The Best 10 Free Software Alternatives Like Photoshop

For many photographers and designers, Adobe Photoshop is the standard in image editing. While it’s complex software and covers a lot of areas, Photoshop can be unpractical in specific situations. It’s more natural to use a photo editor suitable to your needs than buying the most complicated product available. GoToAndLearn presents a comprehensive list of programs that constitute a viable alternative to the leading products on photo editing market.

1. Apple Photos

Apple Photos is the built-in alternative to Photoshop. It raised a lot of expectations and many users were slightly disappointed after its release, but it’s free and ready to use from the moment you buy the device. It even has a version for iOS.

Photos replaced two older applications and marked the beginning of a new era in software collaboration and synchronization. You can keep your photos and videos stored in iCloud and access them from all your Apple devices. It’s well-balanced and trustful, provides intuitive image organizing tools, and has a lot of cool features.

Apple Photos offers image manipulation and editing tools for beginners and advanced users.  Among its features are lighting effects, automatic image enhancement, filters, drawing tools to add text, shapes, and sketches to your photos, and tools to transform your pictures in videos. Photos provides basic image adjustments such as saturation, tone, and contrast, black and white conversion, curves and levels for color control, clarity, and vignettes.

It gives you the possibility to choose between three usage levels. Each level reveals more complicated tools and features. For example, the lowest level provides three automatic tools controlling exposure, brightness, shadows, contrast, etc. The more advanced levels provide histograms, color levels, noise reduction, white balance controls, and more.

You can return to the original file or adjust specific parameters at any time. Apple Photos doesn’t offer batch processing, but it allows you to copy all the changes you’ve made and transfer them to other pictures.

For people used with Photoshop and Lightroom, Photos may seem a bit unusual. Still, in many cases, its capabilities are up to 95% of what other editors can do.

2. Photolemur (free with watermark) 

Photolemur is an automatic photo editor that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to enhance your pictures. It has a free version that gives you access to all its functionalities. The only drawback is a watermark applied to images at saving.

Photolemur provides Face Finish technology, dedicated features for skin and face retouching. It’s able to automatically smooth skin and remove imperfections, enhance the eyes, and whiten the teeth. Moreover, it uses powerful algorithms that recognize and enhance the sky and the foliage. Photolemur supports RAW files, fixes exposure, and recovers colors. It offers presets for special styles and batch processing.

3. Luminar (free trial) 

Luminar isn’t actually a free photo editing software for Mac but it offers a free trial you can use to edit your photos. Luminar is one of the best editors and the free trial includes all its features. In addition, it’s so straightforward and easy to learn that the 30-days trial will be enough to finish your projects.

Luminar provides automatic tools powered by AI and allows you to enhance and perfect your photos using just sliders. It’s able to recognize people and faces and applies different adjustments for portraits and other types of photos. It also provides over 70 instant Looks that give you the stylish photos you need. You can fine-tune any style and filter and save custom Looks for later use. You can also apply the same style to multiple images as Luminar supports batch processing.

Luminar works with layers and masks and allows you to mix several filters and blend them together for unique results. Among its best filters are Accent AI 2.0 for image enhancement, Sun Rays for adding sunrays into your images, Sharpening for clear pictures, and Golden Hour for warm sunlight effects and romantic mood.

The latest version of Luminar includes digital assets management and the future version is announced to have amazing new features. So even if it’s for a limited period of time, Luminar deserves a look.

4. Fotor

Fotor may be one of the best photo editors for Mac. It’s free, provides a considerable set of filters, and can successfully compete with other free Photoshop alternatives such as VSCOcam and Snapseed. But advanced users like Fotor for other reasons: it provides support for publishing photos, crops all existing pictures in a folder, and saves the changes conveniently. For example, it can take a folder with 1000 high-resolution photos, reduce the size of all of them to FullHD, and apply a filter to all the pictures.

5. Pixlr

If you are looking for a free image editing app for Android and iOS that has good reviews and includes more than 600 effects, overlays, and frames– try Pixlr.  It allows you to crop and resize photos, fix the red-eye effect, and even whiten teeth in a few seconds.

Pixlr is an online image editor that provides versatile drawing tools, image retouching tools, exquisite filters for style and atmosphere, and a neat workflow.

6. Affinity Photo (free trial)

Despite what some may think, it’s not a clone of the famous vector editor Affinity Designer for Mac. Affinity Photo is the one of the best Photoshop alternative and an independent product. It has replaced older programs developed by Serif like Serif PhotoPlus X7 and added many new functionalities and a modern look. But this makeover came with a price: Affinity Photo is no longer free like its predecessors. Still, it has a free trial version you can check out.

