12 Free Alternatives to Photoshop

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Adobe Photoshop is regarded as one of the best raster graphics and photo editing software available. However, it comes at a price, and not everyone wants to pay for a subscription.

But don’t be perturbed! I have found an amazing range of free Photoshop alternatives for budget-conscious photo editors or graphic designers.

Whether you need a Photoshop alternative for photo editing or creating awesome raster graphics, there is something available in the list below.

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How I picked free Photoshop alternatives

When choosing a suitable alternative to Photoshop I considered several factors:

  • Functionality. The photo editor must offer a variety of design tools similar to what's available in Photoshop.
  • Ease of use. The photo editing software should have an interface that's easy to understand and navigate for users of varying skill levels.
  • Price. The app must be free or offer a substantial trial period. Some software might provide limited features in their free version.

Using these criteria, I compared different options and decided on 12 free alternatives to Photoshop that can meet your specific needs and preferences.

12 best free Photoshop alternatives

Program OS Download Best for
Icecream PDF Editor
Windows
Photo editing
GIMP
Windows
MacOS
Linux
Raster graphic and photo editing
Paint.net
Windows
Raster graphic
PIXLR
Online
Photo editing and graphic design
Photo Pos Pro
Windows
Layer editing and raster graphic
Canva
Online
Graphic design
Photopea
Online
Basic raster graphics
Luminar NEO
Windows
MacOS
AI photo editing
Raw Therapee
Windows
MacOS
Linux
RAW editing
Polarr
Online
Quick image editing
BeFunky
Online
Introduction to photo editing with AI help
Fotor
Online
Trying out a variety of graphic and editing tools for creative projects

1. Icecream Photo Editor

Icecream Photo Editor is one of the best free alternatives to Photoshop due to its ease of use, non-destructive editing, and layering capabilities.

Any time you add a new object such as text to a design, it adds it as a new layer. You can always go back and change, move, and edit anything within your creation.

Icecream Photo Editor

In terms of tools, the free photo editing software allows you to add text, shapes, and images to your designs.

There is also an extensive set of photo editing tools where you can change the contrast, saturation, brightness, and highlights, for example. As a result, you can improve the basic quality of images before enhancing them with text and filters.

Speaking of filters, this free Photoshop alternative also has a range of creative filters including black and white and retro options.

If you want photo editing software that is easy to use and gives you plenty of creative options, Icecream Photo Editor is the best free app to edit your photos.

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to use.
  • Extensive tools for photo editing.
  • Layered editing.
  • Most popular formats support.
  • Automatic image enhancement.
  • Great performance and low minimum system requirements.

Cons:

  • Isn't available for MacOS and Linux.

2. GIMP

GIMP is one of the best-known free Photoshop alternatives and is accessible to all as it is an open-source program. It is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux devices and has fantastic support from a large community of developers and enthusiasts.

I like the flexibility GIMP offers as it has an excellent selection of raster graphics and photo editing tools. You can use it for whatever purpose you want.

It’s pretty easy to use too and even if you aren’t familiar with this type of software, the extensive documentation and community will help you pick it up quickly.

GIMP

You can use GIMP to create anything from logos and website headers to artwork and banners. It really is flexible and has support for a wide range of file types too.

I like that you can customize the workspace and move the different toolbars around to suit your needs. This allows you to edit photos effectively and always have the tools active that you most often use.

Pros:

  • Wide range of photo editing and raster graphic tools.
  • Great community support and documentation.
  • Available on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Cons:

  • The interface doesn’t look as polished as Photoshop.

3. Paint.net

If you are looking for a free Photoshop alternative that concentrates on raster graphics, Paint.net is a superb option. This free piece of photo editing software was developed by dotPDN and is available on Windows devices.

Although the software interface does look a little dated today, it has excellent functionality and all the tools you need to create graphic design work.

Paint.net

I like how simple the toolbar on the left side is. It contains basic options like a movement cursor, fill, gradient, brush, and text tools. It feels very familiar to Photoshop and you can do much on a blank canvas with little effort using this array of tools.

