Free Online Image Editors
You don't need Photoshop if you want to edit your digital images. There are now countless alternatives - this advice document looks at free-to-use online image editors which let you work on images via your internet browser. As these free image editors are web-based, you don't need to install anything on your computer.
Photoshop is the industry standard image editing tool. While it is well suited to professional photographers and designers, for many users it is too complex and has hundreds of features they will never need... and the full version is not cheap.
There are many alternatives to Photoshop - some offer a range of advanced features similar to Photoshop, while others are far simpler. Until recently, most of these were available only as desktop software applications, but now there are a number of free web-based tools that are particularly useful if you're after a quick fix.
And if it's just a quick fix you're after - e.g. resizing, rotating or cropping an image - an online image editor may be all you need.
Web-based image editing
Because they are web-based you don't need to rely on one computer in one location to use them - as long as you have an internet connection you can access these sites wherever you are. Bear in mind that if you are working with large files, there may be an issue with upload/download speeds depending on your network connection.
We've tried out 12 readily available online image editors to see how they compare. While a few of them have some of the advanced features you'd expect to find in Photoshop, for comparison purposes we've focused on the everyday features that are likely to be of most use.
You can compare each one with our table (linked below), but our main findings after looking at each service in turn are as follows:
- They are all free to use, though some offer 'premium' paid-for versions with more features. Others have the option of registering for free which will open up a few more features
- Some provide a sample photo or two for you to practice on - this is quite handy if you want to see whether a site has the features you need before uploading your own image
- Many automatically resize your images if they are larger than a certain size. We used a test image 3008 pixels wide and most sites reduced the size, in one case down to 1024 pixels
- Only one site supports Raw files from digital cameras and only two support TIFF files. If you are working with Raw files or TIFFs, you should consider using a desktop application
- At first glance some sites have off-putting ads or seem to be pushing 'fun' gimmicky features (Add flashing stars to your cat's collar! Distort your portrait so you look like a bloated goldfish! Change the background so it looks like you're in Paris!), however even these sites include some useful features
- As these tools are all web-based, you will find upload and download speeds will vary depending on your network connection and size of image
- All allow you to resave your image to your computer in a few different formats, but only some offer much control over JPEG compression settings - in some cases you may find the pre-set compression settings reduce the quality of your image, so you should always check the resaved image. This won't necessarily be an issue - e.g. if you are editing an image for use at a smaller size on a website, the effects of JPEG compression may not be noticeable - however, if you intend to print the image you will want a higher quality file with less compression. See the extreme example below:
The original test image resized from 3008 to 530 pixels wide to fit this page
This is a zoomed in portion of the image after being resized from 3008 to 1024 pixels wide and saved as a low quality/high compression JPEG - note the effects extreme JPEG compression can have
- Most sites can connect directly to other photo sharing sites (e.g. Flickr, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums) and let you import or export images to/from those sites
- Only two sites have a photo management feature (e.g. organise images into albums), but a few more let you temporarily save individual images to their own servers for later access/sharing. If you are interested in image management, take a look at our advice on Photo Sharing Sites and Choosing a System for Managing your Image Collection
- If you are interested in adding text to images, nearly all the sites cater for this but the choice of fonts varies - some let you use the fonts on your computer, while others provide their own selection
- If you are making quite a few changes to your images, you may want to know the number of times you can undo your previous actions or whether its possible to revert to the original
We tested each service by uploading the same 3008 × 2000 JPG image file (2.6MB). Where possible we also attempted to upload PNG, GIF, TIFF and Raw format (Nikon NEF) files.
Please see our Free Online Image Editors - Comparison Table (it's a little too wide for this page so please click through).
View the Free Online Image Editors - Comparison Table in detail
Published in: Creating