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Top Free Alternatives to Photoshop (Tested & Reviewed)

The Top 5 Free Alternatives to Photoshop (Tested & Reviewed)

Last updated on Mar 9, 2024 by Southie Williamson

Looking for free alternatives to Photoshop? When it comes to editing your images, Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular software solutions around. Used by amateurs and professionals alike, Photoshop can help to turn any image into a masterpiece.

However, the Creative Cloud subscription that you need to access Photoshop can make it quite expensive for people who are just launching their photography brand. What’s more, Photoshop can be tougher to use than other options. With so many tools to choose from on Photoshop, you might find the software overly complicated for your needs.

The good news is that there is free photo editing software that you can use instead of Photoshop, which is what we’ll be looking at today.

Best Free Photoshop Alternatives


GIMP - best free photo editing software

Overall Best Free Photoshop Alternative

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP, is one of the best-known photo editing tools on the market and the best alternative to Photoshop. As a feature-rich, open-source solution for photographers, GIMP can do almost anything that Photoshop can and is completely free.

GIMP has robust image editing capabilities and many of the retouching features seen in industry standard software. GIMP provides masks, layers, curves, levels, cloning and healing tools, smart selection tools, and custom brushes. GIMP can even open Photoshop (PSD) files, and you can export images in over 40 file formats.

One of the features that stood out to us is GIMP’s built-in file manager and customizable interface, which lets you adjust your workspace and available tools to suit your workflow.

An illustration of animals in a forest loaded into GIMP, with the gaussian blur effect being applied

While other free photo editors can replace some of Photoshop’s functionality, GIMP serves as the most comprehensive Photoshop alternative. However, GIMP isn’t without its issues. For instance, many of the pre-set brushes have the same settings, and GIMP has limited drawing functionality.

Another thing to considers is that the software is not very user-friendly. Overall, we found GIMP’s learning curve to be just as high, if not higher, than Photoshop. That said, GIMP has a large community behind it, which means there are ample tutorials to help you get started.

Pros of GIMP

  • Lots of advanced features
  • Compatible with most operating systems such as MacOS, Linux, Windows, and more
  • Image slicing support
  • History toolbar
  • Includes an animation package for creating GIFs
  • Blending and layer support modes

Cons of GIMP

  • Complicated UI (user interface)
  • Users often have issues working with large file sizes and font layers
  • No support for RAW files
  • Minimal features for drawing, painting, and illustration

2. Krita

Krita - free Photoshop alternative

Best Free Photoshop Alternative for Digital Art

Krita is another popular, free alternative to Photoshop. In fact, it’s one of the editing apps most recommended by digital artists and photographers in forums like Reddit. Like GIMP, it is a completely free, open-source image editor.

Despite being a Photoshop alternative, Krita also offers features that are similar to Adobe Illustrator, which makes it particularly well-suited to artistis and graphic designers. Krita supports pens and drawing tablets and has an extensive brush collection, excellent blending modes, and multiple pre-installed templates.

With Krita, you can work on multiple projects at once, and we particularly appreciated how similar it looks and feels to Photoshop. The toolbars look almost the same, and the dark theme reminds you of working with Adobe. Unfortunately, the tool can be a bit laggy at times, and there’s no RAW filter included.

A cartoon character open in Krita, with the tool selection window open

There’s a lot of overlap between Photoshop, Krita, and GIMP, but our overall impression is that Krita has a more intuitive interface and is geared towards illustration while GIMP provides a broader range of photo editing features.

Pros of Krita

  • Supports drawing boards to start from scratch
  • Multiple pre-installed templates
  • Lots of effects to choose from
  • Guides and rulers supported
  • Customizeable interface and shortcuts to frequently used tools

Cons of Krita

  • No history toolbar
  • Slow at times
  • Limited text feature
  • No RAW filter
  • Not compatible with iPad OS and Android tablets.

3. Paint.NET

Paint.net - free alternative to Photoshop

Best Photoshop Alternative for Windows Users

Originally, Paint.NET was intended to be an enhanced version of the Microsoft Paint tool. So, you’ll notice many features similar to your MS application. While Paint.NET might not be as powerful as Photoshop, it gives you a lot of features in a more digestible way, which makes it a great Photoshop alternative for beginners. Do note though that the software only has compatibility with Windows PC.

As a general-purpose raster graphics editor, Paint.NET comes with layers and blending modes, as well as a history tool. It supports pens and drawing tablets with pressure sensitivity, which is great for digital painting, and it’s expandable via plugins. You can add effects and custom brushes from Photoshop and there are a variety of third-party plugins to add things like support for vectors (SVG), PDFs, PSD files, Adobe Illustrator (AI) files, and more.

A screenshot of Fortnite open in Paint.NET

All in all, if you need a free Windows software that’s comparable to Photoshop, Paint.net is a solid choice. Despite a somewhat outdated interface, we were impressed by how beginner-friendly it is. Plus, it was notably faster than many of the other free photo editing software we tested.

