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Best Free Digital Image Editor

 
Introduction

I love digital photography. I also love when I capture one of those perfect pictures where the subject, composition, lighting, and color are just right. But let's face it, most of the time our photos need a little coaxing to get them to look like we want them. There is a proliferation of free image editing and photo correction tools floating around out there and trying to find just the right one can be a little daunting. After evaluating over 30+ programs, I narrowed it down to a handful. I broke these down into three sub-categories, basic, mid-level, and advanced.

The basic category is for 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.

The mid-level category offers 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 advanced category will include tools that are comparable to professional programs like Photoshop, or Paint Shop Pro.

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In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion
Basic Editors

LightBox Screen Shot LightBox Image Editor is an excellent little utility that I fell in love with after just a couple of minutes of using it. It has an attractive user interface that is simple and straight forward, and offers intuitive slide-bar adjustments for your images. It also has split screen views to help you compare your images before and after the corrections have been made.

It includes simple tools to correct red-eye, sharpen, crop, re-size, add borders, and print. I like LightBox so well I decided to upgrade to the Pro version which offers some very nice extras, but the free version is a gem that you will want to check out. This is my basic editor Top Pick!

 

Photo! Editor Screen ShotPhoto! Editor is a basic photo correction utility with a few professional quality tools. 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 Photoshop.

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.

 

Mid-Level Editors

PhotoFiltre Screen ShotPhotoFiltre is a nice basic to mid-level editor with a good feature set.

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.

There is a nice set of tools for selecting parts of images, doing simple painting, and smudging, drawing basic shapes, and adding text. PhotoFiltre also has a good selection of filters to add effects to your images, and can do batch processing of images.

 

Paint.Net Screen ShotPaint.Net makes a very good mid-level photo retouching choice. It has a nice set of photo correction tools including curves, and levels.

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.

All in all, it offers a lot for a free image retouching software. Be aware it requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or newer to be installed.

 

Artweaver Screen ShotArtweaver - If you don't want the .NET Framework, or simply would like another option other than Paint.Net you should have a look at this.

Although it is more focused on being a painting program, it has a very good array of image adjustment tools. Artweaver also has a curves and levels tool that works a little better than Paint.Net, in my opinion.

Other than that, they are similar programs, with comparable functionality.

 

Advanced Editors

GIMP Screen ShotGIMP is currently the only freeware package I am aware of that can be called an advanced image editor.

It has a steeper learning curve than the previously reviewed editors, but it is feature rich. It's multi-windowed interface makes it a little unusual for a windows program.

If you are inexperienced at using image editing programs, GIMP will likely be too overwhelming to start learning on, so I would suggest beginning with one of the basic, or mid-level editors above.

 

In A Class By Itself

Photoscape Screen ShotPhotoscape is really a different class product than the editors above in that it does things that are beyond the focus of the average editor, and is more of an image suite. I have had a number of users request that this product be included and have finally decided to oblige.

Once you get used to its unusual interface you will find it is much more than a photo editor. It includes a batch function utility, a couple of collage creation tools, a gif animator, a batch renaming utility, a raw image converter, a screen capture utility, an image splitter, a photo layout and printing utility, and several other tools. The editor itself is quite robust.

While it lacks many of the usual region selection, brush, and cloning style tools, it has a nice selection of manual and auto color correction tools. It also has the ability to run filters and add frames, add text, shapes, call-out boxes, and other objects that work similar to vector objects until jointed with the image or the image is saved. It also includes about 500 clip-art images that can be placed on your photos.

While I would still prefer one of the other image editors above for my usual correction and retouching work, many users will probably find its tools are more than adequate and will have fun using its extended features. I think most will find it a worthy companion to their other image tools. Warning! Photoscape is bundled with OpenCandy. See our information page here.

 
Other Free Digital Image Editors

Some of the other Free Digital Image Editors I reviewed are as follows. Some are not too bad others are worthless. You will just have to visit the websites if you what to know more. It is advised to run a virus scan on these if you download them.

 
Related Products and Links

You might also want to look at the Best Free Web-Based Image Editor and Best Free Paint Program for other programs with some similar functions to those above. Also Picasa 3 has some very easy to use correction tools and is featured as the 'top pick' under Best Free Digital Photo Organizer.