Affinity Photo is designed to cover all Photoshop’s features. It provides RAW editing, HDR merging, batch processing, multi layering, professional image retouching, and even PSD files editing.

7. DxO OpticsPro 10

The main functionality of DxO OpticsPro 10 is to process RAW and JPEG files. It provides a default preset that automatically corrects your images as soon as you open them. In addition, it offers the DxO Optics Module that provides corrections based on camera/lens combinations.

8. Acorn (free trial) 

Acorn has been launched in 2007 and has won the hearts of many artists since then. In 2015, Acorn was awarded Mac App Store Best. It provides a lot of photo editing features and the latest version added an improved interface, nondestructive filters, several opacity options for Clone tool, crop improvements, and feathering selections. It’s definitely on the right path.

9. PhotoScape X

PhotoScape X is a free photo editing software for Mac and Windows that provides quick and fun functionalities. It allows you to cut out pictures, create collages and GIFs, process RAW files, make screen captures, and add a wide variety of filters and effects. Among its best features are MagicColor, an effect that enhances colors, film effects and light leaks, more than 200 figures and 1000 patterns to add to your photos, and more than 40 textures and 20 lens flares.

PhotoScape X also provides drawing tools such as brushes, paint bucket, drawing functions, objects and stickers, and batch processing.

You can find a lot of tutorials and videos on their website. PhotoScape X is a fun editor that can be used by amateurs to create holiday photo albums or by professionals to create fun products.

10. Gimp

Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open source photo editing software for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It has almost all the features of Photoshop and even the interface looks a lot like Photoshop. Nevertheless, it’s free, fast, and efficient and can be successfully used by photographers, designers, and artists.

Gimp provides high quality photo editing tools. It works with layers and masks, offers a lot of filters and effects, and allows you to retouch and manipulate photos. It also provides tools for creating icons, graphical design elements, and artworks and color management tools.

It’s frequently updated and improved. If you want to add your own features, you can get the source code and customize it.

11. Pinta

Pinta is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s free and dedicated mostly to drawing but it provides image editing tools too. Among its features for image editing are 35 adjustments and effects, layers, and history tracking.

12. Image Tricks

Image Tricks is a fun image editor that helps you transform common pictures in unique products. It’s a free image editing software for Mac and provides a lot of filters (over 100), photo frames, and image masks.

Image Tricks offers a wide range of filters, from image enhancing to special effects. You can use it to adjust exposure, shadows and highlights, color, tone, and contrast. Filters are customizable and can be mixed using 35 Quartz Compositions. Image Tricks also provides image generators to create random backgrounds and textures.

If you want to create frames for your photos, you should know that Image Tricks offers 20 customizable frames. Fine-tune them to create unique artwork.

13. Darktable

Darktable is an open source image editing software, available for Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, and Solaris. It’s designed as a virtual darkroom and lighttable for photographers and provides tools for managing negatives in a database, professional color management, and non-destructive editing. Darktable supports many file formats and offers smart searching tools. It also has powerful export options and allows you to use Lua to create scripts for repetitive tasks. It even supports live view for some camera brands.

Darktable isn’t just an image editor; it’s an entire virtual studio. It works with layers and masks, offers presets and filters, and provides all the image enhancing tools you might need. Darktable is a great image editor for both digital and analog camera enthusiasts.

14. Polarr

Polarr is an online photo editor that provides artistic tools and effects for image retouching and manipulation. You can apply weather and flare effects, create filters and share them, retouch portraits based on face detection features, create overlays and double exposure effects, and change your photos’ appearance using sliders and simple controls.

Among its features are automatic enhancements, geometric transformations, spot removal, color controls, light effects and filters, vignettes, color curves, borders, and custom filters. Polarr offers a monthly subscription that gives access to advanced features such as LUTs, tools for removing noise, additional blending modes and masks, batch processing, and premium filters.

15. Topaz

Tobaz Labs develops several editing tools for Mac but only five of them can be used for free. They are Adjust AI, Gigapixel AI, Denoise AI, Sharpen AI, and JPEG to RAW AI. All tools use AI algorithms to provide automatic functionalities.

For example, Adjust AI offers automatic image enhancement. It adjusts colors, shadows and highlights, details, and other parameters in a single step. Gigapixel AI enlarges photos up to 600% while preserving image quality and JPEG to RAW AI converts JPEG files to high-quality RAW files. Denoise AI is dedicated to noise removal and aims to recover all the details, while Sharpen AI covers shake reduction and creates sharp images in seconds.

While these tools don’t cover all the requests of a photographer, they are really good at their job and can save you a lot of time and energy. So if you have a precise task to do, give them a try.

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