The Best Photoshop Alternatives That are Totally Free

By David Nield on at

Photoshop has become so dominant that you can use its name as a verb, but if you want to get your hands on it you need to shell out at least £8.78 a month. Don't worry! There are plenty of completely free alternatives to Photoshop; here are a few of the best.

For those of you who'd rather spend that cash on a Netflix or Spotify subscription (or groceries), then there are a stack of free Photoshop-replacement apps to consider. We've cast our eye over the very best of what you can use without paying a penny.

Adobe Photoshop Express

The most basic of Photoshop features, free of charge. You can use Photoshop Express in your browser, or pick up the app for Android, iOS or Windows Phone. The app lets you crop, rotate and resize pictures, adjust the usual variables like brightness and contrast, and remove red-eye. There's also a useful Touchup tool that lets you correct minor blemishes in your pictures.

Photoshop staples such as Dodge, Burn, and Highlight are here, though you don't get the same level of control as you do in the desktop version (there are only three brush sizes to choose from, for instance). A small but handy set of effects can be applied, including Crystallise, Pixelate, Sketch, Distort and Pop Colour. It's simple and fun to use, and changes can be undone in a click or two.

You're not going to get the same pixel-by-pixel control as you do in the full Creative Cloud package but then this does cost an awful lot less. Nothing at all, in fact! Give it a test run and see if it's capable enough to meet your image editing needs before committing to a monthly fee.


GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is usually the default go-to alternative for anyone looking for Photoshop-level capabilities in a freeware desktop program. It's not quite as feature-rich as Adobe's powerhouse, but it comes with an impressive stack of tools that can be bewildering for first timers. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to get to a grip on GIMP, and you'll be glad you invested the time and effort.

Many of the higher-level tasks people look to Photoshop for—advanced image filtering, stitching multiple pictures together, and so on—can be achieved with aplomb in GIMP. Versions are available for Windows, OS X and Linux, and you'll find a tonne of tutorials and resources on the Web to help you dig deeper into the software.

GIMP's development history stretches back nearly 20 years, and the more time you spend with the program the more it shows. From the wide selection of brushes available to the tweaks you can apply to the filters, there's enough functionality here to take on almost any image editing task.


If you find desktop software all a little bit 2010, then Pixlr is here to meet your browser-based editing needs. It looks and feels a lot like Photoshop, but it's free and runs online from anywhere—you can load in an image from your computer, or point it directly to a URL elsewhere on the Web.

With the likes of Dodge, Burn, Blur, and Clone stamp available, as well as numerous selection tools, the toolbox is very Photoshop-esque. Text overlays and layers are supported, and if you open up the Filter menu you'll find all kinds of weird and wonderful effects to play around with.

From the advanced colour picker to the plethora of image adjustment options, there's a lot to like about Pixlr, and the fact that you can tweak many of the tool options adds to the appeal for advanced users. Not just one of the best online image editors, but one of the best Web-based applications period.


Paint.NET was originally conceived as a more feature-rich version of the default Paint tool that shipped with the operating system, but has evolved over time to become a favourite of Windows users for several years now. It's less powerful but easier to use than GIMP, and comes with a more familiar interface.

You have full control over the translucent interface, so you can drag around windows and dialogs to suit your own preferences. As for its capabilities, Paint.NET takes care of all the basics and then some: it features layer support, and a small but useful list of effects, while plug-ins developed by the community extend its capabilities even further (adding support for extra file types, for example).

It's certainly one of the most human-friendly Photoshop alternatives around, and though it doesn't have too many top-end features, there are plenty of users who'll be glad for a less cluttered toolbox and list of menu options. With text, shape, and brush tools available it's a decent option for creating artwork too.


PicMonkey has helped to fill some of the void left by the shuttering of Picnik, which Google acquired in 2010 and promptly rolled into Google+. Picnik engineers Justin Huff and Brian Terry moved on to create PicMonkey, and you can see some of the same polish and power has survived the transition.

The online app manages to strike that difficult balance between an intuitive user interface and an advanced set of features. Getting started is as simple as clicking "Edit a photo" on the website, but once you're in you have a pile of different tools to use. Shapes, textures, and text can be added with a couple of clicks, and there are some cool Instagram-style effects to play around with too.

It's not so suitable for those traditional Photoshop tasks—putting the head of Han Solo on the body of Chewbacca, and so on—but it's more than adequate for making quick changes or playing around with effects and overlays. Of course, as it works in your browser you can access it from anywhere too. You can upgrade to a paid-for version to get your hands on some extra features and to remove the adverts from the bottom of the screen.

Those are our picks, but there are others out there. Got a favourite that we didn't mention? Share it below!