The color selection box is quite useful too. You can easily change your primary and secondary colors either by selecting a range of presets or using the color wheel for complete freedom.

Every change you make can be undone too using the history box, and your graphics can be complex as Paint.net supports layered editing.

Pros:

  • Layered work to create complex graphics.
  • A powerful set of raster graphics tools.
  • Plenty of filters such as distortion, blur, and vignetting.
  • Basic image adjustments too like levels and saturation.

Cons:

  • The photo editing software looks really dated.
  • The download source is unreliable.

4. PIXLR

Pixlr has a little bit of everything. It’s a collection of digital manipulation software including a design suite like Canva and a photo editing app. Both are web-based and work together to create one of the best free Photoshop alternatives.

I love how the graphic design suite has hundreds of templates to choose from. They are broken into different categories like Instagram posts, YouTube thumbnails, and Facebook stories.

This means that for social media content, you can make sure your images are the correct size and aspect ratio so they look right on the relevant platforms.

PIXLR

The image editor works really well too and it has a modern interface with a minimalistic toolbar and layout.

On the right, you can see all the layers the image is made from and switch between them quickly. Plus, there are some basic tools at the bottom where you can undo your last action, and zoom in on the preview.

In terms of tools, you can create layouts, add text, resize your images, and do a host of basic photo editing too. The only disadvantage is that the free version has adverts on the right-hand side which does limit the screen size somewhat.

Pros:

  • Separate photo editor and design suite.
  • Simple editor with a user-friendly layout.
  • Hundreds of social media templates to use.

Cons:

  • The adverts limit available screen space on the free version.

5. Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro is a standalone software and a great free Photoshop alternative if you're looking for essentially the same toolset.

It’s free to use but there is a premium version available too for a relatively small cost. The pro version has a larger content library but other than that, it doesn’t seem worth it really. There are no watermarks or anything in the free version.

Beginners may find the array of tools and tabs overwhelming at first. However, if you have used Photoshop or similar photo editing software before, you should be able to pick it up quickly.

Photo Pos Pro

There is a full set of raster tools such as brushes, shapes, gradients, fills, and cropping. You can also make selections, and remove imperfections from photos using the clone stamp and healing tools.

The layer tab is quite neat. I like that there is an opacity slider and a blend mode drop-down on each layer which makes merging layers together easier. You can also easily re-order layers, merge them, and create a layer folder structure when saving files.

It has all the other tools you can find in Photoshop too such as filters, adjustments, and effects. It only really lacks the more recent AI tools that Photoshop has developed.

Pros:

  • Full layer editing.
  • Customizable layout and tabs.
  • A great choice of retouching tools.
  • No limitations of the free version.

Cons:

  • It can feel overwhelming for beginners.
  • No AI-enhanced tools like Photoshop.

6. Canva

Canva is not a like-for-like free Photoshop alternative, but it shares many of the same tools and is a graphic design suite. It can be used for free but the paid version that gives you access to more templates and design options in the online photo editor.

I think Canva is suitable for those who need a little help finding inspiration and aren’t confident creating graphics from scratch. The service has a huge library of templates for everything from social media posts and photo books to infographics and website headers.

Whatever you want to create, Canva provides a template that serves as a starting point.

Canva

The photo editor is where the magic happens and it’s relatively easy to use with everything having drag-and-drop utility. It has some basic photo editing options too, and you can do things like adding borders, shadows, and outlines to objects.

I like how there is a brand option too. You can set color schemes and upload logos to create unified marketing across multiple designs.

Pros:

  • Hundreds of templates.
  • Easy-to-use online image editor.
  • Ability to create brands with logos and color schemes.

Cons:

  • It has no in-depth graphics tools like Photoshop.

7. Photopea

As far as I can see, Photopea is essentially a browser-based version of Photoshop. I have had years of experience using Photoshop, and the tools are virtually identical.

It obviously doesn’t have the same proprietary technology and advanced AI tools, but the basic raster graphics toolset is all there.