 
Quick Selection Guide - Basic Editors

LightBox Image Editor
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very attractive, simple and straight-forward to use.
Free version has a few of the Plus version options grayed out.
2.0
10MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
This product is portable.
Win XP - 7
Photo! Editor
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very easy to use with some very nice professional quality makeup tools
http://pho.to/editor/
1.1
7.78 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7

v1.1 released 17 September, 2008

 
Quick Selection Guide - Mid-Level Editors

Paint.Net
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very well designed and attractive interface. Has lots of options and tools comparable to commercial software.
http://www.getpaint.net
3.5.10
3.5 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
Win XP SP3 - 7 Requires: .NET Framework 3.5 SP1,

v3.5.10 released 9 October, 2011

PhotoFiltre
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Has a lot of options for a really small program. It is a good place to start learning Image Editors.
6.5.3
1.75 MB
Free for private or educational use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Win All

v6.5.3 released January, 2012

Artweaver
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Well designed software with lots of options and tools similar to those found professional softwares.
http://www.artweaver.de/home-en/
4.5.1
10.58 MB
Free for private or educational use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP - 7

 
Quick Selection Guide - Advanced Editors

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.
Has a steep learning curve, but is not to bad for experienced users.
http://www.gimp.org/
2.8.6
90.3 MB
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows XP SP2 or later, Linux, OSX

 
Quick Selection Guide - In A Class By Itself

Photoscape
5
 
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 only
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
All Win

v3.6.5 released 5 July, 2013
View the changelog here

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

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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Comments

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 Baguadude on 5. May 2014 - 5:28  (116039)

Here's another one I came across with:

PixBuilder Studio.

http://www.wnsoft.com/pixbuilder/

by shannon4599usa on 21. January 2014 - 8:36  (113807)

hello
i got tired of Gimp [and it's look-alikes] and I run into Deep Paint 2.0!
I love it! the effects of the brushes are extremely realistic, the texture brushes are easy to use and everythjng is straight forward and medium learning curve. Not alot of photo editing features but you can find and download all kinds of adobe pluggins to customize it doesn't accept adobe actions or do .ico.gifs but it's great.
high memory filter and cloning are not redoable so back the files up before using. brush creation a breeze it's just taking black and white pictures and inverting them[white on black backgrounds] doesn't accept adobe abr brushes but you can convert those to png invert tweak with the contrast and add those to the resource/brush folder user manual built in

For photo editng i use VirtualStudio which also uses adobe pluggins some are more compatible with here than deep paint vice versa. some pluggins do collaging as well try em out!!! edits most formats.still testing out.might take photoshop actions.

deep paint 2.0 is downloadable from http://download.chip.eu/en/Deep-Paint-2.0_132831.html as Right Hemisphere has a new paid version 3d don't bother registering it.

http://www.optikvervelabs.com/virtualStudio.asp virtualStudio

Together they make a great team.

by DavidFB on 22. May 2014 - 16:25  (116362)

Deep Paint is very cool but is not an image editor - it's an amazing Paint program.

by Simple Simon on 31. December 2013 - 16:48  (113302)

Apologies if anyone has already mentioned this, but there are two free version of PhotoFiltre.

The one reviewed here is the "lesser" version, PhotoFiltre 6.

The other, PhotoFiltre 7, additionally supports layers, though saving them only in its own ".pfi" format. It is available from the commercial "PhotoFiltre Studio X" website.

You enter the site on the news page, which has the following info at the top:

"The 3 versions of PhotoFiltre

PhotoFiltre Studio X : The most complete with layers, animated gif, 8BF, vectorial path

PhotoFiltre 7 : Version (freeware) with layers but more limited than the Studio X version

PhotoFiltre 6 : Basic version (freeware) without layers"

Hope this is of interest to PhotoFiltre fans - I was glad when I discovered it.

Happy 2014.

by Anupam on 31. December 2013 - 17:07  (113303)

This category does not have any editor at present, that's why the review and version have not been updated.

by SkuterB on 30. September 2013 - 3:15  (111098)

I have used this site for a couple years and have been very pleased with it.

Finally registered today with an FYI and a question.

I have used Photoscape for awhile for a couple of its features.
Today it prompted me to download a new version 3.6.5 which I did.
After downloading I scanned the file with my anti-virus and Malwarebytes.
Malwarebytes gave a warning that it contains OpenCandy.

I re-scanned the last version I had downloaded v3.6.2 and it does not contain it, so it appears it has been added recently.
I know there are different views on OpenCandy and I understand that.
(My opinion is I don't look for trouble.)

