5 of the Best Free Web-Based Alternatives to Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is so massive that even people who don’t even use it have heard its name. An industry standard, Photoshop has become so synonymous with photo editing that the product’s name has become a verb. With the rise of social networking apps like Instagram, interest in photo editing and manipulation is at an all time high. Whether you want to eliminate red eye, create a logo for your business or retouch your vacation photos, photo editing software enables users to create beautiful images.

Unfortunately photo editing software like Photoshop can be pricey. Couple this with a steep learning curve, and you have a high barrier to entry, one that is likely to turn a lot of folks away. Luckily, there are alternatives to Photoshop that can still help you create striking images without costing a dime. In fact, the five photo manipulation apps we’ve rounded up won’t even require you to download anything. They all run entirely within your existing browser, provided you have Flash installed. Some are more robust than others, so make sure you try them all before deciding which one best suits your needs.

Pixlr is a free online photo editing application that runs directly in the browser of your choice. It is simple to use and has a wide variety of tools at your disposal. Pixlr allows you to create a new image from scratch, upload one from your computer or import one from a URL.

Pixlr comes in two variations: Editor and Express. Editor has a very similar layout to Photoshop and utilizes some of the same tools. Express allows fast, one-click changes to photos and is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to get too bogged down.

The only downside is the lack of tutorials. The Pixlr blog will offer some basic how-tos, but beyond that you’re pretty much on your own. While Pixlr is fairly easy to use, familiarity with photo editing software will ensure you get the best results.

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In all honesty, Adobe Photoshop Express doesn’t stack up against the others on this list. Don’t let the Photoshop name fool you; Adobe’s online tool is as basic as they come. It does, however, have a clean interface that is very easy to understand and use. Just don’t expect to be doing anything more than applying filters and automatic enhancements akin to Instagram.

Offering the same functionality as the web-based version, the Adobe Photoshop Express app is available for both iOS and Android. If you are willing to shell out extra, add-on packs are available that offer things like extra filters and additional tools.

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Aimed at professional photographers, Polarr is an application that allows rather robust tinkering. The free browser-based version has standard automatic filters to enhance photos. These filters can then be tweaked to the user’s preference. Polarr is a fairly powerful program; however, the free version strips away a lot of its features. Of course, it attempts to entice you into buying the full version by teasing its additional features.

For those interested in having greater control over saturation, gamma, contrast, etc., Polarr does the job. It also scores brownie points for providing in-app tutorials, allowing you to learn while you work.

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PicMonkey strives to make basic photo editing tasks really simple. The interface is incredibly easy to follow with large colorful buttons that are clearly labelled. By removing the tiny icons normally associated with photo editing software, PicMonkey reduces frustration. PicMonkey also aims to make graphic design simple and easy with a dedicated collage builder. The PicMonkey experience definitely takes its cues from Instagram, meaning that virtually anyone can dive in straight away. PicMonkey is a great option for someone who is intimidated by the lieks of Photoshop and just wants to get to work as quickly as possible.

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Sumopaint is one of the most powerful web-based photo editing tools available, hands down. As such it has many of the same tools that one would find in Photoshop, making it capable of doing some complex tasks. That being said, Sumopaint isn’t quite as deep as Photoshop, but it doesn’t come with the price tag either.

Sumopaint is not for someone who simply wants to apply a filter on one of their images. Many of its features require an understanding of photo manipulation or a willingness to experiment. As is standard practice with many free programs, some of Sumopaint’s features require cold hard cash to unlock. If you’re on the fence about investing the time and money in Photoshop, give Sumopaint a trial run.

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What’s your favorite photo editing software? Let us know in the comments!

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