The Best Free Photo-Editing Software for 2021

Professional photo editing applications are not cheap or easy to master without formal training. That’s why we’re taking a look at the best free photo editing software on the market.

Our first pick is GIMP, an open photo editing software available for all three big operating systems. It offers a large workspace and a wide variety of professional editing tools.

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We offer more than 7,000 how-to articles, news articles, and best-of-breed lists to help you develop your photography skills, choose the best gear for your photography needs, and get the most out of your photography gear. And if our first choice isn’t for you, be sure to check out the other options on this list. There are great options for conventional desktop software, mobile applications, and web-based solutions that do not require software installation.

The best free photo editing software at a glance


gimp screenshot
Mark Coppock / Tips Clear

Often touted as the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open application that relies on a community of volunteer developers who maintain and improve the product. It is available for MacOS, Windows, and Linux. Provides plenty of professional-grade editing and retouching tools, perfect for designers who can’t or won’t shell out hundreds of dollars on Adobe Photoshop.

Once you start the program, you will find a dedicated window displaying the image. You’ll also see two floating docks: one with the toolbox and one for managing layers, paths, brushes, and more.

When you use a large screen or two monitors, you have ample workspace to edit your images. The icons in the toolbox represent specific tools, such as Scale, Pencil, Brush, Bucket Fill, Airbrush, Smudge, and more. You can also apply numerous filters such as dropping a shadow, adding a neon effect, adding a glass mosaic, removing devilish red eyes, etc.

Overall, GIMP may look like a free version of Photoshop, but it has a unique look and feel. Jumping from one to the other will take a bit of time, but doing so will save you a monthly subscription fee.



Paint.NET is a case where the learner becomes the master. Paint.NET, created as a Microsoft-guided college senior design project, continues to be maintained by alumni of the program. The software was initially developed as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, which comes standard with Windows. Paint.NET has outperformed Microsoft Paint in functionality and also provides more advanced features.

Paint.NET has an intuitive user interface that supports layers, an “unlimited undo” tool to correct any mistakes no matter how disastrous, various special effects, and other utilities. While Microsoft Paint could do little more than resize images, Paint.NET can handle the advanced photo editing you’d hope only Photoshop and other paid programs could do.

Paint.NET is available as a free traditional desktop program for Windows and a $ 7 app from the Microsoft Store.

Photoshop Express

photoshop express 3
Mark Coppock / Tips Clear

If the options above seem too derivative or you want more of the Adobe experience without the associated price tag, Photoshop Express is another option worth considering. Although small compared to Photoshop’s premium model, the Express variant has several great options for editing photos with a much more gradual learning curve.

With an interface that betrays its mobile roots, Photoshop Express offers quick and easy access to slider bar adjustments and one-touch corrections for photos of all kinds. Prepackaged effects make quick and dramatic changes to images to enhance color and contrast; The crop and transform tools allow you to modify the orientation and focus of a photo. And Details gives you control over sharpness and noise.

Its file type support is limited to raw camera files, TIFF, JPG, and PNG files, but Photoshop Express is a freely accessible application that you can use on your Windows, iOS, or Android device without any hassle.


pixlr screenshot
Mark Coppock / Tips Clear

Pixlr provides two tools that you can access for free: Pixlr X (express) and Pixlr E (advanced). Both provide essential editing tools, limited layers, and relatively few stickers. These tools are ad-supported, though you can upgrade to Premium ($ 5 / month when paying annually) or Creative Pack ($ 15 / month when paying annually) to remove ads and unlock additional features.

In a showdown between Pixlr E and Pixlr X, Pixlr X offers faster editing and a simpler, more user-friendly design. This software comes with 12 essential tools, from drawing in layers to applying filters to cropping images.

Then there’s Pixlr E, a basic photo editing software that gives you access to 24 useful tools. Users can easily draw shapes, blur, sharpen, or clone a photo, and much more.

Overall, Pixlr is a mix of desktop and web-based editing software. Desktop versions are available for MacOS and Windows, but you must have a paid subscription to use them. With that said, you can still find and download the Pixlr app on your smartphone or tablet.

