Best Free Digital Image Editor

 
Introduction

Digital image editors mix painting and drawing tools with some features specific to digital imaging. Digital imaging is the creating of images from the physical environment. That normally means using cameras or scanners which have two additional features you should know about:

  • Digital imaging systems produce a raw image file which is the image detected by the sensors. This raw image is processed to produce an image file, most commonly the JPEG image format, which we then view and edit in our digital image editor. The Raw files are often described as "digital negatives" because they have a similar role to the negatives produced by film photography. For this article, you just need to know that some digital image editors are able to decode Raw files and provide further options for editing those images.
  • When a raw image is created the camera or scanner also stores information about the state of the imaging device and the physical conditions. This data is called meta-data because it is "data about data". You just need to know that there are standard formats for storing this meta-data. The two most common standards being Exif (Exchangeable Image File) and DCF (Design rule for Camera File system).

I have deliberately looked for application programs that allow you to examine and edit these two features: process raw images and view or edit Exif/DCF data.

There are many good products which is why there so many options in this category. Just remember that very few are general-purpose so most users will benefit from using two or three products from the image editor, image viewer, and photo organizer categories.

This article does not include on-line or web-based digital image editors which are reviewed in their own category Best Free Web-Based Image Editor

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Classifying digital image editors

Previous versions of this article have used three categories which I am supplementing with a fourth category for suites:

  1. Basic editors are programs that only allow you to edit an existing image: "those little gems that help you quickly and easily make small adjustments to the overall lighting, colors, and tones of your images without the clutter of a lot of advanced tool sets. These also offer such tools as cropping, sharpening, and red eye correction." Ease of use is the driver.
  2. Mid-level editors offer more advanced tools like layers, adding captions and shapes, the ability to select portions of the image and make adjustments to just those portions, etc. These will also offer filters for applying textures, artistic effects, edge enhancements, boarders and frames. The breadth of image enhancements and drawing tools are the most important considerations.
  3. Advanced editors have advanced photographic features that work with the features of specific cameras and the files that they generate. They usually compete with professional programs like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro in some aspects if not all. The primary criterion is the ability to work with imaging from many devices.
  4. Digital imaging suites that bundle related modules or programs to extend the functionality of the core image editor. The extra features can be both basic and advanced so the suites generally cover all three levels of capability. There is no primary criterion for this group because they cover aspects of the other three classes.
Important features

The following are key features that will help you to decide which digital image editor is best for you.

General features

  • Context-sensitive help and other assistance. Tutorials are particularly important.
  • Preview or comparison view. The example on the right is from Visions ⟹.
  • Undo/Redo to multiple levels as shown in the far-right image of the undo list in PhotoPad ⟹⟹.
  • Batch processing and scripting allows the same editing steps to be applied to multiple images in a consistent manner.
  • Support for sharing of images through email, web uploads,  and social media.

Basic photo features

  • Straightening in the two-dimensional sense usually means rotating the entire image. The easiest method is to draw a line to indicate where the horizon should be and let the program rotate the photo for you as Imagina does in the example image on the right ⟹.
  • Cropping images to cut out unneeded elements. The best cropping tools allow the aspect ratio to fit a specific output format such as a standard photo print size.
  • Scaling, resizing and re-sampling to fit your output requirement.
  • Photo correction tools including lighten/darken, sharpen/blur, and red-eye reduction.
  • Captions, timestamps, and borders.
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Related Products and Links

Several articles review programs with similar functions:

Best Free Digital Image Viewer reviews software to visualize images and includes many products that have their own editing capabilities.

Best Free Web-Based Image Editor has the web-based equivalents.

Best Free Paint Program also works with bitmaps but focuses on creating paint-like images.

Best Free Digital Photo Organizer reviews photo-cataloguing software that usually has the ability to link with photo editors and often has its own editing capabilities.

Best Free Vector Graphics Editor looks at image editors that don't rely on bitmap or raster graphics to produce images or drawings.

Discussion
Basic Editors

Like its online equivalent, Autodesk's Pixlr Desktop (for Windows or Mac) is part of the new wave of easy to use but powerful image editors with many special effects. It has two levels of features for free use. If you settle for the default Starter edition then you have access to a broad set of transformations. Once you sign-in you unlock the Essentials edition which has "HD border packs, 45 degree overlay rotation, and blending". These additions are indicated by a pink ribbon the first time you use them as illustrated in the example screenshot.

