The 18 best photo editors

Here’s a list of the best photo editing software so you can decide which suits your needs and budget.

Photoshop is the go-to photo editor, of course – so much so that the word has become verbified, like ‘Hoover’ or ‘Google’.

This might give the impression that Adobe‘s photo editing software is the undisputed champion, but that all depends on what you use it for – for your purposes it may be a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

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There are a wide range of very capable alternatives to Photoshop, as you will discover, but our list of the best photo editors is going to begin with with the ubiquitous Adobe application.

01. Photoshop CC

Photoshop photo editing software
Photoshop is brilliant but not everyone is convinced by the subscription-only model
  • Platform: Windows/Mac
  • Price: From $29.99/£17.58 per month

The replacement for Photoshop CS6 surprised everyone by not being the expected Photoshop CS7 but ‘Photoshop CC‘. And surprise turned to consternation when it was revealed that the software would be solely available via the Creative Cloud subscription service.

Time has passed and anger has subsided – although a brief outage was a reminder of one of the concerns regarding the subscription model. Photoshop CC is head-bangingly brilliant, and has too many features to summarise in this small space – but here you can read a run-down of its 15 top features.

There’s no doubt that the latest Photoshop is a hugely impressive photo editing application; probably the best out there. But it comes at a cost.

02. Pixlr

Pixlr photo editing software
Pixlr’s mobile photo editing software comes with more than 600 effects
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Price: Free

Pixlr claims to be “the most popular online photo editor in the world”, which may have something to do with the fact that it’s free. But it also boasts more than 600 effects, overlays, and borders and lets you do all the main things you’d expect from a photo editor, from cropping and re-sizing to removing red-eye and whitening teeth.

And if you’re used to using Photoshop, then you’ll find Pixlr’s user interface easy to pick up quickly, as it’s very similar.

03. Serif PhotoPlus X7

Serif PhotoPlus X6 photo editing software
PhotoPlus X6 explicity sets out to recreate Photoshop’s functionality
  • Platform: Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP
  • Price: $99.99/£79.99

Whilst Serif make inroads into the world of Mac photo editing with its new Affinity Photo (more on that below), this is for all things PC.

Of all the tools featured in this list, PhotoPlus X7 is perhaps the most direct competitor to Photoshop in terms of trying to replicate the different tools in Adobe’s software for the PC at a lower price.

It’s definitely a case of getting what you pay for. To be frank, the tool can be tricky for beginners to use, and lacks the slickness and reliability of its big-bucks competitor. But in the right hands it’s possible to create quality work with PhotoPlus X7.

04. Acorn

Acorn photo editing software
Acorn’s new update includes the addition of non-destructive filters
  • Platform: Mac
  • Price: $29.99/£19.99

Image editing software Acorn debuted back in 2007 and has provided hobbyists and artists on a budget with a great, affordable piece of photo editing software. Features include layer styles, non-destructive filters, curves and levels, blending modes and much more.

The latest version, Acorn 4, added improved speed, an enhanced UI and more. One of the most sought-after improvements was the addition of non-destructive filters, which includes includes a great interface to chain filters together to create unique effects. You can even save and modify your filters after you’ve closed and re-opened your Acorn image.

05. Photoshop Touch

Photoshop Touch photo editing software
Photoshop is a compelling option on mobile as well as desktop
  • Platform: iOS, Android
  • Price: $4.99/£3.99 (mobile); $9.99/£6.99 (tablet)

The Photoshop family continues to grow, with its latest addition bringing the formerly tablet-only Photoshop Touch to Apple and Android smartphones.

It’s an effective re-imagining of Adobe’s killer desktop app (see number 01 on this list), carrying over many of its most compelling features, including layers and adjustments.

The app is also bundled with 29 fonts for adding text to your photos, including Adobe Garamond Pro, Cooper Std Black, and Myriad Pro.