Adobe Lightroom mobile app

Screenshots of the Adobe Android Lightroom app

Adobe might be best known for its more expensive Photoshop editing software, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to take advantage of Adobe-quality photo editing, especially if you know you’ll be doing most of your editing on a mobile device. . With Adobe Lightroom on mobile devices, you can expect to do many of the adjustments that you would normally do with other editing applications: cropping, adjusting lighting, customizing color, adding effects, sharpening, or adding filters. The app itself is easy to navigate, having a minimal interface with clearly labeled icons and easy-to-use sliders and switches to help you quickly adjust certain aspects of your photos.

But Lightroom doesn’t just help you with the quality of your edits, it also has its own camera controls to help improve the quality of the photos you take with your mobile device. Depending on your devices, you can choose from camera modes such as Auto, Professional, and HDR.

Some features are locked behind a paid subscription paywall, but you can usually easily spot those features as they are labeled with a blue and white star icon. You do not need a subscription to use most of the editing functions.

Photo Pos Pro

Screenshot of Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro is a decent free photo editing option for Windows users. And the first thing to know is that the software really tries to emphasize ease of use and personalize the user experience. In fact, when you open the software for the first time, you will receive a series of questions about how you want to use the software. The most important question it will ask you is when it asks you to choose between two main interfaces (based on your own level of photo editing experience): an interface for experts (PRO) or an interface for beginners (beginner). And the interface you choose will determine how you edit with the software in the future. (Don’t worry: Photo Pos Pro allows you to easily switch between the two interfaces as needed.)

The PRO interface looks a bit like Photoshop and, as expected, it comes with a host of advanced editing features. You can expect to see layers, curves, clipping, brushes, effects, rulers and grids, and color and lighting adjustment options. This interface is packed with tools for more intensive editing and as such the interface can be a bit overwhelming with its many small icons and various types of menus.

The beginner interface is best for beginners or just those who need to do some quick edits on their photos. The interface is similar to what you would find with a simple desktop or mobile photo app – just a basic selection of features. In Photo Pos Pro, these features would include: cropping, flipping and rotating, resizing, some brushes, automatic correction, color and light adjustments, warp effects, and adding frames.

One drawback of using the free version of this software is that it has a limit on the size of the photos you can save: it cannot be larger than 1024 x 1024 pixels. If your photo is larger than that, you will need to upgrade to the premium version of the software to save or resize the photo.

Photo Pos Pro

CyberPhotoDirector Essential

CyberPhotodirector Essential Screenshot

When you install CyberPhotoDirector Essential for the first time, you automatically get temporary access to some premium features along with the free version of the software. These features include: unlimited monthly effects, no watermarks, and premium Shutterstock images. Free trial of premium features only lasts 30 days.

When you open the software for the first time, such as Photo Pos Pro, you can choose between two interfaces: full mode (with all the comforts) or express mode (for when you just want to edit something quickly and easily). Full mode isn’t particularly intuitive – you’ll have to do a few clicks to figure out where all the tools you want are, but there are plenty of tools and they’re displayed in a detailed way that’s perfect for photography geeks. Express Mode has fewer features, but if all you want to do is add fun filters and templates to your photo, then that’s the mode for you. You can add a wide variety of presets to change the color or lighting of a photo. Or you can add a template that is a combination of a filter and the ability to add text to your photo. You can even add something called AI Style Transfer, which allows you to add painterly effects to your photos, so they look like paintings instead of photos.

PhotoDirector essential


What is the easiest free photo editing software to use?

The easiest to use free photo editing software is Paint.NET, especially if you also need Photoshop-level editing capabilities. It seamlessly combines a minimalist interface, a familiar simplistic design, and many of the complex tools and features you can expect from high-end photo editing software. The only software on our list that comes second for ease of use is the Adobe Lightroom mobile app, which doesn’t offer many advanced editing tools.

Editors’ Recommendations

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