You will generally be working at the photo level because masking and the ability to select elements of the image are reserved for the paid Pro edition. Most of us will be more than satisfied with the free version because we some of the transformations can be localised. While Pixlr is not a paint program - there are no drawing tools and no layers - it does have the usual basic visual controls and fixes. It also has clipart (called stickers), backgrounds (overlays), and many effects.

The menu and toolbar are consistent and easy to use too. The on-line user guide is easy to follow but most of us will never need to refer to it. So it is a very good choice for any beginner.

PhotoPad screen-shotPhotoPad Image Editor is free for "non-commercial home use". It would be a top product except a few significant issues which I explain below. On the upside it is a very good photo editor for basic users because it has a very consistent interface with tabbed toolbars that duplicate the main menu apart from the View menu.  It has a few surprises like the ability to open many image formats including many Raw formats. The downside is that the editing interface is not highly responsive making it difficult to accurately size objects and select values on a slider.

The feature that really sets PhotoPad apart from the other programs is the history and layers sidebar which shows everything that you have done. Although layers aren't explicitly defined by users PhotoPad uses them so you can click on a history item and see what your image looked like at any stage of editing. You can remove any effect from the history and that change will propagate through the layers to the final image. When you save your work as a project file it will reopen with all the history. If you save it in one of the limited number of savable image formats (BMP, JPEG, PNG) then the history will be lost. Just be aware that PhotoPad has to reapply all the changes which can take minutes for the completed image to appear. This is one example where PhotoPad is not very responsive for users.

PhotoPad has an extensive range of features that could mean that you don't have to download other software. Built-in are tools to combine photos into a panorama, a collage, or a mosaic (which was not random enough for me). Plus you can share your images using Flickr, Facebook, email, DropBox and Google Drive. However, its greatest limitation is that it has no drawing tools apart from a pen and an online clipart collection. This will frustrate you if you need to do some blending. All tools can apply to the whole image or a region which can be selected using any polygon shape, a lasso, a magnet (to select along the edges of an element) or a wand to select a region with similar attributes. 

You need to be aware of the following issues. The cloning tool is called "Touch Up". There is a "suite" of programs that you can optionally and individually install but they are paid products so you will have to find and download a free version if NCH has one. Some of NCH's free versions are trialware. When you install PhotoPad there will be a few follow-up activities like rating the product but there is a misleading pop-up that tells you how to speed up your system. The download links for NCH's free software can be hard to find on the website. But if you do have problems then you can refer to the online help which I found to be very good, the video tutorials, the FAQs, and the support forum. Unlike many other programs the Help menu provides a comprehensive list of links to the NCH website.
 

Photo! Editor screen-shotPhoto! Editor is the easiest photo editor I have used. The straighten tool is a good example of this: simply draw a line across the image where it should be level and Photo! Editor rotates it to suit. It has all of the basic enhancement tools to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and color cast, and some retouching or "make-up" tools that work similar to the coveted healing brush in more professional editors like Photoshop.

There is lots of help and examples. Just be sure to pay attention to the little down arrows next to the tool bar icons. Those will help you access the more powerful manual options.

The downsides to this program are that it has not been updated for several years, there is no support from the developer, and there is no clear upgrade path when you want to develop your photo editing skills further.
 

LightBox screen-shot LightBox Free Image Editor is an excellent editor for basic users. It has lots of specific help and tutorials that will assist a beginner. It automatically saves files with "_edited" appended to the filename which is good protection for beginners.

It also has a lot of features that will keep the average user happy including simple tools to correct red-eye, sharpen, crop, re-size, add borders, and Raw file processing.. The attractive user interface is simple and straight forward with most features using intuitive slide-bar adjustments. My favourite feature, which most editors don't have, is the split screen views so you can compare your images before and after the adjustments you have made.

There are some annoying issues: the highlight box around Auto balance examples is grey rather than a highlight; printing is usable but is rudimentary and sometimes does not pick the printer page size correctly. The biggest issue is that the program is not being updated, just like Photo! Editor. But at least LightBox Free Image Editor has an assured upgrade path to the more fully-featured paid version.
 

Visions screen-shotVisions is included because it has a very distinctive interface, the most modern look out of all these products.

It has a 3D image viewing gallery which people really like, an "editing room" with lots of basic effects able to be previewed, a "printing house" which allows greeting cards, postcards and photo frames to be printed, and a sharing centre for uploading images to Flick.

It has not had many changes in the last couple of years so there may not be any more plug-ins being developed. I noticed some little inconsistencies but overall it is a good attempt to move away from trying to look like Photoshop - it actually looks much better.