This is an online photo editor so no installation is required and there are no restrictions on the tools either. Everything is included in the free version, but you can donate to the creators to support them.

Photopea

This free alternative to Photoshop is unbelievably easy to use as all the toolbars have the same layout.

You can easily add text, shapes, images, gradients, and more. And you have layered editing too so you can create complex, multi-layered graphics and re-arrange individual objects as you see fit.

There is a range of filters and tools too such as adding noise, pixelating, rendering, and different stylistic effects like embossing and solarizing.

Pros:

  • Essentially, it has the same toolset as Photoshop.
  • Multi-layered picture editing.
  • You can add effects like shadows or outlines to objects and text.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t have any of Photoshop's AI tools.

8. Luminar NEO

Skylum has created a range of editing software to rival Photoshop and Luminar NEO is the latest iteration. This free Photoshop alternative has AI tools and if you are a beginner it will make photo editing a breeze.

Most of the tools are one-click or have sliders and utilize AI analysis to enhance your photos to match the style and tone.

Luminar NEO

A great example of this is the "Enhance" tool. It analyses your image and applies a blanket enhancement that boosts color, saturation, and detail, and evens out highlights and shadows.

The "Sky Replace" tool is incredibly cool too. It allows you to swap out the sky in your landscape photos with other styles such as sunsets and sunrises.

You can merge images to create photo collages or you can combine photos to create a surrealist tableau.

This free photo editing software has basic picture management capabilities too, and the layout and interface look modern too. The only downside is that it can be a little sluggish in terms of performance.

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to use.
  • Effective AI-enhanced tools.
  • Basic file management tools.

Cons:

  • It can be sluggish and have slow rendering times.
  • The free trial is available for only 7 days.

9. Raw Therapee

Raw Therapee is a Photoshop alternative for those who only need photo editing capabilities. It rivals the Camera RAW plugin. If you don’t want to pay for a Photoshop or Lightroom subscription, this could be an excellent choice.

It’s obviously got support for full RAW editing including a range of proprietary raw file types like Canon’s CR3. You also have an extensive editing toolbar and I like that this is segmented into different categories such as color and exposure.

Raw Therapee

The free photo editor is non-destructive too. This means that if you make a mistake, you can simply click on the previous history item and it will undo the change.

The color and tone control are particularly advanced. You can get the exact colors you want by altering the line curves.

Pros:

  • Non-destructive RAW editing.
  • Great support for proprietary RAW image formats.
  • It has a full complement of basic editing tools.

Cons:

  • The file management is not as developed as Lightroom.

10. Polarr

I like the simplicity of the Polarr browser-based picture editor and it is one of the better online Photoshop alternatives if you want to edit quickly.

All you have to do is open the web address, load your image, and you can start work. The initial part is a little confusing. You first have to select a photo and click the triple circle icon on the left-hand side.

If you like to create artistic work, Polarr has a superb range of filters. You can use standard enhancement filters, retro styles, and filters to give your work an aged look. You can apply these with a single click and then adjust the strength afterward.

Polarr

There is a cool range of raster tools including adding text and shapes and cropping your designs. The tools are all easy to use. If you hover over a button, it gives a brief explanation.

The online photo editor provides multiple photo editing options too, although to edit RAW photos you must upgrade to the pro version.

Pros:

  • Photo editing and raster graphics tools.
  • Lots of creative filters.
  • No installation is required.

Cons:

  • Some of the tools of this Photoshop alternative are locked behind the pro version.

11. BeFunky

BeFunky is an online platform for editing pictures and creating graphic design projects. This free photoshop Alternative offers a variety of tools for photo enhancement, creating collages, designing graphics, and more.

The service has a user-friendly interface. The photo editing toolkit includes background remover, image enhancer, adding blur and debluring the photo, incorporating textual elements, replacing color, etc. Some of the instruments are AI-powered.

BeFunky is popular among casual users, photographers, and graphic designers for its simplicity and versatility in producing visual content. There are many templates available for creating designs for social media posts, digital marketing, and more.

BeFunky

Pros:

  • Web-based Photoshop alternative that can be used on different devices with one account.
  • A variety of tools for photographers and content creators of all skill levels.

