10 Photoshop Alternatives That Are Totally Free

If a free copy of a 10-year-old Adobe Photoshop release wasn't for you — maybe your computer's too good for it, or perhaps you just wanna stick it to the man — don't worry. There are plenty of completely free alternatives. Here are 10 of the best.

1. GIMP (cross-platform)

The big daddy of free image-editing software, GIMP is a free ‘shop alternative for the power user. There's full support for layers and masks, a good range of sophisticated brush controls and even a rough content-aware fill via unofficial plugins like this. For those pining for Auntie Adobe, there's a version of GIMP called GIMPshop that sports all the GIMP functionality with a Photoshop-imitation layout.

2. Paint.NET (Windows-only)

Paint.NET is slightly less powerful than GIMP, but less unwieldy (more wieldy?). The interface I find to be more intuitive, and I spent far less time playing hunt-the-feature than I did in GIMP.

3. Pixlr (web-based)

Pixlr is a deeply impressive web-based image editor — it's my go-to program when I'm away from my Photoshop-touting machine but still need to do the nasty to some poor unsuspecting image. Having three levels of editor — basic, intermediate and all-singing-all-dancing-layer-masking-power-clone-stamp-of-doom — makes it accessible to pretty much anyone, not exactly something you can say about Photoshop.

4. Splashup (web-based)

Like Pixlr, but trading less power for a gorgeous and easy-to-use interface. For image-editing beginners, this would be a sensible choice.

5. Inkscape (cross-platform)

A decidedly power-user's tool. Its claim to fame is the use of vector graphics rather than bitmaps as the native format. If you pine for Photoshop's vector support like you pine for your nanny, Inkscape might just be the program for you. (Yes, I know, Photoshop's vector support isn't stellar, but it's still a lot better than GIMP.)

6. Seashore (Mac-only)

Seashore is a fairly basic image editor that's visually quite pleasing, with a UI that apparently "blends right in" with the rest of Mac OS X. You can make up your own mind on that, but the editor itself isn't bad. No editable text layers is annoying though.

7. Pixia (Windows-only)

Pixia is the English-language version of a popular Japanese image-editing programme. Once again, it's a power-user's tool. Although the interface isn't the most friendly or slick in the world — in fact, it feels slightly like being slapped in the face by Windows 95 — it has a good range of features, and was the best of these programs for stylus/digitiser support.

8. Photo Pos Pro (Windows only)

Photo Pos Pro (works quite well as a tongue-twister, by the way) is a Photoshop replacement that promises much, and delivers a little bit. The interface features cutting-edge Windows XP graphics, but it has a slightly confused purpose: on the one hand, it's trying to be a pro, Photoshop-style tool with dense menus and powerful options; on the other, it's still got a freaking "tip of the day" popping up, interrupting me and making me want to visit the inventor of pop-ups with a chainsaw and murderous intent.

9. Picasa (cross-platform)

Google's Picasa isn't a Photoshop competitor; regardless, it's got many of the same basic features as Photoshop, including a half-decent Clone Stamp replacement. If you're only looking to make image-wide corrections, with a few little re-touches here and there, this is a superb option. The photo-management and batch editing options are just a plus.

10. Photoplus (Windows only)

More of a basic image editor, Photoplus is relatively user-friendly but lacks the vast majority of features that the more advanced options sport. It also doesn't have keyboard shortcuts — one omission which drives me completely loopy after about five minutes. The pop-ups asking me to buy the full version weren't particularly attractive either.

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    You forgot the best Photoshop alternative that's free.

    Photoshop CS2! :)

      They mention it in the first sentence...

      First sentence of the article. If a free copy of a 10-year-old Adobe Photoshop release wasn’t for you
      Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.

      Is it the best free alternative? better than GIMP?

        GIMP totally gimps my older PC, seems to be a massive resource hog. CS2 runs perfectly.

        CS2 is not intended to be free, Adobe just cocked up badly.

        GIMP seems to still be the best free alternative. I just wish it had a less terrible interface.

      That's only free in the same way software downloaded from The Pirate Bay is free, in money only. If you get caught using it it's certainly not free.

    Who doesn't want to visit the inventor of popups with a chainsaw and murderous intent?

      popups still exist? I thought everyone used adblock

    Inkscape isn't a Photoshop alternative. It's a vector graphics package - an Illustrator alternative.

    I'd love a list of the free (or cheap ones) that are most *similar* to photoshop. I don't like learning curves. GIMP has a helluva one. (yes i tried gimpshop)

    Last edited 10/01/13 1:49 pm

    I've been using Inkscape as a CorelDraw replacement for years and It works well for my purposes, easy to use too. Paint.net is great if you need the most common features of Photoshop, also easy to use. I just can't afford to keep updating Photoshop and Corel any more.

      Actually just installed Gimpshop and the installer is not popular with WOT so beware I guess. The actual progy seems to be a bit of a system hog and my system is high end, but otherwise not bad.

    I love these "Alternatives to Photoshop" articles. They always claim GIMP is a great alternative, when it is only the OSS/*nix crowd who will use it (usually as there is no alternative).

    Paint.NET is a great little program, but never gets the props it deserves due to the MS links.

    Artweaver (http://www.artweaver.de) should be added to the list, it is a great little program with a similar UI to earlier Photoshop versions.

      I think GIMP is a very worthy alternative to Photoshop. It is very easy to use and gets great results. The UI isn't the best but Photoshop is also pretty bad. I happily got along without Photoshop for the 6 years or so I was working for Autodesk. The only reason I have it again now is because I need ot have it to get work. It's workflow is abominable and there is absolutely no excuse for it not being fully non-destructive, as After Effects has been for more than 15 years. It's as if Adobe's dev teams never, ever talk to one-another. It is disgracegul how little Photoshop has improved/progressed in the last decade.

        Every few years I try GIMP, and every few years I am reminded that the stability and UI is a bitch.

        Adobe had the non-destructive codebase when they bought out Macromedia in Macromedia xRes, and I still have no idea why they didn't roll some of those ideas (namely non-destructive editing) into Photoshop.

    Pixelmator isn't totally free, but at less than $20, its a great alternative.

    Sumo Paint is also an awesome online app

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