 

Mid-Level Editors

PhotoFiltre screen-shotPhotoFiltre version 7 is an excellent mid-level editor with a comprehensive feature set but not HDR nor Raw file support. Among the latest features are layers, support for some Photoshop 8bf filters, a multi-selection mode, a plug-in for animated GIFs, and other plug-ins. It still has some features that the other editors in this class don't have such as batch processing and a scanner interface.

Simple adjustments can be made fairly quickly using the tool bar buttons, or you can make more advanced adjustments by delving deeper into the menus. Basic users will find this difficult because there is little guidance about some effects.

Like other editors in this category drawn elements become part of the image canvas once they are de-selected. Now that there are layers, your drawn elements can be placed on another layer where you continue to work with them.
 

Paint.Net screen-shotPaint.Net is also a very good mid-level photo retouching choice with a modern interface. It has a nice set of photo correction tools including curves, and levels. My favorite is the Layer Roll /  Rotate tool which has 3 axes so it can be used for perspective correction and creating some interesting effects.

It has a very nice implementation of layers complete with blending modes, and adjustable opacity/transparency levels. It has a fairly full pallet of selection, painting, and shape drawing tools. It is completed with a selection of filters for adding special effects to your images.

Be aware that it requires Microsoft .NET Framework to be installed which it will do automatically.
 

Artweaver screen-shotArtweaver is primarily a paint program and would not be in this category if it was not for the Image | Adjustments menu. It might be edged out by other applications I review but at the moment I agree with the previous editor that it "has a curves and levels tool that works a little better than Paint.Net".

It uses a rather monochromatic interface which sets it apart from the other editors. And the tool and color palettes on display are clearly focused on painting rather than photos but that is largely the case with more advanced image editors trying to look like Photoshop.

Artweaver is extensible by plug-ins for effect filters, file formats, and importing and exporting from devices which could include cameras and scanners. This is also a feature of more advanced image editors.

 

Advanced Editors

GIMP screen-shotGIMP is the most advanced image editor for drawing and painting that you will get for free. It also runs on the most computer platforms. Given it's origins in Linux you will find quite a few features that don't work the Windows way. For example, I use Windows libraries and GIMP does not so I have to find my files the long way. It also defaults to a multi-windowed interface which makes it a little unusual for Windows but there is now an option to dock the tool windows within the main GIMP window.

It has a steeper learning curve than the previously reviewed editors largely because it has more features but the differences from Windows standards are also a factor. So if you are inexperienced at using image editing programs, then GIMP will likely be too overwhelming to start learning on. Instead try one of the the basic editors first.

Many of its photographic image editing features come from the use of plug-ins which provide access to many Photoshop 8bf filters.
 

Rob Baker's Imagina - Virtual Lightbox is, as the name suggests, a photo viewer and editor and an excellent one at that. Of all the image editors, Imagina has more of the most important features that I would want for photo editing.

The problem for most users will be that it is not good for image manipulation as it has no drawing or painting tools. If you want every, or even many, visual effects then you should also look elsewhere. I had the most fun with the Period Style which allows you to simulate historical reproduction methods including '70s and '80s Instamatic snaps. This is also where you find a limited form of vignetting to simulate fading from the edge of a photo print. But that is the limit of its fancy effects. It also has no tools to correct lens distortion and perspective problems.

Imagina's forté is editing your photographs without losing any information in the process. The first time you use it you will be asked whether you "prefer quality over speed". I did so all images were processed at higher (floating point) quality which is noticeably slower. Imagina read every image file I tested including the Raw and HDR formats for which it has the best options to digitally 'develop' them. It is also the best at displaying any photograph on screen - for a moment I thought that I'd accidentally saved enhancements to some of my test images. It turned on Windows Color Management (WCM) automatically and told me most of what I need to know each step of the way. As you will see if you click on the screenshot, there are basic and advanced options for most tools (advanced options are displayed here), the tooltips and inline descriptions are very good, there is a reset button if you pick-up a mistake in the preview, and you have the option to undo and redo.

On the website there is a very good summary of Imagina's features, including video demonstrations, which will enhance your understanding of both the program and digital photography. A minor issue is that the examples all use an older version of the program interface. A bigger issue is that Imagina help is online and all the links are broken so when you do need more assistance it is not there. It could also do with an undo/redo list so you can see what you are undoing. If not for issues like this, and the lack of distortion correction, then I would probably recommend it for every aspiring photographer.
 

Image Analyzer screen-shotMichael Vinther's Image Analyzer is small image editor that is also squarely aimed at photographers rather than artists and designers. There are paint tools tools and layers but the power of Image Analyzer is in the photographic features. I was delighted when I saw what it could do. It has camera and scanner support, scripting, broad color model support, advanced transformations that I haven't seen in any of the other free programs, and the plug-in support to extend its capabilities even further. While GIMP and other recommended editors have plug-in support they use them to provide the sort of features which Image Analyzer has built-in.

I'll give you one easily understood example of a feature not found in many image editors - see the screen-shot. An RGB image has three colors Red, Green, and Blue. Image Analyzer, like a couple of other editors, can split those out into separate images each in its own window. Then you can work on each color channel image, create layers and assign each channel to its own layer, paint or whatever. When you have finished editing then you can simply combine them all back into an RGB image. The same applies for the other color models such as CMY(K) and HSI. 

It needs better documentation; although the online help is very good, it is only on the website. Also, the interface could be easier to use, e.g. why is the Layers feature hidden on the Window menu rather than having it more visible. I could list many more such quibbles so I hope that Image Analyzer collects a lot of donations and other support because it would benefit from more polish.
 

digiKam screen-shotdigiKam is called a "photo management application" and is more like a photo organizer. The editing options are advanced but it could also be classed as a suite. In the end I placed it here because it has many advanced editing features: Raw processing, support for more than 1,200 digital camera models, editing Exif and other meta-data, sharing images on social media, has a Light Table for comparing similar images, and provides batch processing. It also has an editor module called ShowFoto.

ShowFoto can be run separate to digiKam which will save you some memory. digiKam with one image loaded used 350MB and ShowFoto 115MB.

digiKam ShowFoto screen-shot

 

Warning: Like GIMP, digiKam is a stable Linux application first and a less stable Windows version second. I did not have any problems in Windows 8.1 so it has become much more stable than when I last used it. If you decide to use it then test it well to confirm it is stable on your system before committing to it.

The manual/handbook and the online tutorials are very good which will help to reduce the learning curve.

 

Digital Image Editing Suites

Chasys Draw IES screen-shotChasys Draw IES, (Image Editing Suite), is an excellent application and I have no idea why it has never been recommended in this category. Anyway, I am now rectifying that oversight.

This suite of programs has no overall menu as each program runs individually and can be started via the menus of the other programs. 

  • Artist, an image editor which uses the default .CD5 Chasys Draw Image Format. When you start it the "New Project" dialog appears so you can choose from 14 different activities including optical disk labels and sleeve covers, animations, icons, scanning, HDR, batch file-conversion, Raw file processing, or just starting an image from scratch.
  • Viewer is an image viewer much like the Windows default. It would benefit from the ability to explore file folders. As it is, it's primary purpose is to view the default file format .CD5.
  • Converter to convert Image file formats
  • raw-Photo to process Raw camera files

The author's name, John Paul Chacha, is part of the program folder name so you will probably see it from time to time. He aimed to produce his own innovative image editor without relying on mimicking the Photoshop interface and tools. He has succeeded. In many ways it reminds me of Gimp with its multi-window interface: Chacha's tool windows are also dock-able but they default to transparency so you can use a larger part of the display. See the screen-shot above for an example of the transparent user interface.

Technically it far exceeds Photoscape which is the other suite that we recommended here. It has a better interface, better documentation, is more extensible with its own SDK (Software Development Kit), has more options for automation, does more with meta-data, exports to and imports from many more file formats, and has more features including color management, High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing, and its own plug-ins including many Photoshop b8f filters.

Where it does not surpass Photoscape is where many users will want to perform basic image adjustments. The innovative features in Chasys Draw IES sometimes get in the way of performing such simple tasks. Take the example of cropping an image. The Crop and Rotate tool introduces unneeded complexity. The first time that I used it, I found that the easiest method to crop a rectangular area in a screen-shot was to select the area, copy the selection, and paste it as a new image. The crop and Rotate tool has important advantages if I was cropping a photo because I can choose the center of the shot and straighten the image while I crop it.
 

Photoscape screen-shotPhotoscape is a suite of modules. Don't be fooled by the unusual interface that looks outdated. It is easy to use so it is a good step up from a basic image editor. It is also moderately powerful but could be lot more powerful with abilities like editing many images at the same time, opening and exporting to more file formats, having more pixel editing tools, adding a colour management subsystem, editing meta-data particularly Exif, being able to merge images with High Dynamic Range (HDR) , and providing more Raw processing options.

All modules are accessible from the main windows with the main ones having their own tabbed windows in Photoscape. The only module that does not really fit is Paper Print which prints annual, monthly, and weekly calendars, lined/squared paper, and music notation sheets. If you want to see the module details then click on the 'Show more...' button below.

