Wow, Free Online Photo Editors
A reader asks: 'What tool do you recommend for photo editing when you're away from your own computer and you don't have PhotoShop or something similar available?' It turns out there are quite a few online image and photo editors, and the features they offer are quite impressive. Check out these free web-based image editing tools that are just a click away...
Online Photo Editors
The Internet offers many venues for sharing photos and images. In response to the popularity of sites like Flickr and Facebook, several websites have popped up offering online image editing services that you can use for free. Some of them rival the features found in expensive professional image software.
Because they're free and browser-based, these programs don't require cash, downloads or commitments. However, they do have some limitations. Let's take a look at some of these web-based photo editing tools, to see what they offer and how they can make your digital photography tasks easier.
The folks behind Pixlr aren't shy... they claim to have "the most popular online photo editor" in the world. And wow, I was amazed at the breadth and depth of the editing features they offer. Both casual and professional users will find the tools they need to accomplish the most common photo and image editing operations. I recommend that you start with Pixlr X, a simplified (but powerful) interface that offers crop, resize, rotate, autofix, sharpen, red eye removal, color effects, image overlays, borders and text annotation. You can open an image from your hard drive, from Facebook or Google. The "X" version can only save images on your computer's hard drive, but if you add the Dropbox Extensions, you can edit within Dropbox.
Pixlr runs on any computer with a web browser and an internet connection - there's nothing to download or install. You can also find mobile versions that run on your iPhone, iPad or Android devices. Did I say wow? Wow.
If you need more powerful editing tools, the full Pixlr Pro photo editor ($5/month subscription) has a fully stocked professional image editing toolset, offering all of the above, plus drawing tools, layers, dozens of image adjustment tools, format conversions (JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF), hue & saturation controls, blend modes, effects & filters, and transform & wrap functions. It comes with over 10,000 templates, 200 premium fonts, and access to one million royalty-free stock images.
Polarr is a free online photo editor with desktop equivalents for Windows, Mac, Linux and Chromebook. Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS devices. An slick interface designed for both mouse and touch offers high precision sliders to adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, temperature, tint and saturation. You can crop, flip, rotate, reflect, pixelate, blur and adjust the aspect (if you need to straighten a photo). The feature I found most amazing was the Face tool. It can adjust skin tone, or change the height and width of the forehead, eyes, nose, mouth and chin.
Sumo Paint claims to be the most versatile photo editor and painting application that works in a browser. It has all the features you'd expect in a basic image editor, such as crop, resize, rotate, and the ability to add lines, text and shapes. Advanced features include transforming objects, layering, color adjustments, and a variety of filters (sharpen, pixelate, textures, blur, noise, light effects, and edge detection).
I especially like that you can start working right away without creating an account or logging in. Images can be opened or stored from either your local hard drive or cloud storage. Sumo's interface and feature set reminds me a lot of the PaintShop Pro software that's installed on my office computer. The one thing lacking on the website is a description of the features available, and how to use them. There are some Sumo Paint video tutorials on Youtube.
Adobe Photoshop Express
If you want to work with an online photo editing site that is associated with a well known and trusted brand name, then consider Adobe Photoshop Express. This browser based photo editing site is free to use, and provides you with many of the most common editing tools offered by Adobe Photoshop products. Some of the tools offered on this site include crop, straighten, rotate, flip, adjust color, and red eye removal. You can adjust colors, add effects and finish off your creation with a border or frame. The downside of this option is that it requires Adobe Flash. (See my article [ALERT] Adobe Flash - The Last Straw?)
Another online photo editor worth mentioning is LunaPic. It offers basic editing functions, as well as color and exposure corrections, scaling, watermarks, and the ability to create animated GIFs. If you already have an animated GIF, you can edit it, too. One nice feature that you'll find on the LunaPic home page is a series of links that take you directly to a specific editing function, such as Ctop Image, Add Text, etc. There are also several video tutorials that show how to use many of its features. You can open files from your hard drive, Facebook, Instagram, and save your edited image to your computer or to several web sites including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google Photos.
Fotor has some editing tools that let you fine-tune the look of a photograph. But I mention it also because it offers some nifty tools for social media. On the Design tab, you'll find a set of tools that help you create a cover image for Facebook, Youtube, Twitter or Google+. You can also whip up an image for an Instagram or Facebook post.
Why not toss another into the fray? BeFunky starts off by letting you load a photo from your hard drive, webcam, Facebook, Dropbox, Google Drive, or BF's own cloud storage. The Essentials tab lets you crop, resize, rotate, change colors & exposure, sharpen, blur, or Beautify. The Touch Up tab lets you smooth, fix redeye, change eye color, add lipstick whiten teeth, or remove wrinkles. Other tabs let you apply text, effects, and borders. You can save your work in any of the source options, with the obvious exception of the webcam. Many of the features of the interface are marked with a star icon, which means it's only available in the Plus version. For $6.99/month, you can turn photos into artwork, remove objects from photos, and access many advanced editing tools.
While researching this article, I made a discovery. Flickr, the online photo storage and sharing service, also has a pretty awesome built-in photo editing tool. This might be old news to some Flickr users, but it sure wasn't obvious to me. To use the photo editor, open a photo in your Flickr photostream, then click the icon that looks like a pencil in a box, in the lower right of the Flickr window. The "Edit with Flickr Photo editor" option will open the photo editor.
Pros and Cons of Online Photo Editing Sites
So, online photo editing sites provide you with basic editing, markup tools and some advanced image manipulation options. This is great if you're away from your home computer and have photos you want to share, or when you don't have photo editing software of your own. Another advantage offered by these sites is that they are usually connected to social network sites and you can quickly send your images to your favorite websites.
On the other hand, while these sites are free, fun and functional, there are limitations to what they have to offer. First of all if you have a dial up or satellite Internet connection these sites will be very slow or laggy. Also, if you're a power user of PhotoShop or other advanced desktop image editing software, you may not find all the fancy tools to which you're accustomed. But for most people, the range of features offered by the online photo editors is more than adequate.
And here's one important tip to remember... Don't hit the Back button in your browser while editing a photo. Always use the navigation buttons provided by the website, or you could lose all your edits in a single click.
I'm finding more and more free software that's totally web-based, meaning that it runs right in your browser, and there's nothing to download. I like this trend, because it really simplifies my life. Nothing to install, and I can access my programs and files from any computer with an Internet connection. Web-based software will also insulate you from operating system upgrades that sometimes cause software to stop working.
All in all, free online photo editing websites are very useful. For many users, they can serve as a replacement for the traditional "download and install" photo editing software. Do you use an online photo editor? Tell me which one you like by posting a comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Jul 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Wow, Free Online Photo Editors (Posted: 16 Jul 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved