There’s no argument about it — Adobe Photoshop remains, hands down, the best photo-editing software on the market.
For the home user, Photoshop isn’t necessary for basic and semi-advanced tasks, such as resizing, cropping, and exposure correction. Often heralded as the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source application that relies on a community of volunteer developers who maintain and improve the product. Once you launch the program, you’ll find a dedicated window that displays the image, and separate windows to organize the toolbox and layers.When using a large display, or two displays, you have a nice, big workspace to play with your images. Besides image editing, PhotoScape also lets you create slideshows and animated GIFs, capture screenshots, and combine and split images. The Nik Collection is a full image-editing suite offered by Google… and it’s now totally free. This allows you to either download whatever tool you need at the time, or download them all and use them interchangeably.
Serif created Photo Plus Starter Edition as a free version of its paid software suite to give users elementary tools for editing photos.
Even though we’ve tested the best Photoshop alternatives, it’s hard not to see Adobe’s Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 combination as being the closest to a single do-it-all solution, especially since they work so well together and are both available for a single subscription fee.
This is by far the most powerful and ‘complete’ solution and it doesn’t really cost much more than its rivals. Exceptional fine detail, rich and saturated raw conversions, local adjustments and cataloguing. If you’re more interested in ultimate quality than do-it-all versatility, it’s a serious contender. Six of these photo editors come in both Mac and PC versions, and these were tested on a dual-core Mac with 8GB RAM running OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Given the performance difference between the two machines, allowances were made for the operational speed of the Corel and Serif programs. The brief was principally to bring together all the leading commercial photo editing programs on the market to see how well they catered for the evolving needs of digital photographers.
We use reviewers with long-standing experience in their respective fields, both with the products being tested and their previous versions. I agree with you Hugh, have just upgraded to PP suite 9 – still have so much to learn and practice in it and loving it so far.
This is a review of competing software, of course they aren’t going to include older versions. Note that Pixlr straddles the line between Web-based and desktop image editors: There are both mobile and desktop versions of the software that you can download. If you use Microsoft Paint rather than Photoshop, iPiccy might be for you. The site lets you edit photos with an automated process.
Click a button to fix images, resize, crop, rotate, flip, change the exposure, and other settings. What we would like to see is a reset-to-zero button on the slide rule, because it’s difficult to get the bar back to the beginning if you decide you want to return to the starting point.
PicMonkey is a favorite editing tool for amateur photographers who want to quickly edit their images and turn them into mini-masterpieces. This article was originally published on April 16, 2015, and updated on April 27, 2016, by Tyler Locoma to include the Nik Collection, PicMonkey, and other offerings.
Capture One began as a professional tethered shooting studio application but has steadily migrated into mainstream use. With the addition of full cataloguing tools in version 7, Capture One became a direct rival to Lightroom, offering RAW conversions for a wide range of cameras, powerful non-destructive image adjustments, preset ‘looks’, automatic lens corrections and local adjustments made with its own adjustment layers and masks – an easier approach to grasp than Lightroom’s, and powerful too. Version 8 brings an updated processing engine, and modernised interface (the slider knobs are bigger, but nothing else leaps out). It also offers improved HDR tools, better noise and moire reduction, a speed boost and sundry other improvements. You can rearrange these tabs to suit your workflow, hide the ones you don’t want and re-arrange your favourites into a single Q (quick) tab. Capture One Pro is expensive compared to its rivals, so you’ll expect the results to be good. It also produces strong, powerful colours and contrast, and extremely good separation of shadow tones.