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Other Free Digital Image Editors

Most of the other Free Digital Image Editors we have reviewed are listed below. Those that I am currently testing are indicated with an asterisk (*).

Let us know if you have any good suggestions. Either contact the editor or leave a comment below at the end of this article.

For added security we advise you to run virus scans on the websites and any downloads from those websites as they are not checked as regularly as the recommended products above.

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Quick Selection Guide - Basic Editors

LightBox Image Editor
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very attractive, simple and straight-forward to use; Excellent help specific to adjustments; Before and after view; Presets for adjustments Opens Raw files.
Could do with more easy presets adjustments e.g. to improve focus; Free version has some features of the paid version grayed out; No PNG support; Bug in Windows 64-bit; No longer updated.
2.0
10MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
This product is portable.
Windows XP - 8
Visions
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Unique interface for viewing images and other tasks; Consistent approach to editing; Easy to use; 3D image viewing gallery is very popular; Print greeting cards, postcards, and photo frames; Preview changes; Flickr and Facebook integration.
Can be slow.
http://www.twins-solutions.com/
1.4.4
5.9 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP SP2, Vista, 7, 8 plus Microsoft Net Framework 2.0
PhotoPad Image Editor
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Consistent interface; Excellent history of changes that you can review, undo, delete, or modify at any step; Wide range of features; Raw file support.
Only free for "non-commercial home use"; Lacks drawing tools.
2.56
788 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8

There is a link to the free download on the PhotoPad page but it does not always appear so I linked to the FAQ page for the download. Another link is on the supported file formats page. Incidentally, the list of file formats taht can be read is extensive and includes many Raw camera formats.
FAQs, On-line help, Video tutorials, Support forum

Pixlr Desktop
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
High marks for being easy to use; A good selection of special effects; Consistent and simple interface; EXIF data; Share to email, Facebook, and Twitter.
No control over individual elements as transformations generally work on the whole image; Can't edit objects after they are inserted; A membership account - the user name is your email account - is required to unlock many free transformations; Tracks what you do by default until you turn it off by becoming a member.
https://pixlr.com/
https://pixlr.com/desktop
1.0.2
33.8 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7, 8; OS X 10.9 or later
Photo! Editor
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Extremely easy to use with some very nice professional quality makeup tools; All options are clearly visible with preset buttons; The best straightening tool I've seen; Options to adjust settings too; File folder tree view.
No longer supported? Has not been updated since 2008, forum inactive since 2009; A number of bugs such as distorted thumbnails;
http://pho.to/editor/
1.1
7.78 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000 to 8

v1.1 released 17 September, 2008

 
Quick Selection Guide - Mid-Level Editors

PhotoFiltre
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Many features including some that not many editors have; Now has layers which also means that transformations can apply to the image or just a layer; Photoshop 8bf filters; GIF animation; Scanner interface; Batch automation;
Not for basic users as there is not a lot of help to determine what some settings do; No HDR or Raw processing.
7.1.2
4.99 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private or educational use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP to 8

Current version released 12 July 2013.
Previous version v6.5.3 released January, 2012

Paint.Net
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very well designed and attractive interface; Looks like some paid editors; Has the best "3D" rotation tool; Many tools clearly separated into Adjustments and Effects;
No local help only online; Not suitable for basic users.
http://www.getpaint.net
4.0.3
6 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 7 SP1 to 8.1 Update 1; requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5

v4.0.3 released 22 July, 2014
Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 is automatically installed if it isn't already on the system.
Paint.NET automatically runs in 64-bit mode if you have an x64 edition of Windows.

Artweaver
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Comprehensive help with tutorial instructions; Interface is sparse and some features are not intuitive; Extensible with four types of plug-ins; Creates PDF files;
Really a paint program at the moment; Visual interface supports paint rather than image adjustment.
http://www.artweaver.de/home-en/
4.5.4
10.71 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private or educational use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP - 7

version 4.5.4 released 6 July 2014
The paid version, ArtWeaver Plus, has a 64-bit version.

 
Quick Selection Guide - Advanced Editors

Image Analyzer
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
The most advanced free image editor for photographic processing; Transforms not found in other free software; Exif data; Plug-ins; Scripts; Multi-language.
Not easy to understand - basic users should avoid it; Far from the best for general image editing.
http://meesoft.logicnet.dk/
1.36.1
2.3 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8

v1.36.1 3 November 2013
Documentation is only on-line.
There is an active support forum.

