5 best free photo editing software in 2021

When I was playing tennis, the coach used to tell us that a game is not over until you shake hands with the opponent. That is, each point is as important as the one before and after, regardless of timing or score. This same concept is very relevant when it comes to images. Whether they are intended to be displayed on a photography website or used as part of a public relations campaign, you should not present the images as complete before the process is actually complete. This is where this list of the best free photo editing software comes in.

One of the most common mistakes people tend to make with photos is ignoring the importance of post-processing. In most cases, this last step is skipped due to the high entry bar of the most popular photo editing software. For beginners and non-photographers, tools like Photoshop and Lightroom can be quite overwhelming, without even considering their cost.

But what many ignore is the long list of free photo editing software available online and for desktop use. Regardless of your skills, needs and goals, these tools allow you to take your images to the next level and achieve a professional look with minimal effort. Especially because of their cost (or lack thereof), these free alternatives to Photoshop and Lightroom definitely give Adobe a run for its money.

01. Adobe Photoshop Express

Ideal for: mobile photo editing

For a long time, people tried to find a free version of Photoshop, preferably online. Until one day, Adobe finally heard their prayers and released Adobe Photoshop Express, a reduced online and mobile version of the industry-leading software.

Unlike its paid counterpart, Adobe Photoshop Express is not aimed at professional photographers and media creators, but rather at beginners or those looking for high-quality software for quick edits. This can be easily seen in the functions offered and their accessibility.

With Adobe Photoshop Express, you can access basic image editing actions, such as contrast, perspective, saturation, exposure, and blemish removal, as well as select preset dynamic effects. While there are not as many tools as in the professional version, they are polished to perfection and offer a great user experience. The Express version of Adobe’s photo editing software also includes a “decorate” category, which allows users to easily add text and create fully customizable collages.

You can edit images saved on your device or share them directly from Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, Facebook, or Google Photos. All edits made in Adobe Photoshop Express are non-destructive, which means you can revert to the original photo at any time.

The +: advanced filters, minimalist interface, professional results

The -: The only available output format is JPG, runs in Flash, limited tools

Platforms: Web and mobile (iOS, Android, Windows)

Paid version: Adobe Photography, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom, starts at $ 9.99 / month


free Adobe Photoshop editor online free Adobe Photoshop editor online

02. GIMP

Ideal for: advanced users

GIMP is widely considered the best free photo editor available on the market. The software includes a wide range of tools, ranging from basic actions to professional-quality features. Beginners will greatly benefit from its selection and mounting, cropping, color adjustment, and automatic image enhancement tools. On the other hand, advanced users will find a number of tools for them, such as content-based resizing, face swapping, animated GIFs, layer masks, curves, and customizable brushes.

All of these features make GIMP an amazing free alternative to Photoshop for those who are already familiar with Adobe’s flagship software. Besides that, its interface is fully customizable and there are numerous plugins that can be added for free.

GIMP is open source software with a large active community behind it. This means that the platform is constantly updated and improved, while users can continue to use it for free.

This photo editing software can be installed on desktop devices running on any operating system, or it can be downloaded as a portable version that can be added to a USB key for flexibility of use.

If you want to try this advanced photo editor, but are not familiar with the jargon of discipline, you may want to start by taking a look at this glossary of photography terms.

The +: professional tools and features, open source program, developer support

The -: steep learning curve, no mobile version

messy interface

Platforms: Desktop only (Linux, OS X, Windows)

Paid version: No


GIMP free photo editing software GIMP free photo editing software

03. Paint.NET

Ideal for: beginners and limited devices

Paint.NET was initially created by a Washington State University student as a replacement for Microsoft Paint. But the original drawing program has become a free and intuitive photo editing software aimed at those looking for a free and easy-to-use image editing software that delivers high-quality results.

The software has a clear and simple interface that supports hotkey functions, making it a great option for inexperienced users who don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how the program works. Furthermore, this simplicity makes it possible to run Paint.NET smoothly on less powerful devices, such as laptops.

Despite being aimed at novice users, Paint.NET offers a wide range of photo editing tools including unlimited brightness, contrast, hue, curves, levels, layers, gradients, and undo. In addition to that, the software supports plugins created by the growing community of developers on the software forum. These plugins can be used to access more advanced features such as the popular 3D zoom / rotate tool for image recomposition.

The +: intuitive interface, ideal for slow devices, full access to history

The -: limited tools, not as powerful as other alternatives, no advanced features

Platforms: Desktop only (Windows)

Paid version: No, but you can support the project by purchasing Paint.NET for $ 6.99


Alternative text: Paint.NET free photo editor Alternative text: Paint.NET free photo editor

04. Pixlr E

Ideal for: professional-level online editing

Many see Pixlr E as the best free online photo editor and consider it almost as powerful as the best desktop editing software. Its proficient capabilities start the moment you open an image, as Pixlr E lets you do so from your device, a URL, or even directly from Facebook. This is especially valuable for non-photographers who want to edit existing images for new purposes.

The program’s interface is remarkably similar to Adobe’s editor, which has led people to consider Pixlr E as the best online version of Photoshop, yes, even better than Photoshop Express itself. The long list of professional features included in the program is unmatched by most other free photo editors on the market. These include exposure, levels, auto enhancement tools, sophisticated color pickers, customizable brushes, layers, and masks. Additionally, Pixlr E allows users to browse and edit hundreds of royalty-free stock images.

Pixlr E can also be used on mobile devices with its native Android and iOS apps. Furthermore, a simpler version of this free photo editor is also available online under the name Pixlr X, which we describe in detail below.

The +: powerful features, no download required, numerous charging options

The -: No batch editing capabilities, shows ads, paid premium features

Platforms: Web and mobile (iOS, Android)

Paid version: Premium version of Pixlr E is available starting at $ 7.99 / month


Free Photoshop Alternative for Pixlr E Free Photoshop Alternative for Pixlr E

05. Pixlr X

Ideal for: quick edits online.

While Pixlr E is considered the best online photo editor like Photoshop, Pixlr X is considered the best photo editor for beginners. This software was initially developed as the HTML successor to Pixlr Express in hopes of avoiding the obsolescence of Flash (1996-2020). Unfortunately, moving from a Flash platform to an HTML platform required a lot of cutbacks in the original editor’s functionality.

Despite the minimization of this feature, Pixlr X has established itself among the best free photo editing software on the market. The program maintains the sleek design of its predecessor while focusing on one-click tools that will cover all your basic editing needs, plus a few. You can edit the colors and saturation of your images, crop and resize, remove unwanted elements with the retouch tool, and adjust the white balance. Other more specific tools, like red-eye removal and fill light, will allow you to take your portrait photography to the next level.

Overall, Pixlr X is an excellent online photo editor for both beginner and non-professional photographers.