06. GIMP

GIMP photo editing software
GIMP is a popular open-source photo editing software
  • Platform: Linux/Windows/Mac
  • Price: Free

An open-source photo editor that debuted on Unix-based platforms, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Today it’s available in versions for Linux, Windows, and Mac. GIMP offers a wide toolset – everything you’re accustomed to is within easy reach, including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement.

The team that oversees development has worked hard to ensure compatibility too, so you’ll be able to work with all the popular file formats without any trouble at all. You’ll also find a very capable file manager built in, along similar lines to Adobe’s Bridge.

07. Photoshop Elements 13

Somewhere inbetween Photoshop and Touch, Elements is a powerful standalone app
  • Platform: Linux/Windows/Mac
  • Price: £52.99

This is the basic alternative to Photoshop Creative Cloud (or CS), as reflected in its great Quick and Guided Edit modes, but don’t think that means it lacks power under the hood. Also, unlike Photoshop CC, Elements doesn’t require a subscription.

It’s now in its thirteenth iteration, and new features include an easier way to merge photos together, a new crop suggestion tool, extra effects and a way to create a combined Facebook profile and cover photo.

08. Affinity Photo

  • Platform: Mac
  • Price: Free beta

As reported when it was first announced earlier this year, Serif isn’t aiming to simply replicate Photoshop with Affinity Photo – the sibling to their vector, Illustrator-killer Affinity Designer.

This is not a bargain version either. The beta promises to be a high end software that claims to be faster than Photoshop and just as powerful.

09. Adobe Lightroom

  • Platform: Windows/Mac
  • Price: From £8.57pm

Adobe Lightroom allows you to have all your photography in one place, and organise, edit and share it from anywhere. Many creatives opt to use Lightroom as it can tackle the complex image management jobs Photoshop is not designed for, making light work of day-to-day enhancements and RAW files.

With Lightroom you can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices and even have photos from your phone go directly into Lightroom as you shoot them. Syncing takes care of itself, so when you make an edit or flag a favorite in one place, it’s automatically updated everywhere else.

10. DxO OpticsPro 10

  • Platform: Windows/Mac
  • Price: £99/$129

Things get a bit specific with Optics Pro 10, but what it does, it does very well. Its results are spectacular, but it’s a specialised and sometimes complex tool to use. It’s arguably the best raw converter of all, but that’s just about all it does.

DxO Optics Pro automatically compensates for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting common to practically all digital camera lenses.

It’s also a raw converter, and DxO has applied just as much scientific rigour to this process as its lens corrections.

You can browse the images on your computer, folder by folder, then select an image and choose from the default conversion/correction setting or a range of presets

The results are excellent. However, it would never be your one and only image-editing tool

11. PaintShop Pro X7

PaintShop Pro photo editing software
PaintShop Pro benefits from a streamlined and slick interface
  • Platform: Windows
  • Price: £69.99

Brought to you by the same software house that produces Painter, Paintshop Pro is a long-standing application that offers a huge range of photo-editing and graphics creation tools.

Naturally there’s support for layers here, and a complete suite of tools for editing, colour correcting, cloning and ‘makeover’ of photos, but you’ll also find sophisticated art media tools with realistic brush effects and a range of vector options.

Additionally, Paintshop Pro supports Photoshop brushes, allowing you to considerably extend the built-in library of tools. There’s also an Ultimate version which costs an extra few pounds, but bundles in additional filters, brushes, and royalty-free images.

12. Camera+

Camera+ photo editing software
Camera+ is adored by iPad users and has subsequently arrived on iPhone – hooray!
  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $1.99/£1.49 (iPhone); $4.99/£2.99 (iPad)

The Camera app that comes on the iPhone by default is not brilliant: yes, you can use it to take some decent shots, but it doesn’t offer you much creative control.

This is where Camera+ excels. The app has two parts: a camera and a photo editor, and it truly excels at the latter, with a huge range of advanced features. Camera+ doesn’t just limit you to editing new pics – you can quickly import your existing photos into the Lightbox so that you can breathe new life into them.