GIMP
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Has lots of advanced features and can do almost everything the Photoshop can do; Extensible with many add-ons; Now allows all tool windows to dock within the main window.
Has a steep learning curve but will not be too hard if you have used any of the image editors in the mid-level or suites classes.
http://www.gimp.org/
2.8.10
86.2 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows XP SP3 to 8.1; Linux; OSX

The installer installs the appropriate version: either 32-bit or 64-bit versions.
The help file is a separate installer on the Gimp download page. It is currently 24.2 MB. It didn't work on my system which runs Windows 7 64-bit.

There is a Windows installer for the GIMP extensions pack for Windows which allows you to choose which plug-ins, scripts, brushes, patterns, etc. that you want to install.

digiKam
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Photo management suite - viewer, organizer, editor, slideshow, calendar; Has a separate editor, ShowFoto; Very good manual and Wiki; Raw support including Exif and Makernotes; Batch processing; Sharing of images.
Very large download and program; Windows version is less stable (Linux version is more stable); Raw processing previews can't be split screen.
https://www.digikam.org/
4.2.0
233 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8

v4.2.0 7 August 2014
digiKam Wiki tutorials

Imagina - Virtual Lightbox
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Focuses on digital photography particularly whole images; Excellent Raw processing; Has basic and advanced options; Assistance from descriptive tooltips, inline help, and info on the website; HDR support from the start; Color management is excellent;
No painting/drawing tools and no layers because Imagina focuses on digital photography; Online help links are broken; Online feature descriptions are for an older version
http://www.planetimagina.com/
1.9.5309
27.4 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 - requires .NET 4.0 framework

v1.9.5309.29414
Features are summarized in All about Imagina

 
Quick Selection Guide - Digital Image Editing Suites

Photoscape
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very robust suite type program that can be fun to use. Includes everything from enhancing your photos and adding shapes and clip-art, to creating collages and printing.
Bundled with OpenCandy (see information link in review text). Lacks a few of the usual retouching tools, and has a slightly unusual menu system and user interface.
3.6.5
20.3 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
All Win

v3.6.5 released 5 July, 2013
Version 3.4 is compatible with Windows 98 and ME
View the changelog here

Chasys-Draw-IES
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Three useful programs: Artist, Converter, Raw processor; Modern user interface; Many features; Excellent help; HDR; sRGB model; Independent layers mean you can have multiple workspaces in the same file!; Raw file processing; Batch processing and scripting; Many file formats for import and export; Plug-ins including Photoshop b8f filters; Portable version.
Some unusual (but innovative) features; Viewer is limited.
4.24.01
19.84 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows NT / 2000 / XP / 2003 / Vista / 2008 / 7 / 8

The portable version is created from the installed version using File menu | Install to USB.

Editor

This software review is maintained by volunteer editor Remah. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

 
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edit digital image, edit digital photo, edit computer image, computer photo, best free image editor, top free image editor, computer image editor, best free photo editor, top free photo editor.

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by Natty50 on 9. September 2014 - 14:23  (118465)

Love the article and all the comments... I have been using Photoscape for years now and love it, find it easy to use but all the reviews say its difficult to learn because of different placement.. This is my question is there something similar but a little more advanced.

by Remah on 30. August 2014 - 1:24  (118286)

Latest changes:
- There is a new section on important features.
- Completed reviews of more products so some have short mentions in the Other Free Digital Image Editor section.
- Imagina - Virtual Lightbox has been added to the recommended advanced editors.

Remah - Category editor

by ChronicChaos on 29. August 2014 - 14:07  (118278)

Remah, you missed a great one...Pixlr

"Pixlr has been a favorite online photo editor and mobile app for years. Now, you can get the same Pixlr experience with even more fun and powerful tools on your Mac or Windows computer."

https://pixlr.com/desktop

https://pixlr.com/mobile

https://pixlr.com/web

by Remah on 31. August 2014 - 11:47  (118312)

I apologize for not reading your comment correctly. :)

by Remah on 29. August 2014 - 21:52  (118283)

There is a separate category for online image editors and it's already recommended there.

I will be updating that category once I've finished reviewing software for this category.

by Tomnov on 31. August 2014 - 9:01  (118310)

While I can't say I'm a fan of the Pixlr online editor, the version that ChronicChaos refers to is a new downloadable/installable desktop version, that would qualify to belong in this category.

https://pixlr.com/desktop

I haven't tested this version; don't know how faithful it is to the online version.

by Remah on 31. August 2014 - 9:35  (118311)

Thanks for clarifying that. :)

by century on 28. August 2014 - 19:50  (118250)

Here is my humble opinion:
The usefulness of a image editor ( or any software ) depends on the needs of the user. The writer of this article quite properly went for three categories & gave us a good overview of some nice softwares. My thanks & gratitude for that.

