What's the (free) Alternative to Photoshop?

July 4, 2013 by Staff Writer
What's the (free) Alternative to Photoshop?
If you are a developer, or a small business owner like a web host, there are plenty of reasons why you need a copy of Photoshop hanging around the office. Whether you need to resize an image to add to your corporate website, or touch up a photo to add to your company advertising, Photoshop is the ideal tool for a number of tasks. Back in the day Photoshop was a luxury you could afford. Yes, it was a bit pricey, but it was so useful, you could justify the expense.

Fast forward to 2013 and things are a bit different. These days, rather than a piece of software you can install from a CD or DVD, Adobe Photoshop is in ‘the Cloud’. Either it is part of the ‘Creative Cloud’ which bundles Adobe Photoshop with Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Premiere, and a host of other cutting-edge creative solutions available online for a staggering $49.99 per month, or it is available on its own as Photoshop CC costing $19.99 a month. Compared to what you get in Creative Cloud, Photoshop CC doesn’t seem very good value really.

So, what is the alternative? If you aren’t a power user, and need something for some odd jobs, then here are what we think are the top 5 best free alternatives to Photoshop. We list them in no particular order.


Gimp is an Open Source solution, which means it was developed by a community of developers that donate their time to ensuring it provides a viable alternative to commercial software. As a result, it is free of charge – just download it and use it. And it’s pretty good. Generally, it ticks all the boxes – you can use it to retouch and edit images, there are drawing tools, and you can resize and crop images. However, it does have some quirks that take a bit of getting used to. For instance, when you capture a screen, you can’t paste it directly into Gimp. The software does not automatically create a new image the same size as the screenshot. You have to choose the size the image will be using a template and then paste it. In addition, Gimp saves images in .xcf format, and if you want to save an image in one of the more traditional formats like .gif or .jpeg, you have to export the file – you can’t save it directly in another format. Perhaps this gets around royalty fees, but it is a bit annoying. Aside from these minor issues, everything else is fairly intuitive and pretty good – especially for the price.


Whereas Gimp is software that you download and install on your PC or laptop, Pixlr is an online solution. It is housed on a website in the cloud, so of course you need an Internet connection to use it. Although in this age of connectivity with wifi everywhere this might not be too much a problem, if your connection is down, so is Pixlr. That aside, go to pixlr.com and you are given a number of options. ‘Open Pixlr-o-matic’ is one option which seems only to put a ripple effect on top of an image of your choice – and nothing much else. Another option is ‘Open Pixlr Express’ which has a number of effects that you can add to an image or you can use it to take a snapshot using a webcam. ‘Open Pixlr editor’ is the one you are aiming for if you want to manipulate an image. You can create a new image, or upload one from a computer, or insert a URL to access an image, and once you are in the system, you have something that pretty much ticks all the boxes – resize, sharpen, rotate, get rid of red-eye, etc. There are a number of filters and effects that make your images look like old photos or look like engravings. When you have finished, you download the image onto your computer. This is a very good solution indeed. Obviously, it’s slower than PC-based software, but Pixlr is personally my first choice when I am away from my own PC.


Paint.NET was designed as a free alternative to the Microsoft Paint image software offered in Windows, so this is a solid piece of software. Again, it’s free of charge – but you can make a contribution towards its maintenance and development. Being a Microsoft alternative, an intuitive interface was a must, and this is probably one of the easiest solutions to use. Layers, colors, effects, resizing, horizontal, vertical flip, 3D rotation, zoom – it’s pretty much all there and there is a distinct Microsoft feel about this one. What’s great about Paint.NET is that it’s powerful and there’s an online community that provides support to help you get the most out of it. There are also a number of plugins that can be applied to the software for a range of purposes, and unlike other alternatives, there are pretty extensive tutorials covering all aspects of the software. This is an extremely good solution, and one that might make you think Photoshop might just be overkill in that it offers too many functions that you just don’t use. Paint.NET seems to have everything I need. Perhaps it will work for you.


Picasa is free software offered by Google. You download it onto your PC, but, as you might imagine, it integrates with your Google accounts and that means solid interplay between the software and Picasa Web Albums. This is a full-blown piece of software that allows you to import, organize and manipulate images – you can also use it to edit basic videos. It’s big on social sharing, but if that’s your thing you will be disappointed as there is a strong focus on Google+, one of the more underutilized social networks. Google bought popular image editor Picnik in 2010 and pushed all its’ good stuff to Picasa, so this is very much a genuine Photoshop alternative. However, if you are just looking for something that will resize an image quickly, it might be a big investment as far as your PC is concerned. It takes over everything, and although it’s a great way to organize your photos, most PCs have Microsoft software to do all that. So, you might come way from the experience thinking it is overkill – but it IS an excellent image editor.


Sumopaint in another online, web-based solution, but it also has a downloadable paid alternative which can be installed on your PC costing a reasonable $19. The online version is very capable, although the advertising on the site is a bit off-putting. Sumopaint has more of a creative bent but it is a very good way to manipulate images. You won’t find the photo sharing elements that Picasa has, but if that’s not something you need, this is a great solution. It has a number of layering options and all of the standard options such as altering brightness, saturation and color balance, as well as a number of filters, and effects. You can manipulate images from your computer or a website URL and the finished product can be downloaded to your computer or emailed wherever you want. This is another great solution, but again - no Internet, no Sumopaint.

What do you think? Did we get it right? Did we miss anything out? Leave your comments below.

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Reader's Comments
  Farzana Thursday, July 4, 2013
Yes, We always face a problem while uploading any image if the image size is very large. For this we have to resize our image. But most of the time we do not get a quality image after resizing. So we have to use a best image resizer for a better quality image. Thanks.

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