13. Paint.net

Paint.net photo editing software
For photo editing, free Windows tool Paint.net is an excellent option
  • Platform: Windows
  • Price: Free

Paint.net is a surprisingly capable and useful tool, available completely free of charge. The focus is on ease of use, and there’s a definite tendancy towards photo editing rather than artistic creation.

That said, there are a range of special effects available, allowing you to easily create fake perspective, blend and push pixels around the canvas, tile and repeat selections, and so on.

A good range of selection tools, support for layers, and adjustments such as curves and brightness/contrast mean that Paint.net is a great alternative to Photoshop for photo editing, especially if you can do without some of the more recent additions to Photoshop’s toolset.

14. Sumopaint

Sumopaint photo editing software
Sumopaint works in the browser, and requires Adobe Flash to use
  • Platform: Web browser (requires Adobe Flash Player)
  • Price: Free for basic online version, $19 for pro version with offline app

Sumopaint is a highly capable browser-based image editor. All the standard features you’d expect from a desktop tool are present and correct and by buying the Pro version for $19 you can install a desktop version of the app if you prefer. You need the Adobe Flash Player to use this tool, so you’re not going be using Sumopaint on your iPad.

The standard range of tools and adjustments you’d expect are all included. Brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning, gradients, etc are all quickly accessed from the Photoshop-esque floating toolbar. It can also open saved documents from your hard drive, making Sumopaint a perfectly viable option for editing and reediting.

There are, however, limitations that will put off some users. The most important of these is that the editor appears to be RGB only, limiting its use to screen-destined artwork only. No CMYK, Lab or other colour models to be found here.

15. Pixelmator

Pixelmator photo editing software
Workflow is often much quicker using Mac tool Pixelmator
  • Platform: Mac
  • Price: $14.99/£10.49

Pixelmator uses Mac OS X libraries to create fast, powerful image editing tools, which allows the software to integrate seamlessly with the likes of iPhoto and Aperture, as well as iCloud. There are also built-in export tools for Facebook and Flickr.

Colour correction tools such as Hue/Saturation, Shadows/Highlights and Contrast are all present and correct, and Pixelmator supports filters and comes with a collection of 150 to play with. You can also open and save images in many of the popular formats, including PSD, TIFF, PDF, and PNG.

When saving or opening Photoshop documents, layers are preserved allowing you to collaborate effectively with colleagues using Adobe’s software.

16. Photoristic HD

Photoristic photo editing software
Photoristic sits midway between basic native apps and expensive pro applications
  • Platform: iPad
  • Price: $4.99/£2.99

Photoristic HD is an iPad image app that’s just powerful enough to be quite useful without overloading you with features that you don’t really want.

It’s all about the photo editor – it features standard image adjustment tools (white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, vibrance and saturation), with additional colour controls, a black and white mode, split toning and a hefty collection of presets for Instagram-style quick fixes.

It’s fast and easy to use and can handle images up to 20 megapixels, and while they’re not exactly giving it away it comes at a fairly reasonable price for its no-nonsense set of genuinely useful photo tools.

17. Handy Photo

Handy Photo photo editing software
Handy Photo is all about the interface and photo editor tools
  • Platform: iOS/Android
  • Price: $1.99/£1.49 (iOS)

The selling point of photo editor Handy Photo is its interface, which uses the corners of the screen to cater for rotating menu options.

It’s all designed to keep the central area of the screen clear, allowing you to use swipe gestures to tone your effects up or down.

It’s a powerful photo editor; the UI isn’t for everyone, but this is an amazing price for the effects you get. The ‘Move Me’ tool enables you to clip out objects and move, resize or flip them.

18. Photo Editor by Aviary

Aviary photo editing software
Aviary strikes a balance between serious photo editor and playful app
  • Platform: Windows 8/iOS/Android
  • Price: Free

Aviary is a very pleasantly designed app that strikes the perfect balance between serious photo-editing and playful photo-decoration functions without looking bland or childish.

Perhaps because it’s quite new, the selection of filters and stickers are fairly small, so any future updates would give this app great room for play.

 

Source: The 18 best photo editors | Software | Creative Bloq

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