Improving the rendering of your photos, retouching a defect in a portrait or cropping an image are common operations that you may need to perform on your computer. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to invest in professional photo editing software like Photoshop to do this.
There are indeed many free tools integrating all the necessary functions that will allow the greatest number of people to retouch their photos. After having tested several of them, the editorial staff has selected the best free photo editing software for you.
GIMP is probably the best known retouching software for librarians. This open source utility is available on Windows as well as on MacOS and Linux. It will allow you to retouch photos as well as to indulge in graphic creations. The program is based on an interface similar to professional software such as Adobe Photoshop and allows you to work on an image using a layer system that allows you to overlay the changes without altering the original image.
Offering a very large number of tools, GIMP is aimed at an advanced audience. However, it is possible to learn how to master the main functions of the program thanks to the numerous tutorials published directly on the official website.
GIMP includes standard editing tools (cropping, color balance, saturation, etc.), but also offers the use of more advanced editing tools such as the Correction Tool or the Clone Tool, which will allow you, for example, to remove annoying elements from an image, or to correct an unsightly button on a portrait.
Photos edited in GIMP can be saved as a working file that can be reopened later in the software to continue editing, but can also be exported in image format to your PC.
Download GIMP for Windows (Free)
Download GIMP for macOS (Free)
Download GIMP for Linux (Free)
Developed around the core of PhotoFiltre Studio, PhotoFiltre 7 embeds all the essential functions of the software to retouch your images. Available only on Windows, it benefits from an interface that is easy to learn. The tools it provides are simple enough to allow you to apply basic settings to your images: brightness, contrast, saturation and color balance can be changed in just a few clicks.
Less experienced users will be able to let the software automatically manage levels and contrast.
PhotoFilter 7 also offers a number of predefined filters whose settings can be refined very easily. You can, for example, blur very easily an area you want to hide, but also pass your shots in black and white or sepia, or apply an artistic filter that radically transforms the image rendering.
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Basic retouching tools are also present, such as the cloning buffer that can be used to correct certain image defects. PhotoFilter 7 also uses a layer system that will be useful for adding changes over the original image without damaging it.
Download PhotoFilter 7 for Windows (Free)
In general, when it comes to photo retouching, Photoshop, the software from Adobe, is the first name that comes to mind. The photo retouching application, reserved for professionals and advanced users, is now available with a monthly subscription fee of 23.99 euros, an amount that not everyone is willing to put into software that is used occasionally.
Few people know this, but Adobe also offers a free lighter version of its photo editing tool. Adobe Photoshop Express Editor is accessible to everyone, directly from your usual web browser. To work, however, it requires the Flash Player module to be installed in your browser.
The interface of Photoshop Express Editor is much simpler and more accessible than that of the original tool. The left-hand column groups the different editing tools, while the main pane allows you to view your edits in real time, to cancel or reapply them, to reset your image, or to view your before/after photo.
Even the most basic editing tools should be more than enough for the layman: cropping, rotation, auto-correction, exposure management, red-eye correction for portraits, brightness or white balance adjustment, removal of unwanted elements (touchup function)… the essential tools for photo retouching are there. You can even, if you wish, embellish your pictures with graphic elements (text, bubbles, stickers, to highlight certain elements of your image).
Using Adobe Photoshop Express Editor online (Free)
Lightroom’s open source competitor, Darktable is a photo manager that will allow you to catalogue your images, but also to develop your RAW files. The interface of Darktable gives access to a light table from where it is possible to view your images in a catalogue, as well as to a darkroom where you can develop your RAW files and retouch your pictures.
The program offers everything you need to improve the rendering of your images. This allows you to manage the contrast, brightness and saturation parameters, but also to adjust shadows and highlights or to act on the base curve. The utility will also allow you to crop and rotate your shots, refine their orientation or play with the exposure of your image.
Darktable also integrates a module to display your thumbnails on a world map or to generate a slideshow of the most beautiful images in your catalog.
Download Darktable for Windows (Free)
Download Darktable for macOS (Free)
Download Darktable for Linux (Free)
Available only on Windows, Paint.NET is a rather intuitive image editing software. Its interface is close to standards and allows easy access to all editing tools. All the essential functions for basic editing are present, starting with the clone buffer, which will be useful to remove unwanted elements from your photos and portraits with a few clicks, or the selection tool, essential for cropping or reframing an image.
Image adjustment settings (curves, brightness, levels, etc.) are grouped together in the dedicated menu and can be changed individually, or automatically for less comfortable users. Paint.NET offers several presets that can adjust levels automatically.
As with PhotoFiltre, Paint.NET offers to use layers to work on your images. Several effects can also be applied to your images to change the overall look of your images. You can, for example, transform a landscape into a sketch in ink, pencil or even an oil painting.
Download Paint.NET for Windows (Free)
Download Paint.NET Portable for Windows (Free)
In a different vein, PhotoScape offers to retouch your images, but can also do a lot of other things. You can use it as an image viewer, print module, GIF generator, layout tool, and even as a batch processing solution, convenient for applying the same setting to multiple plates at the same time.
In its classic editing mode, Photoscape offers only automated modules, which is great for users uncomfortable with the idea of manually changing settings they don’t know how to do. The software has easy-to-understand predefined parameters to apply different levels of settings: low, medium and high. A click on one of them is enough to apply them to your images.
Finally, PhotoScape offers many filters to modify the general aspect of your photos. In addition to the traditional filters adding artistic effects, the software also offers filters similar to what exists on Instagram, under the title Film Effect. Each of these effects can be applied with more or less intensity, again in a very simple way, by directly indicating the desired level.
Note that during installation, the software also offers to install Google Drive. Remember to uncheck this option if you don’t want it.
Download Photoscape for Windows (Free)
Pixlr offers a wide choice for everyone, regardless of platform. How? Simply because the application is actually an online service, accessible from any web browser regardless of the operating system you are using. Why the embarrassment of choice? Simply because the platform addresses two distinct audiences through these two solutions: Pixlr Editor and Pixlr X.
Pixlr Editor looks like any other image editing and retouching software, with the difference that it opens in your web browser. The webapp’s interface is similar to those offered by GIMP, Paint.NET and PhotoFiltre, as are the functions it contains. The application will allow you to adjust the basic settings of your images, but will also allow you to apply simple retouching, such as using the duplication buffer or the defect erasing tool.
Pixlr Editor is displayed, by default, in English, but it is quite possible to switch the interface to French from the language menu. Very complete, Pixlr Editor offers, as on competing solutions, the possibility to adjust various settings (levels, curves, exposure, brightness and contrast, hue and saturation of colors, etc.), but also offers the application of various filters (vignetting, blur, HDR effect, etc.).
Pixlr Xis for less experienced users. The program offers a very simple way to edit your photos, thanks to an ultra-intuitive interface and predefined settings that can be applied to your images with a single click: cropping, colour and brightness adjustment, application of filters and effects, etc.
The interface of Pixlr X is so easy to understand that even the most reluctant will be surprised to use it without difficulty. All images modified with Pixlr X can be exported in JPG and PNG formats, in different quality levels and in different sizes, each of these parameters affecting the final size of the generated file.
Retouching photos online with Pixlr (Free)
Editing photos online with Pixlr X (Free)