IMHO the best free advanced category image editors are GIMP & Photoshop CS2. They are almost equally capable & have daunting learning curves. But they are "a must know" for young hobbyists interested in image editing. After all quality of the job is the last word.

For a majority of people Paint.net should prove an excellent choice. It is easy to use as an entry-level software as well as a more advanced one. Of course it is not as good as GIMP or Photoshop.

For cropping, resizing & minor adjustments of brightness/contrast any of the basic editors will do. The choice given by the writer is quite agreeable. Only that he missed the popular Irfan View.

by Remah on 28. August 2014 - 23:39  (118253)

Yes, IrfanView is a good option but I deliberately omitted it because it is primarily an image viewer and has been recommended in Best Free Digital Image Viewer.

It will be reviewed as part of a later update that will cover digital image viewers with editing features.

by Remah on 28. August 2014 - 23:36  (118252)

Adobe Photoshop CS2 is available from free download sites but Adobe has not positively authorized its free use. In fact, Adobe's published comments on this issue say that it is not free (see http://prodesigntools.com/about-adobe-cs2-free-download-rumor.html):
http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2013/01/update-on-cs2-and-acrobat-7... says
"Adobe has disabled the activation server for CS2 products, including Acrobat 7, because of a technical issue. These products were released more than seven years ago, do not run on many modern operating systems, and are no longer supported.
Adobe strongly advises against running unsupported and outdated software. The serial numbers provided as a part of the download may only be used by customers who legitimately purchased CS2 or Acrobat 7 and need to maintain their current use of these products."
http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2013/01/whats-up-with-adobe-giving-away-cs2... responds to the question "Is it OK for someone who did NOT purchase CS2 to download this now for personal use?" with "No, it isn't. The download link is there only for the benefit of people who've paid for CS2. --J."

On the other hand, Adobe may have softened its initial stance. Adobe don't appear to have spent any time or money forcing sites to take down the downloads. Also the strongest statements are no longer visible on Adobe sites:
https://forums.adobe.com/message/4974662?PID=2159997#4974662
"On behalf of Adobe Systems Incorporated …
You have heard wrong! Adobe is absolutely not providing free copies of CS2!
What is true is that Adobe is terminating the activation servers for CS2 and that for existing licensed users of CS2 who need to reinstall their software, copies of CS2 that don’t require activation but do require valid serial numbers are available. (Special serial numbers are provided on the page for each product download.)"
http://www.adobe.com/jp/downloads/cs2_downloads?PID=2159997 which used to say
"The purpose of this measure was not to distribute software free of charge to a large number of people. Rather, the measure was initially put in place in order to make the software as user-friendly as possible for those customers with the proper license. Anybody using it without the proper license is in violation of the licensing agreement. We thank you for your understanding."

In either case, Photoshop CS2 does not meet our policy for free software so it will not be included in this review.

by ichabod on 27. August 2014 - 22:29  (118234)

First, my kudos to Remah for a professional-quality article that should be a model and inspiration for other reviewers.

Second, my thanks to JediInverse for mentioning MS Picture Manager that comes free with MS Office. I knew, of course, that I owned the latter, but never realized that it included the former.

My story: On those infrequent occasions when I do image editing, I take a simplistic approach. I don't create fantastic but realistic-looking images of a sliced-open egg with its yolk replaced by a sliced-open kiwi fruit, or a cruise ship floating in a bowl of soup; I just do things that I think should be easy. Yesterday I edited an image that I wanted to rotate by 45 degrees. I used Paint.net and was appalled to discover that this sophisticated program--with so many features that I'll never need or know how to use--offered on the Image menu to rotate only in 90-degree increments. Now that I've read Remah's review, I see that all I had to do was move to the Layers menu to find its Rotate/Zoom tool, but why would a SW designer split those functions over two different menus without at least cross-linking them? And, now I know that next time I can also use Picture Manager to do the same job (and probably others that I'll soon discover) very simply.

by Remah on 27. August 2014 - 23:23  (118235)

Thanks for the compliment.

This is a category that has many products of a high-standard and it is hard to go wrong with so much choice. But as you point out there are some significant deficiencies and strange design choices. Paint.NET's layer rotate tool is so good that I'm considering adding a list of desirable features. This would be at the end of the introduction to alert people to the best features, promote the programs that provide them, and hopefully raise the bar for the rest of the programs.