Pros of Paint.NET

  • Blending and layer support
  • History tool
  • Support for multiple file types
  • Well-rounded editing tool

Cons of Paint.NET

  • Outdated UI
  • Lack of guide support
  • No RAW option
  • No slice, patch, or spot healing tool

4. Pixlr

Pixlr Photo editing software

Best Free Browser-Based Photoshop Alternative

Although it’s a browser-based tool, the Pixlr editor is just as powerful as many desktop applications. Unlike other free alternatives to Photoshop that are open source, Pixlr was created by AutoDesk – a leading name in computer-aided design. Because of this, Pixlr offers lots of AI tools to help speed up your editing workflow.

The website offers multiple free options depending on what type of editing you’re trying to do, but Pixlr Editor (E) is the primary one. It features a wide variety of tools, including blur, sharpen, noise, levels, and curves. There’s also a toolbox that’s similar to GIMP’s, including stamp tools, healing, brushes, fills and more.

An orange colored blue in the Pixlr Editor

In addition to Pixlr Editor, the website also offers:

  • Pixlr Express (X) – geared towards social media with basic photo editing enhancements and resize tools.
  • Pixlr Designer (D) – similar to Canva, it’s best for templates, collages, and animations.
  • Pixlr Remove bg (Bg) – a simple AI-powered background remover.
  • Pixlr Batch Editor (B) – an easy-to-use batch photo editor.

When trying it out, we really liked the ability to perform quick edits with AI, like removing the background on multiple PNG images, before tackling more advanced editing with Pixlr E.

If you’re looking for a quick and simple way to improve your images, and you don’t want to worry about complex software, Pixlr is a great solution. Just remember that you’ll need an internet connection to use it.

Pros of Pixlr

  • Accessible on any platform (because it’s browser-based)
  • Offers a mobile app for editing on the go (IOS and Android)
  • Layer and blending supported
  • Customizable interface
  • Healing and history tools

Cons of Pixlr

  • No pen tool supported
  • Not as much file support as Photoshop
  • No guides and rulers
  • Free version has ads

5. Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro - free alternatives to Photoshop
Photo Pos Pro free Photoshop alternative

Best Free Beginner-Friendly Photoshop Alternative

Finally, Photo Pos Pro, despite being lesser known, is another one of the best photo editors that goes head to head with Photoshop. The program is designed to be a free, beginner-friendly alternative to Photoshop, and it lived up to our expectations for the most part.

As an advanced editing software, Photo Pos Pro is brimming with features that are similar to Photoshop such as layers and masks, as well as healing and clone brushes. You can create and save filters that you want to use in the future, and there are even options for scripts and match editing to save you time on your edits.

Photo Pos Pros provides a novice layout for essential editing enhancements, or you can switch to the advanced layout for fine-tuning adjustments like manual curves and level adjustments. The software supports RAW files and also comes with plugins to expand its capabilities.

A couple of people on a transparent background in Photo Pos Pro, with the Equalization tool open

Our biggest issue with Photo Pos Pro is that the software was slow at times, and there is a export limit of 1024 x 1024 pixels, which may be a problem for some users. Another thing to note is that the program is only natively compatible with Windows. It can still be used on Mac, but you’ll need Windows Apps emulator installed.

Pros of Photo Pos Pro

  • Customizable interface with a novice and expert mode
  • Supports RAW files
  • Ample tutorials
  • Support for layers and masks
  • Intuitive feature selection

Cons of Photo Pos Pro

  • Can be laggy at times
  • Software sometimes acts strangely in advanced mode
  • Size of exported files is limited

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best open source Photoshop alternative?

Known for its extensive feature set and customization options, GIMP is a powerful open-source alternative to Photoshop. It supports a wide range of file formats and integrates with multiple programming languages. However, it has a steeper learning curve compared to Photoshop and may require installing plugins for some features.

Depending the type of editing you do, there are other open source contenders such as Darktable, which is a great alternative to Lightroom and Inkscape, which is a closer match to Adobe Illustrator.

Is GIMP as good as Photoshop?

Photoshop is widely recognized for its advanced tools and integration with other Adobe products. It offers superior pixel manipulation, layer management, and compatibility with RAW files, making it ideal for complex editing tasks and photos for prints. GIMP, on the other hand, is a free alternative with a focus on digital photography. While not as intuitive for users, it offers many similar features and due to its open-source nature allows for continuous development and updates.

What is the simplest free photo editor?

Pixlr was the simplest free photo editor that we tested. It’s browser-based and offers a mobile app for editing on the fly. It offers a robust set of tools to accommodate beginners and experts alike such a quick-edit AI tools and advanced layers, drawing features, and brushes. Photopea is another simple, free option, but if you’re looking for more comprehensive desktop editing app that’s still user-friendly, we recommend Krita.

So there you have it! Some of the best free alternatives to Photoshop available today. Which one do you plan on using?

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  1. This is greatly helpful for a beginner like me who need to do graphic design.
    Of Course picmonkey is one of the popular graphic design tool, but by reading your list of other tools,
    I was simply amazed. Excellent one and really helped me!!!

  2. I went to download paint.net from the Microsoft store but, I found out it was not free. It was approx 10 dollars to purchase. Were you aware of that or is there another way to get the software for free? Thanks.

  3. Great list, but it sertainly lacks Photodiva, it’s an amazing portrait editor that is free and pretty lightweight!

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