Cons:

  • In the free version, all images are watermarked.

12. Fotor

Fotor is another popular online photo editing and graphic design service. The web platform has a clean and intuitive layout that can be easily used for creating designs, editing pictures and videos, producing collages, and more.

The extensive set of tools includes the standard instruments like an eraser, enlarger, a variety of effects, and filters. The unique feature of this website is the generative AI that allows users to create avatars, make an image from a textual prompt, use the "replace" and "face swap" tools, etc.

There are also designer templates for social media content, the ability to restore all photos, and much more. The tutorials for this free Photoshop alternative are available as well. Fotor is widely used by newbies and professionals thanks to its accessibility and diversity of editing options.

Fotor

Pros:

  • Large toolkit for working with photos, videos, graphics, and more.
  • AI-powered features for enhanced editing.

Cons:

  • The free version of online image editor has ads in the working area and places a watermark on all exports.
  • Without the paid account, certain tools are limited to use, such as an AI image generator.

FAQ

What are the basic tools I need to know for photo editing?
Basic photo editing tools include adjustment sliders for exposure, contrast, and color balance, as well as cropping and straightening. Healing and cloning tools are essential for removing blemishes or unwanted objects. Familiarize yourself with layers for non-destructive editing for sharpening and noise reduction to refine details.
What is the difference between RAW and JPEG editing?
RAW editing offers higher flexibility and preserves more image data compared to JPEG. RAW files retain unprocessed sensor data, allowing for extensive adjustments in exposure, white balance, and color. In contrast, JPEG files are already processed by the camera, with less latitude for editing without loss of quality.
What is white balance, and how do I correct it in my photos?
White balance refers to the color temperature of light in a photo. Correct it using tools such as the white balance dropper or temperature and tint sliders. Adjust these settings to neutralize unwanted color casts and ensure an accurate representation of colors in your photos.
How do I apply filters or effects to my photos?
Use adjustment layers or dedicated filter tools. Experiment with options like vignetting, color toning, or creative filters to achieve desired aesthetics. Ensure moderation to maintain the integrity of the image and avoid overpowering the original content with excessive effects.
What are adjustment layers, and how do I use them in photo editing?
Adjustment layers enable non-destructive editing by implementing alterations independently of the original image. Use them to tweak exposure, contrast, color balance, and more.
How do I resize photos for different purposes, such as web or print?
Specify dimensions in pixels for the web or in inches/centimeters for print. Maintain the aspect ratio to avoid distortion. Consider resolution requirements: typically 72-150 pixels per inch (ppi) for web and 300 ppi for print. Resize copies of the original image to preserve quality and ensure compatibility with various platforms.
Is it possible to edit photos in black and white?
Yes, you can convert photos to black and white during editing. Most editing software includes grayscale conversion tools or presets. Adjustments to contrast, exposure, and tonal range can further refine black-and-white images for desired aesthetics.

Conclusion

As you can see, there really is no need to spend a fortune on paid software or commit to a monthly Adobe Cloud subscription. Instead, you can use any of these 12 free alternatives to Photoshop and get the same results without spending a penny!

  • For photo editing, free software like Icecream Photo Editor, Luminar NEO, GIMP, Photopea, and BeFunky all have excellent tools and allow you to remove imperfections and boost the basic quality of your images.

You can improve parameters like contrast, saturation, and clarity, and also add some cool effects to give your photos a retro or artistic style.

  • Alternatively, if you want to specialize in graphic design and use software to make awesome marketing pieces, free photo editors like Canva, Photo Pos Pro, PIXLR, Polarr, and Fotor are all decent options.

They allow you to add objects, text, and shapes to your designs, and experiment with an array of colors, gradients, and other raster graphics features.

Paul Skidmore

Tech Writer and Photography Aficionado

Paul is a self-professed photography and tech nerd and has years of experience working with various editing software. He has a passion for travel and has taken his camera to destinations including Antarctica, Singapore, Indonesia, and Greenland.
11 min read
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