Free Photo Editing Software

I have a number of photo editing programs currently installed on my Mac. Here's what I use them for:

First, is iPhoto. iPhoto comes pre-installed on the Mac. I am not overly thrilled with iPhoto, though I do like a couple of it's features. What I don't like is how iPhoto sorts my photos. I'm used to folders and file names, but iPhoto takes what you import and the only way to really view the files is to actually go into iPhoto. (You can't view them in the finder window easily). I'm not a fan of the viewing screen in iPhoto either. I think it's because I was a PC girl and am used to how Windows displays files. I do like the retouching feature in iPhoto. It's flawless. It works better than any other retouching/cloning tool I've used. I also like the quick edits you can do, such as lightening/darkening a photo, and converting it to black & white, sepia, vintage, etc. Right now I mostly only use iPhoto for importing my photos onto my computer, and scrolling through them without using preview on the Mac.

I have Picasa installed as well, though it is more difficult to use on the Mac than on the PC, specifically in relation to viewing files. On a PC, you can see all your images from My Picture as a folder list, drill down on the folders, etc. On a Mac, if you've imported them using iPhoto, you get folders listed with strings of numbers/dates and you have to figure out which folder you are looking for. I only currently use Picasa for making collages. I do not do any editing, though I used to when I used it on my PC. Picasa is great for quick edits to coloring, lightening, and adding text. But definitely my favorite feature and top use for Picasa is the collages. You can choose several different layouts and pick which photos you want on the collage.

Not free (though you can download a free 30 day trial of the full version), but I have Photoshop Elements, as I've discussed previously. It's apparently a watered-down version of the full Photoshop but I can't see any reason to pay for the full Photoshop unless you're a hard core graphics designer or photographer. You can edit all the elements of a photo that you need to in Elements, and add overlays and create brushes and do special effects and filters just like Photoshop. It's very user friendly, and there are thousands of tutorials online for Photoshop which work almost exactly the same way in Elements.

The best free software, however, is GIMP. I've been using GIMP since I had my PC. It is as close to Photoshop as you can get, though not as nice of a user interface. Any tutorial you find for Photoshop can be duplicated in GIMP, you just may need to look in different places for a tool or function. I currently use GIMP solely for creating my rounded rectangle overlays (you cannot do a rounded rectangle in Photoshop Elements). However, when I had it on my PC (before I owned Elements), I often used it for editing my jewelry photos. I could make the photos look better using the levels feature in GIMP than I could in Picasa. And GIMP allowed me to easily resize my images to the right size for Etsy.

In doing a little research for this post, I discovered another free Windows-based software for photo editing that is supposed to be similar to GIMP/PS. It's called Paint.Net. I have not used this software myself, but I did look around, and there are numerous tutorials online (and on YouTube) that show you how to convert Photoshop brush files to .png format, so you can use them in Paint.Net. I believe, based off what I've read about the software, you can use the .png overlays (like I've been creating) in Paint.Net as well. There are tutorials on how to use Paint.Net on their website. It sounds fairly user friendly. I'm considering trying out this software on my PC at some point to give a proper review.

I have also used Picnik for some photo editing and collages, though I have not paid for their pro version.  (Mama Castner has it, however, and has made some great collages using it). Picnik is nice because everything is online, no download required. I've uploaded some photos, usually while at work since I don't want to download any software onto my computer, and done some quick resizing, adding of text, and making basic collages. (I used it often to do my belly comparisons).

Photoshop Express Online is another online tool where you can edit photos and do some nice effects. I haven't used this in awhile, but I did make some cool pencil sketch photos using it awhile back.

And there you have it - my experience with various photo editing programs. I really wanted to get this out to show you all kinds of free options for editing, as well as ways you can use the overlays and brushes I (and others) have created without having to purchase any software.

What other programs have you tried for photo editing?


  1. I keep meaning to check out GIMP since you referred me to it.

    Also, I'm thinking I should check out too!

    Thanks for the sites!

  2. I'd definitely check out GIMP before you purchase Photoshop Elements, at this point. (Unless it goes on crazy sale again!)