My question is has anyone installed the newer version and does it give an option to opt-out?
Thanks...

by tassieted on 16. August 2013 - 16:14  (110155)

Hi
This is my first post and I would like to say thanks to everyone for sharing their knowledge, it's a great boon to the uninitiated like me.
I have a new laptop with windows 8 and don't like the photo imaging "apps" that came with it, I was quite happy with Picture Manager (vista) as it did most of the things I needed, crop, brightness/contrast fix, file compression etc.
So I went looking for a suitable replacement....Photo! Editor looked like it may suit my needs although I was unsure if was compatible with Win8, I checked a few other reviews which suggested it was All Win compatible so I downloaded it. It has loaded OK and I can view the images but won't actually make any changes. I hope someone can put me on the right path to fixing this as it looks like a great program for me.
once again thanks for all your assistance, to especially to the newbies :)

by Joe A.TT on 16. August 2013 - 20:15  (110158)

Hello tassieted and welcome to Gizmo's! :)

Not long ago I myself was looking for an image editor. If you read the user comments below, you'll see where I posted my findings. My experience with Photo! Editor was the same as yours. Apparently it's been abandoned. What's more, the forums were full of spam when I checked last. It's a shame since it looked so promising but I just had to uninstall it in the end.

Nevertheless, I tried PhotoFiltre and found it fulfilled most of my needs. I'd recommend you try it. For that matter you should try the portable version since you could just delete it's folder if you don't like it - it's much less messy than having to uninstall. ;)

If your needs are a bit more, I'd recommend Chasys Draw IES. Again, you will find my comment and a link lower down. In fact, I've kept both these programs and use either one depending on what I need to do.

by tassieted on 16. August 2013 - 22:37  (110160)

Hi Joe A.TT thanks for your welcoming response. I suspected that it may no longer be an active program after I saw the last post dates on the forum. You're right it is a shame that it seems abandoned and unusable at least as far as win8 is concerned. I will have a look at the ones you suggested and see if they suit.
I read quite a few of the posts but must have missed yours,sorry.Perhaps a note needs to be made in the review to save others from experiencing this problem.
thanks again TT

by tassieted on 17. August 2013 - 12:55  (110178)

Hi Joe A.TT
Just thought I would thank you for recommending Photo Filtre, I have d/l and had a bit of a play and it looks like it will be perfect for my needs.
I can certainly recommend it to other new users as a fairly easy program to get the hang of so you can start quickly and as you gain more experience there are lots of other advanced functions.

by Anupam on 17. August 2013 - 7:56  (110172)

I personally like Hornil Stylepix. You can give it a try.

http://hornil.com/en/products/stylepix/

by tassieted on 17. August 2013 - 12:22  (110177)

thanks Anupam will have to check it out

by Panzer on 29. July 2013 - 10:09  (109729)

NPS Image Editor is a free, unique image editing program that is perfect for pixel art, drawing, and photo editing (Virus Total results - 2/45. False positives?):
http://nps.nookkin.com/

by JediInverse on 26. July 2013 - 9:00  (109628)

My favorite image software is actually MS Picture Manager that comes free with MS Office (including the free starter bundle shipped on most modern PCs) sure it's very basic, just a crop, resize and the usual brightness/contrast tools. But is is very easy to use and copes with almost all image formats. Not suitable if you;re looking for advanced editing features but probably good enough for 70% of the users out there.

I also use Irfanview, sure it looks like a piece of software from the days of Windows NT 4 and the menus are somewhat awkward to navigate but there are a lot of tools to play around with and it can even work with animated gif files.

by dynamite00401 on 23. July 2013 - 17:23  (109529)

Re: LightBox Image Editor
I've got a bit of news for the software that Gizmo already thinks is the best in it's class. I was talking with the developer yesterday. He told me that there are some cool things ahead for this great Image Editing tool. I quote him from his email to me:
"I am getting closer to getting a free version out. I just released a beta featuring advanced noise reduction, and will be working over the next 2 months on the next official release which, among other things, revamps the front UI. I am waiting for one more thing before I want to put out the free version, which is Flickr/Facebook uploading. I am looking at the end of the year or New Year for getting out a free version. Unlike the previous free version, which was a really stripped down version of Sagelight, the new free version will be Sagelight Standard, and the Sagelight Pro version would be the purchased version; so it would be a full editor, with the Pro functions basically extending the main functionality."

