Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop

Category: Software

I need to do some graphics editing and make relatively simple updates to photos. My friend is an art professional and swears by Adobe Photoshop. But the price tag is outrageous! Can you recommend some low-cost or free alternatives?

Free Image and Photo Editors

Adobe Photoshop CS5 is the gold standard among professional graphics designers. But at $670 on, Photoshop is a bit out of the average consumer's price range. Photoshop is also extremely complex with a steep learning curve. Fortunately, there are many free, simpler image editors that include many of Photoshop's most popular features.

GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program, an open source project supported by developers worldwide. Currently in version 2.6, GIMP is the most sophisticated Photoshop replacement with many of Photoshop's features. Versions are available for Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X and Linux. Mainly used for photo retouching and free-form drawing, GIMP also supports conversions between different image file formats, combining multiple images, creating animated GIFs, and much more. It's free, but you'll still have a learning curve.
Free Photoshop Alternatives

IrfanView is named after its creator, Irfan Skiljan. This small (1.6 MB download) image viewer packs a staggering number of features. IrfanView started out in 2003 with image viewing, editing, and file format conversion. Now it also serves as a media player for audio and video files. It supports many file types including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, camera RAW, non-image media files such as Flash, Ogg Vorbis, MPEG, MP3, MIDI, and text files. It supports TWAIN scanners and can take screenshots. Images can be cropped, resized, and rotated. Brightness, contrast, tint, and gamma levels can be adjusted manually or automatically.

Batch processing applies changes to multiple files in one operation. You can even create slideshows, with audio, and save them as executable files that will run without IrfanView. Windows and Mac versions are available, and the Windows version can run on Linux under Wine. IrfanView has been downloaded almost 100 million times, and sports a simple interface that enables you to do the most common functions easily.

Artweaver is a free drawing program designed for professional and amateur artists. With its tools, artists can simulate many classic effects such as oil painting, pencil drawing, airbrushes, etc. It also offers effects such as sharpen, blur, emboss, and mosaic, as well as transparency and layer support. Standard editing tools like crop, resize, gradient, etc., are supported. Artweaver runs on Windows or under Linux/Wine.

Paint.NET runs only under Windows with the .NET framework. It started as an MIT undergraduate senior project, and has grown into a virtual Swiss Army knife for painting, drawing, and image editing. Hundreds of plugins are available for Paint.NET, supporting a staggering array of effect, file formats, and functions.

Pinta is an open source painting/editing program that runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux. It is modeled after Paint.NET. Pinta supports many drawing tools, unlimited layers, full un-do history, and over 35 effects.

Online image editors are another option for simple photo tweaks and image editing. Google's Picasa lets you upload, edit, organize, caption, tag, and share photos or other images. Aviary is an online multimedia application suite based on the Adobe Flex platform. It can manipulate images and audio files. Sumo Paint is geared more towards creating illustrations than image editing; it has full range of Photoshop-style drawing, painting, and tweaking tools.

One nice thing about these online tools is that there's no software to download or install -- they run inside your browser on any operating system.

Have you tried any of these free Photoshop alternatives? Post your comment or question below..

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Most recent comments on "Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop"

Posted by:

17 Jun 2011

Bob, some other free photo programs that I have tried are: Photo Pos Pro, FastStone Image Viewer and PhotoScape. They are all available at
They all have a learning curve and offer different features. Some are easier to learn than others. has a good write-up on each. I have also used InfanView and and tried GIMP (big learning curve).

Posted by:

Mike Webb
17 Jun 2011

Bob, you missed one goodie that could easily be put in the paragraph on The GIMP. I'm referring to GIMPShop, a modification of The GIMP so that its interface is much like Photoshop. I've just used the GIMP a little (and haven't used GIMPshop at all), but in that time I found its multiple windows somewhat confusing. Just the idea of having the power of the GIMP in a more familiar-looking interface appeals to me.

Posted by:

Bruce Hatton
18 Jun 2011

I regularly use GIMP, IrfanView (which also accepts PhotoShop .8bf plugins) and PhotoScape; and can recommend them all.
I agree about the learning curve, but that, in a way, is a good thing. The basics are easy enough to master, but, even after 4 years, I guess I've still only used about 20% of the functions on GIMP.
Another very useful (and slightly simpler) program worth mentioning is PhotoFiltre:

Fans of earlier versions of Paint Shop Pro should take to this immediately.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2011

Dear Bob,
This is a good alternate to photoshop. I was searching for such free simple software to draw school level geometry figures to explain basic concepts and theorems to my kid. Can you suggest any?

Posted by:

23 Jun 2011

I use Picasa, both the online and on-my-computer version. I do editing on my computer, and the two can be synced so your photos are always in one place. Free online storage is limited and I have limited internet (rural area) so the on my computer option works great.

I also use Photoshop Elements, which although not free is much more affordable than full Photoshop (Amazon: $79.99-$20 rebate=$59.99.) I use it for photo editing, some basic design for fun and digital scrapbooking.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2014

I download Picasa onto oldies laptops. It downloads from all cameras for them and is easy to handle.eV n

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop (Posted: 16 Jun 2011)
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