouching tools with this one. A perfect catch for designers who can’t or won’t shell out hundreds of dollars to Adobe.
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.
There is a catch though. While PhotoScape software is free to download, 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.
Originally released under the Google banner this program is entirely free for PC and Mac. This is one of the most powerful online tools available, and Google providing it for free was pretty big news when it broke in 2016.
The Collection includes seven plugins, each with a different focus. 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 at any given moment.
In October, it was announced the DxO had acquired them from Google, as Google were going to stop patches and updates. A new version of the NiK Collection will be released in mid-2018 with full support from its new owners.
Paint.NET was created for PC only, 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. Paint.NET is able to handle more advanced photo editing that you’d expect to be limited to Photoshop and other paid programs.
If the above options seem too far away from your Adobe comfort zone, Photoshop Express is another option worth considering. It’s pared down compared to the standard Photoshop, but the Express variant does have a number of great options for editing photos with a much more gradual learning curve.
Photoshop Express offers quick and easy access to slide bar adjustments and one-touch fixes for photos of all types. Pre-packaged “Effects” make quick and dramatic changes to images to improve coloring and contrast; crop and transform tools let you tweak a photo’s orientation and focus, and “Details” give you control over sharpening and noise.
Photoshop Express is versatile regarding operating systems though as it is a freely available app that you can use on your Windows PC, iOS, or Android device without hassle.
Pixlr.com has a tiered offering that is entirely free. The site separates its photo editing into Pixlr Editor (advanced) and Pixlr Express (efficient). The site also offers a mobile suite so you can edit photos on a smartphone or tablet — both iOS and Android versions are available.
The Pixlr Editor is more like Photoshop. It’s a straightforward photo-editing tool that lets you crop, size, and tweak the image. It has a red eye tool that eliminates those devil eyes that appear when the flash goes off. Express, on the other hand, lets you put creative overlays on your images — this is really for playing with your photos. You can put a stain on a picture to make it look like you rested a coffee mug on the photo, for example.
Note. The download site does require Adobe Flash to run, so you will need to enable that before downloading.
Sumopaint is one of those “Photoshop lite” image editors, that stands out by being truly good at what it does. This web-based software — there’s a download option as well — has a layout very familiar for Adobe users, a tool set that’s easy enough to understand and use, and a minimalistic feel that concentrates on getting the job done.
This option is better suited to more serious photographers who don’t want to give up any editing options — and who also don’t want to pay for their editing software.
If you use Microsoft Paint rather than Photoshop, iPiccy might be for you.
While iPiccy may sound like a simplified app, there is complexity in its wide offering of editing options. Many settings have a slide rule that let you adjust brightness, contrast, and other functions. The one complaint might be that there is no undo button.
What we would like to see is a reset-to-zero button on the slide rule, because it’s difficult to get the bar back to the beginning if you decide you want to return to the starting point. Several tools, including a blemish and wrinkle remover, help clean up photos. Then you can do a few cosmetic fixes like apply a sun tan, blush, or mascara.