I will be adding a short review of MS Picture Manager at the end of the article because so many Office users are not aware of. I have been a heavy user of it for many years.

by joiwind on 27. August 2014 - 18:44  (118227)

My vote goes for a must-see that should be on the list :

http://photodemon.org/

Fantastic numbers of effects and adjustments - check it out.

by Remah on 27. August 2014 - 19:46  (118228)

Thanks for the suggestion. I will review it soon.

by movrshakr on 27. August 2014 - 14:36  (118224)

The following sentence is in the LIGHTBOX discussion--seems out of place:

"As for Photo! Editor, the biggest issue is that the program is not being updated although you do have an assured upgrade path by purchasing the more fully-featured paid version."

by Remah on 27. August 2014 - 19:50  (118229)

The issue applies to Lightbox and Photo! Editor because they are not being updated. I have changed the sentence to make that clearer.

by gruff on 27. August 2014 - 14:17  (118223)

This is the first time I've seen a list of the best photo editors where IrfanView was not included. Been using it for years and it's at least in the top five.

by Remah on 27. August 2014 - 19:59  (118230)

Thanks for the suggestion. It's already on my list so I will be reviewing IrfanView soon.

I used to use it so it will be interesting to see how it has changed. It generally gets high marks for its features but it has always been hindered by its idiosyncratic interface.

by BearPup on 27. August 2014 - 12:35  (118222)

Wonderful review, hours of programs to try out. Thanks for the excellent job.

by Remah on 22. August 2014 - 21:00  (118157)

Imagina Virtual Lightbox is worth a look. It looks like the sort of editor that I have been searching for. Having said that, I haven't tried it yet - I am nonplussed why I didn't find it my web searches - but I will be reviewing it soon because it looks great.

Thanks to Marc Darkin, editor of Best Free Digital Image Viewer, who suggested it. :)

Remah - Editor

by makro on 19. August 2014 - 20:47  (118071)

It's understood that no image editor can beat adobe Photoshop because its a giant program of 3 to 4gb, but here: [link removed as you clearly did not read the article here] i have found some image editing software which i have found useful for beginners and these editors can edit photos easily and almost all are user-friendly and free. Also you can use these software here [reference to paid products removed] too but i can't confirm there compatibility with Windows 8/8.1 in link 1, but the image editors are compatible with Win 8/8.1 which are in link 2.

by Remah on 20. August 2014 - 0:49  (118077)

Makro, You clearly did not read the article. Your links add nothing to this topic.

Our moderators would have dealt with this but I got in first because I want people to know that spamming, like trolling, is not tolerated here.

You are welcome to post a more useful comment.

Remah - editor of Best Free Digital Image Editors

by Remah on 18. August 2014 - 1:21  (118027)

Added reviews of:
Basic editor: NCH Photopad and Visions
Advanced Editor: Image Analyzer and Digikam

Remah - Editor of this category

by Remah on 15. August 2014 - 7:08  (117961)

This article is being updated over the next few days. The first new product has been added: Chasys Draw IES (Image Editing Suite) is worth a look.

Remah - new Editor

by Joe A.TT on 22. July 2014 - 12:15  (117485)

In addition to PhotoFiltre the same developer also has PhotoFiltre 7 which is available at:

http://www.photofiltre-studio.com/pf7-en.htm

The latter supports layers whereas the former does not.

by DavidFB on 22. May 2014 - 16:29  (116363)

The Pro standard thats very useful to learn is PhotoShop. However, it's very pricey - not free. I've discovered they're now offering PhotoShop CS2 for free as a legacy program. It runs fine in current OS's and is rich with features - everything from web graphics to photo processing to batch scan processing, image repair, and so much more. Get yourself a decent reference book and you can learn the details over time. Worth it.

http://www.techspot.com/downloads/3689-adobe-photoshop-cs2.html

by Remah on 27. August 2014 - 23:28  (118236)

Adobe have not offered the program for free although is available on download sites. They have provided the keys for legal users only. This was done because they have decommissioned the server that used to automatically validate the license keys.

by DavidFB on 28. August 2014 - 2:14  (118237)

Thanks, Remah. I logged into Adobe and you're right. They're offering downloads and serial numbers for CS2 and Acrobat 7 products for Adobe Customers due to the validation server going down. But not for free.

That's not how it's being presented on legitimate download sites, which is a little surprising.

by movrshakr on 27. August 2014 - 16:30  (118225)

The serial number listed on the techspot download page for this CS2 Windows FAILS as invalid.

by DavidFB on 27. August 2014 - 18:41  (118226)

I would check carefully that you're entering it correctly. It's easy to make a mistake. It was fine when I tried it a short while ago. And the feedback I've gotten from others has all been positive.

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