Best free photo editing software: 10 top image editors you should try

5th Mar 2013 | 16:00

Best free photo editing software: 10 top image editors you should try

Fabulous free photo editors we recommend

Modern cameras can make digital photography seem very easy, and even the most basic models will often produce crisp, clear photos.

You'll still have occasional issues with lighting, white balance, red-eye and more, though, so it's a good idea to keep a photo editor around to help resolve them: but which one?

The extremely demanding (or very wealthy) may still opt for Photoshop, and there's no doubt it's a great program.

But if your finances won't stretch that, though, don't worry, there are some excellent free tools around.

We've found 10 of the very best free photo editing apps, and whether you're looking for comprehensive editing power, ease of use, arty effects or just a quick way to spice up a photo before posting it on Facebook, there's something for you here.

1. Gimp

Download Gimp

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) first appeared way back in 1996, and has been regularly updated ever since, so it's no surprise that the package is the most powerful free photo editor that you'll find anywhere.

GIMP

There are tools to correct colours, enhance contrast, brightness and more; sharpen or blur an image, fix perspective problems, remove red-eye; add special lighting effects, turn a photo into an oil painting, and create an animation.

The paint tools alone are amazing, there's full layer support and lots of ways to extend the program.

All this power does mean GIMP takes a while to learn, but don't let that put you off - if you've any previous image editing experience then you'll be doing useful work within minutes.

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2. Paint.NET

Download Pain.NET

It may not have anything like the power of GIMP, but there's still plenty to like about Paint.NET. It's strong on image editing basics, with options to resize and rotate your photos, a good range of selection and paint tools, and some excellent special effects.

PaintNet

Support for layers means you can apply your edits to part of an image only, and the program can be extended with plugins.

Best of all, though, Paint.NET's clear and straightforward interface means it's very easy to use, even if you're a complete graphics novice.

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3. PhoXo

Download Phoxo

PhoXo has been around for almost 10 years now, and it's grown into a very useful editor with something for everyone. Kids can play around with the clipart, customising images with cartoon cats; practical types will enjoy options like the ability to add a custom watermark to an entire folder of images; and everyone else will appreciate the drawing and paint tools, image transformations, effects and more.

PhoXo

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4. Funny Photo Maker

Download Funny Photo Maker

Funny Photo Maker has no layer support, no smart selection tools, no paint or drawing options. But that doesn't matter, because what it does have is an amazing range of effects which you can apply in seconds.

Funny Photo Maker

So you can add someone's face to a movie poster, magazine cover or a dollar bill; transform a still image into an animation; add rain or snow to a photo, apply some excellent frames, and turn your photos into a collage, amongst many other options.

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5. Photo Pos Pro

Download Photo Pos Pro

Its tiny toolbars and dated interface mean Photo Pos Pro doesn't look too promising, but begin to explore and you'll soon be impressed.

There are plenty of selection options, a wide range of paint tools, colour corrections and more.

Photo Pos Pro Photo Editor

You get reasonable support for layers and masks, lots of effects (all extremely configurable), and a scripting tool which helps you automate many editing tasks.

And the program offers some fun touches, too, like a set of "Magical" effects which help you add fireworks, bubbles, stardust or similar decorations to an image.

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6. PhotoScape

Download PhotoScape

PhotoScape won't appeal to editing experts - there's no layer support, for instance - but if you're just looking to have some quick fun with a photo then it's a very different story.

There are hundreds of clipart images ready to paste into your picture, for instance. You can add custom speech bubbles to an image, apply some great special effects, even create animated GIFs.

PhotoScape

Most of these options are surprisingly configurable too. So while other tools might just have a single "turn this photo into an oil painting", for instance, PhotoScape supports 11 artistic styles (Pastel, Pencil, Cartoon, more), each of which can then be customised further.

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7. IrfanView

Download IrfanView

As its name suggests, IrfanView is mostly about viewing images, but the program also includes more plenty of editing power.

You can rotate and resize an image, for instance; tweak its colours, brightness and contrast; add text captions or watermarks; sharpen your photo, remove red-eye, and apply a range of special effects.

irfanview

If that's not enough, though, IrfanView can be extended via its support for 8Bf (Photoshop), AltaLux, Filter Factory and Filters Unlimited plugins. And all in a compact free tool which requires less than 2MB of disk space.

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8. PhotoFiltre

Download PhotoFiltre

While it's more an image retouching tool than a conventional editor (and it's only free for personal use), PhotoFiltre has plenty of editing features and it's capable of some spectacular results.

The PhotoMask tool alone, for instance, applies stylish contour and transparency effects to your image for an impressively artistic effect (check the program website for some great examples).

PhotoFiltre

Elsewhere there are plenty of paint tools, colour corrections and filters, and overall the program is a great choice when you need more artistic editing options.

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9. PixBuilder Studio

Download PixBuilder Studio

PixBuilder Studio is a useful mid-range photo editor with a strong focus on solid, practical features. So instead of cartoon clipart and arty effects you get sensible features like crop, resize and rotate options, plenty of colour correction tools, sharpness and blur filters and some capable print tools.

PixBuilder

There's not a lot of fun here, then, but PixBuilder Studio is great it you just want to make your photos a little better (and 8BF filter support means the program can be extended if necessary).

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10. Chasys Draw IES

Download Chasys Draw IES

Look past its odd name and Chasys Draw IES proves to be a very capable photo editor with a stack of essential features: extensive paint and drawing tools, strong layer support, lots of smart special effects, plenty of colour and lighting adjustments, Photoshop plugin support, and more.

Chasys

These are just some of the program's capabilities, though. You can also use it to create animations, CD or DVD labels, icons and cursors, or even capture videos of desktop activity.

With a RAW file processor, image viewer and converter also included, Chasys Draw IES really is an amazingly versatile package.

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