Many designers consider Photoshop the go-to for their graphics needs. The popular program is an excellent tool, but there’s also a variety of alternatives that are free, including both desktop and web-based tools.

These tools may not precisely emulate Photoshop, but all the basics are there, such as cropping, layering, opacity, cutting, pasting, lasso selections and copying. So, while they have the basics, these programs may ultimately lack in very advanced features to some degree. However, that also makes these alternatives use less resources. This is ideal for designers and artists with lower-intensity operating machines.

Here are six entirely free photo editing tools that offer a variety of tools and ease of use:


One of the more popular tools for photo editing is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It accomplishes tasks like image composition, image authoring and photo retouching as well as any program.

GIMP is also entirely free and open source, so if you’re a developer, you can expand its capabilities as much as you’d like. Available for OS X, Windows, GNU/Linux and other operating systems, GIMP is one of the more reliable and trusted free platforms for photo editing.

2. Paint.NET

Windows users can look to Paint.NET as an excellent free photo editing tool. With an interface as fluid and friendly as high-cost premium photo editing software, this free image and editing software began as an undergraduate college senior design project mentored by Microsoft.

Some of the alumni from the original design still work on the program today. They contribute to an easy-to-use yet very sophisticated software that compares with giants like Adobe and Paint Shop Pro in features offered and general appearance — yet it’s for free!

3. Sumo Paint


This highly responsive web-based tool Sumo Paint resembles a plugin-less version of Photoshop or GIMP, serving as a particularly useful tool for web graphics. The free version of Sumo Paint provides all the features many need, allowing for adjustments with color balance and temperature, hue/saturation, color and tone equalization and brightness/contrast. Sumo Paint is certainly a viable alternative for Photoshop and is great for common design needs.

4. FotoFlexer


FotoFlexer aims to be the “the world’s most advanced online image editor,” which they’re certainly in the running for. A free web-based tool, FotoFlexer may not appeal to those familiar with Photoshop and the like, but it provides those new to the graphics realm with an easy-to-use interface that has large buttons and options like Auto Fix, Fix Red Eye and various contrast tools. While it may not rank as the go-to tool for design professionals, FotoFlexer undoubtedly gets the job done as a free and accessible photo editing tool.

5. LunaPic

Though supported by ads, LunaPic is a free web-based photo editing tool that offers an extremely impressive array of features. Its interface resembles half web-based app and half Photoshop. There are the standard desktop graphics features regarding the usual drawing, adjusting, animation and effects, with additional tutorials available within the tool to help out. Also, Lunapic offers the very useful tool of being able to encrypt and decrypt your image. It also saves them to your computer, email, Tumblr, Imgur, Facebook, Picasa and other platforms.

For a free program, LunaPic also has some of the most features, particularly in regard to presets. With effects, some effects include fire-and-water effects, photo booth, 3D cube, kaleidoscope, pencil sketch and Comic Book Style. The animation side offers pouring rain, floating hearts, sunburst and frame timing, among many more. Also, it’s possible to adjust light levels and modify sharpness, brightness, soft/harsh lighting and HDR lighting very easily. If that isn’t enough, LunaPic can also edit videos. Clearly, it’s a great tool for all of your digital editing needs.

6. Photoshop Express Editor

Available to try for free, the Photoshop Express Editor comes from Adobe, so there’s no doubting its effectiveness and reliability. Immediately, it prompts you for a photo to edit, limited to the JPEG format. This means you can’t create a photo from scratch, but for photo editing, this is fine. Upon uploading, they offer a familiar Adobe interface, with the usual adjustments and effects.

Compared to LunaPic, the features offered are bare, limited to basic adjustments and effects. The decorate tab is useful for adding nice visuals to images, like bubbles or a frame, though Photoshop Express gears toward small businesses that specialize more in photo editing and retouching. While this may not be a fully capable stand-in for Photoshop, GIMP or Paint.NET, it’s very effective at basic tasks for JPEGs.

These tools may vary in the actual tools offered and target audience, but they are all very capable of photo edits that securely and easily get the job done. In addition, because they don’t require a subscription or sensitive personal information, there’s no harm to trying them out. Between the six above, there’s a free Photoshop alternative for everyone, from design businesses to someone who simply wants to remove red eyes from a family photo.


About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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