Photoshop entered the dictionary as a verb—to photoshop—in 1992, but the iconic photo editor from Adobe is far from being the only application of this kind available. In fact, there are many excellent alternatives to Photoshop, and some of the best ones don’t cost anything at all. In this article, we introduce top 7 best free photo editors to help you get started on your creative journey even if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a single application.

Are Free Photo Editors Worth My Time?

Online learning platforms, YouTube, and graphic design blogs are filled with Photoshop tutorials to such a point that it might seem that learning any other photo editor is a waste of time. But is it really?

Many free photo editors today have all the features most beginners and intermediate users will ever need. Some have a workflow similar to Photoshop, making it fairly easy to make the transition somewhere down the road.

photo editor review

Really, the only thing that free photo editors don’t have is the massive community that has developed over the year around Photoshop. Instead of finding hundreds of tutorials explaining how to crop a photo or adjust brightness, you might be able to find just a handful, and they might not be as professional as you’d like.

So, are free photo editors worth your time? We think they absolutely are! You might have to go an extra mile to find a good tutorial, but that’s a small price to pay for saving hundreds of dollars.

 

1. GIMP

best free photo editing software

GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is the most popular Photoshop alternative in the world. The first version of GIMP was released in 1996, and the photo editor hasn’t stopped evolving since then. Today, GIMP is available on every major desktop operating system, and it’s used by countless professional graphic designer, photographers, and illustrators to create stunning works of art. GIMP can be highly customized using third-party plugins, and it even features a framework for scripted image manipulation.

If there’s one thing about GIMP that deserves criticism, it has to be its user interface. GIMP is far from intuitive, and tasks that take just a few clicks in Photoshop often require far more effort in GIMP. The good news is that GIMP’s developers understand that the user interface could use some polishing, and they’re working hard trying to make it better.

How to Download GIMP

1. Visit https://www.gimp.org/downloads/.
2. Select your operating system.
3. Download GIMP directly or via BitTorrent.

 

2. Inkscape

free image editing software

GIMP is a raster graphics editor, which means that it allows users to create and edit images interactively on the computer screen and save them in one of many raster formats such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, and TIFF. Inkscape, on the other hand, is a vector graphics editor, allowing users to compose and edit vector graphics images interactively on a computer and save them in one of many popular vector graphics formats, such as EPS, PDF, WMF, SVG, or VML.

Vector graphics editors are typically used by illustrators, but they have their place in a photo editing workflow as well, especially when it comes to creating sophisticated visual effects and compositions.

How to Download Inkscape

1. Visit https://inkscape.org/en/.
2. Hover your mouse over the Download button in the top menu and select Download.
3. Choose your platform.
4. Choose your architecture.
5. Choose an installation format.
6. Wait for the download to start automatically.

 

3. Paint.NET

free photo editor

Microsoft Paint is great at what it does, simple image manipulation and creation, but its functionality is far too limited for it to be truly useful for serious photo editing. If you’ve ever thought that it would be great if there were a real photo editor with a user interface similar to Microsoft Paint, we have great news for you: Paint.NET is that photo editor.

The only bad news is that Paint.NET runs only on Windows. You can either download it for free from its official website (see the instructions below) or purchase it on the Windows Store and support its developers.

How to Download Paint.NET

1. Visit https://www.getpaint.net/
2. Follow the free download link on the right.
3. Click on the top download button to download Paint.NET from dotPDN.

 

4. Krita

best free photo editing software

Krita is a professional free painting program made by artists who want to see affordable art tools for everyone. Despite its irresistible price of zero dollars, Krita has an intuitive user interface, includes three different ways to smooth and stabilize your brush strokes, and makes it easy to create seamless textures and patterns, just to highlight some of its features.

How to Download Krita

1. Visit https://krita.org/en/.
2. Click the large “Download Krita Now!” button in the middle of the site.
3. Select the version for your operating system and download it to your computer.

 

5. Pinta

best free photo editor

You might have already heard that Microsoft has given up on Microsoft Paint. The beloved application won’t be part of future versions of Windows. Instead, it will be available only from the Microsoft Store. If you don’t want to wait for Microsoft to pull Microsoft Paint from under your feet, you can download Pinta, a free, open source photo editor, right now. Pinta is available for Linux, Mac, Windows, and *BSD, and you can download it by following the instructions below.

How to Download Pinta

1. Visit https://pinta-project.com/pintaproject/pinta/.
2. Click the “Download” button.
3. Select the version for your operating system and download it to your computer.

 

6. Darktable

best free photo editing program

Darktable is an open source photography workflow application and raw developer for just about every operating system you can think of. If you’re familiar with Adobe Lightroom, you will feel right at home in Darktable. Thanks to the highly customizable architecture of Darktable, you can add modules for all sorts of image processing, from the very simple to the most advanced, such as a module for the simulation of human night vision. Darktable is completely non-destructive, which means that any adjustments you make to your pictures are not applied to the original images, only to cached image buffers.

How to Download Darktable

1. Visit https://www.darktable.org/.
2. Choose “install” from the top menu.
3. Choose your operating system.
4. Download the latest version of Darktable for your operating system.

 

7. RawTherapee

free photo editing software

Much like Darktable, RawTherapee a cross-platform raw image processing program that positions itself as an alternative to Adobe Lightroom and other non-destructive photo editors. RawTherapee is extremely versatile, offering support for almost all DSLRs and even some medium format bodies, and its multi-threaded algorithms make it extremely efficient even on relatively underpowered systems. Under the hood of RawTherapee is a 96-bit floating point processing engine that allows you to get the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms and advanced color handling.

How to Download RawTherapee

1. Visit https://rawtherapee.com/.
2. Choose “downloads” from the top menu. 
3. Select the version for your operating system and download it to your computer.