You can buy vanity items and weapons, but everything can be unlocked without paying a dime. Paint Shop Pro has become simpler and more novice-friendly over the years, and it now presents an integrated workflow with three tabs: Manage, Adjust and Edit. The Adjust panel is for routine image enhancements but also a good selection of special effects. The Edit panel offers more advanced and manual controls, such as the levels, curves and colour adjustments you’d use in Photoshop – PaintShop Pro is also compatible, Corel says, with Photoshop plug-ins. The new X7 version brings a Magic Fill tool, the equivalent of Adobe’s content-aware fill, 30% faster brushes, text and shape cutting tools.
Worst of all, it falls down on one of the most basic operations for a photo editor today – opening and converting RAW files.
It does have a Camera RAW Lab which opens automatically if you select an image for the Edit mode.
But unless you’ve undergone formal training, Photoshop proves a difficult program to master, and is expensive to use. Downloadable photo editing tools have advanced way past MS Paint, and you really can do almost anything you could do in Photoshop–and sometimes more. Available for Mac and PC, you get a lot of professional-level editing and retouching tools – perfect for designers who can’t or won’t shell out hundreds of dollars to Adobe. Icons in the toolbox represent actions such as the crop, lasso, paint and brush tools, and you can apply various effects to your photos.
You can customize your toolbar, so you can organize the features you use most, and then revert to the default toolbar when you want to dig deeper into the software’s offerings. This is one of the most powerful and complete online photo tools at the moment, and Google providing it all for free was pretty big news. The tools may take a little time to learn, but by separating out the different functions, the software makes it easier for people to pick and choose what they need in any given moment. It doesn’t look like Google will be offering patches or updates to these tools, so they may not have much longevity. The software has the basics covered, with tools that let you re-size, apply filters and effects, and reduce red eye, among other functions.
If you want the best image cataloguing tool, the best RAW converter and the best photo editor, you’re not going to find them in one program – but you might in one package. More and more photographers are shooting RAW to get the best possible quality, and Adobe Camera Raw is not the best – DxO Optics Pro 10 and Capture One Pro 8 are better. Been using it after PS, LR and DxO, not mentioning some lesser, non dedicated solutions like ZPS and I am very impressed.
It has all the features you tested (image management, edits, RAW module…) and it would be interesting too see the comparison to other programs as well. If you have a reliable connection, here are a few Web-based programs that will never see the spinning the disc of your hard drive. The site separates its photo editing into Pixlr Editor (advanced) and Pixlr Express (efficient).
It has a red eye tool that eliminates those devil eyes that appear when the flash goes off. However, it’s usually easier to just pop open a browser tab and load up the online version.
Rather than using wands and tools to actively edit photos, the effects are applied to the whole photo in most cases. While iPiccy may sound like a simplified app, there is complexity in its wide offering of editing options.
There are four primary tools in the PicMonkey holster: Editing, Touch Up, Design, and Collage. You import images into the catalog (you can still use Capture One ‘sessions’ if you want to) and then use a series of tool tabs to adjust Color, Exposure, Lens (corrections), Composition (cropping, straightening, keystone correction), Details (sharpening, noise reduction, grain effect) and batch processing options.
Capture One Pro can extract exceptional fine detail from your RAW files – the difference compared with JPEGs, or even Adobe Camera Raw conversions, can be striking. It does not support external editors or plug-ins, so you can’t send an image to Photoshop or Google’s Nik Collection plug-ins, for example, and have the edited version returned automatically to the Capture One Catalog.
If you're feverishly nodding your head up and down, and you're all about getting a bargain, listen up.

You can browse folders directly without having to ‘import’ them, but you can also create virtual Collections and Smart Collections. None of these adjustments are non-destructive, though – PaintShop Pro might look like Lightroom and PhotoDirector, but in fact it’s a traditional editor that edits your images directly, saving new versions of your files when it’s done. This underlines that fact that PaintShop Pro is not just for image-editing – it’s also a painting, drawing and illustration tool.
The adjustment dialogs offer small ‘before’ and ‘after’ previews, which seems terribly old-fashioned.
It was originally developed as a free replacement for Microsoft Paint, which comes as part of Windows. Because it lacks certain features of the paid version — the goal is to entice enough that you’ll upgrade — it will only get you so far in your photo editing.
Best RAW software I ever used, with great output, retaining high level of detail, very fast on my computer and developing beautifully detailed, clean and colourful photos with a few keystrokes.
Express, on the other hand, lets you put creative overlays on your images – this is really for playing with your photos. Many settings have a slide rule that let you adjust brightness, contrast, and other functions. Editing probably provides the most functionality, allowing you to apply effects, advanced filters, spot correction, and so on. You’ll have to work pretty hard to equal the quality of your camera’s JPEGs, let alone improve on them. This is isolated to PhotoScape, and won’t infiltrate the rest of your computer with adware, but worth noting. Analog Efex Pro focuses on effects that produce vintage looks or make digital photos appear more natural, while Color Efex Pro provides a ton of filters. It does however, provide tools in an easy-to-use format that allows you to polish photos for your albums.
If it only had direct filesystem approach instead of catalogue, I would praise it with heavenly blessings. I used to buy CS, but when I did the math and knowing that you either fall behind several generations of upgrade every couple years, I think you actually come out ahead by going with CC. You can put a stain on a picture to make it look like you rested a coffee mug on the photo, for example.
However, Touch Up is also a popular choice for selfies, profile pics, event photos, and so on. The program imports video material from XDCAM camcorders and can natively edit AVCHD material, and of course, users can create 1080p discs with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound if you've got a few BD-Rs laying around waiting to be used. Silver Efex Pro, on the other hand, is tailored for black-and-white images, while Viveza allows you to alter specific colors in the photo without using filters. Take note of Cutout Studio, in particular, which is a toolset designed to help create collages and similar scrapbook-style products. It is most probably the best solution on the market and even if rather pricey, it was the money well spent. I understand the aversion to the idea of “renting” a software on demand, but I have old licenses I never use, so what use are they?
As you can see, this suite is designed more for the average person, or those who want the best picture possible for social media or sharing and aren’t afraid to work on it with more advanced tools.
If you're not already married to some other brand, you can download this one today and get to cutting. Sharpener Pro allows you to improve clarity and Dfine gives you noise reduction capabilities, and so on. But my files will open long after my software is paid for and when Adobe raise the rent , and they will at some point, I will not be affected. From what little I know about Adobe, Let’s say that they go out of business tomorrow or they sell the company to another provider.

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