In the world of graphic design, there’s a persistent belief that free software tools can’t possibly compete with expensive proprietary programs. While Adobe and companies like it often perpetuate this myth, more and more people are waking up to the fact that freeware tools can match and even exceed the performance of proprietary alternatives in some circumstances. Here’s a quick look at six of the best free media editing tools around.
If you’re looking for the most automated and hands-free tool possible for editing image files, iPiccy could be a good fit for you. It’s incredibly easy to use thanks to its intuitive UI and well-designed features. As with most image editing programs, iPiccy allows you to upload photos from your PC and social media accounts or by URL. It also allows users to create basic drawings from scratch as they might with Google Drive. The many default filters and effects of iPiccy make it a perfect choice for neophytes.
Web-based tools like Phoenix offer simplicity and functionality without a lot of hassle. The apps for iOS and Android provided by Phoenix allow users to import photos from social sites like Facebook and Flickr and then touch them up on the fly. It boasts brushes, masks, layers, one-tap or one-click auto enhance, color balance manipulation, cropping, color temperature adjustment and other sophisticated effects. Phoenix’s diverse community of users makes the software itself all the more valuable due to their expertise and willingness to help out newcomers.
As the granddaddy of FOSS image-editing software, GIMP is the go-to solution for SMBs on a budget. It can manipulate photos in a variety of ways including perspective distortion and barrel distortion correction. Specialty filters allow users to turn ordinary photos into oil and watercolor paintings, cartoons and cubist art. Sub-pixel sampling and full alpha channel support make it nearly the equal of Photoshop. Lastly, the GIMP Plugin Registry allows users to extend the base functionality of the program.
If you’re looking for a powerful editor that’s not as bloated as GIMP, Fotor may be the ticket. It can apply all manner of effects to photos using a wide array of filters including tilt-shift. You can also use Fotor to add elements like text and vector graphics to your pictures. The Chrome extension in particular makes it easy to integrate Fotor into your daily work flow. Beyond its many editing capabilities, Fotor has one of the cleanest interfaces you’ll find on any app.
Available as a Flash-based web tool or a mobile app, Sumopaint offers intermediate-level image editing power to the masses. It boasts a Symmetry tool that can create kaleidoscope patterns as well as interesting Polygon tools for star patterns. Standard Photoshop functionality such as the ability to blur, smudge and gradient-fill elements comes standard. It can also create triangle, wave, spherical and cylindrical patterns. Upgrading to the Pro version for a mere $9 gives you access to an additional 35+ filters and tools.
For a web-based app that requires no local installation, Pixlr is a surprisingly capable Photoshop replacement. Its customizable UI, re-sizable menus and Photoshop-like keyboard shortcuts make it easy to get started with the service. Files to be edited can be imported from your PC, your social media accounts or from around the web via URLs. One nice feature of Pixlr is its dedicated editing history, which allows users to track changes as they go. It even boasts a Photo Express function that enables rapid edits.
Professional Editing On the Cheap
SMBs looking to market themselves on the web need to present the most professional face possible to the public. Fortunately, free software tools have matured to the point where they can legitimately compete with proprietary solutions like Adobe Photoshop for many purposes. These advanced image-editing engines deliver a lot of power considering the fact that they’re 100% free. In many scenarios, they’re just as good as paid alternatives insofar as creating polished marketing images for your small business is concerned.
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Alex Faubel enjoys writing about topics related to business and technology in career-focused education programs.