So when the new free version of Sagelight is released, I will update the product immediately. I hope you are all looking forward to it. I know I am. :-)

by Panzer on 4. July 2013 - 9:53  (108958)

Image View (Plus More) - "... This is the "emacs of image editors". It has a small footprint and a simple interface with a lot of neat shortcuts that leaves screen space for the important thing: The images! The interface is optimized for my typical work flow in editing photos, writing papers, powerpoints, and documents, and testing new image processing algorithms. Now in version 2 you can even develop RAW images from most cameras (tested with Canon and Nikon) - you can get even change the settings! It has a lot of other powerful features like blending, retouching, lens distortion, filtering, 3D reconstruction, etc. right at your fingertips ...":
http://www.sequoiagrove.dk/tools.php#imgview

Special approval obtained from MC due to lacking WOT rating.

http://www.urlvoid.com/scan/sequoiagrove.dk/
http://zulu.zscaler.com/submission/show/c386bbb3fe7b1c2369d39cc5b9976724...
http://www.webutation.net/go/review/sequoiagrove.dk?req=chrome
https://www.virustotal.com/en/url/1e0cfdae7175fc12ebdee43c465382d5c2baca...

by intuitive challenged on 20. March 2013 - 5:12  (106398)

I need a tool to crop photos and make the file size smaller. Every image processing program I have tried increases the file size, I assume because they keep "undo" information.

I think someone who knows how to create software could easily make a cropping tool that does not keep "undo" information. Perhaps it could convert a JPG to a Bitmap then convert only the current image data remaining after the crop back to a JPG.

If anybody knows of the existence of a true filesize-reducing image cropper please let me know.

by shannon4599usa on 21. January 2014 - 8:41  (113809)
by intuitive challenged on 18. November 2013 - 1:44  (112320)

Since the above posting I have learned that GIMP does exactly what I want. It does its editing in what I guess is a kind of bitmap format then you can export the final product to a .jpg format with no extraneous information so crops are definitely smaller than originals.

by Panzer on 4. March 2013 - 9:32  (105930)

"... Pholor Express is a free image editing software that is easy to operate. It could crop, rotate, resize, sharp, and adjust tone handily, help to get your photos ready quickly for Blog, Facebook and Twitter ..." (1/46 on Virus Total - possible false positive?)
http://pholor.com/enu/express.html

Features:

- Compact User Interface
- Real time results
- Fast Operation
- Dehaze

by Panzer on 28. February 2013 - 9:19  (105813)

"... PhotoSun 14 gives you everything you need to fix your photos. Remove red-eye with a click. Adjust exposure, brightness, and contrast. Crop to frame your subject. If you don’t know where to begin, click the Enhance tool and watch PhotoSun 14 automatically fix underexposed or dull photos. From there, you can try a few more tricks ...":
http://micranes.weebly.com/index.html

by Panzer on 23. February 2013 - 8:10  (105680)

LazPaint - Image editor, like PaintBrush or Paint.Net, written in Lazarus (Free Pascal). Includes BGRABitmap, a set of drawing routines:

Features:

* antialiasing
* multiple undo
* alpha blending
* BGRABitmap
* selection of any shape
* rotation
* filters
* update checker

http://sourceforge.net/projects/lazpaint/

by Century22 on 6. February 2013 - 0:48  (105072)

I have tried them ALL, and they are ALL TERRIBLE.
Time consuming, non-intuitive, steep learning curve, non functional or only partially functional. I have not found one that could do HALF of what I want to do with it.
Each has SOME functions that work, and each has many functions that do not. NONE of them will do it all.

by Joe A.TT on 6. February 2013 - 2:11  (105124)

I've tried LightBox and Photo! Editor. The first is OK but doesn't have the tools I need enabled in the free version. The second didn't work at all and it seems it's not developed or supported anymore.

Recently I tried PhotoFiltre and I was surprised at what I was able to do with it. I haven't tried all the functions, but all I used worked so far. I guess it depends on what functions you are looking for. The only drawback with PhotoFiltre that I've found is that there isn't much in the help files, and what there is on the internet or their forum is in French which I don't speak. I agree the learning curve could be a bit steep (especially for noobs like me), and it takes a lot of time experimenting and learning, but I think it's worth a try.

by naf on 9. January 2013 - 8:51  (104350)

A few weeks ago, one of the tech websites that I usually visit recommended "Chasys Draw IES" as the best free image editor for windows. I would want to know if the editor can review this program.

by Joe A.TT on 12. February 2013 - 18:28  (105349)

You may want to read this article by rob.schifreen: http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/painting-app-also-lets-you-creat...

Although not a full review, you may feel a bit comforted that rob has checked it with Virus Total and Avast!

by Dream on 23. October 2012 - 8:20  (101211)

I am in need of a image editing program where I can remove someone from a picture and maybe place someone else there but for sure remove someone. Is there one out there that can do this.

Thanks in advance

by DaMan (not verified) on 13. October 2012 - 21:54  (100740)

Photofiltre is free for a private or educational use